Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Time to Rotate the Yankees Rotation: Huff for Hughes

Phil Hughes turned in another pitiful performance last night, pitching 4 2/3 innings, giving up 5 runs, 3 earned, jumping his ERA near 5, at 4.91, and making his W-L record 4-13. 4-13!!

How can the Yankees continue to throw him out every 5 days and compete for a playoff spot? He's been nothing short of awful since the All-Star break. What's worse is the fact that the Yankees beat writers, specifically Mark Feinsand and Sweeney Murti, of NY Daily News and WFAN, defend this guy like he's Felix Hernandez!

I'm going make the basic case to replace Phil Hughes with David Huff, who has pitched 8 straight shutout innings of relief in his last 2 appearances. Huff's track record as an MLB starter is not particularly great, but he's pitching better now. Here's the goop:

(Stats via ESPN and Baseball Reference)
He's being hit hard by batters on both sides of the plate: .278 BA by righties and .293 by lefties. Further splits do not help his cause.

Hughes Pre/Post AS Break: 4.57 ERA (roughly a quality start of 6 innings/3 earned runs)/5.94 ERA after the break. A nearly 6.00 ERA since Mid-July. Awful. If that's not enough, he's getting worse as it goes. He has a 6.46 ERA in August. What's next, a 7.26 ERA in September?

September is exclusively against AL East rivals. With that in mind, the Yankees need to be conscious about playing their counterparts. Hughes' ERA against the AL East teams?
Baltimore: 7.00
Boston: 10.38
Tampa Bay: 5.73
Toronto: 3.78

Outside Toronto, not inspiring. What is inspiring? Replacing him with David Huff

Huff's last two appearances out of the bullpen:
5 innings/1 hit/0 runs/2 K's
3 1/3 innings/0 hits/0 runs/5 K's

His career stats do not scream anything special, either. As a starter, his career ERA is 5.41. Whereas out of the pen, he's got a 2.89 ERA. Reportedly, though, Huff had altered his throwing motion in the minors, which may have led to being more effective since his recall a few weeks back. Plus, he's left-handed. Anything you can take is a leg up on the competition. Using a lefty helps nearly automatically. Look at some top AL East hitters:
Chris Davis against lefties: .247 vs. .334 against righties.
David Ortiz against lefties: .265 vs. .350 against righties.
Edwin Encarnacion against lefties: .264 vs. .276 against righties.
Ben Zobrist against lefties: .239 vs. .287 against righties.

I'm not going to claim he's going to be Clayton Kershaw. But, I'll take Andy Pettitte at this point. A quality start = 4.50 ERA, which is an improvement. If Huff can even manage that, or somewhere around 3.80 or 4.00 ERA, he's got himself a rotation spot.

Follow me on Twitter @JMFlorio

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Contacts & Conundrums, Part 1 - 2014 Yankees Featuring A-Rod

This is Part 1, in a 3 Part series on forming a 2014 Yankees Roster while staying under the $189 Million threshold. The Yankees have a number of players under contract, as well as a large amount of players going to arbitration. Also on the shopping list are a number of impending free agent decisions, including some top FA's on the Yankees too. This post covers Alex Rodriguez as a part of the roster, meaning that he would beat his suspension by MLB and resume his role as the Yankees 3B/DH for 2014. For the sake of argument, the Yankees will keep everyone under contract too; Meaning for example, Vernon Wells is on the roster, though his contract is affordable enough to be an easy cut. So, let's dive in:

(Contract numbers courtesy of Sportrac, ESPN & Baseball Reference)

Under Contract - 2014 Contracts
Alex Rodriguez, 3B - $26,000,000
Mark Teixeira, 1B - $23,125,000
CC Sabathia, SP - $23,000,000
Derek Jeter, SS - $8,000,000 Option
Ichiro Suzuki, OF - $ 6,500,000
Alfonso Soriano, OF/DH - $5,000,000
Vernon Wells, OF - $2,400,000
Eduardo Nunez, IF - $533,300
Michael Pineda, SP - $528,475
David Phelps, SP - $512,425
Adam Warren, P - $490,525
Preston Claiborne, RP - $490,000
Austin Romine, C - $490,000
Zoilo Almonte, OF - $490,000
Cesar Cabral, RP - $490,000

Cap Hit: $97,521,250; Amount leftover - $91,478,750

That covers the players under contract. Most of these players you are familiar with: 3/4 of the infield starters, 3/5 of the starting rotation and a number of outfielders. Let me so some clarifying: Cesar Cabral replaces Boone Logan as the lefty out of the bullpen. I imagine Logan will be paid handsomely this offseason as the premier left-handed reliever on the market. Bullpen pitchers are volatile and should be a cheap part of the team. I also expect the Yankees to delay Pineda's service time, and thus, his arbitration for a year.

Arbitration Eligible - 2013 Salaries and 2014 Hypothetical Salaries
David Robertson, RP - $3,100,000 (5,000,000)
Brett Gardner, OF - $2,850,000 (5,000,000)
Shawn Kelley, RP - $935,000 (1,000,000)
Jayson Nix, IF - $900,000 (1,000,000)
Ivan Nova, SP - $575,600 (900,000)
Francisco Cervelli, C - $515,350 (600,000)
Chris Stewart, C - $515,100 (600,000)

Cap Hit: $14,100,000; Amount leftover - $77,378,750

I imagine that Robertson and Gardner will see their salaries increase to about $5,000,000 a year, with Gardner in his final arbitration year and Robertson asking for closer's money. Kelley and Nix should up to over a million and Nova to about $900,000. The Yankees will have to make a decision on who catchers are, but we'll adjust as it goes.

Impending Free Agents - 2013 Salaries and 2014 Hypothetical Salaraies
Hiroki Kuroda, SP - $15,000,000 (18,000,000)
Robinson Cano, 2B - $15,000,000 (20,000,000)
Curtis Granderson, OF - $15,000,000 (TBD)

I hope Kuroda decides to return. He'll ask for a raise considering his fantastic 2013 season, bumping it up to around $18,000,000. Cano will be paid handsomely by either the Yankees or another big market team with big bucks and a need at second base (...cough....Dodgers...cough...). Let's say the Yankees and Cano agree to a 7 year, $140,000,000 deal - making him worth $20 million a year. I believe Granderson goes, along with every other FA, Hughes, Joba, Overbay, Hafner. I also presume Andy Pettitte hangs them up as well.

Cap Hit: $38,000,000; Amount leftover - $39,378,750

Roster before Free Agent/Trades/Call-ups
SP CC Sabathia
SP Hiroki Kuroda
SP Ivan Nova
SP David Phelps
SP Michael Pineda

LR Adam Warren
LHS Cesar Cabral
RP Preston Claiborne
RP Shawn Kelley
CL David Robertson

1B Mark Teixeira
2B Robinson Cano
SS Derek Jeter
3B Alex Rodriguez
OF Brett Gardner
OF Ichiro Suzuki
OF Zoilo Almonte
DH Alfonso Soriano

OF Vernon Wells
IF Jayson Nix
IF Eduardo Nunez
C Austin Romine

Remaining Moves
I think the Yankees can do some damage in free agency to legitimately help the team. Here is who can fill out the roster affordably.

Middle Relief: RHP Chase Whitley. He's down in AAA. He is major league ready with 3 solid pitches. He'll only cost the MLB minimum at $490K. Former Phillie David Herndon is also a possibility, as is Mark Montgomery, top relief prospect.

Experienced Reliever: RHP Jesse Crain. I think Crain makes a lot of sense to add another experience reliever who could probably close if Robertson falters. Crain is making $4.5 million this year - let's give him that contract for 2014 as well.

Starting Catcher: C Brian McCann. He is ideal for this team. They need a starting catcher who is MLB quality. He is making $12 million with the Braves this year; let's give him a realistic 5 year/$75 million contract, at $15,000,000 a year.

Adding these contracts and removing C Chris Stewart and C Francisco Cervelli:

Cap Hit: $19,990,000 - 1,200,000 = $18,790,000; Amount leftover - $20,588,450.

The Yankees can still afford to get themselves a quality OF, push Almonte to the bench and cutting Wells. They can improve their bench by getting a better utility player than Nix. They can also afford to bring in a solid veteran SP who won't break the bank, such as Colby Lewis, Chris Capuano, Jason Hammel are some targets. Even with A-Rod, I think the Yankees can make this $189,000,000 cap work, while getting younger, healthier, and possibly better.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

2014: If A-Rod's Suspended, Who Plays Third?

I've been away for a month: my apologies. I hope all of you are enjoying your summer, which is going better than the 2013 New York Yankees season is. Playoffs are pretty much out of the mix, unless the team goes on a Braves or Tigers-esque tear by winning like 80% of their games over the rest of the month. But, that won't matter in 2014. What does matter is that third baseman Alex Rodriguez could miss the entire season if his suspension is upheld, or even possibly reduced to missing a large chunk of the season. How will the Yankees prepare for this? The front office must go into the season prepared, and not try and patch it with Jayson Nix or another old, injury-prone veteran (This means you, Kevin Youkilis and your $12 million salary). Let's take a look at the options:

Free Agent Third Basemen (all names via MLBTradeRumors.com)
Eric Chavez
Placido Polanco
Mark Reynolds
Michael Young
Kevin Youkilis

If that's not an awful list, I do not know what is. Let's eliminate Youkilis: he's a goner, and likely is his MLB career. Chavez played well in a bench role in NY from '11-12, but I would not be surprised if he stays out west, having another career resurgence with Arizona. Reynolds has been DFA'd by the Indians, and really should be a DH - he is an awful fielder. That cuts to Polanco and Young. Polanco is not suited to be an everyday player, but really a UTIL IF. Michael Young is a player the Yankees would sign; that's such a Yankees move. You have to put up with the poor glove, but he's still a decent RHB.

Most Likely Signing: Young

Free Agent Middle Infielders
Omar Infante
Ben Zobrist (Option)
Stephen Drew
Jhonny Peralta
Yunel Escobar

I will almost guarantee Zobrist gets his option picked up. I will almost guarantee Escobar remains at SS and get a decent contract somewhere. That leaves Infante, Drew and Peralta. All three are comparable ages at 31, 31, 32. Infante has played 107 games at 3B, according to Baseball Reference. Drew has started hitting again, like he did in Arizona, which could earn him some more $. Drew reportedly turned down more money from the Yankees this offseason to play everyday in Boston. Peralta is a great fit to move to 3B: he's a good hitter with a decent glove but little range. Plus, Peralta will be coming off his 50 game Biogenesis suspension. I'd prefer Drew or Infante, as they are the more premium players, but they'll require a likely 3 year contract, at least. Peralta is a good fit.

Most Likely Signing: Peralta

Internal Options
David Adams
Eduardo Nunez
Ronnie Mustelier
Jayson Nix

Nunez will be considered the SS in case Jeter goes down again. Nix should be no more than the utility man. So, it's Adams or Mustelier. Yankees should play Adams nearly daily down the stretch: see what he's got. His bat looked like it was turning around just has he got sent down the first time. He can play the position, and finally stayed healthy this year. His bat, and plate approach should translate to the majors - might as well see what he has. Mustelier has just had awful luck: getting hurt just as Spring Training ended, costing him a roster spot, getting hurt as he got hot in the minors and just being awful in AAA since. I want to see both of these players get a shot, but Adams getting the gig.

Internal Candidate: David Adams

So, what'll happen? The good thing is that the Yankees, if A-Rod's suspension and loss of contract $$ is included, will have approx. $140 million coming off the books. If they can invest that in an SP, Cano, and a legit catcher (McCann?), they can bring in a Peralta type. For now, we have to think David Adams could be the Yankees 3B next season.