Archive for Trade Deadline

Jul
27

Pondering a peculiar market

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(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

I don’t know if it’s just me, but it seems like this season’s trade market has been pretty pricey thus far. It’s a seller’s market for sure – just ask the Brewers, who managed to turn Francisco Rodriguez into a decent prospect in Nick Delmonico (the fourth best prospect in the Orioles system according to Baseball America). The Rangers gave up Mike Olt, C.J. Edwards, Justin Grimm and a player or two to be named later to the Cubs for Matt Garza. The White Sox will most certainly be sellers by the deadline, and you can bet they’ll place a premium price on guys like Jake Peavy, Alex Rios, and even Alexei Ramirez even though each of those players have some obvious warts.

A large part of the trade market’s demand is certainly a byproduct of the second wild card. More teams are contenders, or at least, more teams are on the verge of being contenders. Teams that probably should be considering selling realistically (i.e. the Mariners, Phillies, Royals) are instead showing a hesitancy to do so because they are still in the race (sort of), or perhaps because they think they’ll be competitive in the near future. In any event, I contend a lot of teams have a false sense of security with where they rank among their competition. Getting back to the original point though, and maybe this is an over simplification, but this season’s trade deadline has basically been defined by a bunch of teams who while are capable of “selling,” are afraid to commit to the idea which has thusly jacked up the prices on all the available players.

Instead, what we’ve seen is a lot of inaction by these very same teams as the deadline rapidly approaches. Meanwhile, the likelihood of these same teams moving dramatically through the standings remains rather unlikely. Hell, teams like the Phillies may ultimately wind up buying. I’ll be interested to see how teams like the Royals or even the former World Series Champs, the Giants, position themselves heading forward for the rest of the season and moving onward.

Then there is the Yankees. On one hand, they’re absolutely in the mix right now. With a 54-49 record, they’re seven games out of first place in the A.L. East but only 3.5 games out of the second Wild Card. Mike discussed a few of the reasons why it makes sense for the Yankees to try and contend via acquiring a few pieces by the deadline. Namely a few of the injured players will be returning, and who knows how many more productive years the team will get from older vets like Derek Jeter. Then there’s the unfortunate fact that this will be the last year they’ll have one of the all-time great relievers closing out the game. Of course, all of these points have not deterred the majority of RABers from advocating the white flag.

Realistically, I don’t see the Yankees as sellers. They’re perennial contenders and I don’t think the organization can philosophically accept the path of concession – in fact, they’ve already brought Alfonso Soriano back. The problem is, even if the team can squeak into the postseason this year, what’s the plan for next year? At some point, the team will have to consider radically revamping the core of the team, especially if many of the anticipated roster changes ultimately happen in 2014.

While trading players for prospects isn’t a sure bet, teams have proven that rebuilding doesn’t have to be an agonizing process – particularly teams with some financial backing. The Red Sox went from awful last season to divisional leaders this year after giving up several of their core players to the Dodgers. If the Yankees wanted to do something similar, they could trade Hiroki Kuroda, Curtis Granderson, Phil Hughes, Brett Gardner, and even Robinson Cano. Some of those guys would net huge returns, especially in this tight market.

Of course, there are complications that cannot be ignored. Kuroda has shown a willingness to block trades. Granderson and Hughes both may be useful pieces next year, while Gardner and Cano are arguably the team’s most important players right now. The hurdles involved with moving these guys is not really the point though. I think the primary point here is whether it makes more sense to take advantage of the seller’s market while the team can capitalize on the return the most. Of course, maybe this is an irrelevant point anyway considering the trade deadline is less than a week away.

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Via Paul Sullivan: Alfonso Soriano is taking a red-eye flight to New York tonight. There has not yet been an official announcement of a trade nor has there even been a report that the two sides agreed to a deal, but that’s a pretty great indication the trade will get done and Soriano will be with the club tomorrow. Based on various reports, the Cubs will pay more than half of the $25M left on his contract and the Yankees will send a low-level pitching prospect to Chicago. We’ll find out the particulars soon enough.

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Thursday: The Cubs have given Soriano two or three days to approve the trade to the Yankees, reports Gordon Wittenmyer. George King says he could be in pinstripes as soon as tomorrow. Chicago wants pitching, but the Bombers balked at giving them one of their better young arms like Preston Claiborne.

Wednesday: Via Carrie Muskat: The Yankees are included in the list of teams Alfonso Soriano willing to accept a trade to. He gave President of Baseball Ops Theo Epstein the list last night. It’s unclear which other teams are included. “It’s not 100%,” said Soriano when asked if he will be traded. He did say a deal is closer now than it has been in years past.

Soriano, 37, is not in Chicago’s lineup tonight, though supposedly it was the manager’s decision to give him a day to clear his head. The Yankees may or may not be close to acquiring their former second baseman, who would give them a much-needed power right-handed bat for the middle of the lineup. Soriano is hitting .254/.287/.467 (100 wRC+) with 17 homers and ten steals this season, including a 113 wRC+ against southpaws. He has full no-trade protection via his ten-and-five rights.

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Those uniforms are spectacular. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty)

Those uniforms are spectacular. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty)

Depending on who you ask, the Yankees may or may not be close to acquiring Alfonso Soriano from the Cubs for a mid-level prospect. New York desperately needs right-handed power — Joel Sherman laid out the team’s righty hitting futility pretty well yesterday — so much so that Soriano’s sub-.300 OBP is hardly a dealbreaker. He’s actually out-homered the Yankees this month (8-7), just to give you an idea of how badly they need to add pop to the lineup.

A small-ish move for Soriano would be a good first step prior to the trade deadline, but the Yankees can’t stop there. Their offensive needs are far from answered, especially on the left side of the infield. Eduardo Nunez has been serviceable since coming off the DL (hitting an empty .288), but third base remains a complete black hole, especially since Alex Rodriguez may never return to due injury and/or suspension. Lyle Overbay needs a platoon partner, the catchers still aren’t hitting, and DH has been a disaster.

Soriano would fill that DH need, either outright or as part of a rotation. I’m guessing the latter given Joe Girardi‘s tendencies over the last few seasons. The Yankees were said to have interest in Carlos Ruiz, and maybe will Phillies will seriously consider selling now that they’ve lost four straight and their little hot streak is over. That said, I get the sense the Bombers consider catching help a low priority and are perfectly happy with Chris Stewart and Austin Romine. The duo is hitting .208/.273/.268 since Frankie Cervelli hit the DL.

The hot corner might be the only position other than DH were the Yankees can add a legitimate upgrade between now and next week’s trade deadline. A righty bat to complement Overbay is important, but not imperative. The club has checked in on both Michael Young and Chase Headley, and I’m sure the Brewers would give Aramis Ramirez away at this point. His power has slipped (.144 ISO), he’s dealing with nagging knee problems (two DL stints and more than a month’s worth of games missed), and he’s owed $20M next year ($16M salary plus $4M buyout of 2015 option). There’s a lot to not like with Ramirez.

The only other realistically available third basemen right now are Young (107 wRC+), the switch-hitting Alberto Callaspo (powerless 90 wRC+), the Cubs platoon of Luis Valbuena (108 wRC+ vs. RHP) and Cody Ransom (156 wRC+ vs. LHP), Placido Polanco (71 wRC+), and maybe Mark Reynolds (93 wRC+). Young is clearly the best of the bunch even though he plays defense like this. He won’t hit for much power, but he can actually get on base (.343 OBP) and hit lefties (119 wRC+). The Yankees have gotten so little out of their third baseman that even a decent player like Young would be a huge upgrade.

Here’s the thing though: the Yankees actually have to go out and get someone now. The season is 101 games old and the trade deadline is six days away, plus they’re falling further and further out of the race, almost by the day. A three-game deficit in the wildcard race is definitely surmountable, but they need help and very soon. Three of their four biggest competitors — Red Sox (Matt Thornton), Orioles (Scott Feldman and Francisco Rodriguez), and Rangers (Matt Garza) — have all gone out and improved their teams already. The fourth team (the Rays) has a history of deadline inactivity but has simply stopped losing. They’re 19-3 in their last 22 games.

The Yankees tried the whole patience thing, but waiting for the injured guys to return has failed spectacularly. That has left the team with an uphill battle and multiple needs to address if they want to make a serious run at contention. That they’ve been able to stay in the hunt this long with the lineup they’ve been running out there is a minor miracle. Soriano will definitely help some (assuming the trade goes down), but the Yankees need much more than that if they want to give themselves a real shot at the postseason. There’s less than one week left until the trade deadline, and the club’s actions during that time will more or less determine if they have legitimate shot at the playoffs.

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Via Jon Heyman: The Yankees have called the Twins to check in on the availability of Justin Morneau. They prefer Alfonso Soriano however, mostly because he’s a better fit for the lineup since he’s right-handed and hits for power.

Morneau, 32, has hit .272/.332/.401 (102 wRC+) with seven homers this season, and he’s managed a 109 wRC+ with four homers over the last 30 days. His offensive performance has been on par with Lyle Overbay‘s (100 wRC+). The Yankees are getting nothing from their DH spot and I’m sure Yankee Stadium’s short right field porch would help Morneau’s power output, but he is owned more than $5M through the end of the season and has been trending downward with some major red flags. I think he’s a last resort, basically.

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8:30pm: There’s a “large gap” between how the Yankees and Cubs value Soriano, reports Buster Olney. The two sides are also haggling over who plays how much of his remaining salary. Paul Sullivan says Soriano confirmed the Yankees have spoken to his agent, but he has not yet been asked to waive his no-trade clause.

1:04am: Via George King: The Yankees are close to acquiring Alfonso Soriano from the Cubs. Chicago will pay the bulk of the $25M or so left on his contract through next season, and the money will be structured in such a way that Soriano has no impact on the 2014 luxury tax calculation, similar to Vernon Wells. King says the Yankees will send a mid-level prospect to the Cubbies.

Soriano, 37, has ten-and-five no-trade protection, but he has indicated he will not veto a deal to return to New York in the past. He came into Monday’s action hitting .259/.289/.476 (103 wRC+) with 17 homers this season, including a 123 wRC+ against lefties. Following what has become an annual slow start, he’s put up a .300/.326/.744 (186 wRC+) line with ten homers over the last 30 days. The Yankees are desperate for power, particularly from the right side, so Soriano definitely fills a need.

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(Scott Halleran/Getty)

(Scott Halleran/Getty)

Following last night’s shutout loss to the Rangers, the Yankees have a team 85 wRC+ and average just 3.91 runs per game offensively. They’re a bottom five offense despite playing not just in a very good hitter’s park, but in a division full of hitter’s parks. That inability to generate offense is huge reason why they are just 22-28 in their last 50 games.

The Yankees are reportedly close to acquiring Alfonso Soriano from the Cubs for a mid-level prospect, a nice little pickup that will add some much needed right-handed pop to the lineup. Soriano is just one man though, he alone won’t save the offense. The Bombers still need more help, particularly in the power department. We’re talking about a team that hasn’t had an extra-base hit in their last 22 innings, remember.

Over the weekend, the Astros designated former Ray and former Yankees farmhand Carlos Pena for assignment as they continue their youth movement. Yankees fans have seen what the 35-year-old Pena brings to the table firsthand over the years — he’s a career .231/.353/.501 (109 OPS+) hitter with 26 homers in 113 games against New York — but is there enough left in the tank to help a club that desperately needs offense? Let’s look:

The Pros

  • Offensively, Pena’s calling card is his power. He’s hit at least 19 homers in each of the last six years and swatted eight in 325 plate appearances for Houston. As a dead pull left-handed hitter (2013 spray chart, 2011-12 spray chart), he should fit very well in Yankee Stadium.
  • In addition to the power, Pena will also work the count and draw plenty of walks. He’s seen an average of 3.98 pitches per plate appearance this year (4.14 from 2011-12) with a 13.2% walk rate (15.6% from 2011-12). Both rates are well-above-average and damn near elite.
  • Pena is pretty durably, having been on the DL just twice in the last five years. He missed a month with a broken finger when CC Sabathia hit him with a pitch in 2009, and he missed two weeks with a foot strain in 2010.
  • Following all those years in Tampa, Pena is very familiar with the AL East and playing in tight second half races. He’s also widely considered a strong clubhouse presence. I don’t know how much that helps, but I can’t imagine it’s a bad thing.
  • Pena is owed a touch more than $1M for the remainder of the season and will become a free agent this winter. If he goes unclaimed on waivers and is released (likely), any team can sign him for the pro-rated portion of the league minimum.

The Cons

  • Pena is not going to hit for average, like at all. He strikes out a ton (27.4 K% this year, 28.4 K% from 2011-12) and has not hit above .230 since 2008. Pena had a .209 AVG when Houston cut the cord and has actually hit below the Mendoza line in two of the last four years.
  • The power is slipping. Pena put up a .141 ISO with the Astros, the second straight year his slugging ability has slipped. He’s gone from a .251 ISO from 2008-11 to a .151 ISO since the start of 2012.
  • Despite his reverse split this year (77 wRC+ vs. RHP and 133 wRC+ vs. LHP), Pena is a platoon bat. He hit .223/.355/.434 (120 wRC+) against righties from 2010-12 but just .166/.295/.343 (81 wRC+) against southpaws. Lefties shut him right down.
  • Pena was once a Gold Glove caliber first baseman, but now he’s just pretty good. He can’t play anywhere else, though. It’s first base, DH, or nothing. Not much flexibility.

The Yankees actually claimed Pena off trade waivers from the Cubs in August 2011, if you remember. The two sides obviously didn’t work a trade. Brian Cashman recently told George King he “wouldn’t be able to say” if the team has interest in the first baseman, which is GM speak. The team obviously saw something they like once upon a time, and in fact hitting coach Kevin Long knows Pena well from their time together with Triple-A Columbus in 2006. Pena credits Long with helping resurrect his career, so there’s a relationship already in place.

Although a right-handed power bat is the top priority (at least until the Soriano trade is finalized), the Yankees are desperate for any kind of power right now. Travis Hafner has been a drain on the offense, hitting just .161/.243/.273 over the last two months. Pena could replace him as the left-handed half of the DH platoon in addition to giving Lyle Overbay a proper backup, something the team lacks. He will also add some much needed patience to the lineup and be able to take aim at the short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium. That should boost his power production a bit. It wouldn’t take much for him to be an upgrade over Pronk at this point. Not at all.

Right now, the offense is so bad that the Yankees are in a position where they almost have nothing to lose. The bench is generally unusable and about five-ninths of the regular starting lineup is a non-factor. They can afford to give someone like Pena — a flawed but usable player — an opportunity to see if the short porch and a potential playoff race boosts his production. If he doesn’t hit, then they really wouldn’t be any worse off. They have both the flexibility and desperation to give someone like Pena a look now that he’s freely available.

Categories : Trade Deadline
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For the past two decades, the Yankees have not been trade deadline sellers. They have been perennially competitive, often missing just a piece or two to seal a playoff berth, and selling has long gone against the Steinbrenner ethos mandating winning now and winning at any cost. But what if the Yanks decide to sell? What if it makes more sense for 2014 and beyond to face the stark reality of 2013?

As the trade deadline nears, the Yankees find themselves in a complicated position. Their loss last night to the Red Sox dropped them to an even .500 since May 1, and they’re 21-23 since June 1 with a run differential of -20. They’re seven games behind Boston and 5.5 in back of Tampa Bay, but because of the second Wild Card, they’re just 3.5 games behind a chance to compete in an exciting but incredibly stressful play-in game. They’re just tantalizingly close to want to buy but not really good enough to compete, and to make matters worse, their offensive hopes are resting on the bats (and legs) of two guys closer to 40 than 35.

Meanwhile, the market right now decidedly favors sellers. There is a dearth of top-tier, race-changing talent available, and the promise of a qualifying offer allows those with bargaining chips to extract maximum value. If the Yankees were to become sellers, they have plenty of bargaining chips. So as an exercise in curiosity, let’s pretend the Yankees become sellers. They won’t trade all of these players listed, and they may only trade the one with the least amount of value. But maybe the team should consider selling and restocking. With the cards they’re holding, the spoils could be great.

1. Hiroki Kuroda
With CC’s struggles, Kuroda has emerged as the clear-cut Yankee ace and just a sheer pleasure to watch pitch. He’s giving up less than a home run per 9 IP and has a 2.65 ERA in the AL East. He’s signed to a one-year contract worth $15 million and would be a hot commodity on the market. He also has a no-trade clause that he has used in the past, notably to block a trade to the Yankees in 2011. In a sellers market, Kuroda could likely fetch a top-30 prospect and a top-100 prospect and maybe another fringy player.

2. Robinson Cano
Much like trading Kuroda would represent a pitching white flag, trading Cano would mean the end of any Yankee offense. I don’t believe the team will trade, and in fact, I strongly suspect Cano will sign a long-term deal to stay with the Yankees. Yet, he’s a second baseman playing superb defense with a .919 OPS. He also won’t take any qualifying offer. For 60 games of Cano, the returns would likely be at least what Kuroda could command. Trade one, and the future prospects are looking good. Trade two, and you can reload in a week.

3. David Robertson
Robertson is a great “sell” piece if the Yanks go down that route. He’s been a stand-out reliever for years and earns $3 million a year. He has a season of team control left and could likely close for a contender in need of a steady 9th inning presence. A Mike Adams trade under similar circumstances netted two B level prospects, and the relief market is unclear right now. A desperate team would part with more.

4. Phil Hughes
For Yankee fans, Hughes is a symbol of frustration. Heralded as the next big thing, he’s emerged more as a 4/5 type rather than 1/2 type many projected. Still, some of that stems from a combination of his pitching approach and home ballpark. Outside of Yankee Stadium, he’s got a 3.38 ERA, and the home run rate drops precipitously from nearly 2 per 9 IP to around 1.1 per 9 IP. He’s a change-of-scenery guy who could net a B grade prospect or even a B+ type if the market continues to tighten.

5. Joba Chamberlain
Once upon a time, Joba would have been untouchable. The third ranked prospect in all of baseball, Joba arrived like a revelation and then faltered. We could point fingers for hours, but it’s clear he needs to move on. Whether the Yanks are sellers or not, I’d be surprised if Joba is here on August 1. He didn’t get the ball before Adam Warren in the 11th inning last night, but if you squint, you can see velocity and a good strike out rate. Any returns will be nominal, and the Yanks’ best chances at getting anything back probably involve a package of Hughes and Joba. Save the big three, indeed.

So what do you do? The Yankees have Mariano’s farewell tour to complete, tickets to sell and ratings to realize. They want to get under a dollar threshold for 2014, and if they hope to accomplish this unlikely goal, they need cost-controlled young talent. It may makes sense to face the facts of a doomed season with too many obstacles and injuries to overcome to sell. But they’re still the Yankees, and the Yankees don’t sell.

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Via Chad Jennings: Brian Cashman acknowledged the trade market for bats has yet to come together. “Certainly we’ve been actively busy making phone calls, worked through the break, but we have not completed anything. The phone calls were taking place, but nothing to show for it … It’s an offensive offense market,” said the GM.

The Yankees just lost both Derek Jeter (quad) and Zoilo Almonte (ankle) to the DL, and there’s a chance Alex Rodriguez‘s return will be delayed due to his recent quad injury. The Phillies are surging and remain hesitant to deal guys like Michael Young and Carlos Ruiz, so really the only active seller right now is the Cubs. Nate Schierholtz (117 wRC+) makes a ton of sense for New York, especially now with Almonte hurt, but otherwise it just doesn’t seem like many bats are available. Something is going to have to give a some point; the Yankees are on borrowed time with this lineup.

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Via Dan Martin: The Tigers have some interest in Joba Chamberlain. Detroit’s relievers have a 4.15 ERA (3.53 FIP), which is a bottom five mark in baseball. They’re definitely lacking quality bullpeners beyond Drew Smyly and Joaquin Benoit. The Giants, Braves, and Phillies are also said to have interest in the right-hander.

Chamberlain, 27, is an impending free agent with a 5.40 ERA (4.95 FIP) in 23.1 innings this year. He’s a reclamation project arm at this point; someone who sits 94.7 mph with his fastball (according to PitchFX) and still has a nasty mid-80s slider that misses bats (9.64 K/9 and 22.3 K%). The Yankees are reportedly “aggressively pushing” Joba in trade talks, but rental middle relievers who are both inconsistent and injury prone usually don’t bring much back via trade.

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