Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Brian Roberts Not A Very Good Plan D At Second

(Courtesy of Derick Hingle/USA Today Sports)

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

When Omar Infante signed with the Royals and the Cardinals swallowed up Mark Ellis last week, many of us went back to our mental drawing boards regarding the second base position for the Yankees next year.  The team had said from the minute it signed Kelly Johnson that he was not looked at as a full-time replacement for Robinson Cano, and the expectation was that the team would ramp up efforts to secure Infante or another more reliable Plan B/Plan C option quickly to at least provide some stability there.  They didn't, other team swooped in, and the new Plan D option, according to Ken Rosenthal's reports last night, is 36-year-old Brian Roberts.

Who's Next On The 40-Man Roster Hit List?

The Yankees appear to be making up for a slow Winter Meetings week with another flurry of signings early this week.  They've agreed to sign Brian Roberts to a 1-year deal as part of what looks more and more like a patchwork solution at second base.  And a few hours ago the Matt Thornton signing broke, giving them an MLB-proven option for the LOOGY role in next year's bullpen.  Add to that the still-not-official Carlos Beltran signing and the Yankees are looking at 43 players for 40 spots on the active roster right now.

So who gets the axe next?  Based on the positions of the players added, it only makes sense that Vernon Wells be the one to go for Beltran.  He serves little purpose as a 5th or 6th outfielder and the team can get better production out of the DH spot by rotating players through than they would have from Wells.  Lefty pitcher David Huff will probably also get future endeavored now that Thornton is in the 'pen.  No need to carry 3 lefty relief options when there's only 1 available spot.

The last one could be a little trickier.  Roberts' presence could signal the end for Eduardo Nunez.  But with Nunez and Dellin Betances both reportedly still having MiL options left, perhaps the Yankees will just take the easy way out and bump 1 or both of them down to clear space.  Another spot should open up when the A-Rod suspension decision comes down, for 50 games at least, and it makes sense to hold onto as many potential assets as you can when your projected starting lineup is as old, injury-risky, and platoon-heavy as the Yankees' appears it will be.

They don't have to make any decisions yet, but as physicals get completed and deals become official it will be interesting to see how they go about juggling 40-man spots for all these new players.

BREAKING: Yanks Sign Lefty Reliever Matt Thornton

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

Well there's some unexpected bullpen help.  As first reported by Jack Curry, the Yankees have agreed to a 2-year/$7 million deal with lefty specialist Matt Thornton.  The deal is pending a physical of course, and should he pass it Thornton will replace Boone Logan as the team's primary LOOGY out of the 'pen in 2014.

Thornton, 37, was one of if not THE premiere lefty specialist in baseball as recently as 2011 with the White Sox.  He struggled for them early last year before being dealt to the Red Sox at the trade deadline and performing much better.  Overall he pitched to a 3.74/4.04/4.13 slash line in 43.1 IP in 2013 with a .280 wOBA against from left-handed hitters.  For his career lefties have hit .229/.296/.350 against him in 249.2 IP.

Thornton comes with a pretty fair amount of risk as an older reliever.  His K rate has decreased every year since 2010, from 33.9% then to just 16.0% this past season.  That's partially due to his increased ineffectiveness against righties, but as a LOOGY he should still be above-average and he comes at a much more team-friendly cost than Logan would have.  At the very least, it's an early-season upgrade over Cesar Cabral if Thornton can maintain his effectiveness against same-side hitters.

P.S.- For shits and giggles, here's my anti-Thornton rant from the 2011 offseason.  At that time it didn't make a lot of sense to trade away prospects for a guy with $12 million still owed to him.  Today, for just $7 mil and no prospects, it's a much better deal.

Tuesday Mid-Morning Food For Thought: Bang For The Buck (UPDATED)

Yankee Free Agents Lost This Offseason: Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Boone Logan, Joba Chamberlain

Total Amount Paid to Those Free Agents: $319 million

Yankee Free Agents Signed This Offseason: Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, Kelly Johnson, Hiroki Kuroda, Carlos Beltran*, Brian Roberts, Matt Thornton

Total Amount Paid to Those Free Agents: $304 311 million

Say what you want about how the Yankees are approaching this offseason, but don't say they aren't being smarter in general than we're used to seeing.  They would have been crazy to go 10 years for Cano or 3 for Logan and they wisely let them walk, and 4/$60 mil for Granderson is probably more than they wanted to pay.  Despite the holes they still have on the roster, they've managed to sign 6 7 players for $15 8 million less than the dollar value of the 4 they lost and they still have money available to add rotation/bullpen depth before equaling the total amount they didn't spend on the other guys.

If a chunk or all of that $15 8 million goes to Masahiro Tanaka, it'll be hard to say the Yankees didn't make the right moves this offseason.  7 8 useful bodies beats 4 any day of the week.

(*- Still not technically signed, but he will be)

Report: Yanks "Likely" To Sign Brian Roberts (UPDATED)

Well I guess that's one way to start plugging the hole at second.  This report came out late last night and it hasn't been verified by another of the regular Yankee beat guys, but Ken Rosenthal is a pretty reliable source so I'm taking it as gospel.

Roberts, 36, is a former All Star-caliber second baseman who's had his career completely derailed by injuries over the last 4 seasons.  The most serious one was a concussion and a long bout with post-concussion symptoms in 2011.  He's a .278/.349/.412 career switch hitter (.335 wOBA) but his line has been closer to the .230/.300/.350 range since the injury problems started.

There are no details yet on what type of deal it will be, but I have to imagine it will be for only 1 year regardless of the dollars or if it's even a guaranteed Major League contract.  Roberts' best days are far behind him and the Yankees seem to already know that if they are not taking themselves out of the running for other better options as Rosenthal reported.  At first glance I'm not a fan of this move.  I am willing to wait to see where it goes as more information on it comes out, however.  There isn't much left out there on the FA market for the Yanks, so I guess Roberts is better than nothing.

* UPDATE 7:47 AM- Via Rosenthal's latest tweet, the deal is official.  1 year/$2 million plus incentives and it is obviously pending a physical.  There you go. **