The Element of Surprise…
The World Series is not yet over, but the 2014-15 Hot Stove League is already well under way.
The biggest shocker was the announcement that Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon had opted out of his contract to become a free agent. While I knew that there was a financial gap between what Maddon would require upon the conclusion of his contract next year and what the Rays would be willing to pay, I certainly didn’t expect Maddon’s sudden availability. Interesting that he had to be told about the two week clause to opt out of his contract should former GM Andrew Friedman depart, but clearly a signal that the Rays organization wants to show that they are more than the Friedman-Maddon show. I’ve read that the Rays didn’t want Maddon playing as a lame duck manager next season and that makes sense. Still, he is regarded as one of the best, if not the best, manager in baseball.
Tampa Bay Times
I had expected Maddon’s availability to put Don Mattingly on thin ice in Los Angeles, but publicly the Dodgers have stood behind Mattingly as their manager for 2015. While I don’t think that Mattingly is the manager that Maddon is, I do believe that he eventually will be. Mattingly has continued to improve in my eyes, and he deserves the opportunity to succeed with the Dodgers. But it must be hard for new Dodgers President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman sit idly by while his close friend is available to the highest bidder. With the only remaining managerial opening being in Minneapolis, it’s a given that if Maddon manages in 2015, a team will make a late decision to jettison their current manager. Speculation that it will be the Chicago Cubs certainly makes sense, but I feel bad for Rick Renteria who did a very good job last year with the younger Cubs.
If I owned a baseball team, I’d certainly consider making a change to bring in Maddon. It will be interesting to see where he lands. I really doubt that he’ll sit out a year waiting for the next job.
Meanwhile, I certainly do not feel bad for the Tampa Bay Rays. I am in favor of anything that weakens AL East Rivals, but I am sure that Tampa will be fine.
For the Yankees, they missed their guy when Chili Davis signed a three year deal to be the new hitting coach for the Boston Red Sox. Chili was my personal favorite for the job, and had hoped for his reunion with the Yanks. But it was not meant to be. With Dave Magadan off the board, it’s anybody’s guess who will replace Kevin Long as the Yankees hitting coach. Of the latest names, I do like the idea of the Yankees pursuing Rays hitting coach Derek Shelton or if they stay in house, someone like James Rowson. Without strong clear cut options, it does make one wonder if the Yanks were premature in letting Long go. It certainly didn’t take him long to find a new job in Flushing Meadow. With his reputation, it was a certainty that he wouldn’t remain unemployed very long.
John Munson/The Star-Ledger
In retrospect, the Yankees should have kept Long and brought in an assistant hitting coach. Regardless of who they hire as a replacement, I still think the Yankees should join the many team now employing two hitting coaches. My personal favorite for that role continues to be Hideki Matsui.
A wasted roster spot…
With the World Series now tied up, I am hopeful that it goes the full seven games. While I want the San Francisco Giants to win, I am not ready for the announcement that Alex Rodriguez has rejoined the Yankees active roster. I am not looking forward to his return and I do not feel that he’ll be the productive player that he once was. In my opinion, he’d look better someplace like Miami but the guy has no trade value unless the Yankees are willing to absorb what’s left on his inflated contract. He is definitely the poster child against long-term contracts. This has turned out to be one of the worst that I’ve ever seen. The thought of three more years of A-Rod is so incredibly painful. I sincerely hope that A-Rod’s presence does not deter the Yankees from re-signing free agent third baseman Chase Headley.
There was once a time that I thought A-Rod would never wear pinstripes again but sadly, it appears that I was wrong. Of course, it’s not my money and the Yankees still owe A-Rod too much to just release him.
Assuming the Yankees do bring back Headley, the position that scares me the most next season is first base. It’s hard to count on Mark Teixeira and when he plays, he is a shell of the player he once was. It is looking like A-Rod will be playing some first base which brings its own questions. I remain hopeful that Rob Refsnyder grabs second base in spring training. As for Derek Jeter’s replacement at short, I think the answer is outside of the organization. More than likely, it will be a short term solution. Asdrubal Cabrera probably makes the most sense unless it is determined that his long term future is better suited for second base.
With the World Series set to end either Tuesday or Wednesday, I am sure that the Hot Stove League will start heating up if the last few weeks have been any indication. No offense to either the Giants or the Kansas City Royals, but, outside of A-Rod, I am ready for the rebuilding of the Yankees to begin…
1-0 to start the 2014-15 Off-Season…
First order of business has been accomplished. With the signing of GM Brian Cashman to a new three year deal, the off-season can officially begin. I am glad that Cashman will be returning, although I certainly would not have been opposed to Billy Eppler stepping into the role.
I found Cashman’s words about Alex Rodriguez to be intriguing. It was a public admission that the team does not plan to rely upon Rodriguez as its everyday third baseman. Granted, I am not an A-Rod fan, but I openly prefer to see the return of Chase Headley or would support the free agent acquisition of someone like Pablo Sandoval. To hear Cashman talk about A-Rod possibly playing first base, I think that’s a great idea as Mark Teixeira is another older veteran who can no longer be relied upon to perform every day. Of course, the use of 1B/DH between Teixeira and A-Rod doesn’t really leave much room for Carlos Beltran on those days that he can’t play the field.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out. I would still like to see the Yankees find a way to sever ties with A-Rod even if it means eating his contract. Easy for me to say given it is not my money but A-Rod, the 40-year old hip “impaired” DH that has not played in a year will not perform to the level of the money he is still owed. So, filling the roster spot with a younger, more durable player certainly makes sense.
At this point in Cashman’s career, he is building his Yankees legacy as the longest running Yankees GM that I’ve ever known. When his time is over, he’ll be remembered among the best of the all-time Yankees GMs. Rebuilding a winner in the next three years would go a long way toward putting Cashman at the head of the class. Of course, failure could mean his dismissal. After 17 years on the job, he is truly entering “what have you done for me lately?” territory.
The Fall Guys…
I have long agreed that Kevin Long has been a great hitting coach, but for whatever reason, the message didn’t work this year. Perhaps it was the direct product of the available talent on the roster or it was the loss of a vital cog in the heart of the order when Robinson Cano fled for Seattle. But regardless of the reasons, it was time for a change. So, I was not disappointed when I heard that Long and first base coach Mick Kelleher had been fired.
My personal preference for hitting coach would be the Oakland A’s Chili Davis. I know that the A’s offense stalled late in the season, but I’ve always respected Davis and what his bat meant to a lineup.
The Yankees will be competing with the Boston Red Sox in their search since the Sox also need a hitting coach.
For the World Series, after the Yankees failed to reach the play-offs and the Los Angeles Dodgers bowed out in the first round, my latest preference is the San Francisco Giants. Maybe it’s because I am a Bay Area resident but it would be good to see the Giants prevail even if the Giants and St Louis Cardinals have been frequent participants of the Fall Classic in recent years. There’s no way that I’ll pull for the Baltimore Orioles or the Kansas City Royals regardless of how many years it has been since they last won. I had really hoped that Don Mattingly and the Dodgers would have succeeded with arguably the best pitcher in baseball with Clayton Kershaw but his 0-2 mark against the Cards sealed their fate.
When I heard today that Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner had apologized to Yankee fans for the 2014 season, it did bring back memories of when the Yankees lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1981 World Series and George Steinbrenner’s famed apology.
It’s tough to criticize ownership because they did spend money in the off-season to bring in Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann and others. However, it was a flawed team from the start. Even in April, when the starting rotation was still healthy, the infield looked to be a disaster with question marks around the bases. The gaping hole created by Robinson Cano’s departure was never sufficiently addressed although Martin Prado was a good late season pickup.
With Mark Teixeira’s injuries in recent years, it was no sure thing that he’d bounce back after last year’s wrist surgery. He was never the same player and may never be again. Third base was poorly addressed with Kelly Johnson, particularly when considered in tandem with the hole at second base and the diminished skills, thanks to age, of the legendary shortstop.
I am not sure what moves the Yankees could have made that would have worked out better. GM Brian Cashman was dealing with limited options last off-season and it is why they had to throw money at the situation. Sadly, it’s not the 20-something, in the middle of your prime, guys that are routinely available. It’s the aging veterans or the journeymen.
Via LoHud Yankees Blog
One of the guys who had been tied to the Yankees last off-season was second baseman Omar Infante. Infante subsequently spurned the Yankees for the Kansas City Royals, and in retrospect, he made the perfect decision as his team has advanced to the AL Divisional Play-offs. It is in what Infante saw regarding the Yankees situation that needs to be fixed.
Now that Alex Rodriguez is back, I hope that does not prevent the Yankees from bringing back Chase Headley. Straight up, I’d take Headley at third over Rodriguez. There’s going to be a huge fight for the DH spot next year with Beltran and A-Rod. If Beltran is healthy, I’d give him the edge so this team may simply have no spot for A-Rod (which is what I would like to see). I know the Yankees still owe A-Rod a great deal of money, but they’d be best served paying the majority of his contract to move him elsewhere (the proverbial “addition by subtraction”).
The first order of business for Yankee ownership is to re-sign Cashman. All reports indicate that’s going to happen, but I’d prefer to see it happen before the end of the World Series so that the GM is not a distraction at the start of the Hot Stove League. If anybody needs to be “all in”, it’s Cashman.
Typical Derek Jeter…
I was convinced all season long that there was no way Jeter could top Mariano Rivera’s 2013 farewell. But I should have never underestimated him. The game went from frustrating when David Robertson gave up the potential game winning lead to exhilaration when Derek hit the game winning, walk off single in the bottom of the 9th in his final Yankee Stadium appearance. It was an incredible experience to watch. The fans in attendance at the Stadium certainly got their money’s worth.
New York Times
At first, I was surprised when I heard that Jeter had no desire to play shortstop during the final series in Boston. But I completely get his reasons for wanting to take something away from the final Yankee Stadium appearance. By the end, Jeter was a guy ready to lay down his glove but he left the field with the same class and dignity as when he arrived. Tough to see Jeter go, but it was time. I saw the quotes that said ‘don’t be sad that it’s over, be glad that it happened’ and they are so true. We were blessed to have Derek Jeter, but now it is time for somebody else.
So long, Derek. Looking forward to the retirement of your number at Yankee Stadium and entry into the Hall of Fame.
Who should start third base for the New York Yankees in 2015? The choices are Chase Headley or Alex Rodriguez. Give me a break. Bring back Headley…please…
The Kid from Kalamazoo rides away…
I hate that I’ve been so pessimistic about the Yankees’ chances of making the play-offs this year, but the realization is slowly becoming a reality as time on the 2014 season draws to a close. For whatever reason, this just has never felt like the Yankees’ season. It had more promise than last year yet the team will actually end up with a worse record. As I write this, the Yankees hold a two game lead for second place in the AL East and that’s the most the team can aspire for.
After losing Martin Prado for the season due to an appendectomy, the latest blow is the potential season-ending loss of Jacoby Ellsbury with a hamstring injury.
It’s sad that the final season for future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter will end so quietly. In a way, it carries the same sadness that saw Don Mattingly’s career end with the 1995 play-off loss to the Seattle Mariners (his only post-season appearance in a tremendously successful Yankees career). Granted, DJ has enjoyed far greater post-season success than Mattingly could have ever imagined, but still, for the man coined as Mr. November, it’s sad that we will no longer be able to see his presence grace October.
Ironically, it is Mattingly who will experience the post-season this year as he has his Los Angeles Dodgers in a good position with a play-off spot secured and a 3 ½ game lead in the NL West over the San Francisco Giants.
With Jeter’s desire to one day be a major league owner, I wonder where his post-Yankees career will take him. It’s tough to see Mattingly wear another team’s uniform after he wore pinstripes for the duration of his Yankees career. I can’t imagine seeing Derek wearing another uniform. I was listening to Cal Ripken on the radio this week and his radio career ensures that he’ll forever be known as an Oriole and nothing else. That’s the way it should be, but Jeter’s aspirations for ownership will inevitably lead him elsewhere. I can’t see the Steinbrenner family selling him a substantial piece of the prized Yankees.
Thank you, Lord, for making him a Yankee…
Hats off to Hiroki Kuroda who has been such a great Yankee. I respected him when he was a starter for the Los Angeles Dodgers, but never really got a sense of his professionalism and the honor he bestows wearing his team’s colors. He has only been a Yankee for three years, but he made a difference and if this is his last year, he will leave a solid legacy. If he does play another year in the majors, I hope that he does return to the Yankees rather than going back to the Dodgers. But for whatever he decides, I will respect his decision because he has earned that right. If he does pitch for the Dodgers next year, or plays in Japan, or simply calls it a career, I will remain a fan.
My choice…they passed the audition…
I really hope the Yankees move quickly to re-sign Chase Headley and Brandon McCarthy, and decide to bring back Chris Young. I think all three can play valuable roles for the 2015 season even with the return of Alex Rodriguez or the potential signing of a frontline starter like Jon Lester. The first order of business when the season ends is for the Yankees to re-sign GM Brian Cashman (or move on and name Billy Eppler as his replacement). The GM situation needs to be settled quickly so that the team can focus on its pursuit of improvement for 2015. I clearly want Cashman back, but I’d be happy with Eppler in the role too. I would not want to see the team bring in an outsider for fill the role.
I am anxious to see if Rob Refsnyder can take second base next spring. He may not be Robinson Cano but I think he’d bring excitement to the position.
A plethora of catchers…
The Yankees will need to do something about the glut of catchers this off-season. Francisco Cervelli is a great back-up and a potential starter, but John Ryan Murphy deserves a chance. Austin Romine seems to have become an afterthought and maybe he’d thrive with a change of scenery (not unlike what happened for his brother, Andrew Romine, who was dealt from the Angels organization and is now starting at shortstop for the Detroit Tigers). One of these days, Gary Sanchez will be knocking at the door and he will force his way onto the roster.
We know who replaced Mariano Rivera…
I guess the predictions that reliever Jacob Lindgren would make the majors by the end of the year after he was drafted in June did not come to pass. But there’s no doubt that he’ll be a contender for the bullpen next season. I really have no clue what the Yankees intend to do with David Robertson. If he becomes a free agent, there is a very real possibility that he will become a former Yankee. I am sure the Yankees are intrigued with the possibility of making Dellin Betances the closer after his All-Star breakout season. I think Betances can be a great closer but Robertson has certainly done everything the team expected from him. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. I remember hating to see closer John Wetteland leave via free agency which thrust set up man Mariano Rivera into the closer’s role. I think that situation played itself out correctly (statement of the obvious). Time will tell if the team makes the right decision with Robertson.
Wanted: Clutch hits…
One Yankee that has come under a great deal of heat is hitting coach Kevin Long. Long respected at his craft, I wonder if the team’s offensive failures this year will force the Yankees to change coaches. As great as Long is, if the players are not responding to his message, it’s either time to get new players or change coaches. The latter is the cheaper route and it will most likely be the one the team makes. There are no obvious choices for who would make a better hitting coach. I’ve always liked Don Baylor but I don’t know his current situation. I think Bernie Williams would have made a terrific coach if he had chosen that path, but his musical adventure is his passion. Paul O’Neill? Another one of the hard choices for the Yankees to make.
As Derek Jeter rides off to the sunset, many questions and few answers confront the Yankees as they move forward.
Don’t let the door hit you on the way out…
The Yankees keep giving deceiving indications that they could actually snag the last Wild Card slot with great performances like the two walk-off wins over the Tampa Bay Rays. The series ender when Chris Young broke up a no-hitter in the 8th with a double and won the game in the 9th with a three run homer seemed to possess the magical “mystique and aura”. But the latest post-season hopes were dealt a harsh reality on Friday (September 12th) when the Baltimore Orioles swept the Yankees in a double-header.
The Yankees had a chance in the first game when they took a 1-0 lead in extra innings but the O’s dished the Yankees a taste of their own recent medicine in scoring two runs in the bottom of the inning to snatch victory away. The second game was no contest as the Yankee bats couldn’t muster anything against Bud Norris.
Patrick Smith/Getty Images
I have felt for some time that this year’s Yankees lack the necessary ingredients to thrive in the post-season and I did not see them hurdling over the likes of the Detroit Tigers, Oakland A’s, and Mariners.
With post-season hopes fading fast, I think the Yankees should shut Masahiro Tanaka down rather than risk trying to bring him back this month for what appears to be a lost season.
It’s hard not to wonder how this year’s team would have done with Robinson Cano in the heart of the batting order. Jacoby Ellsbury has been great at times but he doesn’t carry the consistency that Cano brought to the park every day. Carlos Beltran has been a shell of his usual self due to injuries.
The curtain will soon be closed on the Yankees and they can start to think about what it will take to improve the team for 2015. Of the late season additions, I would like to see the returns of Chase Headley and Brandon McCarthy. I am hopeful that the team re-signs both players. Martin Prado is under contract so he’ll be back. It’s a small sample size, but Chris Young is showing enough to be the team’s fourth outfielder next year. With the virtual certainty that this is Ichiro Suzuki’s final year in the Bronx, Young could play a valuable role next season. Headley may not be the bat that you want at third, but he is a much better defender than Alex Rodriguez. I am really not looking forward to A-Rod’s return and it’s anybody’s guess what the Yankees will get from the 39-year old. At this stage of his career, I think he’s a full-time DH at best. But he’ll never be the slugger he once was.
Team character takes a huge hit with the departure of future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter and the return of A-Rod. Honestly, I’d love to see the Yankees find a way to divorce Rodriguez regardless of the cost…
I do think we’ll see a better version of Brian McCann with a year under his belt. As for second base, I remain hopeful that Rob Refsnyder will be able to make the leap in spring training and claim the position. I’d prefer that over a free agent signing or trade for a past-his-prime veteran. I don’t think that Stephen Drew is the answer at short so I don’t know who will replace #2. I am sure that will be a focal point of the off-season. With A-Rod potentially blocking DH, that’s a predicament for Beltran. I question his durability to play the field at this stage of his career and he’d be a better candidate (and performer) at DH. The Yankees need to find a young slugger for right field. I am not sure that the top prospects, like Aaron Judge, will be ready yet so they Yankees may have to explore the trade market.
Mark LoMoglio/Tampa Yankees
It was interesting to see the reports that minor league director Mark Newman will be retiring at the end of the year and the subsequent reports that he most likely would not have returned anyway since his contract was up. It doesn’t seem like that long ago Newman had great power within the organization and for a time battled GM Brian Cashman for control. But now, Newman is quietly shown the door. The first potential successor I heard is Trey Hillman. I am ready for a change to see better performance from the minor league system. Damon Oppenheimer has done well drafting in recent years but it always seems like the prospects get stuck at Triple A and never pan out. Obviously, Dellin Betances is an exception but he had to re-invent himself as a reliever after an unsuccessful attempt to get to the majors as a starter.
The Yankees do need to make re-signing Brian Cashman an early priority so that it doesn’t detract from the team’s off-season plans. If they can’t re-sign Cashman, I still think that Billy Eppler would be a very capable replacement. But with Eppler’s name mentioned in every GM opening, the Yankees need to re-sign Cashman before Eppler departs. A worst case scenario would be for Eppler to get the Arizona Diamondbacks job with the Yankees subsequently failing to lock up Cashman.
Rob Antonelli/New York Daily News
There’s a great deal of uncertainty as the Yankees move forward. It is unlikely they’ll go on another spending splurge like they did last off-season. The Yankees do not have too many trade-able chips at the major league level. Francisco Cervelli comes to mind. He has done a good job for the Yankees in a much needed support role to McCann but I think John Ryan Murphy is capable of performing well in that role. But it would take a lot more than Cervelli to bring an infusion of talent into the organization. I am always on the lookout for the next Paul O’Neill…the type of player who has not lived up to his potential in his current environment but is someone capable to excelling in New York. Then again, isn’t everybody?
Lots and lots of questions as the sun sets on the Yankees’ 2014 season…
So close, yet so far away…
The Yankees may only be 3 games back in the Wild Card chase as they enter play this evening, but trailing three teams for two spots sounds a bit daunting. Particularly when two of those teams are perhaps the best in the American League with the Oakland A’s and the Detroit Tigers. At the end of play last night, Oakland, Detroit and the Seattle Mariners were tied. While I think the Yankees could catch the Mariners, the odds are against them when it comes to the A’s (or Angels) or the Tigers (or Royals).
Much larger leads have fallen in the past, but I think the superiority of the A’s and Tigers will win out. If they take their divisions, the Angels and Royals both field superior teams to the Yankees. I don’t think there are any waiver deals at the deadline that can be made to improve this year’s Yankees. As with the non-waiver deadline in July, I didn’t want the Yankees to part with prospects nor do I now. If I legitimately felt that the team had a chance in October, perhaps I’d feel differently. But the 2014 Yankees, even if they landed a Wild Card spot, would be destined for a one game Wild Card loss or if they prevailed, they’d be bounced in the first round.
It’s disappointing as a Yankees fan as it doesn’t feel like championship hopes can be restored in the short term. The Yankees are 11 games ahead of the Boston Red Sox, and yet, the outlook for the 2015 Red Sox is far more promising.
Huh, I didn’t know he was available?…
When I heard that the Yankees had signed Chris Young to a minor league deal, my first thought was when did the Seattle Mariners get rid of their starting pitcher who is 12-6 with a 3.16 ERA on the season? But then I heard the talk about him playing the outfield and realized they were talking about the other one. I don’t know much about OF Chris Young but it seems like he was once a promising Arizona Diamondback who had a disappointing 2013, signed with the Mets and continued to underwhelm until his release. Given the Yanks success with ex-Diamondbacks (i.e., Martin Prado and Brandon McCarthy) perhaps Young will revert to his old form under the tutelage of the Pinstripes. Not sure if the Yankees will call him up before or after September 1st but he seems like a good replacement for Ichiro Suzuki if he is successful.
A little early to look to next year but…
With the success of Shane Greene and Brandon McCarthy in the starting rotation, it will be interesting next year. While CC Sabathia will be returning, I honestly do not know what the Yankees will be getting and if it will be an upgrade over Greene or McCarthy. Michael Pineda and Masahiro Tanaka are obvious locks, although Ivan Nova might be delayed since he’s coming off Tommy John surgery. I think this is the final year in the United States for Hiroki Kuroda before he heads back to Japan permanently. Still, even if the starting rotation projects to be Tanaka-Pineda-Sabathia-McCarthy-Greene, I fully expect the Yankees to go after a free agent pitcher like Jon Lester. Lester, partnered with a healthy Tanaka, at the head of the rotation would be huge.
Lester was my favorite pitcher when he played for Boston so having him on the Yankees would be ideal.
There will be lots of interesting decisions to be made by Manager Joe Girardi and company. And oh yeah, we’ll have to deal with the return of he who shall remain nameless at third and DH.