New York Yankees Rumors
One of the keys to success for last year's Pirates ballclub was its ability both to generate ground balls and convert them into outs. It all started with a pitching staff that had far and away the highest ground-ball rate (52.5%) in the big leagues. Featuring prominently in the repertoire of several Bucs hurlers, of course, was the sinker. As Tim Williams of PiratesProspects.com found when he investigated, those sinkers come in many different varieties. He provides a fascinating breakdown of the pitch from the perspective of Pirates players and coaches (including many staff members and catcher Russell Martin). Here's more from the National League:
- With just two weeks left in camp and top outfield prospect Oscar Taveras still working his way back, there is now little chance that he'll come north with the Cardinals for Opening Day, writes Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Of course, that was the likely outcome from the get-go, as St. Louis has a keen interest in delaying his service clock to gain another season of control and minimize the likelihood of a Super Two qualification.
- The Phillies outrighted righty Michael Stutes off of the club's 40-man roster to begin making room for non-roster invites, reports Todd Zolecki of MLB.com. Struggling to regain velocity after a series of shoulder issues, Stutes had to clear waivers to be stashed in the minors.
- Though it may yet be a longshot, the Mets have begun working out Wilmer Flores at short, reports Anthony DiComo of MLB.com. With continuing uncertainty as to whether Ruben Tejada can be relied on as an everyday option, DiComo says the team is "overturning every stone on their 40-man roster" to find a solution. Of course, that does not mean that Flores is a serious possibility to man the job for the coming season, but he could be a more attractive big league piece if he could spend some time at short.
- As I recently noted in the club's offseason review, the Diamondbacks have not conclusively addressed their backup catching situation. They are among the teams taking a hard look at Francisco Cervelli of the Yankees, reports George A. King III of the New York Post.
Here's a quick look in at the American League East:
- With Red Sox outfielder Grady Sizemore progressing towards cracking the team's Opening Day roster, WEEI.com's Rob Bradford provides the details of his incentive-heavy contract. If Sizemore breaks camp, he would earn a $250K bonus and draw a $750K base salary. He can, as previously reported, boost the total value to $6MM if he were to hit all incentives. Here's how: $250K each for reaching 60, 90, 120, and 150 days in the big leagues; $250K for each increment of 25 plate appearances from 225 to 500; and a slate of award bonuses (including $50K for being named AL Comeback Player of the Year).
- Orioles third baseman Manny Machado says that his $519K contract for 2014 is "disappointing," reports Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun. Of course, with less than two years of service, Machado had little choice in the matter. The two sides have yet to discuss the possibility of an extension, though Connolly says there are "indications" that talks could take place once the health of the 21-year-old's left knee is more certain. Machado maintains that he would "love to be an Oriole forever," noting that his only wish is "to be treated fairly."
- The Yankees have drawn significant trade interest in backstop Francisco Cervelli, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. Among the teams giving the catcher a look is the White Sox. Though the out-of-options, 28-year-old Cervelli figures to have the inside track on the reserve role for New York, the club has several other viable options to back up Brian McCann (as MLBTR's Steve Adams recently explained).
The Yankees heavily invested in the free agent market, yet the team still has some notable holes as it tries to celebrate Derek Jeter's final season by returning to the playoffs.
Major League Signings
- Masahiro Tanaka, RHP: Seven years, $155MM (Plus $20MM release fee).
- Jacoby Ellsbury, OF: Seven years, $153MM. $21MM vesting option for 2021.
- Brian McCann, C: Five years, $85MM. $15MM vesting option for 2019.
- Carlos Beltran, OF: Three years, $45MM.
- Matt Thornton, LHP: Two years, $7MM.
- Brendan Ryan, SS: Two years, $5MM. $2MM mutual option for 2016.
- Hiroki Kuroda, RHP: One year, $16MM.
- Derek Jeter, SS: One year, $12MM.
- Kelly Johnson, IF/OF: One year, $3MM.
- Brian Roberts, 2B: One year, $2MM.
- Total spend: $503MM
Notable Minor League Signings
- Andrew Bailey ($1.975MM if he makes the roster, team option for 2015), Scott Sizemore, Robert Coello, Zelous Wheeler
Trades and Claims
- Acquired RHP Kyle Haynes from the Pirates in exchange for C Chris Stewart
- Acquired cash considerations from the Giants in exchange for LHP David Huff
- Brett Gardner, OF: Four years, $52MM. $12.5MM club option for 2019 with a $2MM buyout.
- Robinson Cano, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez (162-game suspension), Phil Hughes, Boone Logan, Joba Chamberlain, Lyle Overbay, David Huff, Chris Stewart, Vernon Wells, Travis Hafner, Kevin Youkilis, Jayson Nix
After missing the postseason for just the second time in 19 years, it wasn't a surprise that the Bronx Bombers went on an old-fashioned Yankees spending spree. Between signing new free agents, re-signing a few of their own free agents and extending Brett Gardner's contract, the Yankees spent over $555MM on player salaries this offseason. To put it in perspective, when Forbes Magazine released its annual team valuations a year ago, seven entire franchises weren't valued as worth $555MM. When the Yankees decide to spend, they don't take half measures.
The Yankees ended up with five --- Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, Masahiro Tanaka, Hiroki Kuroda and Carlos Beltran --- of the top 12 players on Tim Dierkes' list of the offseason's 50 best free agents and were known to be in contact with several other major names, from Shin-Soo Choo to Jhonny Peralta to several free agent pitchers and, of course, Robinson Cano. GM Brian Cashman worked quickly to identify the players he wanted, as the Yankees reached agreements with all of those players (save Tanaka) by the end of the Winter Meetings.
It's hard to argue with the results. McCann's presence instantly turns one of the league's worst catching situations into one of its best; Beltran's still-powerful bat is a fine replacement for the departed Curtis Granderson; Kuroda's return helped solidify the rotation; Ellsbury adds speed and defense to the Yankee outfield, plus his addition allows the club to shift Alfonso Soriano to a more regular DH role (with Beltran and Jeter also seeing some time at designated hitter) and Ichiro Suzuki's declining bat is now relegated to the bench.
The one signing that took a bit more time was Tanaka, as first the new posting rules between MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball had to be established. Then, the Yankees had to outbid the Cubs, Diamondbacks, White Sox, Dodgers and Astros in order to land the 25-year-old right-hander with a seven-year, $155MM contract that ranks as the 18th-largest deal in baseball history. That contract (plus the $20MM posting fee the Yankees paid to the Rakuten Golden Eagles) represents a huge investment in a pitcher who has yet to appear in a Major League game, yet given Tanaka's impressive scouting reports and his status as the best starter on the market, he was seen as a must-have for a Yankee club that needed rotation help.
The one signing that New York didn't make, however, was the one that many thought was a foregone conclusion when the offseason began. The Yankees simply weren't prepared to offer Cano more than seven years (at $175MM), and thus Cano made his stunning move to the Mariners that left the Yankees with a big hole at second base. While the team is still looking for infield help, right now it looks like newly-signed veteran Brian Roberts will man the position with the re-signed Brendan Ryan and roster holdover Eduardo Nunez also in the mix.
Another notable non-move was choosing to forgo signing an experienced closer to replace Mariano Rivera, as David Robertson will get a clear shot at the ninth-inning job. Veteran setup man Matt Thornton was signed to add some left-handed experience to the young relief corps and Andrew Bailey was signed to a low-risk minor league deal to see if he can stay healthy and revive his career.
Maybe the biggest "need" for the Bombers this offseason was getting some of Alex Rodriguez's contract off their books, and the Yankees got their wish when A-Rod's 211-game suspension was only partially reduced to 162 games after his lengthy appeal. The suspension saved the Yankees around $22.13MM in payroll for 2014, though A-Rod's absence leaves the Yankees thin at the hot corner. Newcomer Kelly Johnson will get the lion's share of games at third, though since Johnson has only played 16 games as a third baseman (all last season in Tampa Bay) during his eight-year career. Minor league signing Scott Sizemore could be an under-the-radar boon at either third or second if he's able to stay healthy, as he's missed virtually all of the last two seasons recovering from two separate left ACL tears.
The Yankees settled a bit of long-term business by signing Gardner to a four-year, $52MM extension. Gardner would've been eligible for free agency following 2014 and he was the subject of a few trade rumors in the wake of the Ellsbury and Beltran signings, but now it seems he'll be wearing the pinstripes though at least the 2018 season. Such extensions are pretty rare for the Yankees, as the team usually doesn't explore new deals with players, managers or even front office staff until their current contracts are up. The Gardner deal could be a sign that even the Yankees are taking note of the rising costs of free agent contracts, and since Gardner was a player they liked and wanted to keep anyway, it made sense to extend him now and possibly get a bit of a discount if he has a big 2014 campaign.
Two major pieces of the Yankees' puzzle were put in place before the offseason even began. Manager Joe Girardi was re-signed to a four-year, $16MM extension that will keep him in the Bombers' dugout through the 2017 season, a move that broke the hearts of Cubs fans and rewarded a manager who arguably did his best work in 2013 by squeezing 85 wins out of an injury-riddled roster. Jeter was sure to pick up his player option for 2014 anyway but in early November, that $9.5MM option was shelved in favor of a one-year, $12MM contract that Hal Steinbrenner negotiated himself.
Jeter's new deal carried some extra luxury tax complications, which might've been an early sign that the Yankees were going to abandon their plan to stay under the $189MM payroll threshold. The Yankees had been positioning themselves to get under the $189MM mark for the last two years in order reset their mounting luxury tax payments but, as Steinbrenner and Cashman always claimed, that $189MM target would only be kept if the team could remain competitive. Since the Yankees don't abide by missing the postseason, they will head into 2014 with another $200MM+ payroll (hat tip to Cot's Baseball Contracts for the info).
For all of the hundreds of millions the Yankees spent this winter, most of that money was spent to simply replace departing stars, and not necessarily to fix other problem areas. Beltran for Granderson is essentially a wash when Granderson is healthy, and while Tanaka is presumed to be an upgrade over Andy Pettitte, don't forget that the retired southpaw delivered 3.2 fWAR last season. While McCann and Ellsbury are big improvements on the Yankees' 2013 catchers and the Suzuki/Vernon Wells outfield platoon, those additions could be offset by the losses in the bullpen and at second base.
Cano's departure leaves the Yankees with one of the shakiest infield situations of any contending team. The hope is that Jeter and Mark Teixeira can stay healthy and regain some semblance of their former productivity, but that's a tall order for two players who combined for only 32 games last season. While Ryan or Nunez could spell Jeter at shortstop, the Yankees don't have anyone on the roster who can realistically replace Teixeira for a lengthy stretch if his wrist injuries continue to bother him. Roberts' health is also hardly a given considering his injury problems over the last few seasons.
The addition of a player like Stephen Drew could solve a lot of these infield questions. Drew could step in at shortstop if Jeter was hurt, and since he has expressed a willingness to move to second or third base, he would provide the Yankees with an stable everyday option at either spot. The Yankees did make Drew an offer early in the offseason but pulled it back to focus on other signings, while Drew passed up on the deal (believed to be for two or three years) since he felt he could find a longer-term deal. In hindsight, the Yankees missed out by not landing Peralta earlier in the winter, as they were simply outbid by the Cardinals.
C.C. Sabathia, Tanaka, Kuroda, Ivan Nova and one of Adam Warren, Michael Pineda or David Phelps will comprise New York's starting rotation. While there's at least a bit of uncertainly surrounding all of the candidates, Sabathia's status is the Yankees' biggest concern, as the 33-year-old is coming off the worst season of his Major League career. Sabathia has gotten into terrific shape and returned to his old offseason throwing program in an attempt to return to his old form, though if he continues to decline, it will be a huge blow to both the Yankees' playoff hopes and to their future payroll plans (given how Sabathia is still owed $76MM through 2016, plus $20MM more in 2017 if his option vests).
Nobody can replace Rivera, yet it's surprising to see that the Yankees didn't pick up one veteran arm to provide some closer for Robertson if he struggles. Bailey may not appear until after the All-Star break, while Thornton fits better as a setup man or even as a specialist against left-handed batters. Joel Hanrahan has been on the Yankees' radar, though he's coming off elbow surgery himself. Beyond Roberts, Thornton and Shawn Kelley, New York is going with a young bullpen that includes some promising arms (Preston Claiborne, former top prospects Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos and the losers of the fifth starter competition) but no proven experience.
If I had to guess, the Yankees still have a few more moves up their sleeves before Opening Day. They added Wells and Lyle Overbay last March and I'd expect similar veteran additions to join the roster this spring to give the team some depth in the bullpen and especially around the infield, particularly at first.
Deal Of Note
Of all the Yankees' major signings, the McCann contract seems to have the fewest question marks, which is somewhat surprising considering New York is committing $85MM to a catcher through his age-34 season. A big-hitting catcher is hard to find, however, and the Yankees simply couldn't go through another year getting barely replacement-level production from behind the plate. Francisco Cervelli, Chris Stewart, J.R. Murphy and Austin Romine combined for only 0.9 fWAR/0.1 rWAR over a combined 202 games last season --- McCann delivered 2.7 fWAR/2.2 rWAR in 102 games. It's very possible that McCann improves on his performance, as he'll stay healthier by getting some DH days and his left-handed power swing is a great fit at Yankee Stadium. Signing McCann also kept an All-Star catcher away from two AL rivals in the Rangers and Red Sox, both of whom were interested in McCann's services.
McCann's presence also turns the Yankees' catching pool from a weakness into potential trade bait. Stewart was dealt to Pittsburgh and it's possible that at least one more of Cervelli, Murphy or Romine could be sent elsewhere for infield help. The Yankees could even trade top prospect Gary Sanchez if they wished to strike a bigger deal, though the rough plan seems to be to groom Sanchez as McCann's eventual replacement, with McCann shifting to DH in a few years' time.
It's often said that Jeter personifies the Yankees, and that may be especially true in 2014, though not in the way that either Jeter or the team hopes. A healthy Jeter can still perform at a league-best level, though it's anyone's guess as to whether he'll be able to stay off the DL and produce at his usual standard --- the same could be said of the Yankees as a whole, as they'll need to rely on much better health from several key players return to contention.
An argument could be made that despite all the struggles and injuries last year, the Yankees still won 85 games, so they're not far away from getting back to the postseason. It's worth noting that Cashman doesn't buy that argument, as he saw his club's 2013 record as a fortunate overachievement and thus felt it necessary to spend big. With how much of that money went towards reloading instead of actually adding talent, however, it's possible the Yankees may have only bought themselves a "real" 85-win talent level (by Pythagorean record standards) and could still fall short in the tough AL East.
Photo courtesy of Kim Klement/USA Today Sports Images
The following 40-man roster players have less than five years service time and are out of minor league options. That means they must clear waivers before being sent to the minors, so the team would be at risk of losing them in attempting to do so. I've included players on multiyear deals. This list was compiled through MLBTR's sources. Today, we'll take a look at the AL East.
Back on February 20th, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos spoke about beginning the season with an eight-man bullpen, as they did in 2013, partially because of the desire not to lose a player, according to MLB.com's Gregor Chisholm. Cecil, Santos, Casey Janssen, Steve Delabar, and Aaron Loup are the locks.
Perez has already been sent to minor league camp, with the Jays expected to buy some time by putting him on the DL to start the season. Dustin McGowan is under contract on a multiyear deal, and was not listed above because he has over seven years of big league service. Still, the Jays will have to find a spot if they wish to retain him, and they probably will. McGowan, Rogers, Redmond, and Jeffress are part of the fifth starter competition, as outlined by Rosie DiManno of the Toronto Star on Friday. In theory, all four could be retained: one in the rotation, the other three filling out the bullpen. That scenario would involve sending Neil Wagner and other solid pitchers to Triple-A, establishing strong depth but perhaps not putting the team's best 13 pitchers on the Opening Day roster. A trade would be another way to find some breathing room. The Jays are known to be in the mix for Ervin Santana, who would take a rotation spot and have a ripple effect on the above-named players.
Sierra seems to have a good shot at the team's last bench spot partially because of his lack of minor league options. It's another case where making the decision to retain the player might be less than ideal, as Sierra would have to be the team's fourth outfielder over the defensively superior Anthony Gose. Sierra would also platoon at DH with Adam Lind and could pitch in at first base, however.
Orioles: Edgmer Escalona, Chris Davis, Tommy Hunter, Troy Patton, Nolan Reimold, Chris Tillman, Zach Britton, Kelvin De La Cruz, David Lough, Brian Matusz, Steve Pearce, Francisco Peguero, Josh Stinson
The Orioles' list includes a staggering 13 players. Let's start with the team's rotation. We can project three members with certainty: Ubaldo Jimenez, Chris Tillman, and Wei-Yin Chen. At this moment, Miguel Gonzalez and Bud Norris would grab the two remaining spots. Two of the above-named pitchers, Britton and Matusz, had been among those competing for the fifth starter job before Jimenez was signed. Further muddying the picture, as explained by Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun today, is the pursuit of Ervin Santana. Additionally, Suk-min Yoon and Johan Santana will come into play later in the season.
Connolly notes that Norris or Gonzalez could move to the bullpen if necessary. Hunter, Darren O'Day, Ryan Webb, and Matusz seem to be locks for the pen. A 25-game amphetamine suspension for Patton takes him out of the picture for most of April. That leaves Escalona, De La Cruz, Britton, and Stinson as out of options pitchers competing for three likely spots, with Steve Johnson, Alfredo Aceves, T.J. McFarland, and Evan Meek also in the mix. You may recall the Orioles were loose with 40-man roster spots in the offseason, giving them to Escalona, De La Cruz, and Peguero despite scant big league experience. Retaining them now requires putting them on the 25-man roster. This situation seems to call for a trade or two.
As the backup center fielder, Lough is assured a spot on the roster. The Cruz signing takes away at-bats from Reimold, but he still seems likely to make the team. Peguero or Pearce could take the final roster spot, but only by beating out the other candidates in camp, such as Delmon Young, Xavier Paul, Julio Borbon, Quintin Berry, and Henry Urrutia. There seems a good chance Peguero or Pearce is exposed to waivers; perhaps both. Again, a minor trade could make sense in the coming weeks.
Archer is a lock for the Rays' rotation, while Ramos is battling pitchers such as Erik Bedard, Jake Odorizzi, Nate Karns, and Alex Colome for the fifth starter job until Jeremy Hellickson's projected late May return. If he doesn't win the job, Ramos would go back to the Rays' bullpen.
McGee is a lock for a bullpen job, as are Grant Balfour, Heath Bell, and Joel Peralta. Juan Carlos Oviedo has yet to report to camp due to visa issues, but he's expected to take a spot as well. If Ramos doesn't win the rotation job, that leaves one potential opening for Lueke. Late last month, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times named Brad Boxberger, Brandon Gomes, and Mark Lowe as other candidates, choosing Lueke as the favorite given his option situation.
Joyce is a lock for a roster spot. If the Rays go with a traditional fifth outfielder, Guyer could snag the job, as Roger Mooney of The Tampa Tribune explained late last month. The team could also use Sean Rodriguez or Ben Zobrist as the fifth outfielder.
Doubront is penciled into Boston's rotation. Carp has a bench spot locked down, though he did pop up in recent trade rumors.
Nova is a key piece of the Yankees' rotation, while Cervelli is highly likely to break camp as the backup catcher.
In his latest notes column for FOXSports.com, Jon Paul Morosi spoke with several Blue Jays players, including Jose Bautista and Brett Lawrie, about the team's chemistry and whether or not it played a role in their disappointing 2013 campaign. Bautista said that it wasn't a problem, but the team will benefit in 2014 from having spent a year together. Morosi writes that the Jays' players are paying particularly close attention to the level of resources (dollars) ownership is willing to allocate to a potential Ervin Santana signing. Here are some highlights from Morosi's piece...
- Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski told Morosi on Sunday, via email, that the club is "looking at [its] own personnel" and "will continue to evaluate" outside alternatives for left field in the wake of Andy Dirks' injury. Non-roster invitees Ezquiel Carrera and Trevor Crowe will compete for a spot to platoon with Rajai Davis, though neither has been impressive thus far in Spring Training.
- The Cardinals could've lined up as a trade partner for Dombrowski had Oscar Taveras been fully healthy, as he could've served as more of a challenge to Jon Jay's spot in Spring Training. Taveras has played in just two games at this point, however.
- Morosi also hears that the Rockies aren't looking to trade an outfielder and haven't had discussions about doing so, even though it may be tough to fit Charlie Blackmon and Corey Dickerson on the Opening Day roster. Either left-handed hitter would be a logical target for Detroit to pursue should Colorado change its mind.
- Michael Pineda could give the Yankees a playoff-caliber rotation if he's able to pitch a full season, Morosi writes. He spoke with Yankees catcher Brian McCann, who recalled feeling uncomfortable when facing Pineda in 2011 and has been encouraged by his work in Spring Training thus far.
- MLBPA executive director Tony Clark told Morosi that the union and MLB continue to discuss potential changes to the Joint Drug Agreement that could take effect for the 2014 season. Clark has received "extensive" feedback from players on whether stiffer penalties are needed, including opinions on the 50-game suspension for first-time offenders.
As MLBTR's Tim Dierkes explained yesterday in looking at NL West out-of-options players, the Diamondbacks already have a seeming logjam in the bullpen. Nevertheless, the team agreed to a two-year deal today with southpaw Oliver Perez. That may be a reflection of the team's view of fellow lefty Joe Thatcher, tweets Troy Renck of the Denver Post. Indeed, manager Kirk Gibson had said earlier today that the club would not carry a left-handed reliever if none warranted a roster spot, Zach Buchanan of AZCentral.com reports. "You've got to have people that can command the zone," Gibson said, possibly an oblique reference to the control issues last year of Thatcher and Tony Sipp. Thatcher was the only MLB piece that came to Arizona in the Ian Kennedy trade, and recently agreed to a $2.375MM deal to avoid arbitration. The 32-year-old has a solid track record, but struggled in his 22 appearances upon joining the D'backs. Now, with Perez in line for a pen slot and Randall Delgado likely headed the same way, Thatcher or another established arm may be without a role.
- Yankees starter Michael Pineda took an important step tonight on the road back from shoulder surgery, writes Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News. Throwing a slider that catcher Brian McCann called "pretty much unhittable," Pineda tossed two scoreless innings and struck out four Tigers -- including Austin Jackson, Rajai Davis, and reigning AL MVP Miguel Cabrera. Needless to say, an effective Pineda would be a major boon to a New York club with questions at the back of the rotation (to say nothing of the future implications). The 25-year-old Pineda enters the year with 2.099 years of service, much of it accrued on the DL over the last two years.
- Meanwhile, the Mariners -- the club that dealt Pineda to New York -- are looking closely at several non-roster invitees for Opening Day slots, writes MLB.com's Greg Johns. Starter Randy Wolf has had poor results, but says he is progressing. And southpaw reliever Joe Beimel is making a surprising run at a pen role, despite not having appeared in the bigs since 2011. Manager Lloyd McClendon preached patience with Wolf but lavished praise on Beimel, saying that the 36-year-old has "looked great" and "has the ability to get guys out from both sides of the plate."
- Irrepressible former superstar Manny Ramirez says he still wants to play, reports Enrique Rojas of ESPNDeportes.com. The 41-year-old has not been able to earn a call-up over the last two seasons, but says he is waiting for an MLB opportunity and has so far declined requests for a repeat of his successful stint in Taiwan. MLBTR's Zach Links recently reported that Ramirez had changed agents, seemingly an indication that Ramirez was serious about continuing his career.
- As the Athletics continue to work through their difficult stadium situation, co-owner Lew Wolff says the team is considering all methods for dealing with a stalemate in lease negotiations, reports Joe Stiglich of CSNBayArea.com. "I am hopeful of expanding our lease at the Oakland Coliseum for an extended term," Wolff recently wrote. "If we cannot accomplish a lease extension, I hope to have an interim place to play in the Bay Area or in the area that reaches our television and radio fans -- either an existing venue or in the erection of a temporary venue that we have asked our soccer stadium architect (360 Architecture) to explore." Needless to say, the notion of a temporary ballpark is intriguing, if somewhat frightening. Wolff took care to note that "looking outside the Bay Area and our media market is an undesirable option to ownership at this time."
The Mariners sent a scout to watch David Phelps' recent Spring Training outing, George A. King III of the New York Post reports, while the White Sox and Brewers also had scouts on hand to watch the Yankees' catchers. King previously reported last week that the White Sox had their eyes on the Yankees' catching surplus and that the Yankees were scouting Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks.
With the Yankees known to be looking for infielders, King speculates that Nick Franklin could be a target for the club, especially since Seattle is known to be exploring trades for the young second baseman. The M's are looknig to upgrade their pitching depth thanks to injuries to Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker, though as King notes, it would take more than just Phelps to acquire Franklin.
It would be somewhat surprising to see the Yankees move Phelps given the club's lack of starting pitching depth. Phelps is competing with Michael Pineda and Adam Warren to be New York's fifth starter, and since Pineda hasn't pitched in a Major League game since 2011 and Warren has only three career starts over his two MLB seasons, the Yankees would have to be confident in both pitchers' development to send Phelps elsewhere. Phelps' advanced metrics (3.81 FIP, 4.03 xFIP, 3.91 SIERA) indicate that he pitched much better last season than his 4.98 ERA over 86 2/3 IP would indicate.
The Yankees have Francisco Cervelli, J.R. Murphy and Austin Romine competing to be Brian McCann's backup, and all could fit into reserve roles in Chicago or Milwaukee. The Sox could offer more regular time, as their catching mix of Josh Phegley, Tyler Flowers, Hector Gimenez and Rule 5 Draft pick Adrian Nieto isn't at all settled.
With Jonathan Lucroy firmly locked into the starting job in Milwaukee, the Brewers are only looking for a backup. If Weeks is a target, it's only a matter of how much of his $11MM salary the Crew will agree to absorb (King also suggests Aramis Ramirez as a trade possibility, but I doubt the Brewers would think to trade him unless they struggle during the season and fall out of the race).
We already know that the 2013-14 free agent market has featured incredible spending levels, but what does that mean for how teams value a win (above replacement)? Dave Cameron of Fangraphs breaks down the cost of a projected win for each player that signed a major league deal. The results show that teams have spent at levels that, depending upon what discount rate and precise methodology is employed, value an expected win at between $5MM and $7MM. In a follow-up piece, Cameron observes that, at least for players who are expected to be regular contributors, the spending shows a non-linear escalation of the price of a win (i.e., teams are paying a premium to lock up high-WAR players). Then again, says Cameron, one team -- the Yankees -- bid on all and signed most of the top (3+-win) players who were on the market, which could have skewed the results. Be sure to read both pieces for all the details on this fascinating topic.
Here are more notes from around the league:
- The Yankees' rash of spending may have pushed him to the periphery of the team's roster, but Ichiro Suzuki is not changing his approach, writes Dave D'Alessandro of the Newark Star-Ledger. "Whatever my role is here -- whether I'm a starter or not -- my preparation never changes," said Ichiro. "Every day I'm going to do the exact same thing regardless of what my role will be. ... If I was the type of player who changes the way I prepare myself, I wouldn't be the player I have been."
- Outfielder Andy Dirks of the Tigers will undergo back surgery and is expected to be out of action for three months, reports the Detroit Free Press (via Twitter). Dirks had been expected to be the left-handed-hitting side of a left field platoon with Rajai Davis. GM Dave Dombrowski indicated that the club hopes to rely on its internal options -- including Davis, the switch-hitting Steve Lombardozzi, and left-handed swinging Don Kelly -- to fill the void, James Schmehl of MLive.com reports. "We think we have some good candidates," said Dombrowski, "but we'll just have to wait and see. I don't want to proclaim that to be 100 percent, but we do have some people that we feel have the chance to play a bigger role for us."
- After coming over as the key piece in the Mark Trumbo deal, 22-year-old lefty Tyler Skaggs is a key to a high-priced Angels club, writes Richard Justice of MLB.com. "He's very important to our season, very important to our future," said GM Jerry Dipoto. "Tyler, being that he's the youngest and least-experienced of our starters, it's an important spring for him to take that next step and establish himself at the major league level."
New Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler offered up some surprisingly candid remarks surrounding his old team, the Rangers, in an interview with Robert Sanchez of ESPN the Magazine. Kinsler touched on the fact that he wasn't happy to be asked to move off second base, didn't approve of how Michael Young was treated by the organization and ultimately called general manager Jon Daniels a "sleazeball." Kinsler, who told Sanchez he hoped the Rangers go 0-162 in 2014, tells the Detroit Free Press (All Twitter links) that he's not pleased with the way the story turned out: "I’m not happy about it. The story was written for drama and taken a little out of context. But it is what it is." Asked about the 0-162 comment, Kinsler told the Free Press: "It’s a matter of telling a joke, to be honest with you." The three-time All-Star said he's not planning to reach out to Daniels about the "sleazeball" comment, but stressed that it, too, was taken out of context.
Here's a bit more on Kinsler and some other AL West-related news items...
- Kinsler's former teammates Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre aren't bothered by the comments and don't have any ill will toward Kinsler, writes Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News. Beltre told Fraley, "It doesn't bother me. He's still my friend." Andrus had a similar take, stating, "He's my buddy. ... He's still my friend. I don't take anything from that." Manager Ron Washington told Fraley he's not affected by Kinsler's opinions.
- MLB.com's Doug Miller looks back on what seemed to be a win-win trade in January 2012, noting that neither the Mariners nor Yankees have gotten much value out of the Michael Pineda/Jesus Montero trade. Miller spoke with both players and their respective managers about the chances that each has to make an impact with their clubs this season.
- Astros third baseman Matt Dominguez tells Tom D'Angelo of the Palm Beach Post that he doesn't have hard feelings toward the Marlins for trading him and doesn't feel that the team gave up on him. "They thought that trade was in the best interest, decided to give me up, it’s worked out for me." Dominguez says that "everyone" knew his glove was ahead of his bat at the time of the deal, but he's starting to get his confidence back at the plate. The 24-year-old slashed .241/.286/.403 with 21 homers for the Astros last season.
- Bob Dutton of Tacoma News Tribune writes that Mariners top prospect is scheduled to begin playing catch on Thursday and is on a three-week program to build up arm strength. Barring setbacks, he could be able to join Seattle's rotation in mid-April.
Two years after their trade with the Mariners, the Yankees may finally emerge as the winners in their trade for Michael Pineda, David Waldstein of the New York Times writes. Jesus Montero's stock has fallen sharply in Seattle thanks to his poor hitting and conditioning, and now Pineda, who missed the entire 2012 season with shoulder trouble, has a chance to win a job in the Yankees' rotation. Pineda, who pitched sparingly in the minors last year, says he's finally healthy. "I want to be on the Yankees right away," he says. "I don’t want to go to Triple-A. But I don’t have control over the situation." Here are more notes from around baseball.
- Jon Lester is heading into his last year before free agency, and it seems likely that he and the Red Sox will agree to terms on an extension before that happens. In a podcast, Tim Britton and Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal try to determine what a Lester extension might look like, and they arrive somewhere in the neighborhood of five years and $110MM guaranteed, perhaps with an option of some kind. The Red Sox likely will not want to guarantee more than five years for Lester, they suggest, and his recent workload (he threw 248 innings last year, including the postseason) could be a factor. Lester is already locked into a $13MM salary for 2014, so a five-year, $110MM extension would effectively add four years and $97MM.
- It's unclear how many innings the Rangers will get from their starting pitchers, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News writes. Derek Holland is injured, Yu Darvish and Matt Harrison have back issues, Alexi Ogando hasn't proven he's durable, and Martin Perez is only 22. The Rangers could try to compensate by getting more innings out of their relievers. They could also try to make up for Holland's absence by signing Joe Saunders, who recently worked out for them. Tommy Hanson, Colby Lewis, Robbie Ross, Tanner Scheppers and Michael Kirkman could also be candidates to start.
- Vanderbilt pitcher Tyler Beede now looks like a clear top-five draft pick, ESPN's Keith Law writes (Insider-only). Law notes that on Friday night, Beede demonstrated good stuff and solid command, with 92-95 MPH velocity and a strong changeup. Law writes that teams should consider taking Beede beginning with the No. 3 overall pick, with only NC State's Carlos Rodon and high school arm Tyler Kolek obviously representing better picks at this point.
- A.J. Burnett, who made his 2014 spring debut on Sunday, helps clarify the Phillies' rotation, Matt Gelb of the Inquirer writes. As Ryan Lawrence of the Daily News noted earlier today, the back of the Phillies' rotation is uncertain -- Cole Hamels, Jonathan Pettibone and Ethan Martin are all dealing with injuries, and it's not clear what they have in Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez. Burnett gives the Phillies a reliable option to add to Cliff Lee and Kyle Kendrick.