Mailbag: Betances, Robertson, Iglesias, Ruth

Only six questions for you this week, but they’re good ones. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us anything at anytime.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Paul asks: Dellin Betances: All-Star?

At this point in time, I say yes on merit and no on actually getting elected to the game. Among the 108 relievers who had thrown at least 20 innings going into yesterday’s game, Betances ranked first in strikeouts (51), second in strikeout rate (44.9%), and second in FIP (1.02). Wade Davis ranked second (40), first (44.9%), and first (0.94), respectively. Betances has legitimately been one of the five or ten best relievers in baseball this season and that makes him All-Star Game worthy in my opinion.

Non-closing relievers get elected to the All-Star Game every year — Brett Cecil and Jesse Crain went just last year, for example — but it’s usually only one or two (not including the final vote). Remember, Red Sox manager John Farrell is filling out the AL roster this year after the players have their vote, and the manager tends to take his own guys. Joe Torre did it all the time in the late-90s and early-2000s. Would the Red Sox manager take a Yankees middle reliever over one of his own guys like Junichi Tazawa or Koji Uehara? Probably not. Betances has been awesome and I think he belongs to be in the All-Star Game, but belonging there and getting there are two different things.

Matt asks: Can you see the Yankees letting David Robertson walking at the end of the year and giving Betances the closer job?

Yes, I could, but the problem is that they’d still have to replace Robertson. Sure, Betances takes his role as the closer, but the Yankees would still be letting an elite reliever walk. Robertson is replaced as closer, but who replaces Betances as the middle innings fireman? Maybe someone like Danny Burawa or Mark Montgomery or Jose Ramirez could step up and do the job, but until they get a chance, we don’t know how much they can really help.

The Yankees have done a very good job of fielding a quality bullpen on the relatively cheap over the years, and letting Robertson walk as a free agent and saving $10-12M a year to spend elsewhere makes sense. At the same time, Robertson just turned 29 and he hasn’t had any arm problems in his career. He’s a strikeout machine who has proven he can handle high leverage spots in New York. It’s tough to let that guy walk, isn’t it? If he’s demanding Jonathan Papelbon money, then yeah, maybe let him walk. But if they can get Robertson to come back on a three-year deal worth that $10-12M per year (Rafael Soriano money, basically), I think they should do it. This isn’t like letting Joba Chamberlain or Luis Ayala walk.

Travis asks: What about Raciel Iglesias? What are the scouting reports on him?

Iglesias, 24, defected from Cuba over the winter and is throwing a showcase for scouts in Haiti today, according to Joel Sherman. Sherman says teams view the right-hander as a bullpen arm who could help as soon as the second half of this year (he was a reliever in Cuba). Here’s some more from Ben Badler:

Major league scouts (and Baseball America) have been able to see Iglesias pitch in person outside of Cuba twice this year. At the World Baseball Classic in March, Iglesias pitched at 88-92 mph. When Cuba visited the U.S. in July for a five-game friendship series against the U.S. College national team, Iglesias looked more impressive, throwing 92-95 mph while varying the speed and shape of his sweepy 76-81 mph breaking ball to get swings and misses.

“I think he’s a guy that, as he gets bigger and stronger, could be in the mid-to-upper 90s,” said Team USA coach Jim Schlossnagle, who is also the coach at Texas Christian. “He’s lean, has a ridiculously loose arm and pounded the strike zone. I was glad they didn’t pitch him more. He was the guy where you’re like, ‘Let’s find a way to get a lead before they get to this guy.’”

Badler says Iglesias stands 5-foot-11 and 165 lbs., so he’s a skinny little guy. You can see that in the video above. I’ve also seen his name spelled Raciel, Raicel, and Rasiel, so we don’t even know how to properly spell the guy’s name at this point. There isn’t much information about him available. Sherman is well connected though, and if he hears that teams think Iglesias could help in the bullpen later this year, then it’s probably true. I assume the Yankees will do their due diligence — they can use another reliever, but that’s true for every team — but I haven’t heard anything specific about their level of interest. Same goes for every other team for that matter.

Wandy. (Justin K. Aller/Getty)
Wandy. (Justin K. Aller/Getty)

A different Mike asks: Should the Yanks see if they can nab Wandy Rodriguez? He was recently designated. I don’t know if I’d give him a major league deal but a minor one for certain.

Yeah, there’s no way I’d give Wandy a big league contract at this point, but there’s no harm in a minor league deal. The Pirates ate about $5.5M in salary by cutting him — yet they won’t call up Gregory Polanco because they’re worried about a similar amount of money three years into the future, but I digress — so no one will claim him off waivers and take on that money. Rodriguez will eventually be released and free to sign with anyone.

Before getting designated for assignment, the 35-year-old southpaw had a 6.75 ERA (7.32 FIP) in 26.2 innings. He also gave up ten homers (!) and has been dealing with on and off elbow problems the last two years. Wandy’s numbers against lefties haven’t been all that good either, so it’s not even like there is reason to think he could help as a situational reliever. There’s no harm in giving him a minor league deal just to see if something clicks, but I don’t see how an AL East team could stick this guy on their active roster right now.

Nik asks: Question about Extended Spring Training games. Just who exactly is left down in Tampa to play these games? We hear about rehabbing players going to ExST and playing and how that doesn’t count toward their return countdown. Are these like practice squad players?

Extended Spring Training is basically Spring Training for the two short season leagues. It’s similar to regular old Spring Training in that there are daily drills and games against other ExST teams. They travel to the other complexes in Florida and everything. The games are not official though, they’re basically scrimmages. From what I understand they are open to the public too, you can just walk in and watch.

The players in ExST are the guys under contract with the team who have not been assigned to one of the full season minor league affiliates. SS Thairo Estrada is in ExST right now. So are RHP Ty Hensley and OF Leonardo Molina, for example. ExST ends when the short season leagues start in late-June (so when Short Season Staten Island and the Gulf Coast League Yanks begin play) and the players who do not get assigned to a minor league affiliate at that time are released or hidden on the phantom disabled list somewhere. It’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like, a continuation of Spring Training, only with minor leaguers.

(Getty)
(Getty)

Ryan asks: After seeing what Babe Ruth’s paycheck was it has me curious. If Ruth were say a 28 year old free agent today, what type of deal do you think he would sign? Money and years.

Here is Ruth’s paycheck, if you miss it floating around the internet the other day (I did). He was paid $7,685.23 twice a month (MLB players are paid on the 15th and 30th during the season, so today’s payday), which works out to $104,709.93 in 2014 dollars according to the CPI Inflation Calculator. That puts his annual salary at $1.25M or so in 2014 dollars, which is nothing by MLB standards. Baseball salaries have increased at a rate greater than general inflation.

Ruth was 32 years old in 1927 (the date on the paycheck) and was still a marvelous hitter, hitting his career-high and then-record 60 homers that season. Here is what Ruth did through his age 28 season:

Year Age Tm Lg G PA R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
1914 19 BOS AL 5 10 1 2 1 0 0 0 0 4 .200 .200 .300 .500 49
1915 20 BOS AL 42 103 16 29 10 1 4 20 9 23 .315 .376 .576 .952 188
1916 21 BOS AL 67 152 18 37 5 3 3 16 10 23 .272 .322 .419 .741 121
1917 22 BOS AL 52 142 14 40 6 3 2 14 12 18 .325 .385 .472 .857 162
1918 23 BOS AL 95 382 50 95 26 11 11 61 58 58 .300 .411 .555 .966 192
1919 24 BOS AL 130 543 103 139 34 12 29 113 101 58 .322 .456 .657 1.114 217
1920 25 NYY AL 142 616 158 172 36 9 54 135 150 80 .376 .532 .847 1.379 255
1921 26 NYY AL 152 693 177 204 44 16 59 168 145 81 .378 .512 .846 1.359 238
1922 27 NYY AL 110 496 94 128 24 8 35 96 84 80 .315 .434 .672 1.106 182
1923 28 NYY AL 152 697 151 205 45 13 41 130 170 93 .393 .545 .764 1.309 239
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/29/2014.

Bold means he led the AL, bold and italicized means he led all of MLB. Take a second to fully grasp how dominant a hitter Ruth was. Defense is irrelevant at that point. He could have sat in a lawn chair in the outfield and been the best player in the game, which he clearly was.

Anyway, Ruth had a 231 OPS+ in his first four years in pinstripes. Miguel Cabrera had a 177 OPS+ in the four years before signing his record extension this spring. (We can’t really compare raw homer totals given the difference in eras, but Ruth hitting 40+ in the 1920s is far superior to Miggy hitting 40+ these days. Ruth out-homered entire teams back in the day.) Cabrera’s deal was ten years and $292M total, the extension plus the two years left on his current contract. He wasn’t a free agent on the open market, so there no bidding war to drive up the price.

Having just completed his age 28 season, I think Ruth would wind up getting something like 12 years and $396M ($33M per year) these days. That’s nothing more than my guess, we’re in uncharted territory here. Ruth was far and away the best player in baseball and I think that would result in far and away the richest contract in sports history. Remember how Alex Rodriguez‘s contract with the Rangers shattered records (the second largest sports contract at the time was Kevin Garnett’s $126M deal)? I think that would happen again today if 28-year-old Ruth hit free agency in today’s market. It would be unlike anything we’ve seen before.

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40 Days Until the Deadline: Yanks Watching Wandy

(Thearon W. Henderson)

At last year’s trade deadline the Yankees, as we all expected, explored essentially every available pitcher. After failing to significantly upgrade the rotation during the winter, and especially after losing Phil Hughes early in the season, they had little choice. The need for pitching immediately connected them to Astros lefty Wandy Rodriguez. With an ownership change inevitable, the Astros were in firesale mode. But even with speculation of a deal to the Yankees lasting right up until 4 p.m. last July 31st, nothing happened. Might 2012 be better timing for the Yankees?

There was a time last year when I really did think Rodriguez would end up with the Yankees. He was slated to become a free agent after the 2011 season, making it a near lock that the Astros would trade him. But in late January then-GM Ed Wade surprised everyone by signing Rodriguez to a three-year, $34 million extension. That did cover 2011, but it also contained a $13 million option for 2014, which 1) could be guaranteed based on performance, and 2) becomes a player option if he’s traded.

With that one move the chances of Rodriguez becoming a Yankee plummeted. Given his performances from 2008 through 2010, the contract itself might have seemed reasonable. It ran through his age-34 season, age-35 if the option vested. And it was for a relatively reasonable salary. But what makes sense for the Astros doesn’t necessarily make sense for other teams in the league. Picking up Rodriguez knowing that his 2014 option will essentially become guaranteed is far less attractive than renting him for a half a season.

Still, the Yankees are looking under every rock for possible upgrades. As we heard yesterday, the Yankees were among a handful of teams present for Rodriguez’s performance against the Royals this week. It doesn’t mean much at this very moment, but if the Yankees do need a starter come July, Rodriguez might be one of the more attractive names available.

Last year the two sides reportedly could not agree on how much money the Astros would absorb in a trade. Sensing the Astros’ desperation to move his contract, the Yankees wanted them to pick up a significant portion. Yet the Astros were not quite that desperate, and ended up holding onto Rodriguez. With a year less of service time to offer, the price on Rodriguez has likely come down from last year. Then again, there is a new owner and front office in place, and their goals might differ from the departing owner and lame duck GM that ran the show last July.

For his part, Rodriguez has pitched well in 2012. His strikeout rate is down enormously, but then so is his walk rate. The net is a 2.77 K/BB ratio that stands a bit above his 2.4 career average. Yes, he does pitch in the NL Central, but that doesn’t mean he’s avoiding the league’s best hitters. In fact, Rodriguez has the 17th highest quality of opponents’ OPS in the league (minimum 50 IP). The Yankee who has faced the toughest opponents this year is CC Sabathia, who ranks 59th. So while Rodriguez’s performances might be undersold because of where he pitches, he’s still facing tougher hitters than any Yankee starter, despite facing the pitcher every ninth batter.

Given the Yankees’ goal of a $189 million payroll for 2014, it’s unlikely they pick up any pitcher who has a contract that will cost them that year. Then again, he does only net $11.5 million in 2014 ($13 mil salary minus $2.5 million buyout). Perhaps he would opt to test the market at age 36, hoping for a two-year deal that will boost his guaranteed earnings. But then again, it’s unlikely the Yankees would bank on that, especially with him moving to the tougher league.

Yankees among teams scouting Wandy Rodriguez

Via Jon Morosi, the Yankees were among the teams that had people in attendance for Wandy Rodriguez’s start against the Royals last night (box score). The Astros are open to dealing the left-hander, who is owed approximately $18M through the end of next season. Wandy also has a $13M club option for 2014 that becomes a player option if traded.

As Joe wrote when the Ryan Dempster rumor popped up last week, the Yankees are going to be connected to pretty much every available starting pitcher between now and the trade deadline. Rodriguez, 33, is having a solid season (4.16 FIP) for Houston but his strikeout rate has declined for the fourth straight season and he’s not a guy that will blow hitters away. Wandy is a solid pitcher but I think there are valid concerns about his ability to translate that success to the AL East. Add in the unfavorable contract and it’s tough to see a fit for the Yankees.

The remaining pitching market

If the Yankees don’t make a move for a pitcher this off-season, it won’t be for lack of options. To this point we’ve seen two free agent signings, an NPB posting, and two trades involving pitchers who would represent an upgrade to the Yankees. Perhaps they think that the prices to acquire these pitchers does not match the upgrade they’d receive, but the opportunities are there nonetheless. Brian Cashman figures to have a few more chances to upgrade later this winter, as there are a number of actually or reportedly available pitchers.

Hiroki Kuroda

In terms of pure results, he’s the best available arm. His 3.31 ERA since 2009 ranks 23rd among all qualified starters. Even better, he’s reportedly seeking a one-year contract at a reasonable $12 or $13 million. The Yankees have been frequently connected to Kuroda, and it stands to reason that they’ll remain involved until he does sign somewhere.

While he does have the top results, there are some downsides to Kuroda. For instance, the hitters on the Rays, Orioles, Red Sox, and Blue Jays are better than those on the Padres, Rockies, Giants, and Diamondbacks. The AL East also features more hitter-friendly parks than the NL West. Then there’s Kuroda’s age, 37. A one-year deal helps limit some of that risk, but if he shows decline in 2012 he might not present much of an upgrade.

Wandy Rodriguez

Not far behind Kuroda in terms of results is Wandy Rodriguez. The Astros shopped him at last year’s trade deadline, but the Yankees weren’t interested unless Houston paid a significant portion of his remaining salary. He’s owed $36 million for the next three years, because his 2014 option becomes a player option if traded. That makes him much less attractive, meaning Houston will have to kick in some cash if they want to trade him. While they showed reluctance earlier in the off-season, they now appear willing to make that trade-off.

Not only does the NL Central have a number of top-flight hitters, but none of them actually play for the Astros. That is, Rodriguez has the burden of facing all of these elite hitters. The closest they ever had was Hunter Pence, but he wasn’t even a top-five hitter in the division. That does make him look a bit more attractive. He also has fewer pitchers’ parks in the division. Yet the Yankees appear not at all interested. That’s probably because of the commitment length. Were Rodriguez signed only through 2013 they might be more on board. But three years to a pitcher you’re not totally sold on? While Rodriguez might help, it’s understandable why the Yankees are shying away.

Roy Oswalt

In the last three years, despite multiple bouts with lower back injuries, Oswalt has accumulated a 3.46 ERA in 531 innings. All told that’s a pretty solid accomplishment. Since we just discussed Oswalt yesterday there’s no need to elaborate further. He remains a tantalizing yet risky option.

Gio Gonzalez

There has been no shortage of Gio Gonzalez news this winter. The A’s seem pretty intent on trading him, and judging by how slowly they’re moving they’re also trying to extract every last drop of value from another team. This makes complete sense. Gonzalez ranks 39th in ERA among all starters from 2009-2011, despite his horrible 2009 showing. He’s been among the best in terms of results the last two seasons. Even when you look at only his away stats, he still fares pretty well: 3.96 ERA in 238.2 innings since 2009. That takes away some of the concern that he’s the product of a large ballpark.

The Nationals were rumored to be pushing hard for Gonzalez, offering up a four-for-one trade that will involve prospects Brad Peacock and Derek Norris, among others. Still, four-for-one deals can get complicated, since they typically lack top-end quality. Today on ESPN.com, Jim Bowden suggested a few trades for Gonzalez (subscription required). For the Yankees he suggests Dellin Betances, David Phelps, and Austin Romine. Since Gonzalez has four years remaining of team control, this could work out for the Yankees. The only catch: Oakland might find a better package, and one that fits their needs better, elsewhere.

Matt Garza

Garza represents an interesting option, if only because he’s experienced success in the AL East. But the Cubs are apparently asking for a lot. Would the Yankees be willing to trade Banuelos and at least one other top-five prospect (Gary Sanchez or Mason Williams), plus other pieces, to get the last two years of Garza’s pre-free agency years? It seems unlikely. While he’s been good, he might be a bit more expensive than other pitchers. If he costs more than Gonzalez, he certainly isn’t worth it.

John Danks

You can check out our large and growing John Danks archive for various takes on the 27-year-old left-hander. He’s an enticing option for a few reasons. He’s been solid for the last four years, he has AL experience and in a hitters’ park no less, and he is conceivably someone the Yanks could sign long-term after the 2012 season. The issue, as with Garza, is that the White Sox are asking the moon for him. It’s simply not worth a top-five prospect for a player who will reach free agency after this season. At a price more commensurate with his overall value, Danks could be the best target on the board.

Edwin Jackson

A free agent, Jackson requires just one resource to acquire: money. The Yankees have that in abundance, though they’re seemingly not throwing it around this off-season. They might also be reluctant to sign Jackson for four years. As with Oswalt, we covered Edwin Jackson recently, so there’s no need to dive any deeper into his case. He’s there for the taking and could represent an upgrade in the Yanks rotation.

That brings us to a dozen candidates who could have upgraded, or still might upgrade, the Yanks rotation in 2012. All of the candidates, save for Darvish, have sported ERAs under 4.00 since 2009. They’ve all thrown a good number of innings, and everyone on the list, save for Oswalt and maybe Latos, has been relatively healthy. If the Yankees are serious about upgrading their rotation, they’ll connect on one of these 12 options, even though there are just seven remaining.

Wandy could be waived this week, Yanks may not get a chance at him

Via Danny Knobler, there’s a “growing belief” that the Astros will place Wandy Rodriguez on trade waivers this week, and that a National League team is willing to roll the dice and risk claiming him. Because of the waiver priority rules, the Yankees would not have a chance to trade for Rodriguez this month if an NL team claims him, whether that team deals for him or not.

Wandy is owed more than $23M over the next two seasons, plus his $13M club option for 2013 turns into a player option if traded. That takes him through his age 35 season, so it’s not exactly a bargain price. Yankees’ ownership pushed for Rodriguez before the deadline, and were willing to pay $21M of the $38M or so left on his contract at the time (assuming the option is picked up). That implies that they value him as a $7M a year pitcher. If a team claims him, the Astros could simply foist the lefty and his entire contract onto that team, much like the Blue Jays did with Alex Rios and the White Sox.

Rosenthal: Ownership pushed for Wandy

Via Ken Rosenthal, the Yankees push to acquire Astros southpaw Wandy Rodriguez before yesterday’s trade deadline came from ownership and not Brian Cashman. The Yankees were willing to pay $21M of the $38M left on the southpaw’s deal, but Houston was only willing to pay the $2M he’s owed through the rest of the season plus another $5M if his 2014 player option was picked up. Ultimately, the two sides never got to the point of exchanging offers.

Meanwhile, a rival GM told Rosenthal that Cashman had seven untouchables. I’m guessing Jesus Montero, Dellin Betances, Manny Banuelos, Ivan Nova, Austin Romine, Brett Gardner, and … who’s the seventh? Obviously not Phil Hughes if they offered him Ubaldo Jimenez. Could it have been David Robertson?

Sunday’s Trade Deadline Open Thread

The non-waiver trade deadline is 4pm ET today, though we’ll occasionally see news of a deal leak out a little later than that. I remember word of the Kerry Wood trade broke at like, 4:15pm ET last year. Do the Yankees have a starting pitcher up their sleeve? We’ll find out soon enough. Let’s keep track of the latest here throughout the day, with the most recent news up top…

  • The Yankees aren’t going after any big-name arms at the moment, if anything they’ll make small, incremental upgrades. (Morosi)
  • Nevermind, Wandy’s not going to Cleveland. The Yankees wanted the Astros to pick up half the money on the lefties deal, but Houston said no and talks about the left-hander are dead. (Justice, Heyman & Jayson Stark)
  • The Yankees are not deep in any talks, and get this, it sounds like Wandy is heading to the Indians for two minor leaguers. How about that. (Olney & Richard Justice)
  • Bell Mike Adams is apparently headed to the Rangers. It was unlikely the Yankees would get him anyway, but at least now we don’t have to worry about it. (Ken Rosenthal)

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