Archive for the ‘Misc’
Welcome to the Winter Meetings • 12.09.13
Here’s a strange feeling: It’s the first day of the Winter Meetings, and it seems things are surely going to be quieter this week than last week. Maybe not for every team, but surely for the Yankees.
I mean, let’s be honest, last week is going to be tough to top.
The Yankees have already lost their best player, drastically restructured their starting lineup, added some infield depth, and re-signed a much-needed veteran starter. A month ago, MLB Trade Rumors ranked baseball’s top 50 free agents. Four of the top eight have signed, three with the Yankees. Six of the top 12 have signed, four with the Yankees.
But there is still work to be done, and these next four days won’t necessarily be quiet.
The Yankees are still in the market for at least one infielder and quite a bit of pitching. They could use another piece for the rotation, and it’s hard to believe they’ll completely ignore their depleted bullpen. Omar Infante is on their radar and could very well be their replacement for Robinson Cano if the two sides come together. The free agent pitching market has not been encouraging so far, and the Yankees are still looking for clarity on the Masahiro Tanaka situation. Closer candidates Grant Balfour, Joaquin Benoit and Fernando Rodney are still floating out there.
Free agency, though, is so last week.
The Swan and Dolphin hotel complex here in Orlando is crawling with executives from every team in baseball, and it’s blatantly obvious that the Yankees are open for business. Their outfield is overcrowded, which might make Brett Gardner available (and surely makes Ichiro Suzuki available). They’ve signed a long-term deal with a left-handed center fielder, which means either Slade Heathcott or Mason Williams could be trade bait. They’ve also signed a long-term deal with a catcher, which means Gary Sanchez could be available (though there’s certainly no overwhelming need to trade him).
It’s been a wild winter already, and the Winter Meetings are just getting started. Among the first orders of business: Finding out whether Joe Torre or George Steinbrenner is elected to the Hall of Fame this year.
Associated Press photo
Here in Orlando, one issue still brewing the background is the Japanese posting system and its impact on Masahiro Tanaka.
Ben Badler at Baseball America has a good breakdown of the latest reports out of Japan. Basically, the Rakuten Eagles are understandably disappointed that MLB and NPB officials seem to have a new posting system agreement that includes a posting bid limit of $20 million. The Eagles would have easily doubled that among under the old system, and now the team seems hesitant to post Tanaka at all.
The team is expected to meet with Tanaka this week to discuss the situation and the pitcher’s plans.
Based on a couple of conversations, it seems the expectation among Japanese reporters is that Tanaka will be posted. It seems that the pitcher still wants to come to the U.S., and the team is unlikely to block him if that’s his desire. We could have clarity fairly soon, and that could affect the Yankees actions because they’re still in the market for another starting pitcher.
Settling in for a few days in Orlando • 12.08.13
Just rolled into the Swan & Dolphin Resort here at Disney. Brian Cashman and Co. are not scheduled to arrive until much later. In fact, I think Cashman is not getting here until Monday morning. That’s not particularly unusual. Things are usually pretty quiet on this arrival day of the Winter Meetings, and that seems to be the case so far.
The thing that seems to be generating today’s early buzz in the baseball community — or at least the baseball writers community — is this remarkable piece on the dysfunction within the Mariners front office. Geoff Baker did a great job of getting key people to go on the record to support claims from other unnamed sources. It’s a pretty ugly look behind the scenes.
Good luck out there, Robbie!
A few other quick notes as things are getting settled here in Orlando.
• Across the state in Tampa Bay, Marc Topkin takes a look at the Rays inevitable David Price trade. Topkin notes that, while it seems a matter of time before Price is traded, the Rays have to weigh several factors in determining when exactly they can maximize his value. Could happen this winter, or the Rays could hold off.
• If you missed it, CC Sabathia was at an event for his wife’s clothing line yesterday and he expressed surprise at Robinson Cano leaving for Seattle. “Just a player like that, putting on the pinstripes, and being able to play your whole career in New York means something — to me, obviously,” Sabathia told reporters. “It didn’t mean that much to him.”
• The Yankees have announced that Notre Dame and Rutgers will play in this year’s Pinstripe Bowl. Seems like a combination with pretty good drawing power. The game will be Saturday, December 28.
• Speaking of football, based on the above AP picture, it looks like Joe Girardi was at yesterday’s SEC championship game. He’s from Illinois, which is right next to Missouri, so maybe he was doing his best to cheer for my Mizzou Tigers. Alas…
Associated Press photo
Week in review: Coming and going • 12.08.13
In a span of roughly 48 hours, the Yankees introduced Brian McCann, lost Robinson Cano, announced new contracts for Jacoby Ellsbury, Hiroki Kuroda and Kelly Johnson, and put a deal in place with Carlos Beltran.
Hard to believe this was also the same week that the Yankees traded Chris Stewart, non-tendered Jayson Nix, and found out Masahiro Tanaka might not enter the market after all.
It’s been an intense past seven days, and the winter Meetings haven’t even started yet!
The video above is from the McCann press conference, which came right in the middle of the craziness. Late Tuesday night came word of the Ellsbury deal. Wednesday brought news of changes to the Japanese posting system, and the early reports of the Yankees being close to a deal with Johnson. Thursday was the press conference, then Brian Cashman saying Hiroki Kuroda wanted to pitch again, then word of Cano traveling to Seattle. On Friday, Cano’s talks with Seattle seemed to be falling apart, and then he was suddenly signing with the Mariners right around the same time that Curtis Granderson was finalizing a deal with the Mets. And within hours, the Yankees had Beltran on a three-year deal.
You learn to expect anything on this beat, but this is my fifth offseason covering the Yankees, and I can’t recall a stretch of consecutive days quite like what we just experienced. The Yankees are a drastically different team today than they were a week ago. And the offseason still has two months to go.
• One lingering issue this week was the Japanese posting system, which is reportedly close to a significant change. Instead of teams offering massive posting fees for the right to negotiate with Japanese players, the system is going to have a posting cap — reportedly $20 million — and any team who offers that much will have full negotiation rights, competing with other teams who have matched the posting offer. The impact on the Yankees is that Tanaka might not be posted at all — his team is upset at the cap, which will cost them tens of millions — and if he is posted, his contract will surely skyrocket from what it would have been under the old system.
• The Yankees have acknowledged several teams asking about the availability of Brett Gardner as a trade candidate. A source has also said that the Yankees have actively shopped Ichiro Suzuki. Gardner’s availability surely depends on what the Yankees can get in return (he’s not very expensive and the Yankees like him, but he could be flipped to fill another hole). Ichiro’s trade viability surely depends on finding another team interested (he’s more of a fourth outfielder these days, but he’s making pretty good money in 2014).
• Cashman announced that the team is close to signing Gary Tuck to be the Yankees new bullpen coach, replacing Mike Harkey who left to be the Diamondbacks pitching coach. Tuck was a coach under Joe Girardi in Florida, and he has a history with the Yankees. Also, former Cubs manager Mike Quade has joined the Yankees as a roving minor league instructor.
• This is also the week the Yankees officially announced their new deal with Brendan Ryan. He and Johnson are lined up to play utility roles next season. For the time being, they also provide solid insurance at shortstop (in case Derek Jeter isn’t up to play the position) and second base (in case the Yankees can’t find a better replacement for Cano).
• Instead of non-tendering Stewart, the Yankees traded him to the Pirates for a player to be named later. Stewart essentially lost his job when the Yankees signed McCann. They’re likely to use either Francisco Cervelli or Austin Romine as the backup catcher.
• Three players were non-tendered by the Yankees: Jayson Nix and Matt Daley hardly came as a surprise. There was some mild surprise that David Adams was non-tendered. The Yankees long liked his bat, but a lingering ankle injury slowed his minor league development, and he struggled in his big league debut. Ultimately, the Yankees decided to move on an look other places for infield depth.
• The Yankees agreed to a minor league deal with corner utility man Russ Canzler, a right-handed hitter who’s had significant minor league success against lefties. He can play left, right, third and first and could be a bench option at some point. He’ll be in big league camp. The Yankees had Canzler on their roster for about a month last winter before DFAing him just before spring training.
• It is, of course, worth mentioning that Nelson Mandela died this week. The news has little direct connection to baseball, but it’s hard to ignore just the same. Not many people who so clearly changed the world for the better, and Mandela’s death sparked a fitting celebration of his life. May the man rest in peace.
Associated Press photo
Yankees officially announce Ellsbury signing • 12.07.13
The Yankees 40-man roster is now full. Here’s the official announcement of the Ellsbury signing.
Ellsbury, 30, owns a .297 (865-for-2,912) career batting average with 476 runs, 155 doubles, 65 home runs, 314RBI and 241 stolen bases in 715 games over seven Major League seasons, all with the Boston Red Sox (2007-13). Since 2008, he ranks third in the Majors with 232 stolen bases, trailing only Michael Bourn (280) and Rajai Davis (245). His .995 career fielding percentage (1,734 total chances, eight errors) is the best such mark among Major League outfielders since 2007.
In 2013, he batted .298 (172-for-577) with 92 runs, 31 doubles, nine home runs and 53RBI in 134 games. He was caught stealing just four times and led the Majors in stolen bases for the second time in his career (also 2009, 70SB) and the American League for the third time (2008, 50SB). In 16 playoff games, he hit .344 (22-for-64), leading all postseason players in hits and runs (14) en route to winning his second career World Series Championship with Boston (also 2007).
The left-handed batter hit .321 (212-for-660) in 2011, setting career highs in games played (158), runs scored (119), doubles (46), home runs (32) and RBI (105) en route to winning the American League Comeback Player of the Year Award and being ranked second in AL Most Valuable Player Voting. He also won the Silver Slugger and Gold Glove Awards and was selected to the AL All-Star team.
Ellsbury is a .301 (40-for-133) batter with 26 runs, 11 doubles and 17RBI in 38 career postseason games.
A native of Madras, Ore., and believed to be the first-ever Native American of Navajo decent to appear in a Major League game, Ellsbury was originally selected by Boston in the first round (23rd overall) of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, with his first game played for the Yankees in 2014, Ellsbury will become the 218th player to appear in a game for both the Yankees (since 1903) and Red Sox (since 1901).
Associated Press photo
The free agent market has grown thin, and the Yankees outfield has grown overcrowded. Could be time to enter the trade market, with Brett Gardner emerging as the Yankees most valuable trade chip.
“I’m not looking to move him,” general manager Brian Cashman said. “But when asked, have people called, absolutely they’ve called.”
According to one rival executive, the Yankees have also mentioned Ichiro Suzuki’s name in trade talks. There’s no indication that any sort of Ichiro trade is close, and his trade value is minimal at best. One baseball source questioned how well Ichiro would adjust to a fourth outfielder role, which is the way most teams are likely to value him.
Far more valuable is Gardner, the 30-year-old entering his final year of arbitration. Even with a raise, Gardner is likely to remain relatively affordable this season, and he’s coming off a strong season in which he hit .273/.344/.416 with a league-high 10 triples and a career-high eight home runs. With an underwhelming farm system, Gardner could be as valuable as anyone the Yankees could afford to lose.
“Gardner might bring them back some pitching,” a baseball talent evaluator said. “But not the (top-of-the-rotation) type you’re talking about.”
Although the Yankees have been aggressive in signing position players, they still have concerns throughout their infield. Even with Hiroki Kuroda re-signed, the Yankees still have a real need for another starting pitcher.
“It was never a good (pitching) market going into it,” Cashman said.
That could force the Yankees into the trade market, with Gardner as their most valuable chip.
Associated Press photo
Yankees announce Kuroda signing • 12.07.13
The Yankees just made it official with Hiroki Kuroda. Here’s the release…
Kuroda, 38, went 11-13 with a 3.31 ERA (201.1IP, 74ER) in 32 starts with the Yankees in 2013. He made nine scoreless starts, the most such starts among all American League pitchers and second-most in the Majors behind only the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw (10).
Kuroda is one of just four American League starters to post sub-3.33 ERAs in each of the last two seasons (3.31 in 2013 and 3.32 in ’12), joining the Mariners’ Felix Hernandez, the White Sox’ Chris Sale and the Angels’ Jered Weaver. Since joining the Yankees prior to the 2012 season, he has tossed at least 7.0 scoreless innings in 14 of his starts, tied with Kershaw for most in the Majors over the two-year stretch.
Prior to joining the Yankees in 2012, Kuroda spent his previous four seasons with Los Angeles-NL (2008-11), going 41-46 with a 3.45 ERA (699.0IP, 268ER) in 115 games (114 starts). Among pitchers who changed leagues during the 2011-12 offseason, his 16 wins in 2012 were tied with the Pirates’ A.J. Burnett for second-most in the Majors behind only Washington’s Gio Gonzalez (21).
A native of Osaka, Japan, Kuroda became the fourth Japan-born player and third such pitcher to appear in a Major League game for the Yankees, joining outfielder Hideki Matsui (2003-09), left-handed pitcher Kei Igawa (2007-08) and right-handed pitcher Hideki Irabu (1997-99). Since Kuroda’s Yankees debut, right-handed pitcher Ryota Igarashi (2012) and outfielder Ichiro Suzuki (2012-13) have also played for the club.
Over his six Major League seasons, Kuroda has gone 68-70 with a 3.40 ERA (1,120.0IP, 423ER) in 180 career appearances (179 starts). He has made at least 30 starts and tossed more than 180.0 innings in five of his Major League campaigns (all but his injury-shortened 2009 season).
Among all Japan-born pitchers ever to play in the Major Leagues, his 3.42 career ERA is the lowest all-time among pitchers who have made 75-or-more career starts or pitched at least 500.0 innings, while his 68 wins and 840 strikeouts trail only Hideo Nomo’s career totals of 123 wins and 1,918 strikeouts.
Originally signed by the Dodgers as a non-drafted free agent on December 18, 2007, Kuroda spent 11 seasons (1997-2007) pitching for the Hiroshima Toyo Carp of the Japanese Central League. In 271 appearances (244 starts) for the Carp, he went 103-89 with a 3.69 ERA (1,700.1IP, 697ER).
Associated Press photo
• Andy McCullough reports that the Yankees are receiving “significant interest” in Brett Gardner. While they’re willing to trade him, they’re not necessarily shopping him. The Yankees could keep Gardner in left field, put Carlos Beltran in right and make Alfonso Soriano a regular designated hitter. That’s not ideal largely because it keeps the DH spot occupied when guys like Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Brian McCann might need it from time to time, but Gardner isn’t going to be so expensive that the Yankees truly need to get rid of his salary.
• Speaking of trade possibilities, San Francisco columnist John Shea writes that he believes the Giants should try to trade for Ichiro Suzuki. Brian Cashman did not shoot down the idea of trading Ichiro, and if the Yankees can find someone who wants him, I can’t imagine them being against the idea. Ichiro would probably prefer to play where he’s going to actually get at-bats. With the Yankees, his at-bats seem to have disappeared unless the team trades Gardner.
• In case it wasn’t becoming pretty obvious, David Waldstein I believe is the first to report that Hal Steinbrenner has given the green light to go over $189 million if necessary. Might still be a goal, but the Yankees are clearly spending in a way that suggests getting below the luxury tax isn’t a necessity.
• Interesting tidbit from George King, who reports that Robinson Cano wasn’t happy playing for Joe Girardi, partially because Girardi hit him second several times. At one point this season, there was a story about the fact several teams were beginning to hit their best players second for various reasons. Apparently Cano didn’t like it.
• Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker reports that Marahiro Tanaka’s team is “really balking” at the $20 million posting fee limit. That change to the posting system could keep Tanaka off the market this winter.
• If you’re interested, here’s my story in today’s paper about the Cano decision and the Yankees reluctance to sign another Alex Rodriguez contract.
Associated Press photo
So, yesterday was pretty intense. Robinson Cano is heading elsewhere, Hiroki Kuroda is coming back, and Carlos Beltran is finally going to play for the Yankees. It’s been a wild winter already, and the Winter Meetings are still two days away. Here are a few quick questions as we being this weekend after an eventful week.
What to do at second base?
As far as Plan C goes, Kelly Johnson is pretty solid. He’s a left-handed hitter who’s used to the position, and he has a little bit of pop. There are worse second base starters out there, and if it shakes out so that Johnson is the regular second baseman, or even platooning against righties, the Yankees could be just find. But the Yankees will surely look for a Plan B before handing Johnson the job. Omar Infante is still a free agent, and he stands out from the pack. There’s really not other standout unless Stephen Drew is OK with playing second. In theory, the Yankees have several trade options, but it’s tough to gauge what it might take to land a guy like Howie Kendrick or Brandon Phillips. The entire second base market — trade and free agent — surely adjusted after Cano came off the board. The bad news for the Yankees: Internal options like Eduardo Nunez, Corban Joseph and Dean Anna are closer to Plan D than Plan B.
What to do in the outfield?
For just a moment, let’s assume the Yankees will make no more outfield moves. Given a combination of Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, Ichiro Suzuki and Vernon Wells, the most obvious solution is Ellsbury in center, Gardner in left, Beltran in right and Soriano as the regular DH. That group would allow for plenty of half days off as players would rotate occasionally through the DH spot. The Yankees would then have to decide between Wells as a platoon hitter or Ichiro as a pinch runner for their fifth outfielder. Honestly, I’m not sure which they’d rather have, and I’m not sure either has an ounce if trade value.
How to replace the lost offense?
It’s not only Cano who walked away yesterday. The Yankees also formally lost Curtis Granderson, who signed with the Mets. That’s a ton of left-handed power to replace. Obviously Brian McCann takes care of some of that, and the Beltran signing was a clear reaction to the events of the day, and Ellsbury is a left-handed bat that produces offense in a different way. Make no mistake, offense has been added. That said, with the Beltran signing, it’s tough to find another strong upgrade opportunity given the positions available. Nelson Cruz (whose defense stinks) and Mike Napoli (who provides little lineup flexibility) could provide right-handed power — which would be nice — but where would their at-bats come? Based on the current free agent market, it’s hard to get anything approaching Cano’s offensive production from another infielder. Might have to settle for a marginal upgrade at either second or third and let Johnson handle the other spot as part of a platoon (assuming Alex Rodriguez is suspended).
What to do with the unspent money?
This is mostly in response to missing out on Cano. Beltran got some of that money, but he didn’t get all of it. That means there should be some leftover, which might be best spent on the pitching staff. Maybe that means a stronger offer if/when Masahiro Tanaka becomes available. Maybe it means getting Grant Balfour or someone else to upgrade a depleted bullpen. Clearly the Yankees have money to spend. Might as well spend it (you know, because it not our money anyway).
How does this impact the rest of the roster?
For now, the events of the past week or so give the Yankees an overcrowded outfielder and make Johnson a temporary favorite to start at second. Losing Cano also might — might! — increase the chances of Eduardo Nunez playing some sort of role in the infield. But really, the infield is still pretty far up in the air at the moment. The impact I most wonder about is the plan for Gardner. Early indications are that the Yankees want to keep him, but with Beltran in place, the Yankees might be able to flip Gardner for a player who fills a more significant need. Maybe a starting pitcher? A third baseman? A second baseman? I happen to be a pretty big Gardner believer, but if he’s not hitting leadoff or playing center field then the Yankees aren’t utilizing him in a role nearly as significant as some other teams might envision. He has value, and for the Yankees he’s vaguely expendable. The moves of the past week might have landed Gardner on the trading block.
Associated Press photos
What have I always said? Send me
out of the apartment and news will break. From a big event in the city for an old friend of mine…
Our friend Mark Feinsand was the first to report the Yankees have agreed to a three-year deal with Carlos Beltran. He will help make up for some of the offense lost when Robinson Cano went to Seattle.