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Yankees close to re-signing Brendan Ryan as Derek Jeter insurance

Nov 14, 2013, 10:15 AM EST

brendan ryan yankees Getty Images

Back in September the Yankees acquired Brendan Ryan from the Mariners as emergency infield help even though he wouldn’t have even been eligible for the playoffs and now they’re close re-signing the free agent, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post.

No word on the exact money yet, but Sherman says it’ll be a “small” contract and the Yankees view Ryan as a fallback option at shortstop in case Derek Jeter once again struggles to get healthy.

Ryan is 32 years old and has long been one of the majors’ worst hitters, but he’s an elite defensive shortstop capable of spectacular highlight-reel plays along with excellent advanced metrics.

  1. zzalapski - Nov 14, 2013 at 10:30 AM

    Yeah, because if Ryan is the regular shortstop, it means the Yankees’ season is on fire.

  2. proudlycanadian - Nov 14, 2013 at 10:30 AM

    What is an “excellent advanced metric”? How does that differ from “good glove, can’t hit”?

    • nbjays - Nov 14, 2013 at 11:26 AM

      Good glove, can’t hit?

      So, in other words, he’s the Anti-Jeter.

      • proudlycanadian - Nov 14, 2013 at 11:34 AM

        Unfortunately, the Yankees can’t have Jeter act as the DH for Ryan.

      • nbjays - Nov 14, 2013 at 1:19 PM

        Or have Ryan act as the DF for Jeter.

    • southofheaven81 - Nov 14, 2013 at 1:47 PM

      And don’t they already have a “great glove, can’t hit” guy in Lillibridge?

  3. aphillieated - Nov 14, 2013 at 10:44 AM

    Robinson Cano WAR 7.6 = $300 millions

    Ellsbury WAR 5.8 + McCann WAR 2.2 = 8.0 WAR = $250 millions

    Yankees should not sign Cano.

    • aphillieated - Nov 14, 2013 at 10:46 AM

      What I’m saying is that the yankees should sign McCann and Ellsbury instead of throwing all that money on one player.

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Nov 14, 2013 at 12:11 PM

        But it’s the Yankees. Who said this was an either/or proposition?

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Nov 14, 2013 at 12:15 PM

        Also WAR doesn’t work like that. It’s an exponential scale, becoming hard and harder to go from two to three WAR than it is to go from seven to eight WAR. So taking one eight WAR player and replacing him with two four WAR players isn’t equivalent.

      • paperlions - Nov 14, 2013 at 12:31 PM

        What Church said. Getting a lot of WAR from one position is always better than having it spread around because most of the guys from other positions will also have positive WAR. In short, one 6-win player >>>>> three 2-win players.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Nov 14, 2013 at 2:32 PM

        It’s an exponential scale, becoming hard and harder to go from two to three WAR than it is to go from seven to eight WAR.

        Wait a minute. Strike that. Reverse it. Thank you.

    • 18thstreet - Nov 14, 2013 at 11:43 AM

      We really don’t know who said $300 million. It very well might have come from the Yankees, in order to scare off other bidders.

  4. ctony1216 - Nov 14, 2013 at 11:01 AM

    Ryan is overrated defensively. He has a .972 fielding percentage, which would rank him 17th among qualifiers at SS, and 4.08 Range Factor, which would rank him ninth among qualifiers.

    Having watched him fill in for Jeter at SS, I was expecting great range and a steady glove. The range was there, and I was impressed by his quickness, but he boots a lot of balls.

    • jbriggs81 - Nov 14, 2013 at 11:16 AM

      There is no way that Ryan “booted” lots of balls while playing for the Yankees. He had one error playing for the Yankees this season. While errors may not be handed out consistently, they are always given when a player “boots” the ball.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Nov 14, 2013 at 12:03 PM

        Don’t bother arguing with someone who uses fielding percentage as a metric to judge someone defensively. If the person never gets to the ball because they have stone feet, they can’t have any errors. That doesn’t make them a great player.

      • ctony1216 - Nov 14, 2013 at 12:26 PM

        Yes, errors handed out inconsistently — one with the Yankees and 12 with Seattle. But I saw him botch double plays (not an error) and muff grounders that weren’t called errors. I watched almost every Yankee game, and for a guy as smooth and quick as he is, he makes his share of miscues. It’s not that he’s horrible defensively, he’s just not the defensive wizard he’s hyped to be. Sorry folks.

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Nov 14, 2013 at 12:29 PM

        I had not seen him on a consistent basis before, but I knew Ryan’s reputation as an all glove/no hit guy. Anecdotally, I was surprised by how many balls I saw him misplay as a Yankee. Perhaps some of that is a perception issue on my part. I am used to Jeter, whose range does not allow him to reach as many balls but consistently turns those he reaches into outs. Perhaps Ryan’s range let’s him get to balls but not be in position to field them properly? However, there were a number of time when he simply didn’t get his glove down or misplayed a hop. I didn’t expect to see that. I was surprised both by home many plays it looked like he should have made but didn’t, and by how many times he hit the ball hard but into bad luck.

      • ctony1216 - Nov 14, 2013 at 12:50 PM

        Church, go compare Ryan’s 2013 fielding numbers to his previous year’s numbers, using UZR or dWAR or whatever. Show us how they compare. I think they’ll agree with me.

      • ctony1216 - Nov 14, 2013 at 1:09 PM

        OK, so Ryan’s UZR in 2013 was 2.1, ranking him 17th among ML shortstops. His UZR/150 (over 150 games) was 3.2 ranking him 18th among ML shortstops.

        Here’s the fangraphs link if you want to look at it yourself:

        http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=all&stats=fld&lg=all&qual=400&type=1&season=2013&month=0&season1=2013&ind=0&team=0&rost=0&age=0&filter=&players=0&sort=3,d

    • paperlions - Nov 14, 2013 at 3:19 PM

      One year isn’t enough to judge a players defensive ability, that is akin to judging a players’ offensive potential based on 2 months of PAs….and just like offensive production, players can have down defensive years as well. In general, 3 years of data are required before you can say anything conclusive about a players defensive ability. Feel free to look at Ryan’s complete defensive history.

      • ctony1216 - Nov 14, 2013 at 5:08 PM

        Fair enough. Last year was the first time I saw Ryan play regularly at SS, and drew my conclusions from that. His subpar defensive stats from 2013 matched what I saw. Chalk it up to a bad year.

        It’s true, you can’t judge his ability on a bad season, but you can’t ignore it either.

  5. scotttheskeptic - Nov 14, 2013 at 11:06 AM

    What defines, “small,” in the Yankees’ universe?

  6. pisano - Nov 14, 2013 at 11:40 AM

    No offense to Jeter as he’s been a great player, but in reality Ryan will most likely be the starting SS. I don’t see Jeter at his age, and with physical problems being much help to the Yankees. I thought they’d go for a SS with more offense, but it looks like Cashman is still looking to hold back the dollars. I hope I’m wrong and Jeter comes back to near what he was, but father time catches us all.

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Nov 14, 2013 at 12:35 PM

      Please tell me the plan is not for Ryan to be the starting SS. See below, and kill me now if that is the plan.

      The Yankees current lineup (assuming ARod isn’t suspended and Teix is healthy enough to play, neither a given)
      Gardner 8
      Jeter DH
      Teixeira 3
      ARod 5
      Wells 7
      Cervelli 2
      Ichiro 9
      Ryan 6
      David Adams? 4

      Current Rotation
      CC
      Nova
      Phelps
      Pineda?
      Warren?

      • uyf1950 - Nov 14, 2013 at 1:23 PM

        First off you forgot about Soriano. Second you can’t honestly believe that with over $90MM coming off the books (not including whatever suspension A-Rod ultimately gets) that the line up you show above will be the starting line up in 2014.

        Jeter will likely be the starting SS until he proves unable to play. Of course he will be given rest periodically with Ryan AND Nunez as backups.

        Worst case if A-Rod can’t play for whatever reason their are options available such as: Mark Reynolds or Juan Uribe.

        The Yankees will certainly sign at least one starting pitcher be it: Tanaka, Garza or Jimenez.

        Starting catchers that are available: McCann, Saltalamacchia or A.J. Pierzynski

        Right Field power bats that have been linked to the Yankees: Beltran and Choo.

        The options abound and with monies coming off the books not counting A-Rod’s possible suspension which would add to the available funds, at least 3 of the players I’ve mentioned above as free agents are available to be signed.

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Nov 14, 2013 at 4:17 PM

        But nothing is guaranteed with any of those guys. Except Soriano. And who knows what to expect out of him next season. Red hot stint with the Yankees after looking kinda like toast with the Cubs. What is the best-case scenario there? 500 slugging with a 280 OBP?

        My point was that the Yankees shouldn’t be looking at Ryan as the starting SS. The team can carry a bad hitter if they must, but this team looks poised to carry quite a few. Let’s say ARod get suspended for zero games and the Yankees resign Cano. Suddenly they can’t afford any more free agents if they are going to get under 189, and that leaves holes pretty much everywhere.

      • uyf1950 - Nov 14, 2013 at 5:09 PM

        sabathia…, your assumption that if A-Rod doesn’t get suspended and the Yankees re-sign Cano that they can’t afford to sign any FA and get under the $189MM tax threshold is incorrect.
        Lets take a look at what the players under contract to account for under MLB’s AAV going with your assumptions:
        A-Rod: $27.5MM (Salary)
        A-Rod: $ 6MM (Milestone Incentive)
        Jeter: $12.8MM (according to the experts calculations)
        Cano: $25MM (Estimate)
        Ichiro: $6.5MM
        Soriano: $4MM
        Sabathia: $24.4MM
        Tex: $22.5MM
        That’s a Total of: $128.7MM

        Arbitration Eligible Players per MLBTR:
        David Robertson – $5.5MM
        Brett Gardner – $4MM
        Ivan Nova – $2.8MM
        Shawn Kelley – $1.5MM
        Jayson Nix – $1.4MM (Maybe NON-Tendered)
        Francisco Cervelli – $1MM
        That’s another: $15MM +/-

        Balance of Active Roster: $15MM (estimate)
        Filling out 40 Man Roster plus allocation for Benefits per MLB: $11MM +/-

        Grand Total: $169MM +/- Leaving the Yankees about $20MM +/- to spend assuming A-Rod doesn’t get suspended at all and they re-sign Cano for $25MM per AAV. Granted none of us knows for sure what will happen with A-Rod’s suspension hearing but it’s probably a safe bet that he will get some sort of suspension probably no less then what Braun got 65 games possible more then that. But since we are all speculating here, lets assume A-Rod gets a 65 game suspension that probably adds at least $10MM plus to the funds the Yankees will have to spend and still be under the tax threshold.

        With $30MM going as my absolute minimum assumption the Yankees should be able to sign 2 of the following FA’s
        Catcher from: McCann, Saltalamacchia or AJ Pierzynski (possibly Saltalamacchia)
        Right Fielder: Beltran or Choo (probably Beltran)
        Starting Pitcher: Garza, Tanaka (if the posting system gets straightened out), Jimenez (my guess is the Yankees would prefer Tanaka, but if not him Jimenez I think is their 2nd choice.)

        BTW, and it’s obviously only my opinion but I think A-Rod goes down for 100 game suspension which would save the Yankees over $15MM of his AAV for tax purposes. Ultimately I think that the Yankees will operate on the assumption that A-Rod will get a substantial suspension. That what I think Hal is talking about when he says the $189MM is a goal not a mandate. If A-Rod get hit with a substantial suspension the Yankees will have covered themselves by signing quality FA’s and staying under the tax threshold if he doesn’t the Yankees will have exceed the threshold but taken to field a competitive/team capable of winning make the tax threshold a goal not a mandate.

        In any case I’m anxiously waiting for something to happen.

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Nov 15, 2013 at 11:18 AM

        I guess it depends on how serious they are about Plan189. Sure, I agree that they should sign some decent free agents and worry about ARod later. But I don’t know their thinking. I also think they need to leave some substantial budget room to account for possible injuries. If Teixeira goes down again, who plays first? Can they afford a mid-season pickup?

        As much as people bash the Yankees for overspending, and call Yankee fans spoiled, I think the team that takes in the most money and charges its fans the most money should probably be spending some dough to put a good product on the field. I have also seen some studies showing that a playoff berth, even with a first round exit, generates far more $$ for the team than they would save in luxury tax penalties by getting under 189. Frankly I think they are batter off waiting a year or two for some bloated contracts to end and THEN try getting under 189. But whaddo I know?

      • cackalackyank - Nov 14, 2013 at 8:36 PM

        Question for uyf. You didn’t list any money for Wells. I am pretty sure he is signed through ’14. Are other teams paying him 100%? NYY must have to pay him some $ I think.

      • uyf1950 - Nov 14, 2013 at 9:19 PM

        Actually the Yankees aren’t responsible (tax wise) for any of Wells 2014 salary. So he has a ZERO effect for MLB AAV for tax purposes in 2014 for the Yankees.

        See the below link:

        http://espn.go.com/blog/new-york/yankees/post/_/id/51196/wells-contract-will-help-189m-goal

  7. asexatheani - Nov 14, 2013 at 11:49 AM

    Jeter as DH, Ryan as the Shortstop. I can see it. 2014 will probably be Jeter’s last year, so if Ryan learns how to hit, he could become a permanent replacement.

    Though as a Cardnals fan, I remember Ryan, and I can say from experience that that’s a pretty big “if”.

    • cackalackyank - Nov 14, 2013 at 8:32 PM

      If Ryan has not learned to hit by age 32 he is NOT going to.

  8. jdillydawg - Nov 14, 2013 at 11:51 AM

    I watched Ryan play in Seattle and he was always fun to watch but it was always a toss up whether to use the DH for him or the pitcher. That sucked.

    My theory is that if he stops licking his sleeve before every swing, he’ll start hitting the ball. Other than just being unsanitary and gross, the superstitious nature of the habit is clearly not working for him.

    That said, the Yankees have a way of turning ordinary players into great players, so if Ryan is ever going to be a hitter, this is the place to do it.

  9. uyf1950 - Nov 14, 2013 at 12:37 PM

    The Yankees are re-signing Ryan as insurance for Jeter. He will probably sign for about $3MM plus some incentives +/-. Signing a permanent replacement for Jeter this season probably isn’t a high priority this off season. The Yankees have bigger “fish to fry” so to speak.
    1) They need to resolve the Cano situation
    2) They need to sign 1 possibly 2 quality starting pitchers
    3) They need to upgrade their starting catching situation
    4) They need to address a power bat for right field
    5) They need to have a back up plan for A-Rod/3rd base.
    Lastly, Jeter’s full time replacement is last on this list.

    Jeter who according to all reports is healthy and working out his normal pre-season schedule and is pretty far down on the list. BTW, the 2015 free agent class has several very good options the Yankees could certainly explore to replace Jeter when his contract expires.

    • nbjays - Nov 14, 2013 at 1:26 PM

      I agree that there are definitely higher priorities at 3rd, C and in the rotation. Brian Cashman will have his hands full this offseason plugging multiple holes.

      BTW, welcome back, uyf… :-)

      • uyf1950 - Nov 14, 2013 at 1:51 PM

        Thank you. “Hands full” doesn’t begin to describe the task ahead for Cashman.

      • pisano - Nov 14, 2013 at 7:17 PM

        I second that, a very sensible and knowledgeable poster. He’s right on the mark with his posts.

    • cackalackyank - Nov 14, 2013 at 8:41 PM

      Just curious. I don’t see the bullpen on the list. Are you truly comfortable with Robertson as the closer?

      • uyf1950 - Nov 14, 2013 at 9:27 PM

        I’m not comfortable with it but the Yankees do have several in house options to fill out the 7 players that are used in the bullpen. And considering all the other issues on Cashman’s plate I would assume the bullpen would be towards the bottom of the list.

        Just a personal observation but given the choice of spending $7MM for a solid bullpen are or signing say AJ Pierzynski to be the full time catcher I’d choose Pierzynski every day of the week and twice on Sunday.

        It’s important to keep in mind the Yankees like any organization need to prioritize their needs and as I’m sure you are aware the Yankees have more important needs then reinforcing the bullpen.

  10. denny65 - Nov 14, 2013 at 9:40 PM

    There was a reason the Mariners let him go for nothing. No hit and really, no field. His errors at shortstop the past few years were spectacular and many, but hey, he does a great Johnny Carson impression, but who doesn’t.

    The Yankees sound desperate.

    • uyf1950 - Nov 14, 2013 at 10:36 PM

      Is it “desperation” to sign a guy/role player as insurance who has a dWar according to Baseball Reference of 14.3 over his 7 year MLB career for plus or minus about $3MM? I don’t think so.

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