Tom Brady Never Ages, So Maybe We’re Thinking of Free Agency Wrong:
While beating the Washington Football team yesterday, Tom Brady became the oldest quarterback to throw for a touchdown in NFL history. As we approach each offseason in the MLB, we hope on the Yankees signing the young stars. Maybe we are looking at it wrong? Here are some older MLB free agents who could help the Yankees in 2021:
Yadier Molina (C):
Age: 38 Years Old
MLB Experience: 17 Seasons (All with the St. Louis Cardinals; 2004-2020)
Career bWAR: +40.4
Yadier Molina will make the Baseball Hall of Fame someday as one of the best defensive catchers in MLB history. He has stayed a consistent player through his late 30’s while playing the most physical demanding position (catcher), accumulating 278 games of a total 384 (~73%) from the past 3 seasons (2018-2020). There is something exciting to bringing in a future hall of famer and somebody who is likely to stay healthy.
Now, many people will point to his below-average offensive numbers over his career as a sign of negativity towards Yadi, but over the past three seasons he has actually hit as a league average catcher (93 OPS+) and done better in his career (98 OPS+). In his 17-year career, Molina has also had just one negative bWAR season (-0.2 in 2006), had one negative oWAR season (-1.4 in 2006), and has never had a negative dWAR.
For the Yankees, it is expected with the current roster that Gary Sanchez is likely to retain the starting catching position for 2021. Kyle Higashioka will also likely be the back-up as he has no more options remaining. However, there are questions surrounding Sanchez and his offense (and defense) going into 2021, as well as Higashioka and his abilities on offense. Maybe bringing in Yadier Molina to serve as a mentor to each catcher and provide a platoon for Sanchez (until they determine if Sanchez is the future of Yankees catching) would be a smart move.
Nelson Cruz (DH):
Age: 40 Years Old
MLB Experience: 16 Years (2005-2020; Brewers, Rangers, Orioles, Mariners, Twins)
Career bWAR: +39.7
It may seem absolutely silly to mention the Yankees going for an old, DH-only, right-handed bat. And, on the surface it is hard to disagree with that because those adjectives describe Nelson Cruz. However, there are also numbers that indicate this may not be ridiculous.
Nelson Cruz over the past 3 seasons (2018-2020) played in 317 of 384 games (~82.5%) and while that includes just 26.1 innings in the field (all in 2018) he still put up 9.1 bWAR at the position that takes the largest positional adjustment hit. Over 317 games he had 330 hits, including 94 Home Runs and 238 RBI’s while hitting to a triple-slash of .285/.371/.573 (.944 OPS) and a 154 OPS+. In the past two seasons Cruz put up an OPS+ of 168 and 169 respectively. To put it into perspective, Giancarlo Stanton’s best ever season (when he won NL MVP) he put up a 169 OPS+.
Now, the Yankees don’t really have the room to bring in Nelson Cruz because they have Giancarlo Stanton as the guy who is likely to play most of the games in the DH role. And, to be honest, I’m not a big fan of bringing in a player who will prevent the Yankees from being able to use the DH as a rotating position if Stanton was the play the field. However, it is also hard to argue against a guy who hit 40+ HR’s in 4 of the past 6 full seasons.
Adam Wainwright (RHP):
Age: 39 Years Old
MLB Experience: 15 Seasons (All with the St. Louis Cardinals; 2005-2010 & 2012-2020)
Career bWAR: +41.0
I’ve made it abundantly clear that I think the Yankees need to bring in some starting pitching this offseason. One option that may not be considered would be to look at Adam Wainwright. While he- like Yadier Molina (above)- are most likely to be heading back to their long-time organization, neither is signed yet which could indicate some desires to move on.
Adam Wainwright has a pedigree as a top pitcher in the MLB from the late 2000’s into the early 2010’s, and while he is not the same level of pitcher he used to be, his numbers the past 3 seasons have been pretty decent. There is the problem with injury concerns for Wainwright- who missed all of 2012, most of 2015, and most of 2018 for various reasons- but over the past three seasons his numbers look like this:
49 Starts (277.2 Innings), 21-17 Record, 3.99 ERA (4.28 FIP), 1.343 WHIP, 247 Strikeouts (8.0 K/9), 105 ERA+
Like his longtime teammate and battery partner Yadier Molina, bringing in the former ace to fill-out a rotation could be the type of move the Yankees could use. He could serve as a mentor to the young guys (Montgomery, German, Garcia, Schmidt) and hopefully provide the Yankees with a year of solid performance as a #4 starter.
Darren O’Day (RHP):
Age: 38 Years Old
MLB Experience: 13 Seasons (2008-2020; Angels, Mets, Rangers, Orioles, Braves)
Career bWAR: +17.1
After missing the end of the 2018 season with left hamstring surgery and then missing most of the 2019 season while recovering from a right forearm strain, O’Day has become an injury liabily in recent years. One of the few submarine pitchers left in the MLB, however, when he is on the mound he tends to be successful.
As a relief pitcher for his entire career, this does bring down his bWAR numbers and yet he’s never had a negative bWAR season. A One-time All Star, O’Day could be an interesting addition to the relief corp the Yankees like to boast. Over the past three seasons, O’Day has pitched to the following:
47 Games (41.2 Innings), 2.38 ERA (3.01 FIP), 0.936 WHIP, 55 Strikeouts (11.9 K/9), 194 ERA+
While there is a risk about if he will be able to play the full season, O’Day seems like the type of move the Yankees would be all over with finding a low-cost talent that the market passed over when evaluating. It never hurts to have more good relievers.
Some Other Interesting Options:
Shin-Soo Choo (OF/DH):
Age: 38 Years Old
MLB Experience: 16 Seasons (2005-2020; Mariners, Indians, Reds, Rangers)
Career bWAR: +34.6
For many of the same reasons against bringing in Nelson Cruz, the Yankees don’t need another primary DH bat. However, Choo has spent a decent amount of time in the outfield over the past three seasons and would be a great left-handed bat off the bench if his market continues not to move. His past three seasons:
330 Games, .262/.369/.440 (.810 OPS), 110 OPS+, 50 HR’s, 138 RBI’s, 183:354 BB:K, 27:4 SB:CS
Jon Lester (LHP):
Age: 37 Years Old
MLB Experience: 15 Seasons (2006-2020; Red Sox, Athletics, Cubs)
Career bWAR: +44.6
I’ll be honest, I’ve always liked Jon Lester- yes, even when he was on the evil Red Sox- and I think he’d be a very interesting option to fill out the back-end of the rotation. He has no emotional attachment to one-team team he only played for in his career, unlike Wainwright, and while 2020 was not a good season for him it was also his first ever negative bWAR season (-0.2). He also has more recent high-end value with placing 9th in the NL Cy Young in 2018. His past three years:
75 Starts (414.1 Innings), 34-19 Record, 4.06 ERA (4.45 FIP), 1.390 WHIP, 356 Strikeouts (7.7 K/9), 106 ERA+
Cole Hamels (LHP):
Age: 37 Years Old
MLB Experience: 15 Seasons (2006-2020; Phillies, Rangers, Cubs, Braves)
Career bWAR: +59.4
Hamels made just one start for 3.1 innings in 2020 before being put on the IL with triceps tendinitis before he ultimately missed the rest of the season. He’s had more recent success than Waino and Lester, but the lost season is a question mark. He’s been a name that has been long-associated with the New York Yankees and bringing him in (finally) could be an interesting move. His past three seasons:
60 Starts (335.2 Innings), 16-20 Record, 3.83 ERA (4.30 FIP), 1.317 WHIP, 333 Strikeouts (8.9 K/9), 116 ERA+