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

Archive for the ‘Misc’

Would a veteran closer significantly improve the Yankees bullpen?12.18.14

Rafael Soriano

Yesterday, Sergio Romo got a two-year, $15-million deal to rejoin the Giants bullpen. He won’t necessarily be the closer in San Francisco, but we’ve seen that bullpens can evolve through the course of a season, and Romo has the ninth-inning experience to suggest he could step back into that job if necessary.

At some point, at the right price, the Yankees could consider a similar addition: adding an experienced, one-inning closer who could handle the ninth inning, leaving Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances free to pitch multiple innings and put out multiple fires during the course of a game. And if the experienced closer stumbles, the bullpen could evolve so that Betances or Miller moves into the ninth.

Essentially, an experienced closer would be little more than additional depth — except this would be depth that’s familiar with the ninth inning.

Would the Yankees bullpen be significantly better with one of these four free agents coming to camp as a ninth-inning possibility?

Francisco Rodriguez
Opening day: 33 years old
Last season: 0.99 WHIP, 9.7 K/9, 2.4 BB/9
Career saves: 348 (44 in 2014)
Had not picked up more than 10 saves in a season since 2011, but Rodriguez stepped back into the ninth inning for Milwaukee this year, saved 44 games and went to the All-Star Game. His first half was quite a bit better than his second half — 0.90 WHIP vs. 1.15 WHIP — but his September was strong. He’s familiar with New York (and New York is familiar with his rocky storyline).

Rafael Soriano
Opening day: 35 years old
Last season: 1.13 WHIP, 8.6 K/9, 2.8 BB/9
Career saves: 207 (32 in 2014)
Back in 2012, it was Soriano who ultimately became the Yankees closer after Mariano Rivera was hurt, and Soriano was awfully good. He spent most of 2014 still closing games for the Nationals, and his velocity was fairly similar to what the Yankees remember (fastball down a little bit, slider up a little bit). His WHIP, walk rate and home run rater were actually better this year than they were his last year with the Yankees.

Casey Janssen
Opening day: 33 years old
Last season: 1.18 WHIP, 5.5 K/9, 1.4 BB/9
Career saves: 90 (25 in 2014)
The Blue Jays closer the past three years, Janssen was good and steady until the second half of last season when he struggled mightily. He suffered a bad case of food poisoning at the all-star break, which might have thrown him off track, but for whatever reason he wasn’t the same in the second half (6.46 ERA, 1.48 WHIP). Otherwise, he’s been a pretty good late-inning guy in the AL East.

Jason Grilli
Opening day: 38 years old
Last season: 1.33 WHIP, 9.5 K/9, 3.5 BB/9
Career saves: 50 (12 in 2014)
Kind of a journeyman middle reliever for years, Grilli got to Pittsburgh in 2011 and his numbers spiked. In 2013 he was moved into the closer role and, at 36 years old, he made his first all-star team. He struggled with the Pirates in 2014, wound up traded to the Angels, and got his walk rate back under control. Through 40 appearances with the Angels, he was pretty good again with a 1.16 WHIP and 3.6 strikeouts per walk.

Associated Press photo

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With Headley, the Yankees positional depth chart could be set12.18.14

Chris Young

Hard to fully evaluate the Yankees pitching staff right now, because it’s clearly incomplete. Even with Chris Capuano adding some back-end depth, the Yankees still have an uncertain rotation, no clear closer and at least three pitchers coming to camp unsure whether they’ll be starters or relievers. These next two months need to provide further pitching clarity one way or another (hard to believe the Yankees would acknowledge in October that they need rotation help, then have their most significant rotation move be trading away a starter).

The Yankees position players, on the other hand, could be set.

Chances are we’re going to see an addition or two — there’s a bench spot up for grabs that a veteran might want to compete for as a non-roster invitee — but now that Chase Headley is on board, the current roster has enough to build a major league lineup, fill a major league bench, and provide minor league depth in Triple-A.

In an effort to find the remain holes, here’s a basic look at the current depth chart. For the purposes of this exercise, I’m going to peg Jose Pirela as the fourth big league bench player alongside John Ryan Murphy, Chris Young and Brendan Ryan.

New York starter: Brian McCann
New York backup: John Ryan Murphy
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre: Gary Sanchez
Worth consideration: Austin Romine

Oddly enough, the Yankees started this offseason with too much catching depth, but they traded Francisco Cervelli to open the door for either Murphy or Romine. Because Romine is out of options, he’s no sure thing to stay in the organization if the doesn’t make the big league cut. If Romines clears waivers, he would be a nice bit of additional Triple-A depth. If he doesn’t — or just in case he doesn’t — the Yankees might want to add a veteran (a Bobby Wilson type) to provide some experienced insurance in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Sanchez is one of the top prospects in the system, but the Yankees might not want him playing a backup role just yet (and it’s still possible he’ll stumble in his first taste of Triple-A).

New York starter: Mark Teixeira
New York backup: Alex Rodriguez
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre: Kyle Roller
Worth consideration: Greg Bird

Three immediate possibilities should Teixeira get hurt: Rodriguez takes over at first base, Chase Headley shifts to first base, or Roller is called up to play first base (could also include Tyler Austin in that discussion). Not having a true backup first baseman hurt the Yankees last season, but it remains difficult to carry a second true first baseman on a roster that has essentially a full-time designated hitter taking up a spot. First base depth is going to have to come elsewhere, and while some guys might have to play out of position a time or two, Roller’s terrific Triple-A debut was enough to put him on the map as a legitimate call-up candidate for 2015. Also worth wondering whether Bird can hit his way into consideration before the end of the year.

New York starter: Martin Prado
New York backup: Jose Pirela
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre: Rob Refsnyder
Worth consideration: Cole Figueroa

With Pirela and Refsnyder, the Yankees have legitimately intriguing depth at a position that’s usually pretty thin. Pirela’s flexibility makes him a nice big league bench player who could backup at several positions while bringing considerable experience at second. Refsnyder’s upside makes him a nice option to plug into the lineup if an everyday job presents itself. I listed Figueroa as a “worth consideration” stand in for the three minor league veteran infielders the Yankees have signed this winter. If the Yankees have to dig beyond their top three second basemen to find yet another utility type, they have some options in place with Figueroa, Jonathan Galvez and Nick Noonan (all of whom can play multiple positions and have a lot of second base experience).

New York starter: Chase Headley
New York backup: Alex Rodriguez
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre: Jonathan Galvez
Worth consideration: Martin Prado

It will be interesting to see how the Yankees configure their third base depth this season. Headley is obviously in place to be the everyday guy well beyond 2015, but on days he needs a rest, what happens? Does Rodriguez play third? Does Pirela? Does Prado? Are the Yankees going to give Prado some third base time in spring training just in case a guy like Refsnyder forces his way into the mix? Because of Prado’s versatility, the Yankees probably don’t have to focus on third base in Triple-A, but it will be interesting to see whether Rob Segedin can do enough to earn everyday at-bats ahead of some of the veterans the Yankees have signed this winter. Probably at least a year away from Eric Jagielo or Dante Bichette Jr. joining the big league discussion.

New York starter: Didi Gregorius
New York backup: Brendan Ryan
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre: Nick Noonan
Worth consideration: Ali Castillo

Clearly the Yankees want Gregorius to emerge as a legitimate everyday shortstop. Even if he’s never a great offensive player, there’s some hope that he’ll hit enough to play against both lefties and righties, providing excellent defense and a better-than-nothing bat near the bottom of the order. If he can’t do that, the Yankees have Ryan in place as a platoon partner and another slick fielder. Beyond that, though, the system is still thin. Recently signed Noonan has primarily played second base in the minors, but he might be the best shortstop option for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Beyond Noonan, it’s Castillo (who’s been a kind of organizational utility guy) and then possibly Cito Culver (who’s hit so little that no team even took a flyer on him in the Rule 5 draft). Even with Gregorius, the organizational shortstop depth isn’t much. To be fair, though, that’s probably true for most teams.

New York starter: Brett Gardner
New York backup: Chris Young
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre: Ramon Flores
Worth consideration: Adonis Garcia

The Yankees outfield has been set for quite a while now, basically ever since Young signed early in the offseason to provide a right-handed bat off the bench. Now that Gardner has emerged as a legitimate and experienced everyday player in left field, the biggest question about depth is just how often Young will get in the lineup against left-handed pitching (and it’s worth noting that Pirela could also see some left field time if he’s productive). If the Yankees need further reinforcements, the Triple-A outfield should provide several options, any one of whom could move to the top of the pecking order at any time. Flores seems in line to be the regular left fielder for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, but Garcia, Taylor Dugas, Tyler Austin and maybe Slade Heathcott (if he’s re-signed) could also become options.

New York starter: Jacoby Ellsbury
New York backup: Chris Young
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre: Eury Perez
Worth consideration: Mason Williams

Really, the backup center fielder is Gardner, but moving Gardner to center field basically means Young is in left field, so defining the “backup” is mostly a question of how you want to define the role. It’s worth noting, of course, that Young has also played a lot of center field in his career and provides legitimate depth at the position beyond Ellsbury and Gardner. It’s a similar (but less experienced) situation in Triple-A where Perez seems in line to be the starting center fielder, but Flores, Garcia, Dugas and (possibly) Heathcott could also play there. Now that Williams has a 40-man spot, a back-on-the-map season out of him could put him in the call-up mix as well. And Jake Cave could be in that discussion by September.

New York starter: Carlos Beltran
New York backup: Chris Young
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre: Tyler Austin
Worth consideration: Aaron Judge

Pretty similar to the left field and center field situations — Young off the bench; Pirela or Prado could be involved; a lot of options to sort through in Triple-A — but the difference in right field is that Austin stands out as a potential impact bat if he stays healthy, builds off last season’s strong second half, and hits like he did during that breakout 2012 season that saw him rank among baseball’s Top 100 Prospects according to both Baseball America and Beyond Austin, there’s Judge, the top position prospect in the system, who could hit enough in Double-A to push for a Triple-A promotion at some point. And once in Triple-A, it would be hard to rule him out as a big league possibility.

Associated Press photo

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MLB “closely monitoring” announcement on Cuban-U.S. relations12.17.14

Jose Abreu

This isn’t the sort of thing that usually lands on a baseball blog, but in this case, a bit of international policy is worth mentioning. Today, President Obama announced the United States is restoring full diplomatic relations with Cuba. This isn’t a baseball decision — at least, I don’t think it is — but it could have an impact on Cuban baseball players coming to the United States.

“Major League Baseball is closely monitoring the White House’s announcement regarding Cuban-American relations,” the league said in a released statement. “While there are not sufficient details to make a realistic evaluation, we will continue to track this significant issue, and we will keep our Clubs informed if this different direction may impact the manner in which they conduct business on issues related to Cuba.”

As you’re well aware, there are plenty of potent Cuban players in the big leagues right now, and a young Cuban shortstop, Yoan Moncada, is perhaps the top international free agent on the radar at the moment. Here’s a link to a Sports Illustrated video about the baseball impact of today’s news.

For those curious about what exactly is going on with the announcement itself, here’s an Associated Press story on the situation.

Barack ObamaWASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama announced the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba on Wednesday and declared an end to America’s “outdated approach” to the communist island in a historic shift aimed at ending a half-century of Cold War enmity.

“These 50 years have shown that isolation has not worked,” Obama said in remarks from the White House. “It’s time for a new approach.”

As Obama spoke to Americans, Cuban President Raul Castro addressed his own nation from Havana, saying that while the two countries still have profound differences in areas such as human rights and foreign policy, they must learn to live together “in a civilized manner.”

Wednesday’s announcements followed more than a year of secret talks between the U.S. and Cuba, including clandestine meetings in Canada and the Vatican and personal involvement from Pope Francis. The re-establishment of diplomatic ties was accompanied by Cuba’s release of American Alan Gross, who had been imprisoned for five years, and the swap of a Cuban who had spied for the U.S. for three Cubans jailed in Florida. Gross spoke with Obama from the plane carrying him back to the U.S.

Obama’s plans are sweeping: He aims to expand economic ties with Cuba, open an embassy in Havana, send high-ranking U.S. officials to visit and review Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism. The U.S. also is easing restrictions on travel to Cuba, including for family visits, official U.S. government business and educational activities. But tourist travel remains banned.

Obama’s action marked an abrupt use of U.S. executive authority. However, he cannot unilaterally end the longstanding U.S. economic embargo on Cuba, which was passed by Congress and would require action from lawmakers to overturn.

In a statement, the Vatican said Pope Francis “wishes to express his warm congratulations” for the efforts taken by Cuba and the U.S. “with the aim of overcoming, in the interest of the citizens of both countries, the difficulties which have marked their recent history.”

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the news “very positive” and thanked the U.S. and Cuban presidents “for taking this very important step.”

Obama said Gross’ imprisonment had been a major obstacle in normalizing relations. Gross arrived at an American military base just outside Washington Wednesday morning, accompanied by his wife and a handful of U.S. lawmakers. He went immediately into a meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry, who said he looked forward to becoming the first U.S. secretary of state in 60 years to visit Cuba.

Licensed American travelers to Cuba will now be able to return to the U.S. with $400 in Cuban goods, including tobacco and alcohol products worth less than $100 combined. This means the long-standing ban on importing Cuban cigars is over, although there are still limits.

The U.S. is also increasing the amount of money Americans can send to Cubans from $500 to $2,000 every three months. Early in his presidency, Obama allowed unlimited family visits by Cuban-Americans and removed a $1,200 annual cap on remittances. Kerry is also launching a review of Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terror.

Obama said he continued to have serious concerns about Cuba’s human rights record but did not believe the current American policy toward the island was advancing efforts to change the government’s behavior.

“I do not believe we can keep doing the same thing for over five decades and expect a different result,” he said.

Associated Press photos

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Jeter and Matsui team up for charity event in Japan12.17.14

From Jim Armstrong of The Associated Press:

Hideki MatsuiTOKYO (AP) — Hideki Matsui will team up with former New York Yankees teammate Derek Jeter to hold a baseball charity event in support children affected by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Matsui, the 2009 World Series MVP, attended a press conference in Tokyo on Wednesday to promote the event on March 21 at Tokyo Dome.

“(Derek) will make an enormous contribution to this event,” Matsui said. “He is a tremendous human being and was a great teammate and I’m sure the kids will be thrilled to see someone of his stature.”

The event will include over 600 participants, including a group of baseball players from the Tohoku region that was devastated by the March 11, 2011, disaster that killed 16,000 people.

Profits will be used to help children from the region.

The event will include a baseball clinic and a home run derby between Matsui and Jeter, who retired in 2014 after a 20-year career with the Yankees.

Matsui would not be drawn on speculation connecting him with a coaching job either with the Yankees or his former team in Japan the Yomiuri Giants.

“That isn’t related to this event so I’ll leave that for another time,” Matsui said when asked about becoming a coach.

Associated Press photo

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Reliever off the board: Romo back to San Francisco12.17.14

ph_489265Clearly Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances are very good relief pitchers, and chances are, one of those two should be fine in the closer role next season. But I still think the Yankees would be wise to look into an experienced closer to take the ninth inning out of spring training, with the understanding that roles might adjust based on performance or injury or workload.

For now, there are plenty of pitchers like that available on the free agent market, but it’s worth wondering how much longer that will be the case.

According to Ken Rosenthal, another one came off the board today when Sergio Romo agreed to a two-year, $15-million deal with the Giants. The Yankees were previously linked to Romo, though Brian Cashman declined to comment on the team’s level of interest.

The market still has potential closer candidates Rafael Soriano, Jason Grilli, Casey Janssen and Francisco Rodriguez available as free agents.

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Free agent starters: Yankees missing opportunities or dodging bullets?12.17.14

Jon Lester, Hudson Lester

When the 2014 season ended, Hal Steinbrenner went on the radio and said this about the Yankees offseason priorities: “We know we need a shortstop, of course. I think with Nova coming back probably not until May, I think we need a starting pitcher. And then we’re going to have to go from there.”

In the two-and-a-half months since, the Yankees have found their shortstop, but they’ve done nothing to help their rotation situation. Chris Capuano is back, but Shane Greene is gone, and the rotation uncertainty remains.

But does that mean the Yankees have missed the boat on anyone?

Here are the top 12 free agent starting pitchers who have signed elsewhere this offseason. Which deals would have made sense for the Yankees, and which are you glad they stayed away from?

Jon Lester, Cubs
Six years, $155 million (with a vesting option)
A proven ace worth the investment or another CC Sabathia waiting to happen?

Ervin Santana, Twins
Four years, $55 million (with a club option)
Dumped by the Angels two years ago; reestablished with back-to-back solid seasons.

Brandon McCarthy, Dodgers
Four years, $48 million
Very strong mid-season addition for the Yankees, but has a long history of health problems.

Francisco Liriano, Pirates
Three years, $39 million
Two good years after two bad years; might have taken less to stay in Pittsburgh.

Jason Hammel, Cubs
Two years, $20 million (with a club option)
Career 4.60 ERA; couldn’t maintain first-half numbers after last year’s trade to Oakland.

Brett Anderson, Dodgers
One year, $10 million ($4 million incentives)
Once looked like a future ace, but he’s made 19 major-league starts in the past three years.

Justin Masterson, Red Sox
One year, $9.5 million ($2.5 million incentives)
Was building a strong career in Cleveland before a brutal 5.88 ERA last season.

A.J. Burnett, Pirates
One year, $8.5 million
No realistic chance for a return to Yankee Stadium; took less money to go back to Pittsburgh.

Tsuyoshi Wada, Cubs
One year, $4.5 million ($2 million incentives)
Turns 34 in February and has 13 big league starts to his name.

Gavin Floyd, Indians
One year, $4 million ($2 million incentives)
Former first-round pick has a 4.40 career ERA and has made just 14 starts the past two seasons.

Colby Lewis, Rangers
One year, $4 million
Made only a handful of minor league starts in 2013; had a 5.18 ERA in his return to the big leagues in 2014.

Brandon Morrow, Padres
One year, $2.5 million ($5 million incentives)
Yet another injury risk with only 16 starts and a 5.65 ERA the past two years.

Associated Press photo

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The good news, the bad news, and the Yankees rotation12.17.14

CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka, Ivan Nova

The good news is, the Yankees added some rotation depth yesterday. The bad news is, it wasn’t by acquiring a front-end starter to make everyone feel better about the health concerns at the top of the rotation.

By re-signing Chris Capuano, the Yankees brought in an experienced lefty who pitched well in a fifth starter role last year. The good news is that he’s probably a little better than you’re thinking (his career numbers are nearly identical to the rock-solid results he put up with the Yankees last season), but the bad news is that the Yankees rotation still has an opening and is still crowded with uncertainty heading into next season.

Here’s a look at the Yankees starters in place — and the ones set to compete for a spot — as we move ever closer to pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training. As you might expect, with each one there’s some good news and some bad news.

Good news: Cy Young and Rookie of the Year candidate through his first three months in the big leagues.
Bad news: Slightly torn elbow ligament suggests Tommy John surgery is a real threat as early as spring training.

Good news: Finally joined the Yankees staff with a 1.89 ERA last season.
Bad news: That stellar ERA came in just 13 starts because of another shoulder issue.

Good news: Says he feels strong this winter; more than 200 innings in 2013 and a 3.38 ERA as recently as 2012.
Bad news: Coming back from knee surgery with a not-so-encouraging 4.87 ERA the past two seasons.

Good news: Farm system success story had a 3.10 ERA (and an especially good second half) in his last healthy season.
Bad news: Had Tommy John surgery after just four starts last season; not expected to be ready for Opening Day.

Good news: Solid No. 5 starter with a 4.25 ERA in 12 starts with the Yankees last season.
Bad news: Had been released and was pitching in Triple-A when the Yankees got him in July.

Good news: Was on a roll before a upper elbow injury (believed to be minor) pushed him to the DL last season.
Bad news: In three seasons has never quite established himself as a go-to member of the rotation.

Good news: Coming off a terrific, breakout season with a 2.97 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP.
Bad news: Truly emerged as a one-inning setup man; has just three major-league starts on his resume.

Good news: Showed flashes of promise late last year including a five-inning, one-run spot start in August.
Bad news: That promise has not consistently translated, leaving Rogers a 5.54 career ERA with four different teams before the age of 30.

Yankees Blue Jays BaseballCHASE WHITLEY
Good news: Long-time minor league reliever emerged with a 2.56 ERA through his first seven major league starts last season.
Bad news: Had a 9.00 ERA through his next five starts, falling out of the rotation and back into the bullpen.

Good news: Long touted for talent that exceeded his stats, Mitchell’s results were actually pretty impressive in his brief big league cameo.
Bad news: He’s still a 24 year old with a 4.45 ERA and a 1.48 WHIP through five minor league seasons; never with as many as 150 innings.

Good news: One of the top pitching prospects in the system and one of the best in baseball before Tommy John surgery.
Bad news: Inconsistent with a 4.11 ERA and just 76.2 innings in his return from surgery last season.

Good news: Hard-throwing lefty impressed the Yankees enough to land a major-league contract this winter.
Bad news: Has never actually pitched in the major leagues and has just 51.1 innings of so-so Triple-A experience.

Associated Press photos

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Video: Chase Headley talks about his return to New York12.16.14

Last night on Yankees Hot Stove, I was in studio with Bob Lorenz and Jack Curry when Chase Headley called in for one of his first interviews after re-signing with the Yankees. I thought he was actually really good, talking a lot about why he came back to New York, what his role will be next season, how his back has felt this winter, and why he expects his offensive numbers to improve. Headley’s good with the media, gives smart and thoughtful answers all the time, and this video is a solid re-introduction to the Yankees third baseman.

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Yankees holding annual Holiday Food Drive tomorrow12.16.14

Good stuff for a good cause, the Yankees food drive is a way to do something kind for others and get a little something for yourself. Here are the details from the Yankees:

Astros Yankees BaseballThe New York Yankees will continue another great tradition this holiday season with the 21st annual Yankees Holiday Food Drive, presented by C-Town and Bravo supermarkets and Krasdale Foods.

On Wednesday, December 17, between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. at Gate 2 at Yankee Stadium (corner of 164th Street and Jerome Ave.), any fan bringing at least 30 pounds of non-perishable food will receive a voucher good for two (2) complimentary Grandstand or Bleachers tickets or two (2) half-price tickets in select general seating areas* to one of 23 designated home games during the 2015 regular season.**

The Yankees, in conjunction with the Bronx clergy, will distribute all food collected to families in need throughout the Bronx. In addition, the Yankees will donate approximately 2,500 food vouchers to the recipients of the collected food items.

To help kick off the Food Drive, the Yankees have already received support from Ace Endico, $10,000 worth of food from Legends Hospitality and committed donations in excess of 40,000 pounds of food from Goya Foods and Krasdale Foods.

Fans driving to the Stadium may pull up to Gate 2 to drop off their donation. Rice and bottled water will not be accepted.



TIME: 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.


*Excludes Audi Yankees Club, Legends Suite, Delta SKY360° Suite, Champions Suite, Jim Beam Suite, Luxury Suites and Party City Party Suites.

**Designated Games: 4/9/15 vs. Toronto; 4/27/15 vs. Tampa Bay; 4/28/15 vs. Tampa Bay; 4/29/15 vs. Tampa Bay, 5/7/15 vs. Baltimore; 5/26/15 vs. Kansas City; 5/27/15 vs. Kansas City; 6/9/15 vs. Washington; 6/10/15 vs. Washington; 6/17/15 vs. Miami; 6/18/15 vs. Miami; 6/22/15 vs. Philadelphia; 6/23/15 vs. Philadelphia; 6/24/15 vs. Philadelphia; 7/7/15 vs. Oakland; 7/8/15 vs. Oakland; 7/9/15 vs. Oakland; 8/17/15 vs. Minnesota; 8/18/15 vs. Minnesota; 8/19/15 vs. Minnesota; 8/24/15 vs. Houston; 8/25/15 vs. Houston; and 8/26/15 vs. Houston.

Associated Press photo

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Cashman: Capuano has a spot in the rotation12.16.14

Yankees Blue Jays Baseball

The Yankees have officially announced the Chris Capuano signing, and general manager Brian Cashman has made it clear that Capuano is meant to fill a rotation spot, not simply add a rotation possibility.

“He’s coming in as one of our starters,” Cashman said.

So that’s four spots essentially filled right now: Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, CC Sabathia and Capuano. The Yankees expect Ivan Nova back from Tommy John by June at the latest, and for now, they’re looking at a list of predictable candidate to fill the fifth spot.

Cashman specifically named David Phelps, Adam Warren, Bryan Mitchell, Chase Whitley and Jose De Paula as rotation possibilities. Esmil Rogers, Cashman said, could also emerge as a rotation candidate. There’s a chance Manny Banuelos could pitch his way into that mix in spring training, but the Yankees aren’t counting on it.

“He could become an option probably sometime more in season than to start the season,” Cashman said, “because he didn’t have a very good coming out party after the Tommy John. … But I still have high hopes for him.”

Unless Japanese starter Kenta Maeda is posted — and there’s little guarantee the Yankees would bid on him — the free agent market seems to have lost most of its mid-rotation possibilities. With Brandon McCarthy getting a four-year deal and Brett Anderson getting $10 million guaranteed, a few potential bargain candidates wound up signing significant contracts, and the Yankees are still saying they have no plans to enter the bidding for Max Scherzer because of the money and years attached (I’ve heard recently that the Yankees also didn’t enter the bidding for some guys like Anderson because they were told early on how much it would cost).

Hiroki Kuroda remains a possibility, but Cashman said he still hasn’t heard whether Kuroda wants to come back next season.

“I think it’s safe to assume we are open to any legitimate possibilities to improve our club,” Cashman said. “Obviously making sense in the current circumstances that we have. … The preference would be to never have to go to the free agent market to get what you need, but that’s just not realistic.”

Associated Press photo

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