The LoHud Yankees Blog

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


Archive for December, 2012

RHP Jim Miller outrighted; adds bullpen depth12.21.12

Reliever Jim Miller has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, which means the Yankees have already built considerable minor league bullpen depth that could be waiting in Triple-A and ready to help during the season. Here’s a baker’s dozen to consider.

LHP Juan Cedeno
Signed out of obscurity last winter, had a nice 2012 season in Triple-A. Was at risk in the Rule 5 draft, but got through without being selected. Will surely get another invitation to big league camp.

LHP Vidal Nuno
A strike-throwing starter in Double-A last season, the Yankees have left open the possibility of Nuno becoming a relief option at some point. He was outstanding last season and continues to dominate this winter.

LHP Francisco Rondon
Added to the 40-man this winter, Rondon is an easy-to-overlook prospect coming off a nice year in Double-A. Impressive strikeout numbers; needs to cut down on the walks. Could be more than a lefty specialist.

LHP Josh Spence
Claimed off waivers from the Padres, Spence has since cleared waivers and been outrighted. He’s pitched parts of the past two seasons in the big leagues, holding lefties to a .158 batting average.

RHP Preston Claiborne
Part of the Yankees reliever-heavy 2010 draft class,Claiborne was terrific in Double-A last season and remained effective — 1.29 WHIP, 4.05 ERA — after a mid-season jump to Triple-A.  

RHP Cody Eppley
Pitched well last year, but Eppley does have an option remaining, which means he could be shipped back to Triple-A if he’s crowded out of the big league bullpen. If that happens, you have to think Eppley would open the season at the top of the call-up pecking order.

RHP Ryan Flannery
He wasn’t bad in Double-A last season, but Flannery’s walk rate — which had been impressively low in the lower levels — more than doubled. If he gets that back under control, he could climb to Triple-A. For now, he’s overshadowed.

RHP David Herndon
Claimed off waivers and eventually signed to a minor league deal, Herndon won’t be ready to open the season because of Tommy John surgery, but he was a solid Phillies reliever for two years before the injury. Should be ready mid-summer.

RHP Jim Miller
Claimed off waivers from the Oakland, Miller has now cleared waivers and been outrighted. He made 33 big league appearances last year, finishing with a 2.59 ERA and .217 opponents batting average. Was better against lefties than righties.

RHP Mark Montgomery
The top relief prospect in the organization, Montgomery has put up insane strikeout totals without very many walks. After 15 Double-A appearances last season, he might not open in Triple-A but he could certainly get there soon enough.

RHP Kelvin Perez
Not entirely sure what to make of this guy. He’d been pretty far off the radar until last season when he had a terrific year in Double-A, pitching to a 1.14 ERA and 1.15 WHIP while holding opponents to a .192 average. The Yankees need to find out whether that was a legitimate and sustainable leap forward.

RHP Chase Whitley
In his second full seasons, the fast-rising prospect spent almost all of last year in Triple-A. He had a 3.25 ERA and .213 opponents batting average while routinely pitching two, three and even four innings at a time.

SHP Pat Venditte
The novelty act who just keeps getting results, Venditte was in Triple-A last season and once again pitching well before a labrum injury sidelined him at the end of April. Might not be back until the middle of next season.

This list leaves out Graham Stoneburner, who was hurt part of last year. It also leaves out rotation prospects like Adam Warren, Dellin Betances, Brett Marshall and Schaefer Hall who could shift into the bullpen if necessary. It also leaves out a guy like Tom Kahnle, who could move quickly based on his potent High-A numbers last season.

Associated Press photo

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 23 Comments →

Quick notes: Ibanez, McGehee, Ransom12.21.12

Just a few quick notes this early afternoon.

• The Yankees have talked to Raul Ibanez about returning as a platoon DH, but according to the New York Post, those conversations have not included any sort of negotiation, and Ibanez would like to sign somewhere within “the next seven to 10 days.”

• Short-term Yankees third baseman Casey McGehee has signed in Japan, where he’ll once again be a teammate of Andruw Jones. McGehee is going to make $1.5 million, and could add more with incentives.

• Speaking of short-term Yankees third basemen: Cody Ransom has signed a minor league deal with Padres.

• Rich Harden might have made sense on a low-risk contract to compete for a spot this spring, but he’s signed a minor league deal with the Twins.

• Another second-tier pitcher is off the market. Francisco Liriano has agreed to a two-year deal with the Pirates.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 66 Comments →

LoHud Yankees Blog looking for pinch hitters12.21.12

We do this every year around here, and once again we’re looking for guest posts for our annual Pinch Hitters series.

To bring some outside opinions and new points of view during those slow weeks in late January and early February, we’re looking for anyone who would like to write a post — 400 words or so — about anything related to the Yankees. It could be an attempt to explain and defend the team’s offseason strategy, or an attempt to prove that the team’s offseason strategy quite simply won’t work. It could be a short essay about your favorite player, a blueprint for a trade you’d like to see, or a look back at past moves gone wrong or right.

Whatever you have to say, email your ideas to me — a few sentences explaining what you want to write — and I’ll make some choices to start organizing a schedule. In early January, I’ll begin contacting the folks chosen for the series. Please, no more than one proposal per person. It’s not necessarily first come, first serve, so take your time coming up with what you want to write.

The absolute cutoff for submissions will be Sunday, January 6. Send your ideas to: cjennings (at) lohud.com. Thanks everyone. I’m looking forward to it.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 173 Comments →

Jeter reaches out to Sandy Hook victim’s family12.20.12

Derek Jeter. Good guy.

Yesterday, the Yankees captain called the mother of Sandy Hook Elementary teacher Vicki Soto, who was killed last week during the Newtown massacre. Jeter called on the day Vicki was buried.

“It was a surprise and unexpected,” Soto’s cousin, James Wiltsie, told the Daily News. “Donna was ecstatic over it and very happy. She spoke to him for quite some time.”

Wiltsie said no one from the family reached out and asked for the phone call, but it still happened. Nicely done by Jeter, bringing at least a moment of happiness to a remarkably sad and tragic situation.

“People like Jeter have reached out,” Wiltsie said. “It brings some comfort to know that people recognize Vicki as a hero.”

Associated Press photo

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 203 Comments →

Report: Pierzynski signs one-year deal with Texas12.20.12

The only catching standout still on the market now appears to be off the market.

A.J. Pierzynski, the veteran coming off a career year with the White Sox, has reportedly agreed to a one-year deal with the Rangers. Despite their obvious hole behind the plate, the Yankees never seemed interested in Pierzysnki, preferring their in-house defensive catchers over the offensive Pierzynski. And based on the one-year deal he’s signing with Texas, the length of a contract couldn’t have been an issue.

It seems the Yankees simply didn’t want him.

Two things I wonder about, but don’t have the answer to:

1. We know the Yankees were willing to spend on Russell Martin, which means they were planning to spend money on a catcher. Is it possible the news of Alex Rodriguez’s hip surgery led them to reallocate those funds toward third base?

2. Passed balls and caught stealing percentages only tell us so much about what a catcher does behind the plate. Could the Yankees internal metrics tell them that their in-house catchers are a more significant defensive upgrade than we might expect?

From my point of view, Pierzynski was always an obvious choice, especially on a one-year deal. The Yankees clearly thought otherwise.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 95 Comments →

Minor league notes: Romine, Ramirez, DePaula, Rondon12.20.12

A few smaller minor league notes, just to clear out what I have from yesterday’s conversation with Mark Newman…

• It was interesting to hear Newman talk about Austin Romine. I’ve heard people in the organization speak highly of Romine’s defense, but Newman was raving. “He’s a plus, plus defender,” Newman said. “He can really play the position.” Despite so-so offensive numbers, the Yankees seem happy with the way Romine swung the bat this year in the Fall League, and Newman was especially impressed with the receiving skills he showed. Newman never said this, but I left the conversation thinking Romine’s chances of making the big league roster are better than I originally thought. I’ve always assumed that the Yankees have more immediate faith in the defense of Chris Stewart and Francisco Cervelli, but I might be wrong.

• The Yankees have added a second Gulf Coast League team, meaning they’ll have two full GCL rosters next season. You don’t have to dig deep to find the reason for the addition. “We’re able to sign more players, (and) we’re able to keep the players we have longer,” Newman said. “That’s the secret. The secret is obvious.”

• Tyler Austin got to Double-A in late 2012, but the Yankees aren’t sure he’ll open there in 2013. With just 36 High-A games to his credit, Austin could go back to Tampa at least to open the year. Newman said Slade Heathcott and Ramon Flores are definitely ticketed for the Double-A outfield.

• Speaking of the Double-A roster, hard-throwing right-hander Jose Ramirez will be with Trenton to open the season, but despite his big fastball, strong second half and spot on the 40-man roster, Newman said he doesn’t expect Ramirez to suddenly fly through the system. “I wouldn’t project him as moving super fast,” Newman said. “He’ll tell us (based on how he’s doing) when he’s ready to move, but I would expect him to have a full season in Double-A.”

• Another 40-man addition — probably the least recognizable of names protected from the Rule 5 this winter — is left-handed reliever Francisco Rondon. I knew next to nothing about him, so I asked. “He’s got high-caliber stuff,” Newman said. “He’s got to continue to improve his command.” Rondon’s high strikeout rate and high walk rate pretty much tell the story. Newman said his fastball can get to 93-95 mph and touch 96-97. He also has a good slider and could be more than a left-on-left specialist. “He’s got power (and) hhe can spin the ball,” Newman said. “It’s just a matter of command. He’s got really good stuff.”

• When Baseball America picked Rafael DePaula as the Yankees 10th-best prospect this winter, BA noted that DePaula was expected to jump all the way to High-A Tampa next season. Newman said that’s not really the case. DePaula is expected to finally pitch in the U.S., but jumping to Tampa seems too aggressive. “I think that’s rich,” Newman said. “There’s a chance he could pitch in Charleston.”

• Might be worth putting the name Vidal Nuno on the edges of your prospect radar. Plucked out of independent ball in 2011, the 25-year-old lefty was outstanding in Double-A last season (2.45 ERA, 1.19 WHIP) and he has a 1.99 ERA in Venezuela this winter. Nuno doesn’t throw hard, but he does everything else. “He’s left-handed and he can spin the ball and he throws a lot of strikes,” Newman said. “He’s got a chance to become a factor. He’s pushed himself into consideration, at the very least as a reliever.”

Associated Press photo

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 67 Comments →

Putting together the lineup12.20.12

Kevin Youkilis is in. Ichiro Suzuki is in. With most of the key pieces in place, what might the Yankees lineup look like on Opening Day?

1. Ichiro Suzuki RF
2. Derek Jeter SS
3. Robinson Cano 2B
4. Mark Teixeira 1B
5. Curtis Granderson LF
6. Kevin Youkilis 3B
7. Designated hitter
8. Brett Gardner CF
9. Chris Stewart C

Given the rest of the lineup, it seems to make more sense to bat Jeter second, moving one of the speedy lefties to the leadoff spot. I can’t help wondering if spring training might be a legitimate competition between Ichiro and Gardner to figure out which one would should hit at the top of the order and which one moves to the bottom. Gardner is coming off a lost season and has never had sustained leadoff success in the big leagues, but his patience and speed suggest a leadoff type. Ichiro has been one of the most dynamic leadoff men in baseball history, but most of his past two years have been disappointing.

Ideally, not batting leadoff would move either Ichiro or Gardner in the ninth spot — that second leadoff man that we hear so much about — but I’m not sure it makes sense given a lineup with a clearly defense-first catcher. No matter which catcher wins that job, it makes sense to minimize his at-bats as much as possible.

What to look for in that wide open designated hitter spot? It’s strange to say it, but the Yankees legitimately need some additional power. There are four guys in this lineup who don’t have much pop, and Youkilis’ slugging percentage dipped last season. The Yankees had Granderson batting second more much of last season, and they’re used to having Nick Swisher hitting sixth, so their used to considerable slugging up and down the order. Some power from the DH — either from one guy or from a platoon situation — could help create the sort of lineup the organization is used to.

Associated Press photo

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 269 Comments →

Does it get any easier now?12.20.12

It should get easier at this point, right?

With Mariano Rivera re-signed, the Yankees have a complete set of relievers. With Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte, they have a full rotation. With Ichiro Suzuki and Kevin Youkilis — and their defensive in-house options at catcher — the Yankees have a regular at every position.

All that’s left is to find a designated hitter, fill the bench and find some relatively cheap options to compete for spots on the pitching staff.

That should be the easy stuff. But it might not be so simple.

Designated hitter
Here’s what we know: The Yankees have talked to Raul Ibanez about returning to the Bronx. Here’s what he provides: Left-handed power and outfield depth should someone get hurt. Here’s the problem: Ibanez clearly needs a platoon partner and doesn’t do anything to balance the left-leaning outfield options that already exist.

Ibanez isn’t a bad fit if you count on Youkilis and/or Alex Rodriguez to regularly DH against lefties, but that won’t happen until the summer. Until then, Ibanez only solves half of the DH problem. And he solves it while providing only defensive depth that already exists. Another problem: There aren’t many better options out there. Luke Scott brings the same limitations. Delmon Young is a right-handed version. Lance Berkman might be a nice fit if he can still handle the outfield corners.

The bench
Most pressing need on the bench is a right-handed outfielder, but the best free agent options — Cody Ross and Scott Hairston — seem to be in the market for multi-year deals. Young might sign for one year, but he brings his own sort of issues. One name we’ve heard floated in trade rumors (Vernon Wells) is hardly an appealing option at this stage of his career. There are plenty of right-handed outfielders in baseball. Finding one that fits, though, might be a challenge.

Second need for the bench is a legitimate utility infielder. Eduardo Nunez is available to play shortstop, and Jayson Nix could be a fallback option, but the Yankees are going to need someone to get at-bats at third base, shortstop and occasionally second base. The infield free agent market dried up quickly. Can Kelly Johnson play short?

Pitching staff
The pitching market has developed fairly slowly. Do we have any idea yet where guys like Kyle Lohse or Shaun Marcum might end up? Nope. And without those sort of starters finding a home, it’s hard to know who might slip into one-year-deal territory. In recent years, the Yankees have been pretty good at finding valuable pitchers who have been discarded or dismissed. They struck gold with Bartolo Colon a couple of years ago, and last year they got valuable innings out of Cody Eppley and Clay Rapada. You can bet they’ll find some similar options before spring training, but the market hasn’t given us a clear glimpse of who those options might be.

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 249 Comments →

Wednesday night notes and links12.19.12

There are times when a press release arrives, and you can’t help but wonder whether someone in the media relations department came up with the quotes. No such question with today’s Ichiro Suzuki announcement.

“I believe the Yankees organization appreciates that there is a difference between a 39 year old who has played relying only on talent, and a 39 year old who has prepared, practiced, and thought thoroughly through many experiences for their craft. I am very thankful, and I will do my best to deliver on their expectations.”

That sort of quote can only come from Ichiro himself.

It’s amazing to think that less than six months ago, Ichiro seemed finished, and today he got a two-year deal. I’m not sure he can repeat those late-season results, but on a personal note, he’s a fun guy to cover and seems pretty popular in the clubhouse. I’m glad he’s back, if only for those reasons. And for his quotes.

A few other notes from today:

• First came word that the Angels were interested in trading DH/1B Kendrys Morales for an innings eater, then the Angels did exactly that by sending Morales to the Mariners for starter Jason Vargas, a 29-year-old who’s thrown at least 200 innings the past two seasons. The Angels got the rotation durability they needed. The Mariners got the power they wanted. Makes sense. And no, the Yankees don’t really have a Vargas-type that they could have offered.

• One of the better and more versatile pitchers came off the market today when Carlos Villanueva agreed to terms with the Cubs. Could be a reliever, but Jon Heyman reports that he should get a chance to start in Chicago.

Mickey Storey is on the move again. He’s been claimed off waivers by the Blue Jays. Beginning with a DFA by the Astros, Storey has been claimed by the Yankees, then claimed (back) by the Astros, then claimed by the Blue Jays. He’s on the Eli Whiteside plan, apparently.

• Cody Ross, who’s probably the top right-handed outfielder on the market, reportedly met with the Rangers yesterday. Not sure the Yankees will be able to get either Ross or Scott Hairston, but they clearly need a right-handed outfielder now that the Ichiro deal is finalized and an all-lefty outfield is in place.

• The Red Sox officially announced their deal with Ryan Dempster. “I’m very aware that the AL East is a tough division,” Dempster said. “If you go out there and make the pitches and execute, it won’t matter who you’re pitching against or where you’re pitching.”

Associated Press photo

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 218 Comments →

Yankees make it official with Ichiro12.19.12

The Yankees have announced their two-year deal with Ichiro Suzuki. To open a spot on the 40-man roster, they’ve designated RHP Jim Miller for assignment. Here’s the announcement. 

The New York Yankees today announced they have re-signed 10-time All-Star and 10-time Gold Glove Award-winning outfielder Ichiro Suzuki to a two-year contract.

Suzuki, 39, was acquired by the Yankees from Seattle on July 23, 2012, along with cash considerations in exchange for right-handed pitchers D.J. Mitchell and Danny Farquhar. In 67 games with the Yankees, Suzuki batted .322 (73-for-227) with 28 runs, 13 doubles, one triple, five home runs, 27 RBI and 14 stolen bases. Of his 56 starts with the Yankees, 26 were in left field, 24 in right field, five in center field and one was as the designated hitter. Prior to the 2012 season, he had made just one career start in left field (2001 ALCS Game 5 with Seattle at the Yankees).

“The Yankees are the kind of team that I always envisioned being a part of,” Suzuki said. “Everyone in the world of competition has a strong desire to win, but the Yankees also have an atmosphere where losing is not an option. These two observations may sound similar, but I believe it is a rarity to find both coexisting in the same organization.

“I believe the Yankees organization appreciates that there is a difference between a 39 year old who has played relying only on talent, and a 39 year old who has prepared, practiced, and thought thoroughly through many experiences for their craft. I am very thankful, and I will do my best to deliver on their expectations.”

Suzuki hit safely in each of his first 12 games with the Yankees, tying Don Slaught (1988) for the longest hitting streak to begin a Yankees career. Suzuki hit five homers with the Yankees — all at Yankee Stadium — after hitting just four home runs in 95 games to start the year with Seattle. Overall in 2012, Suzuki batted .283 (178-for-629) with 77 runs, 28 doubles, six triples, nine home runs, 55 RBI and 29 stolen bases in 162 games with the Mariners and the Yankees.

Suzuki, a left-handed hitter who throws with his right hand, owns a .322 (2,606-for-8,085) career batting average with 1,204 runs, 308 doubles, 80 triples, 104 home runs, 660 RBI, 452 stolen bases, 518 walks and a .365 on-base percentage in 1,911 games. Among active players, he ranks second in steals behind only Juan Pierre (591), third in batting average (min: 3,000PA) and fourth in hits. His 2,606 career hits are the most by any player through his first 12 Major League seasons and are 310 more than any other Major Leaguer has totaled since Suzuki’s debut in 2001.

He has recorded at least 150 hits in each of his first 12 Major League seasons, joining Paul Waner (first 14 straight from 1926-39), Richie Ashburn (first 13 from 1948-60) and Albert Pujols (first 12 from 2001-12) as the only players to accomplish the feat in the Live Ball Era. Additionally, Suzuki has stolen at least 20 bases in each of his 12 Major League seasons, joining Rickey Henderson (first 23 seasons) and Ozzie Smith (first 16 seasons) as the only players with streaks as long from the beginning of their careers.

Suzuki has played in a Major League-high 1,911 games since 2001 and appeared in at least 155 games in 11 different seasons, tying for the fifth-most such seasons all time. The only Major Leaguers with more 155-game seasons are Cal Ripken (15), Pete Rose (15), Eddie Murray (12) and Billy Williams (12). Suzuki has made 1,845 starts as an outfielder (1,549 in RF, 270 in CF and 26 in LF) and owns a career fielding percentage of .992 with just 33 errors in 4,284 total chances.

A two-time AL batting champion (.350 in 2001 and .372 in 2004), Suzuki has led or tied for the Major League lead in hits seven times (2001, ’04, ‘06-10), tying Pete Rose and Ty Cobb for the most such seasons all time. Additionally, he is the only player in Major League history to accomplish the feat in five consecutive years. From his debut season through 2010, he finished first or second in the AL in hits every year, and in 2011, he finished ninth.

Prior to playing in the Majors, Suzuki played for the Orix Blue Wave in Japan’s Pacific League for nine seasons (1992-2000) and was named the league’s MVP three times (1994-96). In 951 career games with Orix, he hit .353 (1,278-for-3,619) with 653 runs, 211 doubles, 23 triples, 118 home runs, 529 RBI and 199 stolen bases. Suzuki led the league in batting average for a Japanese-record seven straight years (1994-2000), while also winning a Gold Glove Award and being named to the Pacific League’s “Best Nine” in each of those seven seasons.

Suzuki is one of six Japan-born players in Yankees franchise history, joining Hideki Irabu (1997-99), Hideki Matsui (2003-09), Kei Igawa (2007-08), Hiroki Kuroda (2012) and Ryota Igarashi (2012).

In order to make room on the 40-man roster, the Yankees designated RHP Jim Miller for assignment.

Associated Press photo

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 45 Comments →

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