Boy, lots of people are wondering what the Yankees will do if they don’t sign Cliff Lee for whatever reason. I’m curious too, but I’m also pretty optimistic about them signing the lefty. Anyway, this week’s mailbag offers a trio of Plan B questions, plus some stuff on Johnny Damon and Robbie Cano’s career. If you ever want to send in a question, just use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar.
Ryan asks: If the Yanks miss out on Lee and/or Pettitte retires who do the Yanks target via trade? They don’t seem high on Greinke, Liriano and Carpenter moves don’t make sense for those clubs and Garza in-division would be a hard get. Is Nolasco, Wandy, Lowe, Zambrano or Carmona good enough?
Greinke would be the best of the bunch, by quite a margin, but like you said the team doesn’t seem too enthused about landing him. I agree with you on Liriano, Carpenter, and Garza as well. Nolasco’s a really good pitcher, with 8.6 K/9 and 1.7 BB/9 (removing intentional walks) in his three full seasons. He’s never posted worse than a 3.86 FIP or 3.75 xFIP, or been worth less than 2.5 wins according to FanGraphs. He’s also pretty affordable as a Super Two, earning $3.8M in 2010 while still being under team control in 2011 and 2012. My biggest concern with Nolasco is that he’s really homer prone, about one every 7.1 innings pitched, and that’s in a big park in Florida. He won’t replace Lee, very few can, but Nolasco could certainly be a solid mid-rotation guy for the Yankees.
I really like Wandy Rodriguez, but I think the price would be a little too nuts even though he’ll be a free agent after the season. Derek Lowe’s okay these days, he’s good for innings but not necessary good performance. If the Braves eat some of the $30M left on his contract and take some mid-level prospects in return, sure. I suspect they’ll opt to keep him under those conditions though. Zambrano’s a nutcase and isn’t as good as everyone thinks; A.J. Burnett has out fWAR’d Big Z 12.8 to 11.8 since 2006. Plus there’s a ton of money left on his deal. And he’s a nut case. Carmona’s way too risky. He’s generally good, but his consistency makes A.J. blush.
Of the guys you mentioned, Nolasco’s the best, though I’d try really really hard for Greinke or Carpenter before settling on him. Whichever way they go, the pitcher they get will not be as good as Cliff Lee, that much is a given.
Adam asks: If the Yanks lose out on Lee, do you think Josh Johnson is an obvious target? Would a package of Montero, Brackman/Betances, Noesi, plus one more lower level guy get it done? Or do you think the trade would be even more.
The Marlins have no reason to move Johnson. He signed a big contract that keeps him in Florida for the next three years at well below market rates (just $35.25M through 2013), and don’t forget that their new park opens next season. Not only will that rake in some extra cash, but the team will surely want its young, homegrown, superstar right-hander to throw the first pitch in the park’s history. The Fish don’t really have a use for Montero; they just gave John Buck that ridiculous contract and they’re set at first with Gaby Sanchez. Even if Sanchez falters, Logan Morrison will step back into his natural position. So that right there creates a problem, Montero has less value to them than most.
If I’m the Marlins, I want a monster return for Johnson, more than the Royals want for Greinke given his contract status. Montero, Gardner, and Banuelos wouldn’t get it done, not even with two other prospects (say Adam Warren and David Adams) thrown in. I would, theoretically, ask for a young pitcher with Josh Johnson upside and big league success to his name, a top third base prospect, a centerfielder, and then minor leaguers. I don’t know who can put that package together, maybe the Orioles with Brian Matusz, Josh Bell, and Adam Jones (plus others)? That doesn’t do it for me though, and I love Brian Matusz. Point being, it’ll be so tough to acquire JJ that I don’t think he’s a viable Plan B. He’d be great, no question, I just don’t know how the hell the Yankees would get him.
Anonymous asks: I guess I’m getting a little impatient waiting for the Yanks to make a move. Cash could look at the Braves with Jair Jurrjens a 24 yr old with a 37-27 record, maybe Swisher & Eduardo Nunez with a few pitching prospects throw-in. Or take Chris Carpenter for two yrs at 15m & Jon Jay a good young OFer a hell of a lot cheaper then Lee! And Ricky Nolasco could be had at around 6m. Look at Lee in five yrs 37 and getting paid 24-25m?
We already talked about Carpenter and Nolasco, so let’s focus on Jurrjens. He’s 24, yes, but he’s had some injury trouble in his young career, namely a shoulder issue in 2007 and a pair of leg related ailments in 2010. He’s also not a strikeout guy, posting a career best 6.65 K/9 this season. The walks aren’t much of an issue (2.98 BB/9 over the last three years, taking out intentionals) but his declining ground ball rate (51.5% grounders in 2008, 42.9% in 2009, 39.9% in 2010) and increasing homerun rate (0.53 HR/9 in 2009, 0.63 in 2009, 1.01 in 2010) are.
Jurrjens is under control for three more seasons as an arbitration eligible player, though his peripheral stats scare me a bit. Swisher for Jurrjens would be pretty fair in terms of value (the Yanks would probably have to kick in someone like Nunez, who you suggested), but I’d rather keep Swish than trade him for a guy that won’t be much more than a mid-rotation arm for the Yanks, assuming he stays healthy. With Crawford off the market (this question was sent in before Crawford signed), trading Swish (or any outfielder for that matter) opens a rather gaping hole.
Matt asks: Hey huge fan of the site read it everyday several times a day, you guys are great. I have an idea for a post. The case to bring back Damon?
I think everyone here knows we’ve moved on from Damon even though we full appreciate his service to the Yankee cause. He followed up great 2009 season (.376 wOBA, 3.3 fWAR) with a decidedly average one in 2010 (.340 wOBA, 1.9 fWAR), and it wasn’t just Detroit’s ballpark either. His wOBA at Comerica (.350) far exceeded his wOBA on the road (.330). For argument’s sake, let’s make a case for a reunion with Johnny.
Although Damon’s offense dropped off this season, he still got on base at a .355 clip and stole double digit bases. Even though Comerica didn’t hurt him much, moving back into Yankee Stadium would probably help get him back into double digit homers as well. Given Brett Gardner’s recent wrist surgery and the chance that it could negatively impact him at least at the outset of next season, Damon would give the team some leftfield insurance and overall depth in general. If he came back, Jorge Posada would have to be the everyday catcher because you want both in the lineup. Playing one or the other defeats the purpose. That would allow them to be a bit more patient with Montero should they need to be.
Johnny can’t be looking for much money after making $8M in 2010, so $4-5M should get it done. Basically Russell Martin money. There’s certainly a case for bringing Damon back, but given the team’s needs, I don’t see much of a fit going forward.
Kevin asks: If you had to guess right now, Robinson Cano will have how many hits when he retires?
He’s at 1,075 right now, less than two months after his 28th birthday. Derek Jeter, for comparison, was sitting on close to 1,400 hits when he was a same age. I don’t think Robbie will reach 3,000 hits simply because the odds are greatly stacked against him. He’s just too far away and middle infielders tend to breakdown rapidly and without warning in the mid-30’s.
I don’t see why Cano can’t maintain a 200 hits a year pace for the next three seasons before falling off to say, 180 for two years then 160 or so for three years. That would leave him right around 2,500, still a ridiculous total, more than Frank Thomas, Chipper Jones, and Mickey Mantle. Want an exact number? I’ll say … 2,517.