Down The Stretch We Come-UPDATED 4:35

So the Red Sox have landed Jake Peavy and the Padres have landed Ian Kennedy. The biggest rumor right now is that Michael Young has decided a little over an hour before the deadline that he would accept a trade to the Yankees. Stay tuned.

3:15pm I think the Astros are going for a MLB-record in terms of lowest salary. They have traded Justin Maxwell to the Royals. Why trade Maxwell? He is arbitration eligible next year. The Astros most expensive player is Wandy Rodriguez, who plays for PITTSBURGH. If they can trade Bud Norris and his $3-million salary, they would cut their payroll by over 10%-WOW!

3:20pm Just speculating here, but if we see the Yankees take on a big contract in 2014, that’s a pretty solid indication that they think something big is happening to A-Rod suspension-wise

3:22pm Joel Sherman tweets that the Yankees have a .560 OPS from their thirdbasemen this year-worst in MLB.

3:25 Michael Young is hitting .279 with 8 home runs and he would be HUGE upgrade for the Yankees <sigh>

3:31 Heyman and Rosenthal reporting that the Orioles are getting closer on Bud Norris.

3:35 Rosenthal reporting that Norris is headed officially to the Orioles.

3:41 Olney reporting that the Yankees are not getting traction in Young talks.

3:42 Sherman reporting that the Braves talked to the Yankees about Hughes but nothing likely.

3:47 Rosenthal reporting that the Pirates are quiet.

3:52 Here’s a big non-trade item. Matt Moore is headed to the DL with elbow problems. It’s been a good 24 hours for the Red Sox.

3:57 Rosenthal reporting that nothing is going on with Texas or the Yankees.

4:35 And that’s about it, nothing major anywhere and the Yankees didn’t pull off a deadline trade. But, since they are in 4th-place, so they will be able to block the Orioles, Red Sox and Rays from making moves in August.

Peavy to Boston

Jake Peavy is coming to Boston and Jose Iglesias is headed to Detroit, or so say reports. The Red Sox need a starter and with Clay Buchholz only willing to pitch when he is 100%, Peavy comes at just the right time.

It is sad to see Iglesias go but I’d much rather lose him than say Jackie Bradley Jr. or Zander Bogaerts.

Peter is right, I have fled Massachusetts and am staying on a small island in Maine, but my WordPress app has come in handy.

Not sure the Red Sox will make any other moves before this trade deadline, I doubt they will.

Some additional notes: Peavy is signed through 2014 and has a player option for 2015. So the Red Sox are willing to add payroll not just for this year but beyond but not at the expense of top shelf prospects.

Iglesias is a nice player but Bogaerts is bearing down on the shortstop position and clearly offers an exponentially lift offensively over Iglesias. If Will Middlebrooks can’t contribute at the major league level then this move does leave a whole, next year, on the left side. For this year, Drew and Brandon Snyder will man the left side. Makes me think Middlebrooks will get called up again or Brock Holt.

Of course it might mean Bogaerts gets called up but I think he really could use more time at AAA.

Trade Deadline Special

Pop quiz at the top, what was the trade the Yankees made at last year’s deadline?

As usual, Andy has fled Massachusetts and the civilized world right as the MLB trade deadline hits. Fear not, I will shepherd you through the deadline with a live blog starting around 2:45pm tomorrow and continuing through the 4pm deadline. I will cover all the MLB moves and I hope to see you in the comments section.

Quiz answer- Casey McGehee for Chad Qualls. The truly sad thing is that while McGehee did nothing in his time with the Yankees, they could certainly use a righty who could play first and third right now. Maybe he gets traded back from Japan?

Stay tuned….

A Great Trade

There is a nice symmetry to Alfonso Soriano returning to the Yankees at this moment. After all, he was the key piece the Yankees traded to Texas back in 2004 for Alex Rodriguez. And despite all of the crap the Yankees have endured since that trade, it was a wonderful move. Let’s look back at it.

The Yankees traded Alfonso Soriano and Joaquin Arias for A-Rod. Since that trade happened, A-Rod has produced 49 WAR. Soriano has priduced a 29.1 WAR and Arias has produced a 0.5 WAR. Sure, up until this point, the Yankees have paid about $80-million more for A-Rod than Soriano and Arias have earned, but $4 million per WAR is a below the 2012 average of $6.3 million. Plus, like it or not, the 2009 title doesn’t happen without A-Rod.

So, the 2004 trade that sent Soriano away was a good one. How does the 2013 trade to bring him back look? Well let’s start with the obvious- they needed to get a righty bat. Here are two stunning stats. Soriano has out-homered the entire Yankee team since the start of July and he has 10 home runs since the Yankees last had a righty hit a  homer.

According to various sources the Yankees are giving up  Corey Black, and paying a prorated $5-million salary this year and $5-million next year. Black is an interesting prospect. He throws close to 100-mph, but he is wild. He is only in A-ball so he has a way to go, but he could definitely come back to haunt the Yankees in a few years. The money isn’t much, though it is interesting that the Yankees are going to pay $5-million to Soriano next year instead of paying more this year. Overall, I think it is a good risk for a team trying to win. This is not Jay Buhner to the Mariners, it is a gamble that a 22-year old in A-ball won’t develop. That’s usually a smart bet.

The question that remains is how will the Yankees use Soriano? The smart play would be to DH full time and cut Hafner. Hafner hasn’t hit since April and his OPS has gone down each month. In July he has put up a line of .154/.241/.212. The Yankees can play Wells in LF against LHP and Mesa against RHP. When Granderson is healthy, he plays there everyday.

Different Worlds

Earlier today A-Rod released this statement:

“I think the Yankees and I crossed signals. I don’t want any more mix-ups. I’m excited and ready to play and help this team win a championship. I feel great, and I’m ready and want to be in the lineup Friday night. Enough doctors, let’s play.”

Meanwhile, back in Yankeeland, Brian Cashman is outlining what is going to happen with A-Rod while the Yankees are in the fifth inning of their game in Texas.

I am sure there will be a story from one of the beat guys soon, but here is a summary from Twitter. (mostly Mark Feinsand’s feed)

  • Alex saw a doctor in Tampa who agreed with the Grade 1 strain diagnosis
  • Quad has improved but he will rehab through July 31st
  • Assuming no setbacks, he would play a simulated game August 1st

Now here’s the part that really gets me. Brian Cashman and Randy Levine had a conference call with a team trainer, A-Rod, and A-Rod’s LAWYER to go over this.

You could certainly argue that the lawyer was on the call at the request of the Yankees to make sure A-Rod understood his legal obligations. Even if that was the case, it is pretty incredible how fractured this relationship is.

And, with A-Rod at least another week away from playing, you do have to wonder if he will see MLB action this year. We’ve heard that the suspension is 7-10 days away, so it could certainly hit before he picks up a bat this year. Maybe that’s why Alex has been behaving so erratically?

The question I have now, is how long will the Yankees let this continue? Let’s say Alex gets suspended for 100 games at the end of August. That means he misses the rest of this season and 45 games next year. When he would be eligible to return, the Yankees would owe him about $82-million on his contract. It’s a huge sum, but I am wondering if the Yankees would pay it to get out of this toxic relationship.

 

 

A Different View of A-Rod

Here’s a take from across the Pacific on the A-Rod situation.

This is Getting Crazy

UPDATE I wrote all of this below before I read this tweet  Basically, the doctor Alex went to for a second opinion was reprimanded earlier this year by the NJ Attorney General because of “failing to ensure proper patient treatment involving the proscribing of hormones including steroids…”

It’s an old adage, but it is so true; you can’t buy smarts.

The latest twist in the A-Rod saga is that the Yankees are apparently trying to keep him off the field by claiming he is injured. Never mind the fact that it was ALEX who went to the Yankees Saturday and complained about his quad. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any stranger….

Obviously, I am not buying this one. But i will give you a better conspiracy theory if you want.  I have no proof of this, so read on at your own risk.  The Yankees have asked MLB to take their time with the A-Rod/Biogenisis investigation. Why do I say that? Because every game he is suspended for in 2014 helps them towards their $189 payroll goal.

A-Rod is going to make $26-million in 2014 and could earn an extra $6-million if he hits his 660th home run. Since he is currently only 13 away from that, it seems likely that he might do it in 2014, unless he was suspended for a huge chunk of the season. Based on my understanding of the luxury tax, the $6-million bonus would count against the luxury tax number. And since it is A-Rod’s AAV, not his actual salary that counts, the Yankees could take a luxury tax hit of $33.5 million next year thanks to Alex.

Now if Alex is suspended for a portion of 2014 he loses that salary while suspended and that means it doesn’t count against the luxury tax. He is going to make about $4.3 million per month, so a 100-game suspension handed down at the end of July would save the Yankees around $7-million in luxury tax bills for 2014 (55 games this year plus 45 games next year).  If they can get MLB to hold off until the end of August, they could save around $12-million (27 games this year plus 73 games next year) Plus, he might not hit 13 homers in the remaining 89 games, so he wouldn’t trigger the $6-million bonus.

 

 

Soriano

Ask and you shall receive? The Yankees are reportedly close to acquiring Alfonso Soriano from the Cubs for a “mid-level” prospect. The Cubs will pay a significant portion of the $25 million left on Soriano’s contract.

We will have to wait and see what the final terms of the deal are before judging it, but this clearly shows you how bad things are. CBS ran a story today on the potential trade that contained two numbers that are shocking.

  • Yankee left fielders are hitting .225/.267/.332 this season (OPS+ of 62)
  • Yankee DH’s are hitting .212/.297/.362 this season (OPS+ of 92)

That is atrocious production and that is why the Yankees have to turn to someone like Soriano. He doesn’t play defense well and he certainly doesn’t get on base a lot (.286 OBP). But he still has plenty of power (17 homers) and he hits lefties (.280/.312/.508) something very few Yankees are able to do. Vernon Wells has been solid against lefties, so I imagine Soriano will DH and Wells will play left when the Yankees face LHP. When they face a righty, Wells will become Soriano’s defensive substitution.

This isn’t a trade you ever wanted to see the Yankees make, but it is a reflection of where the team currently stands. The minors don’t have any answers and the fill ins are showing why they are fill ins. Soriano is flawed in many ways, but he is better than what they have.

It Begins-UPDATED 7:20 PM

MLB has just announced that Ryan Braun has been suspended for the rest of the season! According to Jon Heyman, Braun has agreed to the suspension.

The fact that MLB suspended Braun for 65 games and that Braun is not appealing it is very bad news for A-Rod. Clearly, MLB had some very strong evidence on Braun to be able to suspend him for more than the 50 game standard for first offenders and to do it with him agreeing. It has been widely reported that MLB was cutting deals with players to accept a lesser punishment in return for not appealing suspensions and this confirms that.

So, why is Braun the only suspension announced? Could it be that everyone else is fighting MLB or is it just the process? And if agreeing to the punishment of 65 games is the “reward” for cooperation, what will the penalty be for players who fight MLB?

Stay tuned

UPDATE Here’s a link to MLB’s statement and Braun’s statement. Interesting that MLB “commends” Braun for taking responsibility for his actions. That is clearly a message to other players. Braun’s statement is the standard junk most players say in this situation. I wonder if he will apologize to the sample collector he absolutely trashed in the media last year?

UPDATE- 6:01PM Heyman reported earlier today that A-Rod was facing a major suspension. The Daily News speculated today that Alex was trying to get declared medically ineligible to return to baseball, thereby making himself still eligible to collect his contract even if he was suspended. That suddenly seems a lot more plausible.

UPDATE- 6:08PM As ESPN pointed out, this greatly boosts the credibility of Anthony Bosch. That is not good for A-Rod or any other player linked to Biogenisis.

UPDATE- 6:17PM Buster Olney just said on SportsCenter that by agreeing to the suspension, Braun has given MLB a huge boost. They can now use that as support for any suspension that gets argued in front of an arbitrator. Basically, it makes their arguments much more credible.

UPDATE- 6:20PM TJ Quinn of ESPN tweets that MLB is going after A-Rod for interfering with the investigation as well. He says “they will go after him harder”

UPDATE- 6:55PM  More from Quinn. “Source also tells OTL evidence provided about A-Rod is “far beyond” what Bosch gave them re Braun.” Verducci also said a similar thing on MLB Network about the evidence against A-Rod in comparison to Braun.

UPDATE- 7:15PM Bob Costas had an interesting idea on MLB Network. In the next CBA, the players and owners should put a policy in place that getting caught using PED’s, besides being suspended, makes a player forever ineligible for the All-Star Game, Hall of Fame and any individual awards.

UPDATE- 7:20PM This is not a good day for baseball fans, so how about some humor? Logan Morrison just told reporters, “You know we’re clean. We haven’t scored a run in 37 innings.”  That’s a good line.

What Does Hal Do Now?

Let me be clear from the get go, the following is not an argument that a payroll of $189 million is insufficient to win a World Series. Starting from scratch, that big a payroll would be much, much, more than you would need to compete and win. But, the Yankees aren’t starting from scratch, so keep that in mind as you read the following. 

I’m not sure Hal grasps the fundamental deal between the Yankees and their fans. The fans agree to pay exorbitant prices in exchange for star players and a competitive team. We respect the fact that ownership is in the business to make money, but we won’t tolerate that pursuit at the expense of a good team. If you want the attention and the dollars that come from owning the Yankees, you have to put a good product on the field. If you don’t, the fans won’t show up. Furthermore, the combination of HDTV and ridiculous prices at the ballpark have made it very easy for the fans to stay home.

The Yankees now find themselves at a crossroads. The $189-million mandate has been issued for 2014, but it is very hard to see how that figure would produce a championship club. I’ve detailed it before, but almost $90-million is already tied up in four players with serious questions hanging over them- A-Rod, Sabathia, Teixeira and Jeter (assuming Jeter exercises his player’s option). Cano, Kuroda, Pettitte, Granderson, Youkilis, Hughes, Logan and Joba will be free agents. Mo will have retired. The minors offer some hope of pitching help in 2014, but little in the way of positional help. And, as of right now, Cervelli and Nunez are the only potential 2014 starters under the age of 30.

Why does this matter now? Because the trade deadline is approaching and Brian Cashman needs to factor in that $189-million figure in his decisions over the next 11 days. Alfonso Soriano and his righty power bat would be a boost for this anemic lineup, but his $17-million salary hit in 2014 won’t work with the $189 million figure.

I use Soriano merely as an example of the type of trade the Yankees have traditionally made in the past. They have taken on salary while giving up less than stellar prospects. Without that financial flexibility, Brian Cashman will have very few options on the trade market this year. Some will argue that the additions of Jeter, A-Rod and Granderson will be enough, but can you really count on them? Jeter made it back for a game and got hurt again. A-Rod is headed for a MRI today on his quad and might be suspended.  Granderson isn’t even playing rehab games at this point. Look at tonight’s lineup. None of the bottom five guys are hitting above .239. The highest OBP among the quintet is .312 and the highest slugging percentage is .401.  And really, when you look honestly at the whole lineup, only Cano and Gardner are probably starting players on a true contender. The rest of the guys are role players at best.

So what is Hal going to do? If the Yankees had seen some of their younger players step up and contribute, meeting the $189-million goal while fielding a competitive team would have been achievable. But I think it is fair to say now that it won’t be. Hal can stick to the plan and force Cashman to run around signing cast offs and fading stars, or he can swallow hard and let the payroll stay where it is now. Financial restraint was a great idea, but the reality of four guys making $85 million and a lack of young talent should force the Yankees to come up with a new plan. Better they do so in July than wait until November.