Mailbag: Correa, Andrus, Contract Structures

Happy Monday, all. As Derek noted last week, we’re moving the mailbag feature to Mondays moving forward. It helps kick the week off on the right foot, you know? Anyway, the first few weeks of the offseason are always relatively quiet, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t news for the obsessives. The Yankees made a flurry of 40-man roster moves and marginal changes, so check out Derek and I’s recaps of each here, here, and here. That will likely be the end of it for a while.

So, to fill the dead air, let’s get to some mailbag questions. As you can imagine, most of these relate to shortstops. If you have a question to submit, please do so by mid-day Sunday. Send us a note at viewsfrom314@gmail.com. We choose our favorites each week.

Sam Asks: I’ve come around to the idea that Correa is the best fit – he’s a great hitter with above average defense. With that said, I think signing Correa would be a disaster from an off-the-field standpoint. I think people brushing this away because we signed Cole (former Astro) are really underestimating how the media, fans, and potentially even some players will make this an ongoing headache. How big an issue do you think this is? And can you think of a player signing with the team with this much baggage?

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This is basically the question of the offseason. Everything else revolves around that. Let me start by saying that Sam is absolutely right: Correa is definitely the best on-field fit for the team. There are perhaps arguments against this – he’s a righty, namely – but I don’t find them compelling. He checks every box. He’s young, he hits, he plays good defense, he doesn’t care about a domineering media, and he has a proven October pedigree. To the extent that any or all of those things matter to you, Correa has it all. So there’s that.

Obviously, that is not all there is to this. Far from it. Correa was big part of the Astros cheating scandal, and has become a somewhat unrepentant spokesperson for the team. The Yankees, particularly Aaron Judge, have been pretty outspoken about that whole debacle. This is not new ground.

How much does this matter, though? Ultimately, I don’t think it matters very much. Sure, these guys may be angry about 2017 and even 2019, and they absolutely should be. The Yankees, especially the players, are being reasonable if they feel cheated out of a pennant in those years. That said, I do not think that the players would be furious if they signed Correa. These are all competitive people, but ultimately they are professionals. I think the players would let bygones be bygones pretty quickly. That’s just my sense. I wouldn’t worry about that.

The same goes for the fans. The ugly fact about fans, including myself, is that they are hypocrites. Absolute hypocrites. You know it’s true. Some of us may stomp our feet, get mad, and even say that we wouldn’t root for Correa. The second he has a huge hit, though, we’ll pump our fists all the same. And why wouldn’t we? We’re just fans, after all.

The media is a bit of a different story. I’m sure they’d make it a capital-T Thing, but that shouldn’t be a reason to not move ahead with it. The goal is to improve the team. (And, while the cheating scandal is a big deal and was insanely annoying, it was not as if Correa committed a heinous crime or anything that would truly make the acquisition despicable. This is just a matter of the sport.)

Where do I stand on this? I say go ahead – Correa is the best fit, and the rest is a manufactured controversy. We’ll see what happens, but I wouldn’t be deterred or super concerned with Correa’s baggage.

Daniel Asks: What about Elvis Andrus at SS? He has one year left on his current deal, of which the Rangers are paying 50 percent. The A’s are assumed to be cutting payroll. His under-the-hood numbers, while not excellent, are better than Gleyber at the same position. If nothing else, he’s a good glove and available at reasonable cost in both dollars and prospect capital. Heck, he could be a throw-in in a larger Olson or Chapman deal. Dollars saved at SS could be applied elsewhere throughout the roster. Is this “crazy” or is it CRAZY?

It’s not crazy. I don’t love it, but it’s definitely not crazy – at least not if it’s couched in the right expectations. Andrus is what he is: a solidly bel0w-average hitter who doesn’t strike out, rarely walks, and plays excellent defense. On a team like the Yankees, that is a solid backup infielder. That certainly has value! But it’s not going to solve the Yankees shortstop woes or make the team materially better in any significant way. He’s only been a plus hitter twice in his career, most recently in 2017.

I also don’t agree that his offensive peripherals look better than Gleyber’s. From only the strikeout perspective, sure, but even in a down year, Gleyber is the guy you want at the plate in a comparison. As a throw-in piece of a broader package for Chapman or Olson, then I’m all for it. The Yanks need serviceable players, and he is certainly that. But I’d just be weary of looking at a low-strikeout, good defense guy as a silver bullet solution to anything. On the other hand, he’s likely to be somewhat cheap (about $7.5m before any concessions in a trade), so it’s not an impossible scenario.

Clever idea. I don’t hate it, but let’s just really hope that if Andrus is in pinstripes next year, it’s to back up a much better shortstop who actually deserves to log significant innings on a team with aspirations.

Mark Asks: Assuming the luxury tax will remain somewhat similar to the current structure, with penalties escalating each year a team stays over the threshold, I would love to see the Yankees pay a FA an exorbitant amount for a short period of time so that after the year in question they get a reset. Say they value Corey Seager at 6 years $240 million (I’m probably way off, just using as an example). Why not offer him similar money for 3 years?? Say $220 for 3 years. They pay a much higher AAV, but line it up with other contracts so they can reset at year 4 (when Volpe will be def ready for prime time). 

I like this approach. It’s not going to happen, though precisely because of the AAV component. That limits the ability to spend on other players, putting essentially all the eggs in one basket. That’s why we see the Yankees do the longer contract with lower AAV, like they did with DJ LeMahieu. I wish it weren’t so, but they’d pay a huge tax and it would likely hamstring their spending in other areas. At least not at this scale.

The big reason is because I don’t think this will actually result in any sort of cost savings for teams. They really only care about keeping the AAV down for purposes. That’s just how teams operate right now, and since teams likely wont’ ever go to $70 million a year, they’d be competing against themselves. It’s just not going to happen.

That said, we’ve started to see teams trend in this direction a little. The Dodgers did that with Trevor Bauer – a 3-year, $102 million deal – so there is precedent here now. It will be interesting to see how teams handle this moving forward, but I do think there’s some value in blowing people away with a high AAV as a differentiator.

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13 Comments

  1. DZB

    The best plan for SS and the infield overall partly depends on what they can do on the trade market, which seems like a big unknown (like if you get Olson and/or Chapman, that changes your view of what needs to be done and where guys can move to later).

    For the AAV issue, I think the team realizes that it is just simpler in terms of the financial model to spread money out over more years – like the DJLM contract. Fans don’t like the optics of a guy making a lot of money when they are in their decline years, but they have to remember that the guy making $20MM this year might have had excess value and was worth $30MM a couple of years ago, but was also making $20MM that year. The team would rather pay a bit more spread out over more years than pay players their ‘true’ value in each season. It does tie up payroll over more years, but it also opens up payroll space in the early years.

    That being said, I am really surprised that we are seeing all of these $300MM+ deals since I don’t see that leaving space for excess value early on, and the cost for the decline years is huge. The Cano and Pujols (and the most recent Miggy Cabrera) contracts were terrible deals because so much money was being paid out in decline years. Yes, those guys were older when they signed the deals, but paying someone like Lindor $300MM may look like a similarly poorly structured deal after a few years.

  2. Anthony Rizzeddardo

    Sam Asks: I’ve come around to the idea that Correa is the best fit – he’s a great hitter with above average defense. With that said, I think signing Correa would be a disaster from an off-the-field standpoint. I think people brushing this away because we signed Cole (former Astro) are really underestimating how the media, fans, and potentially even some players will make this an ongoing headache. How big an issue do you think this is? And can you think of a player signing with the team with this much baggage?

    He’d be a heck of a lot better than Gleyber, Sam, but who wouldn’t? He is a great hitter and defender and most importantly he has toughness which is sorely lacking on this ballclub. I don’t mind a cheater as long as he’s cheating for us, which is the same way I feel about politics. And he hits .280. We have too many guys who hit .200 and hit the occasional home run or seldom draw a walk so the analytics dept fanws over them like this is 2003. But I do think Seager is a better fit because he’s left handed and can actually give us some pop from the left side because you know Gallo won’t. And he hits .300 which is very rare these days.

    Daniel Asks: What about Elvis Andrus at SS? He has one year left on his current deal, of which the Rangers are paying 50 percent. The A’s are assumed to be cutting payroll. His under-the-hood numbers, while not excellent, are better than Gleyber at the same position. If nothing else, he’s a good glove and available at reasonable cost in both dollars and prospect capital. Heck, he could be a throw-in in a larger Olson or Chapman deal. Dollars saved at SS could be applied elsewhere throughout the roster. Is this “crazy” or is it CRAZY?

    It’s the craziest thought anyone has ever had since this blog began, Daniel. Andrus is old, he’s washed up, he hits .240 so I get why you think he would fit in but the goal should be to improve the ballclub and not make it worse! My God, I just don’t understand this love for .200 hitters and he doesn’t even hit for any power. He may be a good glove but so was Velazquez and we lost him. Wade can do what Andrus does but Wade is faster and better.

    Mark Asks: Assuming the luxury tax will remain somewhat similar to the current structure, with penalties escalating each year a team stays over the threshold, I would love to see the Yankees pay a FA an exorbitant amount for a short period of time so that after the year in question they get a reset. Say they value Corey Seager at 6 years $240 million (I’m probably way off, just using as an example). Why not offer him similar money for 3 years?? Say $220 for 3 years. They pay a much higher AAV, but line it up with other contracts so they can reset at year 4 (when Volpe will be def ready for prime time).

    I’d ask Corey Seager what he wants and give it to him, Mark. And I’d do the same with Verlander who hit 98 the other day. Anything you want you got it, Roy Orbison. We also need to re-sign Judge. What is the point of resetting the luxury tax if you’re not going to splurge? The last time we did that was ’09 and we all know what happened in ’09 when CC, Teix and AJ were all signed and led us to the WS. The only big signing they’ve made lately was the big baby Cole who is too weak to lead a club to a ring. That’s why I’d go get Verlander.

    • The REAL Eddard

      I just want to thank you for always answering everyone’s mailbag questions, Eddard. I know that people are funneling the questions through Bobby, but in reality it is truly you that they want to hear from.

  3. dasit

    freeman, scherzer, and 61 year-old bobby meacham at shortstop

  4. Jim Beam

    A few thoughts of my own…

    1. The team chemistry was obviously off this year. There were numerous times where it was clear this was the case, and probably some only seen in the clubhouse over vaccinations and the like. The Gardy/Cole thing, even if squashed, was clearly an issue. Torres’ lack of hustle. The sidelining of Voit. There were also times where I saw Gallo treated like an outsider by the TEAM, not just the fans. The curse I expected from banking too long on “Next Man Up” seemed to come to fruition. I saw a MUCH less cohesive unit this year, and if they spend 300M+ on Correa, that could very well be the final nail in the coffin for a cohesive club morale. They’re clearly not the tight-knit squad they were in ’19.

    2. If they sign Correa, that probably means not extending Judge, both for financial and clubhouse reasons. If they bring Correa in, it’s a slap in the face to Judge. Not being able to see that is being willfully ignorant. The only signing/trade that would be worse would be Bregman or especially Altuve. Professionals or not, that would be quite the insult to him.

    3. Please, don’t sign Joe Kelly.

    • Kevin

      Gardy-Cole thing was clearly an issue, what the HELL are you talking about? The story broke after the season! You think that Cole was really get THAT torqued? Ownership has to be the BOSS, enough of this feelings nonsense.

  5. Mark12211

    Sadly some Yankees fans welcome women beaters back with open arms, but not trash can beaters.

    • sevrox

      Actually, I don’t think any Yank fans welcomed German or Chapman back with open arms. Didn’t stop the ownership/management from doing it, though.

  6. Novymir

    I can’t see a big contract for any shortstop. Any money paid means they will let a Judge walk.

  7. Eduardo Fusshead

    Correa absolutely committed a heinous crime in the context of sport, which is all I’m here for. In fact, I can’t think of a more heinous crime against sport (any sport) committed on the field. He and his collaborators on that Astros team deserve so much worse than they’re ever going to get and it’s due in no small part to people who embrace their own hypocrisy instead of drawing the line. For shame.

  8. mikenyc2007

    seems the only no brainer is Seager – position, future position, lefty, low maintenance, winner… that even allows them to punt on Rizzo or Olsen and move DJ to 1B

    • Jim Beam

      agreed, for the most part, but DJLM is better suited to more mobile defensive positions. They should get a slugger for 1B because having 2 AVG guys at the IF corners is wasting the opportunities for hiding a sub-par defender at one of them.

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