Bay to the Mets

WFAN, Jon Heyman and others are reporting that Jason Bay has an agreement with the Mets.  4-years, $66mm.  It is easy to question what Bay and his agent were thinking, but they clearly overplayed their hand and now Bay is in a large baseball park when he could have returned to Fenway for a reported 4-years, $60mm.

Hind sight is 20×20, I mean he couldn’t have known he’d be down to 1 suitor, but he must be kicking himself.

Regardless of how he is feeling, Bay was one of two legit sluggers on the market and now his signing (presumed) leaves only Matt Holliday available, just the way Scott Boras wanted it all along.

What this also does, is leaves some financial flexibility for moves later in the season for the Red Sox.  But it also means the Red Sox offense is a step below where it was in 2009.  Something they will have to address at some point in 2010.

Are The Yankees Making A Mistake?

Brian Cashman has said repeatedly this offseason that the free agent market wasn’t as impressive as the one last season or the one next offseason.  Translating that into English, he is telling Yankees’ fans that he is going to spend aggressively next offseason and with $65 million or so coming off the payroll, you can expect him to follow through on that.

But, what exactly is he going to spend it on?  Joe Mauer would certainly be a potential target, but it seems like he will stay in Minnesota and the Yankees’ farm system is swimming with catching prospects (Baseball America says they have the most talent of any system at that position)  That doesn’t mean any of their prospects will even approach Mauer, but it is not a position of dire need. 

Keep going around the infield.  First is covered for the next seven years.  Second is covered until 2011 at least with options for 2012 and 2013.  Now, Shortstop is probably going to be a need, unless Nunez develops into a ML-caliber player, but the Yankees will certainly bring Jeter back in 2011 and there are no other shortstops of note in the free agent class next year (Phillies exercised the option on Rollins last week and Reyes will almost certainly have his option exercised by the Mets)  Third is covered for the next eight years.

In the outfield you have Granderson under contract though at least 2012 (2013 option) and Swisher through 2011 (2012 option) Gardner is under team control for awhile, but if you wanted to spend on a free agent you could conceivably grab either Carl Crawford or Jason Werth.  

Other than that, it really comes down to pitching.  Cliff Lee could be a target as could Josh Beckett. But that’s really it.  The potential top-line free agent market for the Yankees next offseason is probably Mauer, Crawford, Werth, Lee and Beckett. 

Looking in the crystal ball, I would almost bet that the Yankees make a very strong bid for Cliff Lee.  He is a lefty and with Andy Pettitte probably gone after 2010, he would make sense.  I think Beckett is a fallback.  If Mauer is there, the Yankees probably make a big run at him, but beyond that I don’t know.  Crawford is a nice player, but he is a speed player and despite all the hype, the fact remains that he posted a 113 OPS+ last year.  Valuable to be sure, but not a guy I would give $16 million a year to as he enters his 30′s.  Jason Werth has better OPS numbers, but he will be 32 in 2011, is that a guy you want to give five years to?

All of this is a roundabout way of wondering if the Yankees are making a mistake by passing on Holliday right now?  When the Yankees jumped in on Teixeira they did so because his youth, offense and defense were a rare combination that could not be matched in upcoming free agent markets.  I wonder if the same holds true for Holliday?  Who else is out there right now who can hit, field, run a little bit and is still not 30? Now, I would never give him eight years, but what if the Yankees offered him five years and $90 million?  It might get him to sign and then you have a great right-handed bat and a good defensive outfielder to boot.  I want to be clear, I am in no way suggesting that the Yankees need to sign Holliday, but if they are saving their money for next year are they putting themselves in a position where they will spend it on an inferior player? 

It’s certainly not a move the Yankees have to make, but with no clear options in the minors, I wonder if they at least check out the price on Holliday.  

 

It’s All About The Bench Now

The Yankees have completed the "heavy lifting" portion of their offseason and now have the final pieces of their roster to construct.  We know 10 pitchers who will be on the team next year (CC, AJ, Andy, Javier, Mo, Joba, Hughes, Aceves, Marte, Robertson)  We know the two catchers (Posada+Cervelli) and five infielders (Teixeira, Johnson, Cano, Jeter and A-Rod) What we don’t know is the outfield beyond the trio of Gardner, Granderson and Swisher.

Assume the Yankees go with 12 pitchers, I wish they wouldn’t, but it is a safe assumption.  That leaves you with three more spots to fill and if Brian Cashman is to be believed, very little money to do so. (For the record, I believe him and would bet against any big player coming through the door at this point)

Figure that one of the spots goes to one of the utility guys on the 40-man.  Ramiro Pena is probably the favorite, but Kevin Russo could certainly take it.  Corona and Nunez will probably start out the year in Scranton. 

That leaves two more spots and they both will almost certainly go to outfielders.  The Yankees have only four outfielders on the roster and while I think they will give Jamie Hoffmann a chance to win a job out of camp, they need someone else who can play the outfield on the roster and that person will almost definitely come from outside the organization.  

You hear names like Xavier Nady and Reed Johnson.  Both players would make a lot of sense, but I don’t think the Yankees are going to act quickly.  Brian Cashman has shown that once he sets a price in his mind, he isn’t going to budge.  I think that means Nady and Johnson come on board if they meet whatever the price the Yankees have in mind is, but chances are they don’t.  It really wouldn’t shock me to see Eric Hinske or Jerry Hairston back in pinstripes either.  Whatever the answer, I wouldn’t expect this situation to be resolved anytime soon.

One last note, with the addition of Nick Johnson, the Yankees have effectively ended any hope for Juan Miranda to crack the roster.  While Miranda’s age is in question, his bat is not- the guy can hit.  Stashing him in AAA for another year seems like a foolish waste of a resource and the Yankees would be smart to shop him around, perhaps he can bring a more useful piece back, like an outfielder.  

 

Room for Bay?

The Red Sox have already had an active off-season leading most to believe they are done shopping.  But now WEEI’s Rob Bradford is reporting that the Red Sox are having internal discussions as to whether or not they can make another offer to Bay, thus boosting their line-up and saving Bay from certain embarassment and torture should he become a New York Met.

Bradford suggests that an offer would be in line with their previous 4-year, $60mm deal they offered earlier in 2009 and again at the outset of free agency.

My guess here, assuming these reports are true, is that Red Sox management feels Bay would be crazy to not accept a 4/60 offer…or even a 4/56 offer for that matter.  They’ll let him save face and take the 4/60 and be done with it.  It is rumored that Bay has only 1 suitor right now in the Mets and really doesn’t want to play there.  Bay and his agent have overplayed their hand and would do anything short of beg for another crack at negotiations with the Red Sox.

Now if this does happen, there will be an outfield logjam what with newly signed Mike Cameron on-board.  In addition, it turns out Mike Lowell is still on the Red Sox too.  I’m not sure how this will play out, but if Lowell still ends up getting dealt (his surgery will have him ready by spring training and he could still be dealt to Texas or another team at that point), then Bay could be valuable in case David Ortiz doesn’t pan out in 2010.  In addition, he can hold a semi platoon with Ellsbury (with Cameron moving to CF), Ortiz and Drew (with Bay playing left and Cameron moving to RF).

Between injuries to Drew, tough match-ups to Ellsbury, Ortiz and Drew and regular days off for all of to the outfield and Ortiz, he will easily find enough at bats.  In fact, it is silly to think Bay would have to struggle for at bats, in fact it will be Cameron, Ellsbury and Ortiz that will struggle to get at bats in favor of Bay.

I’m getting ahead of myself here, but I love the idea of this as Bay would significantly upgrade the offense and seeing as we know he can play in Boston, likes it here, and seeing as Bay doesn’t want to play in New York, it all makes sense.

Lastly, with Lackey and Bay on board, Ellsbury and/or Buchholz, as we’ve mentioned, become even more available for a mid-season run at an offensive upgrade at 1st or 3rd, that is unless you like the idea of 600 PAs from Casey Kotchman this year.  Let’s watch this play out.

Love It

I’m on vacation so this is being type on my cellphone. I think Cashman did a great job with today’s deal. Yes, we remember Vazquez from 2004 but he has consistently struck out 150 and won 10 games a year this decade. He will be asked to be the fourth starter and is a great bet to throw 200 innings. Losing Melky is not something I am upset about and Dunn is a raw talent who could be replaced by Logan. The prospect had a great year in Staten Island but is years away from the Bronx. The Yankees are built to win now and this gives them an excellent shot. Great move for 2010

The Yankees Didn’t Blink

Interesting tweet from Ken Davidoff saying that Damon came back to the Yankees and asked for two-years/$11 million per.  He said in an earlier tweet that the Yankees offered two-years/$14 million- a number which Damon rejected.

I am pretty surprised that it came down to a total of $6 million.  That’s a pretty small figure and shows you that the Yankees really were ready to move on unless Damon met their terms.  

What’s Next?

I am kicking myself a bit this morning for not paying closer attention to what Brian Cashman said at the beginning of the offseason.  It was a very telling quote that I used as a post title- "We have to get younger

Well along those lines Brian Cashman has done exactly that.  Gone is the 36-year old left fielder and in his place is the 28 year-old  centerfielder.  Gone is the 35 year-old DH and in his place is the 31-year old DH.  In addition, they swapped out $26 million in salary for (reportedly) $11 million in 2010.   And, from reading the papers this morning, especially the Daily News, it’s pretty clear that the Yankees just felt Matsui’s knees were a ticking time bomb.  If that is what the Yankees’ medical people felt, it’s tough to argue with them.  After all, they have been treating those knees the past few years, so I assume they know what they are talking about.  In light of all that, I can’t blame Cashman for turning away from Matsui.  

The thing I wonder is if these moves mean that we will see Xavier Nady return to New York.  I simply don’t believe that the Yankees would start Melky in left and Nady would probably only cost a few million plus incentives and you would only have to sign him for one year.  That would enable him to reestablish his value and leave the Yankees in place to bid aggressively in the 2011 free agent market.

If you project out the roster right now, you can see 9 pitchers who are locks (CC, AJ, Andy, Joba, Hughes, Rivera, Robertson, Marte, Aceves) A bunch who could fill the final few spots (Gaudin, Mitre, Dunn, Alibie, Ramirez, Melancon) Some good choices in that group, but plenty of room for another arm from outside the organization.

You have two catchers (Posada and Cervelli) Six infielders (Teixeria, Cano, Jeter, A-Rod, Johnson and one of the Pena/Russo/Corona group) and four outfielders (Granderson, Swisher, Cabrera, Gardner. 

That leaves four spots, at least another outfielder and two more pitchers.  The names I listed are in the running, but the Yankees are still shopping.  

Sounds Like It’s Up To Johnny

The New York Post is reporting that the Yankees are "close" to signing Nick Johnson with a deal that could be announced Friday. 

ESPN is reporting a similar thing, but they note that "a single call from the outfielder (Damon) could change everything."

In other words, it sounds like we are in the final standoff between Damon and the Yankees.  Unless Damon blinks and lowers his reported demands (three years and $13 million per) The Yankees are going to sign Nick Johnson. So, let’s take a closer look at Johnson.

The Good: Amazing patience, average 4.36 pitches per plate appearance and got on base at a .426 clip.  He fits right into the Yankees’ lineup from that standpoint and makes it even more of a grind for opposing pitchers.  

The Bad: Fragile doesn’t even begin to describe him.  He played 147 games in 2006, missed all of 2007 and only got into 38 games in 2008.  Last year he played in 133 games, the second-highest figure of his career.  In addition, he is a firstbaseman by trade, something the Yankees have no real use for and he is a statue on the bases.  The Bill James Handbook keeps some great baserunning stats and consider Johnson.  

In 2009, he went from 1st-to-3rd 14 times in 40 chances (35%)  Second-to-home 9 of 23 (39%) First-to-Home 1 of 9 (18%).  In addition, he grounded into a double play 15 times out of 114 chances (13%)

Now compare those numbers to Matsui, a guy we saw lumbering around the bases in 2009.   Matsui was 6 for 22 (27%) 8 for 15 (53%) and 4 for 7 (57%) and he only hit into a double play 4 of 96 (4%) of the time. 

Yes, you have to take into account things like ballparks, third base coaches, outfield and game compositions, but at least ont he surface, it looks like Matsui might be faster and that is a scary possibility.

The Unknown:   What happened to Johnson’s power?  In 2006 he hit 23 home runs.  In 2009 he hit 8.  His doubles also fell from 46 to 24.  All this happened with him hitting almost the same percentage of line drives (23% to 22%) yet his BABIP rose to .338 from .320.  Will the new place reinflate that power?  Your guess is as good as mine.

This all comes down to the contract for me.  If the Yankees passed on Matsui at $6.5 million and turned around and gave the same deal to Johnson, I think they made a mistake.  If Johnson comes in lower than that with a lot of incentives then it’s a deal I can live with.  

Jorge’s Right

In today’s Daily News, Jorge Posada voices his hopes that the Yankees will add another starter so that either Joba or Hughes can pitch 2010 in the bullpen. 

I think that he is absolutely right and I am almost positive that the Yankees will do this based on what happened in 2009.  What do I mean?  I mean the 2009 Joba Rules and the fiasco they created.  You remember all the fun, but the net result is the Yankees won a World Series and they got Joba 160 innings of work.  Now, they can safely deploy him for around 200 innings in 2010, hopefully putting an end to all the insanity (Note, we can fight about Joba’s best role more next season.  Let’s just agree for now that after all they went through in 2009, the Yankees are definitely going to try and use him as a starter in 2010.  If he stinks in that role, that’s a different story.)

Now, consider Phil Hughes a minute.  Hughes is younger than Joba and last year was the first year since 2006, that he actually threw more innings than the previous season.  (2006- 146, 2007-109, 2008- 70, 2009 back up to 105)  Based on those numbers, I don’t see how the Yankees open the season with Hughes in the rotation because they probably want to keep his innings down to 140 maximum.  I think in an ideal world, the Yankees put Hughes into the bullpen, but let him thrown more innings there than he did in 2009.  Maybe they have him do the 7th and 8th a lot, maybe they think about switching him to the rotation midway through the season, but I don’t see him starting there. 

That makes it a perfect fit for the Yankees to offer a one-year deal, loaded with incentives, to someone like Ben Sheets.  If Sheets is really expecting $12 million, you obviously look elsewhere, but there are plenty of choices on the market- right now.  

No Nick Johnson

The Yankees are "talking" about Nick Johnson.  I am not sure what "talking" means, but it must at the very least mean that they are considering offering him a contract.

To me that makes little sense.  The Yankees just said good-bye to Hideki Matsui because he couldn’t play a position and they worried about his health.  Johnson can play first, which is of little help to the Yankees and he is very brittle.  

Now, if Johnson wants to come to New York and play 80-100 games at DH for a few million bucks, that’s different, but I wouldn’t pay him anywhere near what Matsui got and I wouldn’t guarantee him the role of full-time DH.  The Yankees are looking to increase roster flexibility.  The best way to do that is sign someone who can play the outfield and DH.  You know, like Johnny Damon for example…