Archive for January, 2012
Pinch hitting: Brendan Sennott • 01.30.12
As expected, I got a lot of Pinch Hitter suggestions in favor of the Yankees offseason approach. I selected a few who gave slightly different versions of why they were in favor of the conservative approach. But certainly not everyone agreed.
Our next Pinch Hitter is Brendan Sennott, a Yankees fan living in Detroit, where his wife of eight years, Angela, says he loves the Yankees more than he loves her. “To which I always respond,” Brendan wrote, “’But at least I love you more than football.’…All kidding aside my family is my life.” He has a a degree in broadcasting and worked as a part-time sports reporter in Detroit until giving it up in 2009. He now works in marketing, but he says he would love to get back into sports media some day.
For today, he dips back into writing to explain why this wasn’t the best winter for a conservative approach. The moves of earlier this month redeemed the Yankees somewhat, but Brendan believes this is a time for aggression, not patience.
The Bombers acquired young, fire-balling starting pitcher Michael Pineda and pitching prospect Jose Campos from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for catcher Jesus Montero and pitcher Hector Noesi. While consummating the trade, the Yanks signed veteran right hander Hiroki Kuroda. The moves solidified the New York rotation and instantly improved a team that won 97 games and the American League East last season. The Yankees are now the prohibitive favorites to duplicate that very feat in 2012.
My question is, why stop there? This team still has many holes and question marks to address before pitchers and catchers report in three weeks. In my humble opinion, Yankees GM Brian Cashman still has more work to do to try and upgrade this ball club from a potentially great team to an unbeatable one.
It is my feeling that Cashman’s sense of urgency should be heightened this offseason as compared to any other in his tenure as GM. The reason being the loss of a truly indispensable cog in the Yankee machine is looming.
The Steinbrenner Doctrine has always been championship or bust since the beginning of the family’s reign in 1973. Constant talk of new luxury tax thresholds, payroll limitations, and developing young players from within is quite prudent for the Braves and Royals organizations. It just doesn’t fit the New York Yankee brand and what the late George M. Steinbrenner stood for. This is especially true approaching a season that may well be the last for the undisputable most valuable player of the last five Yankee world championships, Mariano Rivera.
Rivera will begin 2012 in the final year of the two-year, $30-million contract he signed prior to the 2010 season. He will be pitching at age 42 in his 18th major league season, all of which have been gloriously spent in Yankee pinstripes. All signs point to this season being the last of his storied career. Rivera is baseball’s all-time saves leader with 603. He has an incredible career ERA of 2.21.
The scary thing is, Rivera continues to be as dominant as ever. In 2011, he was 44-for-49 in save opportunities with a 1.91 ERA. He retired all four batters he faced in the Yankees’ Division Series loss to Detroit with one strikeout. Rivera has 42 career saves in the postseason, with an obscene 0.70 lifetime ERA. It is that continued dominance on the game’s biggest stage that makes him the ultimate weapon in baseball, a weapon that no other team in the majors possesses.
So why then is a global conglomerate like the Yankees getting away from what it allegedly stands for in winning at all costs??? Why are they selling its fan base on the values of fiscal responsibility and developing young talent? It really doesn’t make much sense now, does it?
I truly hope all of the members of the Yankee hierarchy have the same recurring nightmare that every single Yankee fan has had for the last decade or so. The Yankees are clinging to one-run lead in a pivotal game and there is no Mariano to protect that lead. There is no “Enter Sandman” blaring through the Yankee Stadium loudspeaker. Another, less qualified relief pitcher is coming into the game. That nightmare is getting far closer to a reality for all of us, so why stand pat?
Stop talking about budgets and prospects. It is time to act. Find a way to get rid of A.J. Burnett, even if it means eating the money owed to him. See if Edwin Jackson will take a one-year deal to be the fifth starter. Try to trade Nick Swisher and Phil Hughes for an experienced, clutch righty bat. Help keep A-Rod healthy by signing a quality big leaguer that can actually field (apologies to Eduardo Nunez). Sign Johnny Damon to be the DH and add another lefty reliever to solidify the bullpen.
The Tigers, Angels, and Rangers clearly don’t care about increasing payroll or the future ramifications of the new luxury tax rates in 2014. Why the heck should the Yankees?
After all, the Yankees still have the one guy that all of those other teams don’t: The Great Rivera.
Associated Press photo
A week of saying goodbye • 01.29.12
The Yankees officially took care of a few inevitable orders of business last week, but the most memorable moment was certainly Jorge Posada’s retirement press conference. It was an emotional celebration of the longtime catcher’s life and career.
“Playing for the? New york Yankees has been an honor,” he said. “I could never wear another uniform. Being a part of seven World Series and having five rings is something I never could have imagined being a part of. It was just priceless. I will forever be a Yankee.?”
Officially, the Yankees lost Posada and Jesus Montero in the same week, leaving a massive hole at designated hitter. Filling that hole will almost certainly be the focus of these last few weeks of the offseason.
The rest of the week in review…
• Despite an abundance of designated hitter types on the free agent market, Cashman made it clear that he would like to trade some of his excess starting pitching to acquire a bat. There could be another significant move in the Yankees future.
• Hiroki Kuroda is officially on the roster. Almost two weeks after the two sides agreed to terms, the Kuroda signing was made official. Kevin Whelan was designated for assignment to open a spot on the 40-man roster.
• Andruw Jones is also officially on the roster. News of his signing broke in December, but it didn’t become official until Wednesday.
• All of the arbitration-eligible Yankees are officially under contract. The Yankees took care of the last on on Thursday, agreeing to a one-year deal with Boone Logan.
• Joba Chamberlain took to Twitter to announce that his Tommy John rehab is still moving forward, including throwing off flat ground with Larry Rothschild.
• MLB Network and MLB.com revealed their Top 100 prospects list, including Yankees prospects Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances, Gary Sanchez and Mason Williams. When the list was initially posted online, Banuelos was ranked on spot ahead of Jesus Montero. The two have since been swapped. Weird.
• Yoenis Cespedes is officially on the free agent market, though I still doubt the Yankees will be heavily involved. Spending big on such an unproven player seems completely opposite of everything else the Yankees have done this winter.
• The biggest name still on the market finally signed when Prince Fielder agreed to a massive nine-year deal with the Tigers.
Associated Press photos
Putting the pieces together • 01.29.12
In this morning’s Pinch Hitter post, Nick wrote about the evolving strategy of the Yankees front office, and I think he’s right that the Yankees are trying to find a balance between sustainable player development and powerful free agent spending.
Truth is, the current roster is beginning to reflect that balance. It’s hard to project a 25-man roster right now — the Yankees clearly need to settle their DH and bench situations — but based on what they have right now, player development has produced more of the projected big league roster than free agency. The trade market has been an equalizer, a way to use player development to land proven veterans.
Here’s the current 40-man roster, minus the two Rule 5 picks:
Dellin Betances, Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, George Kontos, D.J. Mitchell, David Phelps, Dave Robertson, Austin Romine, David Adams, Derek Jeter, Corban Joseph, Brandon Laird, Brett Gardner
Big leaguers: 5
Quite often, the Yankees are risk takers in the draft, and that’s led to plenty of disappointments. The Yankees more or less went bust on four straight draft classes from 2000 through 2003, and Hughes is really all they have to show for 2004. But things have turned a little bit. Gardner, Austin Jackson and a couple of pitching role players came out of the 2005 draft, and the 2006 class has produced 10 big leaguers, ranging from Robertson and Chamberlain in the Yankees bullpen to Mark Melancon and Dan McCutchen as trade chips. There’s a lot of disappointment in the 2007 class — starting with Andrew Brackman — but Romine still has considerable potential, and it’s too early to know much about the 2008-11 classes (though there’s some real promise in those groups, and some of that promise is close to the big leagues).
The Yankees ability to find impact players on the international market is somewhat underrated. They’ve missed a few times — Juan Miranda, Kei Igawa, etc. — but they’ve also found significantly overlooked gems that aren’t mentioned here (Alfredo Aceves and Manny Banuelos jump to mind). Twenty percent of the projected Opening Day roster came from the international market, including the Yankees best hitter and best (ever) reliever. The emergence of Nova as a middle-of-the-rotation starter, and a progress of Nunez from forgotten prospect to big league role player, have helped ease some financial burden on the front office.
If the 40-man roster is unchanged, I guess you have to assume either Dickerson or Maxwell will make the team as a bench player, but if you prefer to think of this as five big leaguers, that’s perfectly fair. Either way, the point stands: The Yankees have done a nice job using the trade market to supplement their roster. They bought low on Swisher, got Logan as a secondary part of a bigger trade, gave up their own top prospect to get Pineda, gave up forgettable players for Dickerson and Maxwell, and pulled off an incredibly complicated deal for Granderson. Rodriguez is clearly the product of financial might, but the rest are the product of using positions of strength to fill positions of weakness.
Obviously, when the Yankees sign a free agent, it’s with full intention of putting him on the big league roster. The only non-big leaguer on this list is Feliciano, and he’d be there if he were healthy. One interesting thing about this list: The Yankees made that huge splash in the December of 2008, landing Sabathia, Burnett and Teixeira within days of one another. But the only other multi-year free agent contracts currently on the roster are Feliciano and Soriano.
Associated Press photo
Pinch hitting: Nick Kirby • 01.29.12
Next up in our Pinch Hitters series is Nick Kirby, a 19-year-old freshman studying communication theory at the University of Delaware (which happens to be where my brother-in-law went to undergrad). Nick is from Pennsylvania, but he roots for the Yankees because his dad is from New York and took Nick to Yankees games every summer since he was 6.
For his post, Nick took a look at the changing strategy of the Yankees front office. Part conservative patience and part high-powered maneuvering, the Yankees decision making has certainly evolved over the years.
The Yankees go out and sign the big name. Growing up a young Yankee fan in Philadelphia, the son of a transplanted New Yorker, I was accustomed to playoff losses followed by “wins” via trade or free agency. Giambi. Contreras. Matsui. Sheffield. A-Rod. Randy Johnson. Carl Pavano. The list goes on and on.
The Yankees, under George Steinbrenner, had a simple offseason approach of outspending the competition for proven talent. They also gave in too easily to player demands, like when Hank Steinbrenner offered 32-year-old Alex Rodriguez 10 years and $275 million when there were no other bidders. However, this approach did not produce in any championships from 2001 to 2008. The last big spending spree with lengthy contracts was the 2008 offseason when the Yankees committed more than $400 million on Mark Teixiera, CC Sabathia, and A.J. Burnett. The Yankees gave out too many years and too much money for aging stars during the Steinbrenner era and were not shrewd negotiators.
The Yankees needed to do something besides flex their financial muscle in order to win championships. Once Brian Cashman was granted “full autonomy of baseball operations,” the front office started to show more patience. One of the first signs of patience came in 2007, when they resisted trading Phil Hughes to the Twins for Johan Santana. Although Hughes has been somewhat of a disappointment as a prospect, Santana got a six-year, $137.5-million extension with the Mets and has been injured for the majority of the contract.
The Yankees have also started to play hard ball and show patience with their own free agents, such as when they dragged out negotiations with Derek Jeter to make sure they didn’t give him too many years like they did with Rodriguez in 2008. The declining health and eventual passing of Steinbrenner has made this fundamental transition a bit clearer. The Yankees have not signed a free agent to an outlandishly long-term, oversized contract since Steinbrenner died.
The current off season is a prime example of how the culture has changed. Instead of overpaying for C.J. Wilson, the Yankees wouldn’t even meet with him. They didn’t throw $100 million at Japanese sensation Yu Darvish. They didn’t give Albert Pujols a ten-year deal to DH, or attempt to lure Jose Reyes from the Mets in order to make back page news.
They waited, waited and then pounced on Michael Pineda. They got a young flame-throwing starting pitcher who will come very cheap for the next five years. They did it by being patient and not giving into to free agent temptation. They did it by developing Jesus Montero into a grade-A trade chip, and then cashing him in when it was clear that this rotation needed help.
An example of why a patient, controlled philosophy is necessary can be found during the 2010 off season, when Cliff Lee turned down a seven-year deal with the Yankees and took $50 million less to return to Philadelphia. It was demonstrated that nothing is guaranteed in free agency, and that placing a large emphasis on developing home grown players (to either play or be used as trade chips) would be a top priority for the club.
Cashman has taken some heat for “babying” some of his prospects, whether its implementing the Joba rules, refusing to discuss the killer B’s in trade talks, or waiting until the last second to call up a young pitcher. Cashman saw over the years that huge contracts could ruin Yankee teams. The 2002-08 teams were filled with overpaid players who never lived up to their hype or salary. Kevin Brown was 39 years old making big bucks as an injury prone has-been. Gary Sheffield got $40 million dollars to be a statue in right field and complain about management. Carl Pavano spent more time rehabbing in Tampa than he did on an actual pitcher’s mound.
Cashman realized that prospects could not only turn into productive players like Robinson Cano and Brett Gardner, but that they could also be used to acquire stars in their prime. One of his best trades as GM was when he cashed in Austin Jackson to get Curtis Granderson, a 40 home run center fielder who anchored the Yankee lineup last year.
Saving money and saving prospects could not come at a more convenient time. With the new collective bargaining agreement in place, the Yankees are making a serious attempt to be under a $189-million payroll by 2014 to avoid paying a larger luxury tax penalty than is already in place. To accomplish their goal, they will need to continue to develop and call up prospects and avoid giving out large, multi-year deals to players that have done most of their damage for another team. Since the Sabathia/Burnett/Teixeira splurge, the Yankees have stayed true to their new philosophy and will hopefully ride it to a championship in 2012.
If the seemingly endless Yankee finances can be combined with a top notch farm system and smart negotiations, the Yankees will be a dynastic force for years to come.
Associated Press photo
CC Sabathia was back at his old high school on Friday, this time as the guest of honor.
Vallejo High School declared CC Sabathia Day, and celebrated by naming the school’s baseball field in honor of the Yankees ace. Sabathia has remained heavily involved in his home community, and tonight he’s hosting a baseball clinic at CC Sabathia Field.
“I have known CC for years,” Vallejo school board member Hazel Wilson said. “and I have to say he and his mother Margie are the same people they were at the North Vallejo Little League, at Vallejo High School… Although they received a great blessing, they have not forgotten their community.”
Derek Jeter and Nick Swisher have also had baseball fields named in their honor this offseason.
Picture from Sabathia’s twitter account
In the back of the Yankees clubhouse, there is a large doorway that leads into the training room and the dining room and the weight room. That doorway is flanked by two of the most prominent lockers in the room. Derek Jeter’s locker is on one side. Jorge Posada’s was on the other.
So who take’s Posada’s spot?
“We were just talking about that before,” Jeter said. “I’ve got to check out the resumes and see how it all works.”
I have to assume these candidates are being considered
An obvious choice, but Rivera already has a pretty good locker location. He’s on the far left side of the clubhouse, and he might want to stick with the spot he’s used to. Also, Rivera might not like the prominent locker at the head of the clubhouse. In theory, no one makes more sense than Rivera, but would he be interested?
Kind of a conflicted possibility, isn’t it? On one hand, Rodriguez and Jeter are clearly the highest-profile players on the team. On the other hand, is Rodriguez really going to step into Posada’s locker? He wouldn’t have to move far. Rodriguez is currently only a locker or two away from Posada’s spot.
There’s a lot to like about this one. Sabathia has definitely emerged as a leader in the clubhouse, and he just signed an extension that assures he’ll be a clubhouse presence for a long time. Might as well put him in a position of prominence in the clubhouse. He’s also easy going with the media, so the high-profile spot wouldn’t bother him.
He’s too young for the Core Four, but if you’re looking for a homegrown superstar, it has to be Cano. There’s a natural connection between the second baseman and the shortstop. It doesn’t hurt that Cano has emerged as the best player on the team. Might as well treat him that way.
The way the clubhouse is setup right now, Teixeira is arguably the biggest name among a set of lockers that includes key but not necessarily high-profile players like Dave Robertson, Russell Martin, Nick Swisher and Brett Gardner. Like Sabathia, Teixeira’s contract means he’s going to be a significant presence in that clubhouse for a long time.
Too hefty of a decision to make right now? Then think of it like the Hiroki Kuroda contract: Go with a short-term deal that leaves all future options on the table. Jones is a veteran with an impressive resume, and he’s already tight with Jeter. If no one else feels quite right in Posada’s spot, then make a short-term choice to fill the hole while waiting for a permanent option to present itself.
Just a few things to put on your radar in case you’re able to attend…
• Dave Robertson is making an appearance on Sunday at something called The Man Show in Poughkeepsie, NY. The event is being held at the Mid-Hudson Civic Center, and Robertson will be there from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. signing autographs.
• Curtis Granderson is making an appearance Monday at the annual Hot Stove Cool Music Roundtable at Fenway Park’s State Street Pavilion. Hosted by Theo Epstein and Peter Gammons, the discussion will center on the dynamics of small and big market baseball, with Ben Cherington, Bobby Valentine, Neal Huntington and others taking part. The event begins at 6 p.m. Tickets are on sale at FoundationToBeNamedLater.org.
• Joe Girardi is making an appearance Sunday at the at the Harrison Public Library from noon to 1 p.m. I mentioned the fundraiser on the blog yesterday, but figured I’d mention it again with the Robertson and Granderson appearances.
The ones who got away • 01.28.12
Looking back at the ones who got away goes both ways. This morning, Pinch Hitter Brian took a look at those players he’s rooting for because the Red Sox lost them, but let’s be honest, there are quite a few players scattered around baseball who the Yankees wish they had back.
This is a list of guys the Yankees would like to have still in pinstripes. As we’ll see, wishing they were still with the team isn’t the same as regretting letting them go.
Of course the Yankees would like to still have Montero in their system, but obviously they felt it was worth trading him away. Betemit is coming off a nice year with the White Sox, but there’s no way the Yankees regret trading him for Nick Swisher. Same applies for trading Jackson for Curtis Granderson. And Alberto Gonzalez makes the list strictly because I couldn’t come up with a better shortstop. There’s no regret about losing him.
There’s more regret with a guy like Tabata, who hasn’t emerged as a superstar but remains a very young player at a thin position for the Yankees. The fact he was lost in a regrettable trade obviously doesn’t help. Berkman and Cabrera are coming off big seasons, and maybe the Yankees wish they’d foreseen that, but how could they? Duncan and Paredes are far from everyday guys for the Yankees, but Duncan has become a solid, part-time power bat — a .484 slugging percentage making league minimum — and Paredes has become a so-so prospect since being traded to Houston.
Of course this list starts with Kennedy, but because he was a key part of the Granderson deal, the Yankees can’t second guess that trade too much. Noesi is also a guy the Yankees wish they had in the system, but he was necessary to make the Michael Pineda deal.
Aceves and Moseley, although they’re more back-of-the-rotation/long-relief options, could have stayed in pinstripes without much financial commitment. That’s what makes those two regrettable, especially Aceves, who’s become a valuable piece of the Red Sox staff.
Ultimately, Vizcaino might be the most regrettable of everyone on this list. His prospect stock has continued to grow since being traded in the Javier Vazquez deal, and the winner of that trade might depend on the development of Vizcaino vs. the development of Dante Bichette Jr. (a compensation pick when Vazquez became a free agent).
Mid-level prospects as starters, both Clippard and McCutchen were traded away and converted to relievers. They’ve each found success — especially Clippard — in that relief role. Clippard was originally traded for bit player Jonathan Albaladejo, and McCutchen was part of the regrettable Xavier Nady/Damaso Marte trade, so obviously the Yankees would like to have do-overs. If Clippard had emerged as this sort of relief option in pinstripes, would the team have committed so much money to Rafael Soriano last winter?
Long considered an elite relief prospect, Melancon had some chances in New York, but he never thrived until stepping into the closer’s role in Houston. Would he eventually have found the same success in New York? Was he worth a two-month rental of Berkman?
Dunn was essentially replaced by Boone Logan, Coke was worth trading for Granderson, and it’s hard to imagine the Yankees sticking with Farnsworth long enough to reap the benefit of last year’s strong showing as the Rays closer. Karstens has been a good back-of-the-rotation starter for the Pirates — perhaps better than anticipated — but the Yankees haven’t exactly been desperate for fifth starters and long relievers.
Associated Press photos
Pinch hitting: Brian Levy • 01.28.12
As a writer, there are fan experiences that never cross my mind. This is one of them, and that’s why I wanted to include it in this series.
Our next Pinch Hitter is Brian Levy, a third-year student at NYU School of Law, and a Yankees fan since 1990. His emailed suggestion for a post was basically an all-sour-grapes team of ex-Red Sox. As a kid rooting for the Cardinals, I believe I had the opposite reaction. I remember disliking former Cubs players wherever they went, but Brian sees the opposite. He likes to see former Red Sox thrive, if only to laugh about the ones that got away.
One of the long-running debates about the importance of statistics is whether feelings affect baseball. When it comes to issues like whether a player performs better or worse in the clutch, the consensus says there’s no statistical significance to crying in baseball (cold streaks are not determinative of future slumps, nor do players perform worse because of fear in the clutch).
Another statistical shorthand that smoothes out emotional reactions is team revenue per win curves. E.g., Vince Gennaro, 2005. Economists and saber-enthusiasts argue that, from the perspective of the team, revenue can be estimated purely from the wins and losses in the standings.
This, however, seems to elide the difference between fan interest and fan payment. On aggregate, fans probably do pay more in eyeball-time or in dollars when the team wins. But, in my anecdotal experience, fan interest can be generated by a series of events with little direct bearing on the team’s overall record. Two of my own strongest and earliest baseball memories consist of two streaks on losing teams: Kevin Maas’s record-breaking rookie home run pace and Anthony Young’s pitching loss streak.
I think that readers of this blog are the kind of people who derive their interest, in part, by becoming invested in prospects, whether the big league team is winning or losing. For fans like us, losing prospects or other players under team control can be agonizing. See, e.g., the two references to Jay Buhner on Seinfeld.
That is precisely the kind of anguish we Yankees fans would like to inflict on Red Sox. After all, the goal of the Yankees fan is, to quote Gov. Schwarzenegger, “[t]o crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their [fans.]” Therefore, when a player leaves the Red Sox, I want to see him have a Hall-of-Fame career with another team. When I go to the Stadium in May, I am always sure to grab stacks of All-Star ballots and vote for ex-Red Sox.
If you want to join me in believing that all of New England suffers tremendous pangs of regret when a former Red Sox player succeeds, you need to know who they are. In the post–Reserve Clause world, it can be hard to keep track of players who were briefly on other teams. Below is the best team that could be made of players liberated from Red Sox Nation.
C: Victor Martinez
1B: Casey Kotchman
2B: Freddy Sanchez
SS: Hanley Ramirez
3B: Adrian Beltre
LF: Josh Reddick
CF: Coco Crisp
RF: David Murphy
DH: Anthony Rizzo
OF: Mike Cameron
UT: Jed Lowrie
C: George Kottaras
DH: Johnny Damon
SP1: Justin Masterson
SP2: Annibal Sanchez
SP3: Jorge De La Rosa
SP4: Erik Bedard
SP5: Chris Narveson
Long: Bartolo Colon
Loogy: Ron Mahay
RP: Taylor Buccholz
RP: Mike Gonzalez
RP: Takashi Saito
SU: Rafael Betancourt
CL: Jonathan Papelbon
DL: David Aardsma
GM: Theo Epstein
Manager: DeMarlo Hale
Bench Coach: Tony Pena
3rd base coach: Dale Sveum
1st base coach: John Farrell
Hitting Coach: Don Baylor
Pitching Coach: Mike Maddux
Broadcast Team: Terry Francona, John Flaherty, and David Cone
There are some better players who were left off, but how could any Yankees fan in 2012 skip Bartolo Colon? Of course, an all-time edition of this list would be pretty cool. It would necessarily have Roger Clemens, Wade Boggs riding a horse, and Jeff Bagwell. Others suggested include some left-handed pitcher from the Deadball Era, G.H. something.
Associated Press photo
Joba Chamberlain’s rehab from Tommy John surgery continues, and today he used his Twitter account to announce that he’s throwing off flat ground with pitching coach Larry Rothschild.
Had an amazing day, threw a flat ground with Larry and felt great! Thanks for all the support!
Still hard to imagine Chamberlain being ready for the start of the season, but all indications are that the rehab process is going smoothly.
Some other notes and links…
• I had a press conference and a beat writers meeting at Yankee Stadium this week, each of which provided an opportunity to see the current state of the field. It’s kind of in between baseball and football right now, with the infield being installed for the upcoming season. That’s my cell phone photo on the right.
• Chamberlain isn’t the only Yankee using social media to talk about his offseason workouts. Russell Martin tweeted a picture of himself in the cage in Arizona. I talked to Yankees strength and conditioning coordinator Dana Cavalea this week, and he said he’s about to make the rounds to check in on a few guys — including Martin — before spring training.
• A released statement from Hiroki Kuroda: “I feel happy to be a part of such a storied franchise, which is always in contention for a World Series. I am also very proud to be a part of this current team, which boasts so many great players. As a member of the Yankees, I would like to do my part by doing the best I can throughout the season. I hope that I can make a difference in achieving the team’s ultimate goal, which is to win the World Series.”
• Speaking of Kuroda, Ken Rosenthal reports that he has a full no-trade clause.
• Although Brian Cashman says the Yankees are focused on the trade market, the New York Post reports that the team has some interest in Raul Ibanez as a potential designated hitter, at least as the left-handed side of a platoon.
• While the Yankees still have a spot for another backup infielder, Ryan Theriot came off the market with a one-year, $1.25-million deal with the Giants. Theriot wouldn’t have been a perfect fit for the Yankees — they don’t really need his up-the-middle defense — but he does help further set the market for backup infielders.
• Speaking of utility infielders, the Rays made their Jeff Keppinger signing official today. To make room on their 40-man roster, the team designated Russ Canzler for assignment. I don’t want to oversell him — he’s almost 26 and was never considered an elite prospect — but Canzler would be an interesting fit for the Yankees. He’s kind of a Brandon Laird type, a four-corners utility guy who, unlike Laird, had a tremendous Triple-A debut last season (his .314/.401/.530 slash line is more incredible given the league he was in). Given the Yankees search for a corner infielder and their need for outfield depth, claiming Canzler might not be the worst idea in the world.