Archive for December, 2012
On the day he was drafted, Tyler Austin was labeled as a catcher. The Yankees quickly put him at the infield corners, where he played through his first full year as a professional. Last season, the Yankees moved Austin to right field, and he had his breakout year as a prospect.
Today, though, it’s third base that stands out as a growing concern in the Yankees organization. The team’s minor league system has several outfield prospects, but Alex Rodriguez is headed for another hip surgery and Dante Bichette Jr. had a disappointing first full season as a professional.
This winter, the Yankees at least considered the idea of moving Austin back to third base, but they ultimately decided to keep him in right field for the time being.
“He’s a better defender in right,” vice president of baseball operations Mark Newman said. “But (putting him back at third) is something we’ve thought about. It’s a possibility.”
The Yankees still expect Rodriguez to come back from his latest injury, and they have him under contract for the next five years. They have a hole in right field as well, so it’s not as if Austin is blocked if he stays in the outfield.
But third base is clearly a point of interest, if not concern, for the Yankees. Rodriguez is declining, Bichette hit just three home runs last season, and Rob Segedin hasn’t shown typical third-base power (he’s also gotten more time in the outfield lately, and he struggled after this year’s a mid-season promotion to Double-A). Right now, David Adams might be the Yankees top third base prospect, but he missed nearly two full seasons with an ankle injury and has seen far more time at second base than at third.
Austin, on the other hand, has emerged as an elite young hitter. He just turned 21 in September and hit .322/.400/.559 while climbing from Low-A to Double-A last season. He actually impressed the Yankees with his adjustment to the outfield, and although eventually moving him back to third base hasn’t been ruled out, but it’s not part of the Yankees plans at the moment.
“He can do that,” Newman said. “”We’ve got flexibility, which is not a bad thing to have.”
A few quick updates from down in sunny Tampa, where temperatures are in the 70s and a few notable Yankees are on the field doing rehab work.
Sidelined with an elbow injury through much of the season, it currently looks as if Campos will not follow Manny Banuelos onto the operating table. No surgery is scheduled for Campos, and he’s currently throwing off a mound, expected to be ready for spring training.
“He’s done everything he’s supposed to do,” vice president of baseball operations Mark Newman said. “The doctors say he’s healthy. We’re going to proceed based on that recommendation.”
After coming over from Seattle in the Jesus Montero trade, Campos made just five starts for Low-A Charleston this year, and he’ll likely return to Charleston next season. Newman said he still needs to “complete” that part of his development.
The Rule 5 lefty who was shut down late in spring training because of a fracture in his elbow, Cabral is throwing of flat ground at “extended distances,” according to Newman.
The Yankees plan to keep Cabral on their roster throughout the winter in hopes that he can show the same promise he showed last spring, when he might have beaten Clay Rapada for a big league job. That said, Newman indicated that it’s not entirely certain that Cabral will be fully cleared in time for spring training.
Seems like we get Pineda updates every once in a while, and this one is no big surprise. He’s basically doing the exact same thing Cabral is doing: Throwing off flat ground from long distances. Newman said both Cabral and Pineda are on basically the same plan at this point.
“We’re thinking May on these guys,” Newman said.
Previous indications have been that Pineda won’t be ready until closer to June, which makes sense. If he’s ready to pitch sometime in May, he’ll have to get stretched out into June.
The Yankees top prospect according to Baseball America hyper-extended his non-throwing shoulder while making a diving play last season. He was 83 at-bats into a promotion to High-A Tampa and had to shut down for the rest of the season. Now he’s getting back into baseball gear at the Yankees minor league complex.
“He’s swinging the bat,” Newman said.
The Yankees never seemed especially concerned about Williams’ injury, but it’s clearly good news that he seems to be progressing as expected.
The Yankees have nearly finalized a deal with Ichiro Suzuki, and general manager Brian Cashman has said he needs a right-handed hitter to bring some balance to his all-lefty outfield. But Cashman also confirmed to the New York Post that the Yankees remain in talks with left-handed Raul Ibanez.
Citing the new CBA, which restricts openly discussing free agent negotiations, Cashman told George King that he wouldn’t talk about potential right-handed options. But Cashman did say that that Yankees “are talking to Raul Ibanez and his agent.”
Ibanez would, in theory, step into the regular DH role against right-handed pitching. However, he would require a platoon partner even more significantly than the current group of outfielders.
When the offseason started, the crew over that MLB Trade Rumors came up with this list of the top 50 free agents. Most of these have already signed. Of the ones who are still available, which ones fit for the Yankees? The short answer: Not many.Names in bold are still unsigned.
1. Zack Greinke
2. Josh Hamilton
3. Michael Bourn
The Yankees have been connected to Bourn, but I just don’t see how they’re a match unless they trade Brett Gardner and decide to spend on Bourn, which doesn’t fit at all with their current plans.
4. Anibal Sanchez
5. B.J. Upton
6. Nick Swisher
The Yankees need a right fielder, need a power bat and could use a switch hitter. Re-signing Swisher would make a lot of sense if not for the Yankees financial situation.
7. Edwin Jackson
Not an ace, but certainly durable, and the Yankees could certainly use some rotation durability. Thing is, the Yankees have already made their significant rotation additions. At this point they seem more likely to go digging for fifth-starter competition, not best-of-what’s-left rotation upgrades.
8. Dan Haren
9. Hiroki Kuroda
10. Kyle Lohse
The market for Lohse has been remarkably quiet, which might have something to do with the first-round draft pick attached to him. His situation is similar to Jackson in that he’s probably not the kind of rotation addition the Yankees are looking for at this point.
11. Angel Pagan
12. Shane Victorino
13. David Ortiz
14. Mike Napoli
15. Adam LaRoche
The Yankees still don’t have a designated hitter, so technically they have a spot for LaRoche. But he’s defensively limited to first base, and he comes with a draft pick attached. LaRoche might be one of the best bats available, but he might not be the kind of DH the Yankees are looking for.
16. Ryan Dempster
17. Rafael Soriano
I have no idea how the market is going to play out for Soriano. In one way, the Yankees are the team best equipped to sign him — they wouldn’t lose a draft pick to do so, and they might have reason to look for closer depth behind Mariano Rivera — but it would be fairly stunning to see the market actually play out that way.
18. Melky Cabrera
19. Shaun Marcum
There’s plenty to like about Marcum — he just turned 31 and has pitched pretty well the past three years — and his market could come into focus after Jackson comes off the board. I actually think he might make sense for the Yankees on a two-year deal, but I doubt they feel the same way.
20. Torii Hunter
21. Russell Martin
22. Cody Ross
The Yankees need a designated hitter. And they need a right-handed outfielder. And they need right-handed power. So, yes, Ross could fit on the Yankees roster. Whether he fits their payroll is a little less certain.
23. Marco Scutaro
24. Stephen Drew
25. Joe Saunders
Still an uncertain market for these second-tier starters. If he were forced to settle for a one-year deal, would Saunders be considered an upgrade over Ivan Nova? His upside isn’t as significant, but Saunders might be more reliable.
26. Ryan Ludwick
27. Kevin Youkilis
28. Francisco Liriano
On a one-year deal, as left-hander who could compete for a rotation spot or fall into the bullpen? In theory, Liriano would make sense, but the fact is that he hasn’t been very good lately. He has a 4.85 ERA the past four seasons, and durability is an issue.
29. Carlos Villanueva
As a long reliever and spot starter, Villanueva would be a nice and versatile piece of almost any pitching staff. But the Yankees might be better of saving their money and trusting David Phelps to once again play that role.
30. A.J. Pierzynski
A catcher who can hit. It’s exactly the thing the Yankees don’t have, but they also seem unconvinced on Pierzynski’s defense and disinterested in the offensive upgrade. It’s easy to see reasons he fits. The Yankees seem to see reasons he doesn’t.
31. Joe Blanton
32. Brandon Morrow
33. Jason Grilli
34. Kyuji Fujikawa
35. Koji Uehara
36. Ryan Madson
37. Joakim Soria
38. Joel Peralta
39. Mariano Rivera
40. Ichiro Suzuki
Technically still a free agent. A matter of time before his Yankees deal becomes official.
41. Jeff Keppinger
42. Mike Adams
43. Andy Pettitte
44. Jose Valverde
The guy who lost his closer job in Detroit. Now he’ll almost certainly have to settle for a setup job, and the Yankees seem to have plenty of setup relievers. If he somehow falls into the bargain bin, he might be worth a small one-year deal, but it’s hard to consider him an upgrade over what’s already in place for the Yankees.
45. Jonathan Broxton
46. Scott Baker
47. Sean Burnett
48. Jeremy Guthrie
49. Eric Chavez
50. Jeremy Affeldt
The Indians want to sign Nick Swisher, and they’re going after him college-recruiting style. From Jordan Bastian’s story…
According to Bart Swain, the Indians’ director of baseball information, Swisher arrived in Cleveland on Monday night and had dinner with team president Mark Shapiro, (general manager Chris) Antonetti and manager Terry Francona. Bullpen coach Kevin Cash, who was a teammate of Swisher’s with the Yankees in 2009, was also on hand. …
… During Tuesday’s tour of Cleveland’s home ballpark, the Indians announced Swisher’s name over the loudspeakers and played his personal walk-up music. On the scoreboard above left field, the outfielder saw his image and was also treated to a special video message, which featured a handful of personalities (including Ohio State coaches Urban Meyer (football), Thad Matta (basketball) and Greg Beals (baseball) urging him to return to his home state.
Swisher was treated to lunch with Antonetti and Francona, as well as former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel and former Buckeye football player Dustin Fox, who currently works as a radio host on 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland. Swisher’s agent, Dan Lozano, was also present for the visit, which later included meetings with Shapiro, team CEO Paul Dolan and other executives.
The Indians seem to be pitching Swisher on the idea of coming back to Ohio, where he played college baseball at Ohio State. He would replace Shin-Soo Choo in right field and become a pivotal part of their lineup. In fact, he just might be their No. 3 hitter. He is reportedly going to meet with another team, but Seattle is reportedly out of the picture.
A few other notes from another quiet day for the Yankees:
• Baseball America’s latest minor league transactions include some famliar names. Long man Chad Gaudin has signed with the Giants (though there’s a solid chance the Yankees have already traded for him). Up-and-down reliever Jonathan Albaladejo has signed with the Marlins (though there’s a chance the Yankees are ready to give up a future closer for him). Lefty Steve Garrison has signed with the Diamondbacks (I have no joke to insert about Steve Garrison). Lefty Mike O’Connor — who was a nice boost for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last season — signed with the Twins, and righty Buddy Carlyle — who played a small role with the Yankees in 2011 — signed with the Blue Jays (Toronto just keeps getting better!!).
• The Indians made their Mark Reynolds signing official. In the process, they designated Russ Canzler for assignment. If the Yankees 40-man roster weren’t packed I might suggest putting a claim on Canzler. He has right-handed power and can play the four corners. He’s not a huge prospect, but a .289/.365/.508 slash line through nearly a thousand at-bats in the pitcher-friendly International League is worth noticing.
• The Rays have finalized their deal with Roberto Hernandez (the former Fausto Carmona) on a one-year, $3.25-million contract that also has incentives.
• MLB Trade Rumors took a look at the potential market for Michael Bourn. The Yankees were included on the list as a bit of a long shot, but I’m having trouble buying into that idea. Just seems to me that they have similar (but cheaper) potential in Brett Gardner.
Associated Press photos
The Yankees decade of luxury tax payments • 12.18.12
In connection with today’s story on the Yankees luxury tax bill for 2012, the Associated Press sent the following two paragraphs and chart, detailing what exactly goes into a team’s total payroll figure and outlining the Yankees payroll for the past decade.
(The following is) the New York Yankees’ payroll for luxury tax purposes each year, and the team’s tax, as compiled by the commissioner’s office, and the percentage tax rate the team paid on its overage.
Payrolls are for 40-man rosters and include averages of multiyear contracts plus a 1-30th of Major League Baseball’s costs of health and pension benefits; clubs medical costs; insurance; workman’s compensation, payroll, unemployment and Social Security taxes; spring training allowances; meal and tip money; All-Star game expenses; travel and moving expenses; postseason pay; and college scholarships.
From the AP…
NEW YORK (AP) — The New York Yankees’ luxury tax bill for this year has gone up by nearly $400,000.
Major League Baseball sent a revised accounting to the team Tuesday, raising New York’s payment to $19,311,642 from $18,917,994. The change reflected how one player’s salary was accounted for.
New York is the only team to pay the luxury tax this year. The Yankees’ final payroll for luxury tax purposes climbed from $222.5 million to $223.4 million.
The Yankees pay at a 42.5 percent rate on the amount over the $178 million threshold. The luxury tax uses average annual values of contracts and includes benefits.
New York’s regular payroll — 2012 salaries, earned bonuses and prorated shares of signing bonuses — increased from $223.3 million to a record $224.2 million.
Curtis Granderson hits a lot of home runs, but he also strikes out a lot. He can play center field, but so can Brett Gardner. He’s a valuable player for the time being, but he’s a year away from free agency. His current contract is affordable, but he’s likely to generate huge money on the open market.
For every reason to keep Granderson, there seems to at least one reason to trade him, and given the Yankees financial desires going forward, there’s a lot of logic to the idea of getting something of value for him right now rather than lose him for nothing more than a draft pick next winter.
Here’s the problem: What are the Yankees going to get in return?
Two things to consider:
1. One year of Granderson is valuable only to a team that thinks it can contend this season.
2. Losing Granderson would require that the Yankees replace his offensive value in the short-term.
That makes a good match hard to find.
A team that has two productive, everyday catchers and a need for additional home run power might be a good match, but where is that team? The Rangers don’t have impact catching to spare. Neither do the Rays. The Orioles aren’t giving up Matt Wieters. The Cardinals aren’t giving up Yadier Molina. The Giants aren’t giving up Buster Posey.
What else could the Yankees look for in return? We already know that third base is remarkably thin throughout baseball right now. Hard to believe a contending team would give up an impact starter. The Reds gave up a young shortstop and a big league center fielder for one year of Shin-Soo Choo, but the big leaguer is more of a platoon player and the shortstop hit .243 in Triple-A (plus it took a three-team deal to make it happen).
Even if the Yankees did find a team willing to give significant prospects for Granderson, how would the Yankees replace Granderson’s offense in the short term? Trade those same prospects for different one-year contract? I don’t really buy into the notion that the Yankees should have traded Granderson for prospects, then signed Josh Hamilton to fill Granderson’s offensive hole. Too much risk in Hamilton for my taste, and such a deal would effectively wipe out any chance of re-signing Robinson Cano, who I think is a better bet to perform going forward.
I’m not saying the Yankees couldn’t trade Granderson — not even saying they shouldn’t trade Granderson — just pointing out that it’s far more complicated than simply pointing to his strikeout totals and the final year of his contract and saying the Yankees should deal him. Making such a trade work — and getting both short-term and long-term value in return — would be difficult, and might be impossible in this market.
Associated Press photo
Granderson expecting to hit the open market • 12.18.12
Curtis Granderson has hit 108 home runs in his three years with the Yankees. He’s been an all-star twice, led the league in RBI once and reached a new career high in strikeouts. In some ways, he’s been more than the Yankees could have hoped. In other ways, he’s been less.
“It’s interesting to know that (free agency)’s coming,” Granderson told Ken Davidoff yesterday. “It’s amazing just to look back and where I’ve been, where I’m at right now, and know that time is approaching. I’m excited for it. It’s definitely going to be a challenge, something I’ve never had to deal with. But I’ll just get ready for it and accept all of the changes and challenges that come with it.”
Granderson is in the final year of his affordable contract, and he has no expectation of signing an extension. In his words, signing extensions “typically isn’t (the Yankees) M.O.” And so Granderson prepares for one more pinstriped season, knowing very well that it could be his last.
“I’m just excited to play this year,” he said. “And then, once we get to the end, we’ll take it at that point.”
Granderson talked to Davidoff in Staten Island, where Granderson was donating school supplies to kids affected by Hurricane Sandy. Over at MLB.com there’s a video of Granderson touring the affected areas and giving away backpacks.
“I remember back-to-school shopping with my parents, and that was one of the most exciting days of the year for me to get my school supplies and come in,” Granderson said. “And unfortunately, a lot of these kids lost some of that due to Hurricane Sandy, so the fact that we could come in and help pick right back up and get those kids back focused on school where they can have fun, be with their friends and learn about the things they enjoy, today was a great day for me.”
Associated Press photo
Winning the winter in Toronto • 12.18.12
The Red Sox had one of baseball’s worst records last year, went through a massive salary dump a few months ago, and have filled holes with large and — in some cases — questionable free agent contracts. The Rays have traded away two key members of their pitching staff and lost their center fielder to free agency. The Orioles seemed to be playing over their heads last season, and now they’ve lost more than they’ve gained in the offseason. The Yankees are old, banged up and trying to restrict spending.
So what are the Blue Jays doing? They’re seeing same thing everyone else is seeing, and they’re doing something about it. The American League East is vulnerable, and the Blue Jays have decided it’s time to stop preparing for tomorrow.
They’ve completed the winter’s most overwhelming blockbuster, signed one of the market’s most controversial free agents, and traded away two of their brightest prospects for three years of an unconventional Cy Young winner.
They’re going for it, and it’s hard to blame them.
Toronto’s trade for R.A. Dickey became official yesterday. The Blue Jays agreed to a contract extension with the knuckleballer, and gave up two of their top three prospects — including coveted catcher Travis d’Arnaud — to get him. Dickey will join a rebuilt rotation that already includes trade additions Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle.
To generate run support, the Blue Jays will be able to stack new shortstop Jose Reyes and busted-PED-user Melky Cabrera ahead of in-house sluggers Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. They’ll be able to sprinkle younger everyday players Brett Lawrie, Colby Rasmus and J.P Arencibia lower in the lineup.
To watch it all come together in a matter of weeks has been stunning, and at this point, Toronto has be considered the A.L. East favorite (or favourite, sorry). They’re certainly winning the offseason.
To be fair, the Blue Jays had the worst bullpen ERA in the American League last season, and they’ve have done little to fix that. Lawrie, Rasmus, Arencibia and Adam Lind have not been nearly as overwhelming as some expected them to become. There are obvious questions about Cabrera’s ability to perform without performance enhancing drugs, and about Reyes’ ability to stay healthy on turf. There’s a sense that the team overpaid in the Dickey trade. Spending sprees weren’t enough to get either the Marlins or the Angels into the playoffs last season.
But so what?
Here and now, the Blue Jays are better. Or at the very least, they’ve given themselves a chance to be better. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman talks a lot about striking when the time is right, and for the Blue Jays, the time is right now. It’s easy to find holes in every team — and there are those in Toronto who are horrified by the Dickey deal — but the Blue Jays are relevant again.
They’re clearly winning the winter. We’ll see whether they can win the actual season.
Associated Press photo