Quite simply, a great Yankee…
One thing is assured. Yankees fans will not be enjoying any of the hoopla that fans of the San Diego Padres, Chicago White Sox, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs et al have been experiencing this off-season. The Winter of Our Discontent (hat tip to John Steinbeck) continues with the loss of starter Hiroki Kuroda, who has signed a one year deal with the Hiroshima Carp of the Japanese Leagues.
Derek Jeter, David Robertson, Francisco Cervelli, Martin Prado, David Phelps, and now Hiroki Kuroda. The Yankees have lost some great personalities from the 2014 team and it ensures that 2015 will be “different”. It remains to be seen if it will be different-good or different-bad, but will definitely be different.
I remember when Hiroki Kuroda arrived in the U.S. in his early 30’s with the Los Angeles Dodgers. I think in my mind I viewed him as nothing more than a #3 starter but I remember watching a Dodgers game a few years (with the legendary Vin Scully announcing…what a treat!). He was masterful that game. I don’t remember the outcome but I do believe it was a Kuroda win and he only gave up a few hits. I was impressed by his performance, but I don’t think I truly appreciated how great he was until he came to New York. I was so wrong. He was more than a #3 starter. He may not have been an ace, but he was the type of #2 starter every team needs. He was a stopper, and he kept his team in games consistently from game to game. After watching A.J. Burnett flame out with essentially the same spot in the rotation with his roller coaster performances, Kuroda gave us stability and an arm that could be counted on. It’s too bad the team was unable to reward him with a World Series championship. Everyone knows the high class and character of Derek Jeter, but Kuroda is every bit the man of honor.
Doug Benc/Getty Images
I am glad that Kuroda was able to be a part of Masahiro Tanaka’s first year and to help with his transition. In a way, there is a bit of an unknown in what it will be like for Tanaka without fellow countrymen Kuroda and Ichiro Suzuki on the team. This is why it would make tremendous sense to add Hideki Matsui to the coaching staff. I haven’t heard Matsui’s name mentioned as a hitting coach but what about first base? He had one of the greatest clutch bats in recent Yankees history and is well liked by his former teammates and coaches.
But back to Kuroda. I read The New York Post headline that blared “Kuroda spurns Yankees, to return to Japan”. I don’t really view this as Kuroda spurning the Yankees. It has been known his desire was to finish his playing career in Japan. The man Kuroda has proven to be is one who would want to put the best possible product on the field in front of his home country. He wouldn’t want his last year to be a pitcher who stayed a year too long. I do not view this as a spurning so much as it was a man trying to do the right thing for his fans and country. As a fan, I know the tremendous respect that he holds for both the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers organizations. Not many people can play for both and only the Yankees and Dodgers.
Masahiro Tanaka wore #18 prior to his arrival in New York. I wonder if he’ll now change his number from 19 to 18 out of respect for his mentor. Tanaka is one of the few guys worthy of wearing Kuroda’s jersey.
Here’s hoping that we see Kuroda at future Yankees Old Timer’s Day games. He will be missed and we look forward to his eventual return to stand among the Legends.
It’s a Chess game…
I wanted to see the Yankees make a move but sending Martin Prado to Miami was not exactly what I had in mind. As with my previous post, I understand why the Yankees can’t pay another $25 million per year for a top starter and how that figure balloons with the luxury cap limitations.
It’s good that the Yankees are acquiring a young arm with Nathan Eovaldi but when I heard the guy has had control problems and allowed the most hits among NL starters, I wasn’t exactly enthused. Still, there must be something in Eovaldi that Larry Rothschild and company see and know that they can tweak for more effective results (or so one would hope).
The Yankees have long needed a quality back up first baseman so adding Garrett Jones does add some pop off the bench with an ability to play first for extended periods of time.
I liked having Martin Prado on the roster given his versatility, however, if his departure means that Rob Refsnyder will get a legitimate shot at second base in the spring, then I am all for it. Jose Pirela has been hitting all winter long and looks like he can be the utility player that Ramiro Pena never was and might even be an option at second base if Refsnyder stumbles. Clearly, the Yankees do need to open starting spots for young guys and as such, the Prado trade was probably justified after the team re-signed veteran third baseman Chase Headley.
I still do not see the Yankees as more than an 85 win team (and most likely less). But as some have said, they are accomplishing the goal of getting younger. Personally, I think if this is the path they’ve chosen, then it’s best to move the most desired players to other teams for quality prospects and wait for the albatross contracts to expire.
As it stands, we’ll be watching the Chicago White Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, Los Angeles Angels, Boston Red Sox, Seattle Mariners and Detroit Tigers race for the AL Championship. I don’t expect the Baltimore Orioles to go away, but I don’t think the Yankees will be in the thick of things come September based on the current roster configuration. I am just not convinced that we’ll see the collective bounce back of the group that includes CC Sabathia, Brian McCann, Alex Rodriguez, Carlos Beltran and Mark Teixeira. Chances are that one or more will spend a significant amount of time on the DL and the Yankees will be searching for replacements in AAA and on the scrap heap.
Would Max Scherzer change that outlook? No, probably not. The Yankees need a vast overhaul and it’s probably going to take a few years just to flush the toilet. The Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers have been able to maneuver very quickly to unload dead weight but the Yankees have too much of it.
The worst thing the Yankees could do at this point is to sign a veteran infielder like Asdrubal Cabrera to play second. I don’t want to see a placeholder at the position. I’d rather see a player with strong long term potential. No more Mark Reynolds fill-ins. It is time to develop the future core of the team.
I would love nothing more than to see a guy like Tyler Austin come to spring and force the Yankees to play him in right field. Carlos Beltran should be the full-time DH at this stage of his career, not Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod should be playing somewhere in Siberia. If there is one move that would make me truly ecstatic this off-season, it would be to find a way to eliminate A-Rod’s presence. If I was a billionaire, I’d gladly give another team $61 million to take him off my hands.
Chris Capuano qualifies as one of those Mark Reynolds fill-ins, but of course, he’ll be the first to go if Ivan Nova successfully returns in May or June. The wild card that I like is to finally see Manny Banuelos fulfill his destiny of reaching the Bronx. He is now far enough removed from his Tommy John surgery that 2015 should be his potential breakout year ala Dellin Betances. If the Yankees broke camp with Banuelos in the starting rotation over Capuano, I’d be very happy.
I am sure that there are still more moves to be made, but at least the Yankees are finally doing something even if we do not yet fully understand the plan.
Meanwhile, Boston Red Sox fans continue to gloat…
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.
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.
Realistically, there was no way the Yankees could have been players at the trading deadline. Despite the usual rumors tying the Yankees to David Price, Tampa Bay was not going to trade their prized pitcher to New York, only to have him haunt them for years. It was potentially an opportunity for the Rays to strip the Yankees cupboards bare but that would have been foolish on the Yankees’ part.
Ditto for the Boston Red Sox. If there was the slightest possibility the Rays would have considered moving Price to New York, there was none when it came to Boston. There is no circumstance that would allow their pride to part with one of their core players to the hated Yankees. Yes, the Yankees were able to pick up Stephen Drew, but he has not been a vital part of the success of the Red Sox in recent years.
Interestingly enough, Boston’s trade of Lester to the Oakland A’s increases the possibility that he becomes a Yankee next year in my opinion. Oakland will not pony up the necessary dollars and I am not sure that Boston would get any hometown discount (if there ever would have been one to begin with). I am sure that the Los Angeles Dodgers will make a play for Lester and I would not underestimate the Seattle Mariners since Lester is a Northwest native.
If, by chance, Lester does return to Boston in the off-season as a free agent, it would be quite a coup to land Yoenis Cespedes for a two month rental of Lester to the A’s.
Back to the Yankees, there really wasn’t a blockbuster deal in the cards for them. The pitchers they were linked to (most notably John Danks) all have their own question marks and the Yankees would still have had to overpay. So, all things considered, losing C/1B prospect Peter O’Brien (in the deal to acquire Martin Prado from the Arizona Diamondbacks) was a small price to pay. The Yankees have no shortage of replacement prospects for O’Brien (he wasn’t going to be a catcher and his departure allowed the Yankees to promote 1B Greg Bird to AA). Kelly Johnson for Stephen Drew made sense as Johnson wasn’t really being used by the Yankees, and Stephen Drew gets an audition as a potential 2015 replacement for the retiring Derek Jeter even if he’ll be out of position (2B instead of SS) for the next two months.
Drew’s arrival (a surprise given that it involved an infrequent trade with Boston) spelled the end of the line for former Baltimore Orioles great Brian Roberts. Roberts seemed like a good guy but the Yankees needed more at 2B. Drew, even though he had never played 2B at the major league level, was still an upgrade at a position that has been sorely lacking since the day Robinson Cano signed in Seattle. I wish that Drew had a stronger bat, but his athleticism seems to play well on defense.
Prado is a great all purpose guy but not exactly what I had envisioned for right field. Yet, he’s an improvement over the aging Ichiro Suzuki. I heard the Yankees had tried to acquire Dustin Ackley from the Seattle Mariners before they turned their sights on Prado. Apparently, Seattle’s request for minor league pitcher Bryan Mitchell was a deal breaker. That’s too bad because I’ve long thought that Ackley would fit well with the Yankees. Personally, I would have given up Mitchell to get Ackley.
The Yankees did need help on offense and even if they weren’t flashy moves, the additions of Drew and Prado were upgrades. But I had really hoped the Yankees would have been able to secure an additional arm for the rotation which didn’t happen. But I never wanted to see a deal that involved losing top prospects so perhaps it was best that nothing happened. Clearly, the Yankees are not going to win a World Series this year unless they get ridiculously lucky in the next couple of months. As it stands, they’d be easily dismissed by either Oakland or Detroit.
It’s possible the Yankees made a waiver deal or two this month, but I seriously doubt there will be any major additions. Win or lose, this is the 2014 Yankees.
It is early in Chase Headley’s Yankee career, however, I really like what I’ve seen so far. Granted, he doesn’t bring a monster bat, but his defensive plays have been something that has been missing from Yankee Stadium for many years. There’s no doubt I prefer Headley over Alex Rodriguez and I hope the Yankees decide to bring Headley back next year.
Considering that Yangervis Solarte has been hitting with consistency since he arrived in San Diego, the Headley trade is one of those that seems to have worked out well for both teams involved.
With the acquisitions of Drew and Prado, it was interesting how it reunited former teammates. For Drew, it was a reunion with former Red Sox centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury and lefty specialist Matt Thornton. He was traded for a close friend, Kelly Johnson, a former teammate when they were both in Arizona. Ironically, I read that Drew and Johnson were together in Drew’s home when news of the trade broke. I am sure that probably hasn’t happened too often.
For Prado, he was teammates in Atlanta with catcher Brian McCann and first baseman Mark Teixeira.
Even Carlos Beltran was able to catch up with old friends, even though they are playing in the opposing dugout with former Cardinals teammates Allen Craig and Joe Kelly. It wasn’t that long ago Beltran, Craig and Kelly were playing in the World Series, along with now Boston reliever Edward Mujica, against the Red Sox at Fenway Park.
Assimilating with a new team…
When Wednesday’s games were over, I am sure that Stephen Drew’s mind was on the upcoming series against the Yankees. So, when Thursday’s trade put him in the opposite dugout, I wonder how long it takes to drop the loyalty to the former team. Not that I would think Drew would do anything to hurt the Yankees’ chances to beat the Red Sox but I wonder if there is a part of you that quietly roots for your former teammates. When you are used to cheering the home team at Fenway, does that feeling automatically leave because you are suddenly wearing a different uniform? For Drew, when he played second base for the Yankees on Friday night, he had much deeper and more meaningful relationships with the Red Sox than he did with his own teammates. He’ll develop those friendships on the team in time, but it just seems to me that it would be very difficult to change loyalties at the drop of a hat.
I watched a little of Jon Lester’s debut with the Oakland A’s on Saturday. Admittedly, Lester looked a little strange in Oakland’s uniform. Jeff Samardzija looked more at ease than Lester did during their respective debuts, but it didn’t show up in Lester’s performance as he beat the Kansas City Royals while the Red Sox were losing to the Yankees.
USA Today Sports
David Price’s debut as a Detroit Tiger takes place this week against the Yankees. As if they didn’t see Price enough while he was with the Rays. Oh well, to be the best, you have to beat the best or so they say…