Friday, October 10, 2014

How Hardy’s deal with Orioles impacts Yankees’ shortstop plans

The Baltimore Orioles might have put a kink into the New York Yankees offseason plans to fill the hole left by the retirement of Derek Jeter. Thursday afternoon, the AL East champs agreed to a three-year, $40 million contract with a fourth-year vesting option with J.J. Hardy according to multiple reports.

With Jeter gone, and not a single player ready in the minor league system, the Yankees will likely look to the free agent market. Of course they could swing a trade, but trying to determine who fits with what team is a crapshoot. I’m not privy to internal discussions so why speculate?

Looking at options that are available on MLB’s open market and have tangible evidence to compare is easier to analyze and that’s what I’ll try to do here. This means I’ll also exclude South Korean power hitter Jung-ho Kang from this discussion since no one really knows how his body of work would translate to MLB.

With Hardy gone, the Yankees have a handful of players they could look at; Asdrubal Cabrera, Stephen Drew, Jed Lowrie and Hanley Ramirez.

First, let’s look at each player’s 2014 season by the numbers.



I left Hardy’s numbers there so that we can try to gauge the potential cost of the players with his contract being the “new” barometer.

At first glance, it’s simple to see that Ramirez is the premier hitter of the bunch. It’s also safe to say that his days at playing shortstop might be numbered. However, beside Hardy and Drew, above average defense is unlikely from the others going forward.

It’s important to note that besides Drew, each of the players, Hardy included, suffered from injuries during the season. Drew's lack of playing time was due to signing late and then poor performance.

Because of this we should glance at what each player did in 2013.



Except for Cabrera, it seems like it would have been better for their stock if all of these players were coming off their 2013 season versus 2014. Drew did have a chance to cash in but was slapped with a qualifying offer which shrunk his market. He gambled on holding out and it haunted him all season.

Speaking of qualifying offers, it is likely that only Ramirez will be offered one and since this is his last chance at a significant multiyear deal, expect him to decline the $15.3 million.

Back to the numbers. In my view, Hardy would have been the best all-around option for the Bombers. He’s arguably the best fielder of the bunch ahead of Drew, and doesn’t look like he’s losing ground in that area plus he can swing a good stick for a shortstop. Further his length of contract and price is a value in my opinion.

If the Yankees want to go full throttle simply to boost a sagging lineup Ramirez is their man. He’s compiled some lofty offensive numbers over the years, but Ramirez comes with multiple issues. First, he’s awful in the field, second he’s not getting younger (though by Yankees’ terms he’s a baby), he’s played in just 214 games over the last two seasons, he's going to want a large deal and finally he’ll have that qualifying offer attached.

All that said the team that signs Ramirez could easily see him as their third baseman. With Alex Rodriguez entrenched in the spot, and the true need being to fill the role at short first, the Yankees might not be willing to spend on Ramirez and one of the others mentioned here. They certainly will not fall back on Brendan Ryan who is already signed for 2015.

The others have their own issues. Lowrie and Cabrera each compiled uneven 2013 and 2014 seasons, but in the reverse as to which was better. Drew was simply atrocious in 2014, but was very good in 2013. It can be argued that missing spring training after holding out on signing with a team because of his 2014 qualifying offer put a severe strain on Drew's performance this past season.

Lowrie and Cabrera can expect a two or three-year deal and it would likely be in the range of Hardy’s with an average annual salary in the $11-13 million range.

I believe that only Drew will be able to be had on a one-year deal and compared to the others on the cheap. He’ll likely be willing to do as such, hoping to replicate a full season with 2013 numbers in and parlay that into a better deal for 2016. Figure something in the $6-8 million range for Scott Boras’ client.

So what should the Yankees do?

Personally, I can’t see the Yankees taking on Ramirez unless they can sign Drew as well. It would require moving Ramirez to third and making A-Rod the full-time designated hitter. That's all well and good but it poses a problem with getting rest for Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran who will undoubtedly need their half-days going forward. Signing Ramirez will also require a lengthy deal. I suspect he’ll be gunning for a five-year deal and easily $16 million per season. Will the Yankees want to take that on?

I also keep thinking about the Yankees losing yet another draft pick. They lost three last season and ended up not making a selection until the 55th pick in the first-year player draft. As it stands now, the Yankees will have the 19th pick in the 2015 draft. This is something that cannot be taken lightly for a team which has generally picked toward the end of the first round, if at all among the first 30 picks over the last several seasons.

My money would be on them trying to keep Drew for one year and hope that his issues in 2014 were about missing spring training and then not being played on a regular basis. Hoping for something closer to his 2013 numbers based on his career averages prior to 2014 is not exactly poor judgment considering the circumstances. I personally don't think Drew is nearly as horrible as he looked this past season.

Inking Drew would allow for other moves within the confines of the Yankees anticipated payroll. They could utilize the cash not used on Ramirez to upgrade the rotation, pay David Robertson to stick around and/or make a run at a solid third baseman like Chase Headley.

For fans signing Drew might not go over well and assuming it is Brian Cashman making the deal, those same fans will clamor even harder for the general manager's removal. But, the Yankees taking a one-year risk on Drew versus a five-year one on Ramirez that will inevitably crumble makes the most sense to me.

Statistics courtesy of FanGraphs.

New York Yankees logo courtesy of SportsLogos.net.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer and sports media strategist. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports, the FanSided network, Sportsideo and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In. He is a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and the BYB Hub.



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