A week’s worth of crickets…
For excited as I was for the Baseball Winter Meetings, it was a very unfulfilling time for Yankees fans. The AL East got stronger as both the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays made significant improvements, and the Baltimore Orioles, while they didn’t make a move, are still a better team on paper.
Losing David Robertson hurt. I fully recognize that not even the Yankees should be paying multiple guys in the pen $12+ million per year so I understand the decision to let Robertson walk after signing last year’s prized lefty Andrew Miller. Still, when I saw those words, “White Sox to sign David Robertson”, it was a painful sight to see.
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Part of me, for a few days, imagined a bullpen with Robertson, Betances, and Miller for manager Joe Girardi and the limitless possibilities. After watching the Kansas City Royals and their stellar pen, it was hard not to dream of a similar equation for the Yankees. With so many question marks in the rotation, a ‘lights out’ bullpen is a must. With Robertson gone, there’s no reason why the Yankees still can’t have a superior bullpen. But losing Robertson does show that we care about our tenured players. Well, except when their name is Alex Rodriguez.
I am in favor of naming Dellin Betances as the team’s closer in spring training. I think Miller will be great as the primary setup guy and the earlier innings are in great hands with Adam Warren, Shawn Kelley and others. A year ago, there were questions about Robertson’s ability to close. His attempt to close in 2012 when Mariano Rivera got hurt was unsuccessful. The team ultimately went to Rafael Soriano who held the role for the duration of the season.
Mariano Rivera was an exception. Most guys are unable to pitch at the level required to close for an extended period of time. The days of Rivera and Trevor Hoffman are over. From a financial standpoint, it makes the most sense to have a shorter term view when it comes to a closer so that you don’t get locked into a bad contract (a la Jonathan Papelbon) as the closer ages and naturally deteriorates. Robertson may still be playing at a very high level in four years, but equally, there’s a chance that he is not. He always seems to pitch in and out of trouble, but as he ages, his ability to get out of those jams may not quite be there. He’ll evolve as a pitcher and I am sure that he’ll make the necessary adjustments, but at the end of the day, the Yankees are better off not being locked into Robertson for four years at $48 million. Betances showed that he is the team’s future closer. Next year may be a bit premature, but it was inevitable.
The most important thing for the Yankees is to now re-invest the $12 million per year savings into other areas. Bring back Chase Headley. Possibly sign a short term closing alternative like Jason Grilli. Make a run for Max Scherzer. But the key is to do something. The Yankees, as they presently stand, will not win in October.
How much? See ya…
Speaking of bad contracts, I was blown away by the commitment the Los Angeles Dodgers made to Brandon McCarthy. I thought McCarthy was a great pickup last season and hoped the Yankees could re-sign him to a team friendly deal. But like Robertson, I am glad the Yankees did not commit those years and dollars to McCarthy. He is a huge injury risk and in the Dodgers case, McCarthy failed last year in the NL West when he was with the Arizona Diamondbacks. While I hope McCarthy has a great Dodgers career, my fear is that he and the team’s DL list will become good buddies. I hope I’m wrong but baseball generally proves ‘past performance equals future results’…
Slowly but surely…
The week preceding the Baseball Winter Meetings was good. The Yankees acquired their 2015 shortstop with the acquisition of Didi Gregorius and the aforementioned lefty artist Andrew Miller, dominant against both righties and lefties. It was a good start but the team obviously still has much work to do before spring.
I hear so many Yankees fans say that Gregorius is not Derek Jeter. Nothing against Jeter, but I’d rather see a 24 year old Gregorius starting at short over a 41 year old Jeter. Gregorius may not be the player Jeter was in his prime, but Jeter wasn’t in his prime anymore and the Yankees had to do something to improve following Jeter’s retirement. So, to me, Gregorius is his own man in the position. It is up to him to succeed or fail, without regard to Jeter. I was a huge Don Mattingly fan, but I gave Tino Martinez a chance from his first at-bat and his early struggles did not waver my support. Tino turned out to be one of my most beloved players over the years and I never compared him to Mattingly.
It is possible that Gregorius fails. If so, the Yankees move on to another option. ‘Nothing ventured, nothing gained’. But at this point in time, it is his time. Let’s give him a chance…
Paul Ruhter/Gazette Staff
All I want for Christmas is…
Now if we could just send A-Rod anyway. I know, it’s not that easy. The most expensive DH/bench player in baseball history. It’s too bad those dollars can’t be re-directed to a guy like Max Scherzer. Maybe some challenges are too much for even the Yankees to overcome. But I’d love to have the money the Yankees have probably spent trying to find a way.
A swing and a miss, another miss, yet another miss…
This morning, I saw a post on the MLB Trade Rumors website (http://www.MLBTradeRumors.com) that asked the poll question of which MLB team had the best draft in 2002? Of all the examples shown, no Yankees were anywhere to be found. For a draft that started with Bryan Bullington and B.J. Upton, there was some great talent uncovered in the 2002 draft. Jon Lester, Zack Greinke, Matt Cain, Prince Fielder, Cole Hamels, Joey Votto and a guy who would eventually find his way to the Bronx, Brian McCann, were among the great choices by their respective teams. But sadly, not a single Yankee selection stuck that year.
Number 26 selection Phil Coke is a major leaguer but with the Detroit Tigers. He had his moments in the Bronx but was never anything special and was sent to the Tigers as part of the Curtis Granderson-Austin Jackson trade.
But removing Coke, there are 50 rounds of names that Yankee Stadium never heard from. I really do not recognize any of the names outside of the first round selection and that’s only because he was later the starting quarterback of the Cleveland Browns (Brandon Weeden).
I know that there are many sad tales among the 2002 draft picks, like 2nd round pick Alan Bomer, a pitcher, who reinjured his shoulder after a previous injury several years earlier, bringing an end to his major league hopes.
But it’s also a testament to the drafting ability of major league teams and 2002 was clearly not a good vintage for the Yankees. I know the team’s re-focus on the minor league system didn’t occur until a few years later but hopefully barren draft years like 2002 are a thing of the past. But looking ahead a few years, it’s not too pretty.
2003 really wasn’t much better with top pick third baseman Eric Duncan long gone from baseball. The only name that stands out to me from that draft is Washington Nationals reliever Tyler Clippard.
2004 was the year the Yankees selected pitcher Phil Hughes and can only wonder what could have been. Time will tell if he can fulfill his promise in the Twin Cities or if he was simply one of the most overhyped young players of our time.
For the Yankees, solid draft picks do not appear until 2005 which Brett Gardner and Austin Jackson were chosen. Interestingly enough, the Yankees also chose pitcher Doug Fister that year but he opted to return to college for his final year, and was taken by the Seattle Mariners the next year. Granted, Fister is currently on the Nationals’ DL, but he’d certainly look good in the Yankees rotation about now.
In 2006, the Yankees made some good choices, but it’s rather humorous that the first round pick went to Joba Chamberlain, a journeyman reliever for the Detroit Tigers, while current Yankees closer, David Robertson was selected in the 17th round. Ian Kennedy and Zach McAllister were both chosen after Chamberlain, and they are solid starting pitchers for the San Diego Padres and Cleveland Indians, respectively. Dellin Betances was also taken that year and after years of hype, he’s finally contributing as a force in the Yankees bullpen. Mark Melancon, currently the closer for the Pittsburgh Pirates due to Jason Grilli’s injury, was also a draft selection.
Of the decisions the Yankees made regarding trades, the one I didn’t like was dumping McAllister. He went to Cleveland in 2010 for Austin Kearns who only stayed in the Bronx for the remainder of the season. That trade felt like the foolish ones that we had grown accustomed to in the 1970’s and 80’s. McAllister is having a very solid year for the Indians and is another guy who would have looked great in the Yankees rotation.
I will never find fault with the decision to trade Ian Kennedy even though he almost won the Cy Young after leaving the Yankees. I just never found him to be a good fit in New York.
2007 was another disappointing draft year as the Yankees really only have catcher Austin Romine, currently at AAA Scranton/Wilkes Barre, to show for it. Top pick Andrew Brackman was coming off a major injury at the time of the selection and was never able to find his way back.
As I advance to 2008, it’s disappointing to see how poor, outside of 2006, the draft has been for the Yankees. Atop the list in ’08 is a pitcher the Yankees were unable to sign and who is now entrenched in the starting rotation for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Gerrit Cole. Talk about another guy who would have been a brilliant option for the Yankees rotation. What could have been…
This really shows how incredibly difficult it is to determine those who will be able to achieve results and success at the Major League level. It also shows how many people fail to find their way for whatever reasons.
It’s a small wonder that the Yankees have had to spend so much in the free agent market to ensure the team remains competitive. In a statement of the obvious, the Yankees would be smart to improve the quality of their scouting and development to ensure that the older players are replaced by younger, cheaper talent with high ceilings.
The Tampa Bay Rays and Kansas City Royals are solid teams because of their drafting ability. For the Yankees, they are successful despite it. I get why owner Hal Steinbrenner believes in the power of the farm system. This is not rocket science. Sustainability will only be maintained through youth and controlling costs.
Stupid is as stupid does…
The fans of the Boston Red Sox took great delight when Michael Pineda was tossed from a Yankees-Red Sox game last week due to the blatant smear of pine tar on his neck. After the fiasco caused during his previous start against the Red Sox in Yankee Stadium (“brown dirt”), he had to have known he would be under the magnifying glass. Yet, he risked detection by continuing the use of pine tar and ended up applying a more generous amount than he had intended to. So, Boston manager John Farrell had absolutely no choice but to call out Pineda. This is one instance where I felt the Red Sox were 100% correct in a controversial decision involving the Yankees. Pineda’s 10-game suspension hurts the Yankees, at a time when they’ve already lost starter Ivan Nova for the season due to an elbow injury that requires Tommy John surgery.
For a rotation that looked so strong and full of promise for a few starts, the Yankees now have to replace both Nova and Pineda, plus the top of the rotation has been questionable at times with CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda. The only source of consistency has been Masahiro Tanaka, who faces an incredibly difficult challenge today against the Los Angeles Angels and the likes of Albert Pujols and Mike Trout.
Baseball is a team-first sport and Pineda made a “me-first” decision. I hope that he learns a valuable lesson during his suspension and comes back with choices that are for the good of the team.
For the record, I do believe that Major League Baseball should allow pine tar to some degree for gripping purposes only in colder temps. But until the rules are changed, it’s a violation and should be handled accordingly. Baseball has been tolerant of discreet behavior regarding its use, but to blatantly violate the policy warrants the appropriate punishment until such a time the rules are changed.