Tagged: Robinson Cano

You win some, you lose some, i.e., 2014 Yankees…

Mediocrity continues…

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.

Boston Red Sox shortstop Stephen Drew can't make

AP

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.

Chasing A-Rod…

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.

New Yankee Chase Headley belts game-winning single in 14th

Getty Images

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.

Friendships revisited…

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.

AP/John Bazemore

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.

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Oakland Athletics

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…

–Scott

 

Sometimes Money Does Matter…

The Hunger Games…

When the Yankees said they were going to be big spenders during the opening signing period for international prospects, I still didn’t imagine how aggressive they would be. Based on MLB.com’s list of top international prospects, the Yankees have apparently signed five of the top ten players:

• Dermis Garcia, SS, Dominican Republic, #1
• Nelson Gomes, 3B, Dominican Republic, #2
• Juan De Leon, OF, Dominican Republic, #5
• Jonathan Amundaray, OF, Venezuela, #7
• Antonio Arias, OF, Venezuela, #9

In the second ten (11-20), they grabbed three shortstops:

• Hyo-Jun Park, SS, Korea, #13
• Wilkerman Garcia, SS, Venezuela, #14
• Diego Castilla, SS, Venezuela, #16

They also signed the #25 player in catcher Miguel Flames, Venezuela.

At first pass, it seems like a number of shortstops but I’ve read that Dermis Garcia will eventually be a corner infielder and Wilkerman Garcia may be switched to second base.

Dermis Garcia, the prized signing, represents the most the Yankees have spent on the international market since they signed top catching prospect Gary Sanchez in 2009. Garcia received $3.2 million, while Sanchez received $3.0 million.

It’s interesting that Garcia was born in 1998, perhaps the greatest year of the modern Yankees era.

I can still remember when the Yankees selected an 18-year-old Derek Jeter out of Kalamazoo, Michigan. Hopefully, the 16 year-old Garcia will be a presence in pinstripes for more than 20 years too.

Of course, while the Yankees were focused on position players, the Boston Red Sox quietly signed the top two pitchers in Christopher Acosta, Dominican Republic, and Anderson Espinoza, Venezuela.

I thought it was a telling choice in the selection of the catcher (Flames). The Yankees seems overloaded with catching prospects and the Flames arrival is probably the prelude to the inclusion of another catching prospect such as Sanchez or John Ryan Murphy in a potential trade this month. I would not want to lose Sanchez for a middle-of-the-road starting pitcher but if the return were say someone like David Price, then I am all in.

With the international signings at approximately $14 million, the cost could be as much as $30 million with penalties plus the Yankees will be non-players in the next two signing periods as they’ll be restricted to no more than $300,000 per player. But with their aggressive approach this year, the Yankees have infused significant future talent into the lower levels of the farm system.

The future is now…

I saw a reference that Park would be the first Korean-born Yankee but that’s unfair to AAA second baseman Rob Refsnyder. Although raised in CA since he was 3 months, he was born in Seoul, South Korea to Korean parents. So I’d say Refsnyder will be the first Korean Yankee. Speaking of Refsnyder, I seriously hope that his Bronx arrival is sooner rather than later. The Yankees need to upgrade second base. Brian Roberts was once a great player but he’ll never be that guy again. Why not go with a younger player who has upside potential? The sooner we can put Robinson Cano in the rear view mirror, the better.

What have you done for me lately?…

So much for the rags to riches story for career minor leaguer Yangervis Solarte. After a terrific start to the season, he has been non-existent for the past month and it earned him a free ride to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. His replacement is actually an older career minor leaguer, Zelous Wheeler, so we’ll see how this goes. If it were me, I would have brought up Refsnyder. But there’s a reason that Brian Cashman is GM and I am not, so I’ll just have to have faith in the decision.

Too little, too late?…

Honestly, I am not sure there is anything the Yankees can do to save this season. They are a game under .500 entering play tonight and have played with virtually no offense. They only win if they can hold the opponent to a couple of runs or less. Robinson Cano is one player that could ignite the offense but obviously there’s no way the Seattle Mariners are going to give him up. In retrospect, the Yankees should have overpaid to keep Cano. Alfonso Soriano was that kind of player at times last year but he’s been in a season long slump that almost certainly means this is his final year in pinstripes. I thought that Brian McCann would be hitting by now but he is showing that he’s one of those guys who needs a long acclimation process to the Bronx. Carlos Beltran is merely showing that he is a 36-year-old outfielder. The other off-season right field option, Shin Choo-Soo, has fared no better in Texas.

At this moment, the Detroit Tigers stand as the team to beat in the American League. For the past couple of weeks, they’ve been invincible and easily handled the second best Oakland A’s this week. Joba Chamberlain is probably loving life at the top.

While I recognize the Yankees will make a move this month, I hope that they do not trade any top prospects unless the return is top shelf (i.e., David Price). I’d hate to lose Gary Sanchez and still finish 3rd or 4th in the AL East.

Oh well, tonight the Yankees play Phil Hughes in Minneapolis. Let’s hope the results are better than the last time they saw Hughes in the Bronx when he and the Minnesota Twins dominated the Yanks.

–Scott

It is high, it is far, it is caught…

A penny for your hits…

What does it take to buy a hit?  Apparently not the $45 million the Yankees paid to Carlos Beltran or the $85 mil to Brian McCann or $175 million for former Sox centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury.  This season has been a struggle for wins despite the team’s winning record.  It was finally starting to feel a little better at 29-25 but then the Yankees promptly lost 4 in a row.

 

 

Playing a good team like the Oakland A’s, the Yankees bullpen failed miserably until the final game of the series when David Robertson locked away a win for ace Masahiro Tanaka.  That bleeding started in the series with the Minnesota Twins and was inevitable with the short innings being provided by the replacement starters (i.e., David Phelps, Vidal Nuno and Chase Whitley).  When the Yankees are only scoring 1 or 2 runs a game, the starters need to throw a gem almost every outing which obviously is not realistic given the current state of arms.

I thought the Yankees should have aggressively tried to sign Stephen Drew before the Boston Red Sox re-signed him, and now I feel the same way about slugger Kendrys Morales.  Now that there is no longer draft pick compensation tied to him since the MLB started yesterday, I felt the Yankees should go after him.  Maybe they are, but there’s competition.  Based on yesterday’s first draft pick for the Yankees in the second, had they signed Morales earlier, the cost would have been lefty reliever Jacob Lindgren who is already projected to make an appearance in the Yankees bullpen this year.  But now it’s an open field for Morales and the Yankees have reluctance, wanting to see how Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran perform.  In my opinion, the odds of one or both going back to the DL at some point is very high, and the designated hitter, Alfonso Soriano, is not hitting, so I would aggressively pursue Morales to cover 1B/DH.  Ironically, Morales is the guy the Los Angeles Angels turned to when Mark Teixeira left as a free agent.  It worked out well for the Angels and I think it can work out well for the Yankees.  No ifs, ands, or buts, the Yankees need a proven consistent run producer in the middle of the order.  I agree with those who say the Yankees sorely miss Robinson Cano’s bat.  Ironically, the Yankees were also unable to re-sign another slugger having a good year in Milwaukee this year (Mark Reynolds) despite the usual anemic batting average.  Those home runs would look pretty good about now in Yankee Stadium.

 Courtesy:  hailstate.com

On nights the Yankees are scoring only a run or getting shut out, I even see guys like Milwaukee’s Lyle Overbay, another 2013 Yankee, driving in a couple of runs for his new team.  And of course, who delivered the key hit in the Yankees last game with the Twins when the Yankees bullpen collapsed in the late innings?  None other than former backup shortstop Eduardo Nunez.

At this point, the Toronto Blue Jays are starting to run away with the division.  They are clearly playing like the class of the division and they just came off a very successful series against perennial AL contender Detroit.  If I had to pick two teams playing in the ALCS right now, I’d pick the Blue Jays and the Oakland A’s.  If the Yankees do not figure out how to fix the current offensive drought, they really will be offensive and done for the season in September.

Not everybody was meant to be Mariano Rivera…

Nothing against David Robertson but I am still not sold on him as the team’s closer.  Sure, replacing Mariano Rivera is big shoes to fill.  However, I still think that Robertson’s stuff plays best in a Set Up role.  I have been intrigued with the possibility of trying Dellin Betances in the role, but he needs more major league experience so maybe next year.  The reliever the Yankees picked yesterday (Jacob Lindgren) is also a future possibility.  If Robertson blows a few more games like he did against Minnesota, I’d really consider using Andrew Bailey in the role when he gets healthy…for now.

I love you, I love you not…

Speaking of former Yankees thriving outside of New York, both Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain seem to be doing fine.  Hughes even captured a victory in the Bronx with the aforementioned bullpen collapse, a place that he couldn’t buy a win last year.  Chamberlain has a couple of saves and a decent ERA.  I can’t say that I’ve watched him too closely but his stats seem to say that all is good.  Why couldn’t have these guys performed like this last year?  Rhetorical question and of course, there is something to be said about the pressure of playing in New York.  It’s not for everyone.

Farewell to a champion…

It was sound to hear about the passing of former Yankees bench coach Don Zimmer this week.  The image of Zim sitting next to Joe Torre on the Yankees bench is forever burned into my memory.  He was such a part of those late 90’s championships and he helped mold Torre into a Hall of Fame manager and one who will soon have his number retired in Memorial Park.  I realize that sooner or later, all of us must depart.  But still, it is sad to see Zim go now.  I understand he had been in poor health since April and hopefully he is now at peace.  He will be missed as he was truly one of Major League Baseball’s landmarks.

 Courtesy:  Keith Torrie/New York Daily News Archive/Getty Images

–Scott

Day by day is life in the Bronx…

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!

 

–Scott

Fear becomes Reality…

 

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.

–Scott

 

Ready or not, here’s the 2014 New York Yankees!…

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.

Starting rotation:

  1.        CC Sabathia
  2.        Hiroki Kuroda
  3.        Ivan Nova
  4.        Masahiro Tanaka
  5.        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.

Closer:

  1.        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.

Setup:

  1.        Shawn Kelley
  2.        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.

Lefty specialist:

  1.        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.

Long relief:

  1.        David Phelps
  2.        Adam Warren
  3.        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.

Catcher:

  1.        Brian McCann
  2.        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.

First base:

  1.        Mark Teixeira

Let’s just say that I am cautiously optimistic there are no lingering problems related to last year’s wrist injury.

Second base:

  1.        Brian Roberts
  2.        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.

Shortstop:

  1.        Derek Jeter
  2.        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.

Third base:

  1.        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.

Left field:

  1.        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.

Center field:

  1.        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.

Right field:

  1.        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.

DH:

  1.        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:

  1.        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…

 

–Scott

 

With a New Year, brings New Hope!…

 

Happy New Year to all Baseball Fans!…

January 1, 2014.  Time to replace the calendars.  With the arrival of the New Year, it brings optimism for baseball fans everywhere as they anticipate whether or not their team has done enough to ensure October success.  Boston fans dream of a back-to-back championship, while others hope they can be the ones to de-throne the defending champs.  In January, anything is possible, although arguably some teams have a much better chance than others. 

As a Yankees fan, it has been a bittersweet off-season.  The team finally made some bold moves after a couple of years of inactivity in signing Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Carlos Beltran, but the loss of Robinson Cano will hurt.  The team still has not done enough to improve the starting rotation nor has it repaired the losses in the pen.

I thought the Washington Nationals did a good job in bringing in Doug Fister for its starting rotation.  He was a solid performer for the Detroit Tigers and he should help provide back-end stability for the frontline starters. 

The Boston Red Sox did well in re-signing Mike Napoli.  He is a great role performer and he seems to thrive in the Fenway environment, however, I am not sure that A.J. Pierzynski makes up for the loss of Jarrod Saltalamacchia.  I think they’ll be okay losing Jacoby Ellsbury if Jackie Bradley, Jr is able to take the next step up in his promising career.  While it remains questionable whether Stephen Drew will be back or will be playing in Citi Field, any team would love to have Xander Bogaerts standing ready to take over the shortstop position.  Regardless of what happens, I think the Red Sox will be a force in 2014 and won’t relinquish their crown easily. 

The Minnesota Twins showed an unusual side in signing free agent pitchers Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes, and bringing back Mike Pelfrey.  They missed out on A.J. Pierzynski, but the signing of Kurt Suzuki will allow them to bring their young catcher, Josmil Pinto, along slowly in the major leagues as they replace Joe Mauer who has moved to first.

Among others, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Oakland A’s, and the San Francisco Giants (in bringing Tim Hudson back to the Bay Area) have had productive off-seasons. 

There are countless other major moves that have been made and other teams that have significantly enhanced their chances for winning, but the point is that January is a time of optimism.  Spring Training looms on the horizon as this is the last full month before pitchers and catchers begin to report.  Players, if they took time off for the holidays, are aggressively starting or continuing their off-season workout regimens.  This is the time that will set in motion the attitudes and the chemistry that makes up each team.  Baseball is not about having the most physically gifted team, it’s about the team that can do the most to maximize the synergy of the team and create a culture that is unwilling to accept losing. 

It should be a fun season.  It’s too early to form an opinion of the teams that stand the best chance as there are still some roster-changing moves that will be made before spring training breaks, but in the AL, you know that the Red Sox, Rays, Tigers, Rangers, A’s, and Angels will have a say in who wins and who loses. 

I hope it’s a very happy and enjoyable New Year for everyone!  Time to make new friends, create fantastic new opportunities, experiences, and memories.    Time to get excited about the arrival of the upcoming Major League Baseball season.  May the 2014 season bring you great satisfaction and enjoyment!

The Masahiro Tanaka Sweepstakes…

It’s been written that the New York Yankees are the favorites to sign prized Japanese free agent pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, but it’s really anybody’s guess where he will sign.  Personally, I could see the Los Angeles Dodgers blowing away the competition, and they would certainly provide a main stage for Tanaka to perform.  No offense to the Minnesota Twins, but I couldn’t really see a player with Tanaka’s potential playing in a small market.  I would love to see Tanaka sign with the Yankees and I think Hiroki Kuroda would be the perfect mentor to help Tanaka’s transition to the United States.  But the Dodgers have a strong history with Japanese players.  The Texas Rangers may be players and you certainly cannot underestimate the Seattle Mariners or the Los Angeles Angels.  The Tanaka decision will be made within the next three weeks as it has to be completed by January 24th, so it should be interesting to watch Tanaka’s tour and to see how much teams are willing to pay for his potential.  Guys like Clayton Kershaw, with free agency looming in the not-so-distant future, have to love this, and it will help enhance the monetary packages it will take to sign or retain them with proven superior performance in the MLB. 

If the Yankees lose out on Tanaka, I am not sure what a good Plan B will be.  I’ve heard Ubaldo Jimenez’ name mentioned, but it’s not a guarantee that 2013 was a return to the promise he once held or if it was just an aberration and he’ll continue his prior downward slide.  Bronson Arroyo, Ervin Santana.  None of these names excite me.  I am more hopeful that guys like Michael Pineda and Manny Banuelos can come into training camp and make statements for why they should be the guys. 

Roster moves await…

With the 40-man roster filled, and the signings of second baseman Brian Roberts or reliever Matt Thornton to be made official, it’s clear the Yankees will need to open roster space.  Given the excess at catcher with the signing of Brian McCann, it’s fairly clear that either Austin Romine or J.R. Murphy could be moved.  I think we’ll see the departure of Vernon Wells despite his salary friendly status thanks to the Angels.  Even something free is not worth keeping if it has no value.  As speculated, I could still see a trade of Ichiro Suzuki to a team like the San Francisco Giants.  I have no problem with Zoilo Almonte taking the fifth outfielder role, particularly in light of his strong winter play.

I don’t think the Yankees have done enough yet, but I also do not think they are finished.  I am confident that by the time training camp opens, the Yankees will have the collection of players capable of restoring the team’s 90+ win ability.  Time will tell if they’ve caught up with their prime AL East competitors but at least with the Yankees, you know it won’t be for the lack of trying.

The words of Randy Levine…

Admittedly, I do not know much about Yankees president Randy Levine, but I am not impressed with the man.  I wasn’t before the text messages between Levine and Alex Rodriguez were released and I am even less so now.  Some of his comments come off as very unprofessional.  I remember how vilified Red Sox president Larry Lucchino was by Yankees fans when he made his ‘Evil Empire’ remark and how hated he is, but I really do not see Levine as any better and very likely, much worse.  At least Lucchino has overseen three world championships since 2004.  The Yankees’ 2009 World Championship was more Hal Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman, among others. 

Perhaps Levine is a great leader and effective in his role within the Yankees organization, but it is not apparent from the outside looking in.  I can only shake my head when I see his text message comments.  Aside from any of his words or how I may feel about the man, I strikes me as very odd that the president of the team would go direct to a player, bypassing the manager and the GM.  Maybe it would help if more stories about Levine’s positives were written, but then again, they wouldn’t be interesting and wouldn’t sell papers.  So, maybe we’ll never know the good the man potentially does.  But as it stands, he just seems like a buffoon to me.

Happy Holidays…

I hope the holiday season has been a very happy time for you and your families.  Enjoy the New Year, and may good health, success, happiness, and prosperity be yours!

–Scott