Been a quiet weekend around here. Obviously everybody needed to recover from the madness of the Winter Meetings. Here’s a few notes and links if you aren’t watching football today.
– On Friday the Yankees re-signed right-handers Domingo German and Diego Moreno to MiL deals for next season. German was the latest prospect to get the release/re-sign treatment to avoid waivers, so good on the Yankees for continuing to exploit that advantage. German is likely to start his TJS rehab season in High-A Tampa, while Moreno figures to be bullpen depth as needed at Double-A or Triple-A.
“I don’t think there is any big decision I have to make — other than to play one more year or go home. In my case, I am very happy with my career. If I feel like I produce well to the point where I can make a good impact on a team, then I can play one more year. Or if I feel like I have [had] enough, I’ll go home.”
The New York Yankees have behaved very differently in the past few offseasons than they have at any point in recent memory. Their transactions have been aimed at acquiring young players who have many years under team control and should theoretically have their best seasons ahead of them. They have not been in the conversation for any big money players despite there being some very good ones available this winter. They’re not even in on small money guys either.
Clearly the Yankees aren’t a championship caliber team at the moment, with questions everywhere, and they’re not aggressively trying to fill those holes. The only conclusion that leads us to is that the Yankees are trying to rebuild and winning is not a priority right now. The Justin Wilson for Luis Cessa and Chad Green trade perfectly exemplifies exactly what the Yankees are doing right now. When Brian Cashman tells you the team is trading a quality reliever because he is going to make some money soon, that tells you all you need to know.
“Wilson is an arbitration-eligible player with three years of control who is entering the money making years,” said Cashman. “I get two starters that when their service clock starts are going to have upwards of 12 years of control between them in an area of need for us.”
Wilson was a big part of the Yankees’ bullpen strength last year. Maybe Jacob Lindgren and James Pazos can do just as well, but there is no guarantee for sure. The Yankees were short on innings last year and they’ve already traded away two pitchers who gave them quality innings.
It’s hard to believe they traded Wilson over a few million dollars, but that’s what Cashman says. The Yankees are under-spending on payroll, as pointed out here by E.J. The Yankees’ old business model gave them a chance to win every single season. It didn’t guarantee them a championship, but it guaranteed a legit championship shot, which is more than the team can say now. Despite the mainstream media narrative of the changing rules making that model obsolete, it would still work the same if the Yankees spent what the Dodgers are, which they can easily do and go beyond. Continue reading Trying to Decipher the Yankees’ Plan→
The Rule 5 Draft just wrapped up a little while ago, and as expected the Yankees lost Double-A outfielder Jake Cave. He was taken with the 2nd pick of the draft by the Reds. What was extremely unexpected was the Braves taking right-hander Evan Rutckyj with the next pick, although maybe that should be expected given the number of former Yankee prospects and MiLers that the Braves have stockpiled over the last few years.
The Yankees did not select anybody in the 3 rounds of the Major League draft, but did add 3 players in the Triple-A portion. They also lost 4 more players in that portion of the draft, so it certainly seems as though the Yankee farm system has improved as far as their competitors are concerned.
Without adding to Brad’s terrific Castro-Warren analysis, I’d already been mulling over a question about Adam Warren that also applies to several free-agent starters. Assume the Yankees aren’t landing a Johnny Cueto-level ace: how much are they hurt by pitching a 5ish-ERA fifth starter like CC Sabathia (or 2015-quality Ivan Nova), rather than an average-level starter, like Warren or a second-tier free agent like Yovani Gallardo or Wei-Yin Chen? Sabathia and Nova were an identical 1 WAR/yr in 2015, so a 2-3 WAR starter is worth 1-2 more wins over a whole season. I’m not sure it’s worth the roughly $20 million a year (when you include luxury tax), and the 4+ years, it would take to lock in Gallardo’s or Chen’s age 30-34 seasons.
But here’s another way to look at it: How much did it hurt the Yankees to have stuck with CC in the rotation, rather than replace him with the clearly superior Warren? I looked at CC’s nine starts after Warren was demoted to the pen (late June to late August), and asked this question: If they’d kept Warren rather than CC in the rotation, and Warren pitched in those nine starts like he did in April-June, how many more games would the Yankees have won?
Answer: Zero. Warren’s April-June was terrific, averaging 2.6 runs and 5.9 innings per start. CC’s nine late June-August starts (the period when Warren was bumped to the pen) weren’t so terrific, averaging 2.9 runs and 5.4 innings per start. So I looked at each of those nine games’ boxscores to see whether, if the Yankees had a typical Warren start (2.6R/5.9IP) rather than CC’s, that would have flipped any game outcomes. It would be silly to assume Warren would give up “2.6” runs in each game, both because you can’t give up 3/5 of a run and because it’s unrealistic to assume no variance, so I assumed Warren would alternate between 5 2/3 and 6 IP, and between 2 and 4 runs in those nine starts. Here’s the outcome:
Basically, if you substitute Warren’s April-June performance into CC’s June-August starts, you don’t get the team any extra wins. Warren’s on-average better performance would have turned one loss into a win, and one loss into a tie score (so basically a coin toss that’d be left to the pen) – a net of 1.5 extra wins. But CC had two really strong starts that won close games; a typical Warren start would’ve turned one of those into a loss and one into a tie score (another coin toss left to the pen) – a net of 1.5 extra losses. So Warren would have (a) turned one W into an L, (b) turned one L into a W, and (c) turned one W and one L into tie games left to the pen.
That’s a little odd, but not a lot odd. Warren was great as an RP but just a tick above-average as an SP — maybe worth 2.5 WAR/yr as an SP. One-third of a year of Warren’s 2.5 WAR/yr versus CC’s 1.0 WAR/yr amounts to a difference of 0.5 wins – meaning only a 50% shot that he wins the team even one additional game.
This is a silly little simulation, but maybe it hints, for those who don’t love stats like WAR, that WAR has it about right: the difference between a below-average starter and a modestly above-average starter is only about one win a year. That’s less of a difference than I would’ve guessed between a decaying husk like CC (or damaged goods like Nova) and a shiny new #3 starter. Which is to say that if Cashman’s winter doesn’t include a new starter like Gallardo or Chen, let’s not break out the pitchforks about a decision not to ink a 4-year, $60 million contract to net one extra win next year. Continue reading We’re OK w/o Warren or a Meh Free Agent SP: A Quick Simulation→
The Yankees kept moving and shaking after the Castro deal on Tuesday, trading another piece of their Major League bullpen away yesterday to add some upper-level rotation depth. Today is the final day of the meetings and the Rule 5 Draft is later, so maybe we’ll see another move. Here’s a quick update on where we stand after yesterday.
– The aforementioned trade was the Justin Wilson one. The Yankees got right-handed starters Luis Cessa and Chad Green in return, and both figure to start next season in the Triple-A rotation. Cessa sounds like the better prospect from what I’ve read, but neither is a stud. Wilson figures to be replaced internally by someone from the Lindgren-Pazos-Webb triumvirate. Just kidding, it’s going to be Lindgren.
– Via Joel Sherman, the Yanks are still shopping Andrew Miller around to the D’backs and Astros. Houston traded for Ken Giles yesterday and it doesn’t sound like anything is going to happen with AZ, so Miller probably stays now too. I can’t see Cash trading him and Wilson.
– Oh and in case you were wondering, Cash confirmed that the Yankees are still poor as $h*t and crippled by their payroll restrictions with this winner of a quote to Pete Caldera: ‘It’s accurate to say flexibility is limited currently because we’re committed to a lot.”
Wilson, who came over to the Yankees from the Pirates in a swap involving Francisco Cervelli in November 2014, pitched well for the club in 2015. He had a 3.10 ERA (2.69 FIP) in 61 innings of work with a 5-0 record in 74 games. His HR/9 was 0.44, his K/9 was 9.74, his ground ball rate was 43.8% and he had a WAR of 1.5
We’ll update when we get more info about the return for Wilson.
UPDATE 6:36 P.M.:
Cashman: “I don’t know what the reports are, but I have nothing to talk about.”
We like to complain a bit here at It’s About the Money about how the Yankees are taking in huge mountains of our money and not putting enough of it on the field. Obviously, baseball is a business (if a weird one that isn’t 100% about maximization of profits; many owners care more about winning than the bottom line), and the owners of baseball teams deserve to make money. That’s why teams that make less revenue spend less on payroll for the most part. Yankee fans don’t expect the Steinbrenners to go broke for the Yankees. I do think they expect to spend in proportion to the revenue the bring in.
Below is a scatter plot of post-luxury tax, post-revenue sharing 2015 MLB revenue (via Forbes) and 2015 MLB payrolls.
Assuming a simple linear relationship between revenue and payroll (which is generous to the Yankees, who have similar fixed costs to the other teams, but I won’t get all economicsy right now), teams that are above the trend line are spending less money on payroll than the predicted value given their revenue. Teams that are below the trend line are spending more on payroll than predicted.
We can see that the Yankees and Dodgers are huge outliers in opposite directions, as you’d expect. There are some other interesting tidbits on this graph: Detroit really is spending a lot more than they “should” in order to win a championship for their owner, Miami is right on trend, etc. Corporate-owned teams like the Mariners also tend to be right on trend, even though I’d have expected them to be below the line.
[caption id="attachment_79601" align="aligncenter" width="550"] Courtesy of Getty Images[/caption]
Guess they proved me wrong. After spending the first day and a half of the Winter Meetings doing a lot of nothing, the Yankees decided to take their sandals off and jump in the pool yesterday, sending Adam Warren and Brendan Ryan to the Chicago Cubs for second baseman Starlin Castro. Castro has been on and off the trade block for a while in Chicago and the Yankees were trying to trade for him at the deadline this past season. When the Cubs landed Ben Zobrist last night, things sped up quickly on the Castro trade front and the Yankees were able to make a deal. For the fifth time in the last calendar year plus the Yankees have acquired a young MLB player with upside to fuel their non-rebuild rebuild.
It’s hard to really say what the Yankees are getting in Castro. His .281/.321/.404 career slash line makes him look like a pretty good player, but his low walk rate (4.9%), wildly inconsistent year-to-year results, and reported previous attitude and discipline problems are all causes for concern and surely contributed to the Cubs deciding he was the odd man out in their crowded middle infield. Castro was one of the worst everyday players in baseball in 2015 (80 wRC+ in 578 PA) and 2013 (74 in 705). He also put up a career best season in 2014 when he hit .292/.339/.438 with 14 HR, 65 RBI, and a 6.2% BB rate. Obviously the Yankees are hoping they get that player or the guy who hit .353/.373/.588 in 42 games after moving from shortstop to second base this past season. Continue reading Thoughts On The Starlin Castro Trade→