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.

 

Kung-Fu Panda

ESPN is reporting that the Red Sox are “all-in” in an attempt to sign Pablo Sandoval.  While the free agency process is filled with posturing and interesting rumors, there’s no doubt Sandoval would be a useful addition.

The worries, however, start with the fact he is not a highly conditioned athlete and history shows that those types don’t generally have long-lasting careers.  Couple that with the fact he is at free agency for the first time and trying to make a financial score, and this might not be the best thing for the Red Sox to do.

He is only 28 years old but let’s consider other baseball players who aren’t/weren’t in tip-top condition:

Prince Fielder – 30 years old and in the middle of a massive contract.  He played in only 42 games in 2014 and while it is too soon to count him out, I’d be very worried if I were the Texas Rangers.

Cecil Fielder – He starred in his 20’s but as his last all-star season was at age 32.  He was out of baseball at age 34.

Greg Luzinski – Now I was young when Luzinski was playing, but I remember him as a large fellow.  Please correct me if I am wrong. His career was done at 33.

John Kruk – At his own admission, he is not a fitness freak and was out of baseball at 34 (although was reasonably productive in his last years).

Ryan Howard – Wow, am I picking on Phillies players or what here?  Ryan is 34 and posted a .690 OPS this year.  His last good year was at age 31 and his contract runs for a few more years so I’d not be optimistic if I were his GM.

Adam Dunn – Announced his retirement at age 34.  His last very good year was at age 30 when he posted a .892 OPS.

Now there are outliers like David Ortiz.  He is a very large man yet here he is at age 38 still being productive and this guy named Babe Ruth played well to age 39.  Also keep in mind, baseball-reference has Kruk still listed at 5′ 10″, 170 lbs.  Sure.  I guess my point is this exercise isn’t scientific but I hope it supports the idea that a 6 year deal at $90-$100m for Sandoval is crazy in my opinion.  His OPS has declined each of the last 4 seasons.  Perhaps you’d get 2-3 good years out of him but also 2-3 lousy years as well.

I’d pass if I were Boston.

 

GM Meetings

The Red Sox have the major task of building a starting rotation.  While they have a handful of OF talent to dangle in any trades, they also have a check book capable of paying some free agents.

2 names that have been discussed in Boston include Jon Lester and the Phillies Cole Hamels.  To get Lester, they need to match his asking price and even if he is offering a “home town discount” it’s still going to cost the Red Sox a great deal to land him.  Hamels, on the other hand, will require spending money (as in paying him his salary) and prospects.  Hamels is on the books for another 4 years at $22.5 each (and a 5th year that vest predicated on durability and good health).  So landing Hamels will mean they are only on the hook for 4 years guaranteed but they spend dearly by giving up prospects.

To me this is a no brainer, they should re-sign Lester.  Let’s say they can get him for 6 years and $120m and please, we all have ideas as to what it will take, but let’s use this as a starting point and acknowledge it could be higher or maybe even lower I if a home town discount is really possbile.  That allows the Red Sox to hold onto their prospects while the down side is an extra 2 years of liability for a pitcher who will be 31 in January.  Still I take my chances on Lester over Hamels.

Lester has proven he can pitch in Boston, not every pitcher can do it.

Now, that’s just one starting pitcher, they need another.  The GM meetings are when both trade and free agent ideas are floated and then the owners meetings are when things start to happen.

He Lied?

I don’t think there were many people out there who believed Alex Rodriguez when he claimed he had never used any of the PED’s he was accused of using, but just in case, this story should put an end to that. Here’s the key quote in my mind, “Rodriguez gave a sworn statement to the DEA and prosecutors that, between late 2010 and October 2012, he did use substances prohibited by Major League Baseball.”

Just to recap. Alex vehemently denied these charges in public, but told a very different story when faced with the option of perjury.

The question I have now is what happens next? I have already stated that I don’t think the Yankees should let A-Rod play for them again, and this only increases my conviction in that belief. I also think that this news will increase the pressure on everyone to figure out a way to let Alex shrink away out of the spotlight. I cannot imagine he will want to face the press and try to explain these inconstancies, and I know the Yankees won’t want him to attempt to do so with an interlocking NY on his head or chest. I don’t know how it happens, but this should convince everyone that Alex Rodriguez should not be in Yankee camp when it opens in three months.

 

Qualifiers

No surprise, but all eight of the players who could have received a qualifying offer from my Top-10 post the other day did. Four other players did as well-

Francisco Liriano- Reinvented himself in Pittsburgh and a lefty.

David Robertson- A no-brainer for the Yankees

Ervin Santana- Already paying him close to $15.3 million, so why not take a chance on one more year?

Michael Cuddyer- Had an amazing 2013, but only 49 games played in 2014, so I thought this was a bit surprising. I imagine he might accept.

All of the players offered qualifying offers have until November 10th to accept. If they do, they are signed for one-year and $15.3 million. If they don’t, they can continue to negotiate with their current team, but if they sign with another team, that team forfeits its top draft pick. (Unless it is a top-10 pick)

 

 

 

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.

 

 

What A Wonderful Series

That was awesome. Seven games and it came down to the final inning. How amazing was Madison Bumgarner? He has written himself into the baseball book of legends with that performance.

I do have two questions about that final inning. First, am I the only one who thought Gordon would have scored on his eventual “triple” in the 9th? He seemed to have busted it out of the box and with two misplays on the ball I think he would have gotten in there. Alas, we will never know. (I fully admit that would have been a brutal decision for the third base coach)

Second, how does the batter not see Buster Posey practically standing up behind the plate on a high fastball? To me that is a dead giveaway of the pitch location, but I must be missing something. No matter what, that was a great ending to the baseball season.

******

Watching Madison Bumgarner out there tonight made me think of two things in regards to the 2015 Yankees. First, the Yankees need to make the bets the Giants did on pitchers like Bumgarner. The Giants signed him to a five-year/$35-million deal in 2012 with two additional options for $12-million each, after he had made less than 50 starts in the bigs. That looks like the steal of the century at this point with San Francisco controlling him for the next five years at a total of $52-million, but it was obviously a risk. The Giants know this from the contract they gave Matt Cain, which cost them almost twice as much, but hasn’t come close to providing any value.

Pitchers are inherently unpredictable. But the Yankees would be much, much smarter if they placed their bets on guys earlier in their career than later. The Bumgarner bet cost the Giants a total of $$59-million for seven seasons. The Yankees spent almost three times that amount to lock up Tanaka for seven years. How about approaching Nova and Pineda this offseason and seeing what the cost of a long-term deal would be? Both have risks, but both could be real bargains in the future.

Second, I wonder if Bumgarner showed us a model for the way pitchers in the 21st Century should be handled? I am not suggesting that they pitch 117 pitches on a Sunday and then throw 60-plus on a Wednesday, but considering the cost of pitching, why are throwing days wasted in the bullpen? I don’t know what the exact number is, but maybe a starter could pitch on a Sunday and then throw 20 pitches in a game on Wednesday? Whatever the number, wouldn’t that make more sense than using a guy for 6 innings every five days? I hope the Yankees are smart enough to find out.

Can You Blame Him?

Chili Davis has chosen to be the next Red Sox hitting coach instead of the next Yankees hitting coach. I think it is a very smart move for Chili.

For one thing, the Red Sox actual have some young hitters he can work with. For another, the Yankees just fired a very respected hitting coach for not getting a bunch of 30-plus year olds to hit in 2014. Why would Chili think he could do any better? The Yankees will need to keep looking, and Dave Magadan will not be the choice.

In other news, the Yankees have tapped a former hitting coach, Gary Denbo, to take over as VP of Baseball Operations. The news on Denbo comes along with the news that Pat Roessler, the Director of Player Development is out. These are two encouraging moves as they demonstrate that the Yankees understand they need to fix their minor league system.

The Yankees Fired The Wrong People

The news today is that Brian Cashman has a new three-year contract while Kevin Long and Mick Kelleher have been dropped from Joe Griardi’s coaching staff.

I’ve already said that I would not have given Cashman a new contract, but these moves puzzle me. Yes, the offense was bad this year, but is that Long’s fault? Is it his fault the Yankees are old? Is it his fault Derek Jeter played like he was 40? Wasn’t Long the guy who helped Curtis Granderson have back-to-back 40+ homer years? Wasn’t he the hitting coach when the Yankees scored all of those runs? I would have stuck with him for at least another year.

And I have no idea what Mick Kelleher did. He was the defensive coach, and while the Yankees were not especially good on defense, I can’t see how you blame him. Let’s be honest, the Yankees may have had the worst middle infield defensively in their history this year. Jeter was never a good defender and Brian Roberts didn’t help matters. Kelly Johnson at first, a revolving door at third for the first three months…. When you add it up, I can’t see what Kelleher could have done better.

The Face of The Yankees

The Yankees have had various characters as the face of their franchise through the years. Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle weren’t saints. Lou Gehrig might have been. Reggie Jackson was a narcissist. Derek Jeter and Joe DiMaggio were intensely private. And while the “job” is open again, it is about to be filled by Alex Rodriguez. Short of the Yankees bringing Mike Trout to the Bronx before the start of next season, and that is absolutely not happening, Alex will become the face of the Yankees. He will be the person most associated with the team and that is one of the  reasons the Yankees should cut him outright instead of letting him be reinstated at the conclusion of the World Series.

Let’s start with the obvious reason. Alex is a disgrace. He has been exposed as a massive cheat and refused to take the stand at his own arbitration hearing claiming the process was rigged and his lawsuits would prove it. Yet, he quietly dropped those lawsuits on a Friday in February and disappeared for the 2014 season. Opposing teams’ fans will obviously boo him, but Yankees fans should too. Management know that and the only reason the Yankees are even thinking of letting him in the front door is because they owe him $61-million.

Tradition matters to the Yankees. Perhaps it matters to them more than any team in baseball. They constantly market it. They are the only team that still has an Old Timers’ Day. They practically shove it down your throat at times. It has been a big part of the reason why the Yankees are the most valuable brand in sports. Fobres estimates that the Yankee brand is worth $521 million alone. That is a valuable asset and one that the Yankees should protect. Letting Alex return to the team will only reduce the value of the club. Maybe it won’t be $61-million of damage, but it will be damage and the Yankees could take a stand here and show that they value their principals more than their wallets.

But here’s the thing. Even if they won’t. Even if they desperately want to earn something off of that $61-million can they? Alex is about to be 40 and hasn’t played since 2013. He has missed at least 20 games every season since 2008, and was just slightly above average with the bat in 2013. Is a 2015 season where he hits .260 with say 15-20 homers really worth all the distractions his presence will create or the logjam at DH?

So, I hope the Yankees wake up to the reality that it is time to close the door on Alex. Sadly, I don’t think they will.