The LoHud Yankees Blog

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

Archive for the ‘Misc’

Blue Jays continue to address rotation by signing Happ11.28.15

J.A. HappWith last year’s potent offense still under contract for next season, the Blue Jays are quietly making moves this winter to address their rotation.

First they signed Marco Estrada to a two-year contract.

Then they made a small trade for former A’s starter Jesse Chavez.

Now the Blue Jays have made the biggest free agent signing of the early offseason, giving left-hander J.A. Happ a three-year deal worth $36 million.

Assuming no other additions, Toronto could move forward with those three filling the rotation alongside former ace R.A. Dickey and young standout Marcus Stroman. That’s not a particularly frightening rotation, but it is perhaps better than the group than included Drew Hutchison and Mark Buehrle at the start of 2015.

Happ is a somewhat hard-to-predict addition. He was so-so with the Blue Jays for two and a half years, then he wasn’t very good early last season with the Mariners, but he was terrific after a mid-season trade to the Pirates, for whom he thrived in the National League. He has a 3.92 career ERA in the NL and a 4.46 career ERA in the AL. He turned 33 in October.

One thing perhaps definitive about the Happ signing: It might rule out the idea of David Price returning to the Blue Jays. I don’t know enough first-hand about the Blue Jays’ plans to say for certain, but Jon Morosi definitively tweeted last night that Price will not be back in Toronto after the Happ signing.

Associated Press photo

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Question of depth: Where the Yankees need to address their Triple-A roster11.27.15

Slade Heathcott, Brian McCann, Chris Young

Not many people sit at home this time of year scanning Twitter for the latest minor league signings. We’re waiting for news, big news, and minor league depth signings don’t move the needle at all. But as we’ve seen with several players in recent years — from Andrew Bailey to Zelous Wheeler — minor league free agents often find their way into at least a small role on the big league roster.

The Yankees’ farm system has evolved to the point that the team doesn’t have to plug many Triple-A holes through free agency. They have legitimate guys ready to provide immediate depth in the outfield, throughout the pitching staff, and at select positions in the infield. But there is still a need for the Yankees to address a few positions through minor league free agency. Third base and shortstop in particular look awfully thin at the moment.

Here’s a look at the upper-level minor leaguers who are ready to provide depth next season, which paints a pretty clear picture of the positions where the Yankees might need a minor league free agent or two.

Upper-level standout: Gary Sanchez
Other options: Francisco Diaz, Eddy Rodriguez, Kyle Higashioka
Uncertain: Austin Romine

By trading away John Ryan Murphy, the Yankees cost themselves some young catching depth. With Murphy, the Yankees were sure to have Sanchez open the season back in Triple-A. Without Murphy, Sanchez could fight for a big league job out of spring training, which would leave the Yankees extremely thin at the position (could be that Romine or a veteran free agent will be the big league backup out of camp, leaving Sanchez in the minor leagues at least temporarily). To combat this lack of depth, the Yankees have already signed three minor league free agent catchers who could plug some upper-level holes.

Upper-level standouts: Greg Bird, Eric Jagielo
Other options: Tyler Austin, Rob Segedin
Uncertain: Dante Bichette Jr.

First base is well covered because of Bird. Even if something were to happen to either Mark Teixeira or Alex Rodriguez, the Yankees would have a ready replacement in Bird who currently seems on track to open the season back in Triple-A. The team still doesn’t have a real go-to backup first baseman on the big league roster, but Bird gives the Yankees readily available depth in the minors. Third base, though, is a different story. Jagielo has upside, but even his best-case scenario probably doesn’t put him on the big league radar until the second half at the earliest. Beyond Jagielo, the Yankees upper-level third-base depth is uncertain at best now that Jose Pirela is gone. Another Cole Figueroa type would be a nice fit.

Upper-level standout: Rob Refsnyder
Other options: Tony Renda, Tyler Wade
Uncertain: Cito Culver

With Refsnyder and Dustin Ackley, the Yankees have a couple of fairly young second base options already in place. Those two could be platoon players, but they each have everyday potential. Refsnyder could provide depth either as a bench player or as a Triple-A regular. Beyond him, though, the Yankees middle infield situation is thin without Pirela. Renda is coming off a decent Double-A season and could be an option waiting in Triple-A (but it says quite a bit that the Yankees did not feel the need to protect him from the Rule 5). Wade is a promising young middle infielder, but he might not be ready at any point next season. Culver has the glove, but his bat has never been enough to have a spot on the big league radar. The Yankees could really use some sort of free agent shortstop to play regularly in Triple-A and provide some additional depth.

Upper-level standouts: Slade Heathcott, Mason Williams
Other options: Jake Cave
Uncertain: Taylor Dugas

Center field depth is not at all an issue for the Yankees. Not only do they have three fully capable center fielders on the big league roster — Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks — they also have Heathcott, Williams and Gamel on the 40-man roster (Gamel might be the worst defender of the bunch, but he can handle the position if the Yankees want him to). There’s also Cave, who was left exposed to the Rule 5 draft but also has some upside. Ultimately, there’s absolutely no reason for the Yankees to sign minor league depth for center field. They have plenty of center field depth both on the big league roster and in line for the Triple-A roster.

Upper-level standouts: Aaron Judge, Ben Gamel
Other options: Tyler Austin, various center fielders
Uncertain: Rob Refsnyder

With the emergence of Gamel and the potential of Judge, the Yankees have some legitimate on-the-verge depth in the outfield corners. Add in the wild card possibility of Austin and the additional depth of all the young center fielders, and the Yankees really have plenty of outfield depth. They could also play Ackley in an outfield corner and possibly Refsnyder if absolutely necessary. As the Yankees go about finding minor league free agents worth signing to Triple-A contracts, they clearly have a greater need for infielders than outfielders. Their outfield is pretty loaded — in fact, some Triple-A outfielders could certainly be crowded back to Double-A — so depth at those positions is a non-issue.

Upper-level standouts: Bryan Mitchell, Brady Lail
Other options: Rookie Davis, Jaron Long
Uncertain: Jordan Montgomery, James Kaprielian

The Yankees most immediate rotation depth is vying for roles on the big league roster. Masahiro Tanaka, Luis Severino, Michael Pineda and Nathan Eovaldi seem like near locks for rotation spots, with CC Sabathia, Adam Warren and Ivan Nova also in the mix. That’s seven guys for five spots, with the two leftovers probably heading for the bullpen. With Chase Whitley claimed off waivers, the Yankees have lost some of their immediate rotation depth. Mitchell is now the only starting pitcher on the 40-man who seems to have a strong chance of opening the season in Triple-A. Will Lail, Davis or Long pitch well enough to become a big league option fairly quickly? How quickly can Montgomery or Kaprielian rise through the ranks? Might need a veteran arm or two just to fill out the Triple-A rotation out of spring training.

Upper-level standouts: Nick Goody, Nick Rumbelow, Jacob Lindgren, James Pazos
Other options: Branden Pinder, Johnny Barbato, Tyler Webb
Uncertain: Caleb Cotham, Dietrich Enns

Young upper-level relievers take up eight spots on the Yankees’ 40-man roster, and that’s not counting guys like Warren and Mitchell who could pitch in either a starter or reliever role. Bullpen depth is not an issue for the Yankees, thought none of the young reliever aside from Chasen Shreve really established himself last season. A healthy Lindgren could change that, and Pazos looked pretty good in September, but ultimately this is a list of relatively uncertain pitchers who might be capable of handling a key role or might be DFA fodder by mid-summer. The Yankees could go after another veteran wild card like Andrew Bailey — every team seems to bring at least one of those guys to spring training — but it doesn’t seem necessary. Bullpen depth isn’t an issue. Bullpen experience is another issue.

Associated Press photo

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Black Friday: Bargain shopping on the Yankees roster11.27.15

Luis Severino

Not sure when we started calling this day Black Friday, or why the retail world agreed to put a bunch of stuff on sale so early in the morning on the day after Thanksgiving. I just know that I was asked to get up this morning so that I can shop for a new coat because my current coat is not very warm — which is true — and today is apparently a good day to buy a new coat.

So, I’m coat shopping. Not my ideal Friday, but what can you do? Being cold stinks and people who love me say I need to be warmer. I pick my battles.

All of this is a long and pointless way of saying, it’s Black Friday, a day when we gather together to eat leftovers and look for bargains. And since this is a Yankees blog, I figured it’s a good day to go looking for bargains on the Yankees roster. On a team often defined by its outrageous contracts, these 10 players could provide value well beyond their salary.

Delin Betances1. Dellin Betances — Still not eligible for arbitration, Betances stands out as the greatest bargain on the roster. He’s a proven commodity as one of the best relief pitchers in baseball, and he’s making barely more then the league minimum. Amazing that only two years ago we weren’t sure this guy would even make the team.

2. Luis Severino — If the best-case scenario plays out, Severino will be the greatest bargain on the roster, which is to say he’ll be exactly the type of player the Yankees haven’t had in many years: a legitimate star making next to nothing (in baseball terms) while potentially leading the rotation (or at least providing an occasionally electrifying No. 2-3 starter).

3. Didi Gregorius — Projected to make a little more than $2 million in his first year of arbitration eligibility, Gregorius is still very cheap, but it’s also worth noting what it cost to acquire him. The Yankees successfully sold high on Shane Greene and bought low on Gregorius, who emerged last season as a Gold Glove candidate who just might provide some decent offense. There’s a chance Nathan Eovaldi could be a similar story.

4. Brett Gardner — Owed $13 million next season, Gardner can’t match the raw value that comes from an impact rookie or a pre-arb lineup regular, but relative to the free agent market and the players around him, Gardner’s playing out a perfectly reasonable contract (he makes basically the same as Chase Headley; much less than Brian McCann or Jacoby Ellsbury). Multi-year contracts are often outrageous; Gardner’s extension looks relatively reasonable.

5. Aaron Hicks — Potential is the key word here. Hicks has the potential to be a bargain. Still not arbitration eligible, the Yankees’ new fourth outfielder certainly looks ready to play a platoon role, but he’s still young enough — and he’s shown enough signs of steady improvement — to think he just might be ready to provide even more production. Much like they bought low on Gregorius and Eovaldi, the Yankees have attempted to buy low on Hicks.

Yankees Blue Jays Baseball6. Adam Warren – We still don’t know how the Yankees plan to use Warren, but we know he’s projected to make about $1.5 million in his first year of arbitration, and we know that last season was something of a revelation as Warren showed himself to be a strong rotation candidate who can still slide easily into a key bullpen role. Plenty of value in that kind of versatility.

7. Rob Refsnyder – Plenty of young Yankees position players could make a significant impact while earning the minimum next season — Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird — but most require some sort of injury to get more than backup playing time. For Refsnyder, there’s a chance to simply hit his way into everyday duty. Assuming the Yankees don’t make a move for a second baseman, that position has the potential for cheap impact.

8. Dustin Ackley – Another second baseman with potential to be a bargain, Ackley is projected to make a little more than $3 million next season. If his numbers regress to what they were in Seattle, he won’t be much of a steal, but if he really has found a way to finally achieve his early potential, Ackley could provide low-cost impact either as a regular season baseman or as a kind of super utility guy. Didn’t cost much on the trade market either.

9. Jacob Lindgren – Of all the young, cheap relievers who could provide significant impact next season — much like Chasen Shreve did for the first five months of this season — Lindgren stands out because he’s pretty easy to overlook and carries significant upside. Could make a case for Nick Goody or Nick Rumbelow or James Pazos or Johnny Barbato in this spot, but I’ll go with Lindgren.

10. Brendan Ryan – By accepting his player option for next season, Ryan took a pay cut to make just $1 million as the Yankees’ glove-first utility infielder (who’s currently their only backup for third base or shortstop). He provides value in that he has a good glove, plenty of big league experience, and plays positions where the Yankees are incredibly thin. And considering Cliff Pennington got two years, $3.75 million, Ryan looks like a steal.

Associated Press photos

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Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Lohud11.26.15

Thanksgiving Day

I’ve spent most of the morning pretending to help in the kitchen, but I’m taking a break to wish everyone a very happy Thanksgiving. Wherever you are, I hope your day is filled with good food, good friends and as much family as you can tolerate. I’ll be hanging out with my nephew, and that alone will be enough to make me thankful. Thank you to all who have been reading this year. Enjoy the holiday.

Associated Press photo

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Unlike last year, free agent market moving slowly this winter11.25.15

HeywardEvery offseason, especially on the quiet days, I find it useful to look back at past blog posts and old transactions. Sometimes it sparks a reminder of a trade or free agent signing that’s worth reexamining with the benefit of hindsight, but often it simply gives a fresh sense of perspective. Are these offseason days more active than usual? Less active? Are they following a familiar pattern, or does the process seem to be evolving?

Well, on this day last year, I wrote a blog post called: “Top talent signing quickly.”

It was two days before Thanksgiving, and already four of the top five free agent position players — as ranked by MLB Trade Rumors — had signed a new contract. Six of the top 14 position players had signed. Three of those big signings were withing the American League East, with Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval landing in Boston and Russell Martin going to Toronto.

It’s quite different this year, isn’t it?

While the trade market got active very quickly this offseason, the free agent market has been slow to develop. The biggest signings have been those involving qualifying offers: the three players who accepted, and the two-year deal for Marco Estrada. The biggest new contract with a new team is Rich Hill’s $6 million deal with Oakland. The biggest position player signing has been Cliff Pennington at two years and $3.75 million.

That’s basically like Chris Capuano and Brendan Ryan being the biggest signings of the offseason so far.

The only Top 25 free agent — as ranked by MLB Trade Rumors — to have signed is Matt Wieters, who was one of the guys to accept a qualifying offer.

Not only is the top talent not signing quickly this offseason, there’s very little sense that the top talent is particularly close to signing. Darren O’Day has been linked to several teams, and his market is said to be moving more quickly than most free agents, but there’s no buzz of a deal being imminent. Potential David Price suitors have been listed, but again, there’s no clear favorite. Aside from some recent chatter about the Cardinals showing some interesting in Chris Davis, and a few reports about Alex Gordon, there’s been very little concrete information about the market’s top position players. Jason Heyward? Justin Upton? Yoenis Cespedes? Awfully quiet on all those fronts.

Right now, the basic expectation seems to be that the Yankees are planning to stay out of the market for the top free agents, but we’ll see whether that remains true. It is an awfully deep free agent market, and I wonder if the Yankees’ involvement could change as the market begins to actually move.

Associated Press photo

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Mid-day notes: Second base situation, Sanchez stands out, Lowrie on the move11.25.15

Dustin Ackley

I’m sure many of you are trying to get out of work early this afternoon, maybe get on the road as quickly as possible to begin fighting that day-before-Thanksgiving traffic. If you’re stuck in front of a computer, here a few things to have on your radar:

Refsnyder1. Yankees might not add a second baseman (but they might)
Writing for the Daily News, Mark Feinsand cites multiple non-Yankees sources who say they don’t expect the Yankees to make a move for a second baseman this winter. “I think the platoon can work, for sure,” one scout said. “In the long term, (Rob) Refsnyder could emerge as an everyday guy, but the Yankees have been good with their use of platoons, so they can probably succeed with those two.” The belief among those Feinsand talked to is that the Yankees are focused on other needs, and that the platoon of Refsnyder and Dustin Ackley is at least worth exploring before committing to a big-money free agent like Howie Kendrick.

Then again, in writing about some of the uncertainty that could impact this free agent market, Jorge Ortiz of USA Today named the Yankees’ second base situation as the No. 1 vacancy that could determine the market for free agent infielders. He mentions Kendrick, Daniel Murphy and trade candidate Starlin Castro as possible second base fits for the Yankees (I would add that Ben Zobrist is another obvious possibility). Goes back to what I wrote about this morning, that the Yankees are kind of in an anything-can-happen mode. Wouldn’t be surprising to see them stick with Refsnyder and Ackley; wouldn’t be surprising to see the market shift so that they add a second baseman.

Sanchez2. Gary Sanchez picked as the No. 2 prospect in the Arizona Fall League
Baseball America is always cranking out some sort of prospect list. Today, it’s their annual ranking of the top prospects in the Arizona Fall League. Of course, the Cardinals’ top prospect Alex Reyes came in as a the No. 1 choice, but No. 2 is Gary Sanchez, the young Yankees catcher who could have a chance to make the big league team out of spring training.

From the scouting report: “Sanchez consistently showed off his plus-plus power, with scouts believing the bat will play despite some pitch recognition issues. Most importantly, he showed better actions behind the plate than expected, and his arm strength remains a plus tool albeit sometimes lacking in accuracy.”

Sanchez appeared on the AFL list ahead of Austin Meadows and Clint Frazier, each of whom was ranked as a Top 50 prospect by MLB Pipeline, and ahead of Dominic Smith and Lewis Brinson, who were Top 100. Sanchez was ranked ahead of Willson Contreras, who MLB Pipeline had ranked ahead of Sanchez on its list of top catching prospects.

Lowrie3. Jed Lowrie has been traded back to Oakland
As first reported by Jane Lee, the Athletics made a trade today for utility infielder Jed Lowrie, who has two years and $15 million left on his contract. It’s unclear where he’ll play for the A’s — could be a kind of super utility guy all over the infield; could also free the A’s to trade a guy like Brett Lawrie — but it’s clear that it didn’t take much for the A’s to acquire him. They gave up only a bullpen prospect named Brendan McCurry. He’s a pretty good bullpen prospect, but nothing the Yankees couldn’t match.

The Lowrie deal caught my eye only because the Yankees are in the market for versatility, and I suppose Lowrie could have helped them in that regard. His offensive production has been erratic the past few years, but he still plays second, third and shortstop, and he’s a switch-hiitter who had a .267/.375/.533 slash line against lefties last season. He wouldn’t have been the worst fit, possibly as a better offensive version of Brendan Ryan. Then again, he costs $14 million more than Ryan, and his glove isn’t as good. Based on the price Oakland paid, the Yankees could have gotten Lowrie pretty easily — they have relief prospects to spare — but they don’t seem too keen to take on a big contract, especially when it’s not necessarily an impact addition.

Associated Press photos

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Wide range of trade possibilities keep Yankees unpredictable11.25.15

Ivan Nova

On the day I got back from vacation, one of the other beat writers called to ask about the trip. We talked about Irish pubs and French museums, then he filled me in on the past week of Yankees news.

“You missed nothing,” he said.

But, I argued, this feels like the kind of offseason when I just as easily could have missed everything. There is nothing the Yankees are definitely going to do, but almost anything seems to be on the table.

Yesterday, Joel Sherman added Ivan Nova to the trade rumor mill, writing that the Yankees are considering the idea of using Nova to help acquire a starting pitcher with more than one year of team control. The notion comes as no surprise — Nova is definitely a tradeable asset — but he’s another example of the Yankees’ recent trade approach, which often involves robbing Peter to pay Paul. Consider:

Gardner1. The Yankees are short on infield depth, have no real backup third baseman and could use a right-handed utility type. Yet they just traded Jose Pirela for a young pitcher. The team clearly wasn’t quite sold on Pirela as a big league role player, and they needed to clear space on the 40-man. Pirela certainly was a bad fit for the Yankees, but trading him might have not only added a young pitcher but also kept one of the upper-level relievers from being DFA at some point.

2. The Yankees did some roster maneuvering just to give John Ryan Murphy a big league opportunity this season, and he was terrific as a young, cheap backup catcher. Yet, the Yankees traded him for a young outfielder. Murphy definitely fit the Yankees, but they decided his trade value was higher than his immediate roster value. They preferred an outfielder with upside rather than a catcher trapped between a contract and a prospect.

3. The Yankees have more than their share of bad contracts causing headaches, yet they are clearly exploring the idea of trading Brett Gardner who has one of the more team-friendly contracts on the roster. Have to give something to get something, and the Yankees clearly recognize it might be easier to replace Gardner than to add a good, cost controlled pitcher through other means.

4. The Yankees took a bit of a chance last winter when they gave Andrew Miller a multi-year contract to solidify the late innings, and he rewarded them with a Reliever Of The Year season. Yet the Yankees are reportedly listening on Miller trade proposals. Again, they could definitely use Miller to fortify their bullpen, but they seem to recognize an opportunity cash in on a good year (especially at a position that’s often fairly replaceable).

5. The Yankees are in need of a starting pitcher to add some depth and impact to their rotation, yet now Ivan Nova‘s name is out there as a trade possibility. That seems like another attempt to focus on the long game, recognizing that Nova might help the Yankees acquire someone who could help the rotation beyond this season. He’s still relatively cheap, but that’s what keeps him having some value on the trade market.

These aren’t necessarily the usual trade routes — these are all players who have immediate value to the Yankees, and in some cases, there’s potential for impact beyond this season — but the Yankees showed last season that they’re willing to have a lot of moving parts involved in roster reconstruction, especially if there’s not a ton of money to spend.

Thanksgiving is only a day away, and so far not a lot has happened with the Yankees. But they seem to be open to enough anything-is-possible scenarios that things could heat up when we least expect it.

Associated Press photos

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Minor league notes and links: Cave list among early Rule 5 standouts11.24.15

Jake Cave

Just a few minor league notes with Yankees connections:

• In an early Rule 5 draft preview, Baseball America lists outfielder Jake Cave as one of the toolsy outfielders who could stick as a fourth outfielder. Cave is the only Yankees prospect listed among the 46 names put together by Baseball America. Two other familiar names on the list are relievers Corey Black and Rafael De Paula, who were traded by the Yankees to acquired Alfonso Soriano and Chase Headley. Each one carried legitimate prospect stock at the time of the those trades, but obviously neither has been added to his new team’s 40-man roster.

• A few moves from Baseball America’s minor league free agent tracker: The Yankees have re-signed Kyle Higashioka, a good defensive catcher who played in Tampa and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this year. The Yankees have been inviting him to big league camp since he was a pretty young kid. Knows what he’s doing behind the plate. Also, reliever/starter Joel De La Cruz has signed with the Braves (who continue to love signing former Yankees) and catcher Francisco Arcia is with the Marlins, outfielder Ericson Leonora has signed with the Diamondbacks.

• Have to wait until December 7 for Baseball America to announce its new Yankees Top 10 prospects list. Two of BA’s early prospect lists that stand out for Yankees fans are the Diamonds and Braves. For the Diamondbacks, Baseball America has Peter O’Brien ranked as the organization’s 10th-best prospect. O’Brien was traded to Arizona in the Martin Prado trade. It’s still uncertain whether he’s a better fit as a catcher or a corner outfielder, but he can still mash home runs. For the Braves, Manny Banuelos fell outside of the organization’s Top 10. Banuelos was traded to Atlanta in the offseason trade that brought Chasen Shreve to New York. In a chat, Bill Bellow, who put the Braves list together, said Banuelos was a near miss who could still be an impact big league starter if his command gets back to form.

• Former Yankees prospect Tommy Kahnle has been traded from the Rockies to the White Sox. The Yankees lost Kahnle in the Rule 5 draft a couple of years ago, and he had a good rookie season with the Rockies before going through some control problems this season. He was designated for assignment last week.

• The Braves announced a few minor league signing this afternoon, including a minor league deal with reliever David Carpenter. The right-hander opened this season with the Yankees and was expected to play a key role in the bullpen, but he got off to a slow start, never seemed to have Joe Girardi’s confidence, and was eventually traded to Washington after being designated for assignment. Carpenter was much better in his handful of games with the Nationals, and to his credit, he never blamed his Yankees struggles on the erratic way he was used (which couldn’t have helped).

Associated Press photo


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Winter ball notes: Long wraps up strong showing in Venezuela11.24.15


Bryan Mitchell

With the Arizona Fall League finished, there’s really not a ton of Yankees action in winter ball this offseason. Aside from Ben Gamel and Jaron Long, the Yankees don’t have any attention-grabbing prospects playing offseason ball, but at least there’s still baseball being played somewhere. Here are a few Yankees updates from the winter leagues:

• Still pitching down in Puerto Rico, Bryan Mitchell was on a roll before a rough start on Saturday. Mitchell lasted only an inning and one third, allowing six earned runs on six hits and six walks. Not pretty. Before that, though, Mitchell was pitching very well with a total of two earned runs in his previous three starts. Last Sunday was his best start of the winter going seven inning with one unearned run. Even in that start, though, Mitchell walked four guys. Based on the numbers, it looks like command has been his biggest problem in Puerto Rico. He has 12 walks and 14 strikeouts through 21.2 innings.

Long• After pitching 2.1 scoreless innings on Sunday, Jaron Long tweeted a thank you message to his Venezuelan Winter League team. Assuming that was his final start of the winter, Long finished with a 2.30 ERA and 1.28 WHIP in eight starts. Of his 11 earned runs, eight came in two starts, so he was otherwise terrific. His next-to-last outing was his best; he struck out seven through seven scoreless innings.

• The Venezuelan league’s first half ended November 15, and Ben Gamel hasn’t played since. That makes me think that, like Long, he’s finished for the winter. If that’s the case, Gamel wraps up his year with a .253/.327/.402 slash line with the Leones del Caracas. He played mostly center field this winter, but he did get some time in left and right. Gamel is a left-handed hitter who hit .400/.444/.636 against righties in winter ball, but he was 0-for-32 against lefties. He did not remotely show splits like that in Triple-A this season.

• Trying to get back in the mix with all of the Yankees’ upper-level relief pitchers, Mark Montgomery is pitching in a closer role in Venezuela. He’s 8-for-8 in save opportunities, and he has a 1.38 WHIP with 15 strikeouts and five walks through 12.1 innings. All of his walks have come in two outings. He allowed four hits and two runs in another outing. Otherwise, he’s been awfully good.

Culver• Down in Puerto Rico, Cito Culver continues to get occasional playing time at shortstop and third base. He’s gotten into six games — four at third, two at short — and he’s 2-for-19 with six strikeouts and a walk. At this point, I assume the Yankees are planning to use him as kind of a Double-A and Triple-A utility guy, kind of like Ali Castillo was used this year.

• Recently signed to a minor league deal, catcher Francisco Diaz has played very sparingly in Venezuela, getting into nine games with 13 at-bats and a .308 batting average. He’s one of four catchers getting some playing time on that team, but he hasn’t played since November 8.

• After working primarily as a reliever with High-A Tampa in the regular season, Luis Niebla has been a starter in the Mexican Winter League. He’s made eight starts with a 4.24 ERA and more walks (27) than strikeouts (22). In his past three starts he’s had 16 walks in 14.2 innings.

• He’s no longer with the Yankees, but Jose Pirela‘s winter ball stats are always fun to look at. Still playing nothing but left field and occasionally designated hitter, Pirela is hitting his usual .356/.427/.481 with more walks (13) than strikeouts (7) through 27 games. That dude just rakes in Venezuela.

Associated Press photo of Mitchell

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Refsnyder preparing for spring opportunity at second base11.24.15

Already working out with the Yankees’ strength coaches in Tampa, Rob Refsnyder said on last night’s Yankees Hot Stove that he’s approaching this offseason with full intention of going after the big league second base job in spring training.

“I think you have to go into that whole situation with that mindset,” he said. “If not, then I think you’re at a disadvantage.”

Refsnyder said he’s doing some early strength work to improve speed and explosiveness (he said he’d been working out with Mason Williams, which seems to be a good sign for Williams’ health). Of course defensive work will always be a focus for Refsnyder, but he said he’s also continuing to work on an improved hitting approach. Last season, Refsnyder said, he would often get into good counts and then waste the at-bat by swinging at a pitcher’s pitch. He wants to improve his patience so that when he gets in a good count, he continues to wait for a pitch he can truly attack.

“Hopefully I’m just scratching the surface of the ballplayer I want to be,” he said.

Last season was a good one but a strange one for Refsnyder. He got to the big leagues in July, went back to Triple-A after four games, did not return until September, and even then did not get into the starting lineup until the last few weeks of the season. With that down-the-stretch opportunity, Refsnyder put up big numbers in a platoon role. Those numbers left Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman acknowledging that he could be at least part of the second base solution next season.

“Kind of a whirlwind of an experience,” Refsnyder said. “You know, sitting on the bench and learning and kind of observing, and then getting thrown in there, obviously it helped a lot and it kind of helped me go into this offseason with some confidence.”

There was one report last season that suggested Refsnyder’s attitude was a reason for his banishment to Triple-A. When I asked one player in the Yankees clubhouse about it, he said he’d heard the same thing — heard that there was a report about a bad attitude — but that he’d never seen it. The player said he was so surprised by the story that he actually asked around to find out if he’d missed something. No one, he said, had any complaints about Refsnyder’s attitude or work ethic.

“I’m pretty quiet,” Refsnyder said. “I kind of just try to go about my business. You definitely just watch and observe. Those guys have had unbelievably great careers, and they’re just getting started it feels like with the year Alex had and Carlos and things like that. I just try to observe and watch. I feel like they can tell when I have a question on my face or something like that, they’ve been always gracious enough to strike up conversations and talk about the game and things like that.”

The offseason is just getting started, and there’s still a chance the Yankees will make some sort of move that will crowd Refsnyder out of the picture. For now, though, he’s preparing as if he has a job to win.

“I’m in Tampa right now kind of training,’ Refsnyder said. “It’s nice. You build some relationships and some friendships. It’s going to start ramping up here soon, but I’m already kind of doing some things with the strength coaches here, just building it up so it’s not such a shock to a body once you start really getting after it.”

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith Comments Off

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