There always seems to be a lull in baseball activity
following the conclusion of the World Series until the start of the baseball
winter meetings in early December. There
are generally a few free agent signings but generally not the top shelf talent
that is available. So, yesterday was a
fairly active day for the Yankees, all things considered.
The biggest news was the surprise announcement of the new
pitching coach. After continually
hearing the names of Mike Harkey, Scott Aldred, Gil Patterson and even Rick Petterson,
the Yankees named Chicago Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild to the
post. Rothschild’s name had not surfaced
in media reports and I was very pleased to see the hiring of a coach with his
experience and credentials. Rothschild
was the first manager for the expansion Tampa Bay Devil Rays, and has been with
the Cubs since 2002.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that A.J.
Burnett will be number one on Rothschild’s priority list. He has to figure out a way to restore Burnett’s
confidence and get him back to pitching like he did for the 2008 Toronto Blue
Jays and the 2009 Yankees. Joba
Chamberlain will also be on the priority list.
I have seen so many reports that Joba would be better served by a change
in scenery but I still think he can achieve success in New York. The continued progression of Phil Hughes is
another key for the 2011 season.
I think the Yankees would have been fine with someone
like Gil Patterson or Rick Petterson, but they are definitely better with
Rothschild. Good move by GM Brian
Cashman and Manager Joe Girardi. I
thought it was funny when I read Rothschild’s comments about the unique
interview experience but I am glad that Cashman made the applicants prove they
were up for the challenge.
There were a few roster moves as the Yankees released
bullpen pitcher Jonathan Albaladejo so that he could sign with a Japanese
club. He had a great AAA season this
year, but he didn’t really get much of an opportunity at the big league
level. I wish him the best with the
Yomiuri Giants and hope that it propels him to another big league opportunity
down the road.
The Yankees also acquired Atlanta Braves minor league
outfielder Cody Johnson for cash considerations. A former top draft pick (24th
selection in the first round in 2006), Johnson has power but also has a
tendency to strike out…a lot. It looks
like the Braves have given up on him, but he is still young enough (22) for the
Yankees to try and correct the deficiencies in his game. This looks like one of those low cost, high
reward moves that Boston GM Theo Epstein is so good about.
Mark Almond/The Birmingham News
In the other roster moves made yesterday, the Yankees
placed three Rule 5 draft eligible prospects on the 40-man roster to protect
them. Included were top prospects (Dellin
Betances, perhaps the best pitching prospect in the organization, and third
baseman Brandon Laird). In a breakout
season, Laird, brother of Detroit Tigers catcher Gerald Laird, had 25 home runs
and 102 RBI’s between AA and AAA this year.
The third prospect placed on the 40-man roster was reliever Ryan Pope.
There were also reports that the Yankees were making an
offer of three years at $45 million for Derek Jeter. I doubt DJ accepts the offer but I think it
is a very fair one. Signing elsewhere,
there is no way he would get more than $10 million per season, so overpaying by
$5 mil per year on a contract that will take DJ to nearly 40 years of age is
generous and cognizant of DJ’s contributions and value to the
organization. I keep hearing that he’ll
have to consider a position switch at some point, but where would you put him? I’d hate to lose an outfield position to a
player with declining skills. Would he
be better than Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson or Nick Swisher? That’s a tough question. Perhaps if you had a Justin Upton or Carl
Crawford in the outfield to go with Granderson, you could fill the other corner
outfield spot with Jeter.
In another transaction this week, the Yankees made their
first trade with former Yankees consultant and new Arizona Diamondbacks GM
Kevin Towers. They shipped first baseman
Juan Miranda, who was out of options, to the D-Backs for pitcher Scott
Allen. I saw one report that called him “Scottie”. I really hope that he doesn’t go by that
name. It sounds like a little black dog
to me, or at the very least, the chief engineer on the Starship
No movement on the Cliff Lee front, but I don’t think
anyone expects him to sign until the baseball winter meetings or later. Next week will probably be very quiet from a
baseball perspective, but hopefully, the Hot Stove League will start cranking
up by the first of December. I am very anxious
to see who makes the trip to Tampa for spring training in February. It would be nice to see a Yankees limo
waiting at the Tampa airport for an incoming flight from Little Rock, Arkansas…