Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Road Towards Kenta Maeda

The hot stove boiled over today in a big way. A brief recap below:
  • Cubs sign INF/OF Ben Zobrist to four-year $52 million deal
  • Cubs trade INF Starlin Castro to Yankees for Adam Warren and PTBN (reported to be INF Brendan Ryan
  • Braves trade SP Shelby Miller and PTBN to Diamondbacks for OF Ender Inciarte, SP Aaron Blair and SS Dansby Swanson
While only the Cubs moves directly affects the Yankees, I provided this recap because the Miller move could impact the rest of the offseason. 

The majority of fans commenting on the Yankees Facebook page are excited

The Shelby Miller trade is one that I look to that could impact the rest of the offseason. I believe that the Braves got a haul for a Miller. Miller has been a great pitcher in his three full seasons, notwithstanding his win-loss record but last year when he recorded a career low ERA he also had a bit of luck with a home run rate that fell by half. He seems like a solid number two starter and slot in nicely behind the Diamondbacks new ace Zack Grienke but that is a lot to give up for a number two.

This trade puts the cost for young quality cost controlled pitching into the stratosphere. The satiating thoughts of Jose Fernandez in pinstripes should evaporate with the Miller trade. If the Yankees try to trade for a young pitcher without giving up untouchables they will have to target someone below the level Nathan Eovaldi was when they acquired him last year (too many hits, too few strikeouts). Eovaldi barely contributed before the 2nd half so someone below that skill level would be working in the minors. With the cost of young pitching untenable I think the Yankees go after Kenta Maeda.

Kenta Maeda

Last week news broke Maeda will be posted by his Japanese team the Hiroshima Toyo Carp. He was once considered the next great pitcher to come out of Japan a few years ago but the Carp never posted him. Now 27 going on 28 he will likely come stateside. With the posting fee capped at $20 million there are no concerns about a Daisuke Matsuzaka like fee. Maeda does have a lot of innings on his arm (1509.2) and the injury history for Japanese pitchers isn't great recently (Daisuke Matsuzaka, Yu Darvish, Masahiro Tanaka) but he his young enough where a 5-6 year deal would not saddle the Yankees with the downside of his career.

If the Yankees are waiting for money to come off the books before the become players in free agency the 2016-2017 offseason won't be a great one. Stephen Strasburg is the only notable starter to hit the market next year.

The Diamondbacks who were all over Maeda earlier in the offseason have said they are no longer interested. The Giants were the only other team with reported interest in him and it has been reported they too are out. With only the "mystery team" as competition I think the Yankees should target Maeda. A five-year deal between $55-$60 million seems like it could get it done. 

Scouts have said that Maeda is more likely a number 3-4 starter due to his lack of electrifying stuff and is more of a control pitcher like Hiroki Kuroda. Kuroda was pleasant and consistent rotation stalwart for three years and it would be great to add that to the rotation. In a world where J.A. Happ just got a three-year $36 million deal the contract I pegged for Maeda doesn't strike me as an overpay. Adding Maeda could allow the Yankees to trade Ivan Nova or move to a six-man rotation that could protect the arms of Maeda, Tanaka, Michael Pineda and Luis Severino. Kenta Maeda is an interesting target in the wake of the rising costs of free agents and trades. 

Twitter Poll: Asdrubal Cabrera or Robert Refsnyder?

Since this is now a redundant post that I had scheduled for tomorrow... yeah... here you go for reference.

Brian Cashman could possibly be on the verge of upsetting the masses once again by signing a second baseman to a lucrative contract that has no business being on the roster. Two years ago it was Brian Roberts, almost out of necessity, while last year it was Stephen Drew. This year it could be Asdrubal Cabrera who the Yankees are said to be interested in according to multiple reports, but why? Why do the Yankees have that little confidence in Robert Refsnyder and why do they make it so blatantly obvious to both him and the fans? Or maybe the fans would welcome Cabrera on a one-year deal, who knows? Sounds like an idea for the return of the Twitter Poll:

The bag was more mixed than I thought it would be. I still don’t buy it though and I said as much in the responses on twitter. Cabrera is marginal offensively and marginal defensively, at worst so is Refsnyder. Cabrera will either plateau statistically, and he wasn’t exactly great in 2015, or decline while the sky is the limit for Refsnyder. Sure Cabrera is a former shortstop and sure he is a switch hitter but he’s also been working in the infield a lot longer than Refsnyder has and he’s still terrible defensively in my opinion.

Get it trending ladies and gents, #FREEREFSNYDER

BREAKING: Yankees Get Starlin Castro from Cubs for Adam Warren and Brendan RYan

EDIT: The player to be named later is Brendan Ryan.

Adam Warren and a player to be named later are going back to Chicago in the deal. I don't like this.

J.J. Cooper Talks Rule 5 Draft and Yankees Jake Cave

J.J. Cooper does an absolutely tremendous job over at Baseball America and talked Rule 5 Draft this week as we prepare for the actual draft at the end of the week. Cooper, in the free article seen HERE, takes a look at if the 2015 Rule 5 Draft can come anywhere close to the historic Rule 5 Draft that came in 2014. Cooper also showcases many Rule 5 Draft eligible prospects including one member of the Yankees specifically, Jake Cave.

Here is Cooper's write-up on Cave:

Jake Cave, of, Yankees (23): Cave is more of a well-rounded outfielder than toolsy, but he’s a lefthanded hitting center fielder who could entice a team looking for an inexpensive fourth outfielder. He runs well and has gap power but has lacked the selectivity to produce enough to get protected.

Many thought of Cave as a Taylor Dugas, Mason Williams, Ben Gamel, Slade Heathcott and many others clone but it seems like Cooper may disagree. The words "well-rounded" and not "toolsy" speaks volumes to me and makes me think Cave is gone as well.

Cooper also talks the prospect that I personally want to see the Yankees take, leading to a DFA of Brendan Ryan, from the New York Mets, TJ Rivera.

T.J. Rivera, 2b, Mets (27): He’s not a particularly sexy pick but Rivera always hits. He has hit .338 combined over the past two years at Double-A Binghamton and Triple-A Las Vegas and he has a career .318 batting average. Combine that with defensive versatility—he’s stretched at shortstop but he can play anywhere in the infield—he’s worth looking at as a potentially inexpensive utility infielder.

He's 27 years old but he has hit at Double-A and Triple-A, can play all infield positions and it gets rid of Ryan. Win, win if you ask me. Eat the million bucks.

Yankees & Cubs Talking Deal for Starlin Castro

And I'm over here like #FREEREFSNYDER.

No really though Starlin Castro has been one of the worst players in all of Major League Baseball over the past two or three years. What is so damn bad about giving Robert Refsnyder a shot at the second base position? Why must we continue to clog up this damn roster with overpaid and overpriced talent and ignore our own?

I'm pissed even reading this. This better not happen. For what it's worth, according to Joel Sherman so he probably stole the information from someone else, Brett Gardner is not said to be involved in the deal at this time.

Meet a Prospect: Pete Kozma

The New York Yankees snatched up a member of the St. Louis Cardinals this week when they signed shortstop/infielder Pete Kozma to a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training. That we know but I am venturing that many of us Yankees don’t know much more about Pete other than what baseball Reference tell us and the information that these blogs keep recycling over and over again. That’s where The Greedy Pinstripes come in. This is Meet a Prospect, the Pete Kozma Edition.

Peter Michael Kozma was born on April 11, 1988 and spent his amateur baseball career playing for Owasso High School in Oklahoma. There as a member of the school’s baseball team the infielder caught the eye of the St. Louis Cardinals who drafted him in the first round of the 2007 MLB First Year Players Draft. Kozma was set to begin his professional career with one of the more storied franchises in all of Major League Baseball.

In Kozma’s first professional season, the same season he was drafted in 2007, he played for three of the Cardinals minor league affiliates hitting a combined .233 with two home runs and 11 RBI in 42 games. Kozma followed that up with a .258 average, five home runs and 50 RBI in 123 games played in 2008 while adding the stolen base, 12 SB’s in 18 attempts, to his repertoire. Kozma put up similar numbers in 2009 and 2010 before finally getting the opportunity to reach the Major Leagues in 2011. Kozma was called up on May 18, 2011 and played in 112 games that season as he replaced an injured Nick Punto. Kozma was also placed on the 2011 Cardinals postseason roster and helped the team win the 2011 World Series over the Texas Rangers.

Kozma began the 2012 season back in Triple-A before the team called him up to replace another injured middle infielder, this time Rafael Furcal, on August 31, 2012. Kozma was once again added to the postseason roster and once again made an impact in the NLDS hitting a home run and driving in five RBI in the Game Five victory over the Washington Nationals.

Kozma became the team’s every day shortstop in 2013 and played in 143 games. Kozma only hit .217 with 20 doubles and a single home run in 143 games but his defense continued to stay on point for the Cardinals. Kozma was once again added to the postseason roster and made a key defensive play in the sixth inning of Game 3 of the NLDS against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Dodgers infielder Juan Uribe hit a line drive in the hole that Kozma somehow got to and started an inning ending double play that led St. Louis to a 4-2 victory. 

Kozma lost his job in 2014 after the Cardinals signed Jhonny Peralta as a free agent forcing Kozma to the bench initially. St. Louis then signed second baseman Mark Ellis and plugged Kolten Wong onto the MLB roster forcing Kozma back to Triple-A. Kozma used the time to work out at all infield positions including the catcher position and was up and down between Triple-A and the Major Leagues until becoming a free agent after the 2015 season. 

Kozma has your typical shortstop build, he’s 6’ 0” and weighs in at just 170 lbs. Kozma is athletic but not going to give you the 20-30 home run power that many clubs ask out of their shortstops in recent years. Kozma throws and bats right-handed so he may give the Yankees some depth on the bench, can you say Brendan Ryan upgrade, if he makes the club out of spring training. If not, there is no such thing as a bad minor league deal. 

Welcome to the family Pete. You have a tendency of being in the middle of things in a big spot and coming up even bigger, we should enjoy you here in the Bronx. 

Antonio Bastardo the Next Justin Wilson?

The New York Yankees and their GM Brian Cashman have stated it many times, the team wants to emulate the Kansas City Royals in almost every way. The most obvious way New York wants to emulate the defending World Series Champions is to have what they are referring to as a "super bullpen." New York is already well on their way with Andrew Miller closing games in the Bronx, Dellin Betances setting up for Miller for anywhere from one out to two innings at a time, and Justin Wilson striking out guys no matter if they are left-handed or right-handed at an alarming rate. Wilson is one of many left-handed relief pitchers the Yankees have at their disposal next season, could they add another in Antonio Bastardo?

Many fans trusted Wilson in 2015 and he was one of the few that could be trusted. Chasen Shreve fell off at the end of the season, although there is evidence that it was fatigue that caused it, Adam Warren was bounced back and forth between the rotation and bullpen leading to some rust and inconsistency and the team had a new reliever every other day up from Triple-A Scranton. New York may turn to the trade market to acquire another reliable arm much like they acquired Wilson last season from the Pittsburgh Pirates for backup catcher Francisco Cervelli or they could simply turn to the free agent market and get an exact clone of Wilson in Bastardo.

According to Baseball Reference and their projections systems I mean it when I say CLONE:

2016 30 4 3 3.60 60.0 49 26 24 5 25 62 1.233 7.4 0.8 3.8 9.3 2.48
Proj. 28 4 2 3.54 61.0 53 26 24 5 22 58 1.230 7.8 0.7 3.2 8.6 2.64
That's an awful lot of left-handed relievers in one bullpen. Miller, Shreve, Wilson Bastardo and possibly Jacob Lindgren but if these pitchers can get batters on both sides of the plate out what does it matter? The Yankees also love having a LOOGY and Bastardo held left-handed batters to a .138 batting average against in 2015, how huge would that be late into games or inside Yankee Stadium? So huge it can't be put into words. Bastardo is 30-years old and will be likely to command a smaller contract in terms of years, maybe even one year, and dollars, the new Yankees way. Sign him?

A Bold, And Maybe Stupid, Prediction

Not long ago I mentioned that I no longer cared about the team payroll. It used to be a fun thing to figure out, but I got tired of worrying about a team whose payroll was over $200 million. However it's clear that the Yankees, or at least their owner Hal Steinbrenner, does care about the team's payroll. And Hal's feelings about the team payroll could very well keep the Yankees from making the 2016 team as good as it can be.

Therefore, signing Jason Heyward won't happen, right? Well... probably. But I wanted to look into something.

"Great... here we go with another hair-brained idea."

There's been plenty of talk and rumors about the Yankees trading away Brett Gardner and/or Andrew Miller. There's not a lot that's happened to say what Gardner could return in a trade, while the Craig Kimbrel deal gives us a pretty good idea of what the Yankees could get back if they were to trade Miller (by the way, it's a lot).

It makes sense that the Yankees would at least listen to offers for Miller. But what about Gardner? Brett would not fetch nearly as much in a trade. And along with that, the Yankees would then have to put Aaron Hicks into the everyday lineup. So what's up?

I think it's to free up money for something big.

Currently, the Yankees 2016 Opening Day payroll for the 25-man roster is at about $184 million. Last season the Yankees Opening Day payroll was a shade under $218 million.

Now, before you jump up and say "that's plenty of money left over to sign Heyward and not spend more than last season", there's a couple of things to consider.

For starters... arbitration eligible players.

MLB Trade Rumors has done a fantastic job at projecting arbitration salaries, so I have no reason to think they will be far off again this year. With that in mind, let's see what they think about the players on the Yankees that are arbitration eligible...

Ivan Nova – $4.4m
Michael Pineda – $4.6m
Dustin Ackley – $3.1m
Nate Eovaldi – $5.7m
Adam Warren – $1.5m
Justin Wilson – $1.3m
Didi Gregorius – $2.1m

That totals $22.7 million. Add that to the current Opening Day payroll and you have just under $208 million. Suddenly, having just $10 million to spare isn't enough for Heyward.

Oh, but that's not all.

You also have to take into account pre-arbitration players. As of right now there are 20 players that are either under contract or are arbitration eligible, leaving just five more spots that could be filled by young players like Dellin Betances, Aaron Hicks, Rob Refsnyder, Gary Sanchez, and Luis Severino.

Those five players will make close to the league minimum, which for 2016 is $507,500. It's likely that those players will make a bit more than that, at least those players that are not in their rookie season. So if we figure their average salary was $530,000, then you can add another $2.65 million to the Opening Day payroll for the 25-man roster. Which brings the total to almost $211 million.

That means that in order to keep the team's payroll the same as last year, which is what Hal seems to want, then Brian Cashman only has $7 million to work with. Which, as you can probably guess, is not enough to lure Jason Heyward to the Bronx.

But what if Cashman could find a way to shed $13.5 million from next year's payroll? That would give him over $20 million to work with. And while Heyward would demand a little more than $20 million a year, I can see Hal Steinbrenner opening up the wallet a little more to acquire such a player.

"Wait, I'm set to make $13.5 million next year."

That's why I'm predicting that if Brian Cashman is able to trade away Brett Gardner, which he'd only do if he didn't have to pay any of Brett's remaining contact, the Yankees will sign Jason Heyward.

MiLB.com's Yankees Organizational Prospects

It's almost that time of the year ladies and gentleman. The time where all the major free agents are signed and the prospects begin to become the main focus for the fans. That's why we wait until February to do Prospects Month every season, although many wait until around March to begin their discussion. We like to lead the pack, not follow the leader, and apparently MiLB.com likes to take the lead as well. Last week they released their list of Yankees organizational prospects (and I missed it and apologize for that) including a list of the best prospects at every position. See that post HERE.

There weren't many surprises on this list. Aaron Judge was listed as the best right fielder, Robert Refsnyder the best second baseman, Greg Bird the Birdman of first base, etc. etc. etc. Who do you think had third base? Eric Jagielo? Nope. Hello Kevin Cornelius. Here is the write up on Cornelius:

Third base -- Kevin Cornelius, Staten Island (35 games), GCL Yankees 2 (25 games): The 23-year-old missed pretty much all of last year after the Yankees selected him in the 31st round of the 2013 Draft. In 60 games across two levels, Cornelius ranked third in the system with a .304 average while compiling nine homers, 11 doubles, 36 RBIs and a .394 OBP. Eric Jagielo also was good but was limited to 58 games due to injury.
"That's a great honor for him, he's persevered," Oppenheimer said. "What he's battled through and then gone out and performed is really a credit to his work ethic and desire."

The complete list has Gary Sanchez (C), Bird, Refsnyder, Jorge Mateo (SS), Cornelius, Ben Gamel, Judge and Dustin Fowler in the outfield, Trey Amburgey (DH), Luis Severino, Jordan Montgomery and Mark Montgomery finish out the pitching staff.

Digging in the TGP Archive: Didi Gregorius Due for an Offensive Breakout?

See the original post HERE. I make the case for Didi Gregorius having an offensive breakout during the 2015 season long before he did. I guess I need to make another bold prediction or two, no?

First and foremost I want to start off by saying that I was 100% in favor of basically the Shane Greene for Didi Gregorius trade. As much as I love Shane Greene and that slider he is replaceable in the organization with Bryan Mitchell, in the farm system with Manny Banuelos and on the free agency market with Brandon McCarthy, Jon Lester and/or Max Scherzer. There are no above average shortstops on the team right now and the farm system is barren at the position, although not as barren as the free agency market. Didi is better than Stephen Drew, Asdrubal Cabrera, Jed Lowrie and Brendan Ryan.

I realize that Gregorius is not without his faults, especially on the offensive side of the game, but that doesn't worry me as much when I look at the stats. First it's worth mentioning that Didi was a much better hitter in Triple-A than he has been in the majors but I have to wonder if he is due for a breakout season. In 2014 Gregorius hit just .226 in 80 games and still gathered a WAR, 1.1, that was more than five times better than Derek Jeter's 0.2 WAR.

I think Didi has simply fallen into a mixture of not playing enough while running into some bad luck when he plays. First and foremost Gregorius needs to play everyday and the team needs to ditch the "Brendan Ryan platoon" right now before it gets into his head. I mention this because Didi's BAbip was incredibly low at .257, down from his career BAbip of .280 (which granted is a little skewed by a partial season in 2012 with Cincinnati), while his line drive percentage was up to 28% and has gone up every season in the majors. These stats, along with the fact that Didi is still young and left handed inside Yankee Stadium, tell me that Gregorius is due to bounce back and possibly breakout as soon as 2015.

"ZOMG We Need To Sign Cliff Lee!" That Sounds Familiar

News broke this week that former Texas Rangers and Philadelphia Phillies left-handed pitcher Cliff Lee intends to pitch in 2016 after missing much of the last couple of seasons with arm injuries. Everyone is now losing their mind asking the Yankees organization to sign Cliff Lee for the 2016 season and finally right a wrong while allowing Brian Cashman to finally "get his guy." This sounds awfully familiar.

Lee missed much of the 2014 season with a strained flexor strain in his left elbow and then suffered a torn flexor in that same elbow during the 2015 season. Lee is now 37-years old and has been cleared by doctor's to continue throwing and has started a throwing program. Lee will pitch in 2016 if he can "find a good fit" and will likely sign a minor league deal. Jon Heyman is credited with the report, which sounds a lot like THIS report from myself here on TGP on November 7th.

In the article I state:

The Philadelphia Phillies, as expected, declined their team option worth $27.5 million for the 2016 season on Cliff Lee and will instead pay him $12.5 million to buyout his contract and hit free agency. Lee missed the entire 2015 regular season and the left-hander has been limited to just 13 starts over the past two seasons due to reoccurring pain in the flexor tendon in his elbow but there is no such thing as a bad minor league deal. Should that deal come from the New York Yankees?

The Yankees have plenty of names that can be listed as pitching depth as we head into the 2016 season but does New York have enough real depth in case of an injury? The problem with the Yankees rotation entering the 2015 season will be the same problem and questions that the team faces in 2016. Will CC Sabathia’s knee hold up, Michael Pineda’s shoulder, Masahiro Tanaka and Nathan Eovaldi’s elbow, Luis Severino’s innings and Ivan Nova’s Tommy John surgery and struggles with his command and efficiency. Lee would not fix any of those question marks but he would add to a list of minor league options that is looking seriously deficient at the moment with just Bryan Mitchell and Rookie Davis as suitable options for the rotation aside from Adam Warren.

The Yankees usually sign one or two reclamation projects every season and hand out one or two minor league deals to veterans, see Andrew Bailey, Jared Burton and Kyle Davies as recent examples of this, and Lee could be the latest example of that. Obviously this all hinges on Lee’s willingness to come to New York, he and his wife were weary of it once before already during his career, and Lee’s health and the health of his elbow. If Lee is willing and Mother Nature is willing to cooperate then Lee makes the most sense for a minor league deal for the team this offseason.

Come on Mother Nature…. Help the Yankees out for once.
There are more examples but I won't get any credit for anything anyway, so whatever. Ask Joel Sherman.

New Drug Added to MLB’s Approved List

All this talk of drugs around Major League Baseball makes me feel uneasy, especially when the league is actually adding drugs to the approved list like they did this week. I just feel like with the technology we have today and the lack of blood testing, although there is more than ever, that things can be masked and made to look like other drugs. The drug that was added to the approved list, although you still need an approval through Major League Baseball, is a drug that treats gynecomastia.

Gynecomastia is the swelling of male breast tissue and is often referred to as “man boobs.” Please be nice in the comments section. This disease is treated with the same drugs that Manny Ramirez failed a steroid test for back in 2009 and the same drug that many major league players have been linked to since drug testing was implemented and the Mitchell Report.

These estrogen suppressors are used as an alternative to surgery to treat a disease that surprisingly about half of all men suffer from. Steroids users have long used drugs that suppress or stop the flow of estrogen and they are used as the end of a steroid cycle to help the body regain its ability to produce testosterone naturally.

The player who received the exemption for this drug was not named in the report. 

This Day In New York Yankees History 12/8: The Grandy Man Can

On this day in 2009 the Yankees, Detroit Tigers, and Arizona Diamondbacks completed a three team trade that was considered to be one of the fairest three team trades in history. Long story short the Yankees got Curtis Granderson from the Tigers, The Diamondbacks got Edwin Jackson from the Tigers and Ian Kennedy from the Yankees, and the Tigers got Phil Coke and Austin Jackson from the Yankees and Max Scherzer and Daniel Schlereth from the Diamondbacks.

Also on this day in 2008 Yankees second basemen Joe Gordon received 10 of the possible 12 votes to be elected into the Hall of Fame. The Veteran's Committee inducted the 1942 Most Valuable Player, nine time All Star, and five time World Series champion.

Finally on this day in 1966 the New York Yankees traded two time MVP and single season home run king Roger Maris to the St. Louis Cardinals. The Yankees got third basemen Charley Smith in return for Maris. Maris would win a World Series with the Cardinals the next season and a pennant the season after that enjoying immediate success with his new team. Smith will only hit .224 in his two year tenure as a Yankee.