During the off-season, when Robinson Cano walked for the cash in Seattle, I was worried about first base when the other holes popped up at second and third base. The Yankees weakly filled the other holes with injury-prone Brian Roberts and utility-man Kelly Johnson while spending millions elsewhere on the roster.
Shortstop has been a concern as an aging Derek Jeter attempts to make his comeback from a serious ankle injury.
Catcher was truly the only infield position of strength with newcomer Brian McCann backed superbly by Francisco Cervelli, Austin Romine and John Ryan Murphy.
But first base was and still is my primary concern. The Yankees did nothing to bring a solid backup to the team as a hedge against Mark Teixeira’s health. So, when Teixeira went to the DL this week due to a muscle strain in his leg, the Yankees had no legitimate first baseman on the roster. As it stands, Kelly Johnson has become the team’s first baseman. When Johnson signed, Cano was still a possible return so Johnson was viewed as the team’s super-sub. Then, Cano left and Alex Rodriguez was suspended for the season, and Johnson found himself as the starting third baseman. Now Teixeira’s gone, and Johnson stands at first. It is great that he’s so versatile, but the Yankees are so vulnerable with its current infield.
Yangervis Solarte has been a godsend but realistically I do not expect the guy to continue to play all season like he has in its first few games. He is an aging minor leaguer who had never gotten a major league shot and there’s reasons for why that happened. Yes, late bloomers can happen, but I am too much of a realist to believe that the Yankees have struck gold with the minor league free agent. I like him in a bench role, but now he’s the apparent starting third baseman along with another career minor leaguer, Dean Anna.
Mark Teixeira has always concerned me with his notorious slow starts and now he has other issues for us to worry about. I really thought that the Yankees needed to bring in a strong first baseman to help cover for Teixeira. This is where someone like Nick Swisher is really missed. An outfielder who can easily step in to play first.
When I heard that the Mets were dangling Ike Davis, I thought he’d be the perfect guy for the Yanks to pursue despite his underwhelming performance and injuries with the Mets. Son of a former Yankee (former Goose Gossage setup man, Ron Davis), I thought that Davis might benefit from a change in scenery. In a supporting role for Tex, Davis would be in a good spot to resurrect his career. The cost to acquire Davis would be less than acquiring a more frontline first baseman, but of course, on the day Teixeira was placed on the DL, Davis hit a grand slam to win a game for the Mets. It should be noted that on the same day, the Yanks did not score any runs in a 4-0 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays.
Right now, I think that Ichiro Suzuki’s presence on the roster is hurting the team. For the Yankees to call-up Scranton/Wilkes Barre first baseman Russ Canzler, the Yankees would have to free up a spot on the 40-man roster. The Yankees need more help for the infield than they do with the outfield. Alfonso Soriano provide good relief as the fourth outfielder/DH, and the ever-versatile Johnson can play there as well.
The Yankees need to go out and get Plan B for first base, and perhaps move Ichiro along the way.
Introducing the 2014 New York Yankees. With the demotion of Eduardo Nunez to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, the Yankees have finalized, for now, their major league roster as the team heads to Houston to open the season against the Astros.
- CC Sabathia
- Hiroki Kuroda
- Ivan Nova
- Masahiro Tanaka
- Michael Pineda
No great surprises here. There was talk of a spring battle between David Phelps and Pineda, but I never expected Pineda to lose the last spot in the rotation regardless of how well Phelps pitched. I personally prefer to see Phelps as the long man in the pen. I think he is better suited for that role than Pineda and of course he’ll be the first arm called upon if the Yankees lose any of the starters to injury.
- David Robertson
Again, no surprises. This job is Robertson’s to lose. While the Yankees do not have any relievers with proven closing experience on the active roster should Robertson falter, Andrew Bailey looms in the wings when he returns to active duty later in the year. My hope is that Robertson takes the job and runs with it. He disappointed in the role a couple of years ago when Mariano Rivera was lost for the season and Rafael Soriano ended up as the team’s primary closer. But that was then and this is now. It is my hope the Yankees never have to look for Plan B.
- Shawn Kelley
- Dellin Betances
This is an area of concern. It was great having a setup artist like Robertson. Kelley was good in the pen last year, but he’s no David Robertson. I am hopeful that this is Dellin’s niche after his previous prospect status as a future starter. I would like to see him develop into the clear-cut 8th inning option to set the bridge to Robertson. It’s also great to see a NYC-born player on the main stage.
- Matt Thornton
His departure in free agency was very quiet, but I was sad to see Boone Logan leave. I am not convinced that Matt Thornton is the answer. He’s been a great reliever over the course of his career but his best days are behind him. The Boston Red Sox even left him off the post-season roster last fall. I thought that Cesar Cabral would make the team as second lefty, but the Yankees expressed a greater need for long relief in the early days of the season so that solidified a position for Vidal Nuno. Thornton may be starting the season as the Yankees’ lefty specialist but I doubt he finishes it.
- David Phelps
- Adam Warren
- Vidal Nuno
I expect it to take a few months for Joe Girardi to find the right pieces for the bullpen but I fully expect him to make it a team strength by September. Tampa’s Joe Maddon has shown a tremendous ability to piece together a strong bullpen from a collection of spare parts, and I have every confidence Joe Girardi has the same ability.
- Brian McCann
- Francisco Cervelli
Honestly, I thought the Yankees would trade Cervelli in spring training and make Austin Romine or John Ryan Murphy the backup catcher. But, aside from my disappointment with Cervelli last year due to his drug suspension, I do like the player and his intensity. McCann has been everything as advertised. I have been particularly impressed by how he was gone out of his way to get to know his pitchers. I had always heard he was a great team leader on the Atlanta Braves and that continues to hold true with his presence in the Yankees locker room.
- Mark Teixeira
Let’s just say that I am cautiously optimistic there are no lingering problems related to last year’s wrist injury.
- Brian Roberts
- Yangervis Solarte
I really do not expect Roberts to stay healthy so I hope he proves me wrong. I was glad to see Solarte make the team over Eduardo Nunez, and I hope his success in the spring carries over to the regular season. But it will be a long time before we see Robinson Cano-like production at this position. I just hope the position doesn’t become the team’s Achilles heel this year.
- Derek Jeter
- Dean Anna
It will be bittersweet watching Jeter on his farewell tour, but a key to the season will be the performance of Jeter’s backups as he won’t be able to do this alone.
- Kelly Johnson
Solarte will also spend time at this position, but overall, I am disappointed the Yankees did not do more to try and upgrade this position. I do not like uncertainty at both second and third, in combination with a 40 year old shortstop and a first baseman attempting to come back from a serious wrist injury. After years of rumors, maybe this is the year that Chase Headley becomes a Yankee. Time will tell.
- Brett Gardner
The team has made a significant investment in Gardner despite their acquisition of Jacoby Ellsbury. While I love team speed, I always shutter when I think of the Yankees attempt to convert to speed in the 1980’s with the signing of Dave Collins. I know this is a complete different situation that draws no parallel to the 80’s disaster, but I still prefer the three run homer.
- Jacoby Ellsbury
It still seems weird to see this name in the Yankees lineup. Nevertheless, he’s here and I hope, really hope that he can stay healthy. I know, that’s asking a lot. If he’s hurt, Gardner slides to center and Soriano is the starting left fielder which will weaken team offense and defense.
- Carlos Beltran
This might the position that I have the least amount of concerns with. I fully expect it to be business as usual for the 36 year old Beltran. He’s happy and excited to be in the Bronx, and he’s played under more difficult conditions in the past and has prospered.
- Alfonso Soriano
I expect some of the team’s older players to rotate through DH, but Soriano should get the bulk of the at-bat’s in what most likely will be his final year in pinstripes regardless of whether or not his playing career continues. I can see Derek Jeter getting a healthy number of DH at-bat’s but this goes back to how well Jeter’s backups at short can perform.
Role to be determined:
- Ichiro Suzuki
In actuality, he’ll be the team’s fifth outfielder. I expect Soriano to be the first option should any holes open in the outfield. This is a sad way for a Hall of Fame career to end. I had hoped that the Yankees would trade Ichiro to a team that had a greater need for his services than they do out of respect for the legendary player. It may still happen, but at this point, I’d rather see someone like Zoilo Almonte as the reserve outfielder behind Soriano.
Ichiro aside, I think the two most vulnerable players for roster moves are Dean Anna (when Brendan Ryan returns in May) and Vidal Nuno (I can see Cesar Cabral being promoted in mid-April).
I’d like to say that I am very optimistic about the 2014 season but the uncertainty of the infield and the unproven bullpen give me hesitation. I do not think the Yankees have done enough (despite all those dollars) to close the gap with the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays. Neither the Toronto Blue Jays nor the Baltimore Orioles will be pushovers in what is arguably baseball’s toughest division.
I do feel better about this team than last year’s version. People have said the Yankees over-achieved to reach 85 wins and that the Yankees are still an 85 win team despite the upgrades. I think they can reach 90 wins and perhaps a few more if the pieces come together (younger players take it to the next level, the right in-season acquisitions, and strong overall performance from the team collectively). It may not be enough to reach October, but the Yankees will help determine who does go.
I am glad that the baseball season is upon us. It should be an exciting and memorable year. Time for Joe Girardi’s masterful encore performance…
With the current state of the Yankees’ infield, I remain worried if Plan A does not come to fruition. I still have not been able to wrap my head around Kelly Johnson being the everyday third baseman. I feel that he is so much more useful in a utility role. It would be great If Eduardo Nunez, Yangervis Solarte or Dean Anna could step it up to the next level, but that’s not something I am counting on. Maybe the source of my discomfort with the infield is that Stephen Drew is still available. I know, he costs money and maybe it’s too much for the Yankees given their huge off-season investments. However, Drew would secure third base (with a little help from his “friends”, i.e., Nunez, Johnson et al).
With questions about Mark Teixeira’s wrist and how that will impact his power, whether or not Brian Roberts can prove he is still the player of yesteryear, and Derek Jeter’s ability to bounce back from a severe ankle injury at an advanced age, we do not need third base to be a question too.
Catching is set. This is the best I’ve felt about the position since Jorge Posada was in his prime. I like Francisco Cervelli as the back-up, but if his trade value could help other areas of the team like the infield or the bullpen, then I’d be in favor of a trade. I feel that Austin Romine or John Ryan Murphy are capable of supporting Brian McCann.
For a change, the outfield is not a question mark. It’s great to know that the outfield is so good that Alfonso Soriano is the fourth outfielder and Ichiro Suzuki, a sure-fire Hall of Famer, is essentially a man without a position. Of course, that could change quickly if injuries were to impact Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner and/or Carlos Beltran. I am hopeful that this is a major move forward in the developmental progress of prospect Mason Williams so that he, along with Slade Heathcott, can be serious contenders for Soriano’s spot next year.
Nothing against David Phelps, but I am pulling for Michael Pineda to secure the fifth spot in the pitching rotation. I really like Phelps as the long man. He provides the consistency, support and flexibility that Ramiro Mendoza brought to the team years ago.
I am cautiously optimistic that the duo of Shawn Kelley and Dellin Betances will provide the level of set up support for David Robertson that Robertson provided for Mariano Rivera. That will go a long way toward determining how successful the 2014 Yankees can be.
There are not too many Plan B’s available on the current roster. As current set, the Yankees will need the cards to fall right for them to contend in October. This could be a 90-win team if all goes right, but conversely, it could just as easily be an 80-win team if it does not.
In my opinion, the Boston Red Sox remain the team to beat. They are the champions until proven otherwise. The AL East, perhaps baseball’s most competitive division, has improved. Tampa Bay, Toronto and Baltimore have all made solid off-season moves. The O’s were quiet for most of the off-season but their late signings of Ubaldo Jimenez, Nelson Cruz, and Johan Santana could pay dividends. Never underestimate a team managed by Buck Showalter. Tampa Bay has arguably baseball’s best manager so it’s a certainly that he’ll have his team in the race at the end.
This is my first prediction for the final season standings in the AL East:
- 1. Boston Red Sox
- 2. Tampa Bay Rays
- 3. New York Yankees
- 4. Toronto Blue Jays
- 5. Baltimore Orioles
But you could probably throw these team names into a hat and pull them out in random order and it could be the potential finish. I doubt Boston or Tampa finish anything worse than third, but the other three, including the Yankees, have the potential of finishing anywhere in the standings.
This should be a very fun and exciting year…
For months, the talk centered on prized Japanese pitcher Mashiro Tanaka. He was highly touted as the most valuable free agent pitcher on the market. Of course, his free agency began slowly when there was doubt if his Japanese team would allow him to be posted, particularly after the posting fee was capped at $20 million. Nevertheless, Tanaka was subsequently posted, as we all know.
Almost immediately, the Yankees were regarded as the frontrunner. But given that any team to offer to pay the $20 million posting fee, it opened the field to any team that wanted to make a run at the latest Japanese import. Early on, there was talk that the Seattle Mariners would make a play for Tanaka. It was said that the Los Angeles Dodgers would not be outbid, and the Chicago Cubs were completely enamored with the idea of Tanaka headlining their rotation. The Los Angeles Angels and the Arizona Diamondbacks were other teams mentioned as strong possibilities.
I read that the Mariners were favorites because the team is predominantly owned by Nintendo and Los Angeles was cited because of its close proximity to Japan and its strong Asian community. There was talk that some team would make a surprise late bid, kind of like what the Angels when they signed Albert Pujols.
I never really expected the Dodgers to be “all-in”. They had their own pending free agent to be in Clayton Kershaw and they couldn’t make a ridiculously high bid without driving up their costs to retain Kershaw. They subsequently re-signed Kershaw to a $215 million deal, but I still didn’t think they’d go hard after Tanaka. I did think the Chicago Cubs were a strong challenger for Tanaka despite prior rumors that he preferred a coastal destination. If I have learned anything with Major League Baseball, it’s to never underestimate Theo Epstein.
But fortunately, when Tanaka finally made his decision, he was a Yankee. Almost instantly, the stories about his superior talent turned to questions about how he’ll make the adjustment to life in America and how he is a #2 or #3 starter at best. Everyone is now quick to say that he does not have the talent of Yu Darvish, and I’ve seen the name “Kei Igawa” more than I’d care to in recent days. But still, this was a move that the Yankees HAD to make. With a weak farm system at the upper levels, they had no choice but to overpay for young pitching talent with solid upside. With the hype surrounding Tanaka (who went 24-0 in Japan last year), he also represents a gate attraction. With Tanaka in the fold, the Yankees become the second major league team to have two Japanese players in their starting pitching rotation (the first was the Dodgers with Hideo Nomo and Kaz Ishii). If the Japanese media made it a circus following Hideki Matsui, they’ll have a field day following the trio of Tanaka, Hiroki Kuroda and Ichiro Suzuki.
The realist in me knows not to expect top of the rotation stuff from Tanaka. I know the Yankees want more, but I’d be very satisfied if he could give the Yankees what Kuroda has for the last two years. This is most likely Kuroda’s last year, and it is good that Tanaka will have a year to spend under Hiroki’s wing. I think that will greatly aid his transition to the United States and MLB.
I thought that it would take a contract of 7 years, $140 million to sign Tanaka. So, the Yankees did overbid in that regard. Today I saw an article that one GM speculated the next highest bid were the Cubs and D-Backs at $120 million. I really doubt the gap between the Yankees and the others was that great. The same source mentioned the Dodgers were at $119 million which doesn’t make sense as everyone knew it would take $120 million plus to sign Tanaka. My guess is the Cubs and Dodgers were in the vicinity of $140 million plus. Not bad for a pitcher who has never thrown a major league pitch.
While I would still like to see an additional pitcher brought to camp, there is potential with a rotation that features CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Masahiro Tanaka, Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda or David Phelps. If Pineda could possibly show the potential that caused the Yankees to trade for him (prior to the injuries), the rotation could be very strong. While I would not be opposed to seeing Bronson Arroyo or Ubaldo Jimenez signed, I think the Yankees need to focus on the infield. Yes, they’ve brought in San Diego’s Dean Anna, signed Kelly Johnson, Brian Roberts and Scott Sizemore, and still have Eduardo Nunez but there are too many questions. What happens if Mark Teixeira struggles in his return, or Derek Jeter? Neither of those positions are air tight without getting into the holes at second and third. Jeter will be 40, and Teixeira is a notoriously slow starter. April could be a very challenging month.
My preference would be to find a decent third baseman so that Kelly Johnson could be the primary second baseman. But the team is probably enamored with the idea that Roberts is capable of rebounding from the injury filled years that have plagued him since 2009. Scott Sizemore is nothing more than camp fodder. One magazine I read said “But other than OK pop and a few walks, offers little even when healthy”. Anna is nothing more than a potential reserve.
Catching and the outfield is set, but there is still work to be done in the infield and in the bullpen. I agree with the choice to anoint David Robertson as the closer, but there needs to be an insurance plan in place. Grant Balfour would have been a great option but he is now a Tampa Bay Ray once again. I don’t want Fernando Rodney, but the Yankees need someone who is capable of closing games if Robertson is not up to the task. If Boston can find an elite closer as their fourth choice last year, there are potential arms that can be found. I really hated to see the departure of Boone Logan. Not much has been written about it, but I can only hope that Matt Thornton is a capable, albeit older, replacement. I know the team has long admired lefty Cesar Cabral so perhaps this is Cabral’s year to take it to the next level. I’d also like to see Dellin Betances take advantage of his opportunity and become a force in the pen. I guess every team thinks they can follow the Tampa blueprint for bullpen success given how the Rays are always able to craft something out of nothing.
With pitchers and catchers reporting to training camp in a few weeks, I am sure that the transaction wires will be busy as teams, and most notably the Yankees, look to create playoff caliber rosters.
For the Yankees, while it will be great to see Brian McCann show up to become his orientation with the Yankee pitchers, the cameras and the reporters will be flocked around #19, Masahiro Tanaka, as he begins his pinstriped career. Time to build upon last year’s 85 wins and return the Yankees to October baseball. With the commitment the Yankees have shown this off-season, it’s clear their last move was not their “last” move.