Free Agent Target: Luke Gregerson

With David Robertson‘s decision to test free agency, the Yankees have something of a hole in the back end of their bullpen. Robertson’s easily the best of this year’s free agent relief crop, but it remains to be seen if the Yankees will be willing to spend $10-$15M annually to retain their All-Star closer. Lefty Andrew Miller headlines the second tier of free agent relievers, but like Robertson, he’s unlikely to come cheap. If the team does choose to pass on Miller and Robertson, that leaves Luke Gregerson, Rafael Soriano, Sergio Romo, Francisco Rodriguez, and Jason Grilli as the top free agents remaining on the board, and with a 2.12 ERA in 2014, Gregerson had the lowest ERA of this group.

Although his fastball almost never breaks 90, Gregerson’s been one of the game’s better relievers for a few years now. Since establishing himself as a dominant setup man with the Padres back in 2009, Gregerson’s been about as consistent as they come, racking up at least 55 innings in each of the last six seasons, and posting a sub-3 ERA in the past four. Gregerson’s overall numbers may have been helped by his home ballparks. He spent 2009-2013 pitching half of his games in Petco Park, before being traded to the A’s, who also play in a park known for suppressing homers. But even after taking his home ballpark into account, Gregerson’s still a very talented pitcher. He keeps the ball on the ground, and rarely issues any walks, which is generally a good recipe for success. Odds are, he wouldn’t have much trouble putting up a sub-3.50 ERA, even in the friendly confines of Yankee Stadium. Continue reading

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Who should be protected from the Rule 5 Draft?

On Thursday, all 30 major-league teams will add various prospects to their 40-man rosters, thereby protecting them from the Rule 5 draft. At the moment, the Yankees have four available spots for draft eligible prospects on the 40-man roster. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll fill all of them, nor does it mean the Yankees will keep all of the players currently on the roster. For example, Eury Perez might be expendable, while someone like Esmil Rogers is set for a decent payday via arbitration and could be non-tendered.

Below, a list of some of the Yankees’ Rule 5 eligible prospects with my thoughts and decision prediction. This list isn’t wholly inclusive, but features the more prominent names or interesting players that are eligible. In no particular order, let’s get started:

CF Mason Williams (Drafted: 4th round, 2010 | Highest Level: Double-A)

Now 23, Williams has fallen far from his #32 ranking on Baseball America’s top 100 prospect list following his strong 2012 campaign. After a disappointing 2013, his bat vanished in 2014 — with questions of his desire, to boot. His defense has consistently received high praise, but the lack of want and ability to hit makes his future look bleak. Nonetheless, a team might consider taking a flyer on him as a fourth or fifth outfielder, using Williams as a pinch-runner or defensive replacement. My guess: Unprotected. It’s a difficult choice, as it’s easy to wonder if that potential can suddenly come back. But he’s fallen enough that I don’t think it’s worth it.

Continue reading

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With or without Robertson, the Yankees bullpen could be worse in 2015

With a mediocre 84-78 record, and an even more disappointing .478 (77-85) 3rd Order Win%, the 2014 Yankees gave fans plenty to complain about. Their offense was one of baseball’s worst, and thanks to a plethora of injuries, their starting pitching wasn’t nearly as good as it could have been. But for all that went wrong, there was one area where the Yankees were pretty dominant: the bullpen.

David Robertson turned in yet another fine season in his first year as the team’s closer, while Dellin Betances and Adam Warren stepped up in a big way to provide a reliable seventh and eighth inning bridge. Throw in strong showings from Shawn Kelley, David Huff, and Matt Thornton, and the Bombers had one of baseball’s deepest bullpens. Only the Royals bullpen — and their three-headed monster of Greg Holland, Wade Davis, and Kelvin Herrera — racked up more fWAR than the Yankees squad’s impressive 5.9 WAR mark. Continue reading

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Free Agent Target: Asdrubal Cabrera

Despite names like Troy Tulowitzki and Alexei Ramirez being floated on the trade market in the past couple of weeks, free agency is still the simple way for the Yankees to add a shortstop. There are a few guys available, although many of them are probably better off elsewhere defensively. Hanley Ramirez, Jed Lowrie, and Asdrubal Cabrera all fit that mold, though all three have varying offensive talent. Stephen Drew, who I’ve already discussed this offseason, is really the only guy that can be considered a true shortstop in this market. Nonetheless, it’s plausible that the former three will be starting shortstops somewhere in 2015. Today, I’ll examine the case for Cabrera being the guy to replace Derek Jeter.

Celebrating his 29th birthday yesterday, Asdrubal is the youngest of the free agent crop at short, with a year and a half edge on the second-youngest Lowrie. That might allow Cabrera to remain at the position longer than the others, despite the fact that he’s below average according to most metrics. Then again, the Yankees have tolerated some pretty poor defense at short for a long time, so Cabrera would be an upgrade with the glove anyway. And hey, maybe being a below average defensive shortstop is more like being one of the “worst of the best”. Continue reading

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Trade Analysis: Francisco Cervelli for Justin Wilson

A trade involving one of the Yankees’ many catchers was expected entering this offseason, but lefty reliever Justin Wilson certainly wasn’t quite the return anyone envisioned for Francisco Cervelli. Now, nobody expected a massive haul for Cervelli, but a little-known southpaw for one of the league’s better reserve backstops seems a bit light.

Wilson, 27, had a cup of coffee with the Pirates in 2012, and became a bullpen fixture a year later. He posted a 2.08 ERA that season in 73.2 innings, perhaps fortuitous as he also sported a 3.41 FIP. That luck reverted in 2014: Wilson had a 4.20 ERA, although his FIP was still a decent 3.62. There are a couple of things to like about the newly acquired lefty: his fastball averaged 95 MPH the past two seasons, while also generating a better than 50% ground ball rate. The biggest con is his control: he walked 11.7% of batters last season. His 2015 Steamer projection is pretty decent — let’s do a little comparison with two other lefty relievers for 2015: Continue reading

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Young is a fine signing as a reserve

On Sunday, the Yankees officially re-signed outfielder Chris Young to an incentive-laden contract with a base salary of $2.5M. He’ll be the team’s fourth outfielder, behind the trio of Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, and Carlos Beltran. Young had something resembling a renaissance with the Yankees in 2014, after joining the club midseason when the Mets cut him loose. It seems like that impressed the Yankees enough to bring him back on a major league deal.

Now 31 years-old, the right-handed swinging Young has struggled to regain his form displayed earlier in his career with Arizona. He posted back-to-back 4 fWAR seasons in 2010 and 2011, with 47 home runs, 50 steals, a 106 wRC+, and above average defense. He’s been a shell of that player in the three seasons since, with the exception of his 79 plate appearance stint with the Yankees in which his offensive performance was good for a 146 wRC+. Certainly, his play in pinstripes can be chalked up to a small sample size and arbitrary endpoints, but Young points to Kevin Long aiding his turnaround.

I don’t necessarily buy Young’s opinion given the short period of time with the team, and Steamer’s projection concurs. It foresees a 97 wRC+, with 13 home runs in 393 trips to the plate. That’s certainly better than what he did for the Mets, but a far cry from his performance with the Yankees in 2014, let alone his heyday with the Diamondbacks. Still, that doesn’t mean this was a bad signing — assuming he isn’t forced into regular duty. As I wrote last week, I’d be happy to have him back as outfield depth. However, if Young does approach 400 plate appearances, as Steamer foresees, that means one of the starting outfielders would miss significant time on the disabled list. A prime candidate for injury would be Beltran, whose age and health woes make it easy to envision a scenario where Young gets thrust into extended playing time.

In a vacuum, this move is fine. Young makes for a solid back-up at this stage of his career. Yet, it’s Beltran that concerns me about Young eventually getting exposed. I’d like to be optimistic given Young’s comments about his work with Long, but I’m also trying to be realistic. It’s been a long time since he’s been a productive regular player, and it’s plausible that he’ll be forced into such a role at some stage of 2015.

Steamer projection via Fangraphs

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Could the Yankees acquire Troy Tulowitzki? If so, should they?

Wednesday, from FOX’s Ken Rosenthal:

For the first time, the Colorado Rockies sound willing to trade shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and/or outfielder Carlos Gonzalez.

The Rockies are telling clubs they are keeping their “eyes and ears open” for potential deals involving both players, according to major-league sources.

Tulo’s name has been the subject of trade speculation and rumors for years, with the Yankees often linked. Until now, perhaps the peak of such discussions occurred when the Rockies’ shortstop attended a game at Yankee Stadium while visiting a doctor in New York this past summer. With Tulo now apparently on the block, the debate over his future is going to heat up yet again. Of course the Yankees, or any team for that matter, would love to have a shortstop of his ilk on its roster. Yet, his cost and health concerns complicate his departure from Colorado.

Since 2008, Tulowtzki has missed 295 games while on the disabled list. 203 of those games have been in the last there seasons. In 2012, he had groin surgery forcing him out of 113 games. A year later, he was shelved for 26 games with a rib fracture after diving for a ground ball. This season, he had hip surgery which made him absent for 64 games. These numbers aren’t even counting the various day-to-day maladies Tulowitzki has dealt with. Scared off, yet? Continue reading

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Trade Target: Mike Leake

There’s been plenty of banter about the future of the Reds’ rotation in the early stages of this offseason. After next year, three of Cincinnati’s rotation mainstays, Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, and Mike Leake, are eligible to become free agents. It’s hard to envision the Reds being able to afford all three at market rate, so unless the Reds’ front office envisions its club as a contender, expect numerous teams to ask about the trio. That’s where the Yankees should come in.

Of the group, Cueto is undeniably the best. In the National League, only Clayton Kershaw posted a better ERA in 2014. Up until last season, Latos wasn’t far behind Cueto, but knee and elbow issues derailed his 2015. Circling back to Cueto; he’s not a pinnacle of health either — he’s dealt with numerous shoulder problems, particularly in 2013. So while I’d certainly take either on my team, it would make more sense for the Yankees to reserve their better prospects for a bat, as it’s a greater need. After eschewing Cueto and Latos, that leaves us with Leake. Continue reading

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Free Agent Targets: From the 2014 Club

After profiling Pablo Sandoval and Andrew Miller, I realized that I’d be remiss to ignore the Yankees own free agents. There are eight 2014 Yankees that filed for free agency who are on both Fangraphs‘ and MLB Trade Rumors‘ top free agent lists, some that would be very useful in 2015 and beyond. Rather than doing an article on each player, I’ll quickly highlight each one.

David Robertson (Steamer projection: 2.74 ERA/2.83 FIP)

The incumbent closer was hit with a qualifying offer, which I don’t expect him to accept. $15.3M for one season would be astronomical for a reliever, but a team in need would likely offer him a long-term deal for a comparable (albeit slightly less) yearly salary. A plausible fit would be Detroit, whose bullpen was dreadful in 2014. For the Yankees, I already noted that I hope they keep him when I discussed Andrew Miller’s candidacy. The Fangraphs crowd predicts three years and $30-$34M, which I think is slightly underselling Robertson’s value. The verdict: keep him on a three or four-year deal, at $12-13M per season. Continue reading

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Free Agent Target: Andrew Miller

Last Friday, I began a series of posts featuring players the Yankees may target in free agency with Pablo Sandoval. Today, with the exclusive negotiating window ending, let’s examine the case for the Yankees to pursue lefty reliever Andrew Miller.

Miller, 30 in May, is a flame-throwing lefty once part of the package sent from Detroit to Miami in exchange for slugger Miguel Cabrera. He was the sixth overall pick in 2006, billed to be a future front-line starter, but opportunities in that role with the Tigers, Marlins, and Red Sox never worked out. His control was poor, leading to a full-time transition to bullpen work with Boston in 2012. Miller embraced the switch, to the tune of a 2.84 ERA, 2.57 FIP, and 34.9% strikeout rate in just under 105 innings since 2012. Continue reading

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