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Don’t Take The Bait

The Red Sox are off on a very Yankee-like spending spree. They added  $200-million in contracts, and with a free agent pitcher probably on the horizon, they could be closing on $400-million soon. It’s up to the Yankees to not let this distract them.

Let’s be honest, I don’t think Boston wanted to go this route. Just last spring, they were sounding their usual lament about the Yankees and their spending. I think they meant it when they said it, but then they lost 90 games and things changed in Boston. I suspect that Red Sox ownership wants to make sure the ballpark remains full, and take advantage of a protected draft pick. So, they snagged Hanley and Pablo and now the baseball world will look for the Yankees to answer.

They shouldn’t They shouldn’t even bat an eye at any of this. This isn’t the mid-2000’s when the Yankees and Red Sox were locked in a steel cage fighting each other as the two dominant teams in the sport. Remember, from 1998-2005 the Yankees and Red Sox finished 1-2 in the AL East every year. They were mortal enemies and yin and yang. That’s no longer the case. They haven’t finished 1-2 in the AL East since 2009 (with either team first) and the baseball universe has dramatically changed. Money is everywhere and free agency has become a much, much more perilous endeavor. Fewer truly good players are making it to free agency, and the ones that do are getting seriously overpaid.

So what should the Yankees do now? They should make a run at Chase Headley, but keep things to a reasonable level. It is worth remembering that Headley had a .651 OPS when the Yankees traded for him. He then hit .265/.390/.434 at the Stadium, but ended the year with a combined line of .243/.328/.372. That is not someone I would give a four-year contract to, or pay much more than $12-million a year to. Other teams might, and the Yankees should let them.

Martin Prado needs a place to play in 2015. People keep saying he can be a second baseman, but he hasn’t really been one in a number of years. Putting him there for all of 2015 isn’t a great plan defensively, but he can play third. Take it with a grain of salt, but Steamer projects Prado to hit for almost the same slash line as Headley in 2015. Putting Prado at third has the added bonus of giving Refsnyder and Pirella a shot to win the second base job. That would be a very positive development.

There are simply too many questions hanging over the 2015 Yankees to envision them as a serious playoff contender right now. They certainly could make it, but until we know about Tanaka’s arm, Nova’s arm, McCann and Ellsbury’s bats, etc., we won’t know if they have a legitimate shot. They could spend a bunch of money and still not change the questions. Better to let the other teams spend now and just focus on getting younger.

 

 

Boston Today

The Red Sox sure have a way of surprising.  My thought going into this off season was to try to acquire a starting rotation.  But with offense down and pitching up in MLB, Ben Cherington has decided to do just the opposite.  One would assume he is acquiring the difficult to acquire asset with goals of moving some of that asset to acquire the supposedly easier asset to acquire in pitching.

If the season started today, here’s my line-up:

cf – Mookie Betts (R)

2b – Dustin Pedroia (R)

dh – David Ortiz (L)

lf – Hanley Ramirez (R)

3b – Pablo Sandoval (S)

1b – Mike Napoli (R)

ss – Xander Bogaerts (R)

rf – Rusney Castillo (R)

c – Christian Vasquez (R)

The obvious observation is that the Red Sox line-up remains heavy on the righties.  This kind of reminds me of when the Red Sox signed Carl Crawford, adding to lefty hitter with the Red Sox already extremely lefty in their line-up, especially their top 5 hitters (Gonzalez, Crawford, Ortiz, Ellsbury with only Pedroia being a righty).

But we are still several months away from spring training, let alone opening day.  With a stockpile of offense, albeit in, my opinion, not the best talent, the Red Sox do have chips to work with to acquire a starting rotation.  Namely if they can move a player like Cespedes and his salary, then perhaps Jon Lester fits in rotation as a free agent.  In addition, there must be room for the likes of Allen Craig, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Will Middlebrooks on other teams…um, when I write those names, I lose total confidence that anyone would provide 100 cents on the dollar for any of them.

So aside from Cespedes, the Red Sox might have to be willing to trade minor leaguers like Blake Swihart, Anthony Ranaudo, Matt Barnes, Garin Cecchini (where would he ever play? The Red Sox just signed 2 players in Ramirez and Sandoval to the 2 positions he plays.), Devon Merrero and a few others.

I would expect over the next 21 days the Red Sox to start to move the above assets in exchange for quality starting pitching and hopefully the signing of Lester.  And let’s hope other MLB teams are willing to play the game with Boston, lest they leave Cherington with all offense and no defense, I’ve heard that can leave a GM a dull employee.

A Bad Year

Elias had a good stat last night with the MVP vote. 2014 was the first year ever that neither the Red Sox, nor the Yankees had a player get a single top-10 vote.

I think it is fair to say that both teams have a fair amount of work to do this offseason.

 

Would You Sign Any Of These Guys?

There are a lot of top free agent lists out there, I just took the top-10 names I saw the most and put them into the post. My question is, if you were the Yankees or the Red Sox, would you sign any of them? Let’s look at the list

#1- Max Scherzer

The good- Incredible last two seasons in Detroit and he is 29.

The bad- Already turned down a six-year/$144-million deal so what will he cost?

#2- Jon Lester

The good- Proven winner in the AL East

The bad- He will be 31 this offseason and will cost a small forunte.

#3- James Shields

The good- Definition of workhorse. 8-straight years with 30-plus starts and 200-plus innings

The bad- Will be 33 when this contract starts and has a 5.49ERA in 60 postseason innings

#4- Pablo Sandoval

The good- Good production at a tough position and only 28.

The bad- Weight concerns and four-straight years of declining OPS.

#5- Hanley Ramirez

The good- Brilliant player when motivated and healthy.

The bad- Not always healthy or motivated. Can he still play enough defense to stay at short?

#6- Nelson Cruz

The good- Power that you don’t see that much anymore.

The bad- PED suspension, 34 years-old, bad defender. Seems destined to be a DH soon.

#7- Victor Martinez

The good- Offensive machine who is also a switch-hitter.

The bad- 36 and probably a DH only very soon.

#8- Melky Cabrera

The good- Has turned into a good offensive player and he is only 30

The bad- PED suspension.

#9- Yasmany Thomas

The good- Young guy with big power.

The bad- He is coming from Cuba so he will need to adjust to MLB.

#10- Russell Martin

The good- Good catcher defensively and offensively

The bad- 32 years old and will attract a premium price in a thin market.

 

So getting back to my original question, would you sign any of these guys if you were the Yankees or the Red Sox? Since I am the Yankee side of this blog, I will focus on that.

A guy like Lester or Scherzer would be nice, but pitching is not the Yankees problem and spending huge money on another starter seems foolish. Shields is more interesting to me as an innings sponge, but assuming he gets an arbitration offer from KC, I wouldn’t want to surrender the draft pick for him.

On the offensive side of things, Russell Martin isn’t needed and Melky Cabrera isn’t wanted. I wouldn’t go near Sandoval or Cruz. That leaves the three tempting players for the Yankees- Ramirez, Martinez, and Thomas.

Ramirez makes sense because the Yankees could put him at short now and move him to third later. He would be an upgrade to the position in 2015 and help an offense in need of fixing. But, is he worth the headaches? That’s the part I am unsure of. If the Yankees could get him for five years at most and $100-million or less, I think they would be very interested, but I would pass.

Victor Martinez would really help the offense, but where are you going to play him? Teixeira, A-Rod and Beltran are probably your 1b/DH combination already. Plus, Martinez is exactly the type of guy the Yankees should stop signing (old) so I would pass.

That leaves Thomas and he is intriguing. The scouts love his power, a commodity in short supply in MLB these days. But, there are questions about his OBP ability and his defense. The market for Cuban players has exploded, so he is going to cost a lot, and I think the Yankees could get better value elsewhere.

So if I am running the Yankees, I avoid all of these guys. I would look at guys like Headley and McCarthy and see what they want to stick around,  but I would not give up a draft pick for any of the top free agents. Spend some money on short deals with lower-tier free agents and hope you hit on some of them. The Giants have shown that a wild card team can win the World Series, so the important thing is to qualify for the playoffs. With the right tweaks, that is attainable for the 2015 Yankees.

 

 

October in September

Sometimes the baseball gods give us a perfect moment.

Start with the first inning as we saw Derek rip a double off the wall in left to drive in a run. It was a sight we haven’t seen much of lately and it was only an appetizer.

There was the 7th inning where it looked like Jeter had driven in the winning run. And it happened not with a hit, but on an error when the guy who won the last two gold gloves at shortstop inexplicably threw the ball into right field.  It was as if the baseball gods intervened and decided that Jeter had to finish with the game winning RBI.

But then they realized they could write an even better story. They noticed that Jeter would hit third in the bottom of the ninth, if there was a bottom of the 9th.  And so the Yankees closer, who had been dominant all year, who had not given up two home runs in the same game since 2012, promptly did just that and blew a 5-2 lead. If you didn’t know what was going to happen next, you haven’t been paying attention these past 20 years.

Jose Pirela, with all of 11 big league AB’s , slapped a single to left,  The Yankees brought in Richardson, their designated speedster, and Gardner sacrificed him to second. The stage was set and once more Jeter proved homself to be able to rise to the occasion. The swing was one we can see in our sleep and the result was classic Jeter- a single to right. The throw was a tad late and there was Derek being mobbed at first and the new place rocking with emotion.

It was glorious. It was perfect. It was something to savor for a long time.

An Upgrade UPDATED

On the surface, the McCarthy for Nuno swap between Arizona and the Yankees looks like little more than a shuffling of the deck chairs on the Titanic. But, beneath the surface, the Yankees have made themselves a bit better.

You our have to look beyond ERA to evaluate this deal and become comfortable with the notion that pitchers have no control over what happens to balls hit in the field of play. They could have a good defense behind them that gets to everything, or they could have a terrible defense behind them that let’s everything drop in. In either instance, their ERA would be greatly impacted.  That’s where FIP comes in. It attempts to neutralize the affects do defense and give you an ERA for a pitcher based on things they can control- strikeouts, walks, home runs.

Vidal Nuno has been awful this year, but the Yankee defense hasn’t helped him. Nuno’s FIP is 5.15, but his ERA is 5.42. Basically, he should be a bit better than his numbers suggest, but a FIP over 5 is still bad.

McCarthy has been bad, but the Arizona defense is to blame for a bunch of that. His ERA is 5.02, but his FIP is 3.79. If you look at his raw numbers compared to Nuno this makes sense,  he records more strikeouts, walks batters at about half the rate as Nuno, and gives up fewer home runs. Using WAR, he is about one win better than Nuno so far.

But there are two problems with this analysis. The Yankee defense will not help him and he is switching to the AL. He should still be better than Nuno, but this is not a huge upgrade. It is more like adding a fifth starter in exchange for someone who should not be starting. Value is created, but that is more a factor of how big some of holes the Yankees have to fill are than the talent of the player they acquired.

UPDATE. Yankees have DFAed Soriano. Not a shock, but it does make you wonder who is coming up and what their role will be. Maybe this means Jose Pirella’s time has arrived?  We probably won’t find out until after the game today or tomorrow as the Yankees have recalled Brian Billings for now.

Inevitable

I have rallied against the Yankees’ roster building for years. 13 pitchers is simply too many to carry and tonight, they are getting caught with their proverbial pants down. (And it could get really ugly)

Francisco Cervelli started at first tonight and had to leave the game with a hamstring injury. Cervelli shouldn’t have been at first considering he is the backup catcher, but the Yankees have two injured infielders. Brian Roberts has some sort of back injury and Derek Jeter has an injured quad. So, with 13 pitchers on the roster, the Yankees entered the night with only 10 offensive players healthy. That meant the Yankees had to put someone on the infield who didn’t have much experience there and Cervelli “won” that competition.

The part I don’t get is that Jeter hurt his quad n Friday. I don’t know when Roberts hurt his back, but the Yankees could have had someone like John Ryan Murphy ready to be activated at the expense of the 13th pitchers’ spot. Instead, they rolled the dice as they often have and they have lost.

AJ?

Jon Heyman is reporting that they Red Sox and A.J. Pierzynski have agreed to a deal.  Great, just when I thought the Red Sox were getting rid of a catcher whose name I can’t spell in Jarrod Saltalamacchia, they go and sign an equally hard to spell catcher.  Very selfish of them if you ask me.

Pierzynski is the catcher everyone hates, unless he is your teammate, which means he’ll probably fit in just fine in Boston.  At the tail end of his career, he is a durable back-stop but we probably can’t expect more offensively from him than we would have from Salty.

Believe it or not, Pierzynski is a year older than David Ross, so the Red Sox have an AARP platoon at catcher.  Ryan Lavarnway had best stay ready as it is likely Ross and maybe Pierzynski could break down, despite the latter’s track record of good health.

I like this signing, it provides a veteran platoon situation and doesn’t, I assume, lock the Red Sox up in a 5 year deal with a catcher.  AJ, being the lefty, will get the majority of at bats and that is just fine, as long as he is in the 7-9 spots in the line-up.  Of course, until details of the deal are released, I reserve final judgement.

To The Courts!-UPDATED 4:09PM

Stop the speculation, we have an official announcement. MLB has announced the remaining Biogenisis suspensions and they are exactly what we thought they would be. Twelve players, including Jesus Montero and Francisco Cervelli, are suspended for 50 games starting immediately.

Strangely, Alex Rodriguez has been suspended for 211 games, starting Thursday. (Huh?) In the MLB Statement they claim that Alex used testosterone and HGH over multiple years and obstructed the investigation.

So, Alex can play tonight and the next couple of nights as his suspension doesn’t start until Thursday. And, he can play after that, assuming he appeals his suspension. And, if the Yankees made the 2014 playoffs, Alex could play in them as his suspension is for the 2014 Championship Season and not the 2014 playoffs.

*****

A few things on this. Let’s get the smaller fish out of the way. Cervelli said he didn’t do anything back in February, but then why did he agree to a suspension? That Montero trade doesn’t look like such a bust now, does it?

As for Alex, now we have total war. If you read the MLB statement, it is not a nice one. They are out to punish him. For his part, Alex has hired the same lawyer who got Ryan Braun off the hook the first time.  There is always the chance that Alex doesn’t appeal, but at this point I think he absolutely will. For one thing, being suspended in 2013 costs him more per game than it will in 2014 and 2015. And, he actually has a clear path into the lineup right now, something he probably wouldn’t have if he took the suspension and tried to return to the club in 2015.

So now we wait for the almost certain appeal and then the process to work itself out. How long will that take? I have seen estimates as low as two weeks to as high as two months. I am sure baseball will try and rush it along, but Alex’s lawyers will certainly have all the time that they need to present their case. And before you assume A-Rod is a goner. Just remember that Clemens got out of perjury charges, Braun escaped the first test, there is nothing cut and dry with this and it wouldn’t shock me to see Alex get a heavily reduced suspension. And for at least the next three games, I expect we will see him playing third base.

Finally, everyone suspended today should take a look at this statement. That’s the way you apologize and admit guilt.

UPDATE 4:09-  You have to love these statements too.

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.