Mailbag: 2012 offseason mulligan, speed on 40-man, Gittens

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Good afternoon and apologies for the late in the day mailbag, everyone. A few things came up earlier which pushed this back. Anyway, before getting to this week’s questions, the Yankees traded Tyler Wade this afternoon in case you missed it.

As always, send your questions to viewsfrom314 at gmail dot com. We answer our favorites every Monday. Let’s get to this week’s edition:

Rich asks: Congratulations! You’ve been transported to the 2012 off-season. What moves do you make knowing the hindsight?

First, let’s recap that winter:

  • Re-signed: Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, Ichiro Suzuki
  • Club options exercised: Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, David Aardsma
  • Free agent signings: Kevin Youkilis, Travis Hafner
  • Traded for: Shawn Kelley
  • Players lost: Russell Martin, Nick Swisher, Freddy Garcia, Eric Chavez, Andruw Jones, Rafael Soriano, Corey Wade

Ah yes, one of my favorite offseasons. While there were logical moves no one would change, the free agent decisions were atrocious. Youk and Pronk? Letting Martin walk? Yikes.

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Let’s start with the re-signings. I’ll happily bring back Kuroda, Pettitte, and Rivera, but I’m not re-signing Ichiro. Have to make a better move than that for right field as Swisher walks. Shin-Soo Choo was traded that offseason (in a three-team deal including Didi Gregorius and Trevor Bauer), was two years younger than Swish, and free agent eligible after 2013. Cleveland got Bauer in the deal and sent Choo away, so maybe dealing then top prospect Manny Banuelos and more gets it done? I dunno. Anyway, I’m getting Choo in some shape or form. Choo was a monster in ’13, by the way (150 wRC+).

Next, club options. I’m fine with exercising all of them. That was easy.

Now, let’s talk about some of the other free agent decisions, starting with catcher. I’m re-signing Martin, who received two years and $17 million from the Pirates that offseason. A bargain, to say the least. Martin had two very good years in Pittsburgh (+11.7 fWAR) after doing quite well for the Bombers in ’11 and ’12 (+9.1 fWAR). Meanwhile, Francisco Cervelli missed much of 2013, forcing Chris Stewart and his 59 wRC+ to play 109 games, though his defense netted +2.7 fWAR.

Youkilis and Hafner aren’t in my plans at all. Mike Napoli signed for just $5 million with Boston that winter, and I’ll take him to DH instead. I feel pretty good about having Choo as a lefty bat acquisition anyway, so Napoli makes for a fine DH in the meantime even as a right-handed hitter. And instead of Youk, how about Marco Scutaro, who had a 112 wRC+ for the Giants in 2013 on a three year deal for $20 million?

Elsewhere: the Shawn Kelley move was good and worth repeating. I’m OK with letting the other free agents walk too.

Last but certainly not least, I’m making a big free agent splash by signing either Zack Greinke or Hyun Jin Ryu. I know this was the beginning of a period of austerity for the Yankees, but this alternate universe is under my rules. Greinke was 29 and Ryu was 26. Greinke got big money $147 million, but certainly was worth it. Ryu was more affordable ($36 million) but had never pitched in the majors before. I’d be happy with either.

In sum, here are the new transactions I’d do and the moves I’d undo if I could rewrite history:

  • New transactions: Re-sign Russell Martin, trade for Shin Soo Choo, sign Mike Napoli, sign Marco Scutaro, sign Zack Greinke or Hyun Jin Ryu
  • Moves reversed: Re-sign Ichiro, sign Travis Hafner, sign Kevin Youkilis

Everything else stays the same.

Ray asks: With the team removing nearly everyone with speed from the 40-man so far this winter, what do you think their game plan is? As it stands I would think they’ll at least need a new pinch runner. Do you see them making any acquisitions or just promoting from inside?

Indeed, the Yankees have subtracted Tyler Wade, Andrew Velazquez, and Greg Allen this offseason, but I don’t think that’s indicative of anything. There are simply better players who needed to be on the 40-man roster, hence them departing.

The Yankees aren’t going to seek out a pinch runner this offseason either. That can either come internally as needed, or the time can initiate a minor trade during the season. They’ve done that before (i.e. Freddy Guzman, Antoine Richardson, Terrance Gore) and surely could do it again.

On the internal side of things, if Brandon Lockridge doesn’t get picked in the Rule 5, the team could always call him up if necessary midseason (he has 80 grade speed per FanGraphs). There are some pretty good runners (albeit not in Lockridge’s or Wade’s territory) still on the 40 too. Oswald Peraza and Estevan Florial are above average runners, for instance.

Samuel asks: Looking at the 40-man, why is Chris Gittens still around?

It was a bit surprising to see Gittens stick around, but the Yankees do love exit velocity and he possesses plenty of that. He maxed out at 118 MPH with the Yankees this year, and considering that the club might non-tender Luke Voit in the next week or so, Gittens would be the only remaining natural first baseman on the roster.

All that said, Gittens still is pretty high up on the 40-man chopping block. The Yankees are going to address a number of positions this offseason, including first base, and Gittens could be a roster casualty to make room. I wouldn’t read too much into some of the guys on the fringes of the 40-man roster who survived Friday’s initial round of cuts because there’s plenty of offseason to go.

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2 Comments

  1. DZB

    I cannot see Gittens retaining his spot, unless they feel like they need to have an extra 1B on the roster, at least for the time being. I have to imagine he held his spot over the better players because he is not due for a raise through arbitration. But they should bring in some signings, so I assume he will get chopped (but does he have the most trade value? Why else hold onto him and not the better players? Possible cost?).

    I understand letting Wade go, but only if they sign a decent infielder. I am very happy to see Odor go, and I never really wanted him on the roster.

    But in all the moves, the one that really makes me sad is to see Frazier go. I see so many negative comments about him in other places and I don’t get it. He is talented and driven, but obviously rubs a lot of people the wrong way. I wanted him to be a fixture in the OF for the NYY and I feel terrible for him to have lost so much time to horrible injuries and health issues. More than most players who leave the club, I really wish him the best and hope he gets his career on track. (let’s hope his career doesn’t follow the Bird route).

  2. MikeD

    Fans shouldn’t be too concerned about who is on the 40-man roster in November. There are various check points when certain moves need to be made. A certain type of player will be left unprotected for the Rule 5, but then a similar type player will make the 40-man at a later date closer to Spring Training, and certainly by Opening Day.

    I will say I’m mildly surprised the Yankees let Wade leave after trading Estrada and Park. They went from a lot of depth for the back-up SS to…Kyle Holder? Peraza will be the starting SS at Scranton, but he’s not someone they’ll turn into a backup. That role goes to a lesser player.

    Last, in an offseason when they want to get more athletic, it’s interesting that the players with the fastest foot speed–Wade, Locastro, Gardner (even at 38), Allen, Velazquez, and Frazier–are now all gone. They’re aware of that, but really, most of those players are quite replaceable. Gardner could certainly return. Frazier is the one who could end being a painful loss if he ever gets passed the concussion issues. For now, none of it means much. The 2022 roster building has yet to begin.

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