Monday, January 16, 2012

Hamels may still be an option for 2013

Hey, Cole. You'd look better in Yankee pinstripes.

After the events of last Friday I was thinking... are the Yankees still going to go after Cole Hamels should he become a free agent?

To start, they will have a room in the rotation. Hiroki Kuroda is going to be in the rotation, and his contract is only for one year. I know of a few people concerned that Phil Hughes will be pushed to the bullpen this season, as that 5th spot could go to Freddy Garcia or AJ Burnett instead of him. Those same people would probably raise concerns about acquiring Hamels, because that could not only take away a spot for Hughes to possibly fill, but it could also block some of the young pitchers we currently have slated for the AAA rotation (Banuelos, Betances, Warren, Phelps, and Mitchell). In my opinion, while this is a fine gripe to have, I want the Yankees to be the best they possibly can be. And it's also my opinion that Cole Hamels would make the team/rotation better than Hughes, Banuelos, or any of the other youngsters could.

But what about the finances? Any of the young pitchers that could fill a rotation spot or two would be a ton cheaper than Hamels would be. While that's certainly true, I believe the team can sign Hamels without blowing up the budget at all (in fact, by the end of this post you may be pleasantly surprised).

Here's a list of players that will not be signed after 2012, and how much they'll be making...

Hiroki Kuroda - $10 million
Mariano Rivera - $15 million (I would want him back, but retirement is an option)
Nick Swisher - $10.25 million
Russell Martin - $6.7 million (this is an estimate from MLBTR)
Pedro Feliciano - $4 million
Freddy Garcia - $4 million
Andruw Jones - $2 million
Total - $51.95 million

As for players contracted, whose salaries will change, there's these...

Alex Rodriguez - -$1 million
Derek Jeter - +$1 million
Robinson Cano - +$1 million (club option, likely to be picked up)
Curtis Granderson - +$3 million (club option, likely to be picked up)
Total - +$4 million

So the Yankees look to have around $48 million to work with next offseason. Two important areas that they will need to address, more so than Hamels, are right field (Swisher) and catcher (Martin). I mean, a team can go without a player at those two positions, and we have guys that could step into the rotation already.

I'll start with Russell Martin. The Yankees seem to really like this guy, and I understand why. He's a really good defensive catcher, he handles the staff well, and his attitude fits in with the team. So it comes down to how much it would cost. To start he'll be 29 in February, so he's certainly worth a multi-year deal. I tried looking at recent free agent catchers to come up with a contract estimate, but I couldn't do it. In terms of a similar fWAR this season, it was either McCann (who signed an extension with Atlanta back in 2007) or Ruiz (who signed an extension with Philadelphia back in 2010). So I'm pretty much pulling a contract out of my ass, while king of basing it off Posada's last contract of 3 years with an AAV of $13.1 million... 4 years and $36 million (AAV of $9 million).

In order to figure out how much Swisher may command in free agency I looked at Michael Cuddyer, and his new contract with Colorado. Cuddyer signed a 3 year deal worth $31.5 million (AAV of $10.5 million). Well over the last 3 years, according to Fangraphs, Michael has been worth $30.1 million. Swisher was worth $47.6 million. Keep in mind that Cuddyer will be 33 entering this season, while Swish will be 31. Seeing as how Fangraphs was so close with Cuddyer, to go along with Nick being 2 years younger, I'd say... at most... it would cost a 4 year contract worth $50 million (AAV of $12.5 million) to bring Swisher back.

So to fill the voids at catcher and right field, with the same players (which looking at the free agents of 2013, would probably be the best choices), it would cost the team $21.5 million a year. Taking that away from that $48 million, we're left with $26.5 million.

But, if the Yankees are able to get Cole Hamels, before having to deal with the right field hole, then I could see some of the young pitchers being used to trade for a new right fielder, instead of re-signing Swisher. All five of the guys slated for the AAA rotation (Banuelos, Betances, Warren, Phelps, and Mitchell) could probably be put into a MLB rotation right now, so I could easily see a couple of them, along with another piece or two, being dealt for Swisher's replacement. Which could save the team quite a bit of money.

And Austin Romine may be able to step in for Martin too, which could save another chunk of money.

The trade for a right fielder could save the team upwards of $10 million, and using Romine instead of Martin could save the team another $8.5 million, for a total of $18.5 million. Leaving the Yankees with around $45 million, which is more than enough to get Hamels, fill the bench, and still bring down the payroll by a considerable amount.

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Sorry for the Capatcha... Blame the Russians :)