The LoHud Yankees Blog

A New York Yankees blog by Chad Jennings and the staff of The Journal News

Girardi on the young guys: Refsnyder, Bird, Judge, Murphy, Shreve

Greg Bird, John Ryan Murphy

During today’s Joe Girardi press conference, several young players — from young big leaguers to young up-and-comers — were mentioned by name, some of them unprompted by Girardi (that includes Brady Lail, who Girardi brought up on his own as a guy who could help the pitching staff next season). There are no huge revelations here, but here’s what Girardi had to say about some of young guys who could play a role next year.

Rob RefsnyderCan Rob Refsnyder be the regular second baseman?

One thing I found interesting: When I asked about a second base, I kept the question wide open without naming names. It wasn’t really intentional, I just asked whether Girardi thought he’d found some answers at second base late in the year. His response ignored Dustin Ackley completely and focused only on Refsnyder.

“He played well,” Girardi said. “It’s a small sample. I thought he improved at Triple-A over the course of the season. I think it’s you look at him, you look at what’s available, and you make a decision.”

Worth noting that Girardi shot down the idea of Refsnyder dusting off his outfield skills to play a more versatile role (though he didn’t entirely rule out the idea of revisiting the idea of John Ryan Murphy seeing some time at an infield corner).

“I don’t really see Refsnyder necessarily going back to the outfield,” Girardi said. “I think we will continue to try to develop him as a second baseman. We believe that his bat is going to play. Could you toy around with playing Murph at a different position one day here? I think you could. I think he’s athletic enough to do it. I think you have to see the makeup of your roster before you necessarily start doing those things. I’m not opposed to doing that.”

Greg Bird, Glen PerkinsCan Greg Bird find a role with this team out of spring training?

On this matter, I can’t blame Girardi for being non-committal.

“That’s not an answer I have for you now,” Girardi said.

Clearly the Yankees know Bird can play. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t have kept him in the lineup down the stretch and started him against a lefty in a wild card game. The question is whether it makes sense to find a spot for him on a team that already has a first baseman — a first baseman, by the way, who had a better OPS than Bird this season — plus a full-time designated hitter. Carrying three players for those two positions would be pretty limiting to a team that clearly needs to rest guys like Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann as well.

Oh, and Girardi seems on board with Brian Cashman’s idea that there’s no more tinkering with Rodriguez in the field.

“You know, I imagine that he’s probably going to be a DH moving forward,” Girardi said. “That’s something we’ll probably address in the winter as well, because you look at the makeup of your club and could you expect something, but it’s probably mostly DH.”

Aaron JudgeCan Aaron Judge break camp with the big league team?

Unless the Yankees make a trade, there’s not an outfield job available for a player like Judge. The kid obviously has the potential to be great, but I’m doubt the Yankees are going to go out of their way to open a roster spot for a guy who hit .224/.308/.373 in Triple-A this year. Doesn’t at all mean Judge is a bust, only means he might not be ready just yet. Then again…

“Anything’s possible,” Girardi said. “Sometimes it happens through an injury. My first opportunity was through an injury. And then I went down for 40 days and then came back. That was my opportunity.”

The Yankees do have a need for a right-handed outfield bat now that Chris Young is a free agent again. That sort of platoon job, though, isn’t the kind of thing the Yankees are likely to give their top offensive prospect.

“You don’t want a young player playing only once a week or twice a week when there’s still development that could take place,” Girardi said. “That would slow that down. That’s always the question that you have to answer. Is he going to thrive in that situation? John Ryan Murphy did very well. I thought he thrived in his situation for a backup catcher. I thought he had a very good year where there’s that question; do we want him to catch every day at Triple-A or would you rather him be the backup? We chose for him to be the backup and he did a really good job.”

John Ryan Murphy, Didi GregoriusCan Chasen Shreve be trusted again next season?

For five months, Shreve really was an excellent reliever. It wasn’t just one great spurt that carried his numbers, either. He was good and reliable all year until, quite suddenly, he was awful in the month of September.

“There’s one thing that I realized as a player pretty quickly after my first year,” Girardi said. “My first year in the big leagues was 1989. That extra month is something that you never experienced before, and being in a playoff race was something that I never experienced before. And yeah, you like to say you know exactly what it’s like, but you don’t. And I think Shreve has a chance to be better because of the struggles he went through and probably learned a lot about himself.”

I don’t think make any firm evaluations based on a single season, much less a single month. The first five months didn’t absolutely prove Shreve had staying power, and the last month didn’t absolutely prove he can’t pitch at this level.

“For the first five months this guy was really good and was a huge part of our bullpen,” Girardi said. “And that’s what I’m going to look at. The sixth month, yeah, we’ve got to figure out what happened. Mechanically there were probably some things that got a little bit off, and we’ve got to teach him and help him get back to his mechanics when things get off, in a sense, but I think it has a chance to really help him.”

Indians Yankees BaseballAre there any regrets about not using some of these prospects to make a deadline splash?

While Girardi has a reputation for preferring veterans over young guys, he said he’s completely on board with Cashman’s decision to keep young talent rather than make a deal for a short-term upgrade.

“I think when you look at the contributions they made, I think we made the right moves,” Girardi said. “I know David Price did extremely well in his 10, 12 starts over there. I know Johnny Cueto had some struggles over there. When I look at Severino’s body of work, I think we’re all pretty pleased with what we saw. We’re glad we kept him. I think when we look at Bird’s work, I think we’re pretty pleased and probably glad that we kept him.

“I look at other players, some of the players who finished in Triple-A — an Aaron Judge we think is going to make a big impact, we feel that a Gary Sanchez is going to make a big impact after the year that he had and the improvements that he made — so I think the organization made the right decisions not giving up if you want to call them your top prospects, your blue-chip prospects, just for a two-month rental.”

Associated Press photos


Posted by:Chad Jenningson Friday, October 9th, 2015 at 6:59 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Tanaka’s workload might not be quite so restricted next season

Yankees Braves Baseball

There were plenty of reasons the Yankees routinely inserted a sixth starter this season. They were worried about Michael Pineda’s shoulder, worried about CC Sabathia’s knee, worried about Adam Warren’s innings and worried about Ivan Nova’s return from Tommy John surgery.

And they desperately wanted to avoid Tommy John with Masahiro Tanaka.

Joe Girardi always made it clear that the sixth-start idea wasn’t all about Tanaka, but it was hard not to think of Tanaka as reason No. 1 that the Yankees would go out of their way to give starters extra rest. Now that Tanaka’s come through this season with his elbow intact, though, the Yankees might not be quite so cautious with their ace next season. It seems Tanaka using on normal rest won’t be quite the avoid-if-at-all-possible situation it was this season.

“There really wasn’t a difference (statistically) when he went on normal rest and had the extra day,” Girardi said. “We had some physical concerns going into the season, and I think we were trying to be proactive in that situation. But I thought he answered the bell pretty well going on normal rest.”

Using a sixth starter from time to time can disrupt the bullpen in the short-term, and in the bigger picture, it ultimately means taking innings away from the team’s best starter and giving them to what’s supposed to be their sixth best. There are plenty of practical reasons to stick with five starters on a steady rotation. It was a series of medical concerns that led the Yankees to try it in the first place.

Now that Pineda’s shoulder has survived the year, and Sabathia’s found a better knee brace, and Warren has been built up a little bit, the Yankees don’t have quite the same medical concerns going forward.

“I think inserting a sixth starter every once in a while is not a bad idea,” Girardi said. “But it becomes somewhat of an up-and-down shuttle when you don’t (go on normal rest) and sometimes you don’t necessarily want to send someone down who’s in your bullpen, so I think that’s something we have to address.”

Tanaka’s numbers on normal rest (2.56 ERA, 0.76 WHIP) were actually better than his numbers on five-days rest (3.51 ERA, 1.08 WHIP). The Yankees believe he’s capable of pitching every five days, and now they’re more confident that his elbow is up to the task.

“I think he answered that,” Girardi said. “And I think he showed that that was not an issue during the course of the season.”

Associated Press photo


Posted by:Chad Jenningson Friday, October 9th, 2015 at 4:33 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Why did Gardner stop stealing bases? “There is no answer”

Brett Gardner

In 2011, Brett Gardner led the American League with 49 stolen bases. The year before, he’d stolen 47.

In the four years since, Gardner’s never stolen more than 24.

Manager Joe Girardi is as baffled as anyone.

“It’s odd to me,” Girardi said. “And I would ask him how he felt on a number of occasions when we’d get in a long stretch. (Gardner would say), ‘I feel good, I feel good.’ And he just, he wasn’t running as much.”

Gardner was actually running quite a bit when the season started. Through June 12, he was 15 of 18 in stolen base attempts. From June 13 through August 9, though, he didn’t even attempt to steal a bag. He quite literally went from stealing three bases in seven games to not attempting to steal a base in nearly two months.

When Gardner did start to run again, he was thrown out in his first two attempts before going a modest 5-for-5 through his final 47 games of the season.

“There is no answer,” Girardi said. “Part of it is he wasn’t on nearly as much the second half and teams pay attention to him obviously a lot. But that’s something that probably needs to be addressed because we need that out of him. And that’s something that you look at. Physically, he never really complained about his legs. But physically, sometimes where a guy doesn’t steal as much, maybe they don’t physically feel as good, (but) they’re not going to tell you, they’re not going to ask out of the lineup. The things like I said I gotta look at. As an organization, you have to look at the optimal number of days that you play a guy in a sense to get the most out of him and for him to be the most productive.”

Associated Press photo



Posted by:Chad Jenningson Friday, October 9th, 2015 at 2:39 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Girardi on Betances: “I think he became a little human; that’s all”

Delin BetancesThis was not Joe Girardi’s first end-of-the-season press conference. He’s been through this before, and surely has come to anticipate a few of the questions he’ll have to answer. And when hit with an obvious one — what happened to Dellin Betances late in the season; was he overused? — Girardi knew the numbers off the top of his head.

“Does anyone know how many pitches he threw this year compared to last year?” Girardi said. “I would bet not.”

The answer — as Girardi knew and as any statistical website confirms — is five. Betances threw five more pitches this year than last year. He pitched in four more games this year, but also threw six fewer innings.

His workload was significant, though.

Betances threw 84 innings, which was the largest workload of any reliever in the game (only eight relievers threw as many as 75 innings). His 1,370 pitches were the second most of any reliever (only three relievers threw as many as 1,300). In theory, an ability to carry a big workload — as a former starting pitcher who’s big, strong and still young — is one of Betances’s strengths.

But how much is too much, and did being such a go-to option have anything to do with Betances having a 1.50 WHIP in September and October, which was by far his worst month in terms of base runners?

“I was cognizant of his workload,” Girardi said. “I studied his workload the year he was in Triple-A and had so much success out of the bullpen. … I even have a card in my locker that had the amount of pitches, the amount of innings, the amount of games of April 2014 (compared to) 2015. I had it all written down, so it wasn’t like I wasn’t paying attention.”

What hurt the Yankees, it seems, is the fact that none of the rookie relievers except Chasen Shreve really emerged as a trusted piece of the bullpen. When Shreve was pitching well and Adam Warren was in the pen, the Yankees had go-to options for close games that the Yankees were losing (games when Girardi would try to avoid using Betances and the other Top Three relievers).

Without Warren and with Shreve struggling, though, no one else filled that void. It became Big Three or bust in the late innings.

“We moved (Warren) out of the rotation into the bullpen, it just, it made our bullpen deeper,” Girardi said. “It made the game where you were losing 2-1 in the fifth inning, where you could go to him and you could expect the score to stay relatively close to the same and give us a real opportunity to come back and win the game. He was as valuable as any pitcher we had through the course of the season because the opportunities he gave our team to win games.

“When we moved him back into the rotation, now all of a sudden you’re asking kids to do that that had never really experienced a full year in the big leagues, had never really experienced a pennant race, had never experienced that. At times we were asking a lot of them. I think the experience that they got was extremely valuable, I think it will help us in the future. Did they struggle? Yes, they did. But we’re asking a lot from them and I think next year they’ll be better.”

So if the workload wasn’t too much, what caused Betances to struggle late in the season?

“I think he became a little human,” Girardi said. “That’s all.”

Associated Press photo


Posted by:Chad Jenningson Friday, October 9th, 2015 at 12:35 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Girardi to address media, but he alone won’t have the answers

Yankees Rays Baseball

Today is the day Joe Girardi addresses the media during a year-end press conference. It’s a chance to ask some questions of the guy who was running the show day-to-day, but I’m not sure Girardi can answer all of the biggest questions that haunted the Yankees during the season and that will hang over them through the winter.

Each problem with this team seems to hinge only partially on the manager himself. The second-half decline, the early exit and the uncertain offseason were a combination of player, manager and general manager issues.

Here are a few that situations that can’t be answered by one man alone.

Jacoby Ellsbury1. The top of the order didn’t get on base in the second half

For the players: What happened to Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner? Track record says they’re better than the way they played in the final two months, so what changed? Were they hurt? Was it simply a bad stretch?

For the manager: Was it worth sticking with Ellsbury and Gardner at the top of the order? Didi Gregorius started to hit. So did Dustin Ackley and Rob Refsnyder. Ellsbury was benched against a lefty in the wild card game. Should that have happened sooner? Should Slade Heathcott have gotten a few more late-season at-bats when it became clear Gardner and Ellsbury weren’t quite the same?

For the general manager: Are those two going to be playing left field and center field next season? Ellsbury’s contract is problematic, but perhaps Gardner would be a valuable trade chip that can bring a player who’s not quite so redundant. Is it possible to find a better combination?

2. The middle of the order seemed to wear down late in the year

For the players: How much of Alex Rodriguez’s decline was an inevitable product of his age? Was Brian McCann worn out from catching so much? Mark Teixiera’ August was pretty bad before the injury. Are these guys capable of having a productive year from start to finish?

For the manager: As the offense sputtered, why take so long to make some changes? Why not roll the dice with Refsnyder earlier? Why not trust John Ryan Murphy’s offensive improvements and start hitting him higher in the order against lefties? Should A-Rod have remained the No. 3 hitter late in the season?

For the general manager: With so many contracts already in place, how can this team improve its offensive consistency? The team scored a bunch of runs, but it needed some sort of jolt in the second half, and there was no move made to provide it. Does Brian Cashman have to assume this decline was more than a temporary problem?

Ivan Nova3. The injuries and the lack of a reliable, dominant ace hurt the pitching staff

For the players: Was Masahiro Tanaka’s elbow more of an issue that we knew? What are we to make of Nathan Eovaldi? Same for Michael Pineda and Ivan Nova? Is CC Sabathia really confident his knee can hold up to another full season as a starting pitcher?

For the manager: Why hold so many starters to well below 100 pitches so often, especially when extra rest was supposed to make them stronger and more durable? Should someone like Bryan Mitchell — when he was pitching well — been given an earlier opportunity to start a few games? Was the Adam Warren innings limit really necessary?

For the general manager: Is David Price on the radar this winter? Clearly Luis Severino has graduated to the big leagues, but what does that mean for the long list of other starters? Is one of them being traded? Does this team need another front-line starter, or is there still faith that Tanaka can be a definite No. 1?

4. The bullpen at times looked overused, at other times far too thin

For the players: Although he kept saying he felt good, was Dellin Betances worn down at the end of the season? Is that why he ran into some control issues? What caused Chasen Shreve’s sudden and unexpected decline? Was Mitchell significantly affected by that line drive to the face? Is this level of inconsistency all we can expect from guys like Caleb Cotham, Nick Rumbelow and Branden Pinder? Are the capable of being go-to guys?

For the manager: Is there a sense that the workload limits did their job in keeping the relievers healthy and productive to the end? Was Warren used properly during his time in the bullpen? Seemed like a smaller-than-expected role. How much of an impression did James Pazos make? Did any of the other young guys stand out as possibilities for next season?

For the general manager: Was the shuttle to and from Triple-A seen as a success, or does the team need to target another go-to reliever? Is the Chris Capuano experiment finished? Which starters are seen as bullpen possibilities going forward? What’s the plan for Jacob Lindgren next spring?

Associated Press photos


Posted by:Chad Jenningson Friday, October 9th, 2015 at 8:52 am. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully to miss playoffs

It’s not Yankees news, but I’m going to use everyone reading this is a baseball fan, and that means being a Vin Scully fan.

Vin Scully, Sandi ScullyLOS ANGELES (AP) — Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully won’t be calling any games in the baseball playoffs after undergoing a medical procedure.

The Los Angeles Dodgers said Thursday that Scully was resting comfortably after a recommended procedure earlier in the day. The team didn’t specify what the procedure was.

Doctors advised Scully to skip the playoffs in order to rest up. Scully, who turns 88 in November, said in August he expects next season will be his last in the booth. His 66 years with the Dodgers are a broadcasting record for the same big league franchise.

Scully missed the team’s final series of the regular season because of a cold, and he wasn’t in San Francisco for a four-game trip earlier last week because of a scheduled absence.

The NL West champion Dodgers face the NL East champion New York Mets in the NL Division Series starting Friday.

Associated Press photo



Posted by:Chad Jenningson Thursday, October 8th, 2015 at 8:08 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

What was the biggest factor in Blue Jays’ surge past Yankees?

Edwin Encarnacion; Russell Martin;  Brain McCann

If you flip your television over to FS1 right now, you’ll the Blue Jays doing what the Yankees couldn’t do: They’re hosting Game 1 of the American League Division Series. That could have been the Yankees if they’d held onto the seven-game division lead they had at the end of July. But, as we’re all aware, the Blue Jays took completely control of the division after the trade deadline. The quick-and-easy analysis is that the Blue Jays big moves for Troy Tulowitzki and David Price turned the tide, but were those moves really the difference makers?

Troy Tulitowitzki, Kevin PillarHere are the six players the Blue Jays acquired at or near the trade deadline:

1. Troy Tulowitzki  — This was stunning opening salvo, but Tulowitzki was largely a disappointment both in terms of production and playing time. He wound up hitting just .239/.317/.380 while playing just 41 games because of that weird back injury suffered at Yankee Stadium. During the same time frame, Didi Gregorius hit .276/.335/.393 while playing in 63 games. Ultimately, the Yankees were better off sticking with their own shortstop.

2. LaTroy Hawkins — Included in the Tulowitzki deal, Hawkins was the Blue Jays’ first attempt to add bullpen depth. His WHIP and strikeout rate were each worse in Toronto than they’d been in Colorado, but he had a 2.76 ERA and didn’t let any inherited runners score. His WHIP with the Blue Jays was basically the same as Branden Pinder’s and Caleb Cotham’s, but Hawkins also handled a lot of late-and-close situations and kept runs off the board. Can’t necessarily say the same for the Yankees’ young relievers.

3. David Price – This is when the Blue Jays went all in by giving up their version of Luis Severino to land Price. The former Tigers’ ace went 9-1 with a 2.30 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 10.5 strikeouts per nine. He was incredible. A week after the Blue Jays traded for Price, the Yankees called up Severino, who went 5-3 with a 2.89 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 8.1 strikeouts per nine. Severino was great. Price was better.

4. Mark Lowe – A relatively under-the-radar acquisition from Seattle, Lowe added more depth to the late innings and pitched to a 0.84 WHIP upon getting to Toronto (that’s basically the same as Andrew Miller’s WHIP but without nearly the same strikeout rate). Despite allowing so few base runners, Lowe had a 3.79 ERA that was the product of three bad games. Otherwise, he was terrific.

5. Ben Revere – Adding some left-handed balance to the lineup and giving the team a new leadoff hitter, Revere was excellent with a .319/.354/.381 slash line with the Blue Jays. He filled a need in Toronto. I suppose the closest the Yankees came to something similar was finally letting Dustin Ackley and Rob Refsnyder takeover at second base down the stretch.

6. Cliff Pennington – After the deadline, the Blue Jays made a small trade to add light-hitting Pennington for some additional infield depth (Devon Travis was and still is hurt). Pennington wound up playing quite a bit when Tulowitzki was hurt and he hit .160/.270/.280. The Yankees got better than that out of Brendan Ryan. The Blue Jays wound up needing Pennington. The Yankees wouldn’t have.

Blue Jays Yankees BaseballIn the end, I’m not sure the Blue Jays’ biggest moves — for Tulowitzki and Price — were the biggest factors in making the Blue Jays so much better than the Yankees in the second half. They made a difference, but in an attempt to rank the most important factors in making the Blue Jays better in the second half, I think I’d put them in this order.

1. The Blue Jays stayed productive in the middle. Carlos Beltran was terrific late in the year, and Greg Bird was a big boost to the Yankees’ offense. Otherwise, after the trade deadline Mark Teixeira got hurt, Brian McCann hit .199/.312/.398, and Alex Rodriguez hit .191/.300/.377. No chance the Yankees were going to trade for someone to replace one of those three, and each one hit a wall of some sort. For comparison, here’s what the Blue Jays’ big hitters did after the trade deadline: Edwin Encarnacion hit .344/.434/.749, Jose Bautista hit .283/.403/.624, and Josh Donaldson hit .301/.393/.602. The Blue Jays run producers stayed productive. The Yankees did not.

2. The Blue Jays got better at the top. No way the Yankees would have traded for Revere as a replacement for either Gardner or Ellsbury, but he so thoroughly outplayed them down the stretch, that he certainly made a big difference in making the Blue Jays so much better. After the trade deadline, Ellsbury hit .227/.277/.324 and Gardner hit .203/.288/.290. The Yankees lineup would have been much better off with Revere’s .319/.354/.381 in the leadoff spot.

3. The Blue Jays bullpen got deeper. The Yankees tried to make a trade for an impact reliever, including a significant offer for Padres closer Craig Kimbrel. Ultimately, though, they added no one to the bullpen and then had no way to make up for Chasen Shreve’s sudden decline, Adam Warren’s move back into the rotation, and Bryan Mitchell struggling after that line drive to the face. The Blue Jays didn’t trade for a huge name reliever, but both Hawkins and Lowe pitched well and made the Toronto bullpen quite a bit deeper than the Yankees’ bullpen.

4. The Blue Jays added a Cy Young winner. I have a hard time saying the Blue Jays’ trade for Price was the biggest difference maker in the division. He was a huge help in Toronto, but Severino was a big help in New York. He might not have kept pace with Price, but if you’re comparing rotation upgrades, Severino kept the gap relatively small. Price, though, did win three of four starts against the Yankees, and the Blue Jays won nine of his 11 starts overall. I don’t think Price was the single biggest difference maker, but he was incredibly good. Did his job and then some.

5. The Blue Jays stayed healthy (and got help off the disabled list). Obviously the Blue Jays did face one massive injury late in the season when Tulowitzki went on the disabled list, but he hadn’t been nearly the impact player the team envisioned, and that injury came on the same day that the Blue Jays brought Marcus Stroman back into their rotation. In terms of health, the Blue Jays essentially swapped Tulowitzki for a guy who won each of his four starts down the stretch while pitching to a 0.96 WHIP. The Yankees, on the other hand, lost their cleanup hitter to injury, lost their wins leader to injury, and briefly lost their ace to injury. The one key player they got off the disabled list was Michael Pineda, who pitched to a 5.48 ERA after his return.

6. The Blue Jays gained an insane amount of confidence. As a team with a lot of veterans in the lineup — and as a team with a lot of players who learned from Derek Jeter to hide their emotions — the Yankees don’t show their confidence in the same way a team like the Blue Jays or Astros might show it. I’m not sure the Yankees lost confidence when the Blue Jays made their trade deadline splash, but I’m sure the Blue Jays’ confidence jumped to a new level. They were very nearly out of the race at that time, but beginning with Tulowitzki’s arrival, the Blue Jays became a bunch of scrappy fighters who clearly believed they could knock the Yankees out of first place. The Yankees, on the other hand, kept falling apart.

Associated Press photos


Posted by:Chad Jenningson Thursday, October 8th, 2015 at 5:04 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Ten Yankees with undetermined roles for next season

Yankees Blue Jays Baseball

Yes, it’s pretty easy to take these current Yankees and piece them together into a 2016 lineup, bench, rotation and bullpen. Barring something unusual, it feels like a team without much wiggle room heading into the winter and through spring training.

But of course there is still plenty of uncertainty. Here are a few Yankees who enter this offseason not sure what they’ll be doing next year. What role are they going to play, what level will they be assigned, and how much of an impact will they make?

Greg Bird, Kurt SuzukiGreg Bird
Big leagues or Triple-A
Given an opportunity late in the season, Bird did everything he could do to prove he’s ready to play in the Major Leagues. He wasn’t perfect, but he was awfully good. Question is, with Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez under contract, can the Yankees find a spot for Bird on the big league roster, or will he have to return to Triple-A and wait for at-bats to present themselves?

Adam Warren
Reliever or starter
Late Tuesday night, Brian Cashman made it clear that he believes in Warren as a starting pitcher. But the situation is more complicated than simply believing Warren can handle the job. Given many other rotation options — most of whom have no relief experience — will the Yankees use Warren as a starter or lean on him to provide a trusted arm out of the bullpen? If the Yankees aren’t going to start Warren, are they better off trading him?

Rob Refsnyder
Everyday, platoon or minors
So many possibilities of Refsnyder coming out of spring training next season. He could win everyday second base at-bats, could be a platoon starter against lefties, or he could be back in a Triple-A to keep improving at the position. His role might depend entirely on who the Yankees acquire this winter and what they make of Dustin Ackley as a second baseman.

CC Sabathia
Starter or reliever
The last two months of the regular season showed that Sabathia is still capable of being a quality big league starter. Perhaps he can’t give the innings he used to give, but he just pitched to a sub-3.00 ERA over an extended stretch. Is it better for the Yankees, though, to try Sabathia in a relief role in an effort to limit his workload, trying to keep him healthy and effective while pitching at max effort? Lots of rotation alternatives are already in place.

Brian McCann, Chasen ShreveChasen Shreve
Breakout or bust
For five months, Shreve was excellent. As of September 5, he was legitimately one of the better relief pitchers in baseball, capable of handling lefties and righties, and capable of pitching multiple innings at a time. He wasn’t getting huge leverage situations, but he was really good. After September 8, though, Shreve was so bad the Yankees left him off the wild card roster. So was this a breakout season and means Shreve will be a go-to reliever next year, or was this a five-month hot streak for a guy who’s destined to shuttle back and forth from Triple-A?

Aaron Judge
Sooner or later
Judge didn’t hit much in Triple-A this season, and Cashman said on Tuesday that he does not expect Judge to be a big league option out of spring training. Question is, what would it take for Judge to change Cashman’s mind? And even if he does return to the minors, how quickly could Judge put himself in line for a call-up and a key role in the big leagues?

Brendan Ryan
Bench player or free agent
I get it, light-hitting Ryan doesn’t excite anyone. But the Yankees need a backup shortstop, and good luck finding one of those who’s going to provide a lot of offense. Ryan has a mutual option for 2016, which means he could be back as either a $2 million or $1 million utility man. He can play every infield position and he hit .283/.321/.453 against lefties this season. If he doesn’t come back, the Yankees are going to have to find someone to replace him.

J.P. Arencibia, Slade HeathcottSlade Heathcott
Role player or redundancy
In almost every way, Heathcott looks like a perfect fourth outfielder who could play his way into a more substantial role. He has some speed, he plays strong defense at three positions, and his bat has a little bit of pop. He’s a nice player when he’s healthy. Problem is, the Yankees have two more expensive and proven versions of Heathcott already on the roster. Is there a big league role for him next year, or is Heathcott strictly an injury replacement?

Jacob Lindgren
Impact reliever or Triple-A depth
Surprisingly easy to forget about his guy after he went a few months without pitching because of elbow surgery. Assuming he’s healthy, though, Lindgren could almost immediately become a key reliever next season. The Yankees tried to give him an extended look in the middle of the season, but he wasn’t effective (possibly because of the elbow issue). He could also become just another guy who shuttles back and forth from Triple-A.

Eric Jagielo
Second half bat or just another guy
A lot of prospects build some early buzz in the minors and never play a significant role in the Majors. In the case of Jagielo, he was off to a strong offensive start in Double-A this year before he landed on the disabled list, needed surgery and missed the rest of the season. If he’s healthy next year, could Jagielo follow Bird’s path to be a second-half option at third base and first base (third base in particular since the Yankees don’t really have anyone behind Chase Headley), or is he going to be just another guy still working out the kinks in the minors?

Associated Press photos


Posted by:Chad Jenningson Thursday, October 8th, 2015 at 12:15 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Looking ahead: Almost entire Yankees roster under contract next year

Chasen Shreve

It’s going to be several weeks before the Yankees begin actively working on a roster for next season, but already they have almost everything in place. In reality, the Yankees could do absolutely nothing this winter and still have all the necessary pieces for a full 25-man roster in 2016. This is what the Yankees have under contract for next season.

(C) Signed to a multi-year contract
(A) Arbitration eligible
(P) Pre-arbitration, still making close to the minimum

Didi GregoriusLINEUP
C Brian McCann (C)
1B Mark Teixeira (C)
2B Dustin Ackley (A)
3B Chase Headley (C)
SS Didi Gregirous (A)
LF Brett Gardner (C)
CF Jacoby Ellsbury (C)
RF Carlos Beltran (C)
DH Alex Rodriguez (C)

Unless the Yankees get bold an creative by trading Gardner — who’s contract would make him pretty valuable on the open market — there’s not a lot of wiggle room here. The team could go after a more dependable second baseman, but the combination of Ackley and Rob Refsnyder showed a lot down the stretch. Gregorius was basically as good as the Yankees could have hoped in his first full season as a full-time starter, and the others have contracts that make trades seems unlikely if not impossible. It is entirely possible this will be the Yankees’ starting nine on Opening Day 2016.

C John Ryan Murphy (P)
INF Brendan Ryan (C)*
2B Rob Refsnyder (P)
OF Slade Heathcott (P)

This probably won’t be the Yankees’ bench on Opening Day, but each one of these guys  should be a candidate. Murphy makes sense to return as the backup catcher, and Refsnyder could win some sort of job either as a platoon second baseman or as an everyday second baseman. Ryan has a mutual option, so there’s no guarantee he’ll be back (though he would fit as a right-handed alternative to Gregorius who can backup at the other infield positions). Heathcott’s done a nice job when given playing time, but as a left-handed hitter, he doesn’t really fit the Yankees need to bring some right-handed balance. If Ryan doesn’t come back, the Yankees most obvious offseason holes might be a backup shortstop and right-handed outfielder.

C Gary Sanchez
1B Greg Bird
2B Tony Renda
INF Jose Pirela
OF Mason Wiliams
OF Aaron Judge
OF Ben Gamel
OF Jake Cave

The Yankees should have every position but shortstop covered in Triple-A next season. Everyone listed here has an option for next season. Renda, Gamel and Cave are each Rule 5 eligible and seem to be strong candidates for 40-man spots. Judge is not Rule 5 eligible, but I doubt the Yankees would hesitate to add him if he’s raking next season and could help in New York. Three of the four outfielder listed here are left-handed like Heathcott, so the team could very easily try to trade away some of that redundancy.

Luis SeverinoROTATION
RHP Masahiro Tanaka (C)
RHP Luis Severino (P)
RHP Michael Pineda (A)
RHP Nathan Eovaldi (A)
LHP CC Sabathia (C)
RHP Ivan Nova (A)

Six starters for five spots. This is to say nothing of Adam Warren, who might actually be a better rotation option than some of the guys listed above. For now, though, it seems safest to label these six as obvious rotation candidates because none has significant experience in the bullpen. When you add Warren, Chase Whitley an Bryan Mitchell there are nine pitchers who started games for the Yankees this season and are under contract for next season. That’s a good amount of rotation depth heading into the winter, enough that the Yankees could use some of that depth on the trade market.

LHP Andrew Miller (C)
RHP Dellin Betances (P)
LHP Justin Wilson (A)
RHP Adam Warren (A)
LHP Chasen Shreve (P)
RHP Bryan Mitchell (P)
RHP Branden Pinder (P)
RHP Chris Martin (P)

Eight pitchers for seven spots. What I listed are all the under-team-control relievers who made at least 20 big league appearances this season. If Warren isn’t in the rotation, I think you have to consider the top five to be favorites for next year’s bullpen (Shreve’s late-season decline came after five impressive, breakout months). These are certainly not the only bullpen candidates heading into this winter (plenty of the guys listed below as bullpen depth could also push for Opening Day jobs), but these were the most-used relievers this season, and they’re all still under team control.

SP Chase Whitley
SP Diego Moreno
SP Brady Lail
RP Jacob Lindgren
RP James Pazos
RP Nick Goody
RP Nick Rumbelow
RP Caleb Cotham
RP Johnny Barbato

With the exception of Lail, everyone on this list is either already on the 40-man roster or needs to be added this offseason to avoid Rule 5 draft exposure. Some of these guys could be DFA if the roster gets tight — which it will — but for now, they’re all under team control as additional pitching depth (worth noting that Mitchell, Pinder and Shreve also will have options remaining next season and could go to Triple-A as well). Question isn’t whether the Yankees have pitching depth, it’s whether that depth is going to make a step forward to become anything more than up-and-down space fillers.

Associated Press photos



Posted by:Chad Jenningson Thursday, October 8th, 2015 at 9:00 am. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Cervelli now guiding the Pirates into their own wild card game

Mark Melancon, Francisco Cervelli

As the Cubs and Pirates get ready for tonight’s National League wild card game — it starts at 8:08 ET on TBS — it’s hard not to notice all of the familiar names on the Pittsburgh roster.

The Cubs have Austin Jackson on their bench, but the Pirates have Mark Melancon in the bullpen, Chris Stewart on the bench, A.J. Burnett in the rotation (assuming they advance) and even tonight’s starter, Gerrit Cole, was originally drafted by the Yankees but refused to sight.

And then, of course, there’s Francisco Cervelli.

The longtime Yankees backup was traded to Pittsburgh in the offseason for Justin Wilson, and it was a trade that worked very well for each team. Cervelli thrived in an everyday role and is hitting fifth for the Pirates tonight. He hit .295/.370/.401 for the year, which is remarkably similar to the slash line he put up in 49 games with the Yankees last year.

Francisco Cervelli, Ivan NovaI’m not sure the Yankees lost faith in Cervelli. They simply committed to Brian McCann and decided to give the backup job to someone younger — and generally healthier — in John Ryan Murphy, who also had a nice year in a part-time role.

If you’re the Pirates, I think you’d rather have a productive everyday catcher than a good left-handed reliever. If you’re the Yankees, I think you’d rather have Wilson (1.13 WHIP) and Murphy (.734 OPS) than have Cervelli making roughly the same amount of money as those two combining while blocking Murphy and getting fewer than 200 at-bats.

That trade’s a good win-win.

During his time with the Yankees, it was hard not to like Cervelli, and today The Players’ Tribune published a story from Cervelli detailing the lessons he learned during his time with the Yankees. He tells a good story about Mariano Rivera, praises Derek Jeter’s influence, and leaves no doubt about the impact of mentor Jorge Posada. From Cervelli’s piece:

Jorge believed it was a catcher’s duty, his actual duty, to be the hardest-working guy on the team. And he put the time in to follow through on that belief.

And as patient as Jorge was with his pitchers, he was ten times more patient with me. He took my education seriously. It wasn’t something that he had to do, but he did it. I lucked out, in a very real way, to be able learn from him — to be able to learn from all of them. It was an incredible experience.

I have no idea how these Players’ Tribune stories work, but if these really are Cervelli’s unedited words, then they’re pretty good, complete with a strong kicker at the end of the story: “We just want to play more baseball. And why not? We’re getting pretty good at it.”

Associated Press photo


Posted by:Chad Jenningson Wednesday, October 7th, 2015 at 8:00 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

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