Should Paul Maholm be an option?

With many options now off the table, if the Yankees want to sign or trade for a starting pitcher, they won’t likely be able to find one of a “number-two” caliber. Therefore, it may be time to look at some of the lesser, cheaper alternatives that are out there. Let’s take a look at lefty free agent, Paul Maholm.

Drafted in the first round (8th overall), Maholm has spent his entire career with the Pirates, where he has always been a fairly average pitcher. In 2011, however, the 30 year old turned it around and had a very good season, despite the 6-14 record (the product of being on a poor offensive team). The Pirates decided to decline Maholm’s $9.75MM club option, and he is now one of the remaining free agents.

Maholm owns a 4.36 / 4.21 / 4.22 line for his career, though he boasted a much improved 3.66 / 3.78 / 4.03 in 2011. His increased success in 2011 could be that of a career year, but it could also be the work of an adjustment he made with manager Clint Hurdle during the 2010-2011 offseason. Unlike in previous years, Maholm started to pitch to hitters much more aggressively on the inside third of the plate. The benefit of pitching inside more can be seen clearly through looking at his Batting Average Against (BAA). In 2009 and 2010, Maholm’s BAA was .287 and .296 respectively, whereas in 2011, it dropped substantially to .254. Dominating the inside part of the plate generally translates into less solid contact, which makes it seem likely that Maholm’s improved 2011 campaign isn’t a fluke.

One thing that is great about Maholm’s game is that he is a pitcher of control and ground-balls (52.3 career GB%; BB/9 usually in the upper 2’s). Now don’t get me wrong, ground-balls are great to have at Yankee Stadium. However, Maholm doesn’t strike anyone out (5.55 career K/9). This means that if he is in a high leverage situation with multiple runners on base (say runners on 2nd and 3rd), he can’t rely on getting a strikeout. Instead, he would have to rely on getting a ground-ball, which would entail a higher probability of run(s) scoring. In summation, ground-balls are great, but they lose a lot of their appeal when the pitcher can’t get strikeouts – which is Paul Maholm’s case.

You also have to take into consideration the transition from the weak NL Central, to the tough pressure-cooker that is the AL East. It’s not like Maholm is able to overpower hitters even in the NL Central, as he held only a measly 13.1 Swing-and-Miss percentage in 2011. That doesn’t figure to get any better pitching against offenses such as the Red Sox on a fairly regular basis. He is the quintessential soft-tosser, with a 86-89 mph fastball, a low 80s slider and change-up, and a low 70s looping curve. As Freddy Garcia showed last year, a 86-89 mph fastball can certainly get the job done. Freddy really mixed his pitches up masterfully, throwing his fastball only 36% of the time. What concerns me is that Maholm uses his fastball over 50% of the time. He’ll struggle in the AL East throwing a 87 mph fastball 50-55% of the time.

Additionally, Maholm has a huge platoon split- vs. Righties: .297 / .357 / .449; vs. Lefties: .216 / .285 / .309. To me, that implies that Maholm’s secondary pitches are either just as weak as his fastball, or he doesn’t use them as effectively as he could. A four-pitch pitcher should not have such horrendous numbers against righties and have such success against lefties.

Overall, Paul Maholm is not really a great match for the Yankees’ needs. I just don’t think a soft-tosser who doesn’t strike anyone out translates well into the AL East, or even the American League in general, though there are always exceptions. One more thing to note: Maholm’s number of innings has steadily declined since 2008, in addition to a shoulder strain at the back end of 2011.

Tim Dierkes of MLBTR said he should be able to get a 2 year deal for around $12MM. If that’s the case, I’d happily take Hiroki Kuroda or Roy Oswalt over Maholm.

About Mike D.

Mike D. is one of 2 co-founders of the Yankees Fans Unite Blog. He has been a Yankees fan for as long as he can remember, growing up in a family of huge NYY fans. His knowledge of the game comes from watching baseball his whole life, and playing third base in high school and college.

Posted on December 30, 2011, in Hot Stove and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 47 Comments.

  1. Mike wow with all your stats def leads me to believe that he would not be a good fit. Nice article a lot of information.

    If you had to pick Kuroda or Oswalt who would you want?

  2. One soft tosser in Garcia is enough for the rotation. Unless we are getting improvements we dont need to pick up guys just for depth because we do have depth.

  3. Should Paul Maholm be an option? I’ll make this short. NO

  4. If the Yankees can’t get Garcia via a trade at a reasonable price and I mean reasonable. Their next option in my opinion should be Kuroda or Oswalt on a 1 year deal. Kuroda 1st, though.

    If not one of those 3 options let the Yankees start the season with what they have and if necessary have Noesi then Phelps waiting in the wings. Until they they see what pops up at the trade deadline. We might all be surprised.

  5. Your readers might be interested in this piece that just poped up on RAB.

    Levine: We have money to improve the team
    By Mike Axisa
    Via Mark Hale, team president Randy Levine confirmed that the team has money left to upgrade the roster despite reports to the contrary. “There’s obviously room to improve the team,” said Levine. “I don’t like to get into the amounts, but obviously there’s room to improve the team … We intend to always improve in whichever way we can. So far, after [CC Sabathia], as far as large contracts, we haven’t done anything. But that’s really our choice.”

    I roughly estimated that the Yankees are sitting on a payroll of about $197MM right now, but I wouldn’t take that number as gospel. It’s just an estimation and the error bars are probably in the $10M range. There’s really only three players left on the market that would require a contract in excess of $10M per year (Hiroki Kuroda, Edwin Jackson, Roy Oswalt), but I don’t see the Yankees going after any of those guys at that price. The bench still has to be addressed, but so far the Yankees haven’t spent any money because there really hasn’t been anyone worth spending it on.

  6. Maholm might be an option if they didn’t have Garcia but the yanks have good depth….it’s at the top of the rotation where they come up short.

    A team like Boston that already has a good top of the rotation but badly needs innings eaters on the back end would be a good fit for Maholm. Joe Saunders,Pineiro,maybe even Bartolo Colon might interest Boston. They were very interested in Freddy Garcia before Cashman re-signed him.

    • Question Fishjam…
      Do you think, as some of us do, the team can go with what they have in starters?
      I have a feeling we will see AJ gone and Phil come into his own along with either Noesi or Phelps being on the starting 5.
      I would rather go with;
      What about you?

      • I wouldn’t mind that Rotation at all. If noesi works keep if he doesnt’ go to Phelps.

        • Do you guys think the Yankees will sign Cano and Granderson long term? I hope they let both walk!

          • What’s the reason for that? I think Cano can be a long term yankee. I see no downside with him.

            Do you think we have better options coming up in the farm or something else?

            • Matt if you build a team from the diamond out then both Cano and Granderson need to go! Cano is not worth 18-20 million a year going forward for more then 4 years. I would only offer him 4 years 60 million but that will not be enough. Also 2 years from now Votto who is a year younger is also slated to be a free agent. If he is willing to play right field I would rather pay him instead of Cano. If the Reds somehow keep Votto I would look at trading for Jay Bruce as they can’t keep both or someone like him.

              IMO the Yankees are a bad team going forward with a terribly run organization behind them. Many changes need to be made going forward if they want to compete year in and year out.

          • I agree with Matt. I think the Yankees will sign Cano long term. My best guess is 6 years/ $20 to $22MM per. I say 6 years because at the end of the 2013 season when his team option is over he will be 31 years old. A 6 year deal will take him through his 37th birthday. I doubt the Yankees will go any longer then that not only because of his age but because of their history with their current players running out of “gas” just about then. But we’ll see.

            Granderson is another story. I think the Yankees exercise Granderson’s 2013 option. He would be 33 when the 2014 season starter. They might offer him a 2 year deal then with perhaps a vesting option but I doubt it. And even if they did I doubt he would take it.

            If the Yankees are intent on getting below or to the luxury tax threshold of $189MM in 2014 Granderson has to be a casualty. They simply won’t be able to afford him at roughly the $18MM per it will take to resign him.

      • Ken – I agree with you…..If they don’t pick anyone up, that is the group I’d go with. I hope I’m wrong but I think Cashman is too proud to dump AJ. Personally, i would eat whatever it took to get rid of him. Eating $20M equates to a $13 Million savings over the next 2 years and I know they could get similar or better production from Noesi, Phelps or a pick-up of Oswalt.

        But if they do nothing and a LOT of things work out they could make the playoffs again. The good pitching depth they have will help in a long season but depth doesn’t win out in a short series.
        I can’t see that rotation bringing us a ring this year or even past the ALCS. Look around at the top 3 starters of the competition in American league. Besides CC, we don’t match up well in a short series.

        • Fishjam…
          I can’t see that rotation bringing us a ring this year or even past the ALCS. Look around at the top 3 starters of the competition in American league. Besides CC, we don’t match up well in a short series.
          I agree, with one small caveat, we (as fans) have no real idea how Nova, Phil, Noesi, Garcia, or Phelps are going to pitch this year. IF (I still hate that word) they pull a Nova on us, we could go all the way to the WS…if not, we could go all the way——–to the bottom!
          As for AJ, it sounds as though Cashman has offered him but, no takers yet. I think there is a deal to be made with him. From what has been said and written about AJ, I have a feeling he is gone by spring! He would be the last man standing!

          • Glad you’re up late Ken.

            Here’s my opinion on the guys you mentioned:

            1) Hughes – I think Hughes is going to have a nice bounce back season closer to his 2010 performance. He dogged it and came into camp out of shape last yr and his arm was already dead after the huge inning jump from 09 to 10′. This yr he’s been working out to get in great shape and he knows he’s out of chances and I thinkhe may have finally matured.

            2) Nova – I think he’s for real and will have a nice career. However, I see him as a middle of the rotation guy who will provide solid innings rather than a strong #2 capable of dominating.

            3) Noesi- I see him as a Nova-clone. Would much rather give him an opportunity than watch A.J. but he can’t be depended upon as anything but a back-end guy right now as he lacks a true put-away pitch.

            4) Garcia- He’s a crafty vet who got excellent results but I doubt he’ll remain healthy and be as effective again.

            5) Phelps – I don’t think he’ll have a true opportunity unless there are injuries but I like him because he’s a winner who is constantly doubted. Reminds me of Ian Kennedy and like Ian, it may take Phelps a little time to adjust to big league hitters so he may struggle initially.

            • Fishjam…
              If I forgot…Happy New Year to you and yours!

              I can’t disagree with what you have written but, I like to give as much support for them as I can. There is no doubt 99% of rookies have a bit of adjustment time…hopefully it is one game or situation, not a season.
              As for IPK, maybe you remember my objections to trading him away but, I think he will have better numbers in the NL then he would in the AL east.
              Thanks for your comments on the rotation, good stuff! 8)

  7. Cano makes more money next year at 14 million then any other second baseman according to Cot’s so why should the Yankees need to pay him more?

    • Because he’s the best second baseman in the MLB, and it’s really not all that close, either.

      Dan, I think you have to take more into consideration the rarity of a player like Cano. How often do you find a second-baseman of Cano’s caliber, that can hit in the .300s (easily), hit 25-30 HR, 100 RBI, in addition to playing Gold Glove defense? Money is one thing, but you just don’t find a player like Cano that often.

      It also seems silly to let Cano walk, just so that you can be in the running for Votto. It’s not like Votto would substantially out-hit Cano (I’ll give you that, yes, he would most likely hit better.) Additionally, we have zero idea how Votto would be in the field. In all likelihood, he would be well-below average in the outfield. I understand wanting to see his lefty power in Yankee Stadium, but the Yankees have a pretty darn good lefty swinger in Cano.

      • Cano is not worth anymore then what he will be pain in 2013! Paying him more is just plain bad business! The Yankees need to stop all this overpaying and pay fair market value. Cano is not the superstar he’s made out to be imo. He is a very good player and he is paid very fairly compared to his peers. He does not deserve more!

        Votto is a much much better hitter then Cano plus he is younger!

        • not sold on letting Cano go. I just don’t see it.

          • Tell me how much money should Cano be paid relative to he peers? He is the highest paid second baseman in the game next year! Should he make more the Tulo going forward who is a SS?

            • I’m just saying Cano should be paid the most for his position since he is the best. Do I think the Yankees should give him an absurd A-Rod or Pujols contract no I am not.

            • Dan,
              If it for some reason comes between resigning Cano, and staying under $189MM, then I think the front office will resign Cano. Saving money is one thing, but it’s extreme to think it’ll influence them enough to let what could be a career Yankee simply walk. Maybe it would save money, and would
              be a sound financial decision, but it’s not realistically going to happen.

            • A player any player not only is paid gets paid based to a degree on what his piers make but just as importantly maybe more so is his value to the team and the teams ability to pay him.

              The only time players are paid primarily as it as it relates to their piers is during the arbitration years. Once a player hits FA many factors figure into a players compensation not just what his piers make.

              Take a step back in time to when A-Rod and Manny negotiated their original contracts I believe in 2001. They were both paid on what they brought to the table not what their piers were making because none of their piers made anywhere close to what they negotiated back then. And in my opinion for the few elite players I believe that is still the case.

              You bring up the case of does Cano deserve to make more than Tulo. I would ask does he deserve to make more than Mauer? Does he deserve to make $10MM less than Ryan Howard in 2013 and beyond?

              Everything is relative as is Cano’s value to the team. Different teams in different markets place different values on players. That’s just the way it is.

            • Dan…
              Cano is the best hitter on this team, Right? He is much better on defense then most others on this team right?
              IF Posada and Jeter got all the money they did, why would the Yankees cut down on one of their best players? It doesn’t make any since to me!
              The Yankees need younger guys to take up the mantle of those that are getting to old to do their job well anymore.
              Players Like Cano, Nova, Phil, Brett, Monty, Romine, Cisco, Phelps, DJ, Noesi and even Martin will have to step up and become the next base for the Yankees.
              We will need to replace the core of the team; Posada, Jeter, Andy, Mo, Jason, Bernie, Tino are either gone or soon to be, so who (other then players we already have) do we replace them…FA, Trades? Wrong answer, from within the organization…this is as it will be done more and more.
              Happy New Years Dan, have a good one Birdman! 🙂

              • ugh Ken please don’t group Cisco in with those guys. 🙂

                • Just some of the younger guys that’s all but, I see your point.

                  Dan came up with some great stuff down the list a bit at; 3:15 and 3:38. I like it very much.
                  Have a Happy New Year Matt…to you and yours!
                  By the way, your young lady looks to good for you! 🙂

              • Ken….Cano is a very good player but not a superstar that too many here an elsewhere make him out to be. I advocate paying him 90 million over the next 6 years which include his 2 option years. If he is still a good player the Yankees can bring him. That is more then enough. If he wants more he can be traded or can walk. The Yankees have to stop being held hostage by players.

        • how is not paying him more bad business? He will deserve more. He is the best second baseman in all of baseball.

          Votto will cost a lot as well in the future as well if he keeps hitting the way he does. Who knows in 2 years Mason Williams could be an option for the OF for the team and than you have a cheap player in the OF and could afford Cano.

          • Again Cano will never see 20 million a season from the Yankees! This is not going to happen! Now I could see a 4 year extension for a total of 60 million but no more.

            If there is a team out there that wants to pay Cano 22 million for 6 years they can have him!

            Cano didn’t even make the top 25 when it comes to wOBPA over at Fangraphs. Pay him well but not best player in the game money!

            • “Again Cano will never see 20 million a season from the Yankees! This is not going to happen!”

              How about saying, “In my opinion, Cano shouldn’t ever get 20 million a season from the Yankees”, as the way you said it, makes you sound like a jerk who thinks he knows more than everybody else.

              Anyway, I tend to agree with uyf1950, in that a player’s value is relative to his value to the team, rather than relative to other players (especially those who play different positions).

              • I was provoking a response from Matt about this but the fact remains that Cano shouldn’t be overpaid. I don’t care whether you think I am right or wrong but it is obvious that the Yankees need to stop overpaying players relative to their peers! Cano is not worth what everyone here seems to think he is. He is very good player but NOT a 20 million dollar guy when no second baseman is making more then him next year. The Yankees need to stop overpaying guys past their prime years. They need to ask Cano if he values being a Yankee more then 2 more years and more dollars elsewhere.

                Ask yourself are Jeter, Swisher and Soriano worth over 37 million dollars next year when you consider their expected performance? They are NOT so why pay them? This is why this team is hamstrung financially. Cano may not deserve the hammer falling on him but it needs to start with someone.

                • I agree with your statements that the Yankees have to stop giving long drawn out contracts. They do nothing but hinder the Yankees. A-Rods contract is going to hurt them for awhile. Only good thing is it goes down now each year. but still it’s alot of money.

                  I wish they could do higher priced (not grossly higher) shorter contracts. Like 3 to 4 year contracts. I just feel players won’t take that though they are all about more years.

                  • Matt the big fight in Baseball is coming soon. It will all be about contract length. The NBA now only allows free agents to sign 4 year deals unless they are resigning with their current team in which they can sign for 5 year iirc.

                    Baseball has to end long term deals and limit no trade clauses. All contracts need to be able to be moved with 1 1/2 years left. I could care less how much players make as long as the best players are getting the highest salaries.

                    • I’m all for that policy that the NBA has. 10 year contracts are absurd and just hold teams hostage. I know it’s their fault for signing them but they have to end.

  8. My father told me today that his seats for this season went down $10 per seat this year. That’s nice to finally see.

    • Matt –

      What type of ticket package does he have…..full, half, 9-game, etc? I’ve read other people say the same thing – that their ticket prices decreased. BUT they also no longer get premium games on partial packages.

      Seems to me like Lonn Trost is charging less for people with season tickets BUT steering them to the harder to sell teams/games/dates. Since they know the premium games/dates will be sold eventually, it helps fill the games that don’t sell well and they can get full ticket price for premium games without offering season ticket package discounts.

      It sucks for the partial ticket package owners but kind of makes sense. I always wondered why teams don’t structure their ticket prices more by the quality of the date/opponent, etc.

      The team could offer big discounts for weekday games against the A’s and charge a lot more for weekend games vs the Red Sox as there is obviously a HUGELY different demand for different games.

      The secondary ticket market (STUBHUB, etc.) definitely bears this out yet the team doesn’t see much of a revenue boost for the massive markup for such games. When the same seat that retails for $60 from the team, sells for $40 on STUBHUB for a Wed. day game in April vs Oakland game but goes for $400 when the Red Sox come to town on July 4th weekend, I’m sure the Yanks wish they were getting that extra money. While there are times when you can get tix for less than face value, I think the markups for premium games outweigh the discounts and the teams lose out by not tiering prices based on opponents/dates.

      • Fish the Red Sox have interesting 4 game packages around what you are saying.

      • Good Morning Fish. My dad and uncle used to split a full ticket plan from 1985. Since prices have gone way up since than there are several more guys in the “club”. The tickets than used to be 4 seats up from first base. When the move was made to the new stadium those seats went up to a ridiculous prices. They moved over out of the “moat” towards RF.

        Seat were 110 each last year. This year they are 100.

  9. Dan –

    I’m all for the yanks getting tougheron contract negotiations and that will mean letting some good players walk. But Cano isn’t the guy to suddeny get tough with. Take him out off this team and things would really get bad. Luckily he’s so durable, we have not had to envision this in a long time.

    I know you LOVE Votto but dumping Cano so we can get Votto won’t help the team. Sure Votto is a better hitter than Cano but Cano plays a premium position so his offense is more valuable as a 2B than Votto’s is as a 1B or a RF.

    If you don’t advocate paying Cano more than $15M to play great defense at an offensively challenged position like 2B why would you be willing to overpay for Votto to play RF which he never played before?

    Based on what the market has beared in this and recent yrs, if Votto continues to do what he’s done he’s looking at LEAST what Tex got and maybe even close to what Pujols got. Are you willing to give Votto 7-10 years @ $22-24 Million per? That would give us 3 corner players making $22M+.

    We need to hope Montero can become an elite offensive force and if Cano continues to do what he’s done the last 3 years, try to get him for somewhere around 6 yrs and $18M per. The smart thing for Cashman to do would be to try to find some kind of extension agreement with Cano before he hits the open market.

    Cashman was very wise to sign Cano to his current deal. It has saved the team millions by buying out his arbitration yrs and getting no-brainer team options of $14M & $15M in his prime Free Agent years. If not, Cano would have been a FA last yr. With his durability (averaging 160 games per yr for the last 5) and hitting the market before his 28-yr old season, he likely would have gotten a Teixeira type deal of 8 yrs – $180M or very least a Carl Crawford like 7 yr -$142M.

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