The fine folks at RAB have the news:
A non-tender candidate as tomorrow’s midnight deadline approaches, Mitre instead was tendered a contract by the Yanks and will sign for a $900,000 base salary. He can earn another $200,000 in incentives, Jerry Crasnick reported this evening. At that price, Mitre is a fine notch on the depth chart, but he was used sparingly in 2010. He made 27 appearances and threw 54 innings with a decent 3.33 ERA but just a 4.81 K/9 IP and a 2.7 BB/9 IP. He shouldn’t be anything more than the team’s seventh starter and should be among the first to go if they need a roster spot.
I had a discussion about this signing last night with excellent sportswriter Jonah Keri (as well as a followup discussion with @JoeRo23 and @PPinstripes, who helped hash out the ideas in this post), who contended that:
Yankees should never have to carry a bad player. And if they insist on being cheap at least be more creative than Mitre.
Basically, Jonah contends that the Yankees could address these bullpen slots in two ways. They can try and find undervalued fringe guys or AAA pitchers with good peripherals who can provide some upside, or they can spend more and bring in more talented depth players. Bringing back Mitre does not use either of these two strategies, and smacks of bringing back a replacement level player because they know what they are going to get from him. While Jonah’s comments are logical and definitely have some merit to them, I believe that he is making a number of assumptions that do not necessarily hold true:
1) Cycling through fringe guys who you think may have upside is better than signing one guy who is likely replacement.
Mitre is a known quantity, in that he is likely to provide the club with replacement level production. By contrast, most of the fringe/AAA guys Jonah refers to are unknown quantities, which is part of their allure but also a source of risk. Yes, you could immediately hit on someone who turns into an asset, but you could also run through a bunch of people before you found someone to give you replacement level production who can start, relieve, and who you do not mind treating pretty poorly (no regular work, constantly changing roles, etc). While Jonah’s solution is certainly more creative and provides more upside, the downside is greater as well. When your club is a likely 95 game winner, you do not need to gamble on upside in your mop-up role, and it may make more sense to settle on coming out even on that last bullpen slot.
2) That if you are willing to spend, you can build depth without touching upon bad players. That good players are willing to be “depth.”
Pitchers want to be given as much responsibility as possible for the most money possible. You are unlikely to get a player that is much better, or even marginally better, than Mitre to accept the role Mitre had this past season without paying him a large premium. At that point, it simply makes more sense to sign Mitre rather than play a marginally better player much more than he is worth.
I am not saying that Sergio Mitre is a good pitcher, nor am I comfortable concluding that Jonah’s contention is wrong. I am just suggesting that Mitre provides reasonable depth as the mop-up man and that replacing him with better talent is not as simple as it may seem, as Mike Axisa explains further at RAB. While we all want to see the Yankees be more creative, it may make more sense for them to stick with what they know, as boring as it seems.
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