New York Yankees Rumors
The Astros haven't yet decided who they're taking with the first overall pick in the 2013 Draft, Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com reports. Possible candidates for the top pick include college pitchers Mark Appel, Jonathan Gray and Sean Manaea; college hitter Kris Bryant; and high school outfielders Clint Frazier and Austin Meadows. "I think it's important to keep scouting them until the very end," says Astros scouting director Mike Elias. "We're making sure we're keeping the field as open as we can. We are not going to make that decision when there's no reason to, six weeks before the Draft." The Astros' draft signing bonus pool, which stands at $11.7MM this year, could play into their decision about who to draft. In 2012, the Astros took Carlos Correa first overall and signed him for significantly less than his bonus pool allotment, allowing them to take high-upside talents like Lance McCullers Jr. later in the draft. Here are more notes from around the American League.
- The Red Sox might be looking for Frazier to fall to them with the No. 7 overall pick, Conor Glassey of Baseball America writes in a draft breakdown for American League teams. Red Sox scout Tim Hyers was Frazier's neighbor growing up. Meanwhile, the Indians could look to add a college pitcher like Manaea or Nevada's Braden Shipley at No. 5.
- Mariners infielder Robert Andino was "a little bit" surprised when the Orioles traded him to "Alaska" (that is, Seattle) for Trayvon Robinson last November, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports. Andino is hitting .200/.250/.267 for the Mariners this season. He has taken the team's starting shortstop job, or at least a portion of it, from Brendan Ryan.
- The Yankees have had trade talks with the Rockies regarding infielder Chris Nelson, but New York's interest in Nelson seems to be limited, says Andy McCullough of the Star-Ledger (on Twitter). The Rockies designated Nelson for assignment Saturday night.
Here are a few notes from around baseball:
- The Blue Jays are already looking at an uphill battle to achieve a postseason berth, so much so that Dave Cameron of Fangraphs says it is not too early to wonder whether they will be trade deadline sellers. In particular, Cameron notes that the team may be forced to consider dealing soon-to-be free agent starter Josh Johnson. He adds in an audio chat, however, that there is little likelihood that a hypothetical Johnson trade would happen before mid-June. Cameron expanded upon the article in the chat, including discussion of the way that baseball's current rule system will continue to impact teams' trade incentives (beginning at around the 8:57 mark).
- The Rangers have used thirteen pitchers this season, ten of whom have never appeared in another MLB uniform, notes T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com. Team CEO Nolan Ryan explains: "What you're seeing is a philosophy of pitching in our system and we've stayed the course and we are committed to developing pitching within our system." The current and future flow of pitching talent has enabled the team to pursue top line free agents like Zack Greinke without feeling compelled to overpay.
- With their solid start coming in spite of bad health, the Yankees could continue to tinker with their roster, writes Mike Axisa of River Avenue Blues. In particular, Axisa says players like Casper Wells, Chris Nelson, and Humberto Quintero could all be easy ways to make small, but still-important upgrades.
- The Brewers are hoping to acquire a corner infielder/outfielder in the mold of Mark Kotsay, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweets. In 2011, Kotsay played in 104 games for the Brewers at all three outfield spots as well as first base.
- Neither the Braves nor Diamondbacks will end up as the loser of the deal that sent Justin Upton to Atlanta, Tracy Ringolsby of MLB.com opined last week. Ringolsby says that Upton needed a change of scenery to an environment where he did not have to be "The Guy." With the Braves able to fully realize Upton's value, says Ringolsby, the Diamondbacks in turn were able to open playing time for other outfielders (specifically, Adam Eaton and Gerardo Parra) while impacting the team's clubhouse and building farm depth.
In a poll of over 13,000 MLBTR readers, 9.72% ranked the Rays' Andrew Friedman as the best GM in baseball (technically his title is executive vice president of baseball operations). Friedman ranked behind only the Athletics' Billy Beane, who received 13.65% of the vote. Other notes from all five AL East clubs:
- Aside from the obvious factor of money, a chance to win is what compelled free agents to sign with the Red Sox during the offseason, writes WEEI's Rob Bradford. Left fielder/designated hitter Jonny Gomes relished the fact that the team's core players had something to prove, saying, "The opportunity to play in Boston with these guys having a chip on their shoulder was what I signed up for." At 18-7, the Red Sox have the best record in baseball with about 85% of their season remaining.
- The Blue Jays, meanwhile, are 9.5 games behind the Red Sox with a 9-17 record. Dave Cameron of FanGraphs finds it unlikely the Jays will be one of the expected handful of clubs to play around .600 ball from here on out, which is what they'd reasonably need to do for a shot at a wild card. Furthermore, Cameron notes, "The mid-season trade deadline gives teams with slow starts less time to fully realize their natural regression, since they have to make a buy-or-sell decision when April represents 25-30% of their season, not 16% as it will at season’s end."
- "I'm not sure if the Rays feel like he's polished enough to join the club just yet," writes MLB.com's Bill Chastain in reference to top prospect Wil Myers, while noting the right fielder's solid .309/.402/.457 line in 97 Triple-A plate appearances to date.
- Veteran righty Freddy Garcia has been named the International League pitcher of the week, notes Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun. Having made five starts, Garcia now has the ability to opt out of his minor league contract with the Orioles. Rather than Garcia, 25-year-old Zach Britton is getting tonight's start in Seattle.
- "Plans are in the works" for Hideki Matsui to sign a one-day contract to ceremoniously retire a Yankee, writes George A. King III of the New York Post. Matsui spent his first seven MLB seasons with the Yankees, compiling a .292/.370/.482 batting line with 140 home runs.
- 26-year-old Yankees righty Phil Hughes posted his third consecutive quality start yesterday against the Blue Jays. Hughes, who turns 27 in June, projects to be the youngest established free agent starter after this season. One alternative for teams that prefer young starting pitchers is South Korea's Suk-min Yoon, a Scott Boras client who was born a month after Hughes and will be eligible for free agency after the season.
The Red Sox's offseason trade for Mike Carp appears to be paying dividends, the Providence Journal's Brian MacPherson reports. Carp is currently hitting. 455/.500/.864 in a very small sample after joining the Red Sox from the Mariners in February. "We've always liked him as a hitter," says Sox GM Ben Cherington. "There's a history of getting guys out of Seattle, the tough hitting environment. It was a combination of a pretty strong minor-league track record and some big-league success and, subjectively, our scouts have always liked his swing and approach." MacPherson says Carp is part of a recent trend in which the Red Sox cheaply acquire former prospects (like Jeremy Hermida, Andrew Miller, Mike Aviles and Franklin Morales) with the idea that they might take steps forward that they didn't with their previous organizations. Here are more notes from around the American League.
- Lyle Overbay didn't know where he would be headed at the end of spring training before ending up with the Yankees, Vince Z. Mercogliano of the LoHud Yankees Blog writes. The Red Sox had released Overbay, but he quickly found a home with the injury-ravaged Yanks. "My agent was on the line from the get-go. He obviously thought that this might be a fit, and Milwaukee," says Overbay. "Realistically, I think this and Milwaukee were the only chances that I had in that short amount of time."
- The Astros' main objective this year is to see which of their young players can be long-term contributors, GM Jeff Luhnow tells Tyler Kepner of the New York Times. One of those young players is outfielder Robbie Grossman, the main piece the Astros acquired when they traded Wandy Rodriguez to the Pirates last July. Grossman made his big-league debut last week after a strong start for Triple-A Oklahoma City.
The Rockies have designated infielder Chris Nelson for assignment, Troy Renck of the Denver Post reports. Nelson was told about the transaction following the Rockies' 3-2 loss to the Diamondbacks on Saturday night. In a corresponding move, the Rockies have called up Nolan Arenado from Triple-A, according to MLB.com's Thomas Harding (Twitter link).
Nelson had a .242/.282/.318 line over 68 PA as the Rockies' regular third baseman this season. The 27-year-old was the ninth overall pick of the 2004 draft and owned a career slash line of .284/.327/.427 in 593 PA from 2010-12. Nelson has played mostly third and second in the majors, and also played shortstop in the minor leagues. The Athletics and Yankees have been interested in Nelson in the past, Renck notes, so it's possible either club could inquire about the infielder during the 10-day designation period.
It was only a matter of time before the Rockies called up Arenado, the club's top prospect and the 52nd-best prospect in the sport according to Baseball America's preseason rankings. Arenado, who recently turned 22, has posted an .818 OPS in five minor league seasons, including a 1.059 OPS over 75 PA at Triple-A this season. His stock somewhat dropped after only an average season at Double-A in 2012 and the Rockies also had questions about Arenado's maturity level, but the third baseman impressed the club both on and off the field during Spring Training. The right-handed hitting Arenado was a second-round pick for the Rockies in the 2009 draft.
While there is nothing new to report on negotiations (or lack thereof) between Robinson Cano and the Yankees, there is still plenty of chatter surrounding the game's biggest pending free agent. Here are a few notes on Cano and the Yanks:
- The Yankees should study history before they make a long contract offer to their star second baseman, writes Bill Madden of the New York Daily News. Madden argues that the last decade has seen a host of ill-advised deals of six years or more given to position players at age 29 or beyond. With only Jim Thome's 2003 pact with the Phillies having worked out in Madden's estimation, he says that the Yanks should only go past five years with Cano via vesting options.
- Whether or not Madden is correct as to how many years Cano should get, contract discussions are sure to include recent mega-deals that guarantee much more than five years. As MLBTR's Mark Polishuk posted yesterday, he agrees with CBS Sports' Jon Heyman that contracts like those signed by then-28-year-old Joey Votto (ten years, $225M) and then-27-year-old Prince Fielder (nine years, $214MM) are among the most pertinent comparables. Indeed, Heyman pointed to David Wright as a lower bound for a Cano deal. The Mets' third bagger, who is about the same age as Cano, is signed for eight years and $138MM (including seven years and $122MM in new money). He felt he left money on the table compared to what he could have achieved on the open market, particularly as he signed a year in advance of reaching free agency. Of course, Cano is not only closer to free agency with a cleaner injury history, but stands out prominently as the best prospective 2014 free agent.
- There is one additional factor that could portend an astronomical deal for Cano. As Madden's Daily News colleague Christian Red points out, Cano is not only the Yankees' best player but may soon be its biggest star. The Yanks certainly appreciate value that goes beyond on-field performance: the team signed living legend Derek Jeter to a deal that the team felt was an overpay at the time, and included terms in Alex Rodriguez's huge contract that set the team up to profit from A-Rod's pursuit of home run milestones. Cano, meanwhile, appears to be angling to elevate his star power beyond the game of baseball, potentially making him that much more valuable as a prospective new franchise face.
Here are a few notes from around the American League:
- The Royals are a legitimate threat to snag a wild card, says ESPN.com's Jim Bowden (Insider sub. req'd), because of the team's offseason focus on pitching. GM Dayton Moore had a seven-year plan to turn around the club through a gradual rebuilding process. While the club has developed what Bowden calls "World Series-winning position players at the major league level," however, the pitching never kept pace. Faced with a limited window to keep the young talent together, Bowden credits Moore for making bold moves to bring in Jeremy Guthrie, Ervin Santana, James Shields, and Wade Davis to bolster the pitching corps.
- The Orioles may be nearing a decision point on Freddy Garcia, as the veteran pitcher will be able to opt out of his contract after his next minor league start, notes MASNSports.com's Roch Kubatko. The 36-year-old has been solid thus far over four starts in Triple-A, where he sports a 2.81 ERA over 25 2/3 innings and has fanned sixteen against just two walks. Baltimore just sent down the struggling Jake Arrieta. His rotation spot went at least temporarily to Josh Stinson, who was bombed by the Blue Jays on Wednesday.
- The backup catching market could heat up as injuries mount. One day after the Yankees lost Francisco Cervelli for a significant period of time to a fractured hand, Orioles' backup Taylor Teagarden suffered a dislocated thumb. Both figure to be replaced with internal options for the immediate future. But their substitutes -- Austin Romine for New York and Luis Exposito for Baltimore -- have, respectively, just twenty and twenty-two largely unsuccessful major league plate appearances.
Anibal Sanchez recorded a club-record 17 strikeouts over eight shutout innings in the Tigers' 10-0 win over the Braves tonight, yet Sanchez might not have had the best pitching performance of the evening. That honor goes to Jordan Zimmermann, who held the Reds to just one hit in a complete game, 91-pitch shutout. It was the Nationals' second straight one-hitter against the Reds, who hadn't been held to one hit or less in consecutive games since the 1900 season.
Here's the latest from around baseball as we head into the weekend...
- The Yankees and Robinson Cano "would appear to very badly want to reach a deal," CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reports. Despite this mutual interest between the two sides, there is apparently a large gap in salary demands --- the Yankees were looking at David Wright's eight-year/$138MM extension with the Mets as a comparable while Heyman thinks Cano's agents at CAA may aim as high as Alex Rodriguez's 10-year/$275MM deal. There is no earthly way the Yankees would hand Cano (or probably anyone) another A-Rod contract but I agree with Heyman's citations of Joey Votto and Prince Fielder's recent contracts as good comparables for a Cano extension. $200MM is the bare minimum for Cano's next deal, whether it's with the Yankees or another team.
- The Phillies' attendance is down thus far in 2013, and less ticket revenue could mean less payroll space for the club this offseason, Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
- The Royals' rotation problems had become too great to ignore last winter, thus prompting GM Dayton Moore to make significant moves that now have his team looking like early contenders, ESPN's Jim Bowden writes (Insider subscription required). "Moore’s original vision might have taken a little longer, but with starting pitching finally in hand, he also might have just bought himself a lot more time," Bowden said, noting that Moore's contract with the Royals is up after the 2014 season.
Robinson Cano's new agents have yet to begin negotiations with the Yankees about a contract extension, Cano told ESPN New York's Andrew Marchand. Cano recently made headlines when he switched his representation from Scott Boras to CAA and Jay-Z's Roc Nation Sports, with CAA's Brodie Van Wagenen handling the negotiations over Cano's next contract.
As a matter of club policy, the Yankees usually wait until after the season to discuss contract extensions, even with such franchise icons as Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera in recent years. Cano is a different case, however, given that he is entering free agency in the prime of his career. Even though the Yankees may or may not be sticking to their plan of keeping their 2014 payroll under the $189MM mark, re-signing Cano has always been a top priority for the team. GM Brian Cashman confirmed that the club made "a significant offer" to Cano in February when he still represented by Boras.
Cano is far and away the top pending free agent available on the market, as per Tim Dierkes' 2014 free agent power rankings. Though he turns 31 in October, Cano will command a contract in the range of $200MM this winter. At that kind of money, Cano's market will be limited to only the biggest-spending clubs and naturally the Dodgers have already been mentioned as likely suitors for his services.
The Yankees appear increasingly likely to set the team's payroll above the $189MM luxury tax threshold for next season, writes Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan. Passan quotes an unspecified source: "They're going to be over [$189MM]. They know it. Everyone knows it. You can't run a $3 billion team with the intentions of saving a few million dollars." Of course, the Yankees never thought they would be saving only a few million dollars when they began speaking publicly about their intentions. Instead, the club was reportedly looking to save something in the neighborhood of $50MM.
Passan explains why that anticipated saving may no longer be available. First, the team no longer expects to recover a substantial amount of the money that it contributes to the MLB revenue sharing system. Rule changes had promised big money to the Yanks if they got under the threshold.
The rules used to allow certain big-market clubs with smaller revenues -- such as the Nationals, Braves, and Blue Jays -- to receive shared funds. Beginning in 2014, however, such clubs will begin sending that money back to the large-market, high-revenue clubs (like the Yankees) from whence it came. The contributing clubs get a rebate in proportion to their contributions, but only if they fall under the luxury tax threshhold. But with clubs like those mentioned shifting toward higher payrolls, the imbalance is disappearing and with it the potential funds to be reclaimed. A Passan source says that "the pool is going to be much less than everyone anticipated."
The direct luxury tax savings, in turn, may not be enough on their own to make the limbo act worthwhile. Passan explains that, were the Yankees to dip under the threshold for one season (presumably 2014), the club's luxury tax savings over the next two years could range from around $15.6MM (on a hypothetical $205MM payroll for 2015-16) to over $30MM (on a hypothetical $220MM payroll in those years). In other words, the savings increase as the anticipated future salary goes up.
It could be difficult to engineer a one-year salary valley, followed by an immediate spike, in a manner that makes the maneuvering worthwhile while efficiently creating good results on the field. Looking ahead to 2014, the Yankees already have a large amount of money committed to a small number of players, many of whom face age, injury, and/or other issues that could limit their value. The team will also be looking to re-sign superstar Robinson Cano. Moreover, a purge-and-binge free agency strategy may not allow the Yanks to fill all their needs from an increasingly shallow free agent market, potentially leading to overspending on sub-optimal players. The future free agent classes will not be as flush with talent as expected by the time we actually reach them, with several of the biggest names already locked up.
Of course, there is also an enormously valuable brand to protect and grow. Add it all up, and the risks may well not justify the relatively unimpressive savings that the Yanks could reap from getting under the salary ceiling. In early March, over 60% of MLBTR readers who voted said the Yankees would not get under the threshold for 2014. That community projection is looking good right now. What, then, would the impact be on the broader market for MLB talent?
To start, an uncapped Yankee budget would leave no obvious barriers to the retention of Cano. Perhaps more importantly, the Yanks would seem to be positioned to take on major additional salary obligations even after putting a Cano extension in the books. While no unquestionable impact players appear atop the class of prospective free agents (excepting, of course, Cano), Yankee money would nevertheless have a major impact on market demand. Even last year, when the Yankees seemed quiet in anticipation of the 2014 austerity plan, the club had the seventh-highest total offseason spend according to MLBTR's Offseason In Review tabulations. (The Yanks issued over $95MM in new money commitments, all in short-term deals. That figure includes free agent signings and exercised options, but not extensions.)
Depending on how things shake out, the team could have needs all over the diamond, including catcher, corner outfield, the left side of the infield, and the rotation. In fact, with the exception of Chase Utley -- assuming that he will look to sign as a second baseman -- the Yankees' needs could conceivably match with any of the players listed by MLBTR's Tim Dierkes in his latest 2014 Free Agent Power Rankings.