Wednesday, December 18, 2013



Since Cano left the Yankees appear to be trying to “save face.”  Unfortunately, they have continued to react and not set out the plan of attack that they wanted. 

Beltran has been good the last few years (and his career).  He played the OF the last two years and played a lot of games (over 600 plate appearances each year with a combined OPS of .837).  Beltran will be 37 in April so the Yanks have gone old again, but he can play some DH to keep him fresh.  I would not have been in favor of spending this money on Beltran, but once Cano was gone it is not a bad move; I just think we are spending the money that could have gone to Cano (remember, my issue is not that I would have wanted to pay Cano what Seattle did…in fact I heard Cano would have taken 5 mil or so less to stay here and I would not have done that either – my issue was that we should have locked Cano up before he became a free agent and I am 100% sure we could have gotten him for MUCH less.  Remember that there were some slumps a year or so ago when I said they should speak to him now and sign him when he was struggling).  Beltran is the type of hitter who can hit good pitching (not a phrase I use often) and I only bring that up because mistake hitters feed off poor pitching and come playoff time they usually see less poor pitches to hit.  Please keep in mind this is not saying he is clutch (I have discussed this numerous times), I am just saying he is a hitter that is not overpowered by fastballs or has to cheat too much for plate coverage.  Of course, as he ages his skills are eroding.  But 45 mil for 3 years is more than Pedroia is getting (I won’t keep harping on this) and we are getting him at 37, 38 and 39 years of age.  He will help us but at 15 mil a year for 3 years, I would want more help.  It also highlights what I said last year; the wasted money on Ichiro (6.5 mil) and Wells (2.4 mil).  Ichiro is an OK backup OF’r, but at 6.5 mil I would want more…or at least a specialist at something.  His defense is still above average, but clearly not great. 

So my message has been about spending the money wisely.  So again, let me give some comparisons.  The O’s signed Grant Balfour to a 2 year 15 mil dollar deal.   Because of the bad deals we made last year we have 8.9 mil a year for Wells and Ichiro…would you rather have wells and Ichiro or a solid closer who has had around a 2.45 ERA the last 4 years and the last 2 years as a closer has saved 92% of his games?  I am not such a huge fan of Balfour (I believe we actually hit him), but my point is who would you rather have?  The answer is pretty clear.

The Yanks just signed Matt Thornton (2 years at 3.5 per year) and Brian Roberts (1 year at 2 mil).  These are pretty low level signings (which can add up), but these will help us.  Thornton used to be very good, but he still is effective and is kind of like Logan, although not as good overall (Boone had his best year last year), but a little better against lefties.  Boone is 5 or so year’s younger but for 2 years the signing is fine.  Boone got a 3 year deal that averages 5.5 a year as a comp.   All the money is a bit crazy so the comps keep it in perspective (for at least me).   Roberts is a good one year deal because he can hit lefties pretty well (.800 OPS) and he may platoon with lefty Dean Anna (27) who is a guy the Yanks picked up as part of a trade with SD who couldn’t keep him on their 40 man roster.  This is a deal that could be an excellent one.  He had very good stats in the minors last year (.929 OPS against righties but in the hitting friendly Pacific Coast League), but has been a career minor leaguer.  I have no idea about his defense, but this deal is one that appears to be a good one.

While on 2nd base, I was not in favor of the Gardner for Brandon Phillips trade straight up.  Phillips is a stellar defender which I like, but his offense is suspect (OPS of .706 last year but a career .749).  He is 32 and is signed for a reasonable 12.5 mil a year for the next 4).  It would not have been a bad deal considering what has already been done (I think the Yankee would have been better off not signing Ellsbury to such a long deal and try to lock up Gardner before he is a free agent), but I was fine holding Gardner as insurance for Ellsbury getting injured.  Basically, we decided to get Beltran and not get Phillips because we didn’t have to give up a player to get Beltran.

The Yanks are going for the Japanese pitcher Tanaka…it makes sense if he is as good as people say he is.   Hopefully Pineda is back (critical for us), but Tanaka would help a lot as CC performed like a 5th starter last year.  Hopefully it was an aberration year, but the loss of velocity is a huge concern.  If his velocity were the same and he just got hammered for a bad year I would feel much better.  But, honestly, last year, he simply had mediocre stuff. 

One final note as an ex catcher I must speak to…and that is the new rules they want to implement regarding collisions.  I have written a few times over the years wondering why catchers are allowed to get run over.  I am glad they are looking at it (it takes a star to get hurt before they wake up), but I think the rules should just be the same for all bases.  That is, no defender can block the path of a runner going into any base.  They must be allowed to slide into a base safely, you can only block the path with the ball either in the hand or in the glove.  This solves the issue.  Catchers must leave the back part of the plate for a runner as an example.  The next logical discussion will be runners breaking up DP’s and how they can’t interfere with fielders unless a slide into the base and slightly over base.  With instant replay becoming a larger part of baseball, the “area” play where the SS or 2nd baseman leave the base a little early should be enforced.

Tanaka next

Friday, December 6, 2013

The new signings!

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving!  I know it has been awhile, but …let’s get at it!
I hate the Ellsbury signing!  The Yankees have blown it!  They simply don’t understand what value means and they waste so much money and then still want to get under 189?   I do understand the "want" to get under $189 BTW.

The Ellsbury contract is basically a 7 year deal at 153 mil (21.86/year because of 5 mil buyout) or 8 years at $169 mil ($21.13/yr).  This allows us to get Ellsbury for 16 mil the last year if the Yanks want to.
I think they were smart to hold the dollar amount on Cano to 25 mil a year for 7 years.  I would have held at 6 years because I am not so sure who is giving out that type of coin, but I am ok 7 because he is your main guy and making him a Yankee for life has some value.  He has a chance to go down as the greatest 2nd baseman of all time…and will be up there.  BUT, how do you tell a proven elite player, that is yours, that you don’t want to go more than 25 and then you go give 22 mil a year for Jacoby Ellsbury?  WHAT?   JE is a very good player; in fact he is a slightly rich man’s version of Gardner who I think is very valuable, but 22 mil and at 7 years?  NO WAY!  Who was going to give him even close to that amount?  Who were the Yanks bidding against?  This is the same stupidity they did with ARod when they gave the 3 final years when they didn’t need to; 7 years would have gotten it done.  In this case 5 at 100 seemed more than enough to get it done; the Yanks just needed to be patient. 

Now how do you go back to Cano and say you are only worth 3 mil more than a guy who has had some injuries and his game is predicated on speed?  HORRIBLE decision and a much bigger risk than Cano.  Now the Yanks will sign Kelly Johnson for 3-4 mil so they chose Ellsbury and Johnson instead of Cano?  Johnson is an OK guy but not a difference maker.  Again, Ellsbury is a very good player, but his speed will be diminished 5 years from now and you have an albatross contract once again at the end.   I hope we can sign Cano, but I think this contract makes it highly unlikely and if nothing else hurts your bargaining situation.

Let me put into perspective why Boston just won the WS and we are acting like a desperate franchise.   Boston signed Pedrioa to a 6 year extension that starts in 2016 for a whopping $14.2 mil a year.  Yeah, 14.2 mil a year.   Ellsbury is a pretty similar worth to Pedroia when Jacoby is healthy.   Cano is a little better than Pedroia.  The Yanks should have kept Cano (and they would have), I mean would he really go to Seattle for a few more mil a year…no way, he wants to win and I would be surprised Seattle would give him some 8 year deal worth much more than the yanks anyway. 

Ellsbury had a career year in 2011 where he was truly elite.  He had a .928 OPS to go along with his speed.  He hit 32 HR’s that year but never hit more than 9 before or after (kind of strange).  He had injured years in 2010 and 2012 that were bad, but overall his career numbers show an OPS of .789 with adjusting for his SB’s he gets another 50 points for SB’s which puts him at an OPS of .840.   (this is pretty similar to what he did last year so that is a good expectation.  He is fast but not an elite defender, perhaps similar to Gardner in CF but probably slightly worse. (Gardner played elite in LF and was starting to play really well in CF)

The Yanks also signed McCann who is another huge risk.  Nothing is guaranteed, but the Yanks just shot their money on two risks.   Ellsbury is a low to mid .800 OPS guy and a good defender who has to stay healthy and McCann is a guy who is showing signs of slowing down from catching a lot.  I love offensive catchers and if he can come back to be a good hitter the risk will pay off, but again it is a risk because in 2012 he had the least amount of AB’s he has had since his rookie year to only have even less in 2013.  His career OPS is .823 (which is really good for a catcher), but his last 2 years were .698 and .796 respectively.  Now, we could look at all of this and say that the .698 was an aberration because it was only one bad year.  However, one thing really concerns me, and it is not that he was 0-13 in the playoffs last year.  It is that the 2nd half of last year his OPS was .680 and this is showing a little bit of breakdown over the past 2 years.  He also had an OPS of .858 at home and .740 on the road.  He is a big pull hitter so the short porch can help, but we better make sure we can offset the lefties out of the pen because most teams have 2-3 lefties in the pen (only we don’t) and in key AB’s lefties will be used.  His career OPS is just over 100 points higher against righties (.857-.744).

All in all, I think the Yanks messed up and far overpaid for Ellsbury.  The McCann contract was a lot as well, but our catching situation was terrible and now while risky should be at least average and could be very good.  17 mil was on the higher side, but I do think that was around where they needed to be to sign him.   I don’t love the signing but at least it makes some sense.  Ellsbury was just as risky but committed more money and overpaid for the risk…bad decision.

Now, let’s hope we get lucky with these…of course it could work out for a few years but I bet the last 2 years will probably going to be ugly.

Moving forward, I want to discuss some of the thoughts I had regarding the moves we made last year.  My main issues with the Wells and Ichiro signings had to do with the payments for the years but just as important; the road block for young guys to come up and contribute.  It is pathetic that in a year like last year we once again didn’t develop anyone!  This is a critical point as you never get a chance to see if the young talent can contribute and thus contribute cheaply.  It is fine if the older and costlier players are producing, but we didn’t get much, nor should have we expected much.  The big picture showed:

Ichiro – .660 ops and good defense for 6.5 mil for 2 years

Wells - .631 OPS for 11.5 mil (Yanks cost)  and 2.4 this year.  We are giving Wells 2.4 mil and my issue is that if you take both their salaries this year, for 9 mil. you could get a good player that can help.  Shoot, Pedroia was only 14 mil so if we don’t spend 5 mil on mediocre players a few more times you get a star.  Like I have said over and over on this blog, the yanks should go spend the money on the truly elite players and then fill in with young rookies/inexpensive people and then when making a run you see what is needed and you get a “Soriano” as needed.  BTW, Soriano costs us 5 mil this year as the Cubs pay 13 mil of his 18 mil this year.  Even if Soriano was not as hot as he was for us and he gave us his career numbers (.825 OPS) that makes more sense to fill in as needed.  I am not in love with his type of offense (not working walks and swinging at everything, but at least he can be productive.

Just going back to Ichiro…and the signing for 6.5 million a year for 2 years.  Last year I used the example of Chris Dickerson as someone we could have had for league minimum (400k) and he would do what Ichiro did.  Ichiro ended up with an adjusted OPS of .660 when you take SB’s into account.  Dickerson who didn’t get many AB’s finished with an OPS of .666 so they were pretty darn similar.  Of course, part of my argument was that a younger player (even younger than Dickerson) who is given a shot to play all the time could get better (in truth, they could get worse as well as they could get exposed as well).  The other part is what you could do with the 6 mil in savings as noted above?

Needless to say I am disappointed because I don’t think we get Cano now because of the Ellsbury signing.  If he can stay healthy he will help us, but I think we will at best get our monies worth if all goes perfectly and the odds are we will have yet again overspent needlessly.