Archive for October, 2013
Red Sox one game away (the offseason awaits) • 10.30.13
My guess is a lot of you have been rooting for the Cardinals for the past week or so. Not that you all grew up where I did — trust me, my friends and family back in Missouri have been fired up — but this is a Yankees blog, and it’s hard to believe many of you are actively rooting for the Red Sox.
Question is, do you have one more day of patience to keep rooting that way?
The Red Sox won two of three in St. Louis, and tonight’s Game 6 begins with Boston one win away from a championship. More significantly for the Yankees, Boston is one win away from ending the World Series. With a Red Sox win tonight, the offseason schedule would finally get started. Eligible players would officially become free agents on Thursday. Qualifying offers would be announced by Monday. Players would be free to sign anywhere by Tuesday.
It’s been more than four weeks since the Yankees season came to an end, and we’ve all been waiting for the real offseason to begin. Are you willing to wait one more day to keep the Red Sox from winning a title tonight?
Associated Press photo
No Gold Glove for Cano • 10.29.13
As expected, Dustin Pedroia was just announced as the American League Gold Glove winner at second base, beating out Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano. As I wrote earlier, I’m not a big believer in many defensive metrics, but Pedroia did seem to have a significant advantage over Cano.
Here’s the full list of Gold Glove winners, with their number of career Gold Gloves.
P — R.A. Dickey, Toronto, 1
C — Salvatore Perez, Kansas City, 1
1B — Eric Hosmer, Kansas City, 1
2B — Dustin Pedroia, Boston, 3
SS — J.J. Hardy, Baltimore, 2
3B — Manny Machado, Baltimore, 1
LF — Alex Gordon, Kansas City, 3
CF — Adam Jones, Baltimore, 3
RF — Shane Victorino, Boston, 4
P — Adam Wainwright, St. Louis, 2
C — Yadier Molina, St. Louis, 6
1B — Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona, 1
2B — Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati, 4
SS — Andrelton Simmons, Atlanta, 1
3B — Nolan Arenado, Colorado, 1
LF — Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado, 3
CF — Carlos Gomez, Milwaukee, 1
RF — Gerardo Parra, Arizona, 2
I’ve been away from my apartment for the past two weeks or so. All for good and fun reasons — went to a wedding, celebrated three out-of-town birthdays, got to see my parents for a few hours, randomly went to one World Series game — but it’s required some catching up on random stuff (Anyone want to renew my license and registration for me?). Last night, I was flipping through a few Sports Illustrated issues that I hadn’t seen and came across Tom Verducci’s question and answer interview with Pedro Martinez.
Granted, it’s Pedro, so Yankees fans might have intentionally looked the other way, but he actually talked a lot about the Yankees, including some kind words about Derek Jeter, who Martinez labeled as the hitter he’d least like to face with a runner at second base in a close game.
“He doesn’t get rattled. He doesn’t get excited. He’s cold, like an icebox. … It’s impossible to make him change his approach or his demeanor. The program that he has to approach you doesn’t change.”
Martinez also talked pretty candidly about intentionally hitting Jeter in 2003 (in the same game when he also hit Alfonso Soriano). And that conversation about hitting Jeter, came directly out of a conversation about how close he came to signing with the Yankees in 2004.
“If it wasn’t for (Mets GM) Omar Minaya, (the Yankees’) was the best offer I had out there.”
It’s an interesting interview, if only because Martinez is an interesting personality. It’s worth checking out if only to read about his face-to-face meeting with George Steinbrenner, his complete thoughts on Jeter and why he intentionally threw at hitters.
State of the organization: Left field • 10.29.13
With Brett Gardner having transitioned to his more natural center field position, left field at Yankee Stadium belongs to the former Yankees second baseman who came back to the Bronx and provided a legitimate down-the-stretch spark this year. But that’s only the state of the organization for 2014. Beyond next season, left field is a total mystery.
Signed through 2014
If he had enough at-bats to qualify, Soriano would have finished fifth in American League slugging percentage this season. He showed up at the end of July, hit 17 homers, slugged .525 and proved to be perhaps the best trade deadline acquisition in baseball. He did exactly what the Yankees wanted him to do, and far exceeded what they could have reasonably expected him to do. Now the question is, can he do that again for a full season? And even if a repeat of his .256/.325/.525 slash line is too much to ask — until the trade, Soriano hadn’t hit like that since 2008 — is it reasonable to hope for something close to his 2012 production (.262/.322/.499)? With Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson heading toward free agency, the Yankees desperately need power, and Soriano could provide that for another year. He’ll be 38 next season, but the Yankees aren’t in this for the long term. They need one more productive season, and Soriano’s triumphant return to the Bronx certainly suggests he’s capable of such a thing. He’s going to strike out a lot, but as long as Soriano is driving the ball, he can play a significant role in the Yankees depleted lineup.
If we’re talking about a depth chart here, the Yankees have Vernon Wells and Ichiro Suzuki under contract as either platoon right fielders or backup corner outfielders. If the Yankees need someone to fill-in for Soriano for a day, they’re covered. But that’s not really what we’re talking about with ready replacements. The better focus here is on Zoilo Almonte. The switch-hitter has played both outfield corners in his career — and a little center field — but this season he focused on left field in both the big leagues and in Triple-A. He’s also played almost exclusively in left field this winter. That’s not to say he couldn’t compete for a right field job in spring training, but he would certainly seem to be at or near the top of the left field list should something happen to Soriano. As a general rule, Almonte’s long-term future seems closer to fourth outfielder than productive everyday player, but he did slug .487 in Double-A last year and he hit .297/.369/.421 in Triple-A this season. There’s something at least vaguely interesting about the bat — especially against right-handed pitching — and Almonte has positioned himself as the most advanced outfield prospect in the system. His opportunity, though, could be fairly limited. If he gets a chance, he’ll need to produce quickly or else be forgotten.
Soriano is pretty solid proof that a future left field standout won’t necessarily play left field in the minors. Young center fielders and second basemen could very well end up in left field at some point, so you could consider anyone from Slade Heathcott to Rob Refsnyder to be a legitimate left field prospect at this point. And as for ready replacements, Ronnier Mustelier and Adonis Garcia could easily fit into the left field discussion. But as for top prospects currently playing left field, the best in the Yankees system is still probably Ramon Flores. Entering this season, Flores was kind of a second-tier outfield prospect behind the Heathcott-Williams-Austin trio. Getting on base is his calling card, and he had a .353 on-base percentage in Double-A Trenton this year. He also hit .260 and slugged just .363. He stole seven bases and was thrown out six times. Basically, he does seem to have an advanced eye and a patient approach at the plate — and he can play some center field, which helps — but does a low-power, not-overwhelming-speed guy really have a big league future in left field? Brett Gardner was crowded into the role by circumstance, but he was always considered a better talent than Flores is considered today. If Flores were a shortstop or second baseman, his offensive potential might be viewed differently.
STATE OF THE ORGANIZATION
In the past three decades or so, the Yankees have had quite a bit of turnover in left field. Hideki Matsui held down the position for a while, but there’s also been a lot of mixing and matching there. For next season, the Yankees seem to have the position very nearly set in stone with Soriano, but everything about the Yankees outfield is a complete mystery beyond 2014. Soriano, Gardner, Wells and Ichiro are each free agents after next season, and it’s telling that Almonte is the system’s most advanced young outfielder, because he’s hardly a sure thing to have any sort of impact in either the short term or the long term. Deep in the system, third-round draft pick Nathan Mikolas has primarily played left field, but he’s also 19 with a long, long way to go. In A-ball, Ben Gamel has been a nice young player, but he’s more of a fringy prospect than a standout. Left field is typically less predictable than other positions, if only because so many players can eventually slide into that role, and the Yankees are certainly facing significant unpredictability at the position. Honestly, just try to answer this question right now: Who do you think will be the Yankees Opening Day left fielder in 2015? Your guess is as good as mine.
Associated Press photo
There is really no defensive statistic that I fully trust and believe in. Defense has proven to be perhaps the toughest thing to statistically measure in baseball, but it is interesting that several of these stats seem to agree that Cano was not up to the standard of the other two American League second base finalists.
I believe Cano’s a very good defensive player, but Dustin Pedroia has shown several times this offseason that he’s also a fine second baseman able to make some great plays. Pedroia was also announced as the Fielding Bible Award winner at second base, which is a pretty good indication that the advanced metrics show he was a better second baseman than Cano this season.
Here are the three American League Gold Glove finalists:
Fielding percentage: .991
Ultimate Zone Rating: 0.8
Defensive WAR: 1.2
Fielding percentage: .993
Ultimate Zone Rating: 10.9
Defensive WAR: 2.3
Fielding Percentage: .993 (in 125 games at 2B)
Errors: 4 (plus one at shortstop)
Ultimate Zone Rating: 10.0
Defensive WAR: 1.3
Associated Press photo
If you want Yankees drama these days, it’s best to do a daily Google search for Alex Rodriguez. Here’s the latest on his saga from The Associated Press.
NEW YORK (AP) — Lawyers for Major League Baseball are seeking a speedy dismissal of an Alex Rodriguez lawsuit accusing the league and Commissioner Bud Selig of trying to drive him out of baseball, according to a letter sent to a judge Monday.
U.S. District Judge Lorna G. Schofield in Manhattan agreed that lawyers on both sides could make their formal requests by Nov. 8. A hearing is scheduled for a day earlier.
Jordan Siev, a lawyer for Rodriguez, wrote in a joint letter to the judge from lawyers on both sides that MLB lawyers planned to ask that the lawsuit be dismissed.
He said lawyers for the New York Yankees third baseman would ask that the case be remanded to state court in Manhattan, where Rodriguez had filed it early this month before the league removed it to federal court. Siev said the requests by the league and Rodriguez both concern whether the lawsuit’s claims fall outside or are pre-empted by the Taft-Hartley Act, known formally as the Labor Management Relations Act.
In the lawsuit, Rodriguez accused the league and Selig of going on a “witch hunt” designed to force him out of the game. The Major League Baseball Players Association has filed a grievance to overturn a 211-game suspension given to Rodriguez by MLB on Aug. 5 for alleged violations of baseball’s drug agreement and labor contract. A ruling in a case being heard by arbitrator Fredric Horowitz is not likely before winter.
The three-time AL MVP claimed in his lawsuit that MLB and Selig targeted Rodriguez to cover up Selig’s alleged past inaction on performance-enhancing drugs. The lawsuit claimed Selig hoped to redeem himself by going after Rodriguez.
At the time the lawsuit was filed, the league called the action “desperate” and a violation of the confidentiality provisions of the league and union’s Joint Drug Agreement.
A lawyer for the league and Selig referred a request for comment Monday to an MLB spokesman, who did not immediately respond.
Associated Press photo
World Series Game 5: Red Sox at Cardinals • 10.28.13
Matt Carpenter 2B
Shane Robinson CF
Matt Holliday LF
Carlos Beltran RF
Yadier Molina C
Allen Craig 1B
David Freese 3B
Pete Kozma SS
Adam Wainwright RHP
RHP Adam Wainwright (2-2, 2.25 ERA in the postseason)
RED SOX (2-2)
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
David Ortiz 1B
Jonny Gomes LF
Daniel Nava RF
Xander Bogaerts 3B
Stephen Drew SS
David Ross C
Jon Lester LHP
LHP Jon Lester (3-1, 1.67 ERA in the postseason)
TIME/TV: 8:07 p.m. ET, FOX
LINEUP SHAKEUP: Both teams made significant lineup changes for Game 4. The Red Sox adjusted because of Shane Victorino sitting out a second straight game, dropping Daniel Nava and bumping up the heart of the order. The Cardinals adjusted because of lefty Jon Lester, moving Shane Robinson into the No. 2 spot and dropping Carlos Beltran to be their cleanup hitter.
GIVING IT A SHOT: Allen Craig hasn’t played the field in more than a month, and he looked awful trying to run the bases last night, but he’s going to try to play first base tonight. That’s another adjustment to Lester.
PEAVY PROBABLE: John Farrell announced pregame that Jake Peavy is the Red Sox projected Game 7 starter, with Clay Buchholz possibly available as a reliever should the series go that long.
According to Baseball America — and apparently first reported by the Ocala Star Banner — the Yankees have reached an agreement to move their High-A affiliate from Tampa to Ocala, Fla. Despite having reached an agreement, the deal won’t be done until it’s voted on and approved.
The impact would seem to be relatively minimal. The Yankees would keep their spring training in Tampa, but getting the High-A team out of a major city might create some actual local buzz about a team that’s easily overshadowed in the Tampa market.
This information doesn’t come as a shock. The possibility has been floating out there for a while.
And a tip of the cap to the boys over at River Ave. Blues. I didn’t see the BA report until they posted it.
State of the organization: Center field • 10.28.13
An iconic position in the Bronx, center field is currently a source of short-term stability and long-term potential. It’s also a position of short-term debate (how good is Brett Gardner, anyway?) and long-term questions (are any of these touted center field prospects going to actually make it to the big leagues?).
Final year of arbitration
There was a lengthy stretch during the season when Gardner was the Yankees second-best offensive weapon. Their short-handed lineup was built around Robinson Cano, but Gardner was a strength at the top of the order. That said, there was also the month of August when Gardner hit .238/.319/.356, and lefties gave him some trouble, and he suffered yet another relatively minor injury at the end of the season. Gardner has generally established himself as more than a fourth outfielder — though there are still some who are unconvinced — but he remains streaky. This year’s increase of power came with an increase of strikeouts and a decreased number of walks. His overall OPS+ was a career high, even better than his 2010 season, but his stolen base total was less than half of what he had in 2011 when he led the league. Gardner has his obvious strengths, and he’s proven he can be a strong center fielder and solid-but-streaky leadoff hitter. Barring a trade, he’ll be back next season for his final year before reaching free agency. Whether the Yankees keep him beyond 2014 might depend on the development of some of their outfield prospects.
The short answer is, the Yankees don’t have a ready replacement for Gardner. Melky Mesa was released at the end of last season, and even he brought significant questions about whether he could make enough contact to be a viable Major League center fielder. Zoilo Almonte has played some center field in the past, and I suppose Ichiro Suzuki would be considered the second string center fielder — unless Curtis Granderson comes back — but the minor league system doesn’t have a center fielder who’s knocking on the door. At least not yet. Two names, though, to keep in mind as possible center field options at some point in 2014: Adonis Garcia and Slade Heathcott. Garcia is the Cuban outfielder who’s a kind of upper-level wild card. He hit just .256/.312/.357 in Triple-A last season, but he slugged .492 in limited Double-A at-bats the year before. There’s something interesting about Garcia, but he hasn’t done nearly enough to suggest he’s a trusted or even key part of the minor league system. There’s more intrigue with Heathcott, who’s long been considered a high-potential center fielder — sometimes referred to as a more powerful version of Gardner — and he hit .279/.339/.514 in his last 111 Double-A at-bats last season. He needs to stay healthy enough to get a bunch of at-bats, but he’s close enough to the big leagues (should be added to the 40-man this winter) that he belongs on the short-term radar.
Neither one had a great year, but the Yankees top center field prospect is still either Heathcott or Mason Williams. Both are legitimate defenders — few people doubt their ability to stay in center — but it’s still uncertain whether their bats will be enough to provide production in the big leagues. Heathcott is the closer of the two, but a year ago, Williams was considered by many to be the top prospect in the Yankees system. At the time was coming off a .298/.346/.474 slash line between Low-A and High-A (in an injury-shortened 2012). Now he’s coming off a .245/.304/.337 slash line between High-A and Double-A, so clearly his steps this year weren’t in the right direction. That said, Williams just turned 22 in August, so he’s still awfully young for a Double-A outfielder. And the Yankees sent him to the Arizona Fall League for additional work. Heathcott and Williams have climbed into the upper levels of the system, and now it’s time for the Yankees to see some consistent results to support those high expectations.
STATE OF THE ORGANIZATION
Barring a trade, it’s not a center field transition year just yet. The Yankees moved Gardner into center field this spring, and the change will likely carry into 2014 when Gardner returns as an everyday player and likely leadoff hitter. But Gardner is going to hit the open market soon, and the Yankees top center field prospects are getting close to the big leagues. Transition could come soon, especially if either Heathcott or Williams has a strong season in Double-A or Triple-A. Deeper in the system, there are other center fielders who are intriguing for one reason or another. Former eighth-rounder Tayler Dugas had a .405 on-base percentage this year. Former sixth-rounder Jake Cave is coming off a strong season in Low-A Charleston. The Yankees used a couple of fairly high draft picks on center fielders — Michael O’Neil, Brandon Thomas — and there is still vaguely some hope for Ravel Santana, but for now the focus remains on Heathcott and Williams. Their progress could determine how seriously the Yankees need to think about re-signing Gardner after his contract expires.
Associated Press photo; headshots of Gardner, Heathcott, Williams and Cave
ICYMI: Posting system could change soon • 10.28.13
In case you missed it on Sunday, the Yankees pursuit of Japanese starter Masahiro Tanaka might happen under a new set of rules.
According to Joel Sherman, Major League Baseball is working toward a new agreement with Nippon Professional Baseball to change the posting system that brings Japanese players to the Majors. Sherman says one team would likely win exclusive negotiating rights — which would be unchanged — but the system might be altered so that the player has some say in which team wins those negotiating rights.
For example, a player like Tanaka might be allowed to choose from the top two or three bidders — the two or three teams offering the highest posting fees — to decide which of those teams he’d like to negotiate with.
The posting system is a fairly unpredictable process as it is, and the changes could add a new wrinkle.