YANKEES OUTFIELD LEFT AND RIGHT/INTERESTED IN NOLASCO/MOVES YANKS PASSED ON LAST YEAR

Perhaps the title of this piece is misleading. I want to talk about something left and something right relating to the Yankee outfield, but it has to do with batting, not fielding. First, let’s talk about the “left” side of this equation: Raul Ibanez.

The Yankees have had preliminary discussions about bringing Voldemort back for another go ’round in pinstripes. As Mike pointed out in the River Ave. blurb, Ibanez hit to a 102 wRC+ this season, including a 115 mark against right handers, which is whom he’d primarily be used against. Due to Brett Gardner‘s injury, Ibanez had to play an inordinate amount of games in the field and that could have negatively affected his (still decent) production in 2012. My gut reaction with him (as it would be with most of his ilk) is that it’s better to let him go a year early, rather than a year late. However, if his deployment is limited, like Mike pointed out, to only DHing against right handed pitchers, Ibanez and the Yankees could be set up for mutual success. If the Yankees want to bring Ibanez back, it should be with the intention (and execution) of giving him the 2009 Hideki Matsui treatment: NO PLAYING THE FIELD.

Now let’s move on to the right side of things. Andruw Jones‘s days in the Bronx are likely numbered after his poor second half performance. That saddens me ’cause I’ve always liked Jones and his smiley countenance is always a nice reminder that this is just a game. There aren’t many candidates to replace him, but I think I’ve found someone interesting. Here are his numbers (PA followed by wOBA/wRC+) against lefties over the last few years:

2012: 106, .256/59
2011: 134, .398/157
2010: 81, .335/108
2009: 154, .416/149

As we can see, though, health has been an issue for this player. He’s been sidelined quite a bit lately and despite his best efforts, he just can’t seem to get his health or performance right. Obviously, the 2012 numbers against lefties are just putrid, but I don’t think that’s indicative of this player’s talent. Of course, the plate is only part of the equation; this guy will need to play the field at some point and he’s not all that great. The best part of this player is that he is not likely to cost a whole lot, though he shouldn’t be guaranteed a roster spot given his health and performance over the last two years. If you haven’t guessed yet, the player I’m talking about is Jason Bay. He probably needs to get the hell out of New York and never look back, but if put in a low-pressure situation–one that sets him up for success–maybe he could reclaim some of what he’s lost in the last few years with the Mets. Give him the 2010 Marcus Thames treatment with an invite to Spring Training and go from there.

Let’s be realistic, the Yankees aren’t trading for Giancarlo Stanton, who’s probably the best young hitter in baseball, better than Mike Trout or Bryce Harper. He’s cheap, with four more years of team control, and he’s hit 93 homeruns before turning 23 years old. While I think the Yankees could somehow put together enough pieces to work a trade, (the entire farm system) the Marlins have no reason to do so. The team has also expressed that they have no plans to trade Stanton.

What’s left of the 2012 Marlins

While Miami is in a fire sale, the Yankees ought to look into some of their players. We already know the front office has interest in starting pitcher Ricky Nolasco, who’s actually a lot better than his numbers indicate. Over the last four years, the 29 year old righty posted a 4.68 ERA over 739.2 innings. Despite a large sample size and a terrible ERA, his FIP hasn’t even touched 4.00. In fact, since he’s been a full time player, the yearly FIP’s read, 3.77, 3.35, 3.86, 3.54, 3.87.This isn’t to say he’s been unlucky, even though his LOB% is extremely low.

The truth is, the Miami Marlins are pretty awful defensively. Even with this in consideration, Nolasco has challenged the faith of many stat geeks. His once impeccable control and strong strikeout numbers convinced many that he had top of the rotation starter potential, but many have given up.

2012 was by far his worst season, despite putting up his lowest ERA since 2008. His K% plummeted to 15.0% and his fastball fell to an average 90.1 mph. He did maintain his typical command, but also increased his GB% by increasing sinker usage. 2012 looked more like an experiment as a contact pitcher, rather than a typical unlucky Nolasco season.

At $11.5 million for one year, it isn’t the worst buy low trade to make. With better defense and a change of scenery, Nolasco might finally become the top of the rotation starter his sabermetrics indicate. Might is the key word, and even though I put the chance closer to 0% than 100%, he’s worth the pickup if the Yankees can get something else out of the trade.

Logan Morrison is on the cutting block too. The Yankees need a right fielder, they really should try to get younger, and this player needs to be cheap for the team’s 2014/2015 budget. Perhaps calling Morrison a right fielder is a little too generous, but the guy is certainly young, cheap, and full of high-upside talent.

Despite hitting .230/.308/.399 in his injury shortened 2012, Morrison hit a combined .259/.351/.460 over 812 plate appearances in the previous two season. The trouble in 2012 comes from a small sample size corrupted by incredibly low BABIP on both ground balls and line drives. It’s not hard to imagine why the Marlin’s former top prospect fell out of favor. He’s had issues with the organization before, 2012 wasn’t his best season, and he didn’t appear too happy about last night’s trade either.

It would be another buy low situation, which could be further offset by taking on Nolasco’s full contract, but that doesn’t mean it’s a perfect fit. The 25 year old spent very little time in the outfield as a prospect, and his defensive metrics aren’t very kind about his glove in the outfield. As a full time left fielder in Miami, Morrison has consistently put up negative UZR’s and low fielding percentages. The small right field in Yankee Stadium might help, but there isn’t much to wish on fielding-wise.

He’s also a third left handed batter in the outfield. The Yankees are always looking for lefties with power to hit home runs over the short right field porch. A problem exists when you’re starting outfield of three left handed hitters faces a left handed pitcher who can neutralize same side batters. Fortunately, Morrison doesn’t have much of a platoon split yet.

It’s not the perfect trade, but outside of the Nick Swisher deal four years ago, how many trades are perfect? Both of these players have advanced numbers that indicate they’re coming off unlucky seasons. If the Yankees are willing to take on the full $11.5 million for Nolasco’s 2013 season, there should be a slight discount on Morrison. As Morrison enters his peak years, there’s a lot of potential upside there that Yankees would have control over until 2017. The Yankees have all the money in the world to spend for 2013.

Nothing is certain about these two players, but that hasn’t held Cashman back lately. If the Michael Pineda/Jesus Montero trade taught us anything, the Yankees are willing to take a risk on young players. Unfortunately, during this offseason, I don’t see many other high potential young and cheap outfielders available for less than trading the entire farm system

Anybody wish these 2 were around right now? Courtesy of US Presswire & Getty Images

(The following is being syndicated from An A-Blog for A-Rod)

Interestingly enough, or frustratingly enough depending on how against the austerity plan you are, the Yankees really kicked this plan into high gear last offseason when they failed to get involved in the international free agent market.  It was one of the best classes in recent memory, highlighted by Yu Darvish and Yoenis Cespedes, 2 players who, ironically enough, play the positions the Yanks most need to fill this offseason.  At the time, the Yankees’ reasons for passing on both players were good ones.  The history of Japanese pitchers making the transition to MLB was short on success stories, and the Yankees had been on the losing end of that gamble before, and there were questions about Cespedes’ ability to come right in and play at the Major League level.

Not wanting to commit high dollars to 2 risky options that might not have returned comparable rewards, Cash decided to play it safe with his bids on each player and the Yankees lost out on both.  Darvish ended up in Texas and Cespedes in Oakland, and both of them finished in the top 3 of the AL Rookie of the Year vote yesterday, an award that they could have battled it out for had Mike Trout not come and blown everyone’s doors off.  Now that their first years as Major Leaguers are over, let’s take a look back and play a little “what if?” game with each guy.

For all the talk about his weird throwing schedule and too many pitches having a negative impact on his effectiveness, Darvish certainly hit the ground running in 2012.  He pitched 8.1 shutout innings with 10 K in just his 4th career start, a start that just so happened to be against the Yankees, giving Cash and everybody else in the front office a good look at what they missed out on.  He did struggle with walks early in the season, and for the whole season for that matter as his 4.19 BB/9 and 10.9% BB rate were both higher than you’d like to see, but Darvish made up for that with his swing-and-miss stuff (27.1% K rate) and didn’t have much of a problem adjusting to the American game.  Despite missing a handful of starts due to injury, Darvish still pitched to a 3.90/3.29/3.52 slash in 191.1 innings, good for 5.1 fWAR, which was tied for 5th most in MLB.  Oh, and he’s just 26.

Now here’s where the fun starts.  The Yankees weren’t as aggressive on Darvish as they’ve been in the past because of the performance questions but also because of the money.  After winning the posting with a $51.7 million bid, the Rangers signed Darvish to a reasonable 6 year/$60 million deal, bringing the total AAV of his contract to $18.6 million per season.  If the Yankees had won the bidding and signed Darvish to the same deal, it’s safe to assume that the Michael Pineda trade never gets made and Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte never get signed.  Maybe Kuroda, since the rotation at that point would have been CC, Darvish, Hughes, Nova, and Garcia, and Kuroda was a great value at $10 mil.  But I’m going to go ahead and say that Hirok and Andy would not have ended up in a Yankee uniform if Darvish did.

From a performance standpoint, there wouldn’t have been a whole lot of difference this past season.  Kuroda made more starts and pitched more innings, but the rest of Darvish’s stats were better almost completely across the board.  Everything going down the way it did this season, Darvish for Kuroda would have been worth about 1 more win, which would have still put the Yankees right where they ended up in the postseason and still probably resulted in an ALCS loss due to the offensive blackout.

From a financial standpoint, Darvish would have cost a little north of $6 million more against the cap this season compared to Kuroda and Pettitte’s combined value ($12.5 mil).  With the raises Kuroda and Pettitte are expected to receive if they come back this season, we’ll call it $15 mil and $7 mil for the purposes of time, Darvish’s cap hit this coming season would actually be less than what the Yankees will pay to fill their rotation without him.  The big ding is what would come in 2014, when Darvish’s $18+ million would almost certainly be more than what the Yankees would be looking to spend to keep payroll down.  But with Darvish being young, under team control, and entering his prime, wouldn’t that have been money worth spending?

The situation with Darvish and what coulda, woulda, shoulda happened with the rest of the rotation and the payroll is clearly pretty complicated.  The situation with Yoenis Cespedes is much less so.  Yes, he wasn’t exactly a need for the Yankees going into this season and yes, committing that much guaranteed money (4 years/$36 mil) to an international player who you aren’t 100% sure can step right into the Majors is very risky, but I’m sure the Yankees would love to have Cespedes in the fold right now.  He battled injuries a little bit too, but he showed that his 5 tools weren’t just a workout mirage, hitting .292/.356/505 (.368 wOBA) with 23 HR, 16 SB, and 3.1 fWAR in 540 PA.  Cespedes would have been a perfect candidate to replace Brett Gardner as the full-time LF this season and allowed the Yankees to maintain some bench flexibility, and he would slide right into Nick Swisher‘s vacated spot in right in 2013 at just $9 million per year, a very team-friendly number.  Oh, and he’s just 27 years old.

It’s easy to sit here and Monday morning quarterback this situation, and I’ll be the first to admit that I shared all the concerns about both players when they were on the open market last offseason.  But it’s fair to say that passing on both Darvish and Cespedes may turn out to be mistakes in the long run.  They stayed healthy, they were both wildly productive, they’re in their mid-20s, and they would have filled the greatest positions of need on the roster while still leaving room to get under the $189 million ceiling in 2014.  I’m sure the Yankees were a little gun shy after the Kei Igawa disaster, and that’s understandable, but the early foundations of the future payroll plans set last offseason that contributed to them passing on Darvish and Cespedes could wind up costing them the chance to stay competitive in 2014.

EDB

 

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