Earlier this month, I took one day of vacation and the Yankees traded for a new shortstop and signed a new reliever. On Friday, I flew home to Missouri and the Yankees gave up their veteran second baseman for a young starting pitcher. Today I’m starting a two-week vacation, and although these weeks around Christmas and the new year are usually quiet, my track record suggests a flurry of activity before I’m officially back on the clock.
I’ll probably blog from time to time these next few weeks, but for the most part I’m going off the grid for a bit. Here are a few random thoughts before I go. Whatever you’re celebrating — and even if you’re not celebrating anything at all — I hope you all enjoy the holidays. See you in the new year!
• When the Yankees traded for Justin Wilson, they got a little bit younger behind the plate and a little bit younger in the bullpen. When they traded for Didi Gregorius, they got younger in the infield. When they traded for Nathan Eovaldi, they got younger in the rotation and opened the possibility of being quite a bit younger at second base. In a way, I guess signing Chase Headley — instead of rolling the dice with Alex Rodriguez — made the Yankees younger at third base. Younger isn’t always better, but age has been an obvious problem for the Yankees, and they’ve most certainly addressed that problem this winter. Now they just need it to actually work.
• Along those same lines: Headley will be 34 when his new deal expires. Andrew Miller will be 33 when his deal is done. Chris Young will be 32 at the end of his one-year deal, and even Garrett Jones — though he might seem much older — will be 34 at the end his contract. Not only have the Yankees focused on getting younger players in the short term, they’ve also avoided committing to players beyond their early to mid 30s. The only exception this offseason has been Chris Capuano, a one-year commitment for some rotation depth. Wonder if Hiroki Kuroda could be another exception, or if the Yankees will eventually take a multi-year, late-30s risk with Max Scherzer or James Shields.
• Brian Cashman on the ongoing development of Eovaldi: “I’d rather not say where he needs to improve. He’s got a great deal of ability. I don’t think he’s a finished product, but we’re really excited to add him to the mix. This team has been lacking, as we entered this winter, in terms of innings, in terms of legitimate choices, so we’re just trying to give ourselves as many of those options — and clearly, given our current payroll, current commitment, if we can find guys who have this type of ability, who are cost controlled, as we have already high-end commitments to other players on the roster, it’s just an easier fit. We look forward to assisting a player like Eovaldi at growing in this game.”
• The Steamer projection (used by Fangraphs) for Martin Prado next season: .274/.326/.402. The projection for Rob Refsnyder: .262/.328/.390. The projection for Jose Pirela: .259/.307/.381. And just because he’s still out there, the projection for Asdrubal Cabrera: .251/.316/.397. Prado’s versatility is going to be awfully hard to replace — and that was a big part of his value — but the Yankees might not have a lot of trouble replacing his offense.
• Speaking of that versatility, I do wonder if flexibility is going to be the greatest downside to the Prado/Eovaldi swap. Garrett Jones is an obvious fit because he backs up a three positions where the Yankees have some real health and productivity concerns — right field, first base, designated hitter — but having him on the bench leaves no room for a utility guy outside of Brendan Ryan. Amazingly, getting rid of a veteran second baseman might have hurt Pirela’s chances of making the team. Before the Prado deal, Pirela seemed to be a heavy favorite to win the last bench spot. Now he seems like the expected runner up for the second base job, with no bench spot as a fallback plan. But I suppose things can change (and they almost always do).
• Uncertainty about whether Refsnyder can handle the big leagues. Uncertainty about whether Gregorius will hit enough to provide any sort of offense. Uncertainty about whether Eovaldi will maximize his potential and put up numbers that match up with his velocity. I guess this is what it’s like to cover and follow a team that’s going to actually try some young players in key spots.
• Now the Yankees have five starters in place (and I still wonder if they might add Kuroda to the mix as well). So how will Adam Warren be treated coming into camp? Get him stretched out just in case, and if the other five starters stay healthy, then he slides back into the bullpen? Losing David Phelps cost the Yankees their most obvious swing-man type. Warren and Esmil Rogers could be starters in spring training and relievers by Opening Day.
• I’ll say it again: No matter how many moves the Yankees make, their 2015 season is going to hinge largely on whether they get bounce-back production out of Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann and Alex Rodriguez. Those four are taking up key spots in the everyday lineup, and there’s not much power potential elsewhere (unless Tyler Austin, Aaron Judge or Greg Bird slugs his way into the mix). If the 2015 Yankees can’t hit, it will be because of the mistakes of past offseasons much more so than the mistakes of this offseason.
• Awesome stuff from the Yankees this weekend, using funds from George Steinbrenner’s Silver Shield Foundation to pay for the education of children of Rafael Ramos, one of the NYPD officers killed in Brooklyn on Saturday. Unthinkably horrible situation, and a kind gesture from the Yankees. Along those lines, happy holidays everyone.
Associated Press photos