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.

 

Wallowing In The Mud

Today the New York Times published a front page article on the A-Rod vs. MLB drama. If you don’t want to read the whole thing, here is a nice synopsis of it. It is fair to say that both sides come across as absolutely awful.

MLB has clearly decided to pursue victory at all costs. It is absolutely revolting to read the depths they have sunk to in their pursuit of Alex.

But that doesn’t excuse Alex’s behavior. Put aside the tampering, the cheating and think about the $100,000 anonymous donation to a Hispanic charity with the proviso that they publicly support Alex’s side.

Whatever happens when the final judgement is handed down, there will be no winners. Both sides have sunk to depths that make rooting for either of them impossible. All we can hope for now is a quick end to this mess.

What a Thrill

I’m old enough to have experienced a Red Sox collapse.  As a Freshman in High School, the 1986 World Series was devastating.  Probably more devastating than it should have been to me, but I was young, that’s how it is suppose to work.

During my lifetime but too early in it for me to understand the magnitude of what had happened, The Red Sox lost a heart breaking World Series in 1975 and of course Bucky F’ing Dent did his thing in 1978, a truly terrible season.

What struck me Wednesday night was that there is a whole generation of fans, those born, say, after 1986, who don’t have any reason to fear a Red Sox meltdown.  All they know of the Red Sox is that they won the World Series in 2004 and 2007.  Life as a Red Sox fan is nothing but positives, peaches and cream, weeeeee!

I’m not asking for anyone to feel badly for me here but watching game 6 from Fenway was an exercise in anxiety.  In fact the 48 hours leading up the game were terrifying.  What if they blew a 3-2 series lead?  Could it be the Red Sox of old have returned?

Top of the 7th, Red Sox leading 6-1, bases loaded and Matt Holliday at the plate the worst moment in game 6.  I could see the older fans around me, pale, withdrawn, miserable.  The younger fans?  Not a worry in the world.  The Red Sox escaped the inning unharmed and went on to win the World Series.  Perhaps I need to accept the fact the Red Sox have been very successful and maybe, just maybe, are no longer tied to curses or jinxes.

I always imagined myself at Fenway watching them clinch a World Series championship, but I don’t think I really thought it would ever happen.  Alas it did and I couldn’t be happier.

Thank you David and Mr. S for the ticket, I can’t think of a way to repay you.

—–

One quick thing I found interesting.  My phone lost battery charge in the 7th inning, lame.  So when the final pitch was delivered, I was left clapping while the rest of Fenway was holding their smartphones, unable to clap.  Strike three resulted in much cheering and screaming, but little clapping as how does one effectively clap with a phone in his/her hands?  Just an interesting evolutionary observation.

What Just Happened?-UPDATED

The Yankees just announced that Derek Jeter has signed a $12-million contract for 2014. At first glance this looks like a terrible move. Jeter’s option in 2014 was for $9.5 million so why give him an extra $2.5 million when he is coming off a season where he played in only 17 games?

Two reasons seem likely. First, it provides cost certainty.  Jeter was going to exercise that option for $9.5 million, that is clear. If he had, he would have been eligible to earn an extra $7.5 million in bonuses. You can debate the chances that Jeter will finish in the top-6 of the MVP voting or win a gold glove, but the fact is that if he did it that would be counted as money earned in 2014 and therefore the Yankees could meet their $189-million payroll goal in March, but see it blow up in November.

Second, AAV is how salaries are computed in terms of meeting the $189-million and this deal actually helps the Yankees in that department. Jeter has earned $48-million on the first three years of his deal. If he exercised the $9.5-million option, that deal would have counted as $14.375 million ($57.5-million/4) in terms of AAV.

So, the Yankees actually lower their luxury tax calculation by $2.375 million while they end up paying Jeter an extra $2.5 million. Welcome to the strange economics of MLB.

UPDATE 3:40PM Joel Sherman says I am wrong about the AAV part. I’m not really sure where his number of $10.5 million comes from, and other columnists say I am right, but I wanted to link to it anyway.

Go Big Now

While Andy gives the World Series the attention it deserves, I am going to talk about the Yankees and Robinson Cano. We haven’t heard much on the subject, but with the World Series possibly ending tomorrow, or Thursday at the latest, Cano can sign with another club as a week from today.  And, since Cano becomes a free agent immediately after the World Series ends, the Yankees have perhaps no more than 36 hours or so to negotiate exclusively with him.

The Yankees don’t want to bid against themselves, but they also don’t want to give Cano an offer he can shop around. That’s why I would make a really big offer now, but put an expiration date on it.

How big an offer? I’m not interested in paying Cano for eight years, but I also recognize that probably will be the price of signing him. Cano should be a very productive hitter for at least the next four years, and he should still be worth over 2 WAR in seven years. ZIPS puts a fair value of 8 years and $181 million on his next deal. The Yankees could round that up a bit to 8 years/192 million or 24-million per.

That’s a fair offer and one that the Yankees should make. There are things you can knock Cano for, but the fact remains that he is a middle of the order bat who plays a premium position. This is a guy who has proven he can thrive in New York. The Yankees made a mistake not negotiating an extension a couple of years ago, now they are going to have to pay a premium to keep their best player.