Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
Observations From Cooperstown
2007-03-23 09:53
by Alex Belth

By Bruce Markusen

The Yankee Rumor Mill—Does It Exist Anymore?

I can't remember the last time the Yankees experienced such a quiet spring on the trade rumor front. It stands in direct contrast to a long forgotten season like 1989, when rumors infiltrated the Yankee camp in Ft. Lauderdale almost every day, with a busy front office pulling off spring deals for the likes of Steve "Bye Bye" Balboni, Tom Brookens, and Mel Hall. It seems almost every spring that there's a rumor about the Yankees acquiring a brand-name pitcher, or a center fielder, or an extra arm out of the bullpen—something through the trade route. This year, however, all's silent on the rumor mill. Other than the never-ending talk regarding a possible return of Roger Clemens—which won't happen until May at the earliest and would not involve an actual trade—there has hardly been any substantive talk of the Yankees making a deal this spring. I guess that's the price you pay for having a talented team with few glaring weaknesses. (And it's not like Balboni, Brookens, and Hall drastically changed the fortunes of the '89 Yankees, who won only 74 games and finished fifth in the AL East.)

With the phone lines remaining quiet, some writers have been busy trying to concoct trades that might make some sense. Others have been contemplating deals that could happen after the season starts. After all, this is a Yankee team that does have flaws, even for all of its frontline talent. The backup catching situation is a mess, first base could be a disaster if Dougie Mink is given too long a leash, and the back end of the rotation looks something less than sturdy. With that in mind, let's assess some moves that either could happen, or at least in theory, would improve Yankee fortunes.

Bullpen help to the Phillies for a spare catcher: Earlier this week, Joel Sherman of the New York Post suggested a trade that would make a great deal of sense for the Yankees and a potential trade partner in the National League: Mike Myers to the Phillies for backup catcher Carlos Ruiz. The Phillies need relief pitching like Doug Mientkiewicz needs a corked bat, so Sherman is certainly on the right track. Ruiz, a 28-year-old receiver with solid defensive skills and something more than a lightweight bat, would represent an upgrade over the current backstop brigade of Todd Pratt, Wil Nieves, Raul Chavez, and Ben Davis. Let me add another suggestion to this scenario. If the Phillies don't like Myers, how about sending Ron Villone to Philadelphia for Chris Coste? Already 34, Coste is six years older than Ruiz, but does bring a potentially stronger bat and the versatility to play other positions, including first base and third base. With Rod Barajas around as the starting catcher in Philadelphia, either Coste or Ruiz should be available—at least in theory.

Carl Pavano going nowhere for now: At the beginning of spring training, we heard whispers that the Mariners, Rockies, and Cardinals had interest in Pavano, but the Yankees responded by essentially taking the right-hander off the market. The reason? Brian Cashman realized that the timing wasn't right because Pavano's value remains exceedingly low. (Plus, with recent concerns over Andy Pettitte's back, Pavano might become more necessary in the grand scheme.) Here's what Cashman wants to do: open the season with Pavano, hope that he pitches well over the first month and builds up his trade value, and then re-explore trades that might bring back a backup catcher, or first base help, or a prospect. By then, the Yankees could look more seriously at using Jeff Karstens as a fifth starter, or even give some thought to a recall of Phil Hughes or Ross Ohlendorf.

An Alex Rodriguez blockbuster: An Angels blogger claims that the Yankees have talked to Anaheim about a trade that would put A-Rod on the left coast in exchange for a package of three players: catcher Jose Molina, right-hander Jered Weaver, and minor league righty Dustin Moseley (ah yes, another pitching prospect). Pardon me for doubting, but I suspect that Cashman has had little or no conversation with the Angels regarding A-Rod this spring. Even if he had, this particular package doesn't fit, now that Weaver has been placed on the disabled list and will miss Opening Day. (Plus, the Yankees like Ervin Santana better than Weaver.) The Yankees would also need a third baseman in the deal, necessitating that someone like Chone Figgins be included. Still, I could see a trade like this being discussed sometime after April 1, assuming certain conditions are met. If the Yankees stumble out of the gate badly and A-Rod simultaneously slumps at the plate, rumblings of him exercising his "out" clause will only escalate. Angels owner Arte Moreno absolutely loves Rodriguez, who would be a perfect fit for a Halos team that needs at least one more slugger to team with Vladimir Guerrero. Of course, A-Rod would have to give his consent. He's not ready to do that, but a poor start coupled with continuing showers of Bronx boos could convince A-Rod to cut his losses and move on to the next stage of his career.

Are any of these scenarios—a deal with the Phillies, a trade of Pavano, a blockbuster involving A-Rod—likely to happen? Of course not. When it comes to trades, especially in this day of complicated contracts, lack of organizational depth for many teams, and a preponderance of conservative GMs, always bet against a trade happening. But these are the kinds of moves that Cashman should be considering, especially if the Yankees duplicate their slow start of 2005. This team has some pitching and depth concerns—and only a fool would consider the Yankees bulletproof, in need of nothing as Opening Day approaches.

Bruce Markusen is the author of seven books, including A Baseball Dynasty: Charlie Finley's Swingin' A's. His newest book, a revised edition of Tales From The Mets Dugout, is now available from Sports Publishing. Bruce is a resident of Cooperstown, NY.

2007-03-23 10:12:03
1.   Knuckles
I am not on the "Trade Alex" bandwagon, but if it absolutely had to happen (ie- Cash was dead certain he'd opt out next Fall), Anaheim is a good fit. Kendrick and Santana might do the trick.
2007-03-23 10:39:09
2.   jayd
Alex has a mega year and Yanks take the serious: the chances are so much better for that to happen than these trade rumours all of which are so pro Angel, one can only see their roots in LA sportwriter and sportsblogger reveries.


You're wasting our time.

2007-03-23 10:52:31
3.   joejoejoe
The Pirates need some of everything except catching. They have Ronnie Paulino who is the best young catcher not named Joe Mauer AND Ryan Doumit, Einar Diaz, Humberto Cota and top prospect Neil Walker who they converted from C (precious commodity) to 3B (not so much). Why don't the Pirates trade some catching to the Yankees for any combination of Kevins or Beam/ns they desire? I want the Bucs' BUC.
2007-03-23 11:16:23
4.   Shaun P
Even with the opt-out specter looming, trading A-Rod for anything short of Vlad would be a disaster for the Yanks. Teams that trade inner-circle Hall of Famers always lose the trade.

The counter to this, "But if A-Rod has already decided he's going to opt-out, shouldn't the Yanks get something for him?"

I say no, because whatever they get is not as valuable as A-Rod himself, and as long as they don't trade A-Rod, they could still end up with A-Rod. Even if A-Rod decided a month ago to use the opt-out clause.

He's already shown once he'll take the most bucks and not care about anything else (like boo-birds). And any Cubs fan will tell you that an opt-out clause does not mean the player is for-certain gone (Aramis Ramirez).

However, the moment the Yanks trade A-Rod, the Yanks lose him for good in one of two ways. (1) The team he goes to agrees to give him a huge contract extension, taking him off the market. That's the smart thing to do. (2) A-Rod still uses the opt-out clause, in which case the odds of him signing with the Yanks are low. Money might not rule the day, and the press beating he'd take from the MSM would be enormous. I can see and hear it now.

"A-Rod said he wanted out of NY, which compelled (Team X)' owner Y to overrule GM Z and give the Yanks star player A and highly-regarded prospects B and C in exchange for A-Rod. Now A-Rod has abandoned the (Team X) and returned to the Yanks, while Y and Z fume." A-LIAR! scream the tabloids. "Did A-Rod really want out of NY?" asks SportsCenter and for a week.

Trading A-Rod is not a solution, and I really hope Cashman isn't even considering it.

2007-03-23 11:47:47
5.   heyman800
The nationals will have 3 catchers on their openning day roster, and are in a rebuilding mode. Why not trade a 2nd-tier prospect for Robert Fick?
2007-03-23 12:34:00
6.   Sliced Bread
5 Good call re: Fick the Stick. I imagine he's on the Yanks radar but have never heard so much as a rumor that they're interested in him.
I've always liked him.
2007-03-23 13:08:17
7.   williamnyy23
5 If my memory is correct, Fick is an absolutely awful defensive catcher. Also, his OPS+ over the past three seasons has been 58, 94 and 74. Considering his poor defense, Fick would actually be a downgrade if he hit anywhere near his 2004 and 2006 levels.

What's more, he is also very ugly.

2007-03-23 13:13:12
8.   Yankee Fan In Boston
5 6 7 with nick johnson banged up again, the nationals would be smart to hold onto fick as an insurance policy.

plus, if the yankees are going to make a move, they might as well go after a longer term solution. they have plenty of short term options at the moment.

2007-03-23 13:39:49
9.   Raf
Ah, 1989... Where Balboni, Hall, and Barfield were to make up for the departure of Winfield & Clark. Dallas Green getting into it with Pags & Rickey... Manager George... Bucky Dent... Gator retiring in ST. Tommy John getting the boot a few months down the line...

What a crappy season, exceeded in crappiness by the following season.

2007-03-23 13:43:58
10.   OldYanksFan
ARod makes $27m in 07 and 08. In 09, he can opt-out/renegociate unless he gets $32m for his last 2 years.

While I am an ARod fan, these are sick numbers. Because Texas is kicking in, ARod now costs us in the neighborhood of $20-21m/yr.

I don't want to discuss whether we could/should trade ARod, or whether he will/won't opt-out.

I think as a FA, ARod loses a lot of money. With a new contract, Texas is off the hook, and unlike the Yankees, another team doesn't get a $5-6m/yr discount.

My question and discussion thought is:
Whats ARod worth?
He's 33 after this year.
He's a great player but not Pujols, Bonds (in his prime) or the Babe.
To me, even $25m/yr seems too high.

Will any other team commit to a 3+ year contract for $25+m/yr?

Yes, I know Sori got $18, but past insanities don't justify what someone will Pay ARod.

Just what can ARod get, and from whom, on the FA market?

2007-03-23 13:48:44
11.   Shawn Clap
Wow. I had totally blocked "Tom Brookens was Yankee" from my memory. Lean, lean years.
2007-03-23 14:01:52
12.   Shaun P
10 "In 09, he can opt-out/renegociate unless he gets $32m for his last 2 years."

Actually, that's not true. The Yanks need to either (1) increase his salary by $5M OR (2) make sure he's paid $1M more than the highest paid MLB position player. Given that the 2nd highest paid position player will currently be Jeter/Manny at $20M in '09 and Jeter at $21M in '10, no worries there.

Of the teams who could conceivably afford A-Rod:

The Mets have no room (Wright at 3B, Reyes at SS), though plenty of dough.

The Red Sox have plenty of room, but maybe not the cash to spend, and if A-Rod thinks NY fans and media are rough . . .

The Cubs have no room unless A-Rod goes to SS, but the money is the problem there. Can they possibly afford to add another $27+/year AND resign Zambrano for Zito-like money (or more)? I think not, and Zambrano will be their priority.

The White Sox have money and room - but Jerry Reinsdorf has never negotiated a contract where a guy got more than $13M/season on average, and he probably never will. Selig would take him off his AIM buddy list if he did.

The Angels have money, and room. They do have Brandon Wood maybe in the wings, but who would you rather have?

The Dodgers maybe have money, but I don't know about room - Furcal at SS through '08, LaRoche in the wings waiting to play 3B. I suppose Furcal could move to SS . . . but I don't see the Dodgers ponying up the cash.

Seattle and Texas are obviously out of the question.

Then there are the teams that presumably have the money to spend, but I don't see why A-Rod would ever go there: Baltimore and San Fran

And finally the teams who could (in theory) afford A-Rod, but will never pay what he's looking for: Philly, Houston, Atlanta and maybe Detroit

So it seems to come down to the Angels. I'm not too worried.

2007-03-23 14:03:47
13.   Shaun P
10 12 Oh, and if A-Rod hits the FA market, the starting point for price is going to be $27M/year, since that's what he'd be passing up to opt out. So let's say negotiations start at $135M/5 years.

11 Some of the guys who passed through the Yanks in those years really make me appreciate the last 13 seasons or so.

2007-03-23 14:11:37
14.   Eirias
12 Given that the Yankees automatically fulfill the second condition, how can A-Rod opt-out unless another team set a now record for position-player salary?
2007-03-23 14:11:51
15.   Eirias
14 new, rather
2007-03-23 14:18:14
16.   Zack
Well, now that Bean has given up a few runs, his pathway is cleared to return to the minors. Joe had to run him out there enough times so he could have an excuse, right?
On the other hand, there seems to be no reason other than that bellyful of guts to put Villone on the roster...
2007-03-23 16:24:58
17.   nemecizer
4 10 12 Great analysis by all above. I just don't see A-Rod getting traded at the end of this season. His future is in New York. Yes, he can opt out of his contract, but I will paint my hat red and call it apple pie if he does. I guess we Yankees fans are just stuck with one of the best producing 3rd basemen of the past 20 years.

On a related note, it will be interesting to see how he does at 3B now that he has apparently lost some bulk. I always thought his errors last year were due to the fact that he built up and lost some of the mobility he had as a SS.

I am excited for this season.

2007-03-23 16:59:23
18.   das411
Those Phillies deals are interesting, I can't for the life of me see what Pat Gillick does in Barajas but it seems either Coste or Ruiz will not make the team to start the season, and since Pat does not seem afraid to trade with the Yankees why not try this time to get an experienced arm?

The only thing I am wondering is...didn't we just trade a backup catcher to the NYY last year?

2007-03-23 17:56:15
19.   OldYanksFan
12 I believe you are wrong.

2008 season: $27 million ($3 million deferred with 3% interest)
At the end of 2008 season has the right to void seasons 2009 and 2010 and become an unrestricted free agent unless Rangers increase 2009 and 2010 salaries by the greater of $5 million or $1 million above the 10 largest salary of any position player.

2009 season: $27 million plus the greater of $5 million or $1 million above the then largest salary of any position player. ($3 million deferred with 3% interest)

2010 season: $27 million plus the greater of $5 million or $1 million above the then largest salary of any psition player. ($3 million deferred with 3% interest)
During the years 2001 thru 2004 base compensation of $23 million shall be increased $2 million above the highest average annual value of any shortstop in baseball.

Think about it. If it was NOT 'the greater of', then the $5mil clause makes little sense.
How often does someone write a contract for their benefit where they take 'the lesser'?

2007-03-23 18:48:35
20.   Yu-Hsing Chen
eek, Wang has what is hopefully only a leg cramp and not a pulled hammy.
2007-03-23 19:25:17
21.   Shaun P
19 I could be wrong. I got my info from the wonderful 'Cot's Baseball Contracts' site, which does not include 'the greater of' clause.

And not having 'the greater of' does make sense - the way things were going that offseason, MLB seemed only a few years away from a $30M+/year player. That it didn't happen just means Scott Boras can't predict the future any better than the rest of us. =)

2007-03-23 19:32:12
22.   Bruce Markusen
Though I'm grateful that the Yankees have a much, much better team than they did in 1989, I do kind of miss the day-to-day news produced by the club that long-ago spring. There was always something going on, from a key injury to another trade being made to discussion of how Dallas Green was trying to change the attitude of what had become an increasingly lax team in recent years.

In a way, it's more interesting than the Jeter/A-Rod saga that dominated the early part of this year's camp, or the persistent talk about A-Rod opting out at season's end.

Or maybe it's just that I don't really appreciate the way the mainstream media covers the Yankees today, with the emphasis on "soap opera" over "substance."

2007-03-23 20:01:04
23.   wsporter
Mr. Torre was quoted about Villone today: "After watching and a couple other outings, it looks like he's trying to create velocity, and it's not there." Seems that Henn has a leg up. Maybe that's good news or maybe it's trade drumming.
2007-03-24 00:21:08
24.   Rich
Can we please end the inclusion of Figgons to play 3B in any deal for A-Rod:

.267 .336 .376

Seriously. It would be a travesty.

2007-03-24 06:33:03
25.   Raf
22 Lax? The team was coming off a year where they were competetive in a weak division, but stumbled down the stretch when injuries and the pitching (or lack thereof) caught up to them.
2007-03-24 07:44:26
26.   rbj
I'm kinda happy there is no trade rumor central for the Yankees -- it means we've got a bunch of good players at each position; the only things of concern are BUC, utility IF, and the last two spots in the bullpen. I think every other team would love to have those be their problems.
2007-03-24 18:13:12
27.   Bruce Markusen
Raf, they weren't lax in terms of being a bad team, but there was a general feeling around the Yankees of the late eighties that they were a poor fundamental team that sometimes didn't play with maximum effort (such as Rickey Henderson). That was one of the motivations in bringing in a disciplinarian like Dallas Green, whom some believed had the ability to "toughen up" a team. Now you might not agree that the Yankees of that era were "lax" in terms of efforts and fundamentals--it's pretty hard to prove in retrospect--but that was the general perception at the time.

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