Is Ellsbury Worth It?

[caption id="attachment_65707" align="aligncenter" width="650"]Charles Wenzelberg/NY Post Charles Wenzelberg/NY Post[/caption]

After negotiations with Robinson Cano turned bleak following the Mariners’ hefty offer, the Yankees hastily targeted Jacoby Ellsbury before his price skyrocket. Not only was Ellsbury stepping in at a position where the Yankees already had an great player, but the decision to sign Ellsbury over Cano neglected the middle infield in a shallow free agent market. Like-wise, Ellsbury’s bat had little chance to replace Cano’s offense.

In the end, the Yankees saved a guaranteed $87 million by choosing Ellsbury over Cano, and that extra money helped them sign Carlos Beltran and may have impacted their ability to outbid other teams on Masahiro Tanaka. Through the first quarter of 2014, Ellsbury and Cano have similarly disappointed offensively. Ellsbury currently owns a .756 OPS, while Cano’s OPS has fallen to .772. Of course, Cano is playing in a much more difficult environment in Seattle, one that’s now held him to just one home run.

There had to be some hope in the minds of the Yankee front office that Ellsbury would find the power stroke he displayed in 2011. But in the following two injury-plagued seasons, the center fielder hit just 13 home runs for the Red Sox. Without that power, Ellsbury offered the Yankees great defense in center field, a leadoff hitter with a great on base percentage, and one of the fastest base runners in the game. The odd part of the decision to pay him over $21 million a year was that they already had this player in Brett Gardner, who was earning just a fraction of the money. When Gardner received an extension, the Yankees and his agent decided on a salary that was nearly $10 million less than Ellsbury’s average annual salary and for three fewer seasons.

So far, Gardner has outhit Ellsbury with a .789 OPS with ten stolen bases and three home runs. Gardner has now emerged as the leadoff hitter, and his defense has earned much higher praise from defensive statistics this season. While the debate between Gardner and Ellsbury will continue over the next few seasons, the big difference between the two players is Ellsbury’s power potential, which we’re all waiting for.

Power could still show up at some point, though I’m not counting on it. Ellsbury’s defensive statistics should also improve by the end of the season. Though he’s looked very good in the outfield, statistics like UZR and DRS are highly flawed, especially in such a small sample size. At the moment, his defensive WAR is -3.3, which is silly for those that have seen him play such a great center field thus far.

But the bigger question about Ellsbury is why they chose him over Shin-Soo Choo. With Gardner offering the same skill set as Ellsbury, the Yankees could have used more power, more on base percentage, and a more explosive arm in the corner outfield. The Yankees even made an offer to Choo, but their negotiation method this winter was to sign players that responded the quickest, and Choo’s offer was only on the table for less than 24 hours. The left-fielder ultimately settled for less money with the Rangers, and he’s now batting .311/.435/.474 in his first 168 plate appearances.

While I have enjoyed watching Ellsbury play, I’m still curious as to why the Yankees decided to sign Ellsbury over Choo. A month’s worth of data hasn’t necessarily impacted my thoughts behind their choice, but we have thus far witnessed exactly why most Yankee fans favored Choo. If Ellsbury ever finds his power, the Yankees will have made the right decision, but if this is truly why the organization rolled the dice on him over Choo, we might be waiting a long time.
Continue reading Is Ellsbury Worth It?

State of the Budget: BUSTED!

Since our update last week, the Yankees have settled on contracts for their arbitration eligible players. They also signed the biggest remaining free agent, Masahiro Tanaka. Unfortunately for you budget lovers, (if any of you still exist) this brings the Yankees budget to some deep and dark places.

25-Man Roster

1- C: Brian McCann (5/$85MM) $17.000MM
2- 1B: Mark Teixeira (8/$180MM) $22.500MM
3- 2B: Brian Roberts (1/$2MM) $2.000MM + $2.600MM Bonuses
4- 3B: Kelly Johnson (1/$3MM) $3MM
5- SS: Derek Jeter (1/$12.81MM) $12.810MM + $7.000MM Bonuses
6- LF: Jacoby Ellsbury (8/$169MM) $21.125MM
7- CF: Brett Gardner (Arb 3) $5.600MM
8- RF: Alfonso Soriano (8/$136MM) $17.000MM*
9- DH: Carlos Beltran (3/$45MM) $15.000MM
10- BN: Brendan Ryan (3/$5MM) $1.667MM
11- BN: Eduardo Nunez (Min) $0.511MM
12- BN: Ichiro Suzuki (2/$13MM) $6.500MM
13- BN: Francisco Cervelli (Arb 1) $0.700MM
14- SP1: CC Sabathia (5/$122MM) $24.400MM
15- SP2: Hiroki Kuroda (1/$16MM) $16.00MM + $0.500MM Bonuses
16- SP3: Masahiro Tanaka (7/$155MM) $22.143MM
17- SP4: Ivan Nova (Arb 1) $3.300MM
18- SP5: Michael Pineda (Min) $0.511MM
19- CL: David Robertson (Arb 3) $5.215MM
20- RP: Shawn Kelley (Arb 2) $1.765MM
21- RP: Preston Claiborne (Min) $0.511MM
22- RP: David Phelps (Min) $0.511MM
23- RP: Adam Warren (Min) $0.511MM
24- RP: Matt Thornton (2/$7MM) $3.500MM
25- RP: Cesar Cabral (Min) $0.511MM

Guaranteed: $204.291MM
Bonuses: $10.100MM

40-Man Roster

26- SP: Manny Banuelos (Min) $0.041MM
27- SP: Nik Turley (Min) $0.041MM
28- SP: Vidal Nuno (Min+) $0.082MM
29- SP: Jose Ramirez (Min) $0.041MM
30- SP: Shane Greene (Min) $0.041MM
31- SP Jose Campos (Min) $0.041MM
32- RP: Dellin Betances (Min+) $0.082MM
33- RP: Bryan Mitchell (Min) $0.041MM
34- C: Austin Romine (Min+) $0.082MM
35- C: Gary Sanchez (Min) $0.041MM
36- C: J.R. Murphy (Min) $0.082MM
37- IF: Dean Anna (Min) $0.041MM
38- OF: Ramon Flores (Min) $0.041MM
39- OF: Zoilo Almonte (Min+) $0.082MM
40- OF: Slade Heathcott (Min) $0.041MM

Total: $0.82MM

Other Commitments

Vernon Wells (7/$126MM) $18.000MM**
Alex Rodriguez (10/$275MM) $3.156MM
Cash Considerations: *-$13MM (From Cubs for Soriano), **-$18MM (From Angels for Wells)
Player Benefits: $12MM
Cushion For Non 25-Man Players: $3.5MM

Totals

Guaranteed Budget Owed: $210.767MM
Potential Bonuses: $10.100MM
Budget: $220.867MM

Current Budget Remaining: -$31.867MM

So with all the bonuses included, the Yankees are only $32 million above the $189 million luxury tax. In conclusion, $189 million was a joke all along. They got us pretty good.

I know what you’re asking. On this glorious day, where the Yankees have signed Masahiro Tanaka, where the budget is now laughable, and the free agent market will start to move along, why would I waste so much precious space on this page with math? Well, there’s even more good news, the Yankees guaranteed salary sits at $210 million, and in 2013 it sat at around $230 million on opening day. And I assume the Yankees didn’t just blow past the budget goal to sit around while the rest of the free agent market signed.

The team still needs infield help, bullpen help, and some bench bats as well. Cashman has already mentioned that he wants more offensive pieces, and the team recently inquired on the bullpen market. With $20 million left until they reach their 2013 starting season budget, the Yankees could still do a mess of trouble on the free agent market. Grant Balfour and Stephen Drew still make perfect sense for the club, while Andrew Bailey and Fernando Rodney remain on the sideline. The team could also look at starting pitchers Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana, who they checked in on recently.

With all the money spent, it’s hard to imagine many more moves, but the Yankees will probably spend at least $20 million more, and it’s possible that they’ll go even further with the overall increase in spending this winter by MLB teams. This offseason is far from over, but today is at least the turning point, we now know the Yankees are still the Yankees. Continue reading State of the Budget: BUSTED!

Getting Below 189

In my latest update to the budget situation on Wednesday, I had the Yankees’ payroll sitting at $185.718 million before $10.1 million in bonuses. The team has since agreed to a $700,000 deal with Francisco Cervelli, which was $300,000 less than was projected, a $5.6 million deal with Brett Gardner, $1.6 million more than projected, a $1.765 million deal with Shawn Kelley which includes a potential $25,000 bonus, $265,000 more than projected, and finally a $5.215 million agreement with David Robertson, which is $285,000 less than projected. So at $186.998 million guaranteed, and with a large sum of incentives sitting in limbo, the team’s roster is dangerously close to exceeding the luxury tax in 2014. In fact, when you add in a cushion for some potential mid-season acquisitions, the Yankees really have no shot at $189 million with this lineup.

I obviously don’t have any outside knowledge, but I find myself bracing for disappointment this offseason. As a Yankee fan, I would love to see the team go back up to $230 million, which was the starting payroll in 2013. With the Dodgers breaking payroll records of their own, as well as other teams spending more than ever, the Yankees getting below $189 million seems so silly at this point. (Which was the basis of my post yesterday) But with what we’ve seen over the past two seasons, I have myself believing that the Yankees will find some way to get below $189 million.

The Yankees wouldn’t go to this length of payroll cuts to risk going over the luxury tax threshold with the current roster. As I mentioned, if any string of incentives are activated by either Brian Roberts or Derek Jeter, this budget will be well over $189 million. If a major injury occurs and the Yankees want to make an acquisition, like the mid-season Alfonso Soriano trade in 2013, they won’t have any budget space this coming June. Realistically, if they’re still aiming for a budget, the team should be $5 million to $10 million below $189 million to start the season safely. To get there, they would need to make some trades.

We’ve already heard that Ichiro Suzuki is on the block, and that makes a ton of sense from the Yankees’ perspective. As an outfielder, Suzuki still has some value as a potential center fielder for a desperate team. While he remains a weak spot on the Yankees’ roster as a $6.5 million 4th outfielder, a team searching for an everyday center fielder could certainly find some value in his relatively decent salary. His offense has been far from productive, but a team like the Reds needs outfield depth.

Speaking of which, Brett Gardner also landed in trade rumors. His $5.6 million is much more lucrative, and in a trade, he could land a decent starting pitcher. The rumors had the Yankees looking at Homer Bailey for Gardner, which would increase the payroll by around $4 million, but also add a top-of-the-rotation pitcher. In this case, if the Yankees were to find a way to deal both Gardner for Bailey, as well as deal Ichiro’s contract, the team would find itself with a defensive downgrade in the outfield, but a major upgrade in the rotation. It would also bring the payroll down to around $185 million before bonuses.

Another trade target would be Jeff Samardzija, who’s a riskier pitcher than Bailey, but carries similar upside. Samardzija has an extra year of team control, and the Cubs are likely looking for a younger return than Gardner or Ichiro. The Yankees would probably have to part with some of their young outfielders, perhaps Mason Williams or Slade Heathcott in a package. Yet the team would still need to do away with at least Ichiro’s salary in a separate trade. This would also bring the team to around $185 million before bonuses.

There are a number of similar pitchers out there that you could plug into the Samardzija scenario, but none of these address the obvious problems in the bullpen and infield. Although we haven’t heard much about the plans for the back end of the bullpen, just a month ago, Cashman said he wanted to add a couple legitimate bats to the offense. I don’t believe that Roberts and Scott Sizemore count as legitimate bats, so I expect at least one more move to come offensively.

In this case, a Gardner for Nick Franklin swap would make some sense for both teams, although the Mariners recently re-signed Franklin Gutierrez to a one-year deal and already have Michael Saunders under team control. Gardner would be an upgrade over either player, and the Mariners are entering win-now mode. The Yankees could also target the Mariners’ Dustin Ackley, who has struggled mightily at Safeco Field. I don’t believe they would need to deal Gardner in this case, but I also don’t see the Mariners giving away the one-time top prospect.

It is still possible to get below $189 million. It would take a series of trades, specifically with Ichiro and likely Gardner as well, but the fact that it’s doable scares me. Hopefully the Yankees sign Masahiro Tanaka or another of the top-tier free agent pitchers in the coming weeks, which would push the payroll far beyond $189 million. Continue reading Getting Below 189

State of the Budget: 1/15/14

Since our last budget update, Alex Rodriguez was officially suspended for the 2014 season, the Yankees added Ellsbury and Beltran to their roster, while they also landed Roberts and Thornton. The majority of the 40 man roster was set, Wells was designated for assignment, and a handful of players filed for arbitration. And yet, the last month has felt fairly quiet up until the last week of Rodriguez news. Now that we know that most of his money is off the books, we can take a more definitive look at the state of the Yankees budget and just how doable that $189 million goal really is.

25-Man Roster

1- C: Brian McCann (5/$85MM) $17.000MM
2- 1B: Mark Teixeira (8/$180MM) $22.500MM
3- 2B: Brian Roberts (1/$2MM) $2.000MM + $2.600MM Bonuses
4- 3B: Kelly Johnson (1/$3MM) $3MM
5- SS: Derek Jeter (1/$12.81MM) $12.810MM + $7.000MM Bonuses
6- LF: Jacoby Ellsbury (8/$169MM) $21.175MM
7- CF: Brett Gardner (Arb 3) $4.000MM
8- RF: Alfonso Soriano (8/$136MM) $17.000MM*
9- DH: Carlos Beltran (3/$45MM) $15.000MM
10- BN: Brendan Ryan (1/$2MM) $2.000MM
11- BN: Eduardo Nunez (Min) $0.511MM
12- BN: Ichiro Suzuki (2/$13MM) $6.500MM
13- BN: Francisco Cervelli (Arb 1) $1.000MM
14- SP1: CC Sabathia (5/$122MM) $24.400MM
15- SP2: Hiroki Kuroda (1/$16MM) $16.00MM + $0.500MM Bonuses
16- SP3: Ivan Nova (Arb 1) $2.800MM
17- SP4: David Phelps (Min) $0.511MM
18- SP5: Michael Pineda (Min) $0.511MM
19- CL: David Robertson (Arb 3) $5.500MM
20- RP: Shawn Kelley (Arb 2) $1.500MM
21- RP: Preston Claiborne (Min) $0.511MM
22- RP: Dellin Betances (Min) $0.511MM
23- RP: Adam Warren (Min) $0.511MM
24- RP: Matt Thornton (2/$7MM) $3.500MM
25- RP: Cesar Cabral (Min) $0.511MM

Guaranteed: $181.262MM
Bonuses: $10.100MM

40-Man Roster

26- SP: Manny Banuelos (Min) $0.040MM
27- SP: Nik Turley (Min) $0.040MM
28- SP: Vidal Nuno (Min+) $0.080MM
29- SP: Jose Ramirez (Min) $0.040MM
30- SP: Shane Greene (Min) $0.040MM
31- SP Jose Campos (Min) $0.040MM
32- RP: David Huff (Min+) $0.080MM
33- RP: Bryan Mitchell (Min) $0.040MM
34- C: Austin Romine (Min+) $0.080MM
35- C: Gary Sanchez (Min) $0.040MM
36- C: J.R. Murphy (Min) $0.080MM
37- IF: Dean Anna (Min) $0.040MM
38- OF: Ramon Flores (Min) $0.040MM
39- OF: Zoilo Almonte (Min+) $0.080MM
40- OF: Slade Heathcott (Min) $0.040MM

Total: $0.80MM

Other Commitments

Vernon Wells (7/$126MM) $18.000MM**
Alex Rodriguez (10/$275MM) $3.156MM
Cash Considerations: *-$13MM (From Cubs for Soriano), **-$18MM (From Angels for Wells)
Player Benefits: $12MM
Cushion For Non 25-Man Players: $3.5MM

Totals

Guaranteed Budget Owed: $185.718MM
Potential Bonuses: $10.100MM
Budget: $195.818MM

Current Budget Remaining: -$6.818MM

As the Yankees sit at a commitment of $195.818 million, they land nearly $7 million above the $189 million luxury tax threshold. But there is some good news for those pro-budgeters, the numbers include potential bonuses of $10.100 million to Jeter, Roberts, and Kuroda.The chances are extremely low that they’ll end up paying all of these incentive bonuses. We’ve also heard some rumors that the organization is looking to trade Ichiro Suzuki, and some salary relief could come from that.

Even if the organization were to take a major risk and assume the bonuses won’t trigger, while dealing Ichiro and his $6.5 million, the team would still remain within $10 million of the $189 million budget. Yet the roster still has so many needs in the rotation and bullpen. While it’s possible to find players capable of starting and relieving, with all the money spent this offseason, I don’t see how the team could rely on a rotation where 3 of the 5 spots will go to a group of Ivan Nova, David Phelps, Michael Pineda, Vidal Nuno, and Adam Warren. There is a similar sentiment for the high-leverage portion of the bullpen.

The $10 million that the Yankees could free up is hardly enough to sign Masahiro Tanaka. Perhaps Ervin Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez would work at that salary, but a risky long term commitment would be necessary. One option is to trade Gardner and whatever money he’ll earn in arbitration for a pitcher. If the Yankees found themselves without Ichiro’s money and were able to pull of a Gardner for Homer Bailey trade, the team could find itself with that rotation upgrade and still below $189 million.

In the end, the budget is still possible, but it looks like building a contending team in 2014 around $189 million will be nearly impossible without some miraculous breakout seasons. I guess we could see the Yankees trade some prospects for cheap talent, but they’ve been extremely reluctant over the last decade. If they do decide to lose the budget, the Yankees would probably spend $40 million more before reaching their 2013 opening day commitment. This kind of money could land them all of Stephen Drew, Masahiro Tanaka, and Grant Balfour.

With just a little more than a week to go in the Tanaka courting, and what will likely be a run on the pitching market thereafter, it looks like we’ll finally have some sort of an official answer on the budget constraints in the coming weeks.

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Project 189: Wrapping It Up

Over the last couple of weeks, a number of writers here at IIATMS/TYA have each completed a project where we act as General Manager and attempt to build our best teams under $189 million. The goal was not to predict the offseason, and it wasn’t to tell Cashman what he should or shouldn’t do, but to explore the possibilities with the $189 million budget. The point was to stir discussion about free agents or trade targets, and how they could fit into the Yankees’ future plans. With 6 rosters accounted for, let’s reexamine each one.

Run Prevention And Bat Flips (Michael Eder)

Signed: C Brian McCann (5/$80MM), 2B Robinson Cano (8/$180MM), 3B Juan Uribe (2/$12MM), RF Shin-Soo Choo (6/$100MM), SP Masahiro Tanaka (6/$56MM)

The goal of my team was to focus on acquiring bats and gloves. There’s currently little depth in terms of young major league-ready position players, but the team has quite a few middle tier relievers and starters. By creating a roster with impeccable infield defense (Brendan Ryan and Uribe on the left side), an extremely solid outfield, and one of the best pitch framing and plate blocking catchers in the game, I’m hoping that the team finds a couple of solid ground ball inducing pitchers out of guys like David Phelps, Adam Warren, Vidal Nuno, Manny Banuelos, Michael Pineda, and so on.

Spreading The Wealth (Brad Vietrogoski)

Signed: 2B Robinson Cano (8/$180MM), 3B Mark Reynolds (1/$4MM), RF Shin-Soo Choo (6/$100MM), DH Corey Hart (1/$8MM), SP Masahiro Tanaka (6/$56MM), SP Scott Kazmir (2/$16MM), RP Jesse Crain (1/$3.5MM)

Brad chose to spread the money around to more mid-range free agents, a technique that the Red Sox perfected in 2013. Instead of spending $16 million a year on McCann, this roster added Hart to the lineup at DH, and Kazmir to the rotation as the fourth starter. Reynolds enters at third base, and with Derek Jeter back at shortstop, the team takes a hit in defense, but also gains bigger offensive potential. Crain’s addition to the bullpen should also add some insurance if David Robertson struggles or faces injuries as the closer in 2014.

The Path to 90 Wins (Matt Bove)

Signed: 2B Robinson Cano (8/$180MM), 3B Johnny Peralta (3/$36MM), RF Shin-Soo Choo (6/$100MM), DH Mike Morse (1/$6MM), SP Masahiro Tanaka (6/$56MM), SP Paul Maholm (1/$7MM), RP Jesse Crain (1/$3.5MM)

Matt’s roster was statistically based. Between the projected WAR of his signings, the team reached 89.8 wins through shoring up both the lineup and pitching. Morse was the first new addition, and at 1 year and $6 million, he could prove extremely valuable with his bat. Although he isn’t too impressive on the field, Morse has enough opposite field power to hit home runs in Yankee Stadium. The additions of Cano and Uribe should help ground ball pitcher like Maholm succeed by pitching to contact.

Walking a fine line (William Tasker)

Signed: 2B Robinson Cano (8/$180MM), RF Carlos Beltran (2/$24MM), SP Masahiro Tanaka (6/$56MM), SP Hiroki Kuroda (1/$15MM), RP Joaquin Benoit (2/$15MM)

Traded for: 3B Chase Headley ($9.5MM)

William’s team took a hit without signing McCann and keeping Ryan at shortstop, but he made up for it by signing Beltran and trading for Headley. Beltran could very well be the most offensive-minded outfielder on the market, and Headley has huge potential in Yankee Stadium. The question remains on what it would take to get him following a disappointing and injury-plagued season, but the Padres are indeed shopping him. This lineup also features perhaps the biggest pitching upgrade. The additions of Kuroda and Tanaka represents two front-end starters, and Benoit is now next to just Balfour as the top free agent reliever.

Hot Hot Heat (Domenic Lanza)

Signed: C Brian McCann (5/$80MM), 2B Robinson Cano (8/$180MM), 3B Omar Infante (3/$25MM), RF Curtis Granderson (3/$45MM), SP Masahiro Tanaka (6/$56MM), SP Paul Maholm (1/$7MM)

Domenic rolled the dice on his lineup, not including Jeter’s $7 million bonus in the calculations, and then coming within $3 million of the $189 million cap. It is a risk, but the chances of Jeter winning an MVP and other awards are slim. The extra money went towards defense, with Omar Infante representing a strong third base glove, versatility around field, and an above average bat. Granderson is also back, but this time as a full time right-fielder. Though his arm might not play well in the corner, he certainly has the range to save runs. Again, the improved infield defense will help the two ground ball pitchers, Tanaka and Maholm.

Dingers, Dingers….and more Dingers (Joe Ferraiola)

Signed: C Brian McCann (5/$85MM), 2B Robinson Cano (8/$180MM), 3B Juan Uribe (2/$12MM), RF Nelson Cruz (3/$39MM), SP Masahiro Tanaka (6/$56MM), RP Jesse Crain (3/$3.5MM)

Again, we have an extremely solid infield with Joe’s team. That defense should help the young pitchers backup a rotation starting with Sabathia, Nova, and Tanaka. Nelson Cruz is the new name here, and the savings between Cruz and the other top outfielders should help the team shore up the bullpen with Crain. Cruz’ potential is high, but his value is lowered by the recent PED suspension. His defense isn’t quite up to the standards of Choo, Ellsbury, or Granderson, but it’s not entirely necessary in Yankee Stadium’s right field.

So there you have it, Project 189. I was going to put up a poll to see what the readers thought was the best plan, but I think it’s best just to discuss what parts make the most sense. I personally love the idea of signing Hart, Morse, or trading for Headley. Building up the infield defense would be a lot of fun after years of watching Jeter, Rodriguez, and even Jason Giambi. Maholm’s ground ball style of pitching then fits the team well. What does everyone else think? Continue reading Project 189: Wrapping It Up

Project 189: Dingers, Dingers….and more Dingers

1- CBrian McCann (5/$85MM) $17.000MM
2- 1B: Mark Teixeira (8/$180MM) $22.500MM
3- 2BRobinson Cano (8/$180MM) $22.500MM
4- 3BJuan Uribe (2/$12MM) $6.000MM
5- SS: Brendan Ryan (1/$2MM) $2.000MM
6- LF: Alfonso Soriano (8/$136MM) $17.000MM
7- CF: Brett Gardner (Arb 3) $4.000MM
8- RF: Nelson Cruz (3/$39MM) $13.000MM
9- DH: Derek Jeter (1/$12.81MM) $12.810MM + $7.000MM Bonuses
10- BN: Vernon Wells (7/$126MM) $18.000MM
11- BN: Eduardo Nunez (Min) $0.511MM
12- BN: Ichiro Suzuki (2/$13MM) $6.500MM
13- BN: Francisco Cervelli (Arb 1) $1.000MM
14- SP1: CC Sabathia (5/$122MM) $24.400MM
15- SP2: Ivan Nova (Arb 1) $2.800MM
16- SP3Masahiro Tanaka (6/$56MM) $9.334MM
17- SP4: David Phelps (Min) $0.511MM
18- SP5: Michael Pineda (Min) $0.511MM
19- CL: David Robertson (Arb 3) $5.500MM
20- RP: Shawn Kelley (Arb 2) $1.500MM
21- RP: Preston Claiborne (Min) $0.511MM
22- RP: Dellin Betances (Min) $0.511MM
23- RP: Adam Warren (Min) $0.511MM
24- RP: Vidal Nuno (Min) $0.511MM
25- RP: Jesse Crain (3/$3.5MM) $3.500MM

Total: $199.921MM

40-Man Roster

26- SP: Manny Banuelos (Min) $0.040MM
27- SP: Nik Turley (Min) $0.040MM
28- SP: Brett Marshall (Min+) $0.080MM
29- SP: Jose Ramirez (Min) $0.040MM
30- SP: Shane Greene (Min) $0.040MM
31- SP Jose Campos (Min) $0.040MM
32- RP:  Cesar Cabral (Min+) $0.080MM
33- RP: Matt Daley (Min+) $0.080MM
34- RP: David Huff (Min+) $0.080MM
35- C: Austin Romine (Min+) $0.080MM
36- C: Gary Sanchez (Min) $0.040MM
37- C: J.R. Murphy (Min) $0.080MM
38- IF: Dean Anna (Min) $0.040MM
39- OF: Zoilo Almonte (Min+) $0.080MM
40- OF: Slade Heathcott* (Min) $0.040MM

Total:  $0.88MM

Final Calculations
Total Roster Owed– $200.801MM
Salary Relief– -$13MM (From Cubs for Soriano), -$18MM (From Angels for Wells)
Player Benefits– $12MM
Cushion For Non-25-Man Players– $3.5MM

Current Budget Owed– $185.301MM

Current Budget Remaining– $3.699MM

The Brian McCann signing ruined the original plans I had for Project 189. As you can see, those of us who put McCann on the roster previous to the signing had an AAV of 16, but now it’s 17. That one extra million threw a wrench in my plans to build a solid rotation, but I tried to be creative anyway.

A few quick thoughts about Brian McCann before I get into my off-season plans. McCann will dramatically increase the level of play that we saw from the catchers position in 2013. The team probably overpaid, but anyone who’s a Yankees fan should be happy with the fact that he’ll out-produce all the catchers that the team used last year.

In my original plans I had Scott Kazmir as the fourth starter in my rotation. After the McCann signing, I was over the self-imposed payroll cap and decided to drop Kazmir from my plans. This freed up $8MM for the 2014 season, so I decided to upgrade Alex Rodriguez’s replacement at third, as well as add some help in the bullpen.

For an extra million or two, Juan Uribe was worth the upgrade over Mark Reynolds (my original fill-in). He provides improved defense, along with some pop in his bat. Reynolds does have his power streaks, but he comes with an incredibly high K% (30.6% in 2013). Uribe didn’t hit as many home runs as Reynolds, but he struck out a lot less. On top of that, Uribe is a better overall hitter with a 116 wRC+, compared to Reynolds below average 96 wRC+. Uribe’s wOBA was also higher than Reynolds at .334, compared to .310. Surprisingly, Uribe was worth 5.1 Wins Above Replacement last season. If he produces a little more than half of that, he’ll be a steal for the Yankees.

Then, with the remaining money, I looked at possible starting pitchers. Paul Maholm looked interesting for a one year $7MM deal, but after looking at the numbers, David Phelps was worth more, (1.1 WAR to .7 of Maholm) for a much cheaper salary. I noticed the bullpen looked a bit weak, especially with Mariano Rivera as the team’s closer this season. So I dipped into the remaining money to sign Jesse Crain. Crain was worth 1.9 Wins Above Replacement level last year. That was higher than Rivera’s WAR, but the stat doesn’t do justice to the high leverage situations Rivera has as closer. If he’s able to stay on the field, Crain should be a great piece of bullpen depth for the Yankees. Assuming he can put up that value in nearly 37 innings, he can be an asset in the bullpen.

As for the bench, Cervelli should be a serviceable backup to McCann, who will likely need some days off. Wells is useless, but hopefully they won’t need to play him that often, he’s essentially free anyway. Ichiro is a nice player to have come off the bench, as he still has some left in the tank as a defender, but not as an everyday starter.

As Michael Eder pointed out in his Project 189, the Yankees will have a run saving defense. Add that with three sinker ball pitchers at the top of the rotation and the Yankees have a recipe for success. We can only hope Tanaka is a younger version of Kuroda, but that the long term contract keeps him successful in the pinstripes for a longer time. I also see CC Sabathia bouncing back from a tough year. He lost a lot of weight fast. It takes the body a while to regain strength once that happens. A full off-season should get him back on track. Phelps and Pineda round out the rotation. I’m optimistic that Pineda is able to get back to where he was during his rookie year in Seattle. Just in case, Jose Campos sits on the 40-man to salvage any attempt at the Yankees winning that trade.

One of my unique signings was in right field. Nelson Cruz was suspended last season for testing positives to PEDs, but should still produce big power numbers. He’s a right handed power bat, something the Yankees need in my opinion. He has a smooth swing, similar to Napoli in a way, (reason I like these players for YS3) that projects to translate well in Yankee Stadium. Cruz has hit at least 24 home runs in each of the last three years. If he can play a large majority of the season, I see Cruz approaching 30 homes runs or more in 2014.

Here is my projected 2014 lineup.

1. Brett Gardner

2. Alfonso Soriano

3. Robinson Cano

4. Nelson Cruz

5. Brian McCann

6. Mark Teixeira

7. Derek Jeter

8. Juan Uribe

9. Brendan Ryan

I see a lot of potential power threats and probably the scariest 2-6 in baseball. Soriano, Cano, Cruz, McCann, and Teixeira are all capable of hitting 30 home runs. Brett Gardner should be able to spark the offense by getting on base a ton. Then, even the bottom of the order can be productive with Jeter in front of Uribe at 7-8. Ryan isn’t exactly a good hitter, but 1-8 is good enough to manage with a lesser bat at the bottom of the order. Compared to what we saw at the bottom of the order last season, one Brendan Ryan in the 9 spot will be a relief.

Continue reading Project 189: Dingers, Dingers….and more Dingers

Project 189: Walking a fine line

The great writers of this fine site have been building their 40-man rosters over the past few days to come up with the best 2014 New York Yankees you can buy for $189 million. Following them, to borrow an old comedian’s line, I feel like a brown shoe at a tuxedo convention. My only edge when it comes to my turn is that I am a pessimist. First, I believe that Alex Rodriguez will get his suspension knocked down to the Ryan Braun level and the Yankees will have to pay for a hundred games of his season. If that Continue reading Project 189: Walking a fine line

Project 189: Spreading The Wealth

The latest chapter in the A-Rod/MLB saga stole the show yesterday and with good reason.  When something this big reaches the level of absurdity that it did and when Mike Francesa gets added to the mix, that’s a situation that deserves everyone’s full attention.

But if in the wave of A-Rod reports you happened to miss the start of the IIATMS/TYA “Project 189” series yesterday, please stop reading this immediately, scroll down the page a bit, and catch up on that because you’re missing out if you don’t.  The series is the brainchild of Michael Eder, who wanted to know what kind of team that Yankees could go out and build while still trying to stay under the luxury tax threshold if they didn’t have A-Rod’s salary on the books next year.  That looks like an even greater possibility than it already did after yesterday’s events, and Mike kicked off Project 189 yesterday by setting the bar pretty high.

MIke’s version of the 2014 roster had power, lineup balance, and probably the best team defense that the Yankees have had in a long, long time.  Today it’s my turn to follow that up and offer my version of Project 189.  Remember, the point of these posts is not to make predictions on what we at IIATMS/TYA think the Yankees will do but rather to examine all the possibilities and stimulate some thought and discussion about what they could do.  And another reminder that the salary and arbitration numbers being used in these posts are from MLBTR’s free agent profiles.  We’re aware that the actual numbers might come out differently, but for the purposes of standardization in the series it’s what we chose to work with. Continue reading Project 189: Spreading The Wealth

Project 189: Run Prevention And Bat Flips

As we approach the heart of the offseason, team strategies start to come into focus as free agents start coming off the board. A big market team like the Yankees is usually a threat to land anyone, but this winter, the team has a limited amount of money to spend with a large number of needs to take care of.

To better understand the $189 million budget that the team plans to enact this winter, I wrote a post a couple of weeks ago about what the current 40-man roster obligations look like, and where upgrades could be made. In the end, the Yankees are relying on an Alex Rodriguez suspension if they want to remain below $189 million and make any significant acquisitions this offseason.

In Project 189, the writers here at IIATMS/TYA will give their own offseason strategies in a series of daily posts over the next week and a half. It’ll be a practice of creativity, and not predictions. We want to stay realistic with our plans, especially about money and trade value. At the same time, this will be a series of posts to stir discussion about the possibilities of the offseason, not necessarily a recommendation or prediction of what’s in store.

Most of the numbers we’re using for free agents are the numbers predicted by the MLB Trade Rumors Free Agent Profile series. Arbitration numbers are also taken from MLB Trade Rumors. The players making major league minimum salaries are an estimation based on the average given by the Yankees last year plus $10,000 due to a mandatory increase for 2014 in the CBA. Finally, all other numbers or trades are educated guesses, for instance, we’re giving Masahiro Tanaka the Yu Darvish 6 year $56 million deal.

With that series introduction, let’s get started with my own offseason plans.

25-Man Roster

1- C: Brian McCann (5/$80MM) $16.000MM
2- 1B: Mark Teixeira (8/$180MM) $22.500MM
3- 2B: Robinson Cano (8/$180MM) $22.500MM
4- 3B: Juan Uribe (2/$12MM) $6.000MM
5- SS: Brendan Ryan (1/$2MM) $2.000MM
6- LF: Alfonso Soriano (8/$136MM) $17.000MM
7- CF: Brett Gardner (Arb 3) $4.000MM
8- RF: Shin-Soo Choo (6/$100MM) $16.667MM
9- DH: Derek Jeter (1/$12.81MM) $12.810MM + $7.000MM Bonuses
10- BN: Vernon Wells (7/$126MM) $18.000MM
11- BN: Eduardo Nunez (Min) $0.511MM
12- BN: Ichiro Suzuki (2/$13MM) $6.500MM
13- BN: Francisco Cervelli (Arb 1) $1.000MM
14- SP1: CC Sabathia (5/$122MM) $24.400MM
15- SP2: Ivan Nova (Arb 1) $2.800MM
16- SP3: Masahiro Tanaka (6/$56MM) $9.334MM
17- SP4: David Phelps (Min) $0.511MM
18- SP5: Michael Pineda (Min) $0.511MM
19- CL: David Robertson (Arb 3) $5.500MM
20- RHRP: Shawn Kelley (Arb 2) $1.500MM
21- RHRP: Preston Claiborne (Min) $0.511MM
22- RHRP: Dellin Betances (Min) $0.511MM
23- RHRP: Adam Warren (Min) $0.511MM
24- LHRP: Vidal Nuno (Min) $0.511MM
25- LHRP: Cesar Cabral (Min) $0.511MM

Total– $199.599MM

40-Man Roster

26- LHSP: Manny Banuelos (Min) $0.040MM
27- LHSP: Nik Turley (Min) $0.040MM
28- RHSP: Brett Marshall (Min+) $0.040MM
29- RHSP: Jose Ramirez (Min) $0.040MM
30- RHSP: Shane Greene* (Min) $0.040MM
31- RHRP: Chase Whitley* (Min) $0.040MM
32- RHRP: Tommy Kahnle* (Min) $0.040MM
33- RHRP: Danny Burawa* (Min) $0.040MM
34- C: Gary Sanchez* (Min) $0.040MM
35- C: Austin Romine (Min) $0.080MM
36- C: J.R. Murphy (Min) $0.080MM
37- IF: Corban Joseph (Min+) $0.080MM
38- OF: Zoilo Almonte (Min+) $0.080MM
39- OF: Ramon Flores (Min) $0.040MM
40- OF: Slade Heathcott* (Min) $0.040MM

Total– $0.760MM

Final Calculations
Total Roster Owed– $200.359
Salary Relief– -$13MM (From Cubs for Soriano), -$18MM (From Angels for Wells)
Player Benefits– $12MM
Cushion For Non-25-Man Players– $3.5MM

Current Budget Owed– $184.859MM
Current Budget Remaining– $4.181MM

For a team that’s losing Curtis Granderson, Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera this season, it’ll be extremely difficult for the organization to exceed last year’s production without getting something out of their young talent. Without any major league ready position prospects, the biggest source of depth for the Yankees is in their young pitchers. Though there are no longer any flashy names like Phil Hughes or Joba Chamberlain, pitcher like Ivan Nova, David Phelps, and Adam Warren have emerged as respectable right-handers. Looking at the entire 40-man roster, you’ll see a number of players that have the potential of sticking in a major league rotation. If the Yankees are going to get young production somewhere, it’ll have to be the rotation and the bullpen.

To best help the young pitchers, the Yankees will put together one of the best infield defenses, a well above-average outfield defense, and grab one of the best run saving catchers in the game. The team has shown in the past that they’re big fans of pitch framing, and in 2013, McCann ranked 5th in baseball in runs saved, he’s one of the best plate blocking catchers in the game, and he’s not horrible throwing out potential base runners. The 30 year old also has a lot of experience successfully catching young pitchers for the Braves, which is followed by a great reputation in the club house.

Something that the Yankees haven’t had in a long time is a solid infield defense. It seems that past pitching prospects shied away from learning ground ball inducing pitches like the sinker. We know that the organization worried about their infield defense of Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, and Jason Giambi, and I believe pitchers like Hughes were taught to be fly ball and strike out pitchers in preparation for that poor range. As we learned, fly balls don’t work in Yankee Stadium, and this new infield defense in the roster above could be one of the best in baseball. With Robinson Cano and Brendan Ryan re-signed, the Yankees have two of the best middle infielders in the game. Meanwhile, Juan Uribe has some surprisingly incredible numbers at the hot corner. He has a career 19.7 UZR/150 at third base, and when playing full time in 2013, DRS had him at 15 runs saved, which ranked third for all third baseman in baseball. With Mark Teixeira finishing off the defense at first base, infield singles should be a rarity, and there should be far less ground balls finding holes.

The outfield defense would also be a strength of this team. Brett Gardner‘s ability in center field remains one of the best in the game, and Alfonso Soriano‘s glove in left field remains controversial, although most of the numbers have come to agree that his range is slightly above average in recent years. Shin-Soo Choo‘s right field range was considered average with the Indians, but moving to Yankee Stadium should help him with smaller dimensions. Both Choo and Soriano have very strong arms in the corner, which will help cut down on the aggressive runners we’ve seen during the Granderson and Nick Swisher years.

With superb defense, the Yankees should see improvements out of sinker ball pitchers like CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova. Masahiro Tanaka projects to also draw a surplus of ground balls with his sinker/shuuto and splitter. I have Michael Pineda and David Phelps slotted into the 4th and 5th rotation spots, but there will be an obvious competition in the spring which could include Adam Warren, Vidal Nuno, Manny Banuelos, Brett Marshall, Caleb Cotham, Graham Stoneburner, Nik Turley, Zach Nuding, Mikey O’Brien, Shane Greene, and Jose Ramirez. Perhaps some have better chances than others, but the amount of starting pitcher depth is strong. With prime defense, I think it’s possible the Yankees catch lightening in a bottle with their last two spots.

The bullpen is indeed weak, but it does have a relatively high ceiling. Dellin Betances showed some tremendous stuff last season, while Shawn Kelley and Preston Claiborne had breakout seasons. The bullpen is also relying on the pitching depth in the Yankees’ system to keep it strong, but I left enough room in the budget so that the Yankees could realistically make a mid-season acquisition for a potential late inning reliever.

Finally, I believe the offense is far improved over last season. I’d project the prime lineup to look something like this.

1. Brett Gardner
2. Shin-Soo Choo
3. Mark Teixeira
4. Robinson Cano
5. Alfonso Soriano
6. Brian McCann
7. Derek Jeter
8. Juan Uribe
9. Brendan Ryan

The additions of Choo and McCann offer 20+ home run power with great on base percentage skills, and in Yankee Stadium, their left-handed swings could help them approach 30 home runs. Uribe also has a decent amount of offensive potential. In his two seasons in AT&T park with the Giants in 2009 and 2010, Uribe hit .268/.318/.464 with 40 home runs. After the Dodgers signed him in 2011, the infielder was haunted by a sports hernia that dampened his 2011 season, and a wrist injury in his 2012 season. In a healthy 2013, Uribe hit .278/.331/.438 for the Dodgers, good for a 116 wRC+. If Uribe can stay healthy with the Yankees, he’s capable of being an above average offensive player in a hitter-friendly atmosphere that he hasn’t seen since his days in Chicago. Plus, I’ve supplied this team with ample bat flips between Cano, Soriano, and Uribe.

Uribe

Ok, so McCann might not be happy about all these bat flips, but I believe the key to success in 2014 is to bring back the power and on base percentage that was dearly missed last season, while also building up the teams’ defense for the young pitchers. A wall of defenders around the field with an experienced pitch framing catcher could help a couple of those young pitchers (and even some old ones) figure it out.

Finally, the team has over $4 million to spare, as well as whatever portion of the $7 million bonus that Jeter doesn’t receive. By mid-season, the Yankees could have more than $11 million to play with during the trade deadline. If some pitchers aren’t working out or a string of injuries occur like in 2013, there is enough of a cushion in this budget to make a big move in June or July. Continue reading Project 189: Run Prevention And Bat Flips