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C.C. Sabathia Rumors
Yankees starters Masahiro Tanaka and C.C. Sabathia are generating positive reports, team pitching coach Larry Rothschild tells Mark Didtler of the Associated Press (via the LoHud Yankees Blog). Tanaka has “felt good” while going through a normal winter progression, says Rothschild. The pair’s progress this spring will be critical for the Yankees. If Tanaka’s partially torn UCL or Sabathia’s balky knee are problematic, the club would seem a prime candidate to add pitching.
- In the final analysis, the Royals‘ run with James Shields was an example of the team “beating the system,” according to Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star. By selling high on Wil Myers to add Shields, Kansas City added the arm it needed before cashing him in for a new first-round pick through the qualifying offer system.
- The Red Sox and Orioles have at least begun looking into the idea of playing a spring game in Cuba this year, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney reports. While it appears unlikely that will happen in such short order, it certainly hints at how quickly things could move in that arena.
- Signing players to big extensions is obviously risky, and rarely works out in the way that many expect when a deal is struck. But that does not mean that they fail to deliver good value, or that teams are irrational in reaching them, Russell Carleton of Baseball Prospectus writes.
For the first time in awhile, the Yankees are showing signs of youth and upside, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Per GM Brian Cashman, the club is deeper, flexible, younger, and more diverse. Rosenthal notes that Cashman is finally operating “from a position of strength,” and “no longer is in a box.” The Yankees have options moving forward besides depending on outspending the competition. Here’s more Yankees notes from Rosenthal’s column.
- The Yankees have the prospect depth to trade for Cole Hamels if they wanted. However, Rosenthal cautions that Cashman may be reluctant to part with the depth he’s so carefully nurtured. A deal for Hamels might also start with newly acquired shortstop Didi Gregorius, which would just create a new problem to solve (arguably a more difficult problem in my opinion). The Yankees had the pieces to add Johan Santana back when the the Twins were shopping him, but they kept their prospects and spent on C.C. Sabathia the following offseason. We could be in for some deja vu, especially with next offseason’s free agent market shaping up to be pitching rich.
- While the club can turn to free agency rather than trade for Hamels, Rosenthal thinks they would have re-signed Robinson Cano last offseason if they wanted to make a $200MM investment. For that reason, a pact with Max Scherzer might be unlikely.
- Cashman has three surprising trades this offseason, so guessing his behavior based on history might be misleading. The club could deal from its minor league catching depth, such as John Ryan Murphy or Gary Sanchez. Others such as Gregorius, Nathan Eovaldi, David Carpenter, and Brett Gardner are less likely to be offered in trade talks.
JULY 18: Sabathia will undergo arthroscopic knee surgery on July 18 and miss the rest of the season, Cashman told reporters, including Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News (on Twitter). While it’s bad news for the Yankees, it’s not as bad as it could’ve been, as the arthroscopic surgery is less severe than microfracture surgery.
Nonetheless, it’s tough to imagine the Yankees overcoming the loss of Sabathia, Ivan Nova and potentially Masahiro Tanaka for most of the season. The Yankees were likely already prepared for the loss of Sabathia, however, so it’s unlikely that this significantly alters their thinking as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline approaches.
JULY 4: Yankees hurler C.C. Sabathia has suffered a setback in his efforts to rehab a degenerative condition in his right knee and may now require microfracture surgery, as ESPNNewYork.com’s Andrew Krammer was among those to report. Manager Joe Girardi said that, at present, it is “fair to say” that Sabathia will likely not return this year.
Sabathia will pay another visit to Dr. James Andrews on July 14th for an assessment. “[Surgery] is always a possibility when you have a degenerative knee,” said Girardi. “I’m not exactly sure if he was to have surgery what it would be, that’s yet to be determined.”
The malady is serious enough that Girardi was not willing to rule out the possibility that it could ultimately end the career of the soon-to-be 34-year-old. “I think it’s too early to predict that,” said Girardi. “But whenever you have degenerative issues that cause surgery or things like that, there’s always a little question there.”
Sabathia is under contract through 2016 for a guaranteed $53MM, including a $5MM buyout for a 2017 vesting/club option. But the remaining $20MM on that option becomes guaranteed if Sabathia does not suffer a left shoulder injury which causes him to end the 2016 season on the DL, spend more than 45 days on the DL in 2016, or make more than six relief appearances in 2016.
With the Yankees now seemingly unable to bank on a return to the hill from Sabathia, to say nothing of rotation mates Michael Pineda (who is still inching ahead in his rehab program) and Ivan Nova (out for the year after Tommy John surgery), the club’s need for starting pitching becomes all the more pronounced.
Though Byron Buxton has only played in six games this season due to a wrist injury, the Twins outfielder still sits atop Baseball America’s midseason ranking of the top 50 prospects in the sport. Twenty-two of the 30 Major League teams have at least one player on the list, and the Cubs stand out with three players in the top seven — Kris Bryant at #2, the newly-acquired Addison Russell at #5 and Javier Baez at #7.
Here’s some news as we kick off the final week before the All-Star break…
- Jed Hoyer discussed several Cubs topics with David Kaplan and David Haugh on their podcast this morning, including how the general manager believes the offseason will be a busy one for his team. “I expect us to be far more active this winter than last winter,” Hoyer said. “We have money to spend and I expect teams looking for offense to call us.” (Hat tip to Kaplan’s Twitter page.)
- C.C. Sabathia‘s career is at a crossroads with the news that the veteran lefty might require microfracture surgery on his right knee. Given Sabathia’s declining numbers and 2017 vesting option, ESPN’s Buster Olney (Insider subscription needed) wonders if the Yankees would be better off if Sabathia retired.
- The week’s minor league transactions are recapped by Matt Eddy of Baseball America.
- While the A’s are seemingly going all-in with the Jeff Samardzija/Jason Hammel trade, Giants GM Brian Sabean could see upgrades as a lost cause given how his team has struggled recently, John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle writes. Shea opines that Sabean isn’t keen on trading prospects for 2014 given that he’ll have a number of roster holes to fill next season thanks to possibly departing free agents.
C.C. Sabathia received a stem cell injection in his right knee last week and will be out of action until at least July, Yankees GM Brian Cashman tells Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Cashman said he has checked in with teams about trade possibilities and while “nothing has materialized,” Cashman “will keep an eye out to see if something does.” Three-fifths of the Bombers’ regular rotation is currently injured, with Ivan Nova out for the season and Michael Pineda on the DL until mid-June at the earliest.
Here’s the latest from the Yankees and Mets in this roundup of Big Apple baseball news…
- Alex Rodriguez told advisers last summer that he was considering retirement rather than go through a lengthy battle with Major League Baseball over his record PED suspension, reports Teri Thompson, Bill Madden, Michael O’Keeffe, Christian Red and Nathaniel Vinton of the New York Daily News. A-Rod was convinced to fight his suspension, however, after consulting with Desiree Perez, a New York nightclub manager affiliated with Jay Z and who also played a role in Robinson Cano signing with the Mariners. Rodriguez may have been motivated to listen to Perez in part because, as the article states, he would like to become a player agent, possibly with Jay Z’s Roc Nation Sports agency.
- Back when Wil Myers was still a Royals prospect, Kansas City offered him to the Mets for a trade package of Jonathan Niese and Zack Wheeler, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News tweets. Myers, of course, ended up being the centerpiece of the five-player package the Royals sent to the Rays in exchange for James Shields and Wade Davis. It’s an interesting what-if to ponder for both the Mets and Royals; Myers would’ve given the Amazins a cornerstone player in the outfield, but at the cost of two quality young arms. For K.C., Shields was the better win-now move, though he had only two years of team control and Davis has become a relief pitcher. Wheeler is controllable through the 2019 season while Niese’s five-year contract has club options that could’ve extended the deal through 2018.
- Also from Martino, he looks at some trade possibilities for the Yankees and Mets this summer. The Mets looked at LaTroy Hawkins, Fernando Rodney and Grant Balfour over the winter and could explore trading for veteran closer help, plus shortstop could still be a position the Mets are looking to upgrade. As for the Yankees, they could also use shortstop help but acquiring a big name could be awkward given the awkwardness of benching Derek Jeter during his final season. A move for Diamondbacks shortstop Didi Gregorius makes sense for both New York clubs.
- Particularly in the wake of the Sabathia news, the Yankees also need starting pitching. Martino writes that while the Yankees may not have the prospect depth to attract a major trade chip, their financial resources could help them take big contracts off the hands of losing teams. Possible trade candidates in this vein could be the Diamondbacks’ Bronson Arroyo or the Blue Jays’ Mark Buehrle or R.A. Dickey (if Toronto falls out of the race, that is).
- In an Insider-only piece for ESPN.com, Paul Swydan criticizes both the Mets front office and manager Terry Collins for some transactions and personnel moves that Swydan feels “have left the Mets in an all-too-familiar middling position.”
Dan Uggla‘s role with the Braves is becoming increasingly smaller, as MLB.com’s Mark Bowman writes that Tyler Pastornicky will be given the opportunity to serve as Atlanta’s everyday second baseman. Pastornicky has just two hits in 17 at-bats this season but has a solid Triple-A track record. Should he falter, the Braves also have Tommy La Stella waiting in the wings at Triple-A, though his strong OBP (.379) has been accompanied by a notable power outage, as he’s slugging just .328 with a .039 ISO. More from the game’s Eastern divisions…
- Within that same notebook piece, Bowman notes that the Braves will utilize a six-man rotation at least through next week. Manager Fredi Gonzalez doesn’t like the idea, but the team feels it has little choice with six starting options that are throwing so well. The manager did concede that the six-man grouping might help later in the year by limiting the workload on Alex Wood and Gavin Floyd.
- The Star Ledger’s Jorge Castillo reports that CC Sabathia‘s visit to Dr. James Andrews confirmed that there’s no structural damage in his knee. The Yankees are hopeful that Sabathia will be able to return as soon as he is eligible to help an injury-plagued pitching staff.
- Bud Selig isn’t concerned over reports that partial Mets owner Saul Katz is looking to sell his shares of the team, writes Christian Red of the New York Daily News. “
- Jon Heyman of CBS Sports asked Red Sox chairman Tom Werner if the team is committed to using a Will Middlebrooks/Xander Bogaerts tandem on the left side of the infield and was told “for the moment” (Twitter link).
We just looked at the latest from the AL Central; here are some notes from the rest of the American League:
- The Orioles will not discuss contract extensions during the season, reports Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun. “We’re not going to be exploring any extensions during the season,” said Executive VP Dan Duquette. “… Once the season starts, I think it benefits the team and the players and the fans to keep the focus on the field and the players on the field.” While star center fielder Adam Jones was inked to a mid-season extension back in 2012, Duquette explained that was a different situation since “we started that discussion during the winter, and it extended into the season.” The team is not presently in talks with any of its current crop of pending free agents, Duquette said. While shortstop J.J. Hardy had been linked to contract chatter during the spring, he and fellow free-agents-to-be Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis will seemingly be allowed to test the open market. (MLBTR’s Steve Adams just took a look an early look at the free agent case of Markakis.)
- Mariners closer Fernando Rodney said today that he wanted to stay with the Rays but never received a contract offer, reports Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune (Twitter link). Rodney added that he received two-year offers from the Mets, Orioles, and Indians, in addition to a one-year offer from the Yankees, tweets Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Of course, Rodney ultimately went to Seattle for two years and $14MM.
- Yankees hurler C.C. Sabathia is headed to see Dr. James Andrews, tweets Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork.com, though thankfully the issue is in his knee rather than his left elbow. As MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch writes, the visit is viewed as precautionary, as a recent MRI showed no structural issues. “The best-case scenario is, CC gets the knee drained, rests for five days and gets a couple of bullpens under his belt and he takes the start after he comes off the DL,” said GM Brian Cashman. “That’s the best-case scenario. I’m not saying that’s the scenario we’re dealing with yet, but that’s the best.” The club will hope that proves to be the result, as its rotation is already dealing with several notable injuries. Needless to say, any ongoing issues with Sabathia would only further enhance New York’s starting pitcher needs at the trade deadline.
- The Athletics have gained more production from the catching spot than any other American League club through the combination of Derek Norris and John Jaso, writes John Hickey of Bay Area News Group. Heading into today’s action, the platoon pair had combined for an impressive .338/.419/.507 triple-slash. Indeed, that line has actually been good enough to vault the A’s catching unit into the league lead by measure of fWAR, with a healthy 1.9 wins above replacement through just 184 plate appearances. Both players came to Oakland through trades involving the Nationals, with Norris a piece in the Gio Gonzalez trade and Jaso heading down from the Mariners in the three-team Michael Morse deal.
With Blue Jays starter Brandon Morrow going to the 60-day DL with a torn tendon sheath, the Star’s Richard Griffin writes that Morrow may well have thrown his last pitch for the club. As Griffin notes, the 29-year-old’s $10MM club option (which comes with a $1MM buyout) seems unlikely to be exercised at this point after yet another significant injury. Here’s more from Toronto and the rest of the AL East:
- Indications are that the Blue Jays will look to keep power-hitting corner infielder Juan Francisco in the fold after Adam Lind is activated, tweets Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star. Discussing the situation, MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm writes that Toronto could conceivably drop one of its eight relievers or shift Brett Lawrie into the club’s regular second base role.
- Orioles slugger Nelson Cruz discussed his difficult last year with MLB.com’s Britt Ghiroli, saying that it was hardest on his family. As for the qualifying offer situation, Cruz said he probably would have grabbed it had he known what was in store. “But it’s something that you risk and you trust your instincts,” said Cruz. “In this case, it wasn’t what I expected. But I’m happy with my decision and happy with where I am now. That’s the only thing that matters.” From the O’s perspective, executive VP Dan Duquette said that the deal was made when Cruz’s camp “adjusted what they were looking for in terms of the term” (i.e. length) of the deal. Cruz if off to a hot start, of course, posting a .294/.369/.596 triple-slash with nine home runs in his first 122 plate appearances with Baltimore.
- A less-consequential decision for the Orioles front office was the low-risk signing of one-time ace Johan Santana, who has been working his way back to full strength on a minor league contract. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports on Twitter that Santana’s fastball has reached the 88-89 mph range, with his slider in the low-80’s and change in the mid-70’s. While that obviously represents a significant drop from his peak years, Santana posted an average fastball velocity of just 89.6 mph in his 2.98 ERA, 199-inning 2010 season.
- In a chat today, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick touched upon the situation of Yankees starter C.C. Sabathia. A scout recently told Crasnick that Sabathia’s offerings are “very fringy,” and that he will need impeccable control to be effective going forward. On the other hand, Crasnick opines that Sabathia has actually delivered decent value to New York on his massive contract. For what it’s worth, Sabathia’s unsightly 5.75 ERA through his first 40 2/3 innings in 2014 is much worse than his 4.16 FIP, 2.95 xFIP, and 2.92 SIERA marks. Indeed, while Sabathia has been hurt by the long ball (21.9% HR/FB rate) and a .361 BABIP, he is sporting 9.74 K/9 against just 1.99 BB/9 while generating a 50.8% ground-ball rate.
The Cubs' rare visit to Yankee Stadium this week led to some introspection about how the Cubs have kept a modest payroll during their rebuild, while the Yankees responded to a non-playoff year by splurging on several major free agents. It was only a few years ago, however, that the Cubs themselves were a big free agent target, and C.C. Sabathia talked to reporters (including Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times) about his interest in coming to Wrigley Field during the 2008-09 offseason. Wittenmyer reports that Sabathia let Cubs managment know, via his friend Derrek Lee, that he wanted to sign with Chicago that winter. Of course, Sabathia instead signed with the Yankees and the rest is history.
Here's the latest news about both the Cubs and White Sox…
- Jeff Samardzija feels a responsibility to the players' union to strive for a big contract, the Cubs righty tells CSN Chicago's Patrick Mooney, and he doesn't seem to be a fan of some of the multiyear deals being signed by pre-arbitration pitchers around the game. "Personally, numbers and money don’t really drive me. What does drive me is protecting and setting up the players behind me, the future generations, so that I’m not signing any of these crummy early deals for seven or eight years," Samardzija said. "When you’re hitting your prime and you’re hitting free agency — like it’s supposed to be done — then that’s the way it sets up for guys behind you. I definitely have a responsibility to the players that are younger than me and approaching arbitration or approaching free agency to keep the numbers where they should be."
- The Cubs need to accept that paying a high price for an ace pitcher is the cost of doing business and thus sign Samardzija to an extension, Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune opines.
- Cubs GM Jed Hoyer appeared on the Kap & Haugh radio show to express his belief that the Cubs will soon once again become a popular landing spot for players. "Theo [Epstein] and I have no concern guys will want to play here from around baseball when we get this turned. We’ll be a destination for guys," Hoyer said (quote from David Kaplan's Twitter account).
- Hoyer, Epstein and the White Sox scouting director attended a recent start from East Carolina right-hander Jeff Hoffman, ESPN's Keith Law tweets. The Sox and Cubs pick third and fourth, respectively, in the June amateur draft and Hoffman is expected to be an early choice off the board — Baseball America recently ranked Hoffman fifth on their list of draft prospects.
- Chris Sale carried some red flags in the 2010 draft but the White Sox are enjoying the fruits of taking a chance on the southpaw with their 13th overall pick, Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan writes. Sale's status as "the player with no comps" made many teams worry that he couldn't handle a starter's workload, let alone become an ace.
An opt-out clause is the ultimate safety net for an MLB player. Typically employed with deals of least five guaranteed years, an opt-out clause is inserted in the middle of the term and allows the player to abandon the rest of his contract and become a free agent.
Alex Rodriguez started the opt-out trend with his monster free agent deal with the Rangers in December 2000, and in total, ten players have received opt-out clauses. Six of those clauses have come due, and only one of those players, Vernon Wells, didn't secure additional money at the time. C.C. Sabathia leveraged his ability to opt out to add one year and $30MM to an already record-setting deal. The others — A-Rod, J.D. Drew, A.J. Burnett, and Rafael Soriano — got to take another lucrative bite at the apple of free agency.
A Deal-Making Idea
On the night before the 2005 Winter Meetings in Las Vegas, agent Darek Braunecker had a client in A.J. Burnett who he felt was on an island in terms of being the best pitcher available. It was at that point Braunecker conceived of the idea of asking for an opt-out clause in Burnett's deal. "I wanted to create something that might add additional value to the deal as opposed to just the monetary component of it," explained Braunecker in a January conversation.
Burnett's five-year, $55MM deal with the Blue Jays came together quickly once the team agreed to include an opt-out clause after the third year. "Quite honestly, it was a deal-maker for us," said Braunecker. "I presented the idea to [Blue Jays GM] J.P. [Ricciardi] and told him that we had another club that had already agreed to that provision, and that if he was willing to do it that he would have a deal. So, really, no pushback to speak of. He obviously had to get approval from [club president] Paul Godfrey, and Paul gave his blessing on it almost immediately and that's essentially what concluded those negotiations." Braunecker added, "It really wasn't much of a challenge, to be honest with you."
Three years later, agent Greg Genske had the enjoyment of negotiating on behalf of the offseason's best available starting pitcher, C.C. Sabathia, and eventually landed a record-setting seven-year, $161MM deal with an opt-out clause after the third year. There seems to be some disagreement about who proposed the clause. Back in 2008, Matt Gagne of the New York Daily News quoted Yankees GM Brian Cashman saying, "I offered it. They never asked for it. They never said they were afraid of New York, I never heard that….Just in case it was an issue, I went to their house and I said, 'I think you're going to love it here. But let me just throw this out there.'" Genske disputed Cashman's account, telling me in January this year, "That's not true at all. That was a negotiated item that was difficult to get the Yankees to agree to. It was the last item agreed to."
The sheer rarity of opt-out clauses suggests they're not something teams are readily offering up. Only ten opt-out clauses have been given out in total, though two of them came in January this year for Excel Sports Management clients Clayton Kershaw and Masahiro Tanaka. According to Cot's Baseball Contracts, 52 MLB contracts have been worth $100MM or more. Only seven of those included opt-out clauses. Asked if he's surprised we've seen so many top of the market deals without opt-out clauses, Genske replied, "I don't think I'm surprised. It certainly is a big deal for a club. If a club's going to commit themselves to those kinds of dollars, then they don't get the benefit of the upside fully if the player has the right to opt out. I certainly understand clubs' resistance to do it."