Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Cauldron: Finding the Right Price

The stars couldn’t have aligned more perfectly for free-agent starting pitcher David Price. Between all the recent mega-signings and yet another stellar season on the hill, Price — who won’t command draft compensation — stands to have no shortage of deep-pocketed suitors this winter.

Read more at The Cauldron >>>

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Cauldron: Making the best offer

As Major League Baseball teams debate whether to tag their respective free agents with qualifying offers this offseason, deep down there’s bound to be a whole lot of snickering. The system has long been a farce, after all.

But that was before a trio of teams made far too big a reach.

Now, no one is laughing.

Read more at The Cauldron >>>

Friday, November 20, 2015

Could Yankees trade BOTH Gardner and Miller?

We’ve heard it over and over; the New York Yankees will not be active in the high-priced free agent market in a season in which big money is not coming off the books.

Brett Gardner
Photo: Keith Allison
Instead, they will follow a strategy which got aggressive last season in which the club traded from surplus and from their major league roster to acquire MLB-ready players tagged with the “upside” label. The effort paid off in 2015 with pitcher Nathan Eovaldi and shortstop Didi Gregorius playing important roles to the Yankees wild card berth.

This offseason began much the same way as last, with general manager Brian Cashman pulling off a trade of his backup catcher (John Ryan Murphy), this time nabbing a promising 26-year-old outfielder in Aaron Hicks. Cashman immediately touted Hicks as a potential full-time player (though he never said in 2016) and just as quickly the rumor mill surrounding Brett Gardner heated up.

The team also has Jacoby Ellsbury in the outfield, meaning two players with much the same style of play. Trading Gardner is the more reasonable option for the Yankees because he has three seasons and $38 million left on his deal. Meanwhile, Ellsbury is under contract for five more seasons with close to $110 million left on his pact.

So far, Gardner has been linked to the Seattle Mariners (who seem to be out now after trading for Leonys Martin) and the Cleveland Indians. The Yankees want another starter and the Indians have a surplus; namely Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar. Each pitcher would necessitate more from the Yankees, but both pitchers fit the Yankees' desires for hard-throwing young pitchers. Most recently, Gardner was connected to the Chicago Cubs for infielder Starlin Castro according to New York Daily News reporter Mark Feinsand.

Now, if the Yanks cannot find a suitable partner for Gardner, the rumor mill has also been hot around the team's 2015 closer and the American League Reliever of the Year, Andrew Miller. Miller has three years and $27 million left on the deal he signed last offseason. The Yankees, seeing what the San Diego Padres received for closer Craig Kimbrel, might pull the trigger on a deal that nets the club some prospects to fill any perceived voids in the system.

The Yankees have the luxury of being able to move BOTH Gardner and Miller because of what’s currently on the roster and in the farm system, along with who they might receive in return.

If Gardner goes, the Yankees could slide Ellsbury to left field and place the better-fielding Hicks in center. Or, the Yankees could dip in the wallets earlier than expected and go after a free-agent outfielder to play left, keeping Ellsbury in center and making Hicks a very versatile fourth outfielder. A right-handed hitting bat would be a nice addition for the Bombers and there are a few available.

The Yankees still have players like Mason Williams and Slade Heathcott, both of whom received time in 2015, and performed well, when Ellsbury was hurt. But, they hit left-handed and also have similar styles to Ellsbury. Aaron Judge, the mammoth outfielder is likely a full season away, but in a pinch the Yanks could call upon the 23-year-old to provide assistance. The point is there is some depth at Triple-A.

Andrew Miller
Photo: Arturo Pardavilla III
The bullpen might take a bigger step back as a whole if Miller was dealt. Dellin Betances could surely take over the closer role, and if used properly (three outs, maybe four every once and while) he could flourish. But, after Betances things become a little murky.

Justin Wilson was perfectly fine pitching in the seventh inning in 2015, but would a bump to the eighth inning be smooth? Wilson was used for one inning on average per appearance, so the club essentially loses Betances’ ability to lock down more outs. Outside of Wilson, who do the Yankees turn to?

Chasen Shreve was great for most of the 2015 season, but he folded over the final month-plus of games. Adam Warren has been told to prepare to compete for a spot in the rotation. But, if Miller is gone and they do not sign another reliever, can the Yankees afford to utilize Warren as a starter? Warren could be every bit as productive as Betances where it concerns high-leverage performance for more than one inning of work. Plus, Warren might not be as needed in the rotation IF the Yankees acquire a starter either in a trade for Gardner, or via free agency.

The Yankees do have a handful of young relievers who were shuttled back and forth last season to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre – Jacob Lindgren, James Pazos, Branden Pinder and Nick Rumbelow among others could have a chance to make the 25-man roster depending on the whereabouts of Miller.

I look at the entire circumstance in this way.

Any deal with Gardner would likely necessitate a top prospect or even two for the likes of Carrasco or Salazar, or a similar pitcher on another squad. The Yankees have been hesitant to deal from their top prospects of late, but if a young, peaking and controllable pitcher is dangled in their face they might jump on what they consider a solid option.

And that type of scenario could push the Yankees to refill the coffers of the system by trading Miller. The package the Red Sox gave away to San Diego included two of their top-10 prospects. This would certainly interest the Yankees if they had to package top prospects in a Gardner deal.

Also, do not underestimate the importance of the 2016 salaries here to getting involved in the high-price free agent market. Gardner's salary ($13 million) and Miller's ($9 million) provides plenty of room for a player like right-handed hitting Justin Upton (expected to make about $120 million over six years according to FanGraphs’ crowdsourcing).

The Yankees do not need to make one or both of these moves, but the chances of improving their club in multiple ways are certainly possible if they do. By trading both players, the Yankees get younger, fill immediate voids and potentially allows the club to maintain a prospect level similar to what they have now.

Salary information courtesy of Cot's Baseball Contracts.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance baseball writer. Besides his work here, Christopher is a featured Yankees writer for SNY.tv. His baseball commentary has also been published on The Cauldron, Yahoo Sports 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.



Friday, November 13, 2015

If Yankees add outside starter, bullpen might benefit from excess arms

The New York Yankees are reportedly in the market for a starting pitcher, yet they have seven hurlers on their 40-man roster who made at least 11 starts for the club in 2015. If a starter is added to the mix this offseason, we might expect one of those seven pitchers is traded. We can speculate as to who that might be, but it’s also worth trying to determine who misses the cut to stick in the rotation (assuming good health).

The Yankees rotation is one with some questions marks, so adding depth or getting extravagant by signing an ace-type starter makes sense. But in order to do so, the Yankees will have to make some internal adjustments.

First, here is a chart showing each of the starters currently on the roster along with the number of starts, innings pitched in 2015 and 2016 salary (* = projected salary provided by MLB Trade Rumors).


Many would agree that CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka, Nathan Eovaldi and Luis Severino are not going anywhere; the first two due to salary and the latter two because the Yankees likely do not want to part with them. Michael Pineda, Ivan Nova and Adam Warren are surely able to be traded, but I would venture to guess the Yankees do not entertain moving Pineda because of his low cost and potential upside. If any of the seven above are dealt this winter, it would probably be Nova, again if the Yankees add a starter.

For argument’s sake let’s say that Nova is traded, after the Yankees do in fact add another starting pitcher via trade or free agency. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has flat-out stated that starting rotation slots are not assigned at the moment; each player will need to earn his spot. But, we can speculate as to who would have the upper-hand in the pecking order assuming good health across the board.

First, the pitcher the Yankees receive would most certainly have a greater shot of becoming a rotation member, otherwise, why bother? So, we’d likely see Tanaka, Eovaldi, Severino and Pineda round out the rotation, again assuming health and expected performance. That would leave Sabathia and Warren on the outside looking in.

Putting a man earning $25 million into the bullpen, likely for long relief and spot starts is pretty drastic, but does anyone believe that Sabathia is going to outpitch any of the five players mentioned? If Sabathia’s track record over the last few seasons indicates anything, it’s that he is declining, and might be better suited for this type of duty.

In this scenario Sabathia would be the first person to slide into the rotation if there was an injury; and with this group, that’s almost a sure thing. While Sabathia has seen better days, I’ll go out on a limb and suggest he’d be better than Chris Capuano, Esmil Rogers or a slew of others the Yankees tried in the spot in 2015.

Adam Warren
Photo credit: Keith Allison via Flickr
As for Warren, I’m one of the few people who believe that he provides the Yankees with more value as a reliever. The emphasis on those three words is important. I fully support the notion that Warren can hold his own as a starting pitcher in this league. He proved that in 2015. But, the Yankees need another setup man; so why should they go out and trade for one or sign one with a viable option in front of their faces who costs next to nothing? The Yankees desperately needed another right-hander for higher leverage situations in their bullpen last season, something Warren aptly provided from 2013-14.

Further, I would go so far as to say that Warren should never slot as a starter in 2016. If the injury bug hits and it requires going beyond Sabathia to fill the rotation, then Bryan Mitchell can take some turns; or the Yankees can fill the part with another ready arm from the system. Mitchell proved last season that he could not handle a bullpen role; he’s a starter plain and simple.

Some might argue that Warren’s value would take a hit by throwing strictly as a reliever in 2016. I’m fairly certain at Warren’s age (27) if the Yankees made him available in a trade, a team could decide whether he’s being brought in as a starter or a reliever. Hopefully for Warren his role in New York or elsewhere becomes a constant and he can carve out a career as one or the other. In my view another season as a full-time reliever is not going to preclude him from starting again.

Adding a starting pitcher from the outside might be the best way for the Yankees to improve their rotation for 2016, and in turn fills two bullpen spots which the Yankees sorely missed in 2015 without wasting prospects or more cash.

Logo courtesy of SportsLogos.net.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance baseball writer. Besides his work here, Christopher is a featured Yankees writer for SNY.tv. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports 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.



Thursday, November 12, 2015

Yankees strike another November trade, fueling rumor mill

The New York Yankees swung two deals in the matter of an hour Wednesday; the second season in a row the Yankees made a trade in early November. First, the club spun infielder Jose Pirela for 20-year-old starting pitcher Ronald Herrera from the San Diego Padres, and then moved catcher John Ryan Murphy to the Minnesota Twins for switch-hitting outfielder Aaron Hicks.

Trading Pirela opened a spot on the 40-man roster for the Yankees and netted the club a power arm for minor league depth. Moving Murphy was a bit of surprise with many, myself included, figuring Gary Sanchez was going to be packing his bags. However, the Yankees might view Sanchez more as a long-term solution than Murphy and Hicks fits the outfield quite nicely.

For now Hicks slots in as the fourth outfielder, one able to play strong defense from any of the three positions, behind Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran. Hicks owns a .808 OPS (261 PA) against left-handed pitching in his young career. The Yankees needed to address the fourth outfielder spot from the right side of the plate with the starters all lefties, or better offensively as a lefty in Beltran’s case.

As the ink was drying on the deal, there was immense speculation that the Yankees trade for Hicks meant Gardner undoubtedly had seen his last days in pinstripes (mind you, Gardner trade rumors were already in full tilt). The chatter escalated with Brian Cashman’s comment that the Yankees see the 26-year-old Hicks as a starter.


Gardner or Ellsbury?


Now, Hicks is a very good defender, but he has had a problem hitting right-handed pitching (.596 OPS in 667 plate appearances), which of course he would see most often as an everyday player. While Gardner could be traded, it might not necessarily be to open a spot for Hicks.

The Yankees could use some of the cash saved and move on a free-agent outfielder like Jason Heyward or Justin Upton in an effort to further decrease their average age for position players. Either Heyward or Upton would be an upgrade over Gardner, but would also cost close to twice as much per season. The same plan could be employed by trying to trade Ellsbury, but with close to $110 million and five seasons left on his deal that seems unlikely.

Don’tcha know?


Jacoby Ellsbury
Photo credit: Keith Allison via Flickr
While Ellsbury’s deal looks difficult to move, what about the notion brought forth by ESPN.com’s Andrew Marchand via this tweet wondering of the chance of an Ellsbury deal with the Seattle Mariners for Robinson Cano? Cano has eight years and $192 million left on his contract with the Mariners.

In my view, the Yankees would only do this if Seattle was tossing back in at least half the difference in value left on the pacts of Ellsbury and Cano (almost $83 million). The Yankees wanted nothing to do with paying Cano $24 million per season and I’d guess that has not changed. If the Yanks only had to pay Cano $140-150 million over the next eight seasons, then they might listen.

Further, it seems hard to believe that after only two seasons, the Mariners would abandon Cano, pay part of his salary AND try to compete in the AL West, not to mention they recently made a change in general manager. I cannot see this panning out now, but check back in a few seasons when the money decreases on both sides.


Left-handed starter for wish list?


Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News stated that Wei-Yin Chen was high on the Yankees starting pitcher wish list. Chen, a 30-year-old lefty, comes with draft compensation attached. The Yankees own the 22nd pick in the 2016 First-year Player Draft.

Chen pitched well for the Baltimore Orioles over the last fours seasons (46-32, 372. ERA) and is familiar with navigating the strong AL East lineups so the fit is there. The Yankees desire for a left-handed starter makes sense with only CC Sabathia among the potential rotation members who throw left-handed, and Yankee Stadium is built better for left-handed pitchers. Chen is seeking a five-year deal according to Feinsand.

Brett Anderson is another left-handed starter who is seeking a multiyear deal, and comes with a draft pick compensation attached. Anderson started 31 games for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2015, the most he’s thrown since he managed 30 starts in 2009; his rookie campaign with the Oakland Athletics.

If the Yankees want a lefty starter from the free-agency barrel who is not tied down with a compensation pick they might want to look at Scott Kazmir who has reinvented himself over the last two seasons. Kazmir will likely come with a shorter term and lower cost, and just as much ability as Chen as far as I can see.

The Yankees could drop even lower in the pool and target J.A. Happ or Rich Hill, both of whom looked very good at the end of the 2015 season. Each would also come with immense risk -- albeit short-term -- due to the larger sampling of poor performance before their respective hot stretches last season.

We’re just a couple of weeks into the hot stove season and the Yankees are already stoking the fire. I suspect there will be plenty more to talk about over the next few months. If last winter and the early stages of this offseason are any indication, nothing is out of the question for the club going forward, especially if it means control of young players with upside.

Yankees logo courtesy of SportsLogos.net.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance baseball writer. Besides his work here, Christopher is a featured Yankees writer for SNY.tv. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports 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.



Friday, November 6, 2015

Has Carlos Beltran been worth the financial risk to Yankees?

After the 2013 season, the New York Yankees went on a contract binge like few others have in Major League Baseball, spending more than $500 million in guaranteed salaries.

Carlos Beltran
Photo credit: Keith Allison via WikiCommons
The haul included Masahiro Tanaka’s posting fee and contract value ($175 million), Jacoby Ellsbury's seven-year deal ($153 million), Brian McCann's five-year pact ($85 million) and Carlos Beltran's three-year contract ($45 million). Beltran’s deal was the least expensive of the four large guarantees, but viewed by some as one of the riskier investments based mostly on the veteran outfielder’s age.

Beltran entered the 2014 campaign in his age-37 season, coming off a fine year with the St. Louis Cardinals. He’d lost a couple of steps in the outfield, but the Yankees felt he wouldn’t be overly exposed in right field. What excited the Yankees was having a switch-hitter with power at their disposal. Beltran was considered a professional batter and his contract was believed to be one which would be fulfilled by his performance in the field.

Has it been?

The Yankees would have preferred to have a bit more of a healthy player than they have received to date. While they had to believe that Beltran was not going to be able to stay on the field enough to accumulate 600+ plate appearances each season, I’d bet they did not think he was going to fail to reach 1,000 after two full seasons (he has 980 PA across 242 games).

Further, the Yankees might not have expected Beltran to become completely useless in the field. They might have seen it coming in the final year, but from the outset of the tenure, I doubt it. And I say that because the Yankees couldn’t have assumed they’d move Beltran into a designated hitter role with numerous players needing to find some time in the slot throughout his contract term.

Well, the Yankees were forced to move Beltran into a DH spot in 2014 due to injury to his throwing arm and since Alex Rodriguez was suspended for the season, there were at-bats to be had for the role. In 2015, the club paid the price in right field with Beltran cemented (literally and figuratively) there more often because Rodriguez was back in the fold and claiming the DH spot full time.

The injury certainly hampered Beltran’s season at the plate in 2014. Before getting hurt he was stroking the ball quite well; he was providing more or less exactly what the Yankees hoped for from an offensive perspective. In 2015, Beltran was much healthier as a whole, and his work at the plate benefited from it, especially after May 1. From that point Beltran was arguably the club’s most consistent hitter.

Statistically, and from a performance value-added standpoint, Beltran has failed to live up to his contract price thus far. He’ll have to blow away realistic expectations in 2016 in order to cover the lost ground from 2014-15. Let’s check out his fWAR value and performance value according to FanGraphs.



That’s absolutely pathetic isn’t it? And to be truthful, it’s something that should have been expected. Beltran had a nice 2013 season at the plate (131 wRC+) but showed severe signs of losing it in the field with the Cardinals (-18.7 UZR/150). He registered a 1.9 fWAR in his final season in St. Louis and the Yankees might well have hoped for a duplicate season in 2014, but it wasn't wise for them to have expected that same production over three years from a man inching closer to 40.

In order for Beltran to reach performance value (using $8.1 million per 1.0 fWAR, his 2015 mark, as a basis) he’ll need to record a 4.4 fWAR in 2016. That would push Beltran barely over the breakeven mark for the entirety of his contract. The last time Beltran registered an fWAR value over 4.0 was in 2011 when he combined for a 4.3 mark with the New York Mets and San Francisco Giants.

Once Beltran tanked in 2014 (regardless of the reasons), the Yankees were hard-pressed to achieve reaching performance value from their right fielder. The club now hopes to receive repeat of 2015 in 2016. My feeling is such a result will come up short. Beltran can still hit, but even that’s likely to take a bit of a downturn as he turns 39 in April. Worse, the Yankees will still need Beltran to play in the field unless there is a significant injury to Rodriguez, who is under contract through 2017.

So, while the Beltran deal was the least significant in terms of total expenditure (and maybe not the worst of the bunch with Ellsbury’s contract potentially set to cause more damage in the long run), it will likely fall short of breaking even and go down as a poor overall investment by the Yankees.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance baseball writer. Besides his work here, Christopher is a featured Yankees writer for SNY.tv. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports 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.



Monday, November 2, 2015

Yankees' roster requires more demolition before building new foundation

The New York Yankees have been planning their offseason agenda since being eliminated from the 2015 postseason that lasted all of one game. But, with the Kansas City Royals’ World Series championship run all wrapped up, the Yanks’ hot stove has officially been lit. For the Yankees, any solidifying of their foundation still requires some demolition.

There are very few vacancies coming for the Yankees; Chris Capuano, Stephen Drew and Chris Young are free agents, while the Yankees have club options on Brendan Ryan (he also has a player option) and Andrew Bailey. Essentially, the Yankees have to decide on their second baseman for 2016 and beyond, whether or not to improve their rotation and/or bullpen and find a right-handed bat to complement a lefty-heavy offense.

There are a number of high-priced players out there who would certainly improve the Yankees, but under the new methodology of running the team and without costly expiring contracts to provide financial relief, the Yanks might not be willing to take on more payroll this offseason. If the Yankees dive into the free-agent market expect them to target the middle-tier and look to versatile depth pieces.

The Yankees might play the offseason with a similar flair to last year when they traded major league players for other major league players. It worked out well with the additions of Nathan Eovaldi and Didi Gregorius, but those types of deals are not easy to come by, let alone be successful. The Yankees do have a surplus of minor leaguers with which to deal from as well, making their options numerous. The players the Yankees would be willing to trade might not bring back the top players in the game, but the team’s available prospects, especially if packaged, can surely demand players who would provide ample and immediate impacts.

The Yankees might be content to allow Dustin Ackley and Rob Refsnyder to fight for the second base job, or employ them in a strict platoon. The club could stick with the current rotation and hope that they’ll stay healthy enough to add a few more wins in 2016. Likewise, the Yanks might not venture into the trade or free-agent market to bolster their bullpen, choosing to utilize the young arms already in the system, some of whom proved they could perform more than adequately in their roles. Finally, the Yankees might stick with players like Young and Ryan to round out their roster instead of selecting a player they do not know for a bit role.

Despite the unquestionable option to do so, I do not believe the Yankees can stand pat in all of these areas. Minimally, I believe they should choose to upgrade in at least one area, and then try to rely on the depth of the system to hold them over in the others. Completely doubling-down on a roster that might have benefited from some overachievers in Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira, could be a mistake.

The Yankees should aim to add at least five wins to their total for 2016, as the AL East has a chance to once again become the powerhouse division in the league. Toronto has a solid base, Boston is deep and should bounce back, while Baltimore and Tampa will do enough to remain competitive.

The Yankees will not be able to add the aforementioned number of wins as conceived and unfortunately they might not be able to change all that much because of the current and unmovable commitments to Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury, Rodriguez, CC Sabathia and Teixeira. Add in Brian McCann, Masahiro Tanaka, Brett Gardner, Chase Headley and Andrew Miller and the Yanks sit at close to $180 million in salaries for just 10 players.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has his work cut out for him and will need to be as creative as he was last offseason. Cashman cannot add substantial payroll without subtraction of the like. The club’s anticipated $200 million-plus payroll should portend to success on the field, but when a good deal of that cash is headed to the pockets of so many question marks, any comfort or certainty vanishes.

The advice here is not to expect a high-priced addition this offseason unaccompanied by a major subtraction move. More likely, the Yankees will nibble around the free-agent and trade market with the intent to incrementally improve the club.

Not until 2017, and maybe again in 2018 do I see the Yankees shelling out big checks, and that’s not a bad thing with the influx of youthful talent in the system. The Yankees seem committed to balancing their roster by taking from their farm system and combining those players with wise financial investments for experienced talent on the better side of their prime. Better yet, maybe, just maybe, the Yanks will be at a juncture in the next couple of years to utilize their financial might to secure long-term contracts with some of the younger players they’ve developed or nabbed via trade.

Building a foundation is a proven methodology. Look at the Royals. Ask the Mets. Simply remember the Yankees of the dynasty years. It takes time, and it takes some demolition before re-pouring the cement and letting it dry. It's true the Yankees are not quite ready to put up the first story, but the blueprint is there.

Yankees logo courtesy of SportsLogos.net.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance baseball writer. Besides his work here, Christopher is a featured Yankees writer for SNY.tv. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports 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.