A week’s worth of crickets…
For excited as I was for the Baseball Winter Meetings, it was a very unfulfilling time for Yankees fans. The AL East got stronger as both the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays made significant improvements, and the Baltimore Orioles, while they didn’t make a move, are still a better team on paper.
Losing David Robertson hurt. I fully recognize that not even the Yankees should be paying multiple guys in the pen $12+ million per year so I understand the decision to let Robertson walk after signing last year’s prized lefty Andrew Miller. Still, when I saw those words, “White Sox to sign David Robertson”, it was a painful sight to see.
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Part of me, for a few days, imagined a bullpen with Robertson, Betances, and Miller for manager Joe Girardi and the limitless possibilities. After watching the Kansas City Royals and their stellar pen, it was hard not to dream of a similar equation for the Yankees. With so many question marks in the rotation, a ‘lights out’ bullpen is a must. With Robertson gone, there’s no reason why the Yankees still can’t have a superior bullpen. But losing Robertson does show that we care about our tenured players. Well, except when their name is Alex Rodriguez.
I am in favor of naming Dellin Betances as the team’s closer in spring training. I think Miller will be great as the primary setup guy and the earlier innings are in great hands with Adam Warren, Shawn Kelley and others. A year ago, there were questions about Robertson’s ability to close. His attempt to close in 2012 when Mariano Rivera got hurt was unsuccessful. The team ultimately went to Rafael Soriano who held the role for the duration of the season.
Mariano Rivera was an exception. Most guys are unable to pitch at the level required to close for an extended period of time. The days of Rivera and Trevor Hoffman are over. From a financial standpoint, it makes the most sense to have a shorter term view when it comes to a closer so that you don’t get locked into a bad contract (a la Jonathan Papelbon) as the closer ages and naturally deteriorates. Robertson may still be playing at a very high level in four years, but equally, there’s a chance that he is not. He always seems to pitch in and out of trouble, but as he ages, his ability to get out of those jams may not quite be there. He’ll evolve as a pitcher and I am sure that he’ll make the necessary adjustments, but at the end of the day, the Yankees are better off not being locked into Robertson for four years at $48 million. Betances showed that he is the team’s future closer. Next year may be a bit premature, but it was inevitable.
The most important thing for the Yankees is to now re-invest the $12 million per year savings into other areas. Bring back Chase Headley. Possibly sign a short term closing alternative like Jason Grilli. Make a run for Max Scherzer. But the key is to do something. The Yankees, as they presently stand, will not win in October.
How much? See ya…
Speaking of bad contracts, I was blown away by the commitment the Los Angeles Dodgers made to Brandon McCarthy. I thought McCarthy was a great pickup last season and hoped the Yankees could re-sign him to a team friendly deal. But like Robertson, I am glad the Yankees did not commit those years and dollars to McCarthy. He is a huge injury risk and in the Dodgers case, McCarthy failed last year in the NL West when he was with the Arizona Diamondbacks. While I hope McCarthy has a great Dodgers career, my fear is that he and the team’s DL list will become good buddies. I hope I’m wrong but baseball generally proves ‘past performance equals future results’…
Slowly but surely…
The week preceding the Baseball Winter Meetings was good. The Yankees acquired their 2015 shortstop with the acquisition of Didi Gregorius and the aforementioned lefty artist Andrew Miller, dominant against both righties and lefties. It was a good start but the team obviously still has much work to do before spring.
I hear so many Yankees fans say that Gregorius is not Derek Jeter. Nothing against Jeter, but I’d rather see a 24 year old Gregorius starting at short over a 41 year old Jeter. Gregorius may not be the player Jeter was in his prime, but Jeter wasn’t in his prime anymore and the Yankees had to do something to improve following Jeter’s retirement. So, to me, Gregorius is his own man in the position. It is up to him to succeed or fail, without regard to Jeter. I was a huge Don Mattingly fan, but I gave Tino Martinez a chance from his first at-bat and his early struggles did not waver my support. Tino turned out to be one of my most beloved players over the years and I never compared him to Mattingly.
It is possible that Gregorius fails. If so, the Yankees move on to another option. ‘Nothing ventured, nothing gained’. But at this point in time, it is his time. Let’s give him a chance…
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All I want for Christmas is…
Now if we could just send A-Rod anyway. I know, it’s not that easy. The most expensive DH/bench player in baseball history. It’s too bad those dollars can’t be re-directed to a guy like Max Scherzer. Maybe some challenges are too much for even the Yankees to overcome. But I’d love to have the money the Yankees have probably spent trying to find a way.
Where is Lyle Overbay when you need him? I know, he’s enjoying the early season winning in Milwaukee, but the Yankees are clearly in need of someone who can play first base better than just a fill-in. I am still not convinced that Mark Teixeira will be a reliable force anytime soon even though his DL stint ends on Sunday. He hasn’t been hitting and he never hits in the early stages of a season. It’s made worse this year given that he is coming off a year lost to injury. Maybe we’ll experience a renaissance at first with Tex but put me in the “I’ll believe it when I see it” category.
Poor Kelly Johnson. Signed to play second base, he became the starting third baseman when he who shall remain nameless was banned for the season. Johnson subsequently had to move across the diamond to play the other corner when Teixeira went on the DL. What’s next? Catcher? Or maybe he’ll be the team #5 starter should anything happen to a member of the rotation. He’s versatile, but seriously, I’d rather see Johnson stick to the left side of the infield. It’s too bad that someone with talent like Stephen Drew remains unsigned when he could help the Yankees in so many ways. I know, the cost is too great and we’re spoiled Yankee fans. But seriously, the team needs to protect its investment. The starting rotation has been solid and is capable of taking the team further than expected. But the bats and defense have to perform.
With the placement of backup catcher Francisco Cervelli on the DL, I was wondering what moves the Yankees would make. They have subsequently called up catcher John Ryan Murphy and signed Scott Sizemore to the major league roster after sending pitcher Shane Greene down to AAA Scranton/Wilkes Barre. I’ve never been excited about Sizemore’s bat so the move doesn’t exactly resolve my infield concerns but to his defense, he had gotten off to a good start at AAA.
Interesting that the Yankees called upon Murphy rather than catcher Austin Romine. Brian Cashman made the comment that Murphy was the “better player”. When a GM talks, you always have to wonder if it is the truth or simply posturing for potential future trades. I fully expect the Yankees to move one of their minor league catchers in the days leading up to the trading deadline. Could be Murphy, Romine or even Gary Sanchez. But at some point, someone has to go to upgrade other areas in need.
Shawn Kelley has allayed my early concerns about his ability to close games. After blowing a game shortly after he became the interim closer, he’s been fairly solid the last few games. While it is good to see him gain closing experience, I’ll be glad to see David Robertson return.
Even with the help of some liquid brown dirt (yeah right), Michael Pineda has been everything I’ve expected since 2011. When people were calling the trade a bust, I stayed patient as I wanted to see Pineda perform when healthy. Yes, he could turn out to be another Carl Pavano but I don’t really expect that to happen. It’s great to have someone with his ability as the fifth starter. In many ways, he is better than the so-called “ace” of the staff. Speaking of the latter, I really hope CC Sabathia can successfully return to his status as a frontline starter if he can make the necessary transition and changes to his pitching style with the loss in velocity.
So far, I’ve been pleased with the performance of the Yankees. They’re holding their own and they just came off a series victory over arch-rival Boston. It’s still a long season and the team will have to do something about the holes in the infield but at least they are not in a dire situation at the start.
The nice thing about the Yankees…they’ll always give me something to complain about. Well, 1998 excluded.
Introducing the 2014 New York Yankees. With the demotion of Eduardo Nunez to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, the Yankees have finalized, for now, their major league roster as the team heads to Houston to open the season against the Astros.
- CC Sabathia
- Hiroki Kuroda
- Ivan Nova
- Masahiro Tanaka
- Michael Pineda
No great surprises here. There was talk of a spring battle between David Phelps and Pineda, but I never expected Pineda to lose the last spot in the rotation regardless of how well Phelps pitched. I personally prefer to see Phelps as the long man in the pen. I think he is better suited for that role than Pineda and of course he’ll be the first arm called upon if the Yankees lose any of the starters to injury.
- David Robertson
Again, no surprises. This job is Robertson’s to lose. While the Yankees do not have any relievers with proven closing experience on the active roster should Robertson falter, Andrew Bailey looms in the wings when he returns to active duty later in the year. My hope is that Robertson takes the job and runs with it. He disappointed in the role a couple of years ago when Mariano Rivera was lost for the season and Rafael Soriano ended up as the team’s primary closer. But that was then and this is now. It is my hope the Yankees never have to look for Plan B.
- Shawn Kelley
- Dellin Betances
This is an area of concern. It was great having a setup artist like Robertson. Kelley was good in the pen last year, but he’s no David Robertson. I am hopeful that this is Dellin’s niche after his previous prospect status as a future starter. I would like to see him develop into the clear-cut 8th inning option to set the bridge to Robertson. It’s also great to see a NYC-born player on the main stage.
- Matt Thornton
His departure in free agency was very quiet, but I was sad to see Boone Logan leave. I am not convinced that Matt Thornton is the answer. He’s been a great reliever over the course of his career but his best days are behind him. The Boston Red Sox even left him off the post-season roster last fall. I thought that Cesar Cabral would make the team as second lefty, but the Yankees expressed a greater need for long relief in the early days of the season so that solidified a position for Vidal Nuno. Thornton may be starting the season as the Yankees’ lefty specialist but I doubt he finishes it.
- David Phelps
- Adam Warren
- Vidal Nuno
I expect it to take a few months for Joe Girardi to find the right pieces for the bullpen but I fully expect him to make it a team strength by September. Tampa’s Joe Maddon has shown a tremendous ability to piece together a strong bullpen from a collection of spare parts, and I have every confidence Joe Girardi has the same ability.
- Brian McCann
- Francisco Cervelli
Honestly, I thought the Yankees would trade Cervelli in spring training and make Austin Romine or John Ryan Murphy the backup catcher. But, aside from my disappointment with Cervelli last year due to his drug suspension, I do like the player and his intensity. McCann has been everything as advertised. I have been particularly impressed by how he was gone out of his way to get to know his pitchers. I had always heard he was a great team leader on the Atlanta Braves and that continues to hold true with his presence in the Yankees locker room.
- Mark Teixeira
Let’s just say that I am cautiously optimistic there are no lingering problems related to last year’s wrist injury.
- Brian Roberts
- Yangervis Solarte
I really do not expect Roberts to stay healthy so I hope he proves me wrong. I was glad to see Solarte make the team over Eduardo Nunez, and I hope his success in the spring carries over to the regular season. But it will be a long time before we see Robinson Cano-like production at this position. I just hope the position doesn’t become the team’s Achilles heel this year.
- Derek Jeter
- Dean Anna
It will be bittersweet watching Jeter on his farewell tour, but a key to the season will be the performance of Jeter’s backups as he won’t be able to do this alone.
- Kelly Johnson
Solarte will also spend time at this position, but overall, I am disappointed the Yankees did not do more to try and upgrade this position. I do not like uncertainty at both second and third, in combination with a 40 year old shortstop and a first baseman attempting to come back from a serious wrist injury. After years of rumors, maybe this is the year that Chase Headley becomes a Yankee. Time will tell.
- Brett Gardner
The team has made a significant investment in Gardner despite their acquisition of Jacoby Ellsbury. While I love team speed, I always shutter when I think of the Yankees attempt to convert to speed in the 1980’s with the signing of Dave Collins. I know this is a complete different situation that draws no parallel to the 80’s disaster, but I still prefer the three run homer.
- Jacoby Ellsbury
It still seems weird to see this name in the Yankees lineup. Nevertheless, he’s here and I hope, really hope that he can stay healthy. I know, that’s asking a lot. If he’s hurt, Gardner slides to center and Soriano is the starting left fielder which will weaken team offense and defense.
- Carlos Beltran
This might the position that I have the least amount of concerns with. I fully expect it to be business as usual for the 36 year old Beltran. He’s happy and excited to be in the Bronx, and he’s played under more difficult conditions in the past and has prospered.
- Alfonso Soriano
I expect some of the team’s older players to rotate through DH, but Soriano should get the bulk of the at-bat’s in what most likely will be his final year in pinstripes regardless of whether or not his playing career continues. I can see Derek Jeter getting a healthy number of DH at-bat’s but this goes back to how well Jeter’s backups at short can perform.
Role to be determined:
- Ichiro Suzuki
In actuality, he’ll be the team’s fifth outfielder. I expect Soriano to be the first option should any holes open in the outfield. This is a sad way for a Hall of Fame career to end. I had hoped that the Yankees would trade Ichiro to a team that had a greater need for his services than they do out of respect for the legendary player. It may still happen, but at this point, I’d rather see someone like Zoilo Almonte as the reserve outfielder behind Soriano.
Ichiro aside, I think the two most vulnerable players for roster moves are Dean Anna (when Brendan Ryan returns in May) and Vidal Nuno (I can see Cesar Cabral being promoted in mid-April).
I’d like to say that I am very optimistic about the 2014 season but the uncertainty of the infield and the unproven bullpen give me hesitation. I do not think the Yankees have done enough (despite all those dollars) to close the gap with the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays. Neither the Toronto Blue Jays nor the Baltimore Orioles will be pushovers in what is arguably baseball’s toughest division.
I do feel better about this team than last year’s version. People have said the Yankees over-achieved to reach 85 wins and that the Yankees are still an 85 win team despite the upgrades. I think they can reach 90 wins and perhaps a few more if the pieces come together (younger players take it to the next level, the right in-season acquisitions, and strong overall performance from the team collectively). It may not be enough to reach October, but the Yankees will help determine who does go.
I am glad that the baseball season is upon us. It should be an exciting and memorable year. Time for Joe Girardi’s masterful encore performance…
With the current state of the Yankees’ infield, I remain worried if Plan A does not come to fruition. I still have not been able to wrap my head around Kelly Johnson being the everyday third baseman. I feel that he is so much more useful in a utility role. It would be great If Eduardo Nunez, Yangervis Solarte or Dean Anna could step it up to the next level, but that’s not something I am counting on. Maybe the source of my discomfort with the infield is that Stephen Drew is still available. I know, he costs money and maybe it’s too much for the Yankees given their huge off-season investments. However, Drew would secure third base (with a little help from his “friends”, i.e., Nunez, Johnson et al).
With questions about Mark Teixeira’s wrist and how that will impact his power, whether or not Brian Roberts can prove he is still the player of yesteryear, and Derek Jeter’s ability to bounce back from a severe ankle injury at an advanced age, we do not need third base to be a question too.
Catching is set. This is the best I’ve felt about the position since Jorge Posada was in his prime. I like Francisco Cervelli as the back-up, but if his trade value could help other areas of the team like the infield or the bullpen, then I’d be in favor of a trade. I feel that Austin Romine or John Ryan Murphy are capable of supporting Brian McCann.
For a change, the outfield is not a question mark. It’s great to know that the outfield is so good that Alfonso Soriano is the fourth outfielder and Ichiro Suzuki, a sure-fire Hall of Famer, is essentially a man without a position. Of course, that could change quickly if injuries were to impact Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner and/or Carlos Beltran. I am hopeful that this is a major move forward in the developmental progress of prospect Mason Williams so that he, along with Slade Heathcott, can be serious contenders for Soriano’s spot next year.
Nothing against David Phelps, but I am pulling for Michael Pineda to secure the fifth spot in the pitching rotation. I really like Phelps as the long man. He provides the consistency, support and flexibility that Ramiro Mendoza brought to the team years ago.
I am cautiously optimistic that the duo of Shawn Kelley and Dellin Betances will provide the level of set up support for David Robertson that Robertson provided for Mariano Rivera. That will go a long way toward determining how successful the 2014 Yankees can be.
There are not too many Plan B’s available on the current roster. As current set, the Yankees will need the cards to fall right for them to contend in October. This could be a 90-win team if all goes right, but conversely, it could just as easily be an 80-win team if it does not.
In my opinion, the Boston Red Sox remain the team to beat. They are the champions until proven otherwise. The AL East, perhaps baseball’s most competitive division, has improved. Tampa Bay, Toronto and Baltimore have all made solid off-season moves. The O’s were quiet for most of the off-season but their late signings of Ubaldo Jimenez, Nelson Cruz, and Johan Santana could pay dividends. Never underestimate a team managed by Buck Showalter. Tampa Bay has arguably baseball’s best manager so it’s a certainly that he’ll have his team in the race at the end.
This is my first prediction for the final season standings in the AL East:
- 1. Boston Red Sox
- 2. Tampa Bay Rays
- 3. New York Yankees
- 4. Toronto Blue Jays
- 5. Baltimore Orioles
But you could probably throw these team names into a hat and pull them out in random order and it could be the potential finish. I doubt Boston or Tampa finish anything worse than third, but the other three, including the Yankees, have the potential of finishing anywhere in the standings.
This should be a very fun and exciting year…