Hughes To Minnesota

Reports are Phil Hughes has signed a three-year/$24-million deal with Minnesota. I don’t think anyone who has followed the Yankees is shocked that he has left town, but his destination and deal length are interesting.

Personally, I thought Hughes would take a one-year deal and try and recapture his earlier success. Minnesota is also not the place where I thought he would  end up. Sure, it is low-pressure and a pitcher-friendly park, but I thought he would head to the west coast or the NL.

Hughes will always represent what could have been to Yankees’ fans. We will always think of his near no-hitter in his first start and the subsequent hype that followed him afterwards. He was supposed to be the guy who fronted the rotation throughout this decade. That didn’t happen and the Yankees would be smart to figure out why the potential of Hughes, Joba and Kennedy fizzled into 80 wins and disappointment all around.

Simmer

The Red Sox off-season is simmering with no sign of a boil over.  For everyday players, the Red Sox have the following:

c – David Ross (expect him to be paired with a lefty platoon partner)

1b – Mike Carp

2b – Pedroia

3b – Middlebrooks

ss – Bogaerts

lf – Gomes/Nava platoon

cf – Jackie Bradley Jr.

rf – Shane Victorino

dh – David Ortiz

Of course Stephen Drew, Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Napoli and Jarrod Saltalamacchia could all return thus getting the band back together, but for now, the above is what we have.  As it stands, that’s not a train-wreck line-up, hardly so but Middlebrooks is not a sure thing, although I really want him to pan out.  Drew might be a good defender, but Bogaerts has got to be the everyday ss moving Middlebrooks to 3b and Middlebrooks has too much raw power to give up on him now.  He was a disaster 1st half but posted .276/.329/.476 vitals after the all-star break.  Not all-star stuff, but serviceable and he just turned 25.

As Peter noted the Red Sox and Yankees are both linked to Carlos Beltran.  That’d be fine, I supposed for Boston, but it would mean the Red Sox aren’t ready to give the CF job to Bradley Jr.  My problem with Beltran is that he is old and after seeing him leave game 1 of the World Series only to return to game 2 (less than 24 hours later), made me question his willingness.  It’s the WS after all.  You never know when you’ll get there again, you’ve got to force yourself to stay in that game.  And while he has been decently durable since 2011, remember this is the guy would couldn’t stay on the field during large spells with the Mets.

Aside from that, there really isn’t any news to report.  The big names have yet to drop off the board and until they do, we’ve got little to no news.

Don’t Do It!

Word on the internet is that the Yankees are strongly pursuing Carlos Beltran. So far, they have refused to offer more than a two-year deal, but they are reportedly considering going to three years because Texas and Boston are making strong bids.

This is a terrible idea. Beltran is the epitome of what the Yankees should be avoiding right now. He will be 37 at the start of next season and has had a checkered injury past. Yes, he put up some very good offensive numbers in 2013, but his defense has slipped below average by almost all metrics. (Some metrics put his defense as lousy)  He is projected to hit .277/.343/.473 next year, a certain plus, but the Yankees should not make a three-commitment to a guy who will become a full-time DH soon.

I was never a fan of the Travis Hafner signing, but the idea behind it was a good one. Find someone who can pull the ball and put them in Yankee Stadium for 81 games. Along those lines, I would much prefer someone like Justin Morneau on a one-year deal than Carlos Beltran on a three-year one. Signing Beltran seems more like a move to sell tickets than anything else.

Business As Usual

As some of you have noted in the comments, the Yankees did today what their DNA programs to do- spend money on a big free agent. They have reportedly agreed on a five-year/$85-million deal with Brian McCann.

Let’s start with the bad about this deal. First and foremost, it costs the Yankees the 18th-overall pick in the MLB draft. They will probably recoup  a first-round pick when Curtis Granderson takes his talents elsewhere, but that pick will be in the 30’s, so they have essentially moved back 15 spots in the draft. That is not insignificant for a team trying to restock its farm system.  Signing McCann is by no means an abandonment of the farm system, but it is hard to equate rebuilding it with this move.

Second, this is a lot of money to pay a guy who may not be able to hit lefties anymore and will probably not be a catcher at the end of the deal.

Despite those complaints, there are some big positives from this move.

It’s hard to overstate just how badly the Yankees needed a catcher who could hit. And, the Yankees ideal world with this deal is very easy to see. McCann plays the next three years behind the plate while taking advantage of the short porch to hit lots of homers. In 2017 he transitions to more of a 1B as Gary Sanchez has established himself as a full-time catcher while Mark Teixeira is a free agent.

And, let’s not forget about this. (Note to Red Sox fans- see the position of the mask. That’s how these things are done!)  I loved that when I first saw it and that kind of fire was missing from the 2013 Yankees.  McCann is going to add a much needed spark to this team.

After reading the relevant CBA sections again, I am pretty sure that the Yankees can’t lose any additional draft picks for signing a free agent who was offered arbitration. (The team that lost such a player would still receive a compensation selection.) So, the Yankees can go after another one of those free agents, or two, without worrying about a penalty. If I am right, and the Yankees choose wisely, they could be very dangerous in 2014.

40 Man Decisions

Yesterday was the deadline to add a minor league player to the 40-man roster in order to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. The Yankees added six players. Five from the minors and one they acquired by trade.

The five from the minors include some familiar and somewhat unfamiliar names. Gary Sanchez and Slade Heathcott are two names very familiar to Yankees fans and need no additional comments from me. Jose Campos is the other arm they received from the Mariners in the Montero-Pineda swap. He is still a long way from the majors, but he has looked very good when healthy.

That leaves Bryan Mitchell and Shane Greene. Both have made it to AA last year. Greene pitched better than Mitchell in 2013, but he is also two years older. Neither one looks like a front of the rotation starter.

The player they acquired by trade from the Padres, Dean Anna, won the PCL batting title last year. He put up a line of .331, .410, .482 as a middle infielder in 2013, which sounds great until you realize that its the PCL and he is 26. However, he has played all over the diamond and hits lefty, so he should have a solid chance to make the team as a reserve in 2014.

And the Yankees left some interesting players unprotected. Tommy Kahnle had awesome strikeout numbers at Trenton, but way too many walks. Chase Whitley put together a nice swing season in AAA and will probably get selected in the draft as a bullpen arm for some club.

Now we will wait for some free agent signings or the tender deadline on December 2nd for another roster shakeup. One position to note is catcher where the Yankees have five guys on their 40-man roster. You would have to think that either Cervelli or Stewart will be non-tendered when the first free agent signs.

 

 

This Got Interesting

The A-Rod arbitration hearing took a big turn today. Alex stormed out of the hearing, cursed out a baseball executive and vowed that he would not return to the proceedings. This was reportedly in response to the arbitrator in the case ruling that Bud Selig doesn’t need to testify. Alex then went to WFAN’s studios and sat down with Mike Francesa for an interview. (They haven’t posted the audio of it yet, but you can bet they will soon.)  In the interview he denied doing anything wrong, including using PED’s and obstructing the investigation. Here’s a partial transcript of the key exchange

Francesa– “Were you guilty of any of these charges?”

A-Rod– “No”

Francesa– “Did you do anything wrong?”

A-Rod– “No”

Francesa– “Did you do any PED’s?”

A-Rod– “No”

Francesa– “Did you obstruct just- anybody any witnesses? Did you do anything they accused you of doing?”

A-Rod– “No”

Francesa– “Nothing?”

A-Rod– “Nothing”

Francesa– “So you are guilty in your mind of nothing?”

A-Rod– “I feel like I should be there opening day”

All of this raises a number of questions. First and foremost, why won’t Bud Selig testify in the arbitration hearing? Considering all we have heard about MLB’s behavior so far, Selig should take the stand and tell his side of the story. And Alex’s side has a good argument that the arbitrator is afraid of being fired by Selig if he compels him to testify since that could happen (not until after this case) and did happen to the arbitrator who ruled that Ryan Braun didn’t fail a drug test in 2011.

Now, was Alex’s reaction today genuine? That’s a tougher one to answer. On one hand, I can understand why he was angry and I can’t blame him. On the other, he needed to make a scene. Let me explain that one further. Arbitration is used to keep things out of the courts and since MLB and the Players’ Association have agreed to use arbitration to solve their disputes, A-Rod is going to have a tough time getting a court to listen to an appeal of arbitration unless he can somehow convince a court that he was railroaded. That’s why I would be very suspicious of his motives today.

But ultimately, Alex proclaimed his innocence clearly and unequivocally. I don’t know why he waited until now to do so, he claims it was  because of his attorneys, but he has done it. He was clearly upset in his interview with Francesa over how he has been treated by MLB, Selig and the Yankees. (They are replaying it on YES after the Nets game tonight if you want to watch)  I don’t know where this is going next, but it is clear that Alex is going to exhaust every avenue possible to him if the arbitrator finds he is guilty.

 

Meet The Mets

Robinson Cano held a “secret” meeting with the Mets?. Is anyone really surprised by this news? Any free agent is going to try and get the Mets involved in the bidding process that’s just smart business. The problem is that it is very unlikely that the Mets are going to bite.

Consider the comment from their GM in the article linked above. It is “unlikely” that they would take on another nine-figure contract. Cano is clearly going to get nine figures, it is just a matter of how big the check is. The Mets have financial issues and attendance issues, I don’t see them as a real threat to sign Cano.

That doesn’t mean he is coming back to the Yankees. Brian Cashman said last week that he thinks Cano is going to the highest bidder and that may not be the Yankees. There is plenty of money out there and Cano could end up in many different locations.

On to real news, the Yankees have reportedly re-signed Brendan Ryan. This is one of those moves that leaves me feeling icky. Yes, Ryan is a very good shortstop (though the advanced fielding metrics call that into question) but he simply cannot hit. The idea of Ryan as a backup for Jeter is ridiculous because good major league clubs can’t give 500 AB’s to a guy with a sub .600 OPS. Ryan could have value as a defensive caddy for Jeter, but only is you are going to carry a maximum of 11 pitchers. Otherwise, the bench spot should go to someone more versatile.

 

Open Season

So the qualification deadline has come and gone and none of the players offered a contract for 2014 accepted. That means that the Yankees could get three draft picks if Cano, Kuroda or Granderson sign with other MLB clubs.

I’m not really shocked that none of them accepted. Cano is clearly going to make at least 10x more than a $14.1-million deal. Kuroda made more than that in 2013 and he probably could make more than it in 2014. Granderson didn’t do much in 2013, but that was more the result of two HBP than anything else. He will probably get at least $40 million over 4 years on the open market and perhaps more.

So the Yankees are set to pick 18th overall, assuming they don’t sign any of the qualified players from other teams and also no worse than 33rd-25th overall if they lose all three of their qualified free agents.

I sincerely hope they hold onto their top pick and let Granderson leave. That will give them two picks in the top 35 selections of the draft. That will go a long way to helping them rebuild.

Qualified Redux

The Red Sox have made qualifying offers to Mike Napoli, Stephen Drew and Jacoby Ellsbury.

Ellsbury almost assuredly will not return to Boston.  Napoli, according to Yahoo! sports has a multi-year offer from Boston but is going to test the market.  Drew, according to his agent Scott Boros, will decline the offer and also shop the market.

So if all 3 sign elsewhere, the Red Sox get 3 compasation picks.

My guess is Drew and Napoli return and Ellsbury leaves.

As for Stephen Drew, I think he is a fine player, but not a $14m player, so the fact he’ll decline the tender offer is great.  In addition, I don’t know what is wrong with Will Middlebrooks at 3rd and Xander Bogaerts at short.  If I had my druthers, 2014 would start with Napoli at 1b, Pedroia at 2b, Middlebrooks at 3b and Bogaerts at ss.

I’m assuming the Red Sox think Napoli has a strong chance of leaving Boston and if that is the case, Middlebrooks would move to 1b with Bogaerts at 3b and Drew at ss.  Musical chairs.

Also, Jarrod Saltalamacchia wasn’t tendered making him free to sign without compensation.  $14m for him is far too steep, especially seeing his postseason performance, 19 K’s in 35 at bats and very little contact (.476 OPS).  I’d like him back at a reasonable price as I think he and David Ross make a great platoon, but if he strikes it rich elsewhere, that’s ok, I think the Red Sox will be fine without him.

The GM/Owner meetings start on Monday.  Up until this year, the GMs had their own meetings and the owners had their own meetings but I guess they’ve combined things.  Regardless, its at meetings like this that the foundation for signings and trades are made and then we start to see some crazy action.

Qualified

The Yankees made three qualifying offers Monday and I don’t think any of them are a surprise. Cano and Kuroda were no-brainers and Granderson was certainly worth the risk. Maybe he takes it, but that would be absolutely fine for the Yankees. I wouldn’t want to sign Granderson for four years, but having him on a one-year deal in his age 33 season is not a big risk.

Some potential Yankee free agent targets were given qualifying offers and the Yankees would be smart to pass on those. I wasn’t a big fan of signing Carlos Beltran before he got a qualifying offer and I would stay clear of him now. Ditto that on Drew, Choo and McCann. They are all nice players who could fit the Yankees well in 2014, but they are not worth the draft pick loss.

But there are a number of players who don’t have a draft pick attached to them and would make a lot of sense for the Yankees to look at.

Start with Jhonny Peralta. The Yankees have to add someone who can play the left side of the infield and provide some offense. Peralta has the bulk of his innings at short, but he has played almost 2,000 innings at third. He put up a line of .303/.358/.457 in 2013. And thanks to his PED suspension, he should be a relative bargain compared to his potential value. Even if Alex avoids his suspension and Jeter returns to short, the Yankees will still need to give them plenty of days off. The Yankees should make a strong bid for Peralta.

Next take a look at Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Yes, he isn’t a great catcher, but he can certainly hit and the Yankees need that. Plus, he is a switch-hitter, something the Yankees used to have plenty of and sorely missed in 2013. Chris Stewart is not the answer at catcher. Francisco Cervelli has never shown much apart from the start of the 2013 season Austin Romine showed some flashes in 2013, but it’s hard to say he is ever going to hit enough to be a viable catcher in the bigs. Gary Sanchez is the future at catcher, but he is probably not going to be ready until 2016. Signing Salty would give the Yankees a solid alternative while they wait for Sanchez to develop.

And finally, how about a pitcher? If the Yankees bring back Kuroda, the rotation is Sabathia, Kuroda and Nova and then it gets dicey. Phelps, Warren and Nuno should be in the conversation, but a proven innings eater would be a big boost. I will develop this idea a bit further later this week.