About EJ Fagan

E.J. Fagan been blogging about Yankee baseball since 2006. He is a Ph.D. student at University of Texas at Austin.

The "Break the CBA" IFA Option

Amid news that the money available to the near-hard capped draft will be a bit lower than expected, I wrote yesterday that the Yankees should pin their hopes, and their money, on a free agency strategy. I admit that a much more creative option did not come to mind until SEHumphrey made the following comment:

I’ve been thinking about the CBA a bit, and it to me that it has limited negative effect on the Yankees. In particular, the international signings seem like a place where they can really just destroy the other teams with limited consequences.

Honestly, this could in theory work. It’ll never happen, for reasons I’ll outline below, but it’s a theoretical strategy. Let’s review the CBA structure:

  • For international free agents, teams will get an overall budget based upon last year’s standings. Teams may sign any number of players using that budget.
  • If your team exceeds the budget, you face a luxury tax. If your team exceeds the threshold by a certain amount, they will be barred from signing any player for more than $250,000 in the next signing period.
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Part 2: A New Yankee Strategy Post-CBA

Last week, I voiced my complaints about the new CBA. It’s a horrible document that will harm baseball, but it’s a document that is now baseball reality. The Yankees have to learn to live with it, and need to readjust their strategy to win in the new environment.

The Yankees have a pretty difficult goal: perennial contention. They want to make the playoffs 90% of the time, and have a shot at the World Series. They do not go into rebuilding mode, and will almost never be sellers at the trade deadline.

I think we have a pretty good handle on Brian Cashman’s plan to make this a reality before the new CBA. He made selective large free agent investments. He traded for promising but undervalued players. And he acquired highly talented prospects by going over slot at the draft and investing heavily in Latin America, and then spent the money to retain these players through their prime years. The last tactic brought us Robinson Cano, Gary Sanchez, Jesus Montero, Manuel Banuelos and other prospects, while the penultimate tactic brought us Mason Williams, Dellin Betances, Austin Jackson (Curtis Granderson), David Robertson, and tons more players.… Click here to read the rest

New CBA Prospect Rules Part 1: Why It's The Worst Possible System, and Why It Happened

By now, you’re probably a little bit familiar with the new CBA deal. Outside of the new rules for international signings and the draft, it’s a pretty good document. Some long-needed things like a defense for gay and lesbian players, HGH testing, 26-man Doubleheader rosters, luxury tax tweaks and changes to the free agent compensation system. That’s all great. I’d be very happy if that’s all they did. But the MLB and MLBPA decided to go ahead and do a horrible thing for baseball instead. They neutered the MLB player development process.

Here’s what they did:

De-Facto Hard Slotting. Each team will be assigned a draft budget, and will be penalized with a loss of future 1st round draft picks if they go above that threshold, with a small grace area. This is essentially hard-slotting. Now, the good news here is that the allocated budgets are fairly high. The Yankees won’t be able to buy as many players as they are used to, but they won’t be completely impotent at the draft either.… Click here to read the rest

Finally Caving: Seriously, Don't Overcommit to Yoenis Cespedes

I’ve been resisting writing about Yoenis Cespedes for some time now. His workout video was a truly epic undertaking, and his name started to receive a lot of buzz. The Yankees were rumored to be interested in him. And now, MLB teams appear to be ready to make offers to the soon-to-be free agent. From MLB Trade Rumors:

MONDAY, 10:28am: The $35-50MM estimate for Cespedes may be light, a GM tells Gammons.  Cespedes’ people told one club they already have an offer with $10MM up front and eight years.

FRIDAY, 3:46pm: Cespedes may be looking to obtain more than $60MM on an eight-year deal, according to MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro. The outfielder shoud be declared a free agent soon after he establishes temporary residency in the Dominican Republic in late November, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter).

12:59pm: The question emerges whenever a star hits the free agent market: ‘how much will he cost?’ Yoenis Cespedes, the 26-year-old Cuban center fielder who is expected to hit free agency this offseason, has already drawn interest from many MLB teams and it sounds as though he expects to be paid like an established star, not a prospect.

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Hard Cap/Floor On International Signings is the Worst Possible System

Hat Tip River Ave Blues for the Twitter Link:

@MelissaSeguraSI Source: New MLB CBA said to include a hard cap and a floor for international signings. Unclear when it would go into effect.

Obviously, the details are a little light now. If the floor is low enough and the cap is high enough, this might be very little different from the status quo. But considering that some numbers in the $2.5 million range for the hard cap were floated around last week, I think we can all assume that a weak cap is unlikely.

I can’t imagine a worse system – both for the Yankees, and for the MLB. Right now, many clubs do not choose to participate in the international free agent system with any real effort. A floor would force these clubs to spend money internationally, even if they do not want to. Let’s hope its a tiny floor. A cap, especially a low one, would also create huge complications.… Click here to read the rest

The All True Yankee Team

Chris over at Beyond the Box Score introduced the All-True Dodgers team, comprised of players who played their entire career with the Dodgers, determined by WAR. My first reaction looking at the team was, “Not bad, decent pitching staff, but the Yankees would hose them.”

What would an all true Yankee team look like?

C Billy Dickey
1b Lou Gehrig
2b Robinson Cano (Tony Lazzeri played a few games outside the organization)
SS Derek Jeter
3b Gil McDougald
LF Joe DiMaggio
CF Mickey Mantle
RF Bernie Williams
DH Don Mattingly

BN Phil Rizzuto
BN Roy White
BN Jorge Posada
BN Elston Howard
BN Earle Combs

SP Whitey Ford
SP Ron Guidry
SP Mel Stottlemeyer
SP ??
SP ??

RP Mariano Rivera
RP David Robertson

I don’t know about you, but I’m blanking on filling the remaining pitching slots. I don’t want to start slotting in the Ivan Nova’s and Joba Chamberlains of the world. Who would you put into those remaining pitching slots?… Click here to read the rest

The Yankees and Excess Capacity

The notion that the Yankees are playing by a different playbook than the other 29 teams when putting together their baseball team has been tossed around the blogopshere a lot recently. David Cameron at Fangraphs said it as well as I’ve ever read before on Friday:

Not that this is any real surprise, but the Yankees don’t have a payroll limit, they have a “target area”. Ownership probably wouldn’t go for a $300 million payroll, but as long as Cashman can make a compelling case that there’s value to be had in spending a bit more money, he has the ability to dip into an essentially unlimited pool of resources.

As Cashman notes, this isn’t how it works for most teams. Pretty much every other baseball operations department is operating under a budget that isn’t a moving target, and they have to build out their roster knowing that it can’t exceed a set number of dollars for the upcoming season. Thus, every dollar they spend on one player is money they cannot spend on another player, and every player’s salary represents an opportunity cost.

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Nationals Catcher Wilson Ramos Kidnapped

From MLB.com:

WASHINGTON — Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos was kidnapped in Venezuela on Wednesday night, according to multiple reports from the player’s home country.

The Nats have not commented on or confirmed the reports.

Ramos, who was playing for Tigres de Aragua in Venezuela’s Winter League, was taken from his home in Santa Ines by four armed gunmen on Wednesday evening, said Kathe Vilera, the Tigres’ spokeswoman, through the team’s Twitter account.

These kidnappings are almost always economically motivated, and with luck that will help Ramos’ chances of eventually being released unharmed. Major League Baseball has seen some family members of players targeted in the past, famously Ugueth Urbina’s mother was kidnapped for three months in 2005, but I can’t remember a player ever being directly kidnapped. It’s a horrible ordeal, and no doubt on the minds of almost every MLB player residing in certain parts of South America.

Given the proclivity of kidnapping in certain parts of Latin America where many baseball players and their families live and the combination of obvious wealth and high profile of MLB players, this horrible type of thing certainly has the potential to become a trend.… Click here to read the rest

Competitive Balance and the New CBA

Yesterday, ESPN’s Jayson Stark argued, correctly, that Major League Basbeall is more competitively balanced than the NFL or NBA. Although I’d argue that the NHL is the most balanced of any of these leagues, I do agree with Stark that MLB is in pretty good shape as far as competitive balance goes. With a new CBA coming any day now (seriously Selig, let’s get on with it!), I don’t think the question that we should be asking is, “Is there some parity in baseball?” but, echoing Fangraphs, “Is there enough parity in baseball?”

At Fangraphs, Woodrum writes:

The relationship, as we might expect, is loose. An uninspiring R-squared in the 0.17 range tells us payrolls have accounted for 17% of the variation in winning percentages over the last 12 seasons.

Now we reach the philosophical portion of the program, asking ourselves: How much do we really want payroll to effect winning?

The NFL has decided it wants payroll to have essentially no impact on winning, so teams basically trot out the same amount of money every Sunday and hope their money was better-spent.

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