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Archive for the ‘Trades’ Category

Closers have been in both high demand and overabundant supply this offseason.  Jonathan Papelbon set the market early with a 4-year, $50 million contract, and since then, the likes of Heath Bell, Joe Nathan, and Frank Francisco have fallen in line. Meanwhile, Ryan Madson and Francisco Cordero remain on the free agent market, while names like Carlos Marmol, Andrew Bailey, and Joakim Soria continue to be mentioned as hot commodities on the trade front.

Papelbon's four-year deal with the Phillies has set the market for closers. (Photo: Getty Images)

When the Yankees signed Rafael Soriano last winter, it seemed like a reach at the time, and this year’s offseason activity has confirmed it. At 3-years and $35 million, Soriano’s AAV of $11.7 million is just a shade below Papelbon’s and well in excess of what the Marlins and Rangers gave to Bell and Nathan, respectively. Such is the advantage of being the only closer available on the market, especially during a year in which the Yankees aren’t trying to stay on a budget.

Despite the market glut, it seems likely that teams still wishing to acquire a closer will have to pay a hefty price in terms of dollars or prospects. That won’t impact the Yankees, however, because the team’s bullpen is both strong and deep. In fact, Soriano projects to be the “seventh inning guy”, which is very impressive when you consider he would be the closer on many other teams. So, perhaps Brian Cashman should be thinking about leveraging the Yankees’ relative strength and using the inflated closer market to help unload a contract he didn’t want in the first place?

With $25 million owed over the next two seasons, Soriano isn’t cheap. However, if the Yankees were willing to eat about $5 million, it would reduce his AAV to $10 million, or just over the $9 million that the Marlins will be paying Heath Bell. At first glance, that still seems too high, but when you compare the two pitchers over their careers, a similar salary seems appropriate. Granted, Bell has been healthier and occupied the closer’s role for longer, but the extra year on his contract could be viewed as the premium for that experience.

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The Yankees lost out on another potential trade target when Gio Gonzalez was traded to the Washington Nationals for a package of prospects. At the price the Nationals paid, the Yankees probably weren’t a player for Gonzalez anyway, so the trade really doesn’t alter the team’s offseason strategy. However, it does further an interesting development taking place around baseball, and particularly in the N.L. East.

Nationals' fans may get down on their knees after their team acquired widely coveted Gio Gonzalez. (Photo: Getty Images)

There are a variety of differing opinions on Gonzalez. Some believe he is gradually emerging as one of the best young arms in the game, while others suspect he may not be able to continue outperforming his relative inability to throw strikes. As with most young pitchers, it’s hard to predict what path Gonzalez will take in Washington, but regardless, the Nationals’ aggressive move speaks volumes about the internal view they have about their team as well as the economic boom taking place throughout the game.

When the Angels signed Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, we learned that Arte Moreno’s shopping spree was being funded by a new multi-billion television deal. Similarly, the Rangers aggressive spending since being sold to the ownership group fronted by Nolan Ryan has been linked to TV money. Now, it seems, we can also add the Nationals to that list.

According to a report in the Washington Examiner, the Nationals are in the process of negotiating a new payout from MASN that could be substantially higher than the $29 million fee they currently receive. With the expectation of increased revenue, the Nationals’ decision to accelerate their rebuilding strategy makes perfect sense. Even though Gonzalez, who is entering his first year of arbitration eligibility, won’t cost the Nationals much initially, the price in prospects was very steep. The team’s willingness to cash in so many future chips for instant gratification must mean the Nationals either think they are ready to contend now, or have the financial wherewithal to significantly expedite the process. When Washington broke the bank to sign Jayson Werth last year, many pundits scratched their heads, but clearly, the organization has adopted a very optimistic outlook. Even though GM Mike Rizzo probably already regrets the decision to sign Werth, it says a lot that he and owner Mark Lerner remain undeterred in their attempts to quickly improve the team.

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As the baseball Hot Stove slowly builds from early embers, the Captain’s Blog will be busy identifying the top pitching targets that the Yankees should consider pursuing in a trade. In part one, a game plan to acquire Felix Hernandez was devised. Admittedly, such an acquisition probably falls under the heading of wishful thinking, so just in case that advice proves unsuccessful, one of two backup plans is now suggested (for a link to the other, click here).

Assuming the Mariners refuse to trade Felix Hernandez at any price, and the cost proves too prohibitive for the likes of Gio Gonzalez and John Danks, there are still several attractive options to consider. In particular, a trio of talented young right handers could all be made available by their respective teams, and Brian Cashman should be first line to kick the tires on each one.

Top-10 Right Handed Starters, Ranked by WAR: 2009-2011

Player WAR W L IP ERA ERA+
Roy Halladay 21.2 57 26 723.1 2.53 163
Justin Verlander 18.3 61 23 715.1 3.06 140
Felix Hernandez 16.7 46 31 722 2.73 147
Jered Weaver 16.7 47 28 671 3.03 134
Tim Lincecum 14.3 44 31 654.2 2.87 138
Josh Johnson 14.1 29 12 453 2.64 159
Ubaldo Jimenez 13.7 44 33 628 3.63 126
Dan Haren 13.2 42 32 702.2 3.41 122
Matt Cain 13.1 39 30 662.2 2.97 134
Zack Greinke 12.9 42 28 621 3.33 126

Source: Baseball-reference.com

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Now that CC Sabathia has opted against opting out, the starting pitchers available in the 2011 free agent class pale in comparison to the offensive players testing the market. However, there are viable options to consider, including C.J. Wilson, Roy Oswalt, Mark Buehrle, and the soon to be posted Japanese standout Yu Darvish.

Should the Yankees be pumped up about a potential free agent like Yu Darvish, or focus on the trade market instead?

Although Brian Cashman will undoubtedly give careful thought to every prominent free agent starter, more and more, it seems as if the Yankees’ primary focus will be acquiring one in a trade. This strategy makes sense for several reasons. For starters (pun intended), there are heightened risks associated with many of the more attractive free agents (age for Buerhle and Oswalt; lack of a track record for Wilson and Darvish). Because these free agents would likely require a lucrative long-term contract (or in Darvish’s case, a hefty posting fee), a cost-risk analysis might not justify the pitcher’s expected contribution. Besides, in free agency, a team is often forced to pay more for past performance than future value, which especially seems likely among this group.

Another reason why it makes sense for Brian Cashman to explore a trade is because the Yankees have depth in their minor league system, particularly at pitcher and catcher. To some, that might be all the more reason to not make a move, but the recent release of Andrew Brackman is a cautionary tale. Less than eight months ago, Brackman was being touted as one of the Yankees’ three “killer-B’s”, but now he is looking for a job. Part of the reason for that decision was the Yankees’ prospect depth made Brackman’s 40-man roster spot a valuable commodity, but the tall right hander’s rapid fall from grace says more about the unpredictability of pitching prospects.  Although the organization should not be adverse to allowing its own prospects to develop, each and every one should be on the table in the right deal.

With the rationale out of the way, the next step is to determine potential trade targets. Brian Cashman and his Yankees’ brain trust have likely already begun assembling such a list, but just in case they need some help, the Captain’s Blog will be spending the next week highlighting the top pitching trade targets whose acquisition would be worthy of a concerted effort. So, where to start?

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Now that the summer trading frenzy has gotten underway, Yankees’ fans will start beating the drum for a blockbuster of their own. The only problem is there aren’t many obvious candidates available on the market. Otherwise, history tells us that Brian Cashman would probably have pulled the trigger already.

The names most commonly tied to the Yankees in trade rumors are the Dodgers’ Hiroki Kuroda and the Rockies’ Ubaldo Jimenez. According to Buster Olney, the Yankees currently prefer the much older Kuroda because of his greater consistency. On the surface, that statement seems absurd when you consider the career bWAR of the Dodgers’ right hander is just barely higher than the number compiled by Jimenez in 2010 alone. Sure, Kuroda has been more consistent, but Jimenez has been better.

Ubaldo Jimenez vs. Hiroki Kuroda, 2008 to 2011

  Ubaldo Jimenez    Hiroki Kuroda
Year fWAR bWAR AvgWAR   fWAR bWAR AvgWAR
2008 4.3 3.1 3.7   3.6 2.2 2.9
2009 5.7 5.1 5.4   2.2 0.2 1.2
2010 6.3 7.2 6.8   4.2 2.5 3.4
2011 2.5 1.9 2.2   1.7 2.5 2.1
Total 18.8 17.3 18.1   11.7 7.4 9.6

Note: AvgWAR = bWAR + fWAR/2
Source: baseball-reference.com and fangraphs.com

In sports, consistency is often viewed both pejoratively and euphemistically. To some, the term is used to cover up for a lack of elite production (akin to the “professional hitter” moniker), while others employ it in a demeaning manner (kind of like saying a woman has a nice personality). However, consistency has very direct meaning, and players who exhibit it have real value…provided the level of that consistent production is accurately tied to their cost.

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(In addition to appearing at The Captain’s Blog, this post is also being syndicated atTheYankeeAnalysts.)

Some of Brian Cashman's best decisions have involved trades he didn't make.

The trade deadline has resulted in some of the most lopsided deals in history, but that doesn’t mean evey swap made under the gun has to have a winner and loser.  Each year, there are just as many deadline deals that are prudent as ones that are impetuous, but what about the trades that don’t get made? Sometimes, by not pulling an itchy trigger, a general manager can make his team a deadline winner even without making a single transaction.

During his Yankee tenure, Brian Cashman has not been very active during the trade deadline. In fact, when he has made a major in-season deal, it has often come earlier in the year when the pressure of the deadline was off in the distance. What Cashman has been very good at, however, is avoiding impetuous deals that would have a negative impact on the future more than help in the present.

In his first year as GM, Cashman inherited a strong team and built it into a powerhouse with additions like Chuck Knoblauch and Orlando Hernandez. However, despite compiling a record setting winning percentage over the first four months, the Yankees were still front and center amid several rumors at the deadline. In particular, it was reported that the team was close to securing Randy Johnson for a package including Hideki Irabu and a combination of prospects like Ramiro Mendoza, Mike Lowell, Ricky Ledee and Homer Bush.

Although it’s hard to imagine that Johnson would have had a negative impact on the Yankees, an improvement would have been impossible.  Granted, if the deal had been made, the Yankees may not have had to face Johnson in the 2001 World Series, but it’s also possible they wouldn’t have gotten there without the likes of Roger Clemens and David Justice, two players later acquired using players rumored to be in the mix for Johnson.

In 1999, the Yankees reportedly considered trading Andy Pettitte for Roberto Hernandez.

In 1999, Andy Pettitte was having one of his most difficult seasons in the big leagues. During the first half, the normally reliable lefty compiled a 5-7 record with a 5.59 ERA, leading to speculation that the Yankees might trade him before the deadline. One of the more prominent reports involved the Yankees trading Pettitte to the Phillies for two prospects who would then be flipped to Tampa for Roberto Hernandez. Had that trade been made, there not only wouldn’t have been a core four, but it’s also possible the Yankees wouldn’t have had four championships to celebrate. Because of Cashman’s ability to resist the pressure from above to trade Pettitte, the Yankees were able to enjoy 85 more wins, including nine in the post season, from the homegrown left hander.

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When Francisco Rodriguez slammed the door on the Yankees in last night’s Subway Series opener, the Mets’ players on the field and fans in the stands celebrated joyously. The executives in the front office, however, probably weren’t as jubilant.

A Bronx-bound Krod could save the Mets a lot of money.

Thanks to a lucrative option in Rodriguez’ contract, every Mets’ game that concludes with Krod on the mound brings the team closer to a financial disaster. That’s why even a win against the hated Yankees comes with at least a tinge of regret from those who write the checks.

According to the option, if Rodriguez finishes 100 games over 2010 and 2011, a guaranteed salary of $17.5 million automatically vests for 2012. Because the closer polished off 46 games last year, the economic time bomb will be triggered when he finishes his 54th game this season. Last night was the 18th time the embattled closer was the last man standing for the Mets, meaning there are 36 games left to go. Tick, tick, tick.

Regardless of how well he is pitching, you can bet Sandy Alderson & Co. are not relishing the idea of a $17.5 million closer in 2012. One solution would be to place pressure on Terry Collins to limit Rodriguez’ use, but that would not only lead to a public relations nightmare, but also another expensive lawsuit. So, unless Rodriguez develops an injury, there really is no way for the Mets to avoid triggering the costly option. Or is there?

Krod currently has a limited 10-team no trade clause, so if the Mets could ship him to one of the other 19 teams, they’d be able to wash their hands of the option. Unfortunately for Alderson, teams probably won’t be lining up to add Rodriguez and his expensive 2012 poison pill. However, what if the Mets could find a team that wouldn’t need to use Krod as the closer, yet still being willing and able to pay him handsomely to serve as a setup man? The answer to that question is currently sitting right across the field.

Would Soriano and the Yankees be better off if the reliever was traded to Flushing?

Although the offense is by far the Yankees’ greatest concern at the moment (just ask Soriano; he’d be the first to tell you), the performance of Rafael Soriano has probably been a close second. The signing of the former Rays’ closer caused a rift within the organization when everyone expected he would pitch well setting up for Mariano Rivera, so you can imagine the dissension now that things haven’t gone according to plan. Because it seems unlikely that Soriano would exercise the opt out in his contract, the Yankees are staring at two more years of the grumpy reliever at a cost of $25 million. In many ways, the Soriano contract has become the Yankees’ very own ticking time bomb.

The Yankees and Mets are not frequent trading partners, but in this case, it seems as if each team has the answer to the other’s problem. Assuming the Yankees are not on Krod’s no-trade list, why not simply swap Soriano for Rodriguez?

At face value, the idea probably seems a little silly, but consider the financial ramifications. The cornerstone of the idea is a trade to the Yankees would effectively end any chance of Rodriguez reaching the 2012 option guarantee, thereby converting a $17.5 million salary into a $2.5 million buyout. The next step would then become determing how best to divide the savings.

Sharing the Savings: Financial Breakdown of a Proposed Deal

 Current Mets Yankees
  Francisco Rodriguez Rafael Soriano
2011 $8,625,000 $7,500,000
2012 $17,500,000 $11,000,000
2013 $0 $14,000,000
Total $26,125,000 $32,500,000
     
 Proposed Mets Yankees
  Rafael Soriano Francisco Rodriguez
2011 $7,500,000 $8,625,000
2012 $11,000,000 $2,500,000
2013 $14,000,000 $0
Sub Total $32,500,000 $11,125,000
Cash $13,875,000 -$13,875,000
Total $18,625,000 $25,000,000
     
Net Benefit $7,500,000 $7,500,000

Note: 2011 figures are pro-rated salaries. The 2012 amount for Rodriguez in the proposed structure is a $2.5 million buyout.
Source: mlbcontracts.blogspot.com

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