What’s the plan?…
Well, it’s January 2015. The Yankees roster is slowly evolving. The latest addition/return was the surprise re-signing of Stephen Drew which certainly makes sense. While I still prefer to see Rob Refsnyder win the second base job outright, Drew certainly provides great insurance at both second base and shortstop. It’s no sure thing that Didi Gregorius will be successful and I’d prefer not to see Brendan Ryan as the only other choice, even if he is a slick fielder.
I am still concerned about the starting rotation. Reading CC Sabathia say the knee is fine is hardly a ringing endorsement that he’ll be the CC of old. I think best case he is a strong #3 in the rotation if he is able to come back healthy. His days as the team’s ace are over…in my opinion. The hope of the rotation lies with Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda. Obviously, there are health concerns with both pitchers. Even though Ivan Nova will return later in the year, I do not expect him to be back up to par until 2016. Nathan Eovaldi is the project. The Yankees apparently think they can turn him around and perhaps they can. It would be good to get him to the point that he is as reliable and consistent as Hiroki Kuroda was.
While I get why the Yankees will not pay $200 million for Max Scherzer, I wish they would make a play for James Shields. With a rotation containing so much uncertainty, the Yankees really need a dependable starter without question marks.
I have heard some rumblings that the Yankees now have the prospects to make a trade for Cole Hamels, but I am not sure that’s one I would pursue. I like prospects such as Aaron Judge and Luis Severino and want to see them succeed in pinstripes. It was tough when I was a kid and the Yankees were always trading youth for veterans. Doug Drabek, Jay Buhner, Fred McGriff, Al Leiter, J.T. Snow, Brad Ausmus. I know the list is much longer than this, but it was tough watching guys like that succeed elsewhere.
I don’t think that Cole Hamels would be the missing ingredient to suddenly make the Yankees the World Series favorites. So, if he is not the difference maker, then the Yankees shouldn’t raid the cupboards to bring him aboard. I’d rather see Hamels go to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The fear of course is that he’ll be calling Fenway Park home next season.
At this point, I still do not see the 2015 Yankees making the play-offs. I think the Baltimore Orioles will still be the team to beat. They suffered off-season losses, yes, but they’ll also be getting back Manny Machado, Chris Davis and Matt Wieters. The Toronto Blue Jays look to be the most improved team and they’ve been a team of potential for a few years. Boston will be stronger, and it’s best to never underestimate the Tampa Bay Rays even if Joe Maddon and Andrew Friedman are no longer calling the shots.
There’s still time for GM Brian Cashman to make the moves to propel the Yankees into contention but so much is riding on better seasons from Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, and Mark Teixeira. Of the group, McCann is the only one I feel is capable for turning it around. Beltran and Teixeira are in their decline years, and that slippery slope is steeper for some guys.
Hear the voice of the Bard!…
There’s a nice piece in Nick Cafardo’s column today (Sunday Baseball Notes in The Boston Globe) about the comeback of Daniel Bard. It would be good to see Bard successfully return to his position of bullpen relevance after years of struggle. Perhaps that’s a buy low signing the Yankees should pursue. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. There was a time when Bard was a Yankees draft pick although he never signed. Even if he goes back to Boston or another team, I truly hope that Bard is successful.
Short walk to the Hall…
Congratulations to the Hall of Fame inductees: John Smoltz, Randy Johnson, Craig Biggio, and Pedro Martinez. I think all of the selections were justified. It was sad that it was the final ballot appearance for Don Mattingly, but it was a given that he was not going to make it. Maybe he can take the Joe Torre route…great managerial success to go with a strong playing career…to gain access to the Hall.
25 years is long enough…
Put me in the group of people who want to see Pete Rose allowed to enter the Hall of Fame. He remains one of the best players I’ve been privileged to see play in my lifetime. This is not an endorsement of Pete the man and I feel what he did was wrong, however, Pete the player was one of the best players of all-time.
I am glad that this is the last full month without any baseball activity. Looking forward to the opening of spring training camps next month.
How to build an 80-win team…
The Boston Red Sox have gotten stronger with the recent additions of Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, and most likely, the re-signing of their former ace Jon Lester in the coming weeks. The Toronto Blue Jays quietly signed catcher Russell Martin (a significant upgrade over Dioner Navarro) and last night, pulled off a major trade for arguably one of the best third basemen in the game in Josh Donaldson of the Oakland A’s. The cost for Donaldson was Brett Lawrie and prospects. Given Lawrie’s inability to stay healthy, this trade provides further enhancement for a team that has held promise for a few years.
Lance Iversen, The Chronicle
Then there’s the Baltimore Orioles. They may not have made any big moves but they are still the AL East champs until proven otherwise.
I am not sure what’s going on with the Tampa Bay Rays. They will be losing a great potential manager in bench coach Dave Martinez when they finally name a replacement for Joe Maddon and the team no longer has the feeling of eternal optimism that it had when Maddon and former GM Andrew Friedman were running the show. So, we’ll leave them out of the equation.
So, clearly, the Blue Jays and Red Sox are determined to challenge the Orioles’ hold on the division championship. Meanwhile, in the Bronx, just crickets…
Last winter, the Yankees were quiet at the beginning of the off-season but then launched a flurry of signings in December that netted Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Carlos Beltran. It was a lot of money, but it still had the feeling the money could have been better spent. Of course, if the Yankees would have just paid Russell Martin a few years ago rather than allow him to leave as a free agent, the Yankees could have gotten him much cheaper than the deal they signed McCann to (or the one Martin ultimately signed with the Jays). Ellsbury is a known risk given his injury risk. He held up fairly well in his first season in pinstripes, and I like having him on the team. But the truth is the Yankees had a center fielder on the roster at the time in Brett Gardner and would have been better served going after a bat for left field. Beltran has been a great major leaguer but his age simply does not bode well for staying healthy.
Now, I could write major concerns with Ramirez and Sandoval, but the Red Sox are dealing from a position of strength and have loosened some major league players, combined with quality prospects, to make a major trade to further strengthen the team (such as a move for the Philadelphia Phillies ace Cole Hamels). The Yankees last year were just trying to fill holes.
I am surprised that the Yankees have not been linked in any way with star free agents Jon Lester and Max Scherzer. Clearly, either one would immediately enhance the Yankees’ chances in 2015. They need to find answers for other positions (third base, shortstop and the bullpen) but a high end rotation is a must for any team to succeed. As it stands, there are too many questions with Masahiro Tanaka’s elbow, Michael Pineda’s ability to stay healthy or if CC Sabathia is riding the major downslope of his career.
The Yankees need to sign either Scherzer or Lester, and retain the free agent trio of Brandon McCarthy, Chase Headley, and David Robertson. With this off-season of inactivity, it feels like the Yankees are going to lose out on all of the above. At least today, two days after Thanksgiving.
I remain hopeful that Rob Refsnyder wins the second base job in spring training. As for shortstop, the easiest solution is to re-sign Stephen Drew. It’s really too bad that the organization was unable to develop a high level shortstop prospect in time for Derek Jeter’s departure. Jorge Mateo looks like a strong possibility but he’s years away from being ready for the major league level. So, the Yankees are best served finding a short-term solution like Drew and hope for a bounce back year with a full training camp. I’d prefer that over a trade that could potentially cost what high level talent the Yankees do have in the upper levels of the minor league system.
If the Yankees do nothing, they’ll be battling the Rays for last place. If they merely try to fill holes with cheaper alternatives, they’ll still be cellar rats. Something has to give….soon.
I agree with Hal Steinbrenner when he says that you don’t need a $200 million payroll to win but the Yankees roster as currently constructed is not championship-caliber in my opinion. Too much risk and uncertainty, and players who’ve seen their better days. Alex Rodriguez is such a huge albatross and it’s a shame that he is now the “face” of the team.
Hopefully, Brian Cashman and the Steinbrenner boys have a plan in place that is driven for success and not merely a bean counter’s approach to fielding a team.
Time will tell, as it often does (as the saying goes)…
The high “Price” of success…
The majority of the Yankees starting rotation is gone, with Hiroki Kuroda as the last man standing. Honestly, I keep expecting reports that Kuroda has been lost for the year and perhaps his career as this is most likely his final year in Major League Baseball.
I am not ready to declare Brandon McCarthy as a top of the rotation starter after Brian McCann’s comments to the same effect following McCarthy’s debut win as Yankee yesterday but will acknowledge that he is at the top of the rotation with this Yankees staff. That’s why it is amazing the Yankees are two games over .500 at this point in the season. It is certainly a testament to Joe Girardi’s managerial ability. But as it stands, it is not sustainable and by Brian Cashman’s own admission, the team needs starting pitching.
Bill Kostroun/New York Post
I have such mixed feelings on this subject because I do not believe there is a move that can be made that would propel this Yankee team to the World Series. Well, there’s moves that could be made to give the Yankees “something” for “nothing”, but of course that’s not going to happen. I am watching the increasingly glowing reports about minor league pitcher Luis Severino, and there is part of me that wonders how much is legitimate and how much is the Yankees PR machine. He is a quality talent, don’t get me wrong, but of course, the Yankees will ‘enhance’ the images of its young future stars given the lack of quality major league ready talent at the upper levels of the farm system.
But with that being said, I don’t want to see Severino, or Peter O’Brien or Gary Sanchez or Rob Refsnyder or any other quality prospect headed to another team for an aging overpaid player that has seen his best years and is a short term option since it still will not mean a World Series and the Yankees will regret having those players in future years. David Price is one of the few quality exceptions that I’d make, but despite the talk, there’s no way the Tampa Bay Rays trade with the Yankees. From Tampa’s perspective, I’d only do it if I knew that I could clean out New York’s quality prospects and damage the organization for years to come.
Even if the Yankees bring in pitching upgrades for the starting rotation, you still can’t win games if you do not score runs.
Open audition for Closer’s role?…
With impending free agency for Mariano Rivera successor David Robertson and the lack of any discussions, I wonder if the team is evaluating whether Robertson or the breakout performer Dellin Betances is better suited for the role long term. Robertson has done a great job but Betances is younger (albeit by a few years) and he casts a far more imposing presence on the mound by virtue of his height and size (6’8”, 260 lbs) compared to the smaller, more slender Robertson (5’11”, 195).
Barton Silverman/The New York Times
There’s also the cost factor as Betances will be the cheaper option and the Yankees will need those dollars to upgrade other areas of the team for its 2015 rebuild.
Robertson has done much better than I thought he did. There have been a couple of hiccups but even the great Rivera had a few of those. It’s part of the life of a closer. But he’s been more successful than not and consistency in the role is the key. I’d like to see Robertson stay as the knockout punch of Betances-Robertson is a good one. But of course, I liked the knockout punch of Mariano Rivera-John Wetteland in 1996 but the decision to let Wetteland walk turned out alright.
This will be an interesting off-season for the Yankees with so many decisions to make. I am still not convinced that Brian Cashman will be the GM beyond this year. The only certainty I can project is that Joe Girardi will be back. Well, that and Derek Jeter is headed to the Hall of Fame. But beyond that, I am sure there will be a series of moves again this off-season as the team tries to recapture its glory. The 2014 Yankees are certainly not one that you would stand pat for.
Farewell to a Champion…
Okay, this is not baseball related, but I was saddened to see the news of the passing of actor James Garner. As a child, I used to regularly watch The Rockford Files and would catch old episodes of Maverick on syndication. Garner had such a great sense of “coolness” that he brought to the roles of Jim Rockford and Bret Maverick, and his happy-go-lucky attitude was always so refreshing. This has been a difficult year in terms of the losses we’ve seen. Celebrity deaths have been almost a frequent as pitchers requiring Tommy John surgery. A sad day but Garner made a difference with his life and that’s something all of us aspire to do…
Where’s the reset button?…
2014 has been a year of disappointment for many. Pitchers are lining up for Tommy John surgery at an alarming rate and proven star performers like Prince Fielder and Bryce Harper are on the DL.
Certainly, the Boston Red Sox rank of one of the year’s greatest disappointments (as discussed in Nick Cafardo’s column today in the Boston Globe). I realize the team has struggled with the losses of Jacoby Ellsbury and Jared Saltalamacchia, but the effort and focus of the team collectively seems to be lacking. I know, a Yankee fan making negative comments about the Red Sox…shocking. But still, watch the 15th inning of yesterday’s Sox-Rays game seemed to be a microcosm of Boston’s season. While everyone was critical of reliever Andrew Miller’s errant throw at second base that allowed Tampa Bay to score the winning run, it was an earlier play that I felt was equally as critical. The Rays laid down a perfect bunt toward third and Miller had the closest line to the ball, yet he pulled up and didn’t make an attempt for it. It appeared to me that they would have been able to record an out had Miller gone for the ball, but instead the runners advanced. Sure, the loss cannot be placed on Miller alone. But it was a random sample of what ails the Sox.
Kim Klement/USA Today Sports
I know better than to ever underestimate the Red Sox. They’ve overcome adversity too often to think their season is done. But they need to find the “magic” soon if they intend to defend their crown.
Battling to stay above .500…
Of course, as I write about the Red Sox, my team…the Yankees…have their own problems. Entering the season, there were two primary concerns: the infield and the bullpen.
The latter has become a strength with the emergence of young relievers like Dellin Betances and Adam Warren. I have lost no sleep about Joba Chamberlain being in Detroit, whlle Betances has become a late inning force. David Robertson has been very effective as Mariano Rivera’s replacement (regardless of the two run walk-off home run by Chicago’s Adam Dunn the other night). But time will tell how long it will hold up with the collapse…at least injury-wise…of the starting rotation. With CC Sabathia, ivan Nova and Michael Pineda on the DL, the bullpen has lost reliable arms to the rotation (Vidal Nuno and David Phelps). The Yankees ability to find a permanent solution for the losses of Sabathia and Nova and the successful return of Pineda will go a long way toward determining where the Yankees will be in late September.
The infield has been as expected. Sure, Yangervis Solarte has been a pleasant surprise but I do not realistically expect him to keep it up for the duration of the season. Brian Roberts, to no surprise, is nicked up and hasn’t played for a couple of games. Kelly Johnson is a better role player than starter. But sadly, the biggest disappointment might be Derek Jeter. A sure-fire first ballot Hall of Famer, Derek is unquestionably on his last legs. I am not trying to knock Jeter but he’s just as susceptible to age as the rest of us. Only Mariano Rivera was exempt…
So, it becomes a question of what changes can be made at what price…and when?…
The end of the streak…
In a way, it was good to see Masahiro Tanaka finally lose his first regular season game since 2012. The streak was becoming the focus and with it, a distraction. Everyone has a bad day and Tanaka is no exception. But now, he can just pitch and continue to improve his game without the added pressure of maintaining the streak.
The loss was inevitable and the many storylines about it have been written. Let’s move on.
Jerry Lai/USA Today Sports
The Boy Who Cried Wolf…
Now that Kim Kardashian’s wedding in Florence, Italy is over, I wonder what she’ll do for her next wedding when she gets re-married…
24: Live Another Day…
To some, that title refers to the upcoming 12-episode FOX TV Series with Kiefer Sutherland returning as Jack Bauer, but it is also has some parallels with the current state of the Yankees. 24 is the continuation of the roster size until Sunday when Michael Pineda’s suspension ends and he is subsequently placed on the DL. 24 was the return of Robinson Cano to New York even though he now wears #22. 24 seems like the length of yesterday’s 14-inning loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. 24 is the description of the day by day adventure that is a major league baseball season.
Clearly, the Yankees are in a funk right now with a shortened two game sweep by Cano and the Seattle Mariners, followed by last night’s series opening loss to the Rays.
There was a brief stretch earlier in the season where I was feeling very confident with the starting rotation but that lasted about one cycle through the rotation as the Yankees lost Ivan Nova for the season due to Tommy John surgery and Michael Pineda to suspension and subsequently an injured back. So, Vidal Nuno becomes the #4 starter with David Phelps filling the role of the last man in the rotation. If CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda were pitching to their proven levels, it would be a different story but they are not. So, it places so much more focus on the back end. Right now, there is only one starter that conveys a sense of confidence. It doesn’t mean that he’ll win every time out, but you feel as though you’ll have the best possible chance for success. That pitcher, of course, is Japanese import Masahiro Tanaka who has been everything as advertised. I hate to think where the Yankees rotation would be if he was a Chicago Cub or a Los Angeles Dodger. We’d probably be bracing for the return of Freddy Garcia at this point.
The Yankees need to do something. With Nuno and Phelps in the rotation, the bullpen, which had actually started to gel after some early concerns, is a mess. Nuno strikes me as no more than a good long man, not a starter. I think Phelps has promise but relying on the combo of Nuno-Phelps is too much. The Yankees need to find a proven starter, somewhere…somehow, so that they can push, ideally, Nuno back to the pen. Of course, where that starter is going to come from is anybody’s guess. It’s not exactly like the Detroit Tigers are going to hand Max Scherzer to the Yanks. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the return of Alfredo Aceves to the Bronx. It’s too bad that Manny Banuelos didn’t develop as planned as this would have been a good time for him to make his introduction into the major leagues if he hadn’t encountered injury along his path. He may still make it one day but unfortunately, he’s not an answer right now. He’s probably not an answer but you gotta love Graham Stoneburner’s name if nothing else about his game. Hopefully, the Yankees can make some necessary improvements now rather than having to wait until closer to the July trading deadline.
Death, Taxes, and MLB Injuries…
This has been a tough year for injuries given how many pitchers have had to have Tommy John surgery, and frontline players like Bryce Harper and Jason Kipnis currently on the disabled list. While the Yankees have been plagued with injuries, they are fortunate it hasn’t been more severe. Losing Nova for 12-18 months hurts, but still, it could be worse. These are the times that GM Brian Cashman is asked to prove his mettle. How he responds to the Yankees current situation will shape the remainder of the season. As presently constructed, I am not sure that this is a team that will be knocking in October. It was an older, vulnerable team that has had to deal with injuries and one without able, capable young bodies in the farm system ready and capable to make their mark in The Show. But, as the saying goes, time will tell as it often does…
The (new) Yankee Stadium hits leader in road gray…
Speaking of Robinson Cano, I had mixed feelings about his return to the Bronx. There was criticism directed at him in the form of the very loud boos and chants against him, but the louder the Bronx cheers, the more you realize how much the player meant to the fans. I hated to see Cano leave but I felt and continue to feel the Yankees made the right decision not to match the Mariners’ $240 million offer. It wasn’t about disrespect, but rather a decision that was in the best interests of the long-term health of the team roster through the next 10 years. I had no issue with the fans booing and it was clear that Cano was prepared to handle it. His appearance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon illustrated how ready he was to confront the fans. The clip where fans thought they were booing a picture of Cano only to have the real thing step out was classic. It also showed that how much we may boo Cano and how unhappy we were he didn’t take less money to stay in pinstripes, the bottom line is that he is a quality human being and he sets a good example for the game.
Naturally, I hope he fails in Seattle. Okay, not really. I recognize that he is the best at his position. That won’t be the case in 7-8 years and perhaps the Yankees will have found their long term answer at the position by then. It was good to see Cano back in the Bronx and despite the sweep, I do wish him well. But, when he returns to the Bronx the next time, I will boo him. Sorry, it’s just what we do…
Have a wonderful weekend!
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.
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…