Report: Nady reaches deal with the Cubs, Sheets with A’s

Update (1:58pm): Nady got $3.3M, plus another $2M in incentives. The base salary is a 50% pay cut.

11:00am: Via MLBTR, free agent outfielder Xavier Nady has agreed to a contract with the Cubs, ending his brief tenure in the Bronx. Nady still has to take a physical, which is no given considering he’s coming back from his second Tommy John surgery. The Yanks didn’t offer him arbitration because he would have probably accepted given his elbow, so they won’t get a draft pick even though he was a Type-B.

Nady hit .270-.319-.469 in close to 300 plate appearances with the Yankees, and was a potential left field option. Let’s see what the dollars are before everyone gets fussy.

Also, the A’s have signed Ben Sheets to a one-year, $8 million deal, though some sources say $10 mil. Rumor had it that Johnny Damon was their Plan B if they couldn’t land Sheets, so do the math.

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After two Tommy Johns, what then?

As the winter wears on — yesterday’s burst of warm weather made me pine for baseball — one free agent name keeps circling around the Yankees as a vulture does to its dying prey. He might not, in the words of Keith Law, represent much of an improvement, if any, over Brett Gardner, but Xavier Nady just won’t go away. Maybe the Yanks really are interested in him, as Joe wrote in his Closing Arguments post; maybe the fans just won’t let him go because of the one good month he had in pinstripes in 2008. Either way, the allure of Nady just won’t die.

As free agents go, Nady is an interesting case. After landing in the Bronx in the middle of 2008, he finished the year with an overall .305/.357/.510, and the 127 OPS+ was the best mark of his career. Entering his final pre-free agency year in 2009, Nady was primed for a payout this winter. Over the last four seasons, he had hit .284/.339/.474, and while the .339 OBP is lower than most would prefer, his 112 OPS+ had him as a player to watch in 2009.

We know all too well what happened though. Nady injured himself on a throw in Tampa Bay in mid-April, and he never recovered. He tried a series of Platelet Rich Plasma injections but eventually had to go under the knife for his second Tommy John surgery. Multiple Tommy John procedures are a rare occurrence in baseball, and many Yankee fans have wondered about the impact a second surgery would have on an outfielder. Unfortunately, baseball history shows us with just one position player — catcher Vance Wilson — who had the procedure twice. Wilson hasn’t played since.

Nady is different. He’s younger by a few years than Wilson was and is a better player than Wilson, a journeyman back-up catcher, was. That doesn’t help us understand what Nady might be. For that, we turn to Baseball Prospectus’ Will Carroll for guidance. When Nady underwent the surgery in late June, Carroll offered up his take. Unfortunately, it’s light on the future outlook:

The idea that second surgeries are less successful is unfounded. First, there are no major league position players that have had a re-do. Most that had a re-do have done something to screw it up in the first place, assuming it’s a short-term situation. Nady has been through this, and that gives us more information than we’d have with most. Position players come back from this surgery in about six months, though the arm isn’t 100 percent at that stage. Unless we find out after surgery that something more has happened in the elbow, even the worst-case scenario would have him back at the end of spring training.

Note how Carroll phrases it. The idea that second surgeries are less successful is unfounded simply because we don’t have the data from position players. Some pitchers have had the procedure twice, and many have come back. Nady, though, is the outfield guinea pig. If he can come back and play the outfield, then we don’t have to worry as much about future position players who undergo two surgeries. If he can’t return to form defensively or offensively, I wouldn’t be surprised.

In late September, Carroll offered up a brief update on Nady. “Six months is enough time for him to be healed enough to DH, but he’ll have to be careful on outfield throws,” Carroll noted. In other words, no team should expect him to be a full-time left fielder out of the game.

As far as Nady’s projections go, the 2010 PECOTA cards have not been published yet, but prior to 2009, Nady projected to .271/.324/.448 for 2010. That line is sure to look worse, and as it stands now, those interested teams ? the Yankees, the Cubs and the Braves have all been connected to the X-Man ? won’t count on Nady for more than a fourth outfielder slot. If he can do more than that, some team will have a bargain on their hands.

Photo credit: AP Photo/Kathy Willens

Quick updates: Hairston, Damon, Nady

Buster Olney gives us two interesting nuggets today. First off, he says the Yankees never made an offer to Jerry Hairston Jr., despite their reported interest in bringing the jack-of-all-trades back. Jerry Jr. got his ring last year, so he headed to San Diego over the weekend for a little extra cash and the chance to play with his brother. Can you blame him?

Olney also mentions that the Yanks have had no recent contact with Johnny Damon. Ever since the Nick Johnson signing became official, there’s been basically zero movement on the Damon front. It’s apparent the team has no interest in bringing him back unless it’s on their terms and their terms only. Will Scott Boras crack? I say no.

And finally, Boras indicated that Xavier Nady is on schedule to be ready for Spring Training. “The doctors have his throwing program ahead of schedule,” said the superagent, however we’ve already heard that he’s out of the Yanks’ price range. Given the concern about a second Tommy John surgery, I don’t see why the Yanks should risk a roster spot and anything more than the league minimum on a proven league average commodity with basically zero upside.

Left field closing arguments: Xavier Nady

Every time I think we’ve concluded this series, a rumor pops up and I think to add another player to the list. Yesterday, Joel Sherman said that the “player that most enticed the Yankees is Xavier Nady.” So, in what is hopefully the last post of this series, we’ll discuss Nady’s case.

It feels like we hardly got to know Xavier Nady. Acquired at the 2008 trade deadline with Damaso Marte, Nady made just 276 plate appearances during his tenure. An April elbow injury cut short his 2009 campaign right after it began, leaving many questions unanswered. Could he repeat his breakout 2008, or was it a fluke? Even without a breakout, could he hold the starting right field job with Nick Swisher right behind him?

Nady’s elbow injury, which resulted in his second Tommy John surgery, changed the outlook of his first crack at free agency. Even with a year that mirrored his 2007, a team with corner outfield needs, like the Braves and Giants, would probably have shown interest in him. The injury, however, has given teams pause. It shouldn’t take Nady the full 12 to 18 months of recovery — he doesn’t throw at max effort for 100 pitches at a clip, so he should recover quicker than a pitcher. Still, considering the low success rate of second time Tommy John victims (among them is Dave Eiland), it’s understandable why a market for Nady has yet to develop.

Offensively, Nady showed improvement in most aspects of his game from 2006 through 2008. His power jumped in 2007, as he went from a .178 and .173 mark in 2005 and 06 to .197 in 07. He sustained that in 2008, posting a career high .205 ISO. His batting average increased in 2008 as well, going from around .280 in 2006 and 2007 to .305 in 2008. This coincides with a rise in BABIP, .337 in 2008, up from .323 in 07 and .311 in 06. Nady did hit fewer fly balls and more line drives in 2008, which helps explain the spike.

Earlier in his career a platoon player, Nady showed improvement against righties from 2006 through 2008. His batting average, on base percentage, and slugging percentage each rose every year, most notably from 2007 to 08. Whether he could repeat that in 2009 was another question left unanswered due to injury. As I noted in this post, Nady was hitting .335/.368/.538 against righties in 2008 at the time of the trade. He ended up with a .317/.357/.529 line against righties. But while he didn’t sustain his first half marks against righties, his numbers against lefties also declined. So maybe he has turned a corner against right-handed pitching. But, because the most marked improvement came in one season, we can’t really say one way the other.

While Nady’s time in New York doesn’t look great on paper, he did continue to hit while the Yankees were still in the race. In August, while the team still had a fighting chance, Nady hit .308/.351/.523 in 114 plate appearances. The moo wore off in September, however, as he hit .223/.270/.379 in 111 plate appearances. So it’s not like he came to New York and fell off a cliff. That’s a good sign, I think…

On the down side, Nady’s ability to avoid making outs rests largely on his batting average. His 6.6 walk percentage in 2008 was a career high, though not by a lot. For comparison, Melky Cabrera walked in 6.5 percent of his plate appearances in his horrible 2008, and 8.1 percent in 2009. Thankfully for Nady, he’s shown himself to be a .280 to .300 hitter over the last four years he played, so that does help his case. But if he sees a decline in that batting average, he’ll be far less valuable to the team.

Defensively, he has shown himself as a below average player. Throughout his career he has almost exclusively been worth negative runs in terms of UZR. That did change in 2008, as he posted a 4.6 UZR/150 in left field and a 3.7 mark in right. He was, however, negative at both positions in 2006 and 2007 (though he didn’t play left in 2006). This suggests that Nady is a below average outfielder. It would have been nice to get a better read on him in 2009.

Yesterday afternoon, ESPN’s Keith Law commented on Nady, saying that he and Reed Johnson “represent marginal improvements ha may not justify the cost.” This, I think, holds true if Nady regresses to his 2007 form. His power is nice, but unless he keeps his walk rate at around 6.5 to 7 percent and sustains his .280 to .300 batting average, he doesn’t represent a significant upgrade over Brett Gardner. If, however, Nady comes back and plays to his final 2008 numbers, then he might be an improvement. Is that upside worth gambling the remaining budget?

In the skills post from last night, Gardner profiled as a three-skill player: speed, discipline, and defense. Nady possesses two: contact and power. Four current Yankee starters possess both of those skills. Other than Gardner, only Curtis Granderson has speed. So, unless Nady’s demands come down — perhaps to a million with incentives — the Yankees are probably better off saving that cash for a possible addition down the road. That is, of course, if they truly plan to stay within their current budget all season. If that’s just the Opening Day budget and the team is willing to spend more mid-season, well, then all bets are off.

Photo credit: AP Photo/Kathy Willens

With the lineup nearly set, is Nady worth the gamble?

“I will continue to look at any remaining piece, but it won’t be a big piece” – Brian Cashman on the left field situation.

There will be no Holliday under the Christmas tree. There is no Bay in the Bronx. Damon’s days in pinstripes have expired. So what, then, do the Yankees plan to do with left field? They currently have Brett Gardner penciled in there, and while some people are bullish on him, I think the Yankees would at least like to have a contingency plan. After all, not only is Gardner the top left fielder right now, but the fourth outfielder is Rule 5 pick Jamie Hoffman. That doesn’t seem like an ideal situation heading into the 2010 season.

Given the team’s current composition, and given the budget constraints the team faces, it appears a second-tier option will fit best. We’ve heard a few of those names bandied about lately: Mark DeRosa, Marlon Byrd, Xavier Nady. Each has his ups and downs, but when considering the Yankees’ situation, Nady fits the best. He’s a gamble, of course, but at this point his demands shouldn’t exceed what the Yankees are willing to spend. Taking a flier on his health could reap big rewards for the Yankees’ outfield.

The concern with Nady is his twice surgically repaired right elbow. He underwent the second procedure in early July, after first having it in 2001. The success rate for second-time Tommy John patients isn’t high, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Most players who undergo the procedure are pitchers, who need their arms a bit more frequently than outfielders. Nady’s arm might be weakened by the second procedure, but maybe not all is lost. If his medical reports show progress, perhaps the Yankees can use him as a 4th outfielder and contingency plan.

Under the best case scenario, Nady works his way into a regular role, much like the team expected of him in 2009. He’s rated below average by UZR, which is a concern, but he’s played so many positions that it’s tough to get a good sampling on him. His bat, however, can make up for that. He almost certainly won’t hit like he did in Pittsburgh in 2008, but if he can hammer out a low .800s OPS, he’ll be a valuable asset on offense.

The worst case scenario puts the Yankees back to where they are right now, only without the budget to acquire another outfielder. That’s the main reason why I think the Yankees might stay away from Nady. If they’re bullish on Gardner, then they’re probably seeking someone who can fill in for him in case he gets off to another slow start, as in 2009. They might want to go with a more reliable option, rather than another gamble. But given the budget constraints and available talent, they might not have that luxury.

If the recent reports are true and the Giants really have offered Mark DeRosa $12 million over two years, the Yankees are likely out. That limits their free agent options to Byrd and Nady. By the numbers it appears Byrd might be a fit. In his last three seasons, with the Rangers, he’s posted wOBAs of .350, .370, and .345, all above average marks. His ISO has risen in each of those years as well. Yet I doubt he’ll replicate those numbers outside of Rangers Ballpark, and especially at Yankee Stadium, which does suppress righty power.

The last question regarding Nady is of whether he’ll sign a one-year deal for $4 million or less. Scott Boras represents him, and will probably seek more guaranteed money. But will any teams want to take that kind of gamble? Considering the lack of interest in three higher-profile corner outfielders — Matt Holliday, Jason Bay, and Johnny Damon — perhaps Nady ends up taking a small money, one-year deal to try and increase his value. Again, with Gardner currently penciled into left field, he has to figure he’ll get every shot to earn playing time.

If the Yankees can get him for under $4 million, they should give Nady a shot. It’s a gamble, sure, but there’s enough upside to make it worth the risk. That is, unless there’s something we don’t know about his medical report that has teams a bit reluctant to add him, even as a contingency plan.