Cashman and Dombrowski Set The Record Straight on Robertson and Scherzer

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The Yankees never intended to resign David Robertson once they signed Andrew Miller.

 

New York Yankees GM Brian Cashman and Detroit Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski met with the media at the Winter meetings in San Diego Tuesday afternoon and had something interesting things to say.

Cashman admitted that once the Yankees signed Andrew Miller (four years, $36MM), they had no intention of resigning closer David Robertson, preferring a 2015 draft pick instead. The Yankees never made an official offer to Robertson, who signed a four-year, $46MM deal with the Chicago White Sox. Miller and Dellin Betances will each get a shot to close in the coming season, with manager Joe Girardi using them situationally.

There’s been some speculation that 2014 2nd round pick (from Mississippi St.) Jacob Lindgren could be in the mix, but although he struck out 48 batters in 25 innings, he also walked 13. Lindgren will likely start the season at Double-A Trenton, the highest of the four levels he pitched (and struggled) at this past season, or advanced ‘A’ Tampa.

Dombrowski addressed a statement attributed to the Tigers earlier on Tuesday concerning their free agent starter Max Scherzer. ESPN’s Buster Olney had reported that Scherzer remained a top priority for the Tigers and that they were willing to spend the money necessary to keep him.

Earlier this year, Scherzer had turned down the Tigers six-year offer worth $144MM. This time it was Dombrowski’s turn to do the rejecting.

“I don’t know where he (Olney) got that from,” Dombrowski said. “That’s not accurate. I’m not sure where it comes from, how it comes. I know it didn’t come from this room, but that’s not accurate.”

“The other thing I’ll say is I hope Mr. I (owner Mike Ilitch) didn’t see that,” Dombrowski said, “because he’d be saying, ‘Well, where did that come from?’1

Dombrowski went on to add that starting pitching “was not a priority” and no talks had taken place between the two sides.

 

1 – mlive.com
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Starter and Closer: White Sox Obtain Samardzija and Robertson

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The Chicago White Sox GM Kenny Williams can’t be blamed if he’s feeling a bit giddy this morning. Last night, Williams started the finalization of a deal that brought starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija from the Oakland A’s and he also came to terms with Yankees closer David Robertson on a four-year, $46MM deal.

Samardzija began last season with the Chicago Cubs, was dealt to the Oakland A’s at the trade deadline, and now returns to Chicago, albeit this time to the south side of the Windy City. Along with the 29-year old right-hander, the A’s sent pitcher Michael Ynoa for infielder Marcus Semien, pitcher Chris Bassitt, 1st baseman Rangel Ravelo, and catcher Josh Phegley.

Samardzija was 2-7 despite a 2.83 ERA in 17 starts for the Cubs before he and Jason Hammel were sent to the west coast for shortstop prospect Addison Russell and two others. The man with the long mullet made 16 stars for Oakland and finished with a 5 and 6 mark despite a 3.16 ERA. The Notre Dame product is in the third year of arbitration eligibility and will be a free agent after the 2015 season. He earned over $5.3MM last season.

Semien played 64 games for the White Sox last season after he had appeared in 21 contests in 2013. He put together a .673 OPS with 28 RBI in 64 games, most of which were played at second base. Baseball America ranked Semien as the 91st best prospect in this past January’s Top 100. Semien, who will be going home (born in San Fran; attended UC-Berkeley) hit 15 HR and drove in 52 runs in 84 games for Triple-A Charlotte. He also  slugged .502 en route to an .881 OPS.

Shortstop has been Semien’s primary position in the minor leagues and that’s where he is slated to play for Oakland after the departure of free agent Jed Lowrie.

Bassitt was a reliever for the University of Akron, but was converted to a starter by Chicago. He’s shown improvement, but it still a work in progress. Phlegley was a first round pick, 38th overall, in the 2009 amateur draft. The 26-year old produced 23 HR and 75 RBI and slugged .861 for Charlotte last season.

He played up with big club for 65 games in 2013, but his OPS was a below par .522. Phegley put up outstanding numbers (.966) in 61 games for Charlotte that same season. With 270 games under his belt at the Triple-A level, Phegley is at the make or break point of his career. He’ll have a shot to at the backup role to Derek Norris.

Know When To Close ‘Em

David Robertson had the best seat in the bullpen school of pitching. The Yankees reliever watched and learned from the best closer in the game, Mariano Rivera, from 2008-2013. Rivera taught Robertson his cutter and more importantly, helped him with the physical and mental aspects of the game.

After averaging 67 appearances from 2010-2013, Robertson became the full-time closer upon Rivera’s retirement. He responded with 39 saves in 44 opportunities and struck out 13.4 batters per nine innings. A first time free agent, Robertson and his agents looked to match the contract Philadelphia had given to Jonathan Papelbon (four years, $50MM) prior to the 2012 season. The Yankees were willing to go four years, but they weren’t willing to part with as much money as even the White Sox were.

With the emergence of set up man Dellin Betances, the free agent signing of Andrew Miller, and the acquistion of Justin Wilson, the Yankees felt Robertson was expendable. Kenny Williams is glad they did.

Lester, Kemp, Melky, Cespedes and Other Rumors and Factoids

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With the winter meetings commencing in San Diego Monday, there should be a handful of big named players that are dealt, signed, or talked about in the coming days.

Jon Lester and Matt Kemp are the two biggest names that are constantly creating a buzz on the line. It’s clear that Lester will set the bar for free agent pitching with his signing almost certainly to come before that of fellow free agent pitchers Max Scherzer and James Shields.

UPDATE – ESPN’s Buster Olney has reported that a decision by Lester is expected between Monday night and some time on Tuesday.

The only reported contract that has been offered to the left-hander is a six-year, $138MM deal that the Chicago Cubs have served up. On Saturday, Red Sox owner John Henry flew to Atlanta to meet with his former star to see if a deal can be struck to bring Lester back to Boston. You can be sure Henry flat out asked what will it take, and will certainly be looking for a hometown discount. Especially after the boatload of money given to free agents Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez.

The Red Sox rotation for 2015 is, at the moment, Clay Buchholz, Joe Kelly, Rubby De La Rosa, Alan Webster, and either Anthony Ranaudo or Brandon Workman. Even if Lester returns to the Red Sox, whom he played parts of nine seasons for until his trade to Oakland at the July deadline, the Red Sox will be looking to acquire another proven starter before Spring Training.

In dealing John Lackey and Lester, the Red Sox received outfielder/1st baseman Allen Craig and outfielder Yoenis Cespedes.  Boston appears to be willing to move one or both to strengthen their starting pitching. Rumors flew on Sunday that the Red Sox and San Diego Padres were discussing a Cespedes for Ian Kennedy deal.

Kennedy bounced back from a rough 2013 season with 201 innings pitched, a WHIP under 1.3 and a 3.63 ERA in 2014. He finished 13-13 to remain 13 games over .500 in his career. Cespedes started hitting like a house afire when he joined the Red Sox (22 RBI in 24 games), but ended up with a .719 OPS in 51 games after a weak September.

The Los Angeles Dodgers continue to look for a new home for outfielder Matt Kemp. Bob Dutton of the Tacoma New Tribune reported Saturday that Dodgers and Seattle Mariners were close to a deal, but the Dodgers insisted that one of Seattle’s top pitching prospects – Taijuan Walker or James Paxton – be included in the deal. Seattle responded with a big “NO” to that.

According to FoxSports’ Jon Morosi, the Texas Rangers have now joined Seattle, Baltimore, and San Diego in pursuit of Kemp. Bob Nightengale of USA Today believe the Padres are the likely landing spot for the veteran outfielder.

Kemp isn’t the only Dodger being shopped. LA spoke to the Arizona Diamondbacks about a swap that would sent first baseman Andre Ethier to the desert for catcher Miguel Montero.  A potential deal was negated by Arizona ownership, per FoxSports’ Ken Rosenthal. Trading within the division is always a tricky thing and it’s understandable that front offices get nervous about a player coming back to haunt them 15-20 times a year.

The market for Melky Cabrera is beginning to heat up. The Mariners are reportedly very interested in a Melky – Robinson Cano reunion. The contract could be similar to the four-year deal the M’s gave Nelson Cruz. The San Francisco Giants, who the Melkman played for in 2012, are also showing interest. Cabrera missed the last 50 games of the regular season due to his Biogenesis suspension and the Giants decided against bringing him back for the playoffs.

Pitcher Jason Hammel appears headed back to the Chicago Cubs, per the NY Post’s Joel Sherman. Hammel was dealt by the Cubs to Oakland at the deadline last season and subsequently bombed.

ESPN’s Adam Rubin reported that the New York Mets, very much in need of a shortstop, have talked to the Mariners about Chris Taylor and Brad Miller. Wilmer Flores is the Mets shortstop in the meantime.

Rosenthal’s sources say the Milwaukee Brewers are open to dealing outfielder Gerardo Parra. The 27-year old was sent from Arizona to Milwaukee for a pair of minor leaguers at this past season’s trade deadline.

Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun has the Blue Jays talking to the KC Royals about closer Greg Holland. The Royals need to replenish their starting pitching with the likely departure of free agent James Shields. The Royals have a number of hard throwing relievers, with Kelvin Herrera as the favorite to replace Holland if he’s dealt. The price for Holland would be steep after the 29-year old saved 93 games and blew just five opportunities over the last two seasons.

Dbacks Beat Writer: Gregorius Won’t Hack It In NYC

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Arizona Central’s Bob McManaman doesn’t think a former Diamondback will do well in New York. He’s talking, of course, about shortstop Didi Gregorius. The 24-year old, with platoon partner Brendan Ryan, has the unenviable task of replacing Derek Jeter.

Gregorius gets high marks for his glove, but his bat has been awful, particularly against left-handers. According to McManaman, “And it could get even worse. Gregorius is a pleasant and polite young man, but he’s also quiet, introverted and has shown he can be a little mentally fragile when things aren’t going his way.”

“He lets too many things get to him,” an ex-teammate said. “Didi, sometimes he just thinks too much, you know?”

“He always seems to have a lot on his mind,” former manager Kirk Gibson liked to say.1

McManaman goes so far as to say “They’re going to eat him alive in New York.” While it’s an opinion, it’s an unfair statement about a young man who is still trying to find his way at the top level of the game. Perhaps a change of scenery and a different mentor could help to elevate Gregorius’ game.

While not comparing talent or ability, Bernie Williams nearly played his way out of New York at a young age. That changed when the team traded Mel Hall, who was constantly riding the sensitive Williams to the point of distraction. If it had been up to George Steinbrenner, Williams probably would have been dealt. GM Gene Michael was the cooler, better judge of a talent. Just as baseball front offices are better at judging how a player will do rather than a team’s beat writer.

 

1 – azcentral.com

Traded: Yankees Go From DJ to DIDI

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The last time the New York Yankees, Detroit Tigers, and Arizona Diamondbacks pulled off a three-team trade (2009) the players involved included Max Scherzer, Curtis Granderson, Austin Jackson, Phil Coke, Daniel Schlereth, Ian Kennedy, and Edwin Jackson. The names weren’t as sexy this time around when the three teams agreed to a deal earlier Friday.

The Yankees, looking for a shortstop to replace their future Hall-of-Fame inductee, Derek Jeter, picked up the underwhelming Didi Gregorious from the Diamondbacks. The Tigers received gritty starter Shane Greene from the Yankees and the Diamonbacks got pitcher Robbie Ray and infielder Domingo Leyba.

This one is a head scratcher for fans of both the Yankees and the Tigers. The Diamondbacks clearly did not believe that Greene was worth taking straight up  for Gregorious. The Tigers felt Greene was worth sending two players to the Diamondbacks. And the Yankees already have a good glove, can’t hit shortstop in Brendan Ryan. (UPDATE – Cashman was on WFAN and said that Gregorius, who struggles against left-handers, will platoon with Ryan.)

Replacing Jeter is an unenviable task for anyone, but should Yankees GM Brian Cashman get someone who is better suited to play every day (or platoon)? Gregorius was signed as teenager by the Cincinnati Reds in 2007. Nearly a year ago today, he was part of another three team deal, one that involved the Cleveland Indians and the Diamondbacks.

Arizona sent pitchers Trevor Bauer, Bryan Shaw, and Matt Albers to Cleveland, who also received utility man Drew Stubbs from Cincy. The Reds also sent Gregorious to the desert with Cleveland sending 1B/OF Lars Anderson and reliever Tony Sipp to the same destination. The Indians sent of outfielder Shin-Soo Choo and infielder Jason Donald to the Reds.

Gregorious got an eight-game call up for the Reds in 2012, but played 103 games in his rookie season the following year with the Diamondbacks. His numbers were decent for a light hitting newbie – a .252/.332/.373 slash line – however, his sophomore year went in the wrong direction. The 24-year old put up a .226/.290/.363 line in 80 games.

Prior to the 2013 season, Baseball America had Gregorious as their 80th best prospect out of their top 100 and MLB.com had him rated at number 63. The ranking were based on the 2012 minor league season that Gregorious split between Double-A (81 games) and Triple-A (48 games). The native of the Netherlands had a combined .717 OPS with 7 HR and 54 RBI in 129 games. He slugged .393 by adding 21 doubles and 11 triples.

The shortstop, who has also played some second base, has worked hard on his defense. He committed 32 errors in the minors in 2010, but had 13 for the Diamonbacks in 2013, and six last year. The Yankees are taking a low risk here in what they gave up, but are taking a big gamble on Gregorius showing an improved bat for a team desparately in need of run production. For now, Gregorius seems like the next Bubba Crosby.

Greene was a pleasant surprise as 25-year old rookie that was forced into the rotation due to injuries to CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka, Ivan Nova, and Michael Pineda. The Yankees had selected Greene in the 9th round of the 2009 MLB Amateur draft out of Daytona Beach (FL) Community College.

Greene won four of his first five decisions, tossing 7.1 shutout innings against the Baltimore Orioles, and eight scoreless frames against the Tigers. He beat the Tigers a second time three weeks later after he allowed two earned runs in seven innings. Perhaps his shaky five starts in September convinced the Yankees to deal Greene while there was still a market for him. Apparently those two wins over Detroit convinced the Tigers he was worth it.

Greene finished the season 5-4, 3.78 with 9.3 Ks per nine innings and eight home runs allowed in 78.2 innings pitched.  With the uncertainty of the health of the starting rotation, Yankees fans better hope Cashman is swinging a deal for a pitcher or signing one of the big time free agents.

The acquisition of Ray by the Diamondbacks is an interesting one. The 23-year old is still somewhat of an unknown commodity. He made six starts and three relief appearances for the Tigers this past season and was roughed up, though he was impressive in his first two starts (11.1 IP, 1 ER 7 K). The 6’2″ left-hander was selected by the Washington Nationals in the 12th round of the 2010 draft and was traded to Detroit last December as part of a package to get Doug Fister.

Ray averaged better than 10 Ks per nine innings in a 2013 season that was split between Advanced A’ Potomac (Carolina League) and Double-A Harrisburg (Eastern League). Perhaps it was the trip to the Majors, but Ray wasn’t as effective last season at either Triple-A Toledo or with Detroit.

Leyba just turned 19 in September and had an impressive 30 games (.914 OPS) stint for Western Michigan in the Midwest League, after a rough 37 games in the New York-Penn League.

Signed: Yankees Get Their Miller

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Andrew Miller’s career looked like it was over. The former 6th overall pick (Detroit) in the 2006 draft was derailed by injuries and ineffectivness. Then things suddenly turned around him for as a lefty specialist with the Boston Red Sox in 2012. It paid off for him today. The YES Network’s Jack Curry reported that the New York Yankees and Miller agreed on a four-year, $36MM contract.

The Yankees did not want to go to four years, but compromised once they were able to reduce the yearly average. Miller had reportedly been seeking $10MM per season. The Yankees have struggled to find a consistent left-hander out of the pen for the last decade. Guys like Boone Logan had some good streaks, but would often fail at the worst possible time.

Miller’s bust out season saw him strike out 11.4 batters per nine innings. He appeared in just 37 games in 2013 due to foot surgery, but saw his Ks/nine innings increase to 14.1. Last season, with Boston and Baltimore, he set personal bests with 62.1 IP, 14.9 Ks/nine innings, and a 0.802 WHIP. Good timing for a great contract.

Even with Miller signed, the Yankee cannot leave their bullpen as is. The team had a superb 1-2 punch at the back end of games last year as Dellin Betances emerged as a power right-handed set up man and David Robertson excelled as the closer that replaced Mariano Rivera. Robertson, as of this writing, is an unsigned free agent. Miller’s acquisition will strengthen the bullpen, but only if they resign Robertson or an equivalent. It would be a huge mistake to turn away Robertson if he wants four years after giving Miller four years, even if it’s likely to cost the Yankees an additional $50-$52MM.

Despite Miller’s numbers, Robertson is the better pitcher and it shouldn’t be assumed that Betances can step into the closer’s role.

 

Rumors Flying As Winter Meetings Approach

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You would be fired up too if someone offered you more than $16MM a year.

Baseball’s Winter meetings will convene in San Diego this weekend…SoCal in December vs Northeast in December…sigh…’nuff said. A number of rumors concerning free agents and possible trades have been floated out there as the weekend approaches.

The latest is a reported (by Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan) four-year, $65MM offer for free agent third baseman Chase Headley. No matter how much the owners complain, they still make ridiculous offers and this is certainly one. Headley, who has a fabulous glove, has not been productive at the plate since his one huge year that made baseball stand up and take notice.

Maybe it was fear that the Mayans would be right, but Headley hit in 2012 like his life depended on it. The Padres third baseman hit 31 home runs, had 115 RBI, and an .875 OPS. Numbers that Headley has not approached before or after 2012. Prior to his trade to the Yankees at this past season’s deadline, Headley had a .651 OPS in 77 games with San Diego. In 58 games for the Bronx Bombers, Headley had a respectable .768 OPS, but he was a non-factor in August before a hot streak in September gave him decent numbers, in a small sample (58 games), in pinstripes.

The Yankees made the mistake of giving Ichiro Suzuki a two year deal after one hot month in 2012. While Headley is much younger than the Ichiro, he has nowhere near the Hall of Fame career the Yankees gambled on when they gave Ichiro a new contract prior to the 2013 season. Headley seems like a good guy and flashes the leather with the best of them, but I would not be happy if that four-year, $65M deal was offered by a team I was a fan of.

Lester nearing a decision?

CSNNE.com’s Sean McAdam reported on Wednesday that free agent pitcher Jon Lester was “likely” to make a decision on his future by the end of the week. Why McAdam felt that way remains to be seen – is this from a source or sources, or a hunch? – but there are reportedly four teams in on the bidding.

FoxSports’ Ken Rosenthal stated Wednesday evening that the Los Angeles Dodgers were making a late, hard push for Lester’s services. The Chicago Cubs had reportedly made Lester a six-year, $138MM offer on Tuesday. The Boston Red Sox, who Lester played for in parts of nine seasons before his deadline deal to Oakland, and the San Francisco Giants are the other two teams trying to sign the lefty. (It’s still a mystery how the New York Yankees have not been involved since a relatively young left-handed pitcher is always a need in the Bronx.)

Speaking of the A’s, they are reportedly shopping Brandon Moss, who had offseason hip surgery. Moss, once touted as a prospect, floundered in the Major Leagues until he arrived in Oakland. He had 21 HR and 52 RBI in a little more than half a season in 2012 and followed that up with 30-87 and 25-81 the last two seasons as a first baseman and outfielder. He was selected to his first All-Star team in 2014.

In his second year of arbitration eligibility Moss would get a bump from the $4.1MM he earned last season. The kind of money that does not fits into GM Billy Beane’s budget.

Jays and Mariners Swap Players

The deal that took place Wednesday night between the Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners flew under the radar, but could have a fairly significant impact on both teams. Seattle sent outfielder Michael Saunders to Toronto for left-handed starter J.A. Happ.

Saunders missed 1-1/2 months of baseball due to a strained oblique, which was unfortunate since he was arguably having his best season in the Majors. He finished with a career-best .791 OPS and had 8 HR and 34 RBI in 78 games. With Jose Bautista entrenched in right field, Saunders will slide over to left field to replace Melky Cabrera. GM Alex Anthopoulos made the move knowing that the Melkman preferred not to return to Toronto.

It’s the third time that Happ has been traded, with his value diminished in each deal. He was part of a package that the Philadelphia Phillies sent to the Houston Astros for Roy Oswalt at the 2010 trade deadline. He was part of a deadline deal again two years later, when Houston sent him, and pitchers Brandon Lyon and Dan Carpenter to Toronto for outfielder Ben Francisco, reliever Francisco Cordero, and five minor leaguers.

Happ made 26 starts and four relief appearances for the Blue Jays last season and finished with an 11-11, 4.22 record. He struck out 7.6 batters per nine innings, which was down nearly 1.5 strikeouts since 2012. Happ made just 18 starts in 2013 after being struck in the head by a comebacker off the bat of Tampa’s Desmond Jennings.

So if Happ is to start, who does he replace? Seattle’s rotation, prior to the deal, consisted of Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, James Paxton, Taijuan Walker, and Roenis Elias. Paxton was limited to 17 starts – 13 with the Mariners, four in the minors – after undergoing left shoulder surgery in October, 2013, but he’s still highly thought of. There have been rumors that Seattle was shopping Iwakuma, but GM Jack Zduriencik flatly denied that was the case.

Taijuan Walker was the 43rd overall pick in the 2010 draft and is one of the top prospects in baseball. That leaves Elias, who was a surprise rookie success in 2014. In 29 starts, the Cuban-born right-hander struck out 7.6 hitters per nine innings pitched, gave up less than a hit per inning and put together a respectable 3.85 ERA. He finished 10-12 three years after the Mariners signed him as a free agent.