Archive for November, 2012
Right now I’m still in transit, trying to make my way back to New York. And right now my trip is moving about as slowly as the Yankees winter. But in reading back through some things from the past week, it seems the catching market is starting to move a little bit. Nothing significant has happened, but there’s plenty of talk about Mike Napoli, and today Russell Martin’s name seems to have taken center stage.
Jon Heyman reports that the Yankees have resumed conversations with Martin. It’s clear that the Yankees would like to have him back, and Martin seems to like New York. That said, Martin isn’t limiting himself to the Yankees. His agent has told ESPN New York that Martin has toured a few cities, trying to get a feel for different places and different situations.
It’s a fairly thin catching market — especially considering Napoli is much more bat than glove — which means Martin is going to have some options out there.
Speaking of options, the Yankees have plenty at catcher, but none that seem like everyday options. Today the team avoided arbitration with offseason addition Eli Whiteside — $625,000 for the defensive backup — which gives the Yankees three legitimate bench options but no reliable starter.
That would change if the Yankees can come to terms with Martin.
What did I miss? Pineda progress report • 11.26.12
He was right then, and he’s still right today. Neither Jesus Montero nor Michael Pineda has established himself at the big league level, and it’s too early to make any definitive statement of who “won” last winter’s blockbuster in the long-term. But in the short term, it’s certainly not a good sign that the Yankees most important Pineda updates involve throwing off flat ground.
“All I can report is his arm was working very well, very healthy, very loose,” Brian Cashman said in last week’s Pineda update. “He had zip on it. He’s in great physical shape in terms of body weight.”
In writing about it here on the blog, Brian Heyman hit the nail on the head with his opening sentence: Who knows what Michael Pineda is?
Montero wasn’t great last year. He was very good against lefties, terrible against righties and spent most of his time at designated hitter. The secondary elements of that trade, Hector Noesi and Jose Campos, were either awful (Noesi) or hurt (Campos) and so, the jury is still out. If anything, this winter’s free agent market — and the Yankees must-have desire to re-sign Hiroki Kuroda — show why Brian Cashman made the trade in the first place. Top-of-the-rotation potential is hard to find, and Cashman gave up middle-of-the-order potential to get it.
Will it work? We still don’t know, but simply getting Pineda healthy isn’t enough. Every “very healthy” update is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Pineda. There won’t be truly good news until Pineda is both very healthy and very effective, and we’re still a long way from that.
Associated Press photo
What did I miss? Swisher’s one regret • 11.26.12
At this point, I’m not sure anyone actually expects Nick Swisher to be back with the Yankees next season. He’s tough to replace but doesn’t fit their plans, so Swisher sits on the free agent market, largely inconsequential to the Yankees (except for the draft pick attached to him).
Because of that, I wasn’t expecting to see Swisher’s name as I read through clips from last week.
But there he was, in the Daily News, talking about his postseason comments about the harsh crowd at Yankee Stadium.
“It was a bad time, and the end of the season was hard for all of us,” Swisher said. “If I offended anybody with what I said, I apologize. I didn’t mean it; Yankees fans are the greatest in the world. There’s no better place to play than Yankee Stadium in front of that New York fan base. … I love those fans as much today as I have since the day I got to New York,” Swisher said. “They’re the best in baseball.”
Opinions vary on whether to boo the home team, but it happens, and athletes are almost always better off just letting it slide without mentioning it. But the booing bothered Swisher, he spoke up about it, and his relationship with the fans seemed forever altered.
My question is this: If somehow, someway, Swisher wound up back with the Yankees next season, would your opinion of him be different because of his postseason comments? Has your opinion about those comments changed in the past few weeks?
Associated Press photo
What did I miss? The Kuroda signing • 11.26.12
I barely had internet service this past week – and I had absolutely no cell phone service — so it actually took me a while to find out the Yankees had re-signed Hiroki Kuroda. By the time I knew about it, the deal was official, Brian Cashman had talked about it and most important day of the Yankees offseason had come and gone.
With nearly three months of offseason still to go, why does Tuesday already standout as the most important day?
Answer that question with another: Can anyone imagine what the Yankees would have done without Kuroda?
No Kuroda would have meant chasing after someone — maybe a risky deal with Kyle Lohse, maybe a prospect-gutting trade, maybe make-up-for-it-with-offense outfield signing – that would have steered this offseason in a completely new direction.
No Kuroda would have meant taking chances, one way or another, that might have been ineffective in the short-term and might have been disastrous in the long-term.
Signing Kuroda limited the risk.
Of course there’s a chance he won’t repeat last season’s results, but Kuroda’s more reliable in the short term than any other starter on the market (including or not including Zach Grienke, depending on how you think he would handle this market). He also has no impact on the financial plans for 2014. That’s huge.
Tuesday was the day that let the Yankees move forward with a clearer view of where to go from here. The Yankees need only to get the Mariano Rivera deal done and get a decision out of Pettitte, and then they’ll know, without question, how they can proceed in their hunt for a right fielder. They’ll know how much they can spend on another bat, and they’ll know whether they can afford to trade a guy like Ivan Nova (or Phil Hughes).
I’ve only been gone a week, but already the Yankees offseason is significantly less murky.
Associated Press photo
Catcher and right field • 11.25.12
Today’s interesting Yankees story comes from George King in the Post, regarding what’s going on with free agents Russell Martin and Ichiro Suzuki.
If it were my money, I’d bring back Martin and find a younger right fielder, but I’m not the one trying to get down to $189 million.
Today’s interesting question is, what would you do at catcher and in right?
FOX, YES and Yankees • 11.24.12
People are wondering what impact FOX’s arrival in the big picture will have on the YES telecasts and on the future ownership of the Yankees.
I saw an interesting article today that tries to address that. You can take a look and post your thoughts.
And would you like the team to always remain under the Steinbrenners’ rule?
Pineda watch • 11.23.12
Who knows what Michael Pineda is? He had one half of a good season with the Mariners and now he’s coming off shoulder surgery.
But he’s only going to be 24 in January and the 6-foot-7 righty did come with a price tag of Jesus Montero. It would be nice if he turned out to be something sooner or later in the Yankees’ rotation and lived up to the potential he originally showed.
Pineda went 9-10 with a 3.74 ERA in 2011, but he was just 1-4 with a 5.12 ERA after the All-Star break that year. Then came the trade, the labrum tear and the operation May 1, forcing him to miss the entire season.
Here’s what we heard the other day about his comeback:
He came to town within the last two weeks for a routine follow-up with Dr. Chris Ahmad, the Yankees’ physician, and Dr. David Altchek, the Mets’ physician who operated on Pineda. He threw at Yankee Stadium on flat ground, his program for about two months.
“He looked good,” Brian Cashman said. “He’s throwing on flat ground at 90 feet, so I don’t want to get …
“All I can report is his arm was working very well, very healthy, very loose. He had zip on it. He’s in great physical shape in terms of body weight.
“He’s not going to be a choice in game action until probably sometime in May or June. Whether it’s majors or minors, who’s to say? We’ve got him to the side. … We certainly have high hopes for him, but in terms of planning and counting on him, it’s in everybody’s interest not to do that right now and just put together as deep and strong a staff as possible and be pleasantly surprised and appreciative if we can welcome him back to the fold at some point.
“But that’s all for another day. He’s got a lot more hurdles in the rehab process to clear.”
In other news, ESPN on Thursday had the Red Sox agreeing with Jonny Gomes on a deal for two years and $10 million, contingent on a physical. The outfielder hit .262 with 18 homers and 47 RBI for the A’s last season.
Happy Thanksgiving/CC to be honored • 11.22.12
I just want to wish you all a great Thanksgiving. Thanks for being here with us year-round.
I’m off to a family gathering today, but first here’s a charity-related item I didn’t get to from the other day.
Beware of the Blue Jays • 11.21.12
The Blue Jays have been loading up for a serious run, bringing in Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle, among others, from Miami and signing Melky Cabrera. They just hired John Gibbons for a managing sequel. Between the Jays, the Orioles and the Rays (and the Red Sox will presumably be more competitive), it should make for a great division race with the Yankees.
I asked Brian Cashman Tuesday night about the Blue Jays’ offseason and the impact on the Yankees.
“Toronto has done a lot,” Cashman said. “They’ve been very aggressive. I’ve been obviously associated with the Yankees since ’86, so I know the sleeping giant that exists up there. It’s a great baseball town. They’ve had a huge amount of success in the past. They’re fighting from the development standpoint, from the trade standpoint, from the free-agent standpoint, to get back to that. And they’ve been doing it for quite some time.
“Last year wasn’t a true reflection of how good they could have been because they got derailed with injuries and unexpected underperformance. That happens in the sport of baseball. So last year they were better than what they showed on the field, and I think their additions are certainly going to serve them extremely well.
“They’ve been on the map as far as we’ve been concerned. They’ve been one of the best teams in the game in the first half of every season the last few years. The second half, things have gone different for them. …
“It’s just more competition. It’s not surprising. You tip your cap to them. We recognize what’s going on up there. But it doesn’t change how we go about our business. We feel we know what we need to do and we’re going to try to execute it, just like they’re trying to do the same.”
I think the kings of fourth place are going to be formidable throughout for a change, if they stay healthy. Like that Blue Jays lineup. The Yankees will surely do a few more things this offseason. Do you think they ultimately should fear Toronto?
The Nova mystery • 11.21.12
Ivan Nova obviously has ability, but as we saw in the second half, he misplaced it somewhere. He went 2-5 with a 7.05 ERA after the All-Star break, and finished 12-8 with a 5.02 ERA and a .288 opponents batting average. Plus, the Yankees didn’t let him near the mound in the postseason.
I asked Brian Cashman during Tuesday night’s conference call about his concern level about him going forward.
The GM didn’t sound too worried.
“I feel really good about Nova,” Cashman said. “He’s a good young arm. His maiden voyage a year ago was terrific, and he finished strong. He won one of our two playoff wins the previous year. And then this year, sophomore growing pains or whatever you want to call it. But at the same time, his strikeout total soared and his walk total reduced. So it was an interesting year for him.
“The stuff is there. He’s a good, young, under-control, not-even-arbitration-eligible starter with a boatload of experience, both positive and negative. I, without a doubt, consider Nova a rotation starter in the majors. It’s just, where’s he going to slot himself as we go into 2013? At the back end or toward the middle of the rotation.
“So that’s how I look at Nova. The equipment is there. His determination is there. Like anything, you get on the right side of the mountain, when you’ve got the positive things rolling, with his ability, you can take off. If you get on the wrong side of the mountain, you have to struggle through it and fight through it. That’s how he ended up in the end, where he was on the wrong side of the mountain, probably of confidence. But that’s nothing I worry about with him. He’s a very confident guy.”
This is the link to my story today for The Journal News and LoHud.com about the positive move of re-signing Hiroki Kuroda and a quick summary of Tuesday’s happenings. But I didn’t have room for Cashman’s take on the current rotation, minus Andy Pettitte, at least for the moment:
“On paper, we do have five starters. If you go through it, you’ve got CC, Kuroda, Hughes, Nova, Phelps, but we would certainly like to add to that and lengthen it and deepen it and strengthen it.”