Showing posts with label Cole Hamels. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cole Hamels. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Can Chase Headley jump-start the Yankees in the AL East race?

The New York Yankees have a mediocre 51-48 record and a minus-30 run differential, and 80 percent of their projected starting rotation is on the disabled list.

Nevertheless, the Yankees still believe they have a shot to win this year, and they signaled as much on Tuesday when they acquired third baseman Chase Headley from the San Diego Padres in exchange for infielder Yangervis Solarte and minor-league pitcher Rafael De Paula.

You can't blame the Yankees for believing they have a chance. The AL East is no longer the strongest division in baseball. Despite its uneven play, New York sits just four games back of first-place Baltimore entering Wednesday's action.

But can Headley make an impact? The numbers suggest he will not. He has experienced a steady decline since his career year in 2012.

2012: .286/.376/.498, 31 HRs, 115 RBIs
2013: .250/.347/.400, 13 HRs, 50 RBIs
2014: .230/..296/.353, 7 HRs, 33 RBIs

There's nothing about Headley that suggests he will ever repeat his numbers from two years ago. That was a career outlier. His career slash is .266/.346/.409. He's perhaps a better hitter than he's shown this year, but it's folly to think he'll ever slug close to .500 again.

Headley has been floundering on some awful San Diego teams. He has no help in that lineup whatsoever, so there is some chance he will be resurgent in New York where he will no longer be counted upon to carry an offense. Some have noted Headley's numbers might be hurt by the pitcher-friendly confines at Petco Park. Yankee Stadium, of course, is a hitter-friendly ballpark.

However, an analysis of Headley's splits this year shows no difference in his slugging percentage home and away:

Home: .250/.301/.354, 2 HRs, 19 RBIs
Road: .209/.290/.353, 5 HRs, 14 RBIs

Headley has been a slightly better offensive player at home, in fact. I'm skeptical he'll be the game-changer the Yankees are looking for.

What New York really needs to do is add a front-line starting pitcher. The Yankees have had horrible luck this year with Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda all on the disabled list. The latter three are on the 60-day DL. Brandon McCarthy has made two good starts since coming over from the Arizona Diamondbacks, but the Yankees are at least one arm, if not two, short in the starting rotation.

There are rumors the Yankees are interested in White Sox left-hander John Danks. I would think, though, that New York needs a top-of-the-rotation starter, like Cliff Lee or Cole Hamels. Danks is nothing more than a mid-rotation guy pitching with a surgically repaired shoulder at this point.

Even with Headley, I don't think New York is going to win the AL East as presently constructed. I think the Yankees need that guy to lead their pitching stuff, or else they'll be lucky to stay in the hunt for the wild card in a mediocre American League.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Big contract for any pitcher is risky business

The contract Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka is going to receive is already giving some people upset stomachs. The size of it might end up being more eye-popping than the $50-60 million contracts teams gave to Yu Darvish and Daisuke Matsuzaka. Keep in mind that was before the posting fee was capped at $20 million. The Red Sox and Rangers each coughed up posting fees in excess of $50 million, making the total investment for each pitcher more than $100 million.

It was a big deal when Kevin Brown
became the first $100 million pitcher
in baseball when he signed with the Dodgers.
That big of an investment rarely works out well if you're expecting the player to pitch well over the life of the whole contract. Here are the biggest contracts ever given to pitchers:

Felix Hernandez, Mariners, $175,000,000 (2013-19)
CC Sabathia, Yankees, $161,000,000 (2009-15)
Zack Greinke, Dodgers, $147,000,000 (2013-18)
Cole Hamels, Phillies, $144,000,000 (2013-18)
Johan Santana, Mets, $137,500,000 (2008-13)
Matt Cain, Giants, $127,500,000 (2012-17)
Barry Zito, Giants, $126,000,000 (2007-13)
CC Sabathia, Yankees, $122,000,000 (2012-16)
Mike Hampton, Rockies, $121,000,000 (2001-08)
Cliff Lee, Phillies, $120,000,000 (2011-15)
Yu Darvish, Rangers, $111.700,000 (2012-2017)*
Kevin Brown, Dodgers, $105,000,000 (1999-2005)
Daisuke Matsuzaka, Red Sox, $102,111,111 (2007-2012)*
Adam Wainwright, Cardinals, $97,500,000 (2014-18)
Carlos Zambrano, Cubs, $91,500,000 (2008-12)
-Source: Cot's Baseball Contracts
*posting fee included with salary

Obviously most of these contracts are newer as teams have been flush with cash and the pay for elite pitchers has gone up. Though maybe it's interesting is that five of the top six contracts ever given out to pitchers weren't signed by free agents, but were extensions for guys with a year or two left before hitting the market.

Of the contracts that have been completed, all of them looked like a disaster at some point. Hampton's looked like one almost as soon as the ink dried in the thin Colorado air. Zito's was almost as bad save for the fact he still soaked up a lot of innings for the Giants over the course of his seven-year deal.

Over the course of Zambrano's extension, he suffered a decrease in either his performance or ability to take the mound each and every year of his new contract. Matsuzaka and Santana each had a few good years at the front ends of their deals before ineffectiveness and/or injuries did them in.

The best contract of all of them in my opinion was Brown's. Baseball's first $100 million arm was good for more than 1,000 innings with a 3.23 ERA over seven years. Brown, who I think has an underrated Hall of Fame case, missed some time with injuries, but still pitched a lot of mostly good innings for his money, only completely losing it the final year when he was 40.

The jury is still out on the other contracts. Cain, Verlander, Hamels and Sabathia each just endured their worst season in years. Greinke was very good, but missed time after breaking a bone in a scuffle with Carlos Quentin. With Hernandez, Lee, Darvish and Wainwright, things are looking so-far-so-good, though only Lee's contract is even close to completion.

The results here seem pretty apparent. If you don't have to spend almost $100 million or more on a pitcher, then don't. The risk is still one that teams are willing to make, especially teams that are close to contention. Should they be?

Possibly. In a way, this is already how teams view the cost of dabbling in free agency. They're willing to get a good value on the front end of a contract in exchange for dead money at the end.

Looking at each of these contracts, none of them really stopped the team paying the checks from doing anything else. Zito didn't keep the Giants from winning two World Series titles. Lee and Hamels aren't the problem with the Phillies' payroll. Even Mike Hampton's contract was eventually carved up and served in digestible bites that teams other than the Rockies helped swallow.

Unless Tanaka pulls a Hampton-Zito, the team that wins the bidding for his services will be getting a good pitcher for at least a few years. So any team with the money might as well bid away.