Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Looking Ahead to 2014 - Carlos Beltran
Supposedly, Carlos Beltran has always wanted to be a Yankee. The Yankees could have signed him after the 2004 season but chose to go with trading for Randy Johnson instead. Over the last nine years Beltran has provided his teams with 35.1 WAR. Nine years too late, the Yankees have finally brought Beltran in.
woba: Weighted on-base average
oWAR: Offensive wins above replacement level, position-adjusted
Beltran had another very good offensive season for St. Louis, but gave up a fair amount of his value on defense.
I think CAIRO is making too much of Beltran’s move to DNYS. The other projections seem more in line with what I would expect from Beltran.
2014 CAIRO Percentile Forecasts
I think the 35% forecast is what I would expect from Beltran, maybe with a bit more playing time. Beltran’s been pretty healthy after missing the bulk of 2009 and 2010, but at 37 I’m not sure how long the Yankees can count on his continued good health.
There was a time when Beltran was a good defensive CF. Now he’s probably a below average RF.
Beltran is probably more average player than star at this point. There’s nothing wrong with average, but I don’t think it’s worth a three year, $45M contract. Especially when the player is 37. Similarity scores aren’t necessarily all that predictive, but Beltran’s 10 most similar players averaged 1.8 WAR over the remainder of their careers. Dave Winfield had the most WAR at 4.6 and he was a far better hitter than Beltran was at 36 (OPS+ of 159 vs. 128).
I guess it’s obvious that I’m pessimistic about Beltran. I think the Yankees will be lucky to get four wins out of him over the next three seasons due to general decline and health risk. I also think part of the reason he was signed is because of the belief that he is a clutch postseason player, which is nonsensical. There’s no reason to think that because Beltran has hit well in prior postseasons it will carry into subsequent postseasons and if your team isn’t good enough to make the postseason who cares?
Maybe the Yankees can rest him and use him at DH to keep him healthier than I’m expecting, and it’s certainly possible he’s got enough left in him to be useful over the next three years.
Is the 2014 version of Beltran better than the 2013 Ichiro? Yeah. Is it a significant difference? I guess it depends on how much you trust the defensive metrics that still peg Ichiro as a positive contributor.
If you go by Jay Jaffe’s JAWS Beltran has put together a Hall of Fame resume. His 67.5 career bWAR is 2.9 WAR behind the average of the 18 CFs that are in the Hall. His counting stats fall a bit short of the typical milestones (2228 hits, 358 HRs), but if he can stay healthy and productive over the next three seasons he could end up over 2600 hits and 400 HRs.
Unfortunately for Beltran he probably won’t be able to add to his postseason resume over the next three years but what he’s done so far may put him over the top.
It would have been nice to have Beltran closer to his peak, but it wasn’t meant to be. Hopefully he can stave off aging for a few more seasons.
Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Looking Ahead to 2014 - Brian Roberts
The Yankees decided to let their best player leave, and replaced him with Brian Roberts. Roberts was a pretty good player as recently as five years ago, but since 2010 he’s suffered from concussion-related issues and injuries that have kept him off the field and hindered his performance when he was on it. He did manage to stay healthy in the second half of 2013 and he’s penciled in(hopefully very lightly) as the Yankees’ starting 2B this year.
woba: Weighted on-base average
oWAR: Offensive wins above replacement level, position-adjusted
Oh, sorry. Wrong 2B.
Roberts didn’t hit much in 2013, but he did stay on the field for most of the second half and he hit .250/.306/.450 in September.
Oh, sorry. Wrong 2B.
If you can’t say anything nice…
2014 CAIRO Percentile Forecasts
I suppose if Roberts can get 560 PA he would be worth a win or so offensively.
Roberts was once an above average defensive 2B. At this stage, he’s probably not.
I used to call Roberts PITA, because he was a pain in the ass when he was on Baltimore. I am surprised his career line against the Yankees is only .288/.344/.429. I could have sworn it was 1.000/1.000/2.000.
I’d be surprised if Roberts is the Yankee 2B by the All Star Break. I don’t see any reason to think he’s going to suddenly remain healthy after four seasons of not being healthy. I also see no reason to think he’s going to hit particularly well if he does remain healthy. So at some point he could be replaced by Scott Sizemore or Dean Anna or Yangervis Solarte or (heaven forbid) Eduardo Nunez. But it’s safe to say no matter who ends as the primary 2B for the 2014 Yankees, he will be significantly worse than Robinson Cano was in 2013.
I think the Cano contract was a bad one. I don’t think that signing a 31 year old player to a 10 year deal no matter how good he is at the moment is prudent. It probably won’t be as bad as the Jacoby Ellsbury contract, but I digress.
I don’t see Roberts and whomever eventually replaces him changing the fact the Yankees will miss Cano greatly.
Looking Ahead to 2014 - Alfonso Soriano
In their misguided attempt to make the postseason with a woefully inadequate roster last year, the Yankees traded for Alfonso Soriano in mid-July. Soriano hit pretty well after the Yankees acquired him, but it wasn’t enough to push them into the postseason.
woba: Weighted on-base average
oWAR: Offensive wins above replacement level, position-adjusted
Soriano hit .254/.287/.467 for the Cubs vs. .256/.325/.525 for the Yankees. He is still pretty much the player he was when he left the Yankees, a low-OBP, high SLG hitter who will strike out a lot.
These projections assume Soriano is in LF. As a DH he would be about a win less valuable relatively. He still projects to have pretty good power, but he makes too many outs.
2014 CAIRO Percentile Forecasts
Soriano still appears to be in great shape and I suppose it’s feasible he could exceed his baseline projection, but I wonder how well he will handle DHing. Most players hit worse as DH, and Soriano has only been a DH in 35 games in his career. Because of that, I would not expect him to do much better than his CAIRO baseline.
The disparity between DRS and UZR on Soriano’s defense in LF is interesting. I thought he looked fine in the outfield and is probably about average defensively. Although Carlos Beltran is expected to see most of his time in RF, Soriano may be a better defender than him at this point.
These values are assuming Soriano is in LF. As a DH he’d be about one win less valuable. Since it’s pretty likely he will see a fair amount of time in the OF, we can probably split the difference and say he’ll be worth anywhere from 1-1.5 wins this year.
That’s not great, but it’s worth noting that Yankee DHs hit .189/.276/.307 in 650 PA which was only worth about 50 runs. Soriano’s baseline projection over 650 PA would be worth 75 runs.
Soriano’s allegedly considering retirement after this season, and if this is it he’s had a heck of a career. 2045 hits, 406 HRs, 288 SBs, and a .272/.321/.504 career line. Hopefully he has a good enough season that he doesn’t want to retire.
Monday, March 10, 2014
TAMPA, Fla . — Dellin Betances snapped off several of them off in a row, the last making Matt Joyce swing and miss so hard a breeze was likely felt on Dale Mabry Highway — behind center field.
But what was it? A slider? A curve? Maybe a slurve?
“My slider is like a slurve,” Betances said. “I don’t know what to call it.”
Whatever it’s named, it helped 25-year-old Betances notch yet another scoreless outing in the Yankees’ 3-3 tie with the Rays at George M. Steinbrenner Field Sunday.
It’s also aided his emergence from potential bust to big-league bullpen candidate. A 2006 eighth-rounder given a $1-million signing bonus, Betances struggled as he climbed the minor league rungs until a breakout 2013 at Triple A.
I saw bits and pieces of yesterday’s game and caught Betances and he did look pretty good. He does have an option left so it’s not a given that he will be in the big league bullpen to start the season, but on merit he seems like he should be.
Saturday, March 8, 2014
It’s been more than two years since the Yankees dealt their top prospect for Michael Pineda, yet his next official pitch in pinstripes will be his first.
After two frustrating seasons following shoulder surgery, Pineda took his first step toward redemption Friday night, throwing a pair of scoreless innings against the Tigers in his spring debut at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
“I know it’s been a long time not seeing a major league hitter,” said Pineda, who allowed one hit and struck out four, throwing 21 of his 27 pitches for strikes. “I had a good focus tonight. I showed Michael Pineda.”
If Pineda is able to build on his first outing, the competition for the No. 5 starter job won’t be much of a competition.
Hearing Girardi and McCann talk about him sounds impressive…
“He was really good,” catcher Brian McCann said. “Pounded the strike zone with all three of his pitches. His fastball’s got that natural cut on it, which makes it hard for a hitter.”
Pineda came back out for a second inning, striking out Rajai Davis with the slider that made him so effective during his All-Star first half in 2011 with the Mariners.
“His slider was pretty much unhittable,” McCann said.
Tyler Collins flied out to center, then Pineda had his most impressive moment of the night, striking out two-time defending American League MVP Miguel Cabrera on another slider.
“It’s a good test,” Pineda said. “I faced him before; I know he’s a really good hitter, and I tried to make a good adjustment to make a good pitch and get an out.”
“It shows you his slider is pretty good,” Girardi said. “We knew that, though.”
I don’t even want to imagine what it will be like if this is for real. The Yankees rotation could theoretically be pretty damn interesting this season.
Thursday, March 6, 2014
After a delay of one hour and 26 minutes, the skies cleared and Tanaka was able to turn in an interesting three-inning outing against the Phillies. He allowed a solo Freddy Galvis home run and one other hit, recording a strikeout with no walks, but said that he did not feel at the top of his game.
Asked to explain, Tanaka replied with a smile, “Because I’m human. I just can’t be perfect every single day.”
Tanaka may be a harsher critic than Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who said that he was “very pleased” by what he saw from the right-hander. Tanaka threw 25 of 41 pitches for strikes, recording a swinging strikeout of Chase Utley on a nasty 0-2 splitter.
“Obviously, he understands how the ball felt coming out of his hand better than I did, and the pitches that he made, but it’s a step in the right direction,” Girardi said.
So far, so good!
TAMPA — With pitchers Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker sidelined by injuries, the Mariners are actively looking for help.
Their search led them to George M. Steinbrenner Field Tuesday night to take a look at Yankees starter David Phelps against the Orioles.
The Mariners had a scout watch Phelps, who is the leading candidate to be the Yankees’ fifth starter but who could be expandable with Adam Warren or, possibly, Michael Pineda finding his way into that slot.
Phelps danced in and out of trouble during a 2 ¹/₃-inning stint in which he allowed a run and five hits.
“It would be nice to get somebody out out of the stretch,’’ said Phelps, who worked on a changeup that got hit. “If that is as bad as it gets, I will take it.’’
Yankees scouts are searching spring training camps for help at third and second base. With Robinson Cano entrenched at second, the Mariners might move Nick Franklin, although it would likely take more than Phelps to pry Franklin away.
Franklin would be a nice pickup, but you wonder what else the Yankees would have to add to Phelps to get him.
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Looking Ahead to 2014 - Brett Gardner
I was on vacation when the surprising news came that the Yankees had extended Brett Gardner for four seasons. Gardner’s become one of my favorite players and I was certain he would be gone after this year since the Yankees had signed Jacoby Ellsbury to his horrendous contract.
Extending Gardner was interesting for two reasons. The first is that it seems to signal a shift from the Yankees’ general aversion to extending players before they enter free agency. The second is that it gives us evidence that the Yankees are cognizant that a player that Gardner is valuable even if his value comes in ways that traditional offensive statistics don’t fully capture.
woba: Weighted on-base average
oWAR: Offensive wins above replacement level, position-adjusted
Gardner followed up a 2012 season essentially lost to injury with a very good 2013. He set a career high in plate appearances and slugging percentage, although his OBP was down a bit and he wasn’t very aggressive on the bases, stealing successfully only 24 times in 32 attempts compared to 47 of 56 and 49 of 62 in his preveious two full seasons. Gardner missed the second half of September with a rib cage injury but should be healthy to start 2014.
Gardner will be in left field this year, which means his offensive value relative to position will be a bit less. But he projects to hit a hair above the average LF with a wOBA of .321 (average LF is usually around .320). The significant amount of time he missed in 2012 is suppressing his playing time projections in CAIRO and ZiPS here. Then again, Gardner tends to miss time for various reasons so it’s probably not realistic to pencil him for 650 PA this year.
2014 CAIRO Percentile Forecasts
I think the gains Gardner made in power last year were real as his swing appeared a bit stronger. His line drive percentage of 23.3% was higher than the 18.6% and 19.4% he put up in 2011-2012, and he hit the highest percentage of fly balls in his career. Losing some grounders may cost him some batting average, but the increase in power may help him recoup some of that in other ways. Because of that, I think Gardner’s 65% forecast is reachable.
One of the points of contention regarding Gardner’s value is if he’s really as good as the defensive metrics think he is. I do think defensive metrics need to be taken with a grain of salt, but when all the systems come to the same basic conclusion I feel more comfortable that they are close to the truth. He projects more around average as a CF but elite as a LF. Keeping a second true CF on the team is probably important given Ellsbury’s frequent “fluke” injuries. As Gardner ages, we should expect his defense to get a bit worse, but he should be above average in LF through the duration of his contract.
Defense here is just adding his CF and LF projections. As a full time LF he may be worth 2-3 runs more. And you can add even more if he can exceed his average projected 548 PA.
The Yankees are likely valuing Gardner closer to 4 wins this year. That would put him around 12 wins over the next four seasons using a 0.7 win per year decline. That means his contract would pay him about $5M per win. It would also add a win to the Yankees’s in 2014 vs. his 3 win projection.
Can he do that? I wouldn’t bet against him.
My guess is Gardner will be hitting ninth this year, which is sub-optimal. But I can’t imagine the Yankees won’t lead off Ellsbury with Derek Jeter batting second so I don’t see anywhere else where he’d fit.
I’m happy Gardner will probably be a Yankee for the next few seasons although he does not have a no-trade clause so he could wind up elsewhere. I just find myself more emotionally connected to players who came up through the Yankee system and with the Core Four down to one there are only a handful of those guys on the team now.
Tuesday, March 4, 2014
Looking Ahead to 2014 - Derek Jeter
Derek Jeter made a somewhat surprising announcement a few weeks ago that he would be retiring after this season, although I suppose it’s not so surprising given his age and his health issues last season. While he could change his mind, I doubt it.
Because of his broken ankle in the 2012 ALCS, Jeter wasn’t able to do his normal conditioning work in the 2012-2013 offseason. Because of that he never got healthy enough to contribute much.
woba: Weighted on-base average
oWAR: Offensive wins above replacement level, position-adjusted
It was a disappointing followup to a great 2011 where he led MLB in hits. Jeter claims to be healthy now and ready to go, but his health is probably a major concern this season.
Jeter still projects to provide better than replacement level offense relative to other shortstops, but a large part of his value will be tied into how often he can play. CAIRO and Steamer are essentially projecting the same performance for Jeter this year, while Oliver and ZiPS are in agreement that he will be less productive.
2014 CAIRO Percentile Forecasts
I thought Jeter was done after 2010 but then he had a strong 2011 and an even better 2012. I would not be surprised to see him at his 65% forecast, but I would bet he’ll be around the baseline in both rate stats and playing time.
I’ve been blogging about the Yankees for 10 years. WTF? Anyway, in that time, I’d guess I’ve written more about Jeter’s defense than any other singular topic. Except maybe about how awesome Mo was. We can debate the precision of the various defensive metrics and how accurately they capture Jeter’s defensive value like we have for 10 years, but I feel comfortable saying Jeter will almost certainly cost the Yankees runs on defense this year, like he has throughout his career. If Jeter plays half of the games at shortstop he projects to be about 9 runs below average. It will be interesting to see if Joe Girardi is willing to use Brendan Ryan in late innings of close games.
Yankee shortstops hit .228/.286/.312 in 645 PA in 2013 and were somewhere around 20 runs below average defensively. I’d like to think the combination of Jeter and Ryan can do better than this year.
Jeter’s the last link to an era that was one of the best times ever to be a fan of the Yankees. Yes, he was overrated by many. No, that’s not his fault. The farewell tour will likely get nauseating at times, but I’m sure the Rays will make up for it with a hideous sand sculpture of some sort.
It will be tough to see Jeter go, but I prefer that to the alternative of seeing him playing past the point of usefulness and dragging the team down. I don’t think we’ll see that in 2014.
Monday, March 3, 2014
Anyone searching for a jarring visual experience should have seen CC Sabathia throw against the Phillies on Saturday.
The fact that his fastball traveled at a molasses-slow (for him) 88 mph wasn’t the real story. It was how he looked after cutting 30 pounds over the winter.
The folks behind the plate can tell you. When facing them full-front, no problem. But once the formerly corpulent left-hander turned into his windup, well, it looked like a baseball was thrown from the Invisible Man.
OK. You figured it out. We’re just making a joke about CC’s new, svelte figure. After all, 275 pounds and the word thin can only appear in the same sentence under relative conditions, such as “CC has trimmed himself to a thin 275 pounds from the three bills and change he soared to last summer.”
And so, the jokes. But there is a serious side to this, and it has nothing to do with a radar gun. Sabathia’s speed either will or won’t improve as the Yankees move closer to Opening Day. But whether it does or not, anyone who knows baseball knows that location and movement have just as much to do with pitching success as speed and power. Sabathia will never become a finesse pitcher, but if he hits enough spots and his fastball has enough action on it, regardless of speed, he’ll be fine.
I have no idea if we should be worried about CC’s velocity after one spring training start, but I am not exactly enthused by the fact that he was topping out at 88 mph. I’ll reserve my concern until we have a few more starts though.
Sunday, March 2, 2014
If you missed the game, don’t worry. We’ve Gif’d up every single pitch her threw so you can experience his first public outing just like you were there.
Before we begin, let’s quickly summarize the current scouting reports for the Japanese import:
- His primary pitches are a Fastball, Slider, Split-Finger, while he also mixes in a Curveball and Cutter, and is working on a Changeup.
- His Fastball often sits in the low-to-mid 90s, but can rear back and hit 97+ when he needs to. Not a whole bunch of movement.
- The Split-Finger is the special pitch that sets him apart. It’s his bread-and-butter, and he will find success if he’s commanding it effectively. It’s the pitch everyone is dying to see.
- His best breaking pitch is his Slider, with his Curveball acting more as a ‘show me’ pitch. The Slider isn’t the most consistent pitch, but can be devastating when mixed properly with his Splitter and Fastball.
What a neat resource! Tanaka definitely looked good. The splitter he threw to Revere was amazing. It would be like porn if you were turned on by really good pitches.
Tip of the hat to Snuggles, who gave us the head’s up of this awesome article.
CC Sabathia has grown tired of discussing the diminished velocity of his fastball, so the Yankees left-hander shrugged when he was informed that it had topped out at 88 mph in his first start of the spring.
“My fastball is what it is. If it gets better, it will,” Sabathia said. “If it’s not, it won’t. I can pitch. I’m fine. As long as I’m healthy, I’ll be good.”
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that any chatter about Sabathia’s velocity does not concern him.
“I don’t make much of it,” Girardi said. “That was something people wanted to make a ton about last year, and I’m not going to make much of it. To me, if he’s downhill and locating, I don’t care what his velocity is. He’s going to get people out.”
My issue with these quotes is not that I think that CC throwing 88 right now is a major deal, as I do not. He has plenty of time to add some speed to the fastball. But this notion that it doesn’t matter how fast CC’s fastball is is just not accurate. It is an issue if CC’s fastball tops off at 88 MPH. Is it as significant as CC not locating the fastball? No, I would agree with Girardi that that is a bigger concern, and obviously plenty of pitchers used better locating to make up for their reduced fastballs as they got older and CC could easily be one of those pitchers. But reduced velocity on your fastball not only makes the fastball easier to hit but it also hurts CC’s excellent change-up, since there is less of a difference in speed between the changeup and the fastball. I do not believe that it was a coincidence that last year, with his fastball velocity at the lowest it has ever been (just over 91 MPH), that not only did hitters drive his fastball more than ever before (an ISO of .194 - up from .184 the year before and .144 the year before) but right-handed batters also crushed his change-up (an ISO of .187 after being under .100 for the previous six seasons).
So while I don’t think anyone should be freaking out or anything like that, as we have to see how CC will adjust to his new velocity (not to mention the possibility that he will gain MPH the more he pitches), I also don’t think anyone should be blowing it off as if the velocity of his fastball is not an issue at all.
Saturday, March 1, 2014
When Masahiro Tanaka tried on his Yankees pinstripes earlier this month, he said that there was no particular team or player that he was looking forward to facing. They’d all be new, and so each assignment would be a terrific challenge.
Tanaka is preparing for the first of those tests. The right-hander is scheduled to make his highly anticipated spring debut on Saturday against the Phillies at George M. Steinbrenner Field (1:05 p.m. ET, live on MLB.TV), entering in relief to begin the fifth inning.
“I understand there’s going to be a lot of attention on the results, the numbers of what I do out there,” Tanaka said through an interpreter. “But for me, I’m not looking at it at all. I just want to go out there and pitch my style out there and see how it is on the mound.”
I am pumped!
Girardi also hinted as to when Tanaka would pitch in the rotation during the season:
While Girardi has not yet locked in his rotation for the regular season, he revealed on Friday that it is “pretty safe to say” that Tanaka’s first start is lining up for the third or fourth game of the year—either April 3 in Houston or April 4 in Toronto.
I think that that is very smart. Anyone know how that lines up with the Yankees’ first game against Boston?
Thursday, February 27, 2014
These 2014 Yankees have more ground to make up than you might realize. The good news for those of you who root for this team is the team’s decision-makers know it.
“Our team over-performed last year,” general manager Brian Cashman said Tuesday, before the Yankees defeated Florida State, 8-3, at Steinbrenner Field. “It’s a credit to everybody involved in that process. But the record didn’t reflect the talent. And so when you take a sledgehammer to the roster like we did this winter and spend the money we did, it’s more reflective of recognizing. Of not being fooled.”
While this should be obvious to any professional baseball general manager, it is still nice to hear Cashman say it outright. I also liked the part in the article where, while praising Joe Girardi’s managing skills, he still says that the Yankees’ record was mostly due to luck:
“I’d say Joe, our coaches, our players worked their tail off and fought every step of the way, and they earned that record,” Cashman said. “But if we repeated last year’s season 100 times, that [85-77 record] would’ve been the low end of probability.”
The run differential, Cashman added, is “more reflective of the talent on the field. When you over-perform, like the Orioles did [in 2012], you realize that’s more of an anomaly. And last year was a market correction.”
Of course, if Cashman realizes that he was starting with a 79-win team and he lost Robinson Cano’s six or so wins, you would have to imagine that he realizes that the Yankees still don’t project extremely well, no? So it is interesting that they seem more or less okay with going into the season with their current infield of Kelly Johnson, Derek Jeter, Brian Roberts and Mark Teixeira (better known as Kelly and the Ready-for-the-60-Day Disabled List Players). Although in another article by the Post they did note that the Yankees will be closely monitoring other teams during Spring Training to see if any interesting infielders become available, sort of like how they got Lyle Overbay to play first base last season.
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
An issue we’ve debated for a while in the comments is about whether collisions at home plate are good for baseball or not. Baseball recently announced that they were adding a new rule that would ban many collisions at the plate. Here’s Joe Girardi on the rule change (courtesy of Adam Berry):
“I think the way the rule was originally written, players weren’t sure if they’d be able to adapt quick enough to it, so they made some tweaks to it. I think it’s a pretty good rule. The biggest thing is, if you have a place to slide, you really need to slide,” he said. “We don’t want any of these unnecessary collisions because we want our players on the field, and we don’t want the health issues to come back and haunt players 10, 20, 30 years from now. We just don’t. Some of it’s right away.
“I think it’s a good rule, and I think it’s a really good step in the right direction.”
The new rule seems a bit confusing as to what collisions are still allowed, but in general I think that this is a great step forward.
Sunday, February 23, 2014
The Yankees normally don’t do extension signings in the midst of a players contract, but the Yankees made the exception for Brett Gardner.
According to Jack Curry of YES Network, the Yankees and Gardner agreed to a four-year, $52 Million deal which will start in 2015.
Well, that came out of nowhere.
So Brett Gardner is now locked in for the next five seasons. And at $13 million a year for 2015-2018, the Yankees sure seemed to get a decent value on Gardner, although with Gardner’s injury history, you could certainly understand Gardner’s willingness to lock in the big payday now (plus he might just legitimately want to remain a Yankee long term).
Good job, Cashman!
UPDATE #1: Apparently Gardner pushed hard to get a no-trade clause added to the deal and the Yankees wouldn’t budge, so I think Gardner just really wants to be a Yankee. Sadly for him, this deal is still very tradeable, so I wouldn’t necessarily presume he’s still a Yankee in 2018.
UPDATE #2: Some great quotes courtesy of Wallace Matthews at ESPN from Gardner:
“Free agency is something that, it kind of intrigued me, and it also kind of scared me,” Gardner said. “It’s probably the biggest decision I ever had to make in my life. I put a lot of thought into it, but at the end of the day, it’s a lot of money.
“Where I come from, that money or twice that much money, I’m not going to change the way I live my life.”
In addition, he had some choice words about wanting to remain a Yankee…
“It’s meaningful being able to play for New York, and hopefully one day I can retire and say that I didn’t play for another team,” Gardner said. “I think that would be awesome. There’s definitely a lot more media to deal with on a daily basis, and it seems like a lot more on the line day in and day out, but it’s something that I enjoy and it’s something that I take a lot of pride in. I love putting on these pinstripes every day.”
You’re awesome, too, Gardy!
UPDATE #3: More Gardner quotes. This time courtesy of Mark Feinsand and the New York Daily News:
“It’s something that’s been in the works for a little while. I made it known to them that I wanted to stay here and be a part of this. I learned from guys that come from other places that there’s no better place to play, so I look forward to staying here and helping the team win.”
Awwww…Gardy!!! How can you not love this guy?!
The New York Yankees have agreed to terms with reliever Andrew Bailey on a minor-league deal, according to a source.
Bailey is recovering from shoulder surgery, and as a result, the contract starts on minor-league deal.
The major-league side of the deal is worth $2.5 million and includes a 2015 option and buyout as well as incentives, according to a source. Should Bailey reach the majors, he’ll make a prorated base salary of $1.975 million, plus the incentives, the source said.
I love these types of deals. It tends to only be the big market teams that can afford to pay a guy basically on the chance that he returns to his former level of performance. Bailey has been essentially hot garbage since the Red Sox traded him and he began having shoulder problems and he will likely not be a major contributor for the Yankees in 2014, but for “only” $2 million the Yankees can get the benefit if he somehow does revert to his Oakland form and they also have a 2015 option if he doesn’t turns things around until late in the season. Smart use of the Yankee coffers.
Saturday, February 22, 2014
“Jeter Is Getting Pretty Old, Isn’t He?” under 25 edition: SS
Next up on our list of players not good enough for independent ball Yankee top 25 and under, are SS. Like the other positions so far, there isn’t much in the upper levels who could help the Yankees anytime soon. Unlike 1B (Bird) and 2B (Refsnyder, Katoh), there aren’t any young prospects to get really excited about. However, there are several younger players who have enough going for them that they should still be on our radar, and will certainly be players I’m watching this year.
Carmen Angelini (25): Bats: R Throws: R. 133 wRC+ in 132PA at A+, but only 73 wRC+ in 262 PA at AA.
Angelini was once a toolsy 10th round pick by the Yankees. It was thought he would grow into some power, steal a few bases, and play above average defense. His first few years with the team, the bat never took off (high wRC+ was 73 as a 19 year old in Charleston), but then he was injured and missed all of 2010. He came back in 2011 and started in Tampa…and was injured 9 games into the season and missed all of 2012 as well. Last year a good start in Tampa led to a promotion to Trenton. He didn’t hit there – even for a SS – but that was driven largely by a .265 BABIP. Angelini isn’t much of a prospect, but depending on where Anna plays (both level and position), he may open the season as the starting SS in Scranton, and be only a step away from the big leagues. I’m stretching it for Angelini, but I wanted someone above A ball on this list, and it isn’t out of the question that Angelini improves enough to be an occasional callup.
Snuggles: Angelini was given a really nice bonus for being taken in the 10th round back in 2007. But like Mike pointed out, he’s never lived up to any of his promise. He was drafted as an excellent defensive SS with good offensive potential, initially both looked bad, since he debuted with 42 errors in 131 games his first season, however since then his errors have dropped off significantly. He’s still a solid defender, but he really needs to hit as he moves into the higher levels to have any chance of making the ML. Angelini might have been a decent prospect if he could stay on the field, but in 5 years in the Yankees system he only managed to play 328 games. His age belies his lack of experience, but unfortunately them’s the breaks and Angelini is basically not a prospect anymore.
Cito Culver(21): Bats: R Throws R, wRC+ of 92 in 466 PA of A, 153 in 66 PA of A+.
Culver is of course a player that is often tossed out as an example of how the Yankees’ drafting is broken, their player development is broken, and how he isn’t even a prospect. There is some truth to that, but part of the problem is also expectations, and part is not appreciating how young he is. Culver started 2013 repeating low-A. But he started the year differently, as he gave up switch hitting in Spring Training. For the season, his BB% went down slightly (to 10.3%, still very good), power went up a lot (from .069 isoP to .112), and BABIP from .268 to .312. His wRC+ of 92 certainly isn’t good – especially repeating a level – but for a (supposedly) slick fielding SS, it actually isn’t bad. Also, other than a big dip in May, his numbers got better as the season went on. He reported feeling more comfortable as well. Culver adds some on the basepaths, but not much. He stole 13 bases last year, but in 18 attempts (after going 22 of 33 the previous year). He clearly needs some work on stealing bases. It will probably never be a big part of his game, but if he improves a little will still be an asset.
The big thing w/ Culver is his defense. It’s pretty unanimous that he has an excellent arm, possibly even elite. After that it’s a mixed bag of reports. Some reports I’ve read have him as a smooth fielder with a lot of range, and he just needs some mechanical cleanup to be an elite defender. Others have him as so-so range, a bit clumsy, and needs a lot of work. They still feel he’s major-league SS quality, but more of acceptable than excellent.
Though his success was middling, the Yankees deemed it enough to promote him. He rewarded them by doing very well in A+, though with all the usual SSS caveats. I think he’ll start 2014 at A+. If his late season success was a result of getting comfortable hitting righties from the right side of the plate, I could see him getting a mid-season promotion to AA (as there isn’t much ahead of him), and he’s suddenly on the 2016 radar. If his defense is just average, he’s probably about an average SS w/ a wRC+ of 90. If of course either his defense is closer to elite like some think (+10), and/or he can get that wRC+ up around 100, you’re looking at a 3-4 win player. Can he do these things? Can he justify the Yankees’ investment in him? My best is…sort of. He’ll probably be an above average defender, and I think he’ll probably hit enough to be a starter in his prime, like 1.5-2.5 wins. I think that easily justifies the Yankee investment, but that he’ll still be looked at as a disappointment. I’m certainly anxious to see if he can take the next steps this season.
Snuggles: Culver is a weird topic. Outside of Brackman, he’s the obvious poster-child for poor Yankees drafting in recent years (I think this is quite overblown). However, he is from upstate NY and the colder climates are generally under-scouted and undervalued (Trout went at the end of the 1st round!), so there’s a chance the Yankees saw something in Culver. and given his explosion in Tampa, maybe they were right. I’ve never heard anything bad about Culver’s defense, although he range isn’t anything special, his arm makes up for it. Tool-wise Culver could end up as a good average, good OBP SS with great defense. Obviously, the 3+ years of terrible performance in the 3 lowest leagues indicate this is unlikely, but the possibility is there - I’m not a huge fan, but it’s too early to write him off and ditching switch hitting may have fixed him
John Murphy (23): 6th round of the 2013 draft, Bats: L Throws: R wRC+ of 38 in 137PA at Staten Island.
Murphy is just above an “other”. First full year of pro ball he didn’t walk much, didn’t hit for much power, and didn’t really do anything to make you think he’ll start the year anywhere other than Extended ST. But already 23 (or will be at beginning of April), they may just throw him to the wolves and see what happens. Whether that’s Charleston right off the bat, or after short-season ball starts, I don’t know. Never want to discount first year pro guys too quickly, but it is unlikely Murphy is anything more than a career minor leaguer.
Snuggles: I don’t really have anything to say about John Murphy, he was a cheap college senior sign and isn’t anything more than an org player
Abiatal Avelino (19): Bats: R Throws: R wRC+ 108 in 67 GCL (Yankees 1) PA, 79 in 76 SI Yankees PA.
FanGraphs isn’t reporting his time with the Yankees 2 GCL team, but there he hit for a 1.067 OPS. and stole 17 of 18 bases. Overall stole 28 of 32 bases in 51 games; that’s an 80SB clip over a full season. He was also in Marc Hulet’s “next five” of the Yankees top 10 prospects. Avelino is reported as a solid defender. He takes a walk (10.4%, 11.1%, and 5.3% at three levels) and barely strikes out (10.4, 4.9, and 7.9). Not much power so far - though he had 9XBH in only 81PA in Yankees 2 - but has a little room to grown, and he’s only 19. I imagine ExST and a return to SI – another reason Murphy may go to Charleston to start the year. Not out of the question a very slight improvement on offense (wRC+ north of 90) could get him to Charleston early in the year. Avelino is still a long ways away from the majors, but at only 19 they have time to let him grow.
Snuggles: Avelino is probably the best SS prospect the Yankees have at this point, at least tool-wise. It helps that he had a pretty successful state-side debut. He has the tools to do just about anything well, except for power at this point, but it is believed that he will develop some power as he develops. My new rule is to not get excited about a player until they’ve hit A+, but I’ll definitely be following Avelino closely this year.
Tyler Wade (19): 4th round Bats: L Throws: R. 147 wRC+ in 198PA of GCL. 16.2% BB%. 11 of 12 SB.
Like Murphy, don’t want to discount first year pros. Unlike Murphy, a HS SS taken in the 4th round is someone you can get excited about. At 6-1 (officially), Wade is a guy you can project to grow into some power, but still have the chops to stick at SS. He struck out a bit much for a guy with so little power (21.2% K, .062 ISO). But he’s still very young. Yankees were impressed enough to give him a cup of coffee in SI, which is rare for a first-year HS player. I imagine Wade is another guy who will start the year in ExST. I’d bet he goes back to GCL to start the year, with Avelino in SI and Murphy in Charleston. Mid-season I could see each moving up a level. Wade has some tools, and may be the most well rounded of the current SS prospects. At the same time, none of his tools (other than maybe patience) stands out.
Snuggles: Wade isn’t as potentially exciting as Avelino, but he has one ability in spades - patience. As long as he can continue to hit decently, his ability to take a walk will carry him pretty far. He’ll likely never hit for power, and he’s probably not going to be a .300 guy, but he’ll likely hold his own with the bat and walk enough to allow his very good baserunning to accrue value. Defensively he’s good but not spectacular. He’s the kind of guy who will plug along quietly and perform decently at each level.
Others: Ali Castillo (25), Jose Toussen (24), Jose Rosario (22)
In summary, the upper levels (like 1B and 2B) are barren for SS prospects. However, once you get to the lower levels, you have some nice players, and you can see a clear path where each starts at a level, and could be promoted up by year’s end. None of these guys will knock your socks off, but each has enough going for them where improving on one or two things could vault them from borderline prospect, to a guy you expect to be in the majors. I think we’d be happy if just one of them could do that.
Snuggles: Katoh has been taking reps at SS and reportedly is only missing the arm to man the position. He could definitely strengthen the Yankees depth at SS if he continues to hit and can improve his arm strength enough to move to SS.
Friday, February 21, 2014
Romine was one of four Yankees—Ramon Flores, Antoan Richardson and Adonis Garcia, a non-roster infielder and outfielders, respectively—to “hit” against Tanaka in his first live batting practice session, and his first impression of Tanaka’s stuff could be summed up not in a word, but in a sound.
Watching Tanaka throw a split to Flores as he awaited his turn, Romine let out a “Wooo!” that was clearly audible to reporters standing behind the batting cage.
“I think he threw a split and I had to turn around and ask what the pitch was,” Romine said. “I’ve never seen a ball move like that before. I haven’t had the chance to catch him yet, but from a hitting standpoint, like I said, I’m glad he’s on our team.”
Tanaka seemed surprised by Romine’s assessment. “I don’t recall anyone saying that they’ve never seen anything like that before,” he said. “But some people have told me that it’s a really, really good pitch.”
Well, that’s good to hear at least!
Thursday, February 20, 2014
4. Masahiro Tanaka
Who said the Yankees have a bad farm system? They’ve got the 4th best prospect in baseball!
Other Yankees prospects on the list include Gary Sanchez and ...Masahiro Tanaka. Gary Sanchez is also on the list. I think that means the Yankees have 4 of the top 100 prospects.
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Early in the offseason, the Yankees – with so many holes to fill – used a strategy of making many offers at one time, letting agents know that with each signing, they would re-assess and pull some bids. The Yankees actually made Drew an offer at that time, believed to be for two or three years, when the shortstop was still looking to do considerably better – four or five years.
And, as it happened, the Yankees spent more than they anticipated on players such as Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury and Masahiro Tanaka and, at some point, rescinded the offer for Drew. And once Tanaka was signed and the $189 million dream was crushed, Hal Steinbrenner put a clamp on going any further. That means they are not bending for Drew, a decision they believe is made a tad easier because they were worried about the condition of his ankles and hips anyway.
At this moment, though, Drew seems a good risk, particularly because he played healthy and well last year for the champion Red Sox. His request is down to two years with an opt-out after one.
Sherman then makes a strong point when he notes that if Johnson doesn’t pan out at third or if there is a shocking injury to Brian Roberts, the Yankees will go trade for someone. It will happen. And since the odds of Johnson not working out or Roberts being injured (in some shocking twist of fate) are so strong then it really makes more sense just to get Drew now.
Sherman actually wrote to Hal Steinbrenner on the issue and here was his reply:
“No team is without concerns. We will address those concerns as we go, just as we did in several areas last year. … I am comfortable with our payroll as it stands now. Tanaka put us way over the $189 million, but I believe it will prove to be a solid investment. The rest of the pieces we will figure out as we go — just as all other teams do. We have a very good club and we will continue to improve in areas that we see need it; not just in areas that need it on paper. We need to see what actually transpires in those areas and react.”
It seems like he’s basically reiterating what Sherman says - they’ll make a move during the season to address the problem, but by then it will cost a lot more than a two-year contract and the 55th pick in the draft (and the requisite slot money). It just makes more sense to get Drew now. As Keith Law said the other day , “[Drew] is such a perfect fit for the Yankees that I can’t fathom their apparent disinterest.” Me neither, Keith.
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
TAMPA, Fla. – Hand on his heart, Mark Teixeira says there’s no reason for the Yankees to panic over the lingering tightness in his right wrist, that it’s the expected surcharge of last summer’s surgery to repair a torn tendon sheath. Teixeira, in fact, says you can put him down for 150 games this season, even if common sense screams in protest. One hundred fifty? Seriously?
Teixeira’s wrist, after all, ranks among the Bombers’ top three unanswered questions for 2014, right there with Masahiro Tanaka’s arm and Derek Jeter’s ankle.
No one, including Teixeira, has a clue whether he’ll ever recover his home run stroke after playing just 15 games last year. And even if Teixeira fully heals from the wrist operation, his previous breakdowns — a hamstring injury in 2010 and a calf strain in 2012 — say plenty about the trend line.
Teixeira, who turns 34 in April, has been in decline since 2007, when his OPS stood at .963. It’s fallen every year since then, bottoming out at a career-low .807 in 2012.
As Klapisch says, there are two concerns with Teixeira this year. How often can he play, and how well can he hit when he does play? CAIRO is projecting 408 PA of .240/.331/.462. With his defense that projects to be worth about 1.4 WAR. If he gets 600 PA, that pro-rates to about 2.0 WAR. He’s being paid like a 3-4 win player, but odds are he won’t get there. But the Yankees probably need him to exceed his CAIRO if they are going to contend this year.
Monday, February 17, 2014
RLYW’s Official We Haven’t Received a Cease and Desist Request Players Under 25: 2B Edition
Second base is rarely the home of interesting or particularly good prospects. It’s generally the home of failed SS prospects. However, the Yankees actually have a few solid 2B prospects, which is nice because they have a pretty major hole with Cano leaving. There’s no Cano or anyone really close in the Yankees system, but 2B is far from the worst position in the Yankees system. I’m going to start with the closest guy (Corban Joseph excepted - he’s a year too old) and run down to the younger prospects.
Jose Pirela (24) Throws Right, Hits RIght - .272/.359/.418 in 530 PA at AA for a 118 wRC+ (10.6% BB and 11.5% K) and .304/.333/.304 in 24 PA at AAA for 81 wRC+ (4.2% BB and 8.3% K)
10 HRs, 42 XBH, 19 SB, 3 CS
Jose Pirela is not an exciting prospect, but he is a pretty steady one. He’s one of those guys who sort of crawls up the MiL levels. He doesn’t have any outstanding skills, but he doesn’t really have any underwhelming skills either. After running through Rookie Ball, A and A+ in a year a piece, he seemed to have met his match in AA, posting a sub .650 OPS in his 2011 campaign. While he bounced back to a .800+ OPS in 2012, it wasn’t enough to get him promoted to AAA with both Corban Jospeh and David Adams blocking him so he returned to AA in 2013 and had another solid year with a .750+ OPS earning himself a late season promotion to AAA.
He can play other positions, but only profiles as average or above average at 2B. On offense he controls the zone well with a good eye and the ability to make contact. He is basically a gap hitter, but he can get one out every once in a while. If he has one above average tool it is his hit tool where he is above average and has the potential to post a .300 season or two and to back it up with a solid OBP.
Looking back to 2010, he had a 30 SB campaign, but every other year points more towards him being a guy who can be a threat, but not a constant worry for opposing pitchers. He’ll likely be more of an 8-13 bag guy. Given the state of the Yankees infield and Pirela’s extended experience in the high minors, he has a solid chance of making it to the ML this year. Once he’s there, he’s not going to be anything dynamic or breathtaking, but he’s going to be solid and do everything decently.
Mike K’s note: I saw Pirela play last year. I see him as a future UIF, maybe even a super-utility as he’s played a little outfield. If he becomes a Randy Velarde type the Yankees will be thrilled, but I think that’s his ceiling. Barring a Stephen Drew signing, he’ll spend time in NYY this year.
Rob Refsnyder (23) Throws Right, Hits Right - .370/.452/.481 in 62 PA at A for 173 wRC+ (9.7% BB and 19.4% K) and .283/.408/.404 in 507 PA at A+ for 140 wRC+ (15.4% BB and 13.8% K)
6 HRs, 35 XBH, 23 SB, 6 CS
Rob Refsnyder was pretty hyped coming out of the draft and fresh off of an MVP award winning College World Series performance. Even though he played OF for Arizona, the Yankees selected him as a 2Bman, the position he manned in high school. He scuffled a bit in A ball in 2012, hitting to a .680 OPS and not really having a position. In 2013 he made all the hype seem justified, crushing A ball to begin the season to a tune of a .933 OPS and continuing his run into A+ with a .812 OPS and more walks than Ks. To be fair, no one doubted that he could hit, but conquering A ball in his first full season like that is still pretty nice.
What makes his 2013 more impressive is that he was in the midst of transitioning to 2B full time, and not having a good time of it early. However, it was reported that his defense rapidly improved as the season went on, making his high error total slightly misleading. Refsnyder has great zone control (he posted .400+ OBP at both levels in 2013) and pitch recognition, and a solid swing which will allow him to be an above average hitter, even if his power never ends up grading out above average. He’s not going to blow anyone away on the bases speed wise, but his baseball intelligence gives him a chance to be a solid low double digit threat. Despite only recently converting to 2B, many see a lot of potential defensively and 2014 will be a big year for Refsnyder.
It seems like Refsnyder will open the season at AA and if he has another year like his 2013, his stock will skyrocket. Refsnyder can hit and hit well, even if he’s never going to be a significant HR threat. He can run well enough to be a threat on the base-paths and his legs and bat are good enough to play in the OF if he can’t stick at 2B. Fortunately he seems to be quite talented if raw in the infield and while the Yankees may not want to be patient, they will probably be willing to wait on Refnsyder if he needs another year after 2014. That being said, he has a chance of being more or less MLB ready in 2015. (I actually wasn’t all that excited by Refsnyder coming into this, as I did research, the more I liked him, of course a lot depends on his continued success in transitioning to the IF.)
Mike K: 23 in AA is a bit old, but it’s only his 2nd full season of pro-ball. I’m high on Refsnyder too, but he’s got to get to AAA by mid-season to be more than a stopgap. I think he’ll do that, but Trenton is a tough place to hit.
Angelo Gumbs (21) Throws Right, Hits Right - .213/.261/.351 in 218 PA at A for 75 wRC+ (6% BB and 25.2% K) and .214/.265/.302 in 170 PA at A+ for 61 wRC+ (4.7% BB and 18.2% K)
4 HR, 29 XBH, 16 SB, CS 6
Angelo Gumbs is also a OF convert, but since he was drafted out of HS, he’s younger and quite a bit more raw than Refnsyder, despite playing SS in high school giving him some middle infield experience. Gumbs is a pure tools guy, his best season was his solid A ball campaign in 2012 where he eclipsed .750 OPS and ran unchecked on the bases. However, his 2013 was pretty disastrous as his average dropped 60 points bringing his OBP and slugging down with it. A tooled up 2B hitting .750 in his first full length pro season is exciting. Repeating the same level and regressing the next year is not.
Gumbs scouting report is one of great potential and rough reality. He has crazy fast hands (think Sheffield) which gives him great power potential for a middle infielder. However, he gets stuck trying to violently pull the ball (hey Sheffield again) and is very aggressive. He sees the ball pretty well and generally does a good job of swinging at good pitches, but his aggression and over-swinging have led to a good number of Ks. If he can balance everything out, he’ll be a solid hitter with good power.
Gumbs’ aggression/approach vs. talent issues manifest themselves on the bases as well. He is fast and aggressive on the bases which allows him to rack up some pretty nice stolen base numbers. But his instincts aren’t superb and he is a bit over aggressive, so he is vulnerable to being picked off and running himself into outs. Defensively it is more of the same, Gumbs is very talented but inconsistent.
Gumbs has the ignominious “honor” of being one of the few real prospect who was demoted in 2013, after his disastrous first half in A+ the Yankees swapped him to A ball for Refsnyder. The bad thing is that his line in A was basically the same as his line in A+. Gumbs’ potential is tantalizing, he’s pretty handily the highest upside 2B prospect in the system, but a lot needs to come together. A lot.
Mike K: 2012 was derailed by a pretty significant lower leg injury. I’m certainly hoping that a lot of Gumbs’s issues this past year are just a result of recovering from the injury and lost development time. I think they’ll start him in A+, but another stint in Charleston wouldn’t surprise me, with the idea being let him regain some confidence, and then May/June promote him to A+ and Katoh to A.
Gosuke Katoh (19) Throws Right, Hits Left - .310/.402/.522 in 215 PA for 171 wRC+ (12.6% BB and 20.5% K)
6 HR, 22 XBH, 4 SB, CS
If you can remember all the way back to the 2013 draft (about 9 months ago), you might remember some excitement about the first round when the Yankees drafted Jagielo, Judge and Clarkin in the back half of the round. The next day was filled with a bit of confusion as the Yankees nabbed Gosuke Katoh (19) R/L with their 2nd round pick. I remember watching the video of him and thinking how poor of a swing he had – Ichiro-esque and without power. To make matter worse, while he was supposedly good defensively, his arm limited him to 2B. A mediocre slap hitting 2B is not what you generally look for in the 2nd round.
Katoh clearly didn’t give a damn what any of the naysayers thought and crushed the GCL (Rookie level) to a .310/.402/.522 line. His power was especially surprising given his wiry build and youth. Despite his good results, it’s important to note that this was in the GCL and Dante Bichette Jr lit up the GCL too.
Katoh is still a project and has to fill out his frame to keep up his power as he climbs the ladder, but he has the tools to be a solid player. He looks to be a solid hitter with surprising power and good speed, on the defensive side, he’s supposed to be great, although limited by his arm. There is some hope that the Yankees can improve his throwing enough to stick him at SS. If he can shift to the other half of the double play combo, his already solid prospect status will get a nice boost. Katoh is a little bit too young and inexperienced for me to get super excited about, but there’s something there.
Others: Jose Rosario (23), Claudio Custodio (24), Hector Crespo (22), Derek Toadvine (22), Jake Anderson (22), Bryan Cuevas (20 - big year in the dominican league in 2012, OK in GSL last year), Jose Javier (22)
TAMPA — Kevin Long considers Robinson Cano practically a son, they grew so close over the years in the Bronx. And that bond, forged during their countless sessions in the batting cage, allows him to speak frankly about the $240 million man who is now a Seattle Mariner.
That is, while Long couldn’t be prouder of what Cano accomplished as a Yankee, it bothers him that neither he nor anyone else could get through to the second baseman about his notorious lack of hustle, knowing it’s likely to tarnish his standing, especially with the fans.
“If somebody told me I was a dog,’’ Long said here Sunday, “I’d have to fix that. When you choose not to, you leave yourself open to taking heat, and that’s your fault. For whatever reason, Robbie chose not to.’’
Long was talking about Cano’s habit of not running hard to first base on routine ground balls, nothing else. And it was particularly frustrating for him because he helped Cano overcome his other bad habits over the years, centering around his nonchalant nature that once led Joe Girardi to bench him for lazy defense.
I tend to think that someone that averaged 160 games played out of 162 over the last seven seasons would not be classified as a dog, but that’s just me. I seem to remember Paul O’Neill not hustling on routine ground balls and never hearing a word about it, but for whatever reason people chose to focus on that with Cano and ignore the fact that he did just about everything else brilliantly.
No big deal, he’s Seattle’s problem now. How will they possibly deal with Cano dogging his way to 5-7 wins?
Friday, February 14, 2014
Who will man shortstop for the Yankees next year after Derek Jeter retires? Well, here’s one possibility.
FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi reports that the Yankees were among the teams in attendance today to watch a showcase for Cuban shortstop Aledmys Diaz in Arizona. The Cardinals, Blue Jays, Mariners, Padres, and Giants were also on hand.
Diaz, 23, hit .315/.404/.500 with 12 home runs and 11 stolen bases in 313 plate appearances at-bats during his last season in Cuba from 2011-2012. There are questions about his defense, so his future might actually be at second base.
For comparison’s sake, Yoenis Cespedes hit .333/.424/.667 in Cuba. If Diaz translated similarly he’d hit around .250/.310/.350. If there are questions about his defense, then I’d have to question his projected value.
But there’s no harm in scouting him.
Thursday, February 13, 2014
And Then There Were None
Bernie Williams was the first Yankee that I really watched develop from minor league prospect to Hall of Fame caliber MLB player, even if he didn’t quite reach the bar. When Bernie came up in 1991 he was joining a team that had finished last in the AL East in the previous season and was on its way to going 71-91 that year. He didn’t have a great rookie year, but he showed flashes of what would eventually come and by 1993 he had established himself as the starting CF on a team that was steadily improving. The Yankees probably would have made the postseason in 1994 if not for the lockout, and then they got the wild card in 1995 and lost a heart-breaking series in the ALDS to Seattle.
For a lot of Yankee fans, Derek Jeter is actually the player that Bernie was for me.
I’d love to say I remember Jeter’s debut in 1995, but I really don’t. He got called up towards the end of May and spent a couple of weeks in the majors and didn’t really do anything of note, hitting .234/.280/340 in 50 PA before being sent down until September. I do remember him getting called up and making a couple of appearances in September. While Andy Pettitte established himself in 1995 and Mariano Rivera pitched a fair amount, Jeter and Jorge Posada were really footnotes that year, although the fact that Posada made a pinch-running appearance that year in the ALDS tickles me to no end.
I had no idea what was coming next. I don’t think any of us did. The fact is, the majority of prospects never pan out. While Jeter and Posada and Pettitte and Rivera were all considered decent to great prospects, the odds were against them becoming what they eventually did become. But 1996 saw Jeter, Rivera and Pettitte become key contributors. It took Posada a few more years to join the mix. Jeter won the Rookie of the Year in 1996 and the Yankees won the World Series, something they hadn’t done in 18 years.
And we still didn’t know what was to come. After a disappointing end to the 1997 season, the Yankees demolished MLB in 1998 and Jeter was probably the most valuable player on the team that year, finishing third in the AL in the MVP balloting. He followed that up with a sublime 1999 that had him as probably the most valuable position player in the league. Although he never replicated that season again, he continued to provide the Yankees with offense that few teams were getting out of the shortstop position.
As I became more aware of statistical analysis in baseball, I began to resent the deification of Jeter by the mass media. I’m a bit of a contrarian and the fact that Jeter was so fawned over started to turn me against him. Despite what some people would like to believe, I never actually ‘hated’ Jeter, but I probably underrated him because of that. I would focus on the fact that his defensive metrics didn’t match his reputation and that he wasn’t as good as the talking heads made him out to be. He didn’t occupy the same place in my fandom that Rivera or Bernie did.
The faces changed around the core over the next decade, but Jeter kept on keeping on. There are way too many memories to list, but I often think about his 2004. On May 19 Jeter had 183 PA and was hitting .187/.250/.265 in a season that was heading to disaster. Over his next 538 PA he hit .329/.387/.543 and salvaged a season that looked lost. And of course, he had his famous sprint/dive into the stands in the July 1 game that year, saving a game that felt like a postseason game that the Yankees would eventually win in 12 innings.
When Jeter hit .270/.340/.370 at age 36 in 2010 (an OPS+ of 90) I thought he was done. But he proceeded to hit .308/.359/.411 (OPS+ of 107) over the next two years.
I had a hard time getting into last year’s team. I never thought of myself as a fair-weather fan. I mean hell, I’m a Buffalo Bills fan and I don’t even remember the last time they had a winning record. But last year’s Yankee team wasn’t very good and didn’t hold my interest much. Is it a coincidence that they also didn’t have Jeter for almost the entire year? Their problems were larger than that, but I can’t help but think that not having him around made the team feel different.
I don’t think the 2014 Yankees are a particularly good team. They can contend if a lot of stuff goes right, which could happen. One of those things would be Jeter defying his age, staying healthy and hitting well enough to compensate for his defensive limitations.
Bernie’s 2003 knee injury ended up turning him from a great player to a replacement level player and as much as I was a fan of his, it was tough to watch him at the end. Posada’s concussions cost him his job at catcher and his offense out of DH wasn’t good enough although he did end his career with a strong ALDS in a losing cause.
We were fortunate enough to see Rivera and Pettitte exit baseball while still being valuable players.
I hope we’ll get to see the same from Jeter.
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Derek Jeter has announced that he will retire following the 2014 season.
Tuesday, February 11, 2014
RLYW’s Own Prospects Under 25 Thing That Is Totally Not Copying Keith Law (It Totally Is): 1B
So reviewing the Yankees’ system and what they’ve done right and wrong was a noble goal for the offseason. But like the Yankees having a farm system regularly churning out replacement players, it didn’t happen. I’d like to think it isn’t because Clay and I are total failures at this, and instead it is because of circumstances not entirely in our control. That review however will take even longer to complete.
Snuggles note: The Yankees have made some changes in the MiL system this off-season and I suspect we will continue to see some personnel changes through the next year or so. This actually gives us a nice endpoint to use as we look back and build a framework for how we can look at development in the near future
So with that said, Clay and I (along with J) decided that right now we should go ahead and start the process of previewing the 2014 season. SG I’m sure will do his normal preview for the major league level. But we want to take it more from a prospect point of view. Keith Law does a “top players 25 and under” every year, so we thought it would be a good idea to do so for the Yankees. This will both add a few players already contributing to the major league team, and also eliminate a few players in the minors who may still prove useful.
We’ll be doing these lists individually, so we may have a few different players; I may consider a few players to have a future that Clay does not, and vice versa. Players will be listed in reverse order of highest level achieved first, down to furthest away from majors. Each of us will have a “favorite” player in each position we’ll go into in depth, and everyone else will got a short blurb. We’ll start at first base because, well, that’s the easiest. First and DH are pretty much interchangeable right now. If a player hits enough that they’ll use him at DH, he’s probably playing a lot of first as well, and has a shot in the majors. So without further ado…
(2014 age in parentheses)
Saxon Butler (24) - Bats R, Throws L: 332 PA across A, A+, and AA, 5HR, 8.4% BB rate, 102 wRC+ in 252 PA at Tampa
Yankees had no one in AAA or majors who was really a first-baseman and under 25, and Roller and Clark will be 26 next year, so Butler is it the closest to the majors. He walks at a decent clip and doesn’t strike out a ton. Didn’t show much power in Tampa (only .119 ISO), but showed decent power in 2013. He’ll probably start 2014 in Trenton, not really anyone blocking him from moving to AAA mid-season. Looks like a AAAA player though, who may good enough to play in majors, but not likely to stick.
Greg Bird (21) - Bats L, Throws R: 573 PA in A ball, 20HR, 18.7% BB Rate(107 walks), .223 ISO, 170 wRC+
Bird of course was converted from C to first base. By some accounts, he’s the best hitter in the Yankees’ system. He obviously walks a ton in the minors. It remains to be seen if it is patience, or passiveness. He’s also got a fair amount of power, though we’d like to see it develop a bit more as a 1B. He led all players (min 400PA) in the South Atlantic league in wRC+. FanGraphs had him adding ~47 RAA. If he’s an average defensive 1B, that’s a 3+ win player.
There are of course concerns about Bird. At age 20, he isn’t young for his league, though he’s age-appropriate. There are some concerns that he may not be aggressive enough at the plate, that his power is merely adequate. He also strikes out a lot, though considering he’s a power-hitting, high walk 1B that shouldn’t be unexpected. And of course he just made the full time switch from C to 1B, so there are concerns about his defense. And finally, concerns about his health as back issues limited him to 122PA the prior two seasons.
All those concerns aside, Bird appears to be a complete hitter. If he were still catching he’d be a top prospect in the game. But he isn’t. So instead his numbers are starting to look a lot like Joey Votto in the minors. We can only hope his career arc goes anything like that. Bird will likely start the year in Tampa, and I think if he hits like he did in Charleston, he’ll find himself in Trenton by this summer. I even wouldn’t be surprised if he spends some time in AAA, depending on where each team is in the playoffs. Bird has a solid shot at being ready in 2015 at some point, if/when Teix gets injured again. I don’t really see any area that he needs to improve on, though a little more power and a few less strikeouts wouldn’t hurt. Keep working on defense at first.
Snuggles: I think it’s important to remember that while Bird was age appropriate, he was playing with very little experience in 2013 due to previous injuries. IMO, 2014 is a pretty big year for Bird, and by extension the Yankees development team. To really explode as a prospect he needs to learn to be aggressive in the zone while maintaining his patience/discipline. This change should theoretically land him in fewer 2 strike counts allowing him to cut down on the Ks he racks up due to his extreme patience/passiveness and even potentially improve the rest of his batting line. That being said, it is a change that is far easier said than done. Ultimately, Bird needs to make sure that he stays on the good side between passive and patient, at this point, that seems like what will make him or break him as a prospect/MLB player. Like Mike has pointed out, he is poised to move very quickly, and the Yankees have shown more willingness to aggressively promote in the last year or two. Bird is a prospect to keep an eye on, and really the only 1B prospect with meaningful potential in the Yankees system right now.
Michael Ford (21) - Bats L, Throws R: 136 PA in A-, 123 wRC+, 14.7% BB rate, .139 ISO
Normally a player at that age and level with those numbers wouldn’t be a “prospect”. But Ford was an undrafted rookie, so first year of pro ball I’ll list him. Especially since the list is so light. I imagine he’ll start the year in ExSI, with a shot at starting the year in Charleston. Good year at Charleston and he’s on the radar.
Others: Matt Snyder (24) - L,R, Reymond Nunez (23) - R,R, Austin Jones (21) - L,R, Christopher Breen (20) - R,R
Snuggles: I had a chance to see Austin Jones play this summer (he goes by Bubba Jones), he looked OK - he didn’t really impress but he was solid. In the games I saw, he did a solid job of putting the bat on the ball but didn’t really connect with that much power, he seemed more like a gap power guy than your prototypical 1B HR threat.
Snuggles: Just to annoy Mike, I’m going to add 2 players to the “other category.” Rob Refsnyder (R,R) spent non-insignificant time at 1B in the low minors in 2013 and hit well, I’d also like to include Peter O’Brien (R,R) who actually didn’t spend any time at 1B in 2013, because I’m crazy like that. Now, I think it’s very unlikely that Refsnyder ends up at 1B, but I think there’s a significant chance that O’Brien does. Refnsyder has played a ton of positions for the Yankees MiL system so far, I think they just want his bat in there as much as possible, but he was drafted as a 2B, which he played in HS, and played OF in college. O’Brien was drafted as a catcher, but is questionable to stick there, the Yankees are also trying him at 3B, but I would not be surprised to see him end up in a 1B/DH role eventually, fortunately he can hit the ball, so that’s not a prospect death sentence.
Thanks to Mike K. for getting us started on this, I’ve been busy/lazy and 1B in the Yankees system is pretty uninspiring (I suppose if you have to have a really boring position prospect wise 1B isn’t a terrible choice). -Snuggles T. Porcupine
It’s hard to think of a high-profile trade that worked out as poorly for both teams as 2012’s Jesus Montero for Michael Pineda swap. Montero hasn’t hit (89 OPS+) and was suspended 50 games for his ties to Biogenesis last year. Hector Noesi, the other guy who went to Seattle, has a 64 ERA+ since the trade. Class A righty Jose Campos missed most of last year with an elbow problem. He was the other guy New York received.
Pineda, meanwhile, has not thrown a single big league pitch since the trade due to a shoulder injury. He suffered a torn labrum during spring training 2012 and has been on the mend since, throwing 40 2/3 minor league innings late last summer as he rehabbed. Pineda reported to the Yankees’ complex early for camp and says he’s finally ready to help the team, two years after the trade.
“I’m feeling 100 percent right now, and my body is in perfect shape,” he said to the Associated Press today. “Everything is in the past. I’m ready to go.”
Pineda is one guy I am excited about in 2014. While the track record for pitchers returning from shoulder surgery is not great, there have been some success stories like Anibal Sanchez and I’m hopeful Pineda can be an important part of the Yankees this year.
Monday, February 10, 2014
Joe Girardi might need a scorecard to figure out who everybody is when the Yankees open spring training later this week.
Gone are Robinson Cano, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte among others, while newcomers Masahiro Tanaka, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran are expected to assume large roles as the Yankees take aim at a return to the postseason.
Alex Rodriguez will also be missing, after being suspended for the entire 2014 season and dropping his lawsuits against Major League Baseball and the players’ union.
Will the new-look Bombers have what it takes to capture their 28th World Series title? They’ll have to answer these five questions during the next seven weeks before Opening Day on April 1.
When we were kids, my brothers and I were really into Star Wars toys. So any time our parents surprised us with a new action figure or space ship we got excited. Of course, to my parents any robot = Star Wars, so occasionally they would come home with Maxx Steele and expect us to be happy about it. We weren’t.
That’s how I feel about the Yankees spending spree this offseason. Too much Maxx Steele. Not enough Star Wars.
Sunday, February 9, 2014
It’s all part of the work being done on the Yanks’ oft-criticized farm system. Down the hall from Newman’s office sits a “PhD in advanced math and statistics,” says Newman, a statistical analyst devoted to the player development department. The Yankees have added other staff and scouts.
They will have a second team in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League for the second straight year. Having more players might enhance the chances of more prospects emerging. Will it all show up on the field soon? That, of course, is unknowable now. But, Newman says, “We’ve got some bright dudes here. (The system) is going to go back up, odds are.”
Ooh, a PhD.
Friday, February 7, 2014
New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told ESPN radio Friday that newly-acquired Japanese star pitcher Masahiro Tanaka has potential to a No. 3 starter.
Tanaka, 25, recently signed a seven-year, $155 million deal with the team, which is the fifth-largest contract ever for a major-league pitcher and the biggest for an international player. He can opt out after four years.
But Cashman downplayed Tanaka’s potential impact.
“We view him to be a really, solid consistent No. 3 starter,” Cashman said. “If we to get more than that, all the better. He’s got a great deal of ability.
This reads as Cashman trying to manage expectations on Tanaka as much as anything, but that’s going to be awfully hard when you give him one of the largest contracts that any pitcher has ever gotten.
But I don’t think it’s unrealistic to think that #3 starter is Tanaka’s most likely outcome. And while that would certainly help the team, it’d sure feel like a disappointment to me.
Update: In other news, Alex Rodriguez is dropping his lawsuit and accepting his suspension. He had no chance in hell of winning, so better now than later.
Why are the Yankees going to win 93 games?
The prediction on the Yankees is strongly based in the fact that the past two years that the Yankees have not had superb seasons and have had very good outputs. It is shocking to say that the Yankees have not had a great amount of success considering how much money they spend on their team, but that is the truth. At some point, Joe Girardi may need to be given some credit for managing the egos that the Yankees have and for making sure that they are at the top of their games. Last year’s team had no reason to win 85 games and there is more talent on this team.
Fangraphs, changing the underlying components and assumptions in a bunch of ways that make the Yankees look better.
Thursday, February 6, 2014
Ralph Kiner, who slugged his way to the baseball Hall of Fame and then enjoyed a half-century career as a popular broadcaster, died Thursday. He was 91.
The baseball Hall of Fame said Kiner died at his home in Rancho Mirage with his family at his side.
Kiner hit 369 home runs during his 10-year career, mostly with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He made his debut in 1946 and his power quickly became the talk of baseball — he won or tied for the National League lead in homers in each of his first seven seasons.
When he retired, Kiner was sixth on the career home run list. Several years later, he joined the broadcast crew of the New York Mets for their expansion season in 1962 and became a permanent fixture — the home TV booth at Shea Stadium was named in his honor.
“Kiner’s Korner” was a delight for players and fans alike, where stars would join Kiner for postgame chats. Known for malaprops — he once even forgot his own name on air — he took the occasional slips in stride.
He wasn’t ever directly involved with the Yankees, but I have fond memories of him butchering the English language on Kiner’s Korner on WWOR in my youth. R.I.P. Mr. Kiner.
Masahiro Tanaka is finally set to come to the US.
The Japanese right-hander, signed to a seven-year, $155 million contract by the Yankees last month, received a work visa Tuesday and is expected to leave for spring training Sunday, according to reports from Japan.
I wonder when the Yankees will formally introduce Tanaka?
Wednesday, February 5, 2014
NEW YORK—Since Manny Banuelos was promoted to Triple-A ball before the 2011 season, he is 2-4 with a 4.32 ERA. His walks-per-nine innings ratio has soared and his strikeouts-per-nine innings ratio has dropped.
Plus, he is coming off Tommy John surgery and has not thrown a pitch in a professional ballgame in more than 18 months.
In spite of it all, the soon-to-be 23-year-old remains the only top prospect in the Yankees’ farm system who might—just might—have a chance to impact the major-league club in 2014.
“Banuelos has got that big arm,” a front office source said. “If it’s still there and the lightning still strikes then you’re going see people say, ‘F—- it, bring him with us [on Opening Day].’”
The source said that as soon as this season, Banuelos—who has yet to distinguish himself even at the Triple-A level and still projects as a starter long-term—might turn out to be a useful part in the Yankees’ bullpen. This is either irrefutable evidence of the electricity in Banuelos’ left arm, or the lack of juice in the Yankees’ farm system.
I realize TGS NY mainly exists to troll, but are they really too dense to realize that it’s likely that Banuelos’s AAA performance was affected by the fact that he eventually needed surgery on his arm?
Tuesday, February 4, 2014
TAMPA — On a sunny, warm Monday morning, Derek Jeter took 39 swings in batting practice, spraying liners around a green, neatly manicured outfield at the Yankees’ minor-league complex. A handful of coaches and other players watched.
Once finished, Jeter played catch and then went to shortstop and fielded 34 ground balls, moving easily but hardly at game speed and lobbing throws to first base. In any other spring, these drills would be unremarkable, another workday spent on clay and grass for the Yankee captain.
But Jeter is coming off a 2013 season ruined by injury. He is in the final year of his contract and this conceivably could be his final year in pinstripes.
He had not taken live BP or fielded grounders at short in his pre-spring training work, so it was a milestone of sorts, however small, and any attention it gets is just a small sample of the scrutiny a soon-to-be 40 shortstops figures to get in a comeback season.
I’m not expecting much out of Jeter this year, but he’s surprised me before.
Friday, January 31, 2014
The Yankees announced on Wednesday the signing of nine players to Minor League contracts with invitations to Major League Spring Training, bringing the total number of invitees to 26.
The nine players signed to Minor League deals are: right-hander Bruce Billings, infielder Russ Canzler, right-hander Robert Coello, right-hander Brian Gordon, right-hander Chris Leroux, outfielder Antoan Richardson, infielder Scott Sizemore, infielder Yangervis Solarte and infielder Zelous Wheeler.
Of the 26 invitees, 13 are pitchers, three are catchers, six are infielders and four are outfielders. The number of players scheduled to report is 66—18 fewer than last year’s total of 84.
A few of these non-roster invitees have a legitimate chance at making the team out of spring training, particularly in the bullpen. The problem will be getting them onto the 40 man roster.
Gordon pitched pretty well out of the A’s AAA bullpen last season, with 66 Ks and 9 BB in 63 innings with a 3.57 ERA, which looks better when you account for the fact that he did it in the PCL. Steamer projects an ERA of 4.43 for Gordon, Oliver projects him at 3.75 and CAIRO projects him at 3.86 (in Oakland).
Coello is also an interesting pitcher who has struck out 39 in 29 MLB innings and has similar minor league strikeout numbers despite a fastball that averages around 91 mph. What’s unique about Coello is a forkball that acts like a knuckleball. Steamer projects Coello to put up an ERA around 3.80, Oliver around 3.90. CAIRO is less impressed projecting an ERA of 4.69 but he’s another guy who could earn a spot in the bullpen with a strong spring.
Leroux is another guy who projects reasonably well despite not having done much in the majors.
Canzler could end up on the team as a RHB who can play 1B and 3B and maybe the OF corners, although it’s tough to see a spot on the 25 man roster for him right now. Sizemore also has a pretty good chance to make the team as a 2B/3B depending on how the rest of the roster shapes up. And Yangervis Solarte and Zelous Wheeler are fantastic baseball names.
I’m honestly not worried about the Yankees bullpen. I think with Joe Girardi at the helm they’ll be able to piece something together, although it’ll be interesting to see if losing Mike Harkey (who took an offer to be Arizona’s pitching coach) has an impact on Girardi’s bullpen building. Harkey was replaced by Gary Tuck, who was the Yankees bullpen coach in 1990. Let’s hope this year works out better than that… Tuck was also the bullpen coach for Boston from 2006-2012.
The infield is looking like the biggest potential problem on this team, so it’ll be interesting to see if any of the NRIs there make some noise in the spring and put themselves into the team’s plans. Even if they don’t break camp with the team on Opening Day, they may earn a chance to figure into the mix at some point during the season if they stay in the organization.
Thursday, January 30, 2014
“Any athlete that says, after a major surgery, that they have no problems, they’ve never felt anything, they’re 100%, and they’re going to be as good as ever—yeah, you can say that, but in the back of your mind, you’re always thinking, OK, I still have to do it,” said Teixeira, who was limited by injuries to just 15 games last year.
So while everything with his surgically repaired wrist seems fine now in January, when Teixeira can occupy himself by taking batting practice and doing rehab as he works toward opening day, the veteran has to acknowledge that positive thinking only means so much.
Until he’s back on the field in the majors, and winning, he won’t know for sure if the wrist will allow him to be the same hitter he once was—sooner, later, or ever. Teixeira, 33, has been working doggedly to improve his flexibility, balance and strength. But if the wrist isn’t right, no amount of core strength work will compensate.
“I can be as positive as I can, but until I hit a 95 mph fastball that’s inside, into the second deck, then I’ll go, ‘All right, I’m back,’” he said. “But you can’t do that in a batting cage. Only time will tell.”
Well, this isn’t exactly encouraging. Then again, Teixeira rushed himself back last season for naught so maybe he’s just wisely being cautious.
Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Talking to Yankees people since last week’s Masahiro Tanaka signing, the team fully understands it’s bullpen holes, but claims to not have the payroll flexibility to address them via free agency (not that there are many top free agent relievers left). According to one major league source, the Yankees and [Fernando] Rodney have had no contact in recent months, after a very preliminary, one-time conversation in November.
The team hopes that Dellin Betances will emerge as an effective bullpen power arm, and it will have the ability to make significant in-season acquisitions.
It is difficult to tell how much of this is “Bubba Crosby will be our starting center fielder” gamesmanship (the same goes for the “We can’t afford Stephen Drew” stuff) and how much of it is the truth.
I suppose we will find out as we get closer to Spring Training. It is good to know that they do see Betances as a possible top bullpen arm.
Brandon Stenhouse, a 17-year-old right-hander, could go from suburban pitcher to global star after signing the deal this week after impressing representatives from the Bronx Bombers.
Stenhouse, who plays in the Victorian league for Cheltenham Rustlers, was signed after a standout performance at the under-18 national championships in Canberra.
“It’s still sinking in and I was a bit nervous signing the contract but it is a dream come true,” Stenhouse said.
“I was never sure it was going to happen.” Stenhouse started playing tee-ball at four years of age and caught the eye of scouts by consistently clocking pitching at speeds approaching 150km/h.
150km/h is 93.2057 mph in American.
The Yankees are supposedly going to splurge on international free agents this year and take the penalties. Stenhouse would be the first piece in that plan, which I endorse. International free agents are lottery tickets, but it’s probably the best way to add an infusion of high upside talent to a minor league system that probably ranks in the lower third in baseball right now.
Especially if you aren’t going to replace the people responsible for having said minor league system.
Tuesday, January 28, 2014
“Fewer 3-2 counts in MLB, less intense spring camps, more practical joking in the clubhouse, initiation rites, how things work, which teammates to avoid, etc.,” Whiting wrote in an email. “The biggest thing is just having somebody else to talk to on the road in the Japanese language besides the interpreter — someone to tell you where the good Japanese restaurants and nightspots are, someone to relieve the loneliness, someone who really knows baseball. A mirror image of what American and other foreign ballplayers went through [in] Japan.
“Kuroda will do all that for Tanaka. And he is also a ground ball pitcher, so he can help Tanaka adjust to pitch in Yankee Stadium, among other things.”
The closeness between Kuroda and Tanaka is evident in one symbolic respect: The Yankees announced Friday that Tanaka has been assigned jersey No. 19. Tanaka wore No. 18 with NPB’s Rakuten Golden Eagles, but it wasn’t available with the Yankees. The reason: It belongs to Kuroda. And so Tanaka took a number one digit higher.
Aside from the obvious fact that they are both Japanese, as pitchers Kuroda and Tanaka both rely on a split-fingered fastball as their best pitch. So I do think there will be some benefit in having Kuroda around to mentor Tanaka in 2014.
Monday, January 27, 2014
Hal Steinbrenner named David Robertson the new Yankees closer last week. Robertson got an even better endorsement Saturday night from Mariano Rivera.
While Rivera was being honored at the New York Chapter BBWAA dinner, a fan yelled out “one more year.”
The retired closer made it clear he had “emptied the tank,” then pointed to Robertson and said “You have your new closer right here.”
Hear, hear Mo.
I realize there is some concern about getting the ball to Robertson, but let’s remember that this team had Kyle Farnsworth setting up Mo for a couple of seasons. I think Joe Girardi will cobble a useful bullpen together with what the Yankees have on hand.
Friday, January 24, 2014
CC Sabathia sounds eager for the start of camp.
He told Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal that he’s the same weight he was last year, “Just a little more toned and a lot more strong.”
Sabathia appeared looking slender in a picture posted on Instagram Sunday as he and wife Amber prepared to attend the wedding of former teammate Rickie Weeks.
“This is the first offseason I was able to weight-train and get stronger and not worry about weight loss,” Sabathia said.
If this is really the first offseason that Sabathia has weight-trained, then it’s possible he’s replaced a lot of fat with muscle. He still looks like he’s lost weight, but hopefully added strength equals a return to vintage CC.
Thursday, January 23, 2014
The Yankees are now considering free-agent shortstop Stephen Drew, which could potentially put another dent in the rival Red Sox’s up-the-middle alignment only weeks after the Yankees signed Boston star center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury.
There has been a thought the Yankees might be willing to keep spending after landing star Japanese free agent pitcher Masahiro Tanaka. But while there doesn’t seem to be a push for another top starter or reliever, Drew is one free agent the Yankees are at least weighing, according to people familiar with their thinking.
According to Heyman, the Yankees are now looking closely at a Scott Boras client? Sure Jon. Sure they are.
CAIRO tries to project Masahiro Tanaka for 2014
Part of the reason I created a projection system was to understand the factors to look at when a player like Mashiro Tanaka is making the move to MLB. I have no idea how valid the projections that will follow will end up being in the specific case of Tanaka, but building his projection is an interesting exercise in and of itself.
Tanaka’s projection is based on the principles that I discussed in this post. In a nutshell, I’m looking only at pitchers who were starters in NPB and came over to MLB and remained starters, and I accounted for the fact that they pitched in varying run environments both before and after they entered MLB. Tanaka’s raw performance in Japan blows away just about everyone who came over prior to Yu Darvish. Tanaka’s allowed runs at a rate of 54% of his leagues’ averages. For comparison’s sake, here are some numbers for the pitchers who have come over from Japan since 2007.
These are all rates based on batters faced. For everything except strikeouts, a lower percentage is better. Tanaka has pitched in a more advantageous environment for hurlers thanks to a smaller baseball and that needs to be accounted for. Comparing him relative to his peers is probably about as good of a method as any to do so.
One of the important things to remember when you look at a projection is that it’s an educated estimate with error bars. The more uncertainty we have in building it, the larger the error bars. Since Tanaka’s MLB projection is built exclusively on attempting to translate his performance in a different league, our error bars are big.
FIP: Fielding-independent pitching
RAR: Runs saved above replacement level using RA
WAR: Wins above replacement level (RAR divided by 10)
From what I’ve read, the Yankees have scouted Tanaka extensively. According to Brian Cashman they’ve been scouting him since 2007 and watched 15 of his games this year. Given the total outlay they were willing to give to Tanaka, it’s seems that their scouts think his stuff will translate to the majors well enough to put him at his 65% projection or better. Tanaka doesn’t have the velocity or diversity of pitches in his arsenal that Yu Darvish has, but he has much better walk rates. My concern would be that it is easier to exhibit control when the people you are throwing too aren’t as scary. It’s not as easy to get away with grooved pitched in the majors as it is in any other baseball league in the world.
Even though Tanaka’s fastball doesn’t measure up to Darvish’s, there’s more to pitching than velocity. Hisahi Iwakuma has been brilliant since coming to MLB and he barely averages 90 mph with his fastball. Hiroki Kuroda is another pitcher who doesn’t light up radar guns but has been very effective.
Tanaka is a risk. He’s supposedly a ground ball pitcher who will be pitching with a mostly horrific infield defense behind him. He’s thrown a lot of innings for his age. He’ll be transitioning to a new country. He’ll be asked to pitch on four days rest instead of the more typical 5-6 he pitched in Japan. If he gets hurt or he’s ineffective, the Yankees are going to be on the hook for seven years. If he turns out to be a legitimate number one type starter, he’ll probably be opting out after four seasons, but that’s the best case scenario for the Yankees because it means he’s been good enough to think he can get more than $22 million a year for more than three years.
Although the official contract is 7 years and $155M, it’s more realistic to think of it as a 4 year/$108M contract (including the posting fee) with a 3 year/$67M player option. Despite never throwing a pitch in MLB, Tanaka’s going to be paid like one of the top 10 starters in baseball. Will he be? I won’t even attempt to answer that. I’ll just say that he could be, and that instantly makes the Yankees a more interesting team in 2014.
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
With the signing confirmed, we’ll start getting more details about how it all shook out.
The Yankees also have to pay the $20 million posting fee to Tanaka’s former team, the Rakuten Golden Eagles. Thus, their total outlay was $175 million, and though the posting fee is not subject to the luxury tax, the contract itself assures the Yankees’ three-year goal to get under the $189 million luxury-tax threshold in 2014 is now all but impossible.
Clearly, the Yankees decided the savings of $100 million over three years – what they believed was possible — should they get under the $189 million threshold was not as important to the overall health of the organization as doing all they could to be contenders in 2014.
The Yanks had made Tanaka their No. 1 priority this season. They scouted pretty much every one of his starts last year. A few weeks back, they sent an eight-person contingent to Los Angeles to meet face to face with Tanaka and his representative, Casey Close.
The group was team president Randy Levine, general manager Brian Cashman, manager Joe Girardi, pitching coach Larry Rothschild, assistant GM Jean Afterman, assistant GM Billy Eppler, translator George Rose and Trey Hillman. Hillman was hired this offseason to work in the Yankees minor league system, but he managed in Japan from 2003-07.
No word if Levine sealed the deal with some emails.
The Yankees, Dodgers and Cubs were the finalists for Tanaka, and in recent days the Yankees were told they had to up their bid from six years to seven or else they could not land Tanaka. They did so. Tanaka’s contract will pay him $22 million in each of the first six seasons and $23 million in the seventh.
The Cubs supposedly got into the 7 years, $150M range. So this is probably a rare case of the Yankees not bidding against themselves. Wait, pretend I didn’t say that. The Yankees would never do something so stupid as bidding against themselves. They are the Yankees and are too smart for that.
There’s a very real risk that Tanaka will not live up to his contract. But the upside is there, and he makes this team a lot more interesting. They are probably still not going to project as the favorites in the AL East, but they are legitimate contenders now, and considering where they were in November that’s quite an accomplishment.
With $189M gone bye-bye, they may make a few more moves to shore up the bullpen and infield. Maybe Grant Balfour, maybe Jeff Baker. I’m not seeing Fernando Rodney or Stephen Drew as realistic options, but who knows?
Buster Olney @Buster_ESPN 3m
The Yankees needed Tanaka and they got him: 7 years, $155m., with an opt-out after the fourth year.
That’s a lot of money, but that’s something the Yankees have.
7. Greg Bird, Yankees: Bird’s $1.1 million bonus as a fifth-round pick in 2011 raised some eyebrows, and he did little to justify the investment in his first two pro seasons. But he broke out in 2013, leading the Minors with 107 walks while slamming 20 homers in low Class A. Scouts like Bird’s hitting ability more than his raw power, but he could wind up being solid in both categories.
Bird’s definitely a guy to watch in 2014.
Monday, January 20, 2014
The Yankees settled all of their arbitration-eligible cases on Friday as their payroll crept closer to the $189 million threshold for luxury-tax purposes. If the Yankees were to sign the coveted Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka before the Jan. 24 deadline, they would almost certainly surge past the mark.
The Yankees agreed to terms with Brett Gardner for $5.6 million, Ivan Nova for $3.3 million, David Robertson for $5.215 million and Shawn Kelly for $1.8 million on Friday, and Francisco Cervelli for $700,000 on Thursday.
With the Yankees not having to pay the suspended Alex Rodriguez, their payroll is hovering around $170 million. But they still have administrative costs and non-arbitration players to factor in, and that will take the total over $180 million. The final calculation is made at the end of the season.
If the Yankees don’t end up signing Tanaka, I’m not sure they should sign any of the big three remaining starting pitchers (Matt Garza, Ervin Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez). While it’s likely any one of them would be helpful, I just don’t see any of them being the kind of player you want to commit to long-term if there may be better options available in subsequent seasons.
Is it a risk to go into the season with what they have right now? Yes it is. Would signing any one of those players guarantee a spot in the postseason? No. But not even Tanaka would. A lot has to go right for the Yankees to win the East as presently constituted, and that won’t change even if they sign Tanaka or someone else. So I am fine with them going with what they have and hoping for some good luck. I’m less fine with them making a move for the sake of making a move if it hinders their chances in subsequent years.
But we know the Yankees would never be short-sighted or do anything sub-optimal, because they are the Yankees. So there is no need for concern.
Sunday, January 19, 2014
Five teams have reportedly submitted formal offers for Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, who is expected to make a decision by next Friday. The teams are the Cubs, White Sox, Yankees, Dodgers and D-backs. All of the bids were believed to be more than $100 million and over six years.
This is a BIT of a non-story for the following reasons…
1. There is no formal deadline for these offers. Other teams can still get into the bidding before next Friday.
2. These offers are just preliminary, so if any given team is outbid, they likely will have a chance to match or exceed the other team’s bid.
That said, the fact that the five teams most rumored to be in on Tanaka are also the five who made formal bids is likely a good sign that it will be one of these five teams that sign Tanaka.
Sources say that the Diamondback offer is 6 years/$120 million (plus the $20 million posting fee. All of these rumored following figures also include an additional $20 million posting fee). The Yankees and Dodgers offers are rumored to be roughly the same (but other rumors suggest that the Yankee offer is higher than the Dodger offer). The real wild card is the Cubs, who rumors have at all sorts of figures, even one as high as 8 years/$180 million (and a more likely figure of 6 years/$140 million).
With Tanaka and his agent playing things so close to the vest, it will be one crazy week until the 24th, when Tanaka has to make an official decision.
Friday, January 17, 2014
Injuries, inactivity, a PED suspension—and the threat of arbitration—have paid off for Francisco Cervelli, who agreed Thursday to a one-year deal with the Yankees calling for a near $200,000 raise.
Cervelli, who after winning the starting catcher’s job in spring training was limited to just 17 games last season due to a broken hand and later, an uncontested 50-game suspension for his involvement with Biogenesis, was paid $515,000 last season. According to a published report, he agreed to a $700,000 nonguaranteed contract for 2014.
Honestly, I think Cervelli did get hurt by his injury. If he had played a whole season, even if he had received a 50-game suspension he likely would have earned more than $700,000 based on his performance in 2013.
I imagine that Cervelli will start the season as the regular back-up for Brian McCann, but it really does make you wonder if the Yankees would be better off dealing him to make room for Austin Romine or JR Murphy. I think Cervelli could be a legitimate starting catcher in the Majors, or at the very least an above-average back-up, so I think that the Yankees might be able to get something useful for him. He has to show he is healthy, though, of course, before they can deal him for anything.
Sanchez has always been touted as having tremendous offensive upside, with power to spare—something he’s been able to tap into more as his approach has improved. He’s always had a strong arm, but the rest of his defense—while also better—still needs to catch up. His tools, though, have never been in question. There have been some concerns about his work ethic, but even on that front, he’s been moving in the right direction.
“[Sanchez] made some progress last year. He’s got more progress to make,” Yankees senior vice president of baseball operations Mark Newman said. “He was a 16-year-old kid when we signed him. It’s more the rules than the exception that they’re going to have to adjust to the work-ethic standards we have in professional baseball. He’s a good kid. He wants to be a good player.”
Whether it happens in New York remains to be seen. The Yanks signed seven-time All-Star Brian McCann to a five-year contract this offseason, seemingly creating a large roadblock for a young catcher like Sanchez. The positive is that now there’s no rush to get Sanchez ready for the big leagues. He can continue to iron out his game, mature physically and mentally, without that kind of pressure.
Sanchez is probably at least two years away, He’ll likely start 2014 in AA with a chance to move to AAA if he does well. If that happens he can start 2015 in AAA with a shot at making the majors at some point.
McCann is signed for five years with a vesting option for his sixth season (vests on 1000 PA between 2017-2018 and him not ending 2018 on the DL). So at some point we could see a time-sharing situation/platoon situation with the two. But I don’t think McCann is going to be blocking Sanchez if Sanchez forces the Yankees hand.
Let’s hope they have a dilemma in 2015 with a still productive McCann and a ready to play in the majors Sanchez.
Wednesday, January 15, 2014
Abracadabra: Bonds Vanished
An autumn night in Astoria. Years ago, now. An indoor bar beyond a beer garden. A television screen showing a baseball game. I watch, because I love baseball. Ryan Braun hits a game winning home run. There’s no mystery attached. That’s what he does. And this is the essence. A pennant race, a pitcher of beer on the bar slab. He circles the bases. Barry Bonds wasn’t signed by anybody, throughout the winter, spring, summer, and early fall. I considered the season more enjoyable without his participation, hardly an obsessive thought, just a pleasing detail. Bonds, a distraction from the essence.
Similar to instances of collusion occurring in the eighties, the disinclination toward Bonds was public knowledge. A capable ballplayer was being denied an opportunity due to circumstances beyond performance. Bonds had aged, but his offensive skills remained extraordinary. It was I, Bonds. It was I. They said you couldn’t play. And I agreed.
Why was Bonds disposable? He was too damn good, and an inconvenience, pursued by the government, convicted in the public eye by obviousness. He was a magician who had been exposed, but wouldn’t leave the stage. And his sorcery seemed strengthened, not diminished, by the cauldron choking everyone else. Bonds, so good, so great. Bonds was so good that nobody would have been surprised to discover Pujols was just a disguise created by Bonds. Yes, there we would be, at the Awards dinner in Manhattan, the commissioner staring incredulous while Bonds tore open the mask, Millhauser style, and proclaimed the runner-up wasn’t real, he just wanted to take a few swings right-handed. But was Bonds real? He was real when he glided around left field like an elegant two-legged tank. That’s what they said, anyway. They said there were two versions of Barry Bonds, the beautiful yet flawed, and then the masterfully damned. We heard stories about Bonds. We pictured conversing with him. His mustache would be thin, his suit would be bright. We’d sit in the empty upper deck at Candlestick Park, and the air would have that electric feel, like before a big rain. We would try advising him. Keep your numbers clean, Bonds. We want your numbers to be clean.
One may argue Bonds was owed nothingness, a blank season, a void where walking isn’t counted. This man will be on trial, they shouted. This man will disrupt the team. Yes, said the defense lawyers among the mob, yes, because nobody with legal entanglements has ever participated in a professional sports season? Oh, the other side hated that response, the sarcasm burned. No, their rebuttal followed, no. For it seemed obvious that the grand sorcerer was a special case. They dreamt themselves judges, and their Bonds preferred exiting an exception. How else could this drama be interpreted?
Maybe he watched a playoff series. Maybe he watched Manny Ramirez make another Chicago Cubs season romantic. Maybe he watched Ryan Braun and the Brewers fail to advance. Their failure was bittersweet, because they were a good story. Braun, then, was a good story too. Like Manny. Unlike Bonds. They hadn’t been caught. They didn’t need our counsel in empty upper decks.
Baseball statistics are different. Isn’t that magic? And when is magic ever pure? Just this time, for this game? For our convenience? I said these words without speaking, years ago. I said, Barry Bonds, I’m glad you didn’t get to do what you love. Barry Bonds, even though you were capable, you pierced the illusion. That night in Astoria, I returned to the table with a pitcher of beer, and I said Ryan Braun was a great player. If they thought my words misled, they could check the numbers. Abracadabra.
Tuesday, January 14, 2014
“The Yankees have the greater need, and maybe a little more pressure to sign Tanaka after learning they won’t have to pay A-Rod in 2014,” Olney writes. “The Dodgers are perceived by some rival officials to be more shameless in their bidding, untethered to market prices shaped by other teams, and more driven by what they want.”
In a way, if you are a Dodgers fan, this isn’t any big surprise. In the last year-and-a-half, they’ve seen their team’s new owners make a trade that took on more than $250 million in salary and sign two free agent pitchers for another $200 million-plus.
But, from another angle, it’s an absolutely stunning possibility. The Yankees need Tanaka. Badly. The Dodgers just want him. If the Dodgers do end up with the right-hander, who went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA last year, it would tell us that the Yankees are no longer the Yankees. The Dodgers are now the Yankees. Their stadium just happens to have palm trees running along it instead of a subway line.
Everybody knows what this could mean, right? It used to be the Yankees out-bid teams on what amounted to a whim. In 2000, they claimed Jose Canseco (and $1 million left of his salary) off waivers from the Tampa Bay Rays even though Joe Torre had no plans to play him, simply because they were trying to keep him away from every other team.
The Yankees clearly have built their off-season around acquiring Tanaka, who might not begin the season as their No. 1 starter but—they hope—would emerge as their ace. He’d likely begin by pitching behind CC Sabathia, who led the American League in earned runs allowed last season. The next guy in New York’s rotation, Hiroki Kuroda, will turn 39 before Opening Day.
One National League GM told ESPNNewYork’s Andrew Marchand the Yankees look more like an 80-win team right now than a 90-win team, largely because of their pitching. The GM also believed the Yankees’ desperation would lead them to land Tanaka.
Is there really any doubt that Tanaka will be a Dodger by the weekend?
Morisi: Yankees Inquire About San Diego Infielder
You have to love offseason news. Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports had the following pieces of news tonight:
Sources: Yankees have made trade inquiry to Padres about infield depth; Logan Forsythe is the most realistic target, not Chase Headley.
Yankees farm system is not strong enough to acquire Chase Headley now; Logan Forsythe could be a RH complement to Kelly Johnson at 3B.
It is not that Logan Forsythe is not worth picking up (although I don’t really know if he is worth it), it just seems odd to me that Morosi isn’t reporting that the Yankees didn’t inquire about Headley, but that their minor league system is so bad that they can’t even be thinking about acquiring Headley. Seems like a lot of leaps, no? Not saying that he is wrong, but it just seems odd to report anything but “Yankees contact San Diego about an infielder. I would guess that they’re looking at Logan Forsythe, not Chase Headley, because I don’t think that they have enough assets to get Headley.”
Monday, January 13, 2014
Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka has narrowed the list of teams he’s willing to sign with to the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles Angels, according to a report in a a Japanese newspaper.
And of those three, the Yankees are the favorite, according to the report.
Encouraging news, but the Dodgers and Angels scare me. They both throw around money like the Yankees used to.
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The New YorkYankees have signed infielder Scott Sizemore to a minor league deal, according to WFAN and CBSSports.com baseball insider Jon Heyman.
Sizemore, who has a history of knee woes, will have a shot to help fill the gaps left by second baseman Robinson Cano, who signed with Seattle this offseason, and suspended third baseman Alex Rodriguez.
Not a bad flier to take, especially on a minor league deal. CAIRO has Sizemore projected to hit .241/.324/.376 as an Athletic, which is probably something like .350/.430/.475 in DNYS but I don’t have CAIRO in front of me to recalculate it right now. Steamer had him at .254/.336/.399 and Oliver at .257/.345/.415. The average AL 2B hit .266/.325/.384 in 2013. Unfortunately, the defensive metrics think he gives a fair amount of that value back as he’s got a DRS of -6 and a UZR of -2 in 477.2 innings at 2B. Coming off knee surgery, it’s doubtful his range is going to get better. Then again, 477.2 innings is a very small sample size. He can also play 3B, albeit poorly so far in his 820 MLB innings (-11 DRS/-6 UZR),
Then again, bad defense at 2B and 3B is miles better than Nun-E.
Right now the Yankee infield looks like a disaster. So any incremental improvements they can add make sense. Ergo, this move makes lots of sense. This is further evidence of just how smart the Yankee front office is for all you haters out there.
Sunday, January 12, 2014
In advance of Biogenesis founder Anthony Bosch’s appearance on “60 Minutes” Sunday, the Major League Baseball Players Association blistered Major League Baseball and chief operating officer Rob Manfred for violating the confidentiality of their collectively-bargaining drug program and for continuing to “publicly pile-on Alex Rodriguez.” The union also said it was considering legal action against MLB.
This whole thing stinks.
Besides Mark Reynolds, the Yankees will consider Michael Young, a source told ESPN New York.
If it were a team other than the Yankees, I’d be ridiculing them about considering a player who has been below replacement level over the last two seasons and will be 37 in 2014 as any kind of option. Since it’s the Yankees, and they are run so well, they clearly have access to information we don’t which makes Young a great option.
Saturday, January 11, 2014
Alex Rodriguez’s suspension has been reduced to 162 games, according to the New York Yankees slugger’s spokesman.
Rodriguez originally received a 211-game suspension last season for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal.
So this means there will surely be an appeal, and this is going to continue to drag on. But it seems more likely than not that Rodriguez will not be playing for the Yankees in 2014.
Friday, January 10, 2014
Per Buster Olney:
Buster Olney @Buster_ESPN
The Yankees have designated Vernon Wells for assignment, as they create roster spots on their 40-man.
Wells seems like a good guy, even if his days of being a useful player may have passed. Good luck to him.
The Yankees still have to create a 40 man roster spot for whomever of Brian Roberts or Matt Thornton is not going to take Wells’s spot. The spot for Roberts is probably only needed for a few weeks though.
The Yankees are one of several teams monitoring the progress of former Mets ace Johan Santana, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. The person requested anonymity in order to speak freely about the situation. After missing all of 2013, Santana is still rehabilitating from his second anterior capsule surgery and has yet to pitch off a mound this winter. Santana could audition for scouts near his home in Fort Myers, Fla. before spring training.
A message left for general manager Brian Cashman went unreturned. He likely has more pressing matters to handle. The Yankees were on the list of teams expected to meet with Tanaka and his representative, Casey Close, according to a person with knowledge of the situation, and may have already made their initial pitch.
I’d imagine any deal with Santana will be almost entirely incentive-based, so there isn’t a ton of downside risk in kicking the tires on him. I don’t really like his odds of coming back from a second surgery, but at worst you take a flier and give him a few starts if he shows enough in rehab to warrant it. If he’s done, you cut him loose.
Thursday, January 9, 2014
Alex Rodriguez will seek an injunction staying his suspension faster than it takes to turn a double play if arbitrator Fredric Horowitz upholds his 211-game doping ban or doesn’t slash it to A-Rod’s liking, sources familiar with the embattled slugger’s appeal have told the Daily News.
The sources say they believe Rodriguez’s attorneys will ask a judge to issue an injunction that would allow the embattled superstar to report to the Yankees’ spring training camp next month and play when the 2014 season begins while Team A-Rod attempts to have the suspension linked to the Biogenesis drug scandal overturned in court.
“The papers are all ready,” one source said. “They are just waiting for the announcement.”
The arbitrator apparently has until January 15 to render his decision, which means we won’t hear anything until January 15.
Wednesday, January 8, 2014
To learn more about the next potential star import from Japan, I recently got some thoughts from someone who has watched Tanaka up close for the past five years.
Darrell Rasner pitched for the Yankees in parts of three seasons from 2006-08, and for the last five years he has been a teammate of Tanaka’s with the Rakuten Golden Eagles of Japan’s Pacific League. Pitching as the closer last year Rasner racked up 17 saves before season-ending Tommy John surgery in September. Speaking from his home in Nevada, Rasner offered up thoughts on his experiences with Tanaka.
SM: When you say he has an extra gear, you mean an extra 3 or 4 miles per hour to get somebody out?
DR: I’m talking like an extra 10! I watch him pitch at 88-89 or 90-91, and then I’ll see him jump up to 98-99 when he needs it. I saw him do this (last) year, and there was one game that really stands out to me. I wanna say it was the eighth or ninth inning and he was 140 pitches in and he needed a strikeout, and he jumped it from that 90 to about 98-99 and punched the guy out. It’s just impressive watching the guy, his mentality and his know-how on pitching, especially being so young.
SM: Only 25 years old. You’ve seen him for five years now, how has he grown into this?
DR: He’s always been great, he’s always been special. But this year I saw him learn how to mess with guys’ timing—he would do a quick pitch, change speeds. He really has a good feel right now of what he’s doing. Just overall it’s been really fun watching him, (last) year especially.
SM: Scouts I’ve spoken to say his fastball command isn’t just “good,” it’s “outstanding.” Is that accurate?
DR: Absolutely. He can throw on the corner, he can go off an inch or two inches. I think he’s probably going to have to knock down a couple pitches. Most Japanese pitchers, I’m sure you’ve seen Yu Darvish, he has about 12 different pitches! The catcher doesn’t have that many fingers, ya know? I personally believe he’s got four major league quality pitches that he can throw for strikes any time and get big league hitters out right now.
Some encouraging observations by Rasner about Masahiro Tanaka, although I think it’s easier to look outstanding against lesser competition.
Tuesday, January 7, 2014
KEN GURNICK, Dodgers beat reporter
Morris has flaws—a 3.90 ERA, for example. But he gets my vote for more than a decade of ace performance that included three 20-win seasons, Cy Young Award votes in seven seasons and Most Valuable Player Award votes in five. As for those who played during the period of PED use, I won’t vote for any of them.
That has to be the absolute worst Hall of Fame ballot of all time. I’ve lost just about any interest in the Hall of Fame at this point, and it’s because of jackasses like Gurnick.
How do you not vote for Greg Maddux at the very least?
Monday, January 6, 2014
Coleman was beloved by fans and ballplayers alike. I remember my second major league start in ‘73, I pitched against the Padres at Candlestick, struck out 11, got my first career win, first complete game and was interviewed by Jerry afterward, when it was usually Bob Chandler. They had the Padres’ broadcast hookups in the visiting dugout, so the interview was conducted on the opposing teams’ side of the field. I had never met the man before, but he asked me about my San Diego roots, being a hometown, Southern California boy, how the Padres wanted to draft me in 1970, he had my background down cold, my High School pitching record, stats from my minor league seasons, everything. A smooth, pleasant interview, like he prepared all day. The man just knew everything about me. It was a very classy touch, interviewing me literally for my friends and family back home.
John D’Acquisto has written some very interesting pieces over at Instream Sports. In this one he remembers Jerry Coleman, who passed away yesterday at the age of 89.
Friday, January 3, 2014
So you probably want to know when the final decision on Alex Rodriguez’s 211-game suspension is going to come down? Join the club.
I spent the morning communicating with a few people with knowledge of the proceedings and everyone is playing the same waiting game. A decision on whether A-Rod’s 211-game suspension will be upheld, reduced or completely overturned could come at any moment.
It could come later today. It could happen tomorrow. When it likely won’t happen is early or in the middle of next week because the new inductees into Baseball’s Hall of Fame will be announced Wednesday. Baseball does not want the A-Rod decision to overshadow Cooperstown. So maybe next Friday.
I hope his suspension is reduced, because I think it makes for the best Yankee team in 2014. Rodriguez can still provide value on the field, and with his salary on the books the Yankees can finally abandon their misguided goal of reducing their payroll below the luxury tax threshold in an attempt to save some money while they cost themselves even more in revenue. Actually, I don’t think anything the Yankees do is misguided but there are people out there who may, so pretend one of them wrote that. I think the Yankees are brilliant practitioners of game theory and master strategists with the ability to look five years into the future and they are going to unveil a master plan that will rock the baseball world.
Thursday, January 2, 2014
Bobby Valentine doesn’t think the Yankees are Masahiro Tanaka’s best landing spot.
“If I was him, I would pitch in the National League,” Valentine said, according to a New York Post report. “I would pitch on the West Coast and I would pitch where the weather isn’t going to be a factor.”
The Yankees will be among Major League Baseball’s most aggressive suitors for Tanaka, a 25-year-old Japanese starting pitcher widely considered the best on the free-agent market.
I can’t think of a more ringing endorsement than the opposite of anything that Valentine says.
Wednesday, January 1, 2014
My Dinner With SG
(Posting this for FGas because he couldn’t post it himself - BC)
This is going to astonish and dismay a lot of you. But I recently spent an evening with SG.*
I don’t think he would mind me saying this was in the suburbs of Buffalo, in western New York. We met for an early dinner of beef on weck—an absurd and local sandwich, though mysteriously delicious. Salt and caraway seeds! Mmm. We both opted for horseradish on the beef, though SG gnomically remarked that he preferred wasabi.
At his urging, I also ordered potato wedges. They wouldn’t have been my first choice, but SG assured me that “the numbers” proved they were the best.
Over the course of the meal, he** spoke with a noticeable Brooklyn accent and revealed that he shared my disdain for the Ellsbury signing. When the check came, I was surprised—I had enjoyed the food, but thought it was slightly overpriced. SG whipped out his tablet, changed my underlying assumptions, and proved via a series of spreadsheets that I had enjoyed the food much more than I’d realized. Accordingly, I dropped a hundo as a tip.
You’re probably wondering what he*** looks like. Well, you remember the Eye of Sauron—a vertical pupil, an iris of flame? SG has two. The next time you think it’s okay to get on the RLYW in your saggy-ass underwear and dribble-stained undershirt…well, SG SEES you. Due to the mesmerizing eyes I didn’t take in much else about his appearance, but I came away with an impression of great wisdom. I guess sort of a Gandalf-Sauron hybrid, if that makes sense.
We had a brief conversation about his name. As you may have guessed, it’s a pseudonym. Apparently, SG is a loose approximation of the name ås ∆I in the language of the Ainu people of Japan. **** However, SG is not himself Ainu.*****
After our meal was concluded, we mutually agreed to have a drink—me to take myself down from the dangerous, excited heights I’d reached through meeting a living legend, SG to wash the bitter taste of disappointment away now that he’d actually encountered one of his followers in the flesh.
We attempted to visit a local brew-pub, but the parking lot was completely full. We then retreated to a boîte just down the road, with a blissfully empty lot. The reason for the emptiness soon became clear—of the three total patrons, one, an inebriated man in his 50s, was loudly talking about the fact that he was uncircumcised. The gal tending bar (blonde, lip stud) insisted that he get himself cut, as the other two old rummies attempted to ignore the conversation. The bartendress herself was exactly the kind of sassy white ethnic you wanted to see slinging drinks and breaking hearts in a suburban dive, but she kind of lost us both when she revealed (to the really drunk guy) that her favorite movie was “American History X.”******
SG and I had now come to the kind of understanding inevitably reached by a pair of Yankee fans, with a couple of drinks under their belt, who are united in fear of their fellow bar patrons. We agreed that we would, despite being disgruntled, have to continue following the Yankees this season, and that every one of you who writes and comments at the RLYW is really quite an excellent fellow (or gal).*******
All in all, it was a thrilling evening with one of the titans of baseball analysis. If you’re ever in that part of the country, I strongly suggest you insist on buying SG dinner.
*Only part of this story is true.
**SG may be male, or female, or some other gender, but I’m going to use “he.”
***Again, a pronoun of convenience.
**** Or possibly the Etruscans of central Italy, I wasn’t clear on this.
*****Or Etruscan, either.
******All of this paragraph is true.
*******Actually, we made fun of you all.
Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Gammo: Yankees Not Signing Stephen Drew
Peter Gammons has the following report, via Twitter:
Brian Cashman yesterday said Yanks are not signing Stephen Drew. How Sox do pillow contract that isn’t shoved down his throat is delicate
Now, obviously Bubba Crosby was also the Yankees starting center fielder in 2006, so I guess take it with a grain of salt, but if Cash is willing to flat out say he won’t sign a guy, I’m willing to believe that he won’t.
It’s too bad. I was hoping that if the Yankees got Tanaka then perhaps Drew would also follow, as he is really the only top level infielder left on the market. I suppose the Yankees can try to convince Mark Reynolds to come back. A platoon between Reynolds, Kelly Johnson and Brian Roberts at 2B/3B could work decently enough (Johnson would play every day while playing third against righties with Roberts at second and playing second against lefties with Reynolds playing third).
A Simple Statistical Translation of Masahiro Tanaka
One of the issues with trying to project Masahiro Tanaka in MLB using translations of other pitchers who have made the move from Japan to MLB is that the environments those pitchers pitched are quite varied. It’s hard to believe, but Hideo Nomo came over almost 20 years ago and since then the run environments have changed, particularly recently with the introduction of a smaller ball that more closely resembles the ball that is used by MLB. The new ball has reduced run scoring pretty significantly in 2011 and 2012.
|2008||Japan Central League||3.95|
|2009||Japan Central League||3.91|
|2010||Japan Central League||4.32|
|2011||Japan Central League||3.15|
|2012||Japan Central League||3.14|
|2013||Japan Central League||3.96|
|2008||Japan Pacific League||4.32|
|2009||Japan Pacific League||4.35|
|2010||Japan Pacific League||4.47|
|2011||Japan Pacific League||3.41|
|2012||Japan Pacific League||3.37|
|2013||Japan Pacific League||4.02|
In fact, it reduced offense enough that a livelier ball was secretly introduced in 2013.
So, when we look at the stats from Japan we want to make sure we account for the varying run environments that the pitchers pitched in. I attempted to do that by calculating the pitchers’ performance relative to their league in two statistics. RA (runs allowed per nine) and FIP (fielding-independent pitching). This should account for the run environment and the differences in leagues, but I did not delve into variations in parks. So this is how the pitchers I would use in attempting to translate Tanaka to MLB performed relative to their peers in these two metrics.
Nothing fancy here. Divide the league RA and FIP by the pitcher’s RA and FIP and multiply by 100. The higher the number, the better the pitcher was at preventing runs relative to their league. Since player talent is not static, I’m only using the last three years for each pitcher before they made the move.
By this measure, Tanaka has been the most effective starting pitcher to make the jump.
So real basically, I calculated the RA+ and FIP for every pitcher who has already made the jump to MLB in MLB. Then I just used the change for each pitcher between Japan and MLB to give us an estimate of some of the ways Tanaka’s performance would translate statistically. I only used the first three years in MLB, again assuming player talent is not static.
There’s more to projecting a player than their raw stat lines, and I’m very skeptical that Tanaka’s performance would translate in the way the average player has translated. I think the key guy in this chart is Yu Darvish. He’s the most recent pitcher to make the jump, and his numbers were the most similar to Tanaka’s. Tanaka doesn’t have the stuff that Darvish has, so I don’t think expecting to him be as good as Darvish is realistic. So if Darvish is a 133 RA+ pitcher in MLB, maybe Tanaka will be more like a 120-125 guy. In 2013 there were 24 pitchers who pitched at least 180 innings and put up an ERA+ of 120 or better and all but one were worth at least three wins above replacement level and the one who wasn’t (Ervin Santana) was worth 2.8.
A 3 win pitcher is probably worth about $20M a year nowadays. So I’d expect Tanaka to get something like 6 years and $120M from someone. If it’s the Yankees, I’d be cool with it. I’m not sure I’d go much beyond that though.
Monday, December 30, 2013
The New York Yankees are poised to respond to a disappointing 2013 campaign at the major and minor league levels by shattering the record for spending on international amateurs, starting on July 2nd, 2014.
A source with direct knowledge of the Yankees plans says they aim to spend $12-15 million in bonuses on international amateurs this year, which would trigger penalties of about $10-12 million per to the 2-year old rules in the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) that limit international spending.
The total outlay of about $25 million would blow away a record the Texas Rangers set in 2011 of about $15 million, of all penalty-free bonuses. That record was thought to be untouchable as it came in the last season before spending limits were implemented and was shocking at the time, also shattering the previous record.
MLB hasn’t notified clubs of their 2014 international spending pools yet, but the Yankees are expected to have a pool amount between $2.0 million and $2.5 million. They would be taxed 100% on any dollar they spend over 10% above that amount and the maximum penalty (for going over 15% above the pool amount) is not being allowed to sign a player for above a $300,000 bonus for the next two years. The maximum bonus penalty this year is harsher than the previous two seasons, when it was a one-year bonus limit of $250,000.
You might wonder why this news is being put out there in December of 2013. The article explains why, noting that in the past when teams have tried a similar approach in the past (although not to this scale), agents have been wary about telling their clients to sign with the team, as it would be impossible to tell for sure that the offers are made in good faith when the offers would require the team to exceed the limit so dramatically. Therefore, by letting the information leak out now, the Yankees are trying to put agents at ease.
The risk of this strategy is twofold. One, what if this is not a good class of international free agents? The Yankees believe that it is, other teams differ. Two, for this to work the Yankees have to lock things down with their targets way early. That could be a problem when you’re dealing with players who are as young as these kids. The Yankees’ top pick in last year’s international draft, Leonardo Molina, was not even on their radar in December of 2012, ya know (they got turned on to him in January of 2013)? However, I think that the rewards are worth the risk. We just have to trust that the Yankee scouts have found a few gems here. I like the usage of their financial clout in this manner. I just worry about throwing so much money behind a scouting department that does not always have the best reputation. But it’s certainly worth a shot!
In the course of reporting the magazine’s December 9, 2013, cover story (“Chasing A-Rod”), I viewed a trove of the electronic correspondence between Rodriguez and Levine, a selection of which is excerpted below.
This is an example of an email from the guy who’s basically running the Yankees right now.
July 30, 2012
Rodriguez is out with an injury, having fractured his hand five days earlier when hit by a pitch. Levine makes a reference to performance-enhancing drugs that he later refers to as a “bad joke.”
Levine: How r u feeing since u left Robby [Cano] under 200, he needs some steroids fast!
Head nod to dred.
A four-letter word has hung over the Yankees’ offseason like a dark cloud:
Wait for Alex Rodriguez. Wait for Masahiro Tanaka.
But, soon, the waiting game might end in The Bronx, lifting a weight (pardon the pun) off the shoulders of team officials trying to chisel an Opening Day roster and get a grip onto the 2014 payroll.
Both the sagas of Rodriguez and Tanaka are expected to be resolved in January.
If the Yankees don’t get Tanaka, and Rodriguez’s suspension is upheld, they almost certainly will still end up over the luxury tax limit by the time the season’s over. As currently constituted, I don’t think they’re more than a long shot contender that needs a lot of things to go right to win the AL East, but they aren’t likely to make any moves until one of the Rodriguez or Tanaka situations is resolved. And by the time that happens, the moves they can make, at least in free agency, are going to be even more limited than they are now.
But they are the Yankees, and they are super smart and they really never do anything dumb or short-sighted, so I have little doubt in my mind they will proceed in the most optimal manner conceivable.
My guess, Tanaka ends up elsewhere and Rodriguez’s suspension will be reduced to 50-65 games. There is no precedent for a full season suspension due to a first offense of PED use, and the shady way MLB accrued their evidence against Rodriguez makes me think there’s enough doubt about it to have the arbitrator cut the length of his suspension to Ryan Braun’s level at most.
But who knows, really?
As an aside, since people have asked about it, I’ll work on a post regarding possible projections/translations for Tanaka some time this week. We’ll start with this chart.
I calculated RA+ and FIP+ for these pitchers for the three years prior to their entering MLB. This does not adjust for park, but does adjust for the league and run environment, sorted by RA+ in descending order.
Saturday, December 28, 2013
The race has begun in the Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes — with the Yankees among several teams who have been in touch with the Japanese ace righthander’s agent, Casey Close — but the Bombers are not expected to make an offer until next week at the earliest, the Daily News has learned.
But when the Yankees do dive into the bidding war for the 25-year-old Tanaka, they will “make a very strong offer,” according to one source, in an effort to bolster a pinstriped rotation that still has some gaping holes for 2014.
CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova occupy the first three spots for now, but adding Tanaka could change the Bombers’ pitching dynamic dramatically. Tanaka comprised a gaudy 24-0 record last season with the Pacific League’s Rakuten Golden Eagles, who were the Japan Series champions.
Tanaka is not likely to come cheap, however. An ESPN report said that Close, Derek Jeter’s longtime agent, will be seeking, at the minimum, a five-year deal in the $100 million range. That was the same amount of years on the ill-fated Kei Igawa deal the Yankees signed in 2006, although the Bombers gave Igawa $20 million over that span, five times less than what Tanaka is expected to rake in.
Since Igawa and Tanaka are both from Japan, we can generally assume they are the same person. Except their performance record is somewhat different.
It’s also worth noting that Tanaka pitched in a league with a DH, where Igawa pitched in a silly league where there was no DH.
That’s not to say that Tanaka may not bust. It’s a $100M+ gamble. But it’s a gamble the Yankees should be taking a shot at, although there could be a point where the bidding just doesn’t make sense. Let’s hope it doesn’t get to that point, because I think Tanaka would be a pretty good addition to the Yankees, although I can’t see any way he’s going to be as good as Yu Darvish has been.
Friday, December 27, 2013
Paul Blair, who was acclaimed as one of the greatest defensive center fielders in baseball history and was one of the heroes for the Yankees in their 1977 World Series triumph over the Dodgers, died Thursday after suffering a heart attack while bowling in Pikesville, Md., his family said. He was 69.
An eight-time Gold Glove winning center fielder for the Orioles (who got Blair in the Rule 5 Draft from the Mets in 1962…yes, the 1962 Mets somehow managed to feel that they had enough talent to leave Blair off of their 40-man roster) before being traded to the Yankees in 1977 (where he served more as a fourth outfielder/defensive replacement), Blair was one of those defenders where the public acclaim lined up perfectly with his statistical acclaim. Blair is second all-time in defensive WAR among outfielders (behind only Andruw Jones).
Blair famously won Game 1 of the 1977 World Series for the Yankees. Here’s a clip of his game-winning hit…
A four-time World Champion (two with the Orioles and two with the Yankees), Blair will be sorely missed. Our condolences to his friends and family.
Thursday, December 26, 2013
Friday is the sixth anniversary of one of Brian Cashman’s more disastrous moments in his long run as general manager of the Yankees. On Dec. 27, 2006, Cashman signed off on a five-year, $20 million contract for the Japanese left-hander Kei Igawa, a pitcher who, in the seasons that followed, went on to win two games for the Yankees while spending most of his time out of sight and out of mind in the minor leagues.
But Cashman and the Yankees threw away a lot more than $20 million. Even before they could agree to a free-agent contract with Igawa, the Yankees had to win the blind bidding for his negotiating rights, which they did with a bid of $26,000,194, the last three digits representing the number of strikeouts Igawa had compiled in the 2006 season for the Hanshin Tigers.
It was a nice touch at the time but now stands as one more sarcastic footnote to the embarrassment that Igawa became in the Bronx. Now, seven years later, it is worth recalling that episode as the Yankees, and any number of other major league teams, get ready to jump into the free-agent sweepstakes for Masahiro Tanaka, the 25-year-old ace of the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, who compiled a hard-to-believe 24-0 record in the 2013 season and then led his team to the Japan Series championship.
It still amazes me that the Yankees posted a higher amount for Igawa than they did for Yu Darvish.
Anyway, sure, Tanaka could bust. But he could also flourish. He’s a risk, but one with tantalizing potential upside given his performance record and relative youth.
There’s a price where Tanaka doesn’t make sense, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see a team go there. This is going to be a unique instance of free agency and the bidding could go crazy. I’m not sure how much I’d be willing to go on Tanaka. I would imagine someone will offer him at least six years, and probably at least $100M. If he can put up something like 15 WAR, then that’s a fair contract. But he could put up half of that, or he could put up twice as much.
More importantly for us as Yankee fans, if the Yankees enter into the bidding for Tanaka with an actual intent to sign him and not just for PR spin, it means that the $189M payroll limit is no longer a consideration. But it may also be the case that they will only go above it for Tanaka. It should make the countdown to pitchers and catchers interesting at least.
I have a feeling that Tanaka will not be a Yankee. It’s not based on anything but a hunch. I hope I’m wrong.
Tuesday, December 24, 2013
Japan’s Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles have decided to post highly touted pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, making him available to all Major League Baseball clubs, Asian newspaper Sponichi reported Tuesday.
Rakuten, which had stated last week that it would not let the right-hander leave, is expected to make an announcement Wednesday in Japan, according to Sponichi.
The 25-year-old Tanaka went 24-0 last season with a 1.27 ERA.
The New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs, Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers are among the teams said to have interest in Tanaka.
The above ESPN report is actually outdated, as now Rakuten has officially announced that they will post Tanaka, but I couldn’t find an up-to-date article, so that’s all I had to use for linkage.
Anyhow, this is obviously good news, although it will not be a slam dunk for the Yankees to sign Tanaka at all, as a whole bunch of teams will be trying to sign him. Let’s hope that the Yankees win out in the end!
Merry Christmas, everybody!
MLB.com looks back at some of the top highlights from the Yankees’ 2013 season
Lots of Mo highlights in here. I’m going to miss him terribly.
Merry Christmas to all.
Monday, December 23, 2013
According to industry sources, the Yankees have shown some interest in closer Grant Balfour, whose two-year deal with the Orioles disintegrated. Balfour has converted 62 of 67 save opportunities the last two years.
I’d be fine with a Balfour signing depending on the terms, although I think David Robertson has earned a chance to close. If the Yankees have any plans to keep Robertson after this year, then signing Balfour to terms similar to his contract with Baltimore before it blew up probably makes keeping Robertson pricier. That being said, I do think the Yankees need another good arm in the bullpen, and Balfour is one.
A cynic might say that Balfour failing his physical with Baltimore doesn’t matter to a team that signed Jaret Wright after he failed his physical. I wouldn’t say that, but a cynic might.
I would say the Yankees are the greatest!
There is still the possibility free-agent shortstop Stephen Drew could wind up in New York with either the Mets, where he would be a strong fit, or the Yankees.
As for the Yankees’ dance with Drew, they do not want to be caught short again if Derek Jeter’s season goes down the drain because of injury, like the disaster that was 2013. Drew would be the perfect backup plan, and could also offer insurance throughout the infield.
I’m not really all that enamored of Drew, but if he would sign for one year, sure.
But what happens if you sign Drew for multlple years with the intent to make him the shortstop next season when Derek Jeter retires and then Jeter goes out and has a good enough season that he doesn’t want to retire? I’m pretty sure at this point Drew will be a more valuable player than Jeter going forward, but Jeter’s the last link to Yankees of the late 90s and probably still the most popular player on the team to the casual fan. Replacing him with Drew isn’t likely to be a very popular move.
Of course, it may be the right move for the future of this team. Even if Jeter hits well this year, his defense is likely to take away a large part of his value, and he probably can’t hit enough to merit full-time DH duty. I can’t see a position change at this point, so what do you do with him?
Friday, December 20, 2013
The Yankees made their signing of Carlos Beltran official on Thursday afternoon and will hold a news conference introducing their new outfielder at 11 a.m. ET on Friday at Yankee Stadium.
If this was 2004, I would be really pumped today. But mind you, I’m not saying anything negative about the Yankees. They are the best!
Thursday, December 19, 2013
Just to be clear, it’s not over yet:
11:47am: Rakuten president Yozo Tachibana told reporters in Sendai today that Tanaka could still be posted, as they’ve yet to make a decision on the matter and discussions are ongoing, according to a report from Sponichi (Japanese link).
on Thursday morning, several Japanese newspapers reported that the Eagles — who control the rights to Tanaka until the end of 2015 — would not permit major league teams to bid for him.
Instead, the Eagles will offer to double or even triple his annual salary of about $4 million, which could make him the highest-paid Japanese pitcher in history.
By keeping Tanaka for at least another year, the Eagles would forgo a $20 million compensatory posting fee from the major league team that ultimately signed him. But they would enhance their chances at repeating as champions in Japan, and they would avoid millions of dollars in lost ticket, food and merchandise sales.
One newspaper, Sports Hochi, reported that team officials planned to meet with Tanaka on Friday, not to negotiate his contract, but to tell him they would not permit him to depart to play in North America.
Well, that is pretty damn awful news. Especially since there’s now a greater than zero chance that the Yankees don’t make another big move this offseason period. Hopefully that’s not the case, but even if that were not the case, the options (as SG so nicely pointed out to us the other day) are pretty grim. Paying Matt Garza $18 million a year for 2.4 WAR in his age 30 year? Sub-optimal (although likely still the best option out of a bunch of bad ones).
Let us just hope that the Eagles surprise us with a last-second change of heart.
What personally galls me is not them choosing not to post him, as whatever, I obviously get why they’d prefer to keep him. What gets me, though, is that they made a big deal out of saying that they would post him if he asked them to post him and then he makes this big press deal about asking to be posted and then…they don’t post him! What the hell, damn guy?
Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Superagent Scott Boras does some of his finest work in the latter stages of free agency. And in the case of Shin-Soo Choo, he faces yet another challenge in a career built on slaying them: find Choo a contract for the $140 million the New York Yankees offered him even after they signed Jacoby Ellsbury.
In the aftermath of Robinson Cano’s defection to Seattle, New York presented Choo a seven-year, $140 million deal, three sources outside the Yankees’ organization told Yahoo Sports. When Boras countered asking for more money – one source indicated he wanted “Ellsbury money,” or $153 million over seven years – the Yankees pulled the offer and signed Carlos Beltran to a three-year, $45 million deal.
With the money being tossed around this offseason, I would not be that surprised if another team eventually beats that offer, but I would be at least a little surprised.
Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner said he hopes to get under the threshold next year, when it rises to $189 million. That would reset the team’s tax rate to 17.5 percent for 2015 and get the Yankees some revenue-sharing refunds.
But following agreements Tuesday on a $2 million, one-year deal with second baseman Brian Roberts and a $7 million, two-year contract with left-hander Matt Thornton, the Yankees are at $177.7 million for 15 players next year, when benefits are likely to total between $11 million and $12 million. Their only hope to get below the threshold appears to be if an arbitrator upholds most of Alex Rodriguez’s 211-game suspension, relieving the team of a large percentage of the third baseman’s $25 million salary.
The Yankees have five arbitration-eligible players in David Robertson, Brett Gardner, Ivan Nova, Francisco Cervelli and Shawn Kelley. I can’t see how they get less than $10M total in arbitration and more likely they will be closer to $16M. And then the Yankees have to pay the rest of the 40 man roster on top of that.
They aren’t getting under the luxury tax threshold this year even if Alex Rodriguez’s suspension is upheld, unless they can trade some salary.
Tuesday, December 17, 2013
Sources have made it clear the Yankees don’t like the American free-agent pitching market. Even though they need another starter, they are not expected to make a late run at Matt Garza or Ervin Santana or any of the other most expensive starters.
As for Japan’s Masahiro Tanaka, we have known for some time the Yankees want him badly. From the initial plan this winter, Tanaka joined Robinson Cano, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran atop the Yankees’ wish list. The Yankees would love to make it 3-for-4 with Jacoby Ellsbury pinch-hitting for Cano.
Tanaka wants to play in the United States in 2013, while his team, the Rakuten Golden Eagles, is undecided.
The Yankees aren’t undecided on him. While the $189 million is out the window unless Alex Rodriguez remains suspended—and even then, they might not make it—the Yankees will go all out for Tanaka, feeling he is exactly what they need: a high-end, young starter to bring buzz to the Bronx.
I’m on board with this, both an aggressive pursuit of Tanaka and being unimpressed by the other available free agent pitchers (aside from Paul Maholm of course).
The Yankees have signed free-agent, left-handed reliever Matt Thornton to a two-year, $7 million deal, confirms Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.
The reported Thornton signing comes a few days after the Yankees lost lefty Boone Logan to free agency. As things stand, it appears Thornton may head into the season as the Yankees only lefty option in relief.
For your review, two sets of data.
|Wt Avg||vs LHP||61||107||96||15||22||5||0||3||0||0||8||36||4.62||.231||.294||.380||.674||3.46|
|Wt Avg||vs LHP||58||108||99||14||24||4||0||2||0||0||5||30||5.82||.242||.285||.344||.629||3.04|
Thornton has been more effective than Logan in the same basic role if you judge a lefty reliever by how he does against left-handed batters. He’s also been more effective overall and CAIRO thinks he is a bit better than Boone Logan in 2014 (3.89 RA, 3.32 ERA, 3.14 FIP vs. a 3.99 RA, 3.71 ERA, 3.86 FIP for Logan).
Of course Logan will be 29 in 2014 whereas Thornton will be 37. But you aren’t signing Thornton to anchor your rotation for four or five years. You’re hoping he can give you 50-70 good innings, which is not something his age should preclude him from doing. Thornton still throws hard (average fastball of 94.3 mph in 2013) although that is down about 1 mph from 2011-2012. Thornton is also a World Series Champion who knows how to win, so he can show the Yankees what that’s all about.
I like this deal much more than I would have liked a 3 year, $16.5M deal for Logan. I’m not expecting dominance from Thornton, but he could be pretty good.
The longest tenured Oriole looks like he has left for pinstripes.
Veteran second baseman Brian Roberts, who has played his entire 13-year career with the Orioles and has been the face of the franchise through many of those seasons, has agreed to a one-year deal worth $2 million plus incentives with the rival New York Yankees, according to a FOXSports.com report this morning.
The 36-year-old Roberts, who completed a four-year, $40-million deal this past season, said in September that he wanted to remain in Baltimore.
I’m not sure it’s worth tying up a roster spot in a 36 year old player who can basically only play one position and is more likely than not to miss at least half the season.
CAIRO is not a fan, projecting 279 PA and a line of .239/.304/.360 out of Roberts, which would be worth about 5 runs above a replacement level 2B offensively. And he projects to be about 3 runs below average defensively.
Put me down in the meh column. But I guess at $2M plus incentives it’s a reasonable gamble to take.
Monday, December 16, 2013
Step right up, any Major League Baseball teams willing to put up $20 million just to negotiate with pitching star Masahiro Tanaka of Japan. Not long after MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball finalized agreement on new posting rules, Tanaka was given consent from his ownership to leave for North America if he wishes. And it’s believed that he does wish it.
Well, this should be good news.
The Yankees want Tanaka. He presumably wants to play in the Major Leagues and make a ton of money. So while you would tend to believe that the Yankees would be his best fit for that goal, there will be plenty of teams willing to throw a crazy ton of money at Tanaka, so it will be interesting to see how this all plays out.
I’ll be rooting to see him as a member of the Yankee starting rotation next year. If I’m the Yankees I’d gladly give him 6 years/$100 million right now and I’d likely go higher than that if need be.
The Yankees might have to wait another year to chase Masahiro Tanaka.
According to a person with knowledge of the Rakuten Golden Eagles’ plans for the coveted right-hander, the earliest Tanaka will be posted is following the 2014 season, which would be his eighth in Nippon Professional Baseball. Players in Japan usually aren’t eligible for free agency until after their ninth year.
Because of the new posting process, Rakuten’s ownership will likely hold onto Japan’s best pitcher for another year. Under the old process, a team could bid unlimited dollars to secure the negotiating rights to a posted Japanese player.
Tanaka would probably be the easiest way for the Yankees to improve themselves over the next few years, but it’s starting to seem less and less likely that he will be available for 2014. I’m not a big fan of any of the other starting pitchers on the market at their likely cost, so I’d rather see them go with what they have. I would be surprised if the Yankees actually did that, so they could try and trade for someone rather than signing an Ervin Santana, Matt Garza or Ubaldo Jimenez. Here are the CAIRO projections for some of the free agent pitchers that are available plus Tanaka. Players are projected with their last team, aside from Tanaka who is projected in a neutral park/league.
Tanaka’s projection may be pessimistic, and he could possibly be the best of the bunch depending on how he translates to MLB. Santana, Garza or Jimenez would obviously help the Yankees, but the money that goes to one of them would probably preclude signing Tanaka if he does become a free agent in 2015. Then again, building your future plans around signing someone you may not is probably not a good idea (see Lee, Cliff).
I think the Yankees are basically done on the position player side, although they are rumored to be looking at Jeff Baker who would be a good platoon option at 3B against LHP.
Baker’s a bad defensive 3B, which makes him miles better than Nun-E. He can also play 1B and the OF corners which would help for a team that’s starting to lean a bit too left-handed. But he doesn’t help much at 2B.
They could also bring back Mark Reynolds instead of Baker. He profiles a bit better offensively and similarly at 3B defensively but is probably not an option to see any time in the OF.
It may also make sense to hold off on any more moves while they wait for the Alex Rodriguez situation to shake out. If his suspension is reduced significantly, 3B becomes less of a pressing need and a better 2B option to platoon with Kelly Johnson would probably make more sense.
Since it’s not likely that Rodriguez’s appeal will be resolved until January, it’ll probably be a bit quiet over the next month. Except for Randy Levine tampering with other teams’ players.
Sunday, December 15, 2013
NEW YORK—The Yankees have “absolutely no intention” of trading Brett Gardner to clear room in center field for Jacoby Ellsbury or to fill a need elsewhere
, according to team president Randy Levine.
Shouldn’t Levine be suspended from baseball for tampering with Mike Trout? Why is he giving interviews now?
Saturday, December 14, 2013
The Tigers’ general manager told reporters Friday that his scouts still like Chamberlain’s potential, and think the velocity he showed in New York last season is something to build upon.
Chamberlain came to the Yankees as a starter with an upper-90s fastball. He was used in relief in 2007 and showed a talent for it. First, a shoulder injury slowed him. Then an ankle injury. Finally, in 2011, Chamberlain underwent Tommy John surgery.
He lost speed on his fastball and bite on his slider. Dombrowski said today he thought the sharpness began to return last season.
“Our scouts that have seen him liked him,” he said. “We like his abilities.”
Sometimes early expectations are just too burdensome to carry. Chamberlain alluded to this in a conference call Friday when he said he was putting the past behind him.
That is the first step. The next step is to regain that promising form.
We have no idea whether he will or won’t. What we do know is that Dombrowski is convinced they’ve got a real shot to help him.
Here’s the requested sentimental Joba thread. I guess we can lump Phil Hughes in here as well.
I wish them both well, and wish they could have done better than they did as Yankees. But they both gave us some great moments and flashes of brilliance that made it fun to be a Yankee fan. That being said, I’m not sad to see either go given what they have done recently.
Sources tell me Joba is in the best shape of his life, so he may surprise this year. Round is a shape, right?
Friday, December 13, 2013
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — So this is a theory and only a theory. I repeat: a theory.
The Yankees want to stay under the $189 million luxury-tax threshold because there is so much money — perhaps $100 million — to be saved over the next three years. But — did I mention this is just my theory — perhaps it also was a negotiating ploy with Robinson Cano.
It goes like this: The Yankees tell Cano we will pay you a lot, but we have limits because we have this new financial religion. If he goes for it, great, the Yankees keep a star on their terms. But at the moment they know he isn’t staying — which the Yanks were pretty certain about as much as a week before the actual agreement with Seattle — they suddenly would lose their religion and show a greater willingness to go over the $189 million.
I have wondered if this was part of their strategy as well and may or may not have mentioned it here at some point. Here’s what we know.
- They are still under the $189M threshold if Alex Rodriguez’s suspension is upheld, but only by $2M or so.
- If CAIRO is to be believed, they’ve pushed themselves into the low to mid 80s win range, which gives them around a one out of three shot at qualifying for the postseason.
As presently constituted, they need a lot of things to go right and very few things to go wrong if they want to win the AL East. If they can spend a bit more they might be able to get near the 90 win threshold that only two other AL teams project to as of a few days ago. But they can’t do it without going well over the salary cap.
They supposedly have an offer out to Omar Infante, reportedly in the 3 year/$24M range. According to reports he’s looking for 4 years/$40M. I don’t think I’d go that high in years or average salary. They were also supposedly looking at Joaquin Benoit, another move that would surely put them over.
If Masahiro Tanaka does eventually get posted, they may be involved with him, although you wonder if the fact that a larger percentage of the total expenditure that would be needed to sign him will now be subject to the luxury tax changes that. I’d like to think they will be aggressive given the chance to sign a 25 year old with the potential to be an important part of the rotation for several years, but Tanaka’s going to have a lot of suitors and his price may end up going beyond any reasonable projection of his expected value.
IThey could trade Ichiro and free up some salary without losing much value on the field, but I find it hard to think any team is going to take on his full salary or give you anything particularly useful for him. Brett Gardner might be their most attractive trade chip, but he projects to be one of their more valuable players in 2014 so trading him hurts their goal of contending.
One more free agent signing, and we’ll likely have our answer as to whether the $189M goal is no longer a consideration.
The Rockies believe they are moving in the right direction after landing two left-handed pitchers at the winter meetings. Two days after acquiring Oakland’s Brett Anderson, Colorado moved toward the finish line on a multiple-year contract with reliever Boone Logan, according to major-league sources.
No deal will be official until the pitcher undergoes a physical, but based on what setup men have received this winter, Logan is in line for about a three-year, $15 million deal.
Jon Heyman confirmed this morning that the deal is complete for three years and more than $14 million.
I will miss Logan. The Yankees really could use another left-handed reliever this season and I was hoping Logan could be that player. Apparently not.
Best of luck in Denver, Boone!
Thursday, December 12, 2013
Nearly a week after the first reports that the Seattle Mariners had agreed to a 10-year, $240 million deal with Robinson Cano, the ballclub on Thursday officially announced the blockbuster signing.
“I am really happy to be here in Seattle,” Cano said in the team’s announcement, “and look forward to helping the Mariners organization win a championship and bring a World Series trophy to the Pacific Northwest.”
Good luck with all that.
I don’t begrudge Cano for signing that contract, and I don’t blame the Yankees for not being willing to go near it either. It makes me a bit sad that we won’t get to see Cano as a Yankee anymore, but probably not as sad as it would make me to see Cano tying up $24M a year when he is 38 years old and hitting .280/.320/.400 while playing horrific defense.
It’s an odd feeling to lose ‘one of our own’, but now we can at least understand why fans of so many other teams hate the Yankees for poaching their players. And we can take solace in the fact that it’s more likely than not that the Yankees already got the best years of Cano’s career at a below market rate.
I hope Cano goes on to continue his Hall of Fame trajectory and that his contract ends up being a slight overpay instead of a disaster. And I hope he never gets a hit against the Yankees and that Seattle never breaks .500 while he’s there.
And let’s finally acknowledge what we’ve known all along but weren’t willing to admit. Dustin Pedroia > Robinson Cano.
9:22pm: Both Brandon Phillips and Brett Gardner have seen their names pop up in trade rumors recently, but Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports (via Twitter) that the two of them actually had their name in the same deal. The Yankees, according to Heyman, turned down a Phillips-for-Gardner swap that was proposed by the Reds.
I’d file this under thanks but no thanks. Gardner is probably more valuable than Phillips ignoring contracts. I’m happy to see the Yankees agree. But wait, it gets better!
10:05pm: Before the Yankees turned down the proposed swap, Phillips asked for his contract to be re-opened to pay him more money to agree to the deal, a National League source tells Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (on Twitter).
Phillips is 32 and is signed for the next four seasons at $50M. It’s a stretch to see him being worth what is left on his contract already, so there’s no way I’d renegotiate his deal.
I would do the trade if the Reds threw in Tony Cingrani.
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
USA Today: Yankees Targeting Justin Masterson
The #Yankees would like to grab #indians Masterson in a 3-team trade involving CF Gardner if they can pull it off
He notes that it has to be a three-team deal since the Indians don’t have a need for Gardner at the moment (their outfield is pretty crowded already).
This would be a fair trade for Gardner. One year left before free agency for Gardner and one year left before free agency for Masterson.
Masterson has put up WARs of 4.1, 0.3 and 3.4 in the last three years. He is a really innings eater and as a ground ball pitcher he would do well in Yankees Stadium.
My faith in the Yankees’ opinion of what Gardner is worth is feeling better at the moment. Of course, since a third team has to be involved, who knows if the Yankees will end up having to try to throw more into the pot (also, do note that multiple-team deals are difficult to put together in the first place, so this might never actually come together).