The Price of Pitching

The Yankees are said to be looking for a young starter with 0-3 years of time in the big leagues. Good luck to them, that is probably the most valuable commodity in the game.

While the recent contract signings of Greinke and Price grab the headlines. Look at some of the lesser deals that have been signed. Mike Pelfrey just got a two-year/$16-million deal from the Tigers. This is a guy coming off of a 6-11 season with an ERA of 4.26. Advanced metrics give him an ERA of 4, but that isn’t much better.

Or consider Darren O’Day, a nice middle reliever. He’s 32, and has 14 saves in his career, yet he is getting a four-year deal worth just under $8-million a year.

Or Ryan Madson, who missed three years, but pitched well in KC this year and just got three years at $7-million each from the A’s. The A’s!

Pitching prices are out of control and that is a reflection of the money flooding the game.

So while the Yankees should absolutely chase young, cost-controllable pitching, they also need to think about their own backyard and some of the pitchers they already control. How about giving them extensions before they hit arbitration/free agency? Three guys come to mind, Betances, Eovladi, and Pineda.

Betances is not even arbitration eligible yet, but after next season he will be and the way he is pitching he will cost a lot very quickly. Could the Yankees buy some cost certainty with him now? Considering he is going to make “only” $507,000 next year, I bet they could, why not try?

Eovaldi and Pineda are tougher cases because they are two years away from free agency and both had injuries in 2015. But, could the Yankees buy out a couple of years of free agency from them right now? It’s certainly worth a shot.

I will be absolutely ok with the Yankees forgoing the free agent market this offseason and keeping their best prospects. But, they need to plan for future costs as well. Locking some of these guys up now can help them do that.

Pricey Price

Well, Dave Dombrowski can’t be accused of being a liar.  He said his main goals this off-season were to sign a top flight starter, acquire a back of the bullpen arm and a complimentary right-handed bat off the bench.  Check, check and check.

The Red Sox traded for Craig Kimbrel last month, yesterday signed Chris Young and have agreed to terms with lefty starter David Price.  Price’s deal is reportedly for 7 years and $217m or $31m a year and he has an opt-out after the third year.

Price is definitely what the Red Sox needed, a top of the rotation starter.  Someone who can eat up 220 quality innings per year.  His addition allows the Red Sox to push their existing group of starters back a spot and perhaps consider moving Joe Kelly to the pen as he hasn’t shown anything as a starter and has a power arm.  The opt-out clause is interesting as it has been a trend for top talent to ask for the it in hopes of tacking on 3 years or so to their original deal at even higher money.  The hope by me is that Price pitches lights out for the first 3 years and then the Red Sox let him walk as he’ll be 33 by then.  Because the contract for 7 years and this much money is crazy even in the world of baseball.  Face it, if Price doesn’t opt out and/or pitches poorly, this could be a very bad contract for many years to come.

There is no doubting the Red Sox are a far better team now than they were at the end of the 2015 season as they have address very important issues.  At the risk of getting way ahead of myself, let me offer this look:

Rotation (Player, ERA+) : David Price: 172, Clay Buchholz: 132, Eduardo Rodriguez: 112, Rick Porcell0: .87 (he is making $20m this year…but his 2nd half, 3.53 ERA, was far better than his first half, 5.90 ERA) and who knows, Wade Miley: 96 or Henry Owens: 94.

Bullpen: Craig Kimbrel: 1.42, Koji Uehara: 194, Junichi Tazawa: 104, ummm, then the wheels fall off a bit as there is a lot of riff-raff to choose from like Robbie Ross, Tommy Layne, Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree and the list goes on.  Dembrowski, will likely want to add to this area.

Line-up (Player, OPS+): Xander Bogaerts: 108, Mookie Betts: 118, Dustin Pedroia: 113, David Ortiz: 141, Hanley Ramirez: 90, Pablo Sandoval: 76 (wow he was terrible last year and has to improve), Rusney Castillo: 73 (he too needs to show us something or else he will be traded), Jackie Bradley: 120 and Blake Swihart: 90 (not bad for a 23 year old rookie catcher).

Bench: Travis Shaw: 115 (great but can he do it again?), Brock Holt: 96,  Ryan Hanigan: 81 and Chris Young: 112 (mashed lefties last year).

So all in all there is some promise for this team, the rotation and bullpen could use quality upgrades and the line-up needs to be sorted out but I am happy thus far.  I especially like the off-season because Dombrowski hasn’t traded away the major league ready talent, he has kept the young core of positional plans, Betts, Bradley, Swihart and Bogaerts, in place.  The idea of building both through the farm and select free agency bets is the best way to build a team in my book.  Relying too much on either one can be disastrous.

But let’s not kid ourselves, the Red Sox really need to add depth to the rotation and especially to the bullpen for this team to make a deep push in the postseason.

Price To Boston

I’m sure Andy will have a post about this later, but I just wanted to post now that the news is out that David Price is headed to Boston. The money is big, as we thought it might be- $217-million over 7 years. It makes gives Price the biggest contract ever for a pitcher and assuming it is evenly averaged over the length of the deal, Price will make about $1-million per start.

Price gets rightfully knocked for not pitching well in the postseason, but he is a wonderful pitcher and solves a big problem for Boston. The money in this deal is astounding, especially when you consider how the Red Sox lowballed Jon Lester, but the ultimate way to judge this deal in my mind is if the Red Sox win a World Series with Price. If they do, great deal. If they don’t, ugh. In many ways this is exactly like the Yankees deal with Sabathia after the 2008 season. Both teams gave a stud lefty a seven-year, record-breaking deal, with an opt-out after three seasons. The Yankees won their World Series and then made the mistake of bringing Sabathia back after he opted-out. We will have to wait to see if Boston gets similar results and makes a similar error.

The Rivalry Ignites Again!

Multiple outlets are reporting that the Red Sox have signed Chris Young to a multiyear deal. Clearly Yankee fans will have a target to boo vociferously when the Red Sox come to town in 2016.

Ok, maybe not. Young was a nice complementary player for the Yankees. He murdered left-handed pitching and played all three outfield spots. But, he was clearly not needed when the Yankees traded for Hicks. And while the details of his new deal are not known, the fact that it is for more than one year makes me a bigger fan of the Hicks trade than before. The Yankees picked Young off the waiver wire in 2014 and brought him back for an economical $2.5-million. I suspect the Red Sox will be paying him a lot more than that.

Interesting Theory-UPDATED

Joel Sherman has a column in the Post about the lack of movement in the free agency market. He points out that at this point last year, Sandoval, Ramirez, Martin, Martinez, and Cuddyer had already signed. Yet, there hasn’t been much of any movement on the free agency front so far.

Sherman speculates that perhaps teams have learned their lesson. He points to the fact that apart from the Blue Jays and Russell Martin, every other team that quickly signed a big free agent last year would probably gladly give him up today for nothing in exchange beyond salary relief. Ramirez and Sandoval for the Red Sox. The Mets with Cuddyer. The Tigers with Martinez. The list goes on, and the anonymous quotes from various personnel directors make you wonder if he is right.

But as he points out, it only takes one team to change the calculus of the situation. If the Red Sox, as Andy has speculated, jump all in on the Price bandwagon, he could get things going. Advanced metrics love Jason Heyward, and he is only 26. Either one of those guys could break the bank and there are plenty of other names out there in line for a big payday. I suspect things will start to heat up this week, and in a year or two most teams will regret the contracts they have agreed to.

11:47- We may have a break in the logjam. Jon Herman is reporting the Tigers have reached a deal with Jordan Zimmerman. No contract details yet.

12:10- Heyman posted a story online about the signing, but no details on the length/money.

David Price

Reports are swirling that Dave Dombrowski has made the signing of free agent starter, David Price, a top priority with one report saying Dombrowski is all in.

The Red Sox do need a front line starter and Price certainly fills that role, but there are a few red flags that will come with Price.  First off, his age, he is 30 and starting pitchers, with very few exceptions, rarely age gracefully.  In addition, Price owns a 5.12 career postseason ERA.  That’s not what you are hoping for with your ace.  Consider this, had the Red Sox instead re-signed Jon Lester last year, they would have signed a 30 years old starter (31 now) who owns a 2.85 postseason ERA in far more innings (98 for Lester vs. 63 for Price).  Alas, the Lester decision was made by the former administration and is in the rearview mirror now.

Price would help immensely, and allow the Red Sox to line-up their other starters behind a dominating regular season pitcher.  Price has struck out 200 batters 4 times in his career and owns a great career ERA, WHIP and K/9.  The cost for Price is going to be overwhelming, something Boston has been loath to do in the past with its starting pitching.  Get ready fans, if Price does come onboard, it will be $25m or higher per season for a minimum of 6 years…staggering numbers to tie up in one player, albeit a starting pitcher.

Having traded a fair amount of prospects in the Kimbrel trade, Dembrowski has only one avenue to acquire his ace, free agency.

As a Red Sox fan, I obviously want Price but really worry about the last half of the contract like the one he’ll sign.  Look at the Yankees dealing with expensive contracts for Sabathia, Ellsbury, ARod and Texiera (the latter 2 having bounce back seasons but always a major risk for season ending injury/suspension).  Big market teams like Boston and New York can absorb a bad contact like this but when they start piling up, it can get ugly.

This I know, the Red Sox need starting pitching.  Go get it Dave.

Cano For Ellsbury?

There are rumors that Robinson Cano feels he has made a mistake going to Seattle and wants to come back to New York. That coupled with the open spot at second base has convinced some people that a trade of Cano for Ellsbury, an Oregon native, makes sense. It really doesn’t.

Cano is now 33 and he showed signs of decline last year. His OPS dropped to .779. Most advanced defensive metrics had his defense at second below average. He is also signed for eight more years at $24-million per year.

Ellsbury had a terrible year, that is true, but he is a year younger and his contract has only five more years to run at about $21-million a year.  I am not saying the Yankees wouldn’t trade him, they would in a second, but they are certainly not going to trade him for a more expensive and older player. That’s simply not the way they do business anymore. And before you say Seattle could send money to New York to even out the salaries, ask yourself why would Seattle trade the better player and throw money into the deal?

So this is a rumor I would ignore. I would also ignore the Andrew Miller rumors. One thing the Yankees have shown under “The Silent Assassin” is that the trades they do make come out of nowhere. They run a tight ship and don’t leak news. I expect more trades this offseason and I suspect we will be surprised again by the deals they make.

 

David Ortiz Is Retiring

As a Yankees’ fan, this makes me happy. In 224 games against them, he has hit .306 and belted 47 home runs. Based on his average home run trot, that probably means Yankee fans spent about 24 hours watching him circle the bases. I kid, I kid, but Ortiz does bring up some conflicting feelings in me.

I appreciate the greatness, I really do. He is clearly one of the best hitters of his generation. He might be the best high-pressure hitter of his generation. But, I also think he got way too much of a pass for failing that drug test in 2003. He blamed supplements and some sort of New York conspiracy, but he has never adequately squared that issue in my mind.

I don’t think that should keep him out of the Hall of Fame though. Perhaps it should mute the celebrations of his career in other ballparks a bit, but his career numbers put him in the conversation for the Hall, and he should get full consideration from the voters. And I hope he has a good year next year, leaving the game more like Mariano than Jeter. The great ones should leave while they are still great. Ortiz has a chance to do that.

Here’s a good take on his retirement from a professional writer.

 

Mongo Like Kimbrel Trade

Peter rightly asked me to post about tonight’s Red Sox trade, even if I just said “Mongo Like.”

Well, Mongo Like the acquisition of Craig Kimbrel, with apologies to the late Alex Karras.

As I look back over the last 12, maybe even 24 months, there hasn’t been a signle Red Sox transaction that has me as excited as this…other than maybe the Red Sox announcing Hanley Ramirez would be shut down for the rest of the 2015 season.

Speaking of Ramirez, when he was signed, when Pablo Sandoval was signed, those moves wreaked of an overreach, an overpay and both players disappointed greatly, almost predictably.

The Red Sox bullpen was a train wreck last year and Red Sox President, Dave Dembrowski, has addressed it.  By signing Kimbrel, the Red Sox either have insurance should Koji Uehara falter, or they have the luxury of moving Koji to the set-up role and moving Junichi Tazawa to a 7th inning role.  The Red Sox just added major depth in hopes of nailing down leads late in games.

The Red Sox gave up 4 prospects but none were knocking on the 2016 roster save for perhaps Margot.  It’s about time the Red Sox started to use the surplus of highly touted prospects and turned them into major league talent.

Now onto the rotation, right Dave?  The rotation isn’t good and needs improvement, right Dave?  You now have 4 fewer prospects to trade but could consider free agency along with trading prospects.

This, however, is a very good start.

The 2nd Trade Of The Day

Brian Cashman is busy today, trading John Ryan Murphy for outfielder Aaron Hicks. I like the move because Ryan was a nice to have player, but not a vital one. McCann is clearly the starter. Sanchez is clearly the guy up and coming. Ryan was going to get squeezed at some point in the near future, so why not use him to get something of value? Hicks has value. He is a plus defender, with a cannon for an arm. It will be fun to watch teams try to run on him. He hasn’t hit RHP well in his big-league career, but he mashes LHP and can run, so he easily replaces Chris Young. He is also only 26, and was ranked as high as 19th-overall on the MLB prospect list, so the Yankees are getting a guy who could show upside.

Cashman said the Yankees view Hicks as an everyday player, so this could be a precursor for a Gardner trade. It could also simply be an easy and less expensive way to get a 4th outfielder. One thing is clear, Brian Cashman is going to be aggressive on the trade market again this offseason.