Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Yankees brass convenes this week for organizational meetings. Clouding the issue of what the Yankees can do in the free-agent market this offseason are what free agent Robinson Cano will do and how long Alex Rodriguez will be suspended.
But here are five players who emerged from recent scouting meetings as among the Yankees targets, as reported by George A. King III:
If they’re going to piss away their draft pick, I guess Choo is a decent enough player to do it for.
I’m lukewarm on McCann unless he can be signed short-term.
Whatever. CAIRO is not a fan of Maholm, projecting him to put up an RA of 5.25 and a WAR of -0.2 if he were to don a Yankee uniform. May as well just bring back Phil Hughes if that’s what they are looking for.
Drew had a strong year in 2013, but he missed essentially a full season between 2011 and 2012 while putting up an OPS+ of 87. His 111 OPS+ in 2013 was significantly higher than his career mark of 98. He hit .283/.367/.491 in Fenway compared to .222/.295/.392 on the road, so he may have taken particular advantage of playing half his games in a disgraceful bandbox. As a lefty hitter, you’d assume he could take similar advantage of DNYS, but if he’s an opposite field hitter and that’s partly to blame for his home stats, that may not necessarily be the case.
Then again, Yankee shortstops were worth something like -10 WAR this season, so Drew might be a 12 win upgrade if he’s league average.
If these are the players the Yankees are targeting (Choo, McCann and Drew are all likely to get qualifying offers) I think we can assume they don’t care about their first round pick. While I’m not crazy about that, at least they’ll all be between 30-31 in 2014 and could be useful for more than just next season when the Yankees probably aren’t going to be a contender whether they delude themselves into thinking they will be or not.
Monday, October 21, 2013
To spend or not to spend?
That will be the primary question when the Yankees’ front office convenes Monday at the Stadium for the first of three days of organizational meetings. Hal and Hank Steinbrenner will be in attendance along with team president Randy Levine, COO Lonn Trost and general manager Brian Cashman among others.
With the $189 million luxury tax threshold and the massive benefits it potentially offers hanging over their heads, the Bombers must decide between fiscal responsibility and contending next season.
Or do they?
This much we know: Cashman has a lot of work to do this winter. With holes at second base and catcher, at least two open spots in the rotation, a weak platoon in right field and uncertainty at both shortstop and third base, the Yankees are faced with a number of areas to address between now and February.
But with roughly $90 million coming off the books, Cashman and Co. will have some money to spend.
The more I think about the 2014 Yankees, the more I think that they can’t spend enough to be contenders in 2014. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try and add some players to their roster, but they should eschew signing people like Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann who are not likely to be part of a Yankee team that could be a contender down the road. If I were the Yankees, I’d focus on adding players who are young enough to be useful from 2015 on, and I’d probably avoid signing any players that would cost the team their first round draft pick in 2014.
I’d bring back Robinson Cano if he can be signed for six years or less, I’d extend qualifying offers to Hiroki Kuroda and Curtis Granderson and be fine if they accepted but wouldn’t go to multiple years on either one. I’d make a serious bid for Masahiro Tanaka, and I’d use 2014 to try and see what they can get out of players like Francisco Cervelli, J.R. Murphy, Austin Romine, Delin Betances, Cesar Cabral, Michael Pineda, David Phelps and Adam Warren. I’d hope that Slade Heathcott and/or Tyler Austin can finish the year in AAA with an eye towards the majors in 2015.
I’m not sure what the Yankees are going to do with David Robertson and Brett Gardner, both of whom can be free agents after 2014. I don’t anticipate Robertson having major issues as the closer should he earn the job, but I can’t see the Yankees extending him until they see what he does next year, and I’m not sure what kind of financial commitment they want to make to him going forward. Similarly, I wonder if Brett Gardner will be a Yankee after 2014 if they are concerned about his ability to stay healthy and his likelihood of maintaining his value as his speed declines.
What I don’t want to watch is another attempt to force a mid 80s win team into the postseason with a bunch of retreads and 35+ year olds. It’s boring and it’s predictable, and it’s just not entertaining. And at the end of the day, baseball is supposed to be entertaining.
The Yankees could contend even if they don’t make significant additions this offseason if they get better than expected returns from Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira and CC Sabathia, and if Alex Rodriguez’s suspension is cut to say 50 games and he exceeds his projections, and if they get positive contributions from some of their younger players. But expecting all that to happen would be foolish.
If it happens, then maybe you explore adding some pieces during the season, but it shouldn’t be the basis of their offseason plan.
Friday, October 18, 2013
NEW YORK—While all the talk to begin the offseason is about the New York Yankees’ desire to cut the team’s yearly payroll to $189 million, the front office is devising a plan that could have them going on a $300 million shopping spree, sources have told ESPNNewYork.com.
The Yankees will begin their organization meetings Monday where they will settle on a strategy that they believe can cut payroll to $189 million while spending big on free agents.
The Yankees’ initial main targets are expected to include their own Robinson Cano, Japanese starter Masahiro Tanaka, Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCann and St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Carlos Beltran, according to sources.
The possible outlay of $300 million or more in total salary is similar to the number commonly associated with the winter of 2008-9 when the Yankees spent $423 million on CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and A.J. Burnett over the life of their multi-year contracts.
This is fantastic news! This means they could win 70 games instead of 63!
Lipstick on a pig.
Thursday, October 17, 2013
Jake Cave: American Hero
As I started doing my wrap-up of the Yankees MiL season, I ran into two problems. 1) I kept drinking myself to sleep and 2) I didn’t have much to say that Mike hadn’t already covered. So instead, I’d like to move onto doing a bit of a more in depth recap of the selected players Mike and I profiled earlier this year (spoiler: I kicked Mike’s ass).
Jake Cave: A Yankee “Success“ Story
When I left you with my ebullient profile of Cave, he had played 12 games and posted a decent line of .283/.339/.377. 103 games later, Cave ended his first full professional season (at the age of 21 and at A-) with a really solid .282/.347/.401 good for a .347 wOBA and 117 wRC+. Most importantly, he improved as the season went on (mostly). It makes you wonder a bit where he would be if he hadn’t lost 2 full seasons to injury.
Cave may have started the season on fire crushing the ball to a .976 OPS for 7 games in April, but his performance tumbled in May to a disappointing .644. Fortunately, unlike most Yankees prospects this year, Cave made significant strides in is development this year. He peaked in June with a power spike driving him to a .791 OPS, and while we hasn’t able to match his June power spike, his OBP and average did improve in both July and August. From a guy who missed his first 2 potential pro seasons due to injury, his ability to perform and improve so quickly is impressive.
Overall this year, Cave tallied some solid numbers, racking up 37 doubles and 6 triples. Clearly his speed is still playing up despite his knee injuries, and he didn’t just display it while hitting, he also stole 18 bases. But, not everything was rosy, his line was buoyed by a pretty high .362 BABiP, although with his speed, it is reasonable to expect a consistently above average BABiP.
Strike outs are a bit of an issue as he posted a 21% K rate as a 21 year old in A-. Since he has limited experience, there is some hope for the future. The strike out issue plays into his other rather obvious issue, his complete lack of power. Yeah, the guy smacked 40+ non HR XBH this year, but only 2 HRs and only barely broke 400 points of slugging. That’s not good.
Cave basically performed as advertised, aside from his power, and it came a year late due to injury. Overall, you have to be pretty happy with his year. The Yankees challenged him with a full year in low A for his first minor league assignment and he made contact, got on base, played good defense and stole a bunch of bases. The nice thing about power is that it can take some time to manifest itself in-game, so there is still hope.
I want to compare Cave to Gardner, because the numbers are similar, but the comparison isn’t really apt aside from the lack of power. Gardner had a mediocre hit tool and nonexistent power, but good discipline and elite level speed. Cave displayed an average to above average hit tool, average discipline, below average power and good but not great speed. I also want to compare him to Ramon Flores, except that Cave can hit, run and field, none of which Flores can do.
I don’t think that Cave will ever really crush the ball, but I do think he can show more power than he did this year. I was happy to see him play the rest of the game well, and while I’m not banking on his discipline improving as much as his power might, I do think there is a chance that with more experience he can display improved plate control as well.
Without further ado, I’ll post my tool ratings.
|Tool||Current Grade||Future Grade|
Also, Cave has a twitter: https://twitter.com/JakeCave8
Mike’s year in review of Bryan Mitchell will be up soon. He’s putting the final touches on it.
Also, Mike may not have been told that there was a competition
So while the Yankees have many pressing needs, they are no closer to finding answers for 2014.
One of those answers could be Braves catcher Brian McCann, who is set to become a free agent. The Yankees’ lack of power was an issue throughout the season and the absence of offensive production from behind the plate was particularly damaging.
McCann, who will turn 30 in February, would help in both areas, but he might be too expensive to end up in the Bronx. He has hit at least 20 homers in each of the past six seasons and was selected to his seventh All-Star Game last year.
Let’s see how CAIRO projects McCann as a Yankee in 2014.
The Yankees got about 0.5 WAR out of catcher in 2013. So McCann plus a good backup could be a 3-4 win upgrade. McCann’s missed a fair amount of time over the last two years which is why CAIRO has him around 497 PA but if he can get to 550 or so he’d be worth about 3.6 WAR offensively.
This doesn’t include defense, but McCann’s been a hair below average over the last two seasons so it shouldn’t affect his value much.
Unfortunately, you can’t sign McCann for just 2014, so here’s how he projects over the next four seasons.
That totals up to about 13 WAR. Maybe subtract one from that assuming a slow decline in defense over four seasons. So a fair deal over four seasons is probably in the $60M-$70M range. If you get him for 3 years he’s probably worth about 10 WAR and something like $50M would be fair.
McCann doesn’t come without risk, considering he had shoulder surgery prior to the season and although he’s only 30 he’s more likely to decline than maintain at this point. But he’d be a big upgrade for the Yankees. Unfortunately, he’d be a big upgrade for roughly 25 other teams as he trails only Buster Posey, Carlos Santana, Joe Mauer and Yadier Molina in CAIRO’s projected offensive WAR (among catchers). So it may be difficult to sign him to a contract that makes sense. He’s also almost certain to cost a draft pick since I can’t see the Braves not extending him a qualifying offer.
If the Yankees do pursue McCann, it helps, but it’s not enough by itself to turn them into contenders. Especially if they sign him while still trying to get their payroll under $189M.
Incidentally, I found a pretty major issue with the Yankee CAIRO projections I posted on Tuesday. The good news is it means that all the pitcher projections were overly pessimistic. The bad news is it means the offensive projections were optimistic. It doesn’t change the big picture all that much, just the shape of it.
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
If Masahiro Tanaka translates like Yu Darvish
I haven’t run a real 2014 projection yet for Masahiro Tanaka because I generally wait until I have a more comprehensive list of players who could be moving over from Japan to MLB, but that doesn’t mean we can’t start playing around with some crude ways to estimate how his performance in Japan would translate to the majors. So for this first quick and dirty iteration, I just took a 3/2/1 weighted average of what Yu Darvish did in his last three seasons in Japan and compared it to his average over his first two MLB seasons, pro-rated to match his MLB innings.
Here are the main things to look at.
These are the ratios of his MLB stats to his Japanese stats over the same number of innings. For example, he allowed home runs at a rate four times greater than he did in Japan. What’s interesting is his strikeout rate went up pretty significantly, but as you’d expect everything else was worse.
So here are four sets of stat lines to peruse.
|Darvish (3/2/1 2011/2010/2009)||200||141||40||35||5||39||225||1.81||1.59||1.87|
|Darvish (avg MLB)||200||151||79||75||20||85||249||3.52||3.34||3.31|
|Tanaka (3/2/1 2013/2012/2011)||174||143||33||28||5||23||163||1.69||1.44||2.07|
|If Tanaka translates like Darvish||174||153||64||59||20||50||181||3.28||3.04||3.45|
As nice as Tanaka’s statistical performance appears to translate, I’d have concerns about a few things. First of all is that I don’t think there’s any question that Darvish has a better fastball than Tanaka. Tanaka supposedly sits in the low 90s and his fastball is straight. He’s been successful thanks to his secondary pitches, primarily his splitter and his slider. If he can’t use his fastball to set those pitches up, then they’re likely to be less effective against the best hitters on the planet. Second of all, most pitchers who’ve come over from Japan have not had the same level of success in making the transition that Darvish has had thus far. It’s also worth noting that Tanaka’s FIP is a bit higher than Darvish’s even though his R/ER translate better.
On the plus side, Tanaka exhibited better control than Darvish.
The last time I ran my translations for a larger population of pitchers, I found that MLB strikeout rate was 0.82 of Japan’s. If we assume that’s a more realistic scenario for Tanaka, then you’re probably looking at 148 strikeouts instead of 181 and a FIP of 3.75.
It’s probably worth noting that both pitchers pitched in Japan’s Pacific League, which does use a designated hitter. So at the very least we don’t have to worry about a hidden advantage in Tanaka’s line. I guess it’s also worth nothing that Darvish’s increase in home run rate is anomalously high relative to other pitchers who’ve crossed over.
The Yankees need to add talent to the organization, and ideally they should do it in a way that doesn’t cost them other avenues of doing so. Winning a posting for Tanaka and signing him would not cost them a draft pick and would have less impact on their payroll for luxury tax purposes. But he also carries the risk of not being worth the total cost he will command. But if he’s a bust, he just costs them money and a few wins.
I was kind of meh on the Yankees trying for Tanaka, but the more I think about the more I think it makes sense. I’ll be interested to see where other projection systems have him and if his CAIRO projection ends up differing significantly from his translated line above.
Tuesday, October 15, 2013
How Bad are the 2014 Yankees on October 15, 2013
One of the hardest things about doing my CAIRO projections is finagling the numbers to make the Yankees look better than they are. And that was hard when the Yankees were actually good. Now that they are not so good, it makes it even harder.
Anyway, I finally figured it was time to put some empirical evidence together to see what the Yankees look like right now. So I ran my first set of 2014 CAIRO projections, which I’m sure have bugs and will change as we move further into the offseason.
I’ll warn you now, it’s not pretty at all.
The assumptions here are that Alex Rodriguez remains suspended for the entire 2014 season and the Yankees don’t sign anyone or trade for anyone. Basically, this is what the Yankees have under contract right now for 2014. First up, the position players.
I haven’t done the defensive projections for 2014 yet so these are 2013 projections. Adjust them down a bit since there’s no one young enough on the Yankees to be improving defensively.
If you think that’s bad, get a load of the pitching staff.
WAR: Wins above replacement level (using RA)
FIP: Fielding-independent pitching
Now obviously the error bars around some of these projections are huge. Maybe CC Sabathia makes the adjustments to get closer to his past numbers and maybe converting Michael Pineda’s rehab numbers to an MLE and using it as part of his projections for 2014 ignores that rehab games are approached differently than competitive games and that he’ll be stronger as he moves further away from his injury. Maybe Ivan Nova scrapping his slider will let him pitch more like he did over the second half of 2013 than his projection.
That’s an awful lot of maybes.
The bottom line is this. If these projections and playing time assumptions are reasonably close, and they may not be, this is what the overall picture looks like.
The Yankees need to add 27 wins to get to 90. I can’t see them doing it without going past their self-imposed payroll limit of $189M, and I’m not sure the market is there to do it even if they decide to.
Maybe they can lobby Bud Selig to add five more wild cards. Then they can pretend they’re still contenders.
Monday, October 14, 2013
It is easy to see why there’s this “Back to 1965” doomsday scenario enveloping the Yankees right now considering their extensive offseason shopping list that includes, in no particular order, a third baseman, a shortstop, a catcher, at least two frontline starting pitchers, a couple of set-up relievers and a partridge in a pear tree. All this and Robbie (Tippi) Cano too — and, by the way, let’s not forget that $189 million luxury tax threshold they want to get under.
But in the minds of the Yankee high command, it’s not nearly so daunting, at least not when you look around at the state of the rest of the American League East. Put aside the Red Sox who, granted, had everything go right this year, but still seem well fortified with a mother lode of near-ready prospects in their player development system to play the commanding role in the division for the foreseeable future. It is the Rays, Orioles and Blue Jays with whom the Yankees are currently comparing themselves — and the grass is far from greener on the other side.
I’m sorry, but building a team with an eye on second place and a wild card berth does not really feel like fielding a contender to me.
Can someone please make Hal Steinbrenner an offer he can’t refuse and buy the team? Don Corleone? Anyone?