Would Jeter take less money for Yanks?
If you’re wondering what Derek Jeter would earn on the open market if he was someone other than Derek Jeter, consider this comparison:
Marco Scutaro: .271/.331/.372.
That’s right, their offensive statistics are nearly identical. Scutaro, who has been banged up for most of the season, rates slightly ahead in most advanced defensive metrics, in which Jeter is again faring poorly.
The market value for such a player is established.
The Red Sox signed Scutaro to a two-year, $12.5 million free-agent contract last off-season — and Scutaro, 35, is about 18 months younger than Jeter.
But enough of this pointless exercise.
Yankees officials say privately they do not plan to play hardball with Jeter this offseason, respecting his 15 years of distinguished service to the organization.
Know what would be cool, though?
If Jeter became the anti-Alex, accepting a far more reasonable deal than the most speculated projection — $20 million per season for three or four years.
Imagine if Jeter said, “I’ve made enough money. I’m not going anywhere. I love the Yankees. I’ll take whatever they think is fair.”
All of the pressure would shift to the Yankees.
It’s doubtful that Jeter, stubborn and proud, would take such a stand, putting himself at the Yankees’ mercy. Fans, when complaining about athletes’ greed, fail to understand that players often measure themselves by what they earn in comparison to their peers. For Jeter, A-Rod’s 10-year, $275 million contract — and five additional $6 million bonuses for reaching different home-run milestones — must be galling.
But really, who cares?
Jeter is coming off his own 10-year, $189 million contract. He crushes A-Rod in endorsements. And even if Jeter took say, a three-year, $36 million deal, the Yankees could make it up to him by giving him a massive bonus for 3,000 hits and a lucrative post-career personal-services contract.
Would $10 million a year for 30 years be excessive for this generation’s Joe DiMaggio? Perhaps, but by that point, Jeter would not count against the team’s luxury tax. In essence, he would be deferring money so that the Yankees could better compete while he was still active.
So Jeter-like. So anti-Alex.
If only the Yankees could figure out Jeter’s future position so easily.
THE GREAT AL CY YOUNG DEBATE
It’s not ridiculous to ask whether Mariners right-hander Felix Hernandez can win the AL Cy Young with a record barely above .500. Voters took a step in that direction last season, naming Giants righty Tim Lincecum the NL winner even though he had only 15 wins, the fewest ever for a Cy Young winning starting pitcher in a non-strike season.
Many sabermetricians would weep with joy if voters completely repudiated wins and losses when filling out their ballots. I’ve got no problem with that; wins and losses are too dependent upon run support and bullpen performance. But I still might choose Yankees lefty CC Sabathia — the major-league leader with 19 wins — over Hernandez.
It’s pretty simple: Sabathia pitches for a contender.
I know, I know — Hernandez should not be penalized for the Mariners’ ineptitude. Indeed, the case for him is very strong, even though he is only 11-10 after beating the Indians on Sunday.
Hernandez’s 2.30 ERA, which ranks second in the AL, is more than seven-tenths of a run better than Sabathia’s. Red Sox right-hander Clay Buchholz, the league leader in ERA, has pitched nearly 70 fewer innings than Hernandez. That’s a huge difference.
Hernandez owns a better opponents’ OPS than Sabathia and fares significantly better in fielding independent pitching and other advanced metrics. His run support is the second-lowest in the league. Sabathia’s is the second-highest. And so on and so on.
Sabathia, though, is 15-2 with a 2.40 ERA in his last 18 starts, pitching in pennant-race pressure. The award is for “best pitcher,” not, “best pitcher for a contender.” But is there any doubt that the degree of difficulty is greater for Sabathia — or, for that matter, Twins lefty Francisco Liriano or Rays lefty David Price — than it is for Hernandez?
Something to consider.
NO CHANGEUP FOR CHAPMAN?
Reds Triple A pitching coach Ted Power says left-hander Aroldis’ Chapman’s hands are so large, it might be difficult for him to master a changeup.
“He might need to look down difficult avenues to find something 10-12 mph slower,” Power says.
Chapman, 22, throws his slider about 10-12 mph slower than his 100-plus mph fastball, but Power is referring to a true off-speed pitch, something in the 80-mph range.
Power, who helped alter Chapman’s delivery at Triple A along with Reds special assistant Mario Soto, is impressed by how quickly the Cuban pitcher adjusted to life in the U.S.
“His maturity level on and off the field has improved leaps and bonds,” Power says. “From where he came from to where he is, it’s like one of us living on Mars, I would have to believe.”
A scout who witnessed Chapman’s first two outings remarked, “The National League playoffs just changed.”
“Everyone was there going, ‘Uh-oh,’” the scout says. “All you can say is, ‘Uh-oh.’”
HOW IS THIS HAPPENING?
The Cardinals are on the verge of a dubious feat — missing the post-season despite having three starting pitchers with ERAs under 3.00.
According to STATS LLC, only nine teams since 1969 have suffered such a fate — none since the current divisional format was enacted in ‘94.
The last team to miss the post-season with three starting pitchers who had ERAs under 3.00 was the ‘89 California Angels. The last NL team to do it was the ‘85 Mets.
The Cardinals — with Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright and Jaime Garcia — would be only the fifth team since ’89 to even have three starters with sub-3.00 ERAs.
1996 Braves: John Smoltz, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine.
1997 Braves: Denny Neagle, Maddux, Glavine.
1998 Braves: Smoltz, Maddux, Glavine
2005 Astros: Roy Oswalt, Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens.
The ’96 Braves and ’05 Astros lost in the World Series. The ’97 and ’98 Braves lost in the NLCS.
The Cardinals, on the other hand, could fail to make the post-season not only with their great starting trio, but also one of the game’s top hitters, Albert Pujols.
PUJOLS, VOTTO: A SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP
When I asked Pujols about Reds first baseman Joey Votto on Saturday morning, he told me that Votto had approached him the previous day, “asking me about pressure, how I deal with it, not just on the field, but off the field, too.”
Votto’s profile is starting to rise, as evidenced by his recent appearance on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Pujols says he was happy to speak with Votto, happy to give him advice. The two share the same agent, Dan Lozano.
“He is so much better now at first base,” Pujols says. “I remember telling him a couple of things last year, the year before. He was stretching a little bit too early. But he improved on that.
“He also is more patient at the plate than he was in his first couple of years. He has an idea what he wants to do now. Before, he was trying to do too much.”
“He’s a great kid. But he’s real quiet. He doesn’t say much. You have to speak 100 words before he says one to you.”
THE RANGERS’ LOOMING DISADVANTAGE
A Rangers official, when asked if he would prefer to play the Yankees or Rays in the Division Series, responded in a text message, “Prefer to play at home!”
The chances of the Rangers gaining home-field advantage for the first round took a sharp hit when the Twins swept them at Target Field. Making things worse: Left-hander Cliff Lee, outfielder Josh Hamilton and shortstop Elvis Andrus are in various states of disrepair.
The Twins, who now lead the Rangers by 4 1/2 games in the overall standings, are in position to open the playoffs at home against the AL wild-card team, which right now would be the Rays.
The Rangers are 1-4 against the Yankees with three games remaining, 2-4 against the Rays. Both AL East powers also fare well against one of the Rangers’ biggest strengths — left-handed started pitching. The Yankees are 31-19 in games started by left-handers. The Rays are 31-16.
The Twins, meanwhile, are 2-4 against the Yankees this season, 3-5 against the Rays. Including post-season, they are 17-52 against the Yankees since Ron Gardenhire took over as manager in 2002 — 6-27 in New York.
WELCOME BACK, ROCCO!
The Rays’ Rocco Baldelli hit two memorable post-season home runs in 2008 — a three-run shot off the Red Sox’s Paul Byrd in the eighth inning of Game 3 of the ALCS, and a game-tying solo shot off the Phillies’ Ryan Madson in Game 5 of the World Series.
Still, Baldelli said in a text message that his two-run, pinch-hit homer off the Orioles’ Mike Gonzalez on Sunday — on his first swing of the season — might have been “the most emotional” of his career. The only downer was that the Rays lost, 8-7.
“It was the most emotional because even though I never gave up in my mind, I knew it was improbable I’d be back and contributing,” Baldelli said. “But to be honest, I surprised myself.”
Baldelli, 28, spent virtually the entire season as a special assistant with the Rays, serving mainly as a coach in their minor-league system. He has been hindered by injuries throughout his career and overcame a serious illness to rejoin the Rays in ’08.
ASSESSING HIS WERTH
A rival general manager with potential interest in Phillies right fielder Jayson Werth as a free agent is skeptical about how the right-handed slugger would fare in a lesser lineup.
“Is he a big bat without other big bats around him?” the GM asks. “Can he carry a team? Can he be the guy when he’s Ryan Howard, when he’s Chase Utley?”
Another question: How would Werth perform if he were not playing half of his games at hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park?
In his first three seasons with the Phillies, Werth’s home-road splits were practically even. This season his OPS is 1.006 at home and a still-respectable .821 on the road.
DODGERS: WEDDED TO LONEY?
Adding a slugger is a priority for the Dodgers this off-season, but the team will limit its options if it sticks with James Loney at first base.
Adam Dunn, Paul Konerko and Carlos Pena are among the many potential free agents at first, and Prince Fielder could be had in a trade.
Loney, meanwhile, is batting just .209/.284/.326 since the All-Star break, and his overall OPS has declined from .772 to .756 to .738 in his three full seasons.
Among qualifying first basemen, his OPS ranks 22nd out of 25.
Marcus Thames was unemployed, having lunch in New Orleans during Super Bowl week when his agent called to say that the Yankees were interested in signing him to a minor-league deal.
“All I wanted was a chance,” Thames says.
The Yankees signed him on Feb. 8 for $900,000 plus $900,000 in incentives. Thames, 33, says he tried too hard early in camp, settling down only after the Yankees informed him that he would make the team.
Since then, he has been an absolute bargain.
Not only is Thames doing his usual damage against lefties, batting .326/.393/.505 off them in 95 at-bats, but he also is mashing against righties, batting .271/.361/.586 in 70 at-bats.
“I’ve been doing this since I was 19,” Thames says. “It was the first time I didn’t have a job. I was calling my agent every day. He said, ‘Hopefully, something will work out.’ It just so happened that the Yankees called.”
AROUND THE HORN
* Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez certainly deserves mention among the top NL candidates, but his home-road splits will hurt his candidacy.
Gonzalez’s is first in the majors with a 1.226 OPS at home, 67th with a .760 OPS on the road. …
* Reds GM Walt Jocketty acknowledges that his club lacks a classic top-of-the-rotation starter, but says that right-hander Edinson Volquez is “very close to getting back to where he was.”
Volquez, currently pitching for Class A Dayton, could start for the Reds on Tuesday if right-hander Johnny Cueto is not back from the Dominican Republic due to a family emergency. …
* The Cardinals tried to do more than simply add third baseman Pedro Feliz during the August waiver period.
Manager Tony La Russa said that the team had payroll flexibility, and that general manager John Mozeliak made multiple waiver claims seeking offensive help.
The claims, La Russa said, “went nowhere.” …
* Braves GM Frank Wren on rookie left-hander Mike Minor: “You don’t see many young pitchers shake off a veteran catcher. When he knows what he wants to do, he’s going to do it.”
Minor could be the Braves’ fourth starter in the post-season: Before struggling Sunday, he was 3-0 with a 3.91 ERA in his first four starts, striking out 26 and walking only seven in 23 innings. …
* A scout who attended Tim Lincecum’s recent eight-inning, one-run start against the Rockies, says, “That’s the best I’ve seen him all year. His stuff is not back, but he’s getting people out.
“He was getting his curveball over. His command was better. But I’m not seeing more arm strength. It was about average, at times a click above.
“It will be an interesting question this winter: Where is he? What does he have left? I think he’ll end up in the bullpen.”
Not next season he won’t — Lincecum is guaranteed $13 million. …
* Slight movement on the Dusty Baker front. The two sides have exchanged additional ideas since the Reds offered Baker a one-year extension with no raise, according to a major-league source.
The Reds say they want Baker back, but the question remains: Are they willing to give him an increase from his average salary of $3.5 million? The team is headed toward its first post-season appearance since 1995. …
* Baker, by the way, is a big fan of Brewers center fielder Lorenzo Cain, and recalls asking Brewers Triple A manager Don Money about him in spring training.
Money downplayed Cain’s skills, prompting this skeptical reaction from Baker: “Really? I know you ain’t going to give him up. But you ain’t going to hide him long.” …
* One more from Baker, talking about the Reds’ left-handed hitting third baseman, Juan Francisco:
“He can hit a ball a mile — anywhere, too. Left, right, center, it doesn’t matter. The thing with him is pitch selection. He’s a Vladimir Guerrero. And the worst part is, he can hit those balls (out of the zone) sometimes. It makes it worse.” …
* The Padres and Reds are the top two NL teams in defensive efficiency, a statistic that measures the percentage of balls in play that a team converts into outs.
Believe it or not, the Giants rank third, while the Braves are fourth. The top four clubs in the AL, according to Baseball Prospectus: The A’s, Yankees, Rays and Rangers. …
* If you want to see a photo of Aroldis Chapman carrying the traditional pink backpack as the junior member of the Reds’ bullpen, check out my Twitter account, Ken_Rosenthal.
There is also a photo of the Reds celebrating in the dugout after Travis Wood’s first major-league homer. As for my photographic skills, no need to tell me — I’ll stick to the day job.