Sunday, November 24, 2013

Peralta Disproves Adage That Cheaters Never Prosper

Jhonny Peralta got slapped with a 50 game suspension this past season for his association with Biogenesis, then returned to the Detroit Tigers to play in the post-season, which included a World Series appearance. And now, the big free agent pay-off. Peralta and the St. Louis reportedly reached an agreement on a four-year, $50MM deal.

There were rumors that Peralta might sign with a team and switch to the outfield, but with not much offensive production from Cards' shortstops Pete Kozma and Daniel Descalso, Peralta is likely to remain at short.

After seven-plus seasons in Cleveland, Peralta was dealt to the Tigers at the 2010 trade deadline for catcher Giovanni Soto. Outside of an All-Star appearance two years when he hit 21 home runs and knocked in 86, Peralta's offense had been in decline since 2008. That is until this past season when he had an .815 OPS with 11 HR and 55 RBI in 107 games and was selected as an All-Star for the second time.

But Peralta's regular season ended prematurely when his name was among those involved in the Biogenesis Clinic scandal. The native of the Dominican Republic issued a public apology at the time -  "I take full responsibility for my actions, have no excuses for my lapse in judgment and I accept my suspension."

Peralta made a career high $6MM in 2013 and will reportedly more than double his annual salary despite the fact his numbers may very well have been boosted by his PED use.  Apparently baseball ownership doesn't care much more than the fans do.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Yankees Catch McCann With Too Much Money

Brian McCann will have to get used to seeing his face again.
A short time ago it was reported that the Yankees and catcher Brian McCann were very close to a deal. That story was disputed by some, of the media such as FOX's Ken Rosenthal, but apparently the former was true.

The Yankees and the free agent catcher have reportedly agreed to a five-year, $75MM deal that could reach $100MM if incentives are met. The deal makes me wonder what the future holds for prospects like Gary Sanchez, J.R. Murphy, and the other highly touted catchers in the Yankees' system. The Texas Rangers had been thought to be the leading candidate for McCann's services, though that was before picking up much of Prince Fielder's contract.

McCann, who will have to remove his trademark beard, will turn 30 during Spring Training. He's coming off a pair of years for the Atlanta Braves in which he was banged up and was limited to 121 and 102 games respectively. He hasn't appeared in more than 128 games since 2010. What he has done is average 21 home runs over the last six seasons, but has seen his OPS drop due to a lack of walks and a lower batting average.

The seven time All-Star and five time Silver Slugger Award winner is clearly an upgrade over the current Yankees catching situation, but I would not have gone more than three years. With a dearth of quality free agent catchers on the market, the Yankees did not want to wait for their prospects to develop or go through another year with a Chris Stewart-type catcher behind home plate.

Defensively, McCann has thrown 24% of would-be base stealers in his career. He should be happy with the short porch in right field and should challenge his career high of 24 home runs. McCann has an .873 lifetime mark with runners in scoring position.

I like the idea of signing McCann, I just don't like the idea of a five year contract.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Hot Stove Started to Blaze With Fielder-Kinsler Swap

@MiguelCabrera: Recordando a un buen amigo,todo el exito del Mundo en su Nuevo equipo......recordar es vivir!!! Q momentos inolvidables mi Hermano.. (Remembering a good friend, [wish you] all the success in the world [with your] new team. "To remember is to live ... What unforgettable moments, my brother." (translations courtesy of @jonmorosi)

The St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Angels completed a four player swap on Friday that sends third baseman David Freese to the west coast and outfielder Peter Bourjos to the midwest. It wasn't a huge deal, but it's got the fire roaring pretty well on the MLB Hot Stove.

By comparison the deal is overshadowed by the Prince Fielder - Ian Kinsler blockbuster that took place on Wednesday. The Tigers had signed Fielder to a 9-year, $214MM deal prior to the 2012 season and he responded with a robust .940 OPS, 30 HR, 108 RBI, and 83 runs scored in his first year in Motown.

Fielder, who is listed at 5'11", 275 lbs, saw his production slip considerably this past season. He had career lows in OPS (.819 OPS) and home runs (25) and slumped from May through July. It didn't help that Miguel Cabrera wracked up most of the RBI opportunities before Fielder could get into the batter's box. Things got even worse in the post-season when Fielder was virtually invisible.

It didn't hepl that pitchers could work around Fielder while number five hitter Victor Martinez struggled through the end of June. Though the Tigers play in pitcher friendly Comerica Park, Fielder's numbers were actually better at home than on the road. His new home, the Ballpark at Arlington, is much friendlier to hitters. Fielder has a .965 OPS in 49 at-bats against Rangers' home pitching, with 4 HR and a .592 slugging pct. He'll fill the void in the lineup created when then free agent Josh Hamilton signed with the Angels prior to the 2013 season.

Critics lambasted Fielder for his physique, but he missed just one game in the last four seasons. Perhaps his numbers would be better if they rested the big man's frame a little more often.

Kinsler, who is two years older than the 29-year old Fielder, had spent his entire seven year career with Texas. He signed a five-year contract extension in April, 2012 that will pay him at least $75MM through the 2018 season. (The contract has a $12MM option in 2018 with a $5MM buyout.) The deal made him the highest paid second baseman in baseball, a title he'll no longer hold once Robinson Cano puts some ink on the dotted line.

Kinsler's game is one of speed and power; he's got the ability to hit 25 home runs and steal 25 bases. He'll replace outgoing free agent second baseman Omar Infante in the Detroit lineup. The Tucson, AZ native had an average 2012 campaign - a .749 OPS, 19 home runs and 21 stolen bases in 30 attempts. He also knocked in 72 runs and scored 105 in a powerful Texas lineup.

Though he was an All-Star in '12, Kinsler's numbers fell off drastically from the 2011 season when he finished 11th in the AL MVP voting. Kinsler started like a house afire in the first month of 2013 with a .900+ OPS, 5 HR, 16 RBI, and 3 steals. It was all downhill from there, with a .559 OPS in 15 June games the worst of it.

The second baseman also struggled in the theft department this past season. He had previously stolen bases at a remarkable 83.5% clip, but was thrown out 11 times in 26 stolen bases attempts in 2013. An early season intercostal strain may have been partially to blame for Kinsler's year long struggles.

The trade doesn't just effect the two players involved. Barring another trade or free agent deal, phenom Jurickson Profar will start the season as the Rangers second baseman. The Rangers could also become players for Cano, which would enable them to deal Profar or shortstop Elvis Andrus with Profar than sliding over to replace Andrus.

The deal will enable Detroit to move Cabrera back to first base and may open third base up for top prospect Nick Castellanos. The Tigers may have to do something to cheer up Cabrera, however, after the slugger took to Twitter to show how sad he was about his buddy Fielder being dealt away.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Yankees Re-sign Defender of the Infield

It's minor news in the world of the Yankees, but it's good news nonetheless. The Yankees have re-signed Brendan Ryan as Derek Jeter's back up at shortstop as well as to fill a utility role.

I've discussed it before, Ryan cannot hit. It's not that he refuses to, but it's close. But there are few in the game that display his glovework at shortstop. He's got great footwork and a cannon for an arm.

The Yankees are going to be negotiating with free agents like mad men in the next month, so it's nice that a small, but vital move got taken care of early.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Yankees Pitchers and Catchers to Report On Valentine's Day

Forget the chocolate or roses, the Yankees will be reporting to Spring Training on Valentine's Day. THAT is a gift. Though we'll still be in the freezer in mid-February, the Yankees will getting ready for the season...hopefully with a re-tooled team.

Position players will report on the 19th. Hopefully Derek Jeter will have some new friends to play with.

Courtesy of the (Star Ledger), here's the Yankees Spring Training Schedule:

Feb. 25: vs. Florida State University, GMS Field, 1:05 p.m.

Feb. 26: at Pittsburgh, Bradenton, 1:05 p.m.

Feb. 27: vs. Pittsburgh, GMS Field, 1:05 p.m.

Feb. 28: at Detroit, Lakeland, 1:05 p.m.

March 1: vs. Philadelphia, GMS Field, 1:05 p.m.

March 2: at Toronto, Dunedin, 1:05 p.m.

March 3: vs. Washington, GMS Field, 1:05 p.m.

March 4: vs. Baltimore, GMS Field, 7:05 p.m.

March 5: at Tampa Bay, Port Charlotte, 1:05 p.m.

March 6: at Philadelphia, Clearwater, 1:05 p.m.

March 7: vs. Detroit, GMS Field, 7:05 p.m.

March 8: at Houston, Kissimmee, 1:05 p.m.

March 9: vs. Tampa Bay, GMS Field, 1:05 p.m.

March 10: OFF

March 11: at Washington, Viera, 1:05 p.m.

March 12: vs. Detroit, GMS Field, 1:05 p.m.

March 13: vs. Baltimore (split-squad), GMS Field, 1:05 p.m.

at Philadelphia (split-squad), Clearwater, 1:05 p.m.

March 14: vs. Minnesota, GMS Field, 1:05 p.m.

March 15: at Baltimore, Sarasota, 1:05 p.m
March 16: vs. Atlanta, GMS Field, 1:05 p.m.

March 17: at Pittsburgh, Bradenton, 1:05 p.m.

March 18: vs. Boston, GMS Field, 1:05 p.m.

March 19: at Atlanta, Lake Buena Vista, 1:05 p.m.

March 20: at Boston, Ft. Myers, 1:05 p.m.

March 21: vs. Pittsburgh, GMS Field, 7:05 p.m.

March 22: at Minnesota, Ft. Myers, 1:05 p.m.

March 23: vs. Toronto, GMS Field, 1:05 p.m.

March 24: OFF

March 25: vs. Philadelphia, GMS Field, 7:05 p.m.

March 26: at Toronto, Dunedin, 1:05 p.m.

March 27: at Pittsburgh, Bradenton, 1:05 p.m.

March 28: vs. Miami, GMS Field, 7:05 p.m.

March 29: vs. Miami, GMS Field, 1:05 p.m.

Yankees May Have to go to Plan B Due to Posting System Disagreement

All reports had the Yankees going hot and heavy this winter for Nippon Professional Baseball star Masahiro Tanaka, but because of changes to the posting system Tanaka may be staying in Japan in 2014.

Up until now Major League teams put in blind bids on the rights to negotiate with a NPB player. The team that had the highest bid than had a month to negotiate a deal with the player. If no deal was struck, the amount of the bid was not sent to the Far East.

The complete details have not been announced, but the MLB players union has agreed to the new deal. There's a possibility that the two or three highest bidders would get the chance to negotiate with the player rather than just one team. CBS Sports' Matt Snyder reported that the NPB did not like the proposed idea and would like to receive a fee even if the player doesn't end up signing with an MLB team.

A bigger snag, reported by the NY Times' David Waldstein is coming from MLB, specifically the small market owners. They would like the bid amount to count towards the $189MM luxury tax. In a word, absurd.

The MLB players union will not go along with small market interference and in order to make that kind of a change, the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) would have to be re-opened. I don't believe anyone wants that.

One possibility would be for NPB officials to allow a player to negotiate with MLB teams, with a fee to be determined. In the meantime though, the Yankees are going to have to start looking harder at alternatives to the 25-year old Japanese star. Unfortunately, the crop of current free agent pitchers are not in high demand.

MLB Starting Pitcher Free Agents (alphabetical order):

Bronson Arroyo: The 36-year old is a solid National League pitcher, having spent the last 8 years in Cincinnati. Puts up a decent ERA and WHIP, but is a fly ball pitcher. That didn't bode well at the Great American Ballpark and it won't in Yankee Stadium either. Just ask Phil Hughes.

A.J. Burnett: Not Funny!

Bartolo Colon: 40-years old, busted for PED use in 2012. Time to get younger, not fatter.

Matt Garza: About to hit the big 3-0 mark. Never been a big fan of his, think he is overrated. Has been banged up the last two seasons. No thanks.

Roy Halladay: Only if this was five years ago.

Tim Hudson: Remember that part where I said the Yankees need to get younger? Screw that. Hudson knows how to pitch and knows how to win. He'll be 39 in mid-July and I don't care. He's coming off a catastrophic injury (fractured ankle) that occurred when the Mets Eric Young Jr. accidentally stepped on his ankle on a play at first base, and I don't care. Hudson made $9MM the last four years, so give him a two-year, $24MM deal. Hell, throw in a third year.

Ubaldo Jimenez: This is a big risk, with either a big or little reward. Jimenez was bright lights, big city back in 2010 when he won 19 games, had a sub-3.00 ERA and topped 200 in innings and strikeouts. He's had some arm issue since then with the Rockies and Indians, but had a resurgence in the second half (ERA under 2.00) last season.

He'll be looking to get paid after he earned $5.75MM in 2013 and turned down Cleveland's $14.1MM qualifying offer. Despite the fact that he won't turn 30 until January, I don't see the Yankees committing the amount of money Jimenez and his reps will want.

Ricky Nolasco: I can't take another pitcher who spent the bulk of his career with the Marlins. He's likely to stay in the NL anyway.

Ervin Santana: Which Ervin Santana are you going to get? The guy who had an ERA of 3.24 last year or the one who had an ERA of 5.16 the year before. Santana isn't as up and down as it always seems to be, but his performance is inconsistent.  A bigger issue may be money. He made $13MM this past season and had one of his better years. Though he'll still be only 31 when the '14 season starts, I'm not willing to give him multiple years at many millions.

Jason Vargas: Became a free agent when the Angels did not extend a qualifying offer to him. I wouldn't mind this guy as a #4 starter in the rotation. Granted, his best days came in a pitcher's ballpark in Seattle, but he's a decent innings eater. He made $8.5MM last year, so a two-year, $18MM offer with an optional third year might do the trick. I wouldn't guarantee three years though. There's a good chance he'll re-sign with the Angels.

No matter how you slice it, not a lot to choose from. The Yankees will also want to reserve some money for Tanaka if they have to wait until 2015 to try to get him.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Davis Is My Pick For AL MVP

You'd be smiling too if you hit 53 HR and knocked in 138

Last year's winner, Detroit's Miguel Cabrera, had a legitimate shot to not only repeat his Triple Crown feat but to win back-to-back MVP Awards as well. Just like last year, Mike Trout was right in the mix as well, saying "go to hell"  to the sophomore jinx.

But this year's winner of the AL MVP Award should be Baltimore's Chris Davis. The former sixth round draft choice of the Texas Rangers (2006), Davis struggled with his original organization. There were way too many strikeouts compared to his output (e.g. 2006 - 150 Ks, 21 HR, 59 RBI .726 OPS) to play regularly. He hit a low in 2010 when he appeared in just 45 games with a .571 OPS and a batting average below the Mendoza line.

Not much was thought of it when the Rangers dealt Davis and pitcher Tommy Hunter to the Orioles for bullpen help (Koji Uehara - a huge 2013 impact in his own right). The 31 games he played for the O's showed nothing spectacular - .708 OPS and 2 HR in 129 plate appearances.

But Davis had a break out year in 2012 when he slugged 33 home runs, drove in 85 runs and sported an .827 OPS. And he was still just 26 years of age.

This year Davis has had a season for the ages. He broke the franchise record for home runs with 53 and led the league with 138 RBI and 370 total bases. He's also scored 103 and has a 1.004 OPS. Sure, the strikeouts are still there (198), but his 6.3 WAR was well above his previous high and career average.
The Orioles took a step back from their 2012 playoff appearance and finished 12 games behind Bosto in the AL East and 6.5 back in the wildcard race. However, the Orioles were competitive and in the playoff mix for most of the season and that would not have been accomplished without Davis' power surge. 

Had the Orioles pitching been more up to snuff, Davis could have been putting on a power display in the post-season instead of watching it on TV.

Kershaw Should Be NL MVP

I'll be the first person to tell you that I don't believe a pitcher should win one of baseball's Most Valuable Player Awards. That being said, Clayton Kershaw should be the 2013 National League MVP.

The three finalists for the award to be announced shortly are Andrew McCutchen, Yadier Molina, and Paul Goldschmidt. All worthy candidates, but none more valuable to his team than Kershaw. (By the way, anyone besides me hate the fact that they announced the three finalists ahead of time? I hated when the NHL started doing it and it's not getting any better!)

My prediction is that Molina will be the winner, which will create some history. With last year's winner Buster Posey, the league MVP award will go to catchers in back to back seasons for the first time.

Molina is one of the best catchers in the game. He's already achieved All-Star honors, a Gold Glove Award and a Silver Slugger this season. His slash line of .319/.359/.477 and a career high 80 RBI was vital to the St. Louis Cardinals Central Division crown.  Of course, Molina's pitch calling, overall defense and dependability in throwing out would-be base-stealers (43% in 2013) is what he's best known for.

But with a starting staff of Adam Wainwright, Shelby Miller, Michael Wacha, Joe Kelly, and Lance Lynn, and the offensive production of Carlos Beltran, Matt Holliday, Matt Carpenter, and Allen Craig, there's a pretty good chance the Cardinals could have replicated their season had the Cardinals used a catcher who was half as valuable.

The Los Angeles Dodgers were abysmal to start the season , due in large part to a rash of injuries. It was still somewhat of a surprise that they were in last place in the NL West from May 6 to June 30. That's a span of 50 games, which some teams could not have made up. However, the Dodgers play in the weak National League West and trailed the division leading Diamondbacks by four games on June 30. Despite being in the basement, the Dodgers trimmed 4.5 games off the lead in a little over two weeks.

Kershaw was the steady hand that kept the Dodgers afloat until the cavalry arrived in the form of healthy players and surprises like Yasiel Puig. The left-hander won his third straight ERA title - his 1.83 mark was the third sub-2.00 ERA since 1997 (Roger Clemens, Hou 2005, Pedro Martinez, Bos 2000) - and his third straight WHIP title with a career best 0.915 (only Randy Johnson's 2004 mark of 0.9 was lower since 1995).

Additionally, Kershaw led the league in strikeouts (232) and topped the 200 mark for the fourth straight year. He was also tops in shutouts (tied with 2) and displayed remarkable consistency by starting 33 games for the third straight year. (He started 32 in 2010). He was also among the league leaders with 236 innings pitched, 16 wins, complete games (3), and had a 4.4 strikeout to walk ratio.

The Texan allowed more than three earned runs in a start just three times, while he ranked 57th in the Major Leagues in run support. He had a 2.12 ERA in his eight no-decisions and the Dodgers scored 14 runs in Kershaw's nine losses. Over his final 17 starts, Kershaw was 11-4 with a 1.61 ERA and the Dodgers went from last place, 6.5 games back, to a division crown by 11 games.

Had Kershaw not been on the Dodgers or a pitcher with half his output replaced him in the rotation, it's likely LA doesn't win the division, never mind making it to the sixth game of the NLCS.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

NYDN: Yankees Pushing Hard For McCann and Beltran

At the GM.Owners meetings in Orlando Florida, Yankees head honcho Hal Steinbrenner told reporters the Yankees were going to be aggressive in pursuing free agents to vastly improve the team for 2014.

According to the New York Daily News' Mark Feinsand, the Yankees are doing just that. The Yankees are reportedly pushing hard to sign veteran catcher Brian McCann (this surprised me) and outfielder Carlos Beltran (no surprise).

The Yankees aren't alone in their pursuit though. The Texas Rangers are highly interested in McCann and at least a half-dozen teams, Texas included, have expressed an interest in Beltran. Should the Yankees be able to quickly sign one or both free agents, it will give them a better handle on how much money they can allocate for Robinson Cano, Masahiro Tanaka, and others.

I'm not for signing McCann since I don't believe the Yankees should commit to a three year or longer contract.

Mantles Help Out Jersey

The family of the late, great Mickey Mantle contributed $40,000 to the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund, according to Mickey's son Dan. The money was raised when the Mantle auctioned off Mickey's 1960 contract. The family lived in NJ during Mickey's career and wanted to give something back.

The Jersey shore is near and dear to many of us in the Garden State, so the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy last year really hurt. The shore is slowly coming back, but has run into some speed bumps along the way, such as the fire that destroyed the Seaside Heights rebuilt boardwalk in September.

 If you would like to contribute or volunteer to help those still restoring the shore, check out the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund website.

Do The Yankees Have the Stones to Trade For Tulo?

Since the rumors began about a month ago that the Colorado Rockies might just trade their prized shortstop, Troy Tulowitzki, the wheels in my mind have been spinning. Would/could Tulo play for the Yankees and be the heir apparent to his idol, Derek Jeter?

Though the Rockies have denied any interest in dealing the 29-year old, it makes for interesting thought and conversation. The seventh overall pick in the 2005 draft is in the midst of a contract that guarantees him $134MM through 2021, with the possibility of earning an additional $11MM if the Rockies (or whomever) picks up a team option for the 2021 season.

Tulo is scheduled to earn $14MM in 2014, followed by five seasons at $20MM and the final completely guaranteed year at $15MM. The Rockies would have to pick up some of the salary, with the amount directly impacting the players sent in return. The $14MM for 2014 would fight nicely into the Yankees "budget" plans.

The Yankees, at some point, will need a long term solution for Derek Jeter. It could be as soon as this year or the 2015 season. There could be a scenario this season, much as there was last season, where the left side of the infield has no Jeter and no Alex Rodriguez.

Even if Jeter is perfectly healthy, he'll need some extra days off and/or time at DH in 2014. However, Tulo should not be the Yankees shortstop in 2014. Have I confused you yet? You should be able to see where this is going. One year of Troy Tulowitzki, third baseman. You could split his time between shortstop and third base, but that would be a lot to ask of someone that is in a new town, hasn't played one of the positions, etc., and is looking to replace the most popular athlete in New York.

Instead, you have Jeter play shortstop with a Brendan Ryan type backing him up. The goal would be to move Tulowitzki back to full-time shortstop in 2015 with A-Rod or someone else at the hot corner. Jeter, if he still wanted to play, would be relegated to part-time status or more of a utility role. And yes, that's a lot to ask of him, which is why he would probably walk away rather than accept the role.

There are plenty of complications to such a deal. Tulo will not come cheaply, no matter how much money Colorado picked up.  The Yankees would have to part with one of the three outfielders - Mason Williams, Slade Heathcott, Tyler Austin; a Major League player - David Phelps?, a top tier pitching prospect, and one of the Yankees catching prospects. That might not even be enough unless the Yankees picked up the bulk of the salary.

This is Jeter's team and the Yankees would be, in essence, starting the post-Jeter era. The St. Louis Cardinals tried to do it with Ozzie Smith and his heir apparent, Royce Clayton, and it proved to be a disaster. Of course Tulowitzki is on a level well above Clayton.

Would Tulowitzki make the temporary position switch to accomodate his idol, the reason that he wears #2 on his uniform?

Injuries..not the Captain's, but Tulo's. The California native has only played in more than 126 games once in the last four seasons.

There's plenty of positives though. A 10 year age difference to the positive. A player whose skills are better than Jeter's right now, both at the plate and in the field. A player that is signed for the next seven seasons. Imagine Robinson Cano and Tulo turning double plays year after year.

Is this all crazy? Of course it is. But, and this but is bigger than Prince Fielder's properly spelled backside, this is what the hot stove is all about. GM's talking, hypothetical trades discussed out, and the possible alteration of a team's future.

I say go for it. Now batting, number 22, Troy..Tulo-witzki.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Yankees Need A Year Without A-Rod To Re-Boot

Whether you support, condemn, or are indifferent about Alex Rodriguez, the New York Yankees would be better off without the controversial slugger and the millions he is owed for 2014. Because of the Steinbrenner's initiative to get the 2014 salary below the new $189MM luxury tax max, the Yankees won't have a lot of wiggle room to construct next year's squad with or without A-Rod.

With Derek Jeter's recent one-year, $12MM deal, the Yankees have about $80MM (You have to include approximately $11MM for insurance and other associated costs - costs) to fill out the remainder of the roster for next season. That's not much money to bolster the starting pitching, get an upgrade at catcher, get a starting outfielder, and strengthen the bench. Imagine how much easier it will be to accomplish that feat if A-Rod's luxury tax impact was reduced to $2.5MM from its current $27.5MM.

Below are the seven Yankees under contract with their current adjusted salaries based on the amount used to calculate the luxury tax. Even though Vernon Wells is owed approximately $2.4MM by the Yankees, nothing goes towards the luxury tax since the Angels are picking up over $18MM of his 2014 salary. Which should also make it easier to move the one-time All-Star somewhere else. 

The luxury tax impact of the seven signed players is $97.71MM.
Derek Jeter $12.81MM
Alex Rodriguez $27.5MM
Mark Teixeira $22.5MM
Alfonso Soriano $4MM
Vernon Wells $0
Ichiro Suzuki $6.5MM
CC Sabathia $24.4MM
I'll now construct the rest of the team with the assumption that A-Rod will not be part of the 2014 squad. That means that I have about $107.5MM to work with.

The other elephant in the room besides A-Rod is Robinson Cano, the topper in this year's free agent class. The front office is reportedly interested in free agent second baseman Omar Infante as a possible substitute should they lose their best player and it's also been reported that they have initially "kicked the tires" on Reds' second baseman Brandon Phillips. (When a rumor spread about two weeks ago that Phillips might be on the trading block, I knew it was just a matter of time before we would all hear the Yankees might be interested.)

The Yankees have to do their due diligence in case they do lose Cano to another team, but they are also trying to send out a little scare to the Dominican native that they might go elsewhere if the free agent's asking price is too high.

10 years and $300MM is what Cano is supposed to want; he won't get it from the Yankees or any other team. 7 years? That's a possibility, but it's still unlikely to be at $30MM annually.  That being said, it is not likely that another team signs Cano, so I'll go with the notion that his 2014 paychecks will add up to $27.5MM and will be paid for by the bank of Steinbrenner.

Just like that, I am back to the $80MM figure and seven players on the 25 man roster. Time to add some players, so I'll hand out new one year deals to the following players (Amounts are guesstimated):

Brett Gardner $3.5MM (arb eligible - made $2.85MM in 2013)
Ivan Nova $625K (pre-arb eligible - made $575.6K in 2013)
David Robertson $5MM (arb eligible - made $3.1MM in 2013)
Shawn Kelley $2MM (arb eligible - made $935K in 2013)

That leaves about $68.875MM in the company's vaults. With A-Rod out of the picture, I sign Mark Reynolds to a one-year, $5MM (2nd year option for $7.5MM with a $2MM buyout) to play third base and to back up Mark Teixeira at first base. $63.875 left in payroll and I haven't addressed the starting rotation or catcher spot yet. (The Yankees are also considering the possibility of bringing back Eric Chavez, who spent last season with the Diamondbacks.)

Austin Romine looked good in the second half of the season and will hopefully be fully recovered from the concussion he suffered in September.  He's my backup catcher and will make the league minimum of $500K. That's a $10K increase from 2013 as laid out in the collective bargaining agreement and 13 players on the 25-man roster.

As for the starting catcher position, I’m cutting ties with Francisco Cervelli. Youngsters John Murphy, Gary Sanchez, etc. aren't ready for the big leagues yet, so the Yankees need a veteran catcher. There are three primary free agent catchers that will garner the most attention. Atlanta's Brian McCann, Chicago White Sox' A.J. Pierzynski, and the Boston Red Sox Jarrod Saltalamacchia. None of the three are necessarily the answer to the Yankees' needs.

McCann and Saltalamacchia will be looking for long term deals, while the soon-to-be 37-year old Pierzynski would be more of a stop gap measure. McCann is by far the best hitter of the trio. He has 20 or more home runs for six straight seasons and averaged 21 over the last eight years. McCann has an .823 lifetime OPS, but was under .700 two years ago and a tad under .800 this past season. 

He had surgery in October, 2012 for a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder that impacted the 2012 season and didn't return until early May this year. Having made $12MM last year, McCann will most certainly looking for a 3-5-year deal that averages out to that amount or higher. The Yankees shouldn't commit to that.

Saltalamacchia had a career best .804 OPS in 2013 for the World Champion Red Sox, but prior to that was a below average hitter with some power (25 HR in '12). He's a decent game caller, but base runners go wild on him - opponents stole 89 bases in 110 tries when Salty was catching last season. His bat is too unreliable to give him multiple years.

The Yankees reportedly have concerns about Pierzynski's overall defense and a player who has thrown out 25% of runners for his career isn't going to get better as he approaches 40-years of age. Pierzynski's timing was perfect in 2012 when he had one of the best offensive seasons of his career (tops in HR, OPS, and RBI), but nonetheless he had to settle for a one-year deal. His OPS nosedived more than 100 points in his first season with Texas this past season, most of it due to a precipitous drop in slugging pct.

I would also avoid another free agent, Carlos Ruiz. The Phillies catcher had the best year of his career offensively in 2012, but then was suspended 25 games to start the 2013 season for amphetamine use. He'll be 35 when the season starts and will be looking for an increase over the $5MM he made in '13.

So if the Yankees don't go with one of the main three, where do they turn? The Yankees should look short term/stop gap and they can look at someone who formerly donned the Pinstripes, Dioner Navarro. The Venezuela native will turn 30 shortly before Spring Training and is coming off one of the best offensive seasons of his career (13 HR, .300/.365.492 split). The free agent made $1.75MM last year with the Cubs, and could be had for $2.5MM - $3M annually. Navarro is average at throwing out base runners, but at that price, go for it. He'll come a lot cheaper than Pierzynski, though I'll keep the veteran on the back burner as "Plan B".

With the $3MM I am generously giving to Navarro that leaves $60.375MM as I turn my attention to the starting rotation.

Where does the rest of the starting rotation come from? A lot will depend on whether or not Hiroki Kuroda decides to return. He made $15MM last year and was the ace of the staff, save for the month of September when he ran out of gas. Kuroda already turned down the Yankees qualifying offer of $14.1MM and general manager Brian Cashman has stated he has had no indication whether Kuroda wants to play in the Major Leagues in 2014.

With the qualifier turned down, Kuroda will be looking for more than the $15MM he earned last season. The Yankees are reportedly willing to give a minimal increase, so I'll sign Kuroda for $16.5MM for 2014. (I would rather let him walk at that price, but I see the Yankees getting that type of deal done.)

All right, that leaves $43.875MM in the coffers and two rotation spots yet to fill. There have been several reports that the Yankees are going to go all out to get Japanese native Masahiro Tanaka. First, MLB and the Japanese Baseball League have to work out some things with the posting system. According to Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan, MLB is trying to lower the amount of money sent to Japan. As you would expect, the new strategy has been met with much resistance.

Whenever an agreement is reached, the bid on Tanaka is supposed to be higher than that of current star Yu Darvish and former Red Sox World Series champion Daisuke Matsuzaka. The good news is that whatever system they came up with, the posting bid will NOT count against the luxury tax. So let's say the Yankees win the bid to negotiate a contract with the 25-year old. Darvish's deal with Texas paid him $5.5MM in 2012, $9.5MM in 2013, $10MM for the next three years and $11MM in the final year of the six year deal.

I'll say the Yankees create a similar deal that will pay Tanaka $7.5MM in 2014, $10.5 in 2015, etc. We really don't care about the (likely) three years to follow that.  That's four pitchers in the rotation and $36.375MM with one starter still needed.

The Yankees could go with Michael Pineda for the final spot, with competition from David Phelps and Adam Warren.  Manny Banuelos could provide competition at some point, though it's not likely he'll be guns blazing in Spring Training after having gone through Tommy John surgery in October, 2012. I am going to assume that it's all systems go with Pineda and give him $550,000 to lower what's left to $35.825.

Should the Yankees not bring back Kuroda and/or lose out on Tanaka, they are rumored to be interested in free agent Ubaldo Jimenez, who had a 1.82 ERA and 100 strikeouts in 84 second half innings in 2013.

Before I go anything further, since there's no luxury tax impact, I am going to get rid of Vernon Wells while I can. His tank keeps getting lower and lower to the point that the needle is just about completely on "E".

Okay back the bullpen, which currently has Robertson and Kelley, Phelps, Warren, and lefty Cesar Cabral gives the team five decent to very good pitchers. The combined salary for the latter trio is $1.525MM

What to do with Eduardo Nunez? The average bat, great speed, can't-keep-his-helmet-on, stone-handed fielder suddenly looked like an All-Star when he manned third base for 13 games in September. He had his best month at the plate with an .808 OPS and committed two errors in 120 innings. However, he still was under .700 for total season OPS. He turns 27 in the middle of next season, but he should be wearing a different uniform at the time.

So who does back up the infield? Brendan Ryan, that's who. Until you see a guy every day you just can't appreciate how well they can or cannot play. In Ryan's case, his fielding was even better than advertised when the Yankees picked him up last season. He has tremendous range, great footwork, and a hell of an arm. The drawback, of course, is that he cannot hit. I mean he really can't hit. His lifetime .619 OPS looks like a mistake, but in this case, you think it would be lower. But the Yankees don't need him to hit; they need him to get every baseball to his left or right or right at him and throw a runner out. A two year deal at $2.5MM per year should do it. (He made over $3MM in 2013, but that ain't happening while I am GM....)

I'm down to $40.59MM and need two outfielders.'s Bryan Hoch reported earlier today that the Yankees have their radar aimed squarely on Carlos Beltran. The 36-year old has been a post-season phenomenon and hasn't been too bad during the regular season either. Beltran made $13MM each of the last two seasons. If the Yankees land him, it will take (IMHO) $15MM per year for two guaranteed years. The biggest question will be if Beltran wants to return to the city that he had his ups and downs across town?

The Yankees also have an interest in Shin-Soo Choo, but different sources have his agent, Scott Boras, seeking to top Hunter Pence's 5-year, $90MM deal or Jayson Werth's 7-year, $126MM contract. The latter is absurd, as was Werth's deal, so I wouldn't count on seeing Choo in a Yankees uniform.

Therefore, Carlos Beltran, I give you this check for $15MM and lower my checkbook balance to $25.5M. We got our starting infield - Teixeira, Cano, Jeter, Reynolds; our starting outfield - Soriano, Gardner, Beltran; a veteran catcher, five starting pitchers, five relievers, and a bench of Ryan, Ichiro, and Romine.

I'm going to add Zoilo Almonte to the outfield mix at the Major League minimum, and that leaves three spots open. D-Rob is a great reliever, an even better person, but I don't have the faith in his durability to make him the closer. His arm doesn't respond well to back to back outings, so I am going after another free agent to close. The closer I have in mind is Joe Nathan, who turned down the Texas Rangers option to become a free agent. I highly prefer him over another free agent, Fernando Rodney, despite the latter's success the last two years.

Nathan made $7MM annually the last two seasons with Texas. I am going to hand him a 2-year, $20MM deal, possibly containing an optional third year/buyout.  Plan 'B' would be to try to reacquire Rafael Soriano from the Washington Nationals.

I've got about $17MM to fill the last two spots on the team - another guy for the bullpen and another player for the bench.

There you have it. In my fantasy baseball payroll I even get to go home with extra money.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Yankees Extend Qualifing Offers to Trio

Curtis Granderson has some thinking to do.
Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, and Hiroki Kuroda have big decisions to make this off-season. The three are free agents, but each is looking for something very different than the other two. With that in mind, the Yankees extended a $14.1MM one-year qualifying offer to each player.

By extending the offer, the Yankees would receive draft pick(s) if any of the players signed with another Major League team.

There's absolutely no chance that Cano accepts the offer, but Granderson and Kuroda will probably at least consider it. Granderson played in just 61 games in 2013 due to a broken forearm and broken finger that occurred when bone met baseball.  His production- a career worst .723 OPS and .407 slugging pct. - was not conducive to landing a big money, long term free agent deal this off-season.

It's possible that Granderson could accept the qualifying offer in the hopes that he has a very productive season as he did in 2011 (.916 OPS, 41 HR, 119 RBI, 136 runs scored) and then could land a big money deal next off-season. The Yankees would certainly welcome him back on a one year, $14.1MM contract, which would be a slight pay cut for Granderson from last year's $15MM salary.

Rumors say that the White Sox and/or Cubs are preparing big offers for the Chicago native, but until that actually happens, they will remain just rumors.

Kuroda was the Yankees ace in 2013 until the 38-year old wore down during the last month of the season. He turned down the $13.1MM qualifying offer the Yankees tendered in 2013 and signed a one-year deal for $15MM. Should Kuroda decide not to retire and not return to Japan, he's likely to turn down the qualifying offer again.

Should that be the case, the Yankees have to decide whether Kuroda is worth pursuing on another one year deal that would likely cost them a minimum of $15 - 16MM. As good as Kuroda was for the majority of the season, the Yankees front office should be thinking "take it or leave it" this time around.

The Yankees did not extend offers to pitchers Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain and Boone Logan, infielder Brendan Ryan, corner infielders Kevin Youkilis and Mark Reynolds, DH Travis Hafner, and first baseman Lyle Overbay. Reynolds and Ryan are likely the only two of the group that the Yankees have any interest in bringing back.

In the meantime, Cano is probably out shopping for a very large vault.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Jeter Back For 2014 With a Bonus

Derek Jeter had an $9.5MM option to play next season, but the Yankees and Jeter's agent Casey Close agreed  to a new one year deal worth $12MM for the 2014 season.  No word if the $9MM worth of incentives that were in the original option (Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, LCS MVP, WS MVP or top 6 in AL MVP) are included the new deal.

The new deal will also add to the calculation of the $189MM luxury tax level for the 2014 season. It was originally reported that the deal had the advantage over Jeter's player option, because it would reduce the amount by $2MM.

Jeter played in just 17 games in the 2013 season after he still felt the effects of the broken ankle he suffered during the 2012 post-season. The 19-year veteran also broke the ankle in another spot during spring training and was plagued by an injured quad when he returned from the disabled list in July.

With the retirements of Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte, the Yankees captain is the lone holdover from the teams that won four titles between 1996 and 2000.

Update: 4:20 PM EDT.