Archive for October, 2012
Seems a little harder to keep up with day-to-day news in the offseason, so every Sunday I’ll try to offer a week-in-review post to help everyone catch up on the key bits of information. At this point, the news is fairly thin, but here are the basics of what you missed the past seven days.
• Mariano Rivera told Brian Cashman that he’s still not certain whether he’ll play next season. Rivera initially said he would absolutely be back after tearing his ACL, but he now seems to be having second thoughts (I’m still getting the sense that the Yankees believe he’ll ultimately return).
• CC Sabathia had a bone spur removed from his left elbow. The surgery was relatively minor and Sabathia is expected to be ready for Opening Day.
• Manager Joe Girardi did his annual end-of-the-season press conference, but he didn’t drop any real news. The most significant thing Girardi said might have been his insistence that he expects Alex Rodriguez to be the Yankees everyday third baseman next year.
• Cashman said on a radio show that Michael Pineda isn’t likely to be available until the middle of next season at the earliest. Shoot for June and set expectations from there.
• In the same interview, Cashman once again said he doesn’t expect Eduardo Nunez to play anywhere but shortstop next season. There are no plans of having Nunez change positions to fit him into the lineup next season.
• Joel Sherman cited a friend of Ichiro Suzuki’s who said Ichiro would like to return to the Yankees next season and money shouldn’t be a problem. I can’t help wondering whether contract length — and faith that Ichiro can repeat his second-half results — might be a problem.
• Mark Teixeira won a Fielding Bible Award as the best defensive first baseman in baseball.
• Japanese phenom Shohei Otani was drafted in Japan, but that’s not likely to stop him from ultimately signing with a Major League team. He’ll likely be the biggest name on the international market this winter.
• The Yankees re-signed four minor league free agents, including left-handed reliever Juan Cedeno and speedy outfielder Abe Almonte, who could get at least an invitation to big league camp this spring. Not bad depth pieces.
• Game 4 of the World Series is tonight in Detroit. The Giants have the early advantage.
Associated Press photo
As the World Series shifts to Detroit for tonight’s Game 3 — 8:07 p.m. on FOX — the Tigers need to take all three games at Comerica to take the lead in this series. How have the Giants done what the Yankees couldn’t do? By sticking with what worked all season.
“When you’re in postseason, you pretty much want to go with the guys that got you there and the order that brought you to the dance, so to speak,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “This guy (Hunter Pence) is a good hitter, and I like his presence in the lineup, where he’s at, and I think it’s important we stay behind our guys, and they need to know it.”
Pence has hit .182/.193/.255 this postseason, meaning he would have fit nicely in the Yankees postseason lineup. Bochy, though, has kept Pence in the fifth spot in the order, exactly where he was in almost every game after his trade from Philadelphia.
Would the Yankees fate have been different had Joe Girardi showed similar confidence in his hitters? I have no idea. The Yankees offensive struggles came from almost a complete meltdown throughout the order, and Girardi tried to right the ship. Maybe he would have been better of letting the ship try to right itself, but he was clearly going to take heat either way.
“I made decisions based on the season, a month, what I’d seen,” Girardi said. “For me to go back and say I would have changed anything, these weren’t just, let me go off the top of my head and make a decision. These were things we evaluated a lot before we made out decisions. I don’t look back and second-guess myself, no I don’t.”
Associated Press photo
Are the Royals a potential trade partner? • 10.27.12
Buster Olney’s blog is clearly a must-read, and today’s entry comes with this paragraph (immediately before the pay wall, for those of you who won’t cough up the cash).
“This is why nobody should be surprised if the Royals deal one of the core hitters from their every-day lineup — left fielder Alex Gordon, designated hitter Billy Butler, third baseman Mike Moustakas or first baseman Eric Hosmer.”
The beginning of the sentence — “This is why” — is a reference to the Royals need for pitching. Kansas City has a loaded farm system and a bunch of good young hitters at the big league level, but they’re still short on arms. The Yankees — if they can fill in some glaring holes that currently exist in their rotation — have Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes and David Phelps, who could be enough at least begin a conversation about acquiring Gordon or Moustakas (Gordon especially, Hosmer and Butler don’t fit quite as well).
That said, neither Gordon nor Moustakas has a bad contract, so those are going to be pretty desirable pieces on the trade market, and the Royals are already said to be heavily scouting Mariners pitching prospect James Paxton.
Yankees make some early minor league moves • 10.27.12
A few early minor league transactions from Baseball America. Usually signings at this time of year are incredibly minor, but these minor league deals actually carry a little bit of significance.
Signed: LHP Juan Cedeno (re-signed), LHP Francisco Rondon (re-signed), OF Abe Almonte (re-signed), OF Cody Johnson (re-signed)
Released: OF Billy Hart
Last winter, the Yankees took a shot on the lefty Cedeno, who hadn’t played in a big league organization since 2008 and had never played higher than Double-A ball. The Yankees scouts clearly saw something they liked because the Yankees gave Cedeno an invitation to big league camp, then made him a prominent part of the Triple-A bullpen. Lefties hit .240 against him, and he carried a 2.81 ERA at the end of the year. Shouldn’t expect him to be a major contributor next season, but he could be legitimate big league bullpen depth (or a potential Rule 5 pick if the Yankees don’t protect him).
Almonte is coming off his best professional season since rookie ball in 2007. He hit .276/.350/.392 in Double-A while stealing 30 bases and playing all three outfield positions. He’s a switch hitter, but his splits were drastic this season. Almonte hit .310 against righties and only .190 against lefties. His second-half numbers were pretty bad. He’s somewhat significant because Almonte once carried some prospect status — initially as a second baseman — and he’s still just 23 and there’s always been a little something to like about him. Don’t put him on your big league radar, but he’s finally done enough to be worth another look to see if he can build on this season and play his way (at least) to Triple-A.
There’s not much that stands out about the other names.
Johnson is a big strikeouts, big power kind of guy who’s found an organizational role as a Double-A run producer for the Yankees.
Rondon has been kind of an organizational reliever who finally got out of the lower levels this year and pitched pretty well in Double-A.
Hart was signed mid-season to provide some outfield depth in the lower levels. As far as I can tell, he never actually got in a game.
Headshots of Cedeno and Almonte
The risk and reward of Ichiro • 10.27.12
Second weekend of this came-too-soon offseason, and already the Giants have won two more postseason games against the Tigers than the Yankees did. But at this point, the embarrassment has subsided a little bit and the bigger picture has come into focus. These days there seems to be less complaining about what happened in the playoffs and more talk about what the Yankees should do in the winter.
And personally, I’ve been a little surprised at just how often Ichiro Suzuki’s name has been brought up.
Joel Sherman reported this week that Ichiro would like to come back to the Yankees, but I’m not so sure the Yankees should want him back. Ichiro played well during his two months in pinstripes, and there might be something to the idea of a veteran player revitalizing his career in a competitive environment, but I find it hard to ignore the year and a half before Ichiro was traded.
Ichiro’s numbers took a serious hit in 2011, and they were even worse this year before the Mariners dumped him to add two young pitchers and open some playing time for young outfielders. As of September 1, Ichiro was still hitting just .266/.293/.369 this season, and that was with more than a month of improved numbers at the bottom of the Yankees lineup.
The idea of Ichiro is a nice fit for the Yankees. It’s an idea of an elite right fielder who can hit for a high average, get on base a lot and steal some bags. But I’m not sure the Yankees can count on Ichiro being that player next year. I’m not sure it’s enough of a slam dunk to decide he’s the right fielder, no questions asked.
It goes unnoticed, but Brett Gardner’s career on-base percentage is .355, just 10 points lower than Ichiro’s. Gardner’s not nearly the player Ichiro has been — no one is suggesting that — but I’m not sure Gardner wouldn’t put up better numbers than Ichiro next season. And if there’s a younger version of current Ichiro already on the roster, why add Ichiro himself? Just because he had two good months and might give the Yankees that high-average bat they were missing this season?
In a complementary role? Absolutely. Ichiro could be somewhat of a regular with the potential for real impact, but the risk of 2013 Ichiro looking a lot like 2011 Ichiro seems a little too great for me to consider him a standout right field option.
Associated Press photo
Yesterday the Yankees sent an announcement about a player we haven’t heard from in a while.
Jorge Posada, and his wife Laura, will participate in this winter’s Women’s Mini-Fantasy Camp in Tampa. Posada threw out the first pitch for this season’s home opener, but for the most part, his first year of retirement was an out-of-sight, out-of-mind situation. Even during the postseason — the Yankees first in a long time without Posada in the lineup or in the clubhouse — there was very little mention of the long-time catcher. First his absence was overshadowed by Mariano Rivera’s, then it became hard to focus on anything other than the Yankees offensive struggles.
Was Posada forgotten? Hard to imagine that, but his role was marginalized last year, and maybe that led to a more gradual, easy transition for both Posada and the team. Even so, Posada was an iconic member of some teams, and the Yankees must be happy to keep involved in the organization one way or another.
Here’s the announcement about this year’s fantasy camp.
The New York Yankees today announced the participation of Laura and Jorge Posada at their third annual Women’s Mini-Fantasy Camp at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla., from January 17-20, 2013.
Posada, a five-time All-Star and five-time World Champion, will participate as an instructor and coach alongside his wife Laura, who will take part as a camper. Other husband and wife participants will include David and Nina Wells and Homer and Monica Bush.
Introduced in 2011, the Women’s Mini-Fantasy Camp is held at George M. Steinbrenner Field each January and provides participants an opportunity to dress in pinstripes and live the life of a New York Yankees player. Participants receive an authentic experience which includes an individual clubhouse locker and nameplate, a full Yankees uniform, supervision from the athletic training staff, access to the big league fields and full clubhouse service.
In each of its first two years, the Women’s Camp experienced sellout numbers with the participation of former players like Tino Martinez, Bucky Dent, Mickey Rivers, Homer Bush, and David Wells. Other organizational participants have included Yankees General Partner and Vice Chairperson Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal, and Senior Vice President/Assistant General Manager Jean Afterman. Diana Munson and Helen Hunter, widows of former player Thurman Munson and Jim “Catfish” Hunter, respectively, have also contributed.
For information or to reserve your spot in the 2013 Women’s Mini- Fantasy Camp or for information on any of the New York Yankees Fantasy programs, please visit yankees.com/fantasycamp or call (800) 368-CAMP.
Associated Press photo
The schedule ahead • 10.26.12
Baseball’s offseason is really triggered by the end of the World Series. Several key dates hinge on that moment.
The off day between Games 2 and 3 of the World Series.
Immediately after the World Series
Eligible players become free agents
Fifth day after World Series
Last day to make a qualifying offer to free agents Players have seven days to accept or decline a qualifying one-year offer
Sixth day after World Series
First day free agents can sign with teams other than their former teams
General Manager meetings in California
Twelvth day after World Series
Last day for a player to accept arbitration from former club (by midnight ET)
Forget about Type-A and Type-B. Forget about offering arbitration. Forget about first-round picks going from one team to another.
Baseball’s free agent compensation system has been radically changed by the new collective bargaining agreement, and in the next week or so we’re going to hear a lot about qualifying offers and eliminated first-round picks. If you want to have the changes broken down into bullet points, go here to MLB Trade Rumors. If you want to have Jim Callis explain it quickly and easily, go here to Baseball America.
If you don’t want to click a link, here are the basics.
Which free agents are eligible for compensation?
Only players who spent the entire season with one franchise are eligible for compensation. Any mid-season trade addition or waiver claim is ineligible. For the Yankees, that means guys like Ichiro Suzuki and Derek Lowe.
Every other free agent — anyone who did spend the entire season with one team — is eligible, as long as his former team is willing to offer a qualifying contract. This year, a qualifying contract is at least one year, $13.3 million (that number will change year to year based on the average salary of the 125 highest-paid players in the game).
Players who are not given a qualifying offer become free agents with no compensation attached to them.
When do teams have to make a qualifying offer?
Teams have until five days after the World Series to make a qualifying offer. Players have seven days to accept to reject a qualifying offer.
If a player accepts a qualifying offer, he goes back to his former team for $13.3 million (or more, depending on the offer). If the player rejects the qualifying offer, he becomes a free agent, and his former team is eligible for compensation if he signs elsewhere.
What is the compensation for losing a qualified free agent?
There are no more Type-A and Type-B free agents. All compensation free agents are the same.
When player rejects a qualifying offer and signs elsewhere, his former team will receive one draft pick between the first and second rounds.
The player’s new team will lose its first-round pick (the top 10 picks are protected, so if the signing team picks in the top 10, it loses its second-round pick). Those lost picks go nowhere. They are simply lost and everyone else moves up a spot.
How does this affect the Yankees?
It really means they have two choices to make.
With guys like Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera, there’s really no risk in them signing elsewhere and nothing to be gained from a qualifying offer. Guys like Raul Ibanez, Freddy Garcia and Russell Martin aren’t $13-million players, so there’s no chance they’ll receive qualifying offers. Even Hiroki Kuroda, who was outstanding, made well below $13.3 million this year.
The two to consider are Nick Swisher and Rafael Soriano. For Swisher, $13.3 million would be a solid raise over what he was making this year, but he’s probably after a multi-year contract this winter (and even if he accepted, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for the Yankees). Soriano is expected to opt out of $14 million, and he too is expected to be after a multi-year contract.
It seems likely that the Yankees will extend a qualifying offer to those two, and receive two additional draft picks when they sign elsewhere.
Associated Press photos
Granderson ain’t so bad • 10.26.12
Getting rid of Granderson has become a popular position ever since his dismal playoff performance — even before that, really — and I’ve said that trading Granderson might make sense if the Yankees can get a starting pitcher for him, but is Granderson really a must-go player who’s easy to lose and easy to replace?
“I will listen on anybody,” Brian Cashman told Joel Sherman. “But you would be hard-pressed to get enough to trade a center fielder who is a perennial 40-homer-plus man.”
If Alex Rodriguez is no longer a 30-homer guy, and Nick Swisher is on his way out, then only true home run hitters left on the Yankees roster are Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira and Granderson. Granted, the team will almost certainly add some power at DH or an outfield corner, but the idea that this lineup is overloaded with home run hitters is an exaggeration. Frankly, putting those three — Cano, Teixeira and Granderson — in the 3, 4 and 5 spots wouldn’t be a bad middle of the order. Add Derek Jeter at the top, slide Rodriguez into the No. 2 or 6 spot, and the Yankees have the sensible beginnings of a pretty good lineup.
Three common complaints about Granderson:
1. He strikes out too much
He strikes out a lot, but does he really strike out too much? If he cut down on the strikeout numbers he’d be one of the elite hitters in baseball, but there’s a lot of gray area between the elite hitters and the guys who are a drain on the offense. It’s kind of like the bad routes Granderson takes in center field. Yes, he takes bad routes, but he’s athletic enough to make up for them a lot of the time. The trade off keeps him from being an elite defender, but it lets him remain a viable one. Yes, Granderson strikes out a lot, but those strikeouts come with the significant upside of 40-plus homers.
2. He was a massive disappointment in the postseason
So were most of the Yankees. If Granderson is going to be knocked for his dismal showing this month, it’s also worth noting that he hit more home runs in the final month of the season than in any other month, and before this postseason he was a career .267/.375/.535 hitter in the playoffs (.313/.459/.583 in his first two postseasons with the Yankees).
3. The Yankees can’t afford him beyond 2013
I tend to agree that the Yankees will have a hard time signing both Granderson and Cano beyond next season, and with so much center field depth rising through the system — and Brett Gardner available to play center at any point — it makes sense to leave Granderson off the priority list. But that expiring contract also limits Granderson’s trade value. As Sherman wrote, the idea of a Carlos Beltran-type deal for an elite young starter seems unlikely. It’s all about value here. If nothing else, the Yankees will be able to offer Granderson a qualifying offer at the end of next season and get a draft pick for him. That’s not a terrible fallback plan, and might be as valuable as anything the Yankees will find on the trade market.
Look, there’s some merit to trading Granderson, but a lot of that merit is based on the idea that some other team will value him as an elite run producer who hits for a ton of power out of the center field position. Thing is, the Yankees should — and do — view him the same way, and they’d have to get get similar value to make a trade worthwhile. He might be frustrating to watch swing and miss, but he might be just as frustrating to try and replace.
Associated Press photo
Figuring out the ninth inning (again) • 10.26.12
Is the hard part going to be replacing the guy who replaced Mariano Rivera?
For years, it seemed that Rivera was the most irreplaceable part of the Yankees roster — and long term, he might be — but Rafael Soriano gave the Yankees a reasonable Rivera impression this season. It was an adventure from time to time, but Soriano got the job done. He might not have been The Greatest, but he was one of the best closers in baseball, so good that it actually makes sense for him to opt out of the final year of his enormous contract.
Now it seems that Rivera is not a sure thing to reclaim the ninth inning, and that leaves quite a bit of uncertainty at the back of the Yankees bullpen.
The sense I’ve gotten is that the Yankees still expect Rivera to eventually settle on playing one more season, but that’s not a done deal, and it’s clearly not as certain as it was in May when Rivera vowed: ““I am coming back. Put it down. Write it down in big letters. I’m not going down like this.”
Rivera was not a constant in the Yankees clubhouse this season, and although he did extensive rehab work on his knee, he never made another definitive “I’ll be back” statement.
If Rivera goes against expectation and fades into retirement, would the Yankees spend on a closer? Would they push Dave Robertson into the role? Could they count on Joba Chamberlain and David Aardsma — two guys who had Tommy John surgery in 2011 — to bridge the gap of the late innings. Is Mark Montgomery a legitimate heir to Rivera’s throne, and is he one who could actually live up to that billing?
It seems one thing less certain than entering a season with a 43-year-old closer is entering a season without one.
Associated Press photo