During today’s conference call to discuss his new three-year contract, Brian Cashman made it clear that he’s approaching this offseason with the assumption that he needs someone other than Alex Rodriguez to play third base.
That might mean a free agent addition, might mean a trade acquisition, and it might mean a decision to trust either Rob Refsnyder or Jose Pirela to handle second base so that Martin Prado can shift over to third.
“I don’t think it’s safe to assume that (Rodriguez) can play third base,” Cashman said. “Obviously Alex has been a third baseman in years gone by. He missed obviously a full year. With his age and missing a full year, (the Yankees saw) how it affected Derek (Jeter), how it affected Mark Teixeira, for instance. You have some perspective. This is a very difficult game. Alex is up for that challenge, there’s no doubt about it, but I think that with Martin Prado here to provide flexibility, as well as potential acquisitions whether it’s free agents or maybe trades that present themselves over time, I think from the chair that I sit in, I think it’s safer to assume that might not be something that he can handle the whole year.”
So Rodriguez could be the third baseman, but it’s safer for the Yankees to proceed as if he might have to be a designated hitter (one who might be able to help out at first base from time to time).
“I’m open to pursuing third base options is what I’m saying,” Girardi said. “Alex can help us as an everyday third baseman, he can help us in a DH role, and I know Joe Girardi conveyed to me that he talked to him recently about getting some work at first base. … I’m just airing that I’m open to all options, and that could be from our own roster where we have two guys like a Refsnyder or a Pirela could be competing from our system for that everyday job at second, and maybe that pushes Prado over to third. It could be some free agent candidates, like some we have here like a Chase Headley that we could pursue. It could be other options.”
Associated Press photo
State of the organization: Third base • 10.09.14
Well, we were going to get here eventually. Might as well deal with it on a random Thursday in early October. The state of the Yankees organization at third base is a strange mix of embarrassing uncertainty in the big leagues and optimistic potential in the minors. The Yankees have a first-round pick waiting in the wings to replace a 10-year contract that stands out as one of the worst in all of sports.
Signed through 2017
Nope, you didn’t read that wrong. Rodriguez turns 40 in July, he’s hardly played in the past two years, and he’s signed for three more seasons. That’s the lingering mess of a 2008 contract that’s been nothing but trouble. Amazingly, Rodriguez’s previous record contract had actually been a fairly good one. In 2007 he won his third MVP award in five seasons. He was paid a boatload of money, but he was as productive as anyone this side of Barry Bonds. Then he opted out, negotiated a new deal, and things went downhill quickly. From a .965 OPS in 2008 to a .771 OPS in an injury-shortened 2013, Rodriguez’s production has declined each year of his current deal. And last year he was suspended for a full season because of his Biogensis ties (you probably heard about that). Now the Yankees say they’re expecting Rodriguez to play third base again next season, but there’s obviously a solid chance someone else has that job pretty soon.
On the verge
No sense pretending there’s someone in the Yankees system who’s truly “on the verge” of taking over the third-base job. Jose Pirela has played third base in the past, but he didn’t play a single inning at the position this year. Rob Segedin is the system’s most advanced third base prospect, but he’s had injury problems and hit just .143 in limited Triple-A at-bats this year. Zelous Wheeler is a third baseman by trade, but he’s also a DFA candidate. Adonis Garcia and Tyler Austin have some third base experience, but they’re primarily corner outfielders. Instead, the most ready alternatives are either Martin Prado (assuming either Pirela or Rob Refsnyder is ready to play second base) or a free agent, and the most notable free agent is Headley, who made a strong impression during his two-plus months with the Yankees. Given the uncertainty of Rodriguez and the injuries to Mark Teixeira, the Yankees surely need someone capable of playing the infield corners. If it’s not Headley, it’s got to be someone. Prado could do it, but that’s going to require someone else who can play second.
In two of the past four drafts, the Yankees took a third baseman with their top pick. They took Dante Bichette Jr. out of high school back in 2011. Two years later, they took Jagielo out of Notre Dame. Despite a bounce-back season from Bichette, it still seems that Jagielo has to be considered the system’s top third-base prospect. He struck out a lot this season — 93 times in 85 games with High-A Tampa — but he also might have led the league in home runs had he not missed time with an injury. He instead ranked fifth with 16 homers. Only one player in the league had more than 19. “Jagielo hit home runs in college,” Mark Newman said. “He probably hit more and exhibited more power than we had anticipated, but we thought he had power.” While I would give Jagielo the nod as the system’s top third base prospect, Bichette had a nice year after back-to-back disappointing seasons. He wasn’t nearly as good after a late promotion to Double-A, but he did enough to get back on the map. If he can rediscover some of the power numbers he showed during his strong half season in 2011, Bichette could really make a push next year.
Deeper in the system
Two top draft picks headline the third base position in the Yankees minor league system, but two young players signed out of the Dominican Republic had nice years in the lower levels. Andujar in particular stands out as an interesting and legitimate prospect. Playing full-season ball for the first time, Andujar got off to a slow start with Low-A Charleston — a brutal month of May left him with a .212/.267/.335 slash line at the All-Star break, but he rebounded in a big way by hitting .319/.367/.456 in the second half. Still just 19 years old, Andujar’s a kid with a long way to go, but he put up good numbers in rookie ball last year, and this season’s second half was another step forward. Coming up behind Andujar, a 21-year-old named Allen Valerio hit .292/.404/.472 in his first season in the U.S., but he was pretty old for rookie ball.
An outfielder in the infield
While the Yankees don’t have a full-time third base prospect who’s knocking on the door to the big leagues, they do have Tyler Austin who’s likely to land on the 40-man roster this offseason and should open next season in Triple-A. Converted to right field back in 2012, Austin really hasn’t played much third base lately, but he’s played the position in the past and he got a little bit of time at third last season. After a strong second half and an assignment back to the Arizona Fall League, Austin should be one of the top prospects on the Scranton/Wilkes-Barer roster next season. If he hits, the Yankees might have to find a way to give Austin an opportunity in New York, and third base could be a way to do that either as a regular or part-time player at the position. A right-handed corner utility man would fit pretty well with this roster, and Austin could be that type of player if the Yankees still trust him in the infield.
Associated Press photo
This was the first week of the offseason, and it was full of stuff pretty typical of the first week of the offseason. Most notably, both Hal Steinbrenner and Joe Girardi spoke publicly about their disappointment.
“I apologize,” Steinbrenner said. “We did not do the job this year. We know what you expect of us, and we expect the same thing of ourselves, and we certainly did what we thought we could do in the offseason to field a pretty good team come April 1, but it didn’t work out for reasons we’ve just discussed. And we’re going to get right back to work.”
Getting back to work begins with hiring a general manager. Brian Cashman’s contract expires at the end of this month, but all parties involved seem to expect a new deal to be worked out. Steinbrenner acknowledged that he and Cashman have already discussed a new deal.
“Overall, everything Cashman does — dealing with you guys (in the media), dealing with the coaches and the manager — he is a good GM,” Steinbrenner said. “So, yes, we have been talking about that, but there is no deal done.”
Steinbrenner was less supportive of the Yankees coaching staff, indicating it’s possible we’ll see some coaching changes this winter.
“If I do deem that somebody is liable,” Steinbrenner said. “Or if I do deem that somebody is responsible, that things could have been better, I will act.”
• Both Girardi and Steinbrenner indicated — just as Brian Cashman did last week — that the Yankees plan to bring Alex Rodriguez back next season, and they’re hoping to have him play a lot of third base. Rodriguez is working out in California, but he’s missed all of one year and most of another. Hard to have any idea what to expect.
• As expected, Carlos Beltran underwent surgery to have his bone spur removed. Dr. Chris Ahmad also removed loose pieces from the elbow.
• Derek Jeter wrapped up his Farewell Tour — he might not like the name, but that’s clearly what it was at the end — but doing a pair of television interviews, first with a morning appearance on Today and then with an evening appearance on The Tonight Show. Nothing new revealed, just Jeter being a retired celebrity. He’s honestly pretty good in those situations.
• Bigger news from Jeter came in his announcement that he has started an online media platform called The Players’ Tribune, which is designed to give athletes a chance to present their thoughts without the filter of typical media. Interesting idea. We’ll see how it plays out.
• Eric Jagielo will have to skip the Arizona Fall League after being hit by a pitch to the face during instructs. He’s been replaced by Dante Bichette Jr.
• Speaking of the Fall League, baseball is going to try some new pace-of-game initiatives out there. I like the idea. Shaving game times by just 15 minutes or so would be a positive thing for the league.
• Brett Gardner was announced as the Yankees nominee for the Hank Aaron Award, which goes to the top offensive player in each league. Says a lot about the kind of season Gardner had, but also about the kind of season the rest of the Yankees hitters had.
• A possible offseason target, Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas, became an eligible free agent. Would be an chance to add power potential for right field. Obvious risk, though.
• The playoffs got started. Some awesome nights for the Kansas City Royals. Not such good nights for Joba Chamberlain.
Associated Press photos
Says a lot about the state of the Yankees that much of manager Joe Girardi’s end-of-season press conference focused on a player who didn’t play a single inning this year. For a team loaded with unpredictability, Alex Rodriguez is as significant as anyone.
“We’ve got to see where he’s at,” Girardi said. “That’s the thing that we have to do. I believe he’s going to be 40 next summer, and we’ve got to see where he’s physically at and if he can play the field, how many days he can play the field and how many days he needs to DH. So I don’t think really any of us know about him until we actually get him into games in spring training.”
That can’t be a particularly comfortable feeling for a team that’s also facing significant uncertainty in the rotation (Tanaka’s elbow, Sabathia’s knee, Pineda’s shoulder), in the bullpen (is Robertson coming back), in the heart of the order (Beltran’s elbow, Teixeira’s wrist, McCann’s first half), and all around the infield (who’s playing second, third and short).
Maybe Rodriguez simply fits in already. Another wild card for a team full of them.
“He hasn’t played in a year,” Girardi said. “That’s not easy to do, to sit out a year. I’ve got to see where he’s physically at. I’ve got to see from a playing standpoint where he’s at. Do we expect him to be a player on our team? Absolutely. Do we expect him to play third base? Yes. But in fairness, I think you have to see where he’s at.”
It’s going to take a while to figure out what Rodriguez is capable of doing, and the Yankees surely won’t have an answer until sometime during spring training at the earliest. That means an offseason with Rodriguez on the roster — his suspension official ends after the World Series — and in the projected lineup, but with no real idea of what exactly he’ll be capable of doing.
“I can’t tell you whats going to happen,” Girardi said. “But we expect him to be our third baseman.”
Associated Press photo
This is a big day for the Yankees rotation.
At least, it might be a big day for the Yankees rotation.
Not only is Michael Pineda making his first big league start in more than three months, but even before tonight’s first pitch, Masahiro Tanaka went into the outfield and threw 10 flat-ground fastballs. That’s a pretty small step, but it’s the most significant step yet in his return from a partially torn elbow ligament.
“Pain’s gone,” is the phrase Wally Matthews heard.
At this stage, it’s basically impossible for Tanaka to do anything that proves he’s in the clear and will definitely return to the Yankees rotation without needing Tommy John surgery. For now, the best the Yankees can hope for is that he doesn’t suffer a setback. And so far he hasn’t. We’re squarely into no news is good news territory, and right now it seems that Tanaka has no real news to report.
He’s a Major League pitcher who’s playing catch and throwing a few pitches off flat ground. As long as it goes well, none of this is a particularly big deal. It’s all just a series of steps in the right direction. It becomes a big deal when he either progresses to game action or suffers some sort of setback that shuts down the whole process.
• Although the Yankees originally announced a rotation that had Chris Capuano starting on Sunday, Hiroki Kuroda told reporters in Baltimore that he’s actually taking the ball that day. The Yankees seem to be clearly — and understandably — trying to give Kuroda a little bit of a rest in hopes of avoiding a late-season crash like they’ve seen in recent years.
• Joe Girardi told reporters that he expects Brian McCann to come off the disabled list on Saturday. McCann has been on the seven-day concussion DL.
• Pineda returns to the rotation tonight. He hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since April 23, the day he was ejected for using pine tar. Most pitches he threw during his minor league rehab assignment was 72 on Friday, so there’s basically no chance he’ll be cleared for anything particularly close to 100 pitches tonight.
• To open a roster spot for Pineda, Chris Leroux has been designated for assignment. What is this, three big league call-ups for Leroux this season? He’s been one of several guys shuttling back and forth to give the Yankees a long man when they need it. And the Yankees have needed it quite a bit because they’ve struggled to get much distance out of their starting pitchers.
• The Orioles have put third baseman Manny Machado on the disabled list with a knee injury. He hurt himself during Monday’s game against the Yankees. Chris Davis is back at third base for Baltimore.
• Speaking of Baltimore, from our friend Marly Rivera, here’s Orioles manager Buck Showalter on whether Pineda will be using pine tar tonight: “I’m hoping he’s got a little (pine tar) in the right place, YOU try gripping the ball in some of this weather.” It’s been said over and over again, but the problem with Pineda in Boston wasn’t so much that he was using pine tar, it was the fact he was being so blatant about it after the Red Sox had already looked the other way once.
• Clubhouse good guy Shawn Kelley did the Ice Bucket Challenge today and challenged Tanaka, CC Sabathia and Felix Hernandez to do the same. Dan Barbarisi pointed out yesterday that Kelley lost his grandfather to ALS, so it’s pretty cool that he’s jumping into the recent trend.
• At the owner’s meeting to discuss the next commissioner, Hal Steinbrenner told Michael O’Keeffe that he expects to have Alex Rodriguez back in the Yankees lineup next season. That’s settled. I’m sure we won’t hear another word about it.
Associated Press photo
Well, this series didn’t go too well for the Yankees. The last-place Rays have been playing better, but still …
The Yankees sure weren’t expecting to get swept by them. The 6-3 win gave Tampa Bay a season-high five-game winning streak and the Yankees a season-high five-game losing streak.
They are now a losing team for the first time since they were 5-6 on April 11. After nine losses in 11 games, they are 41-42 and 4 1/2 back of the Blue Jays.
“The talent is in that room,” Joe Girardi said. “We just need to play better. It’s a lot of different phases. You can look at almost every phase and say we need to play better. We’ve got to find a way to get it done.”
The run production is the most glaring phase right now. The Yankees had 10 hits. They left nine on base. The RISP count was an RIP count — 1 for 9.
“Obviously offense has been an issue,” hitting coach Kevin Long said. “It’s been an issue all season. We’ve got to turn it around somehow. … It’s not for a lack of effort.”
Long indicated that Carlos Beltran (two singles) and Brian McCann (single, solo homer) appear to be making progress. McCann (seen in the photo above executing his home-run swing) eliminated a toe tap from his mechanics in this game, according to Long. Apparently it helped. McCann was happy to produce.
But as he put it, “When you lose, it’s irrevelent.”
The Yankees also finished a 15-game stretch against the AL East.
“It started off good and ended bad,” Girardi said.
It ended at 6-9.
“I thought you were going to say 2-13,” said Brett Gardner, who tied his career high with his eighth homer and is batting .288 overall after this three-hit game. “We just haven’t played good.”
So it’s on to 11 straight on the road before the All-Star break. It starts Thursday night in Minnesota.
“We’ve got to pick each other up,” Gardner said. “We’ve got to pitch better and we’ve got to hit better and find a way to give our pitchers the lead a lot more often.”
CC Sabathia made his second rehab start Wednesday night, this one at Trenton. The lefty threw 33 of his 55 pitches for strikes in 3 2/3 against Portland. He gave up five runs, three of them earned, five hits and one walk. He hit one batter and struck out two.
Alex Rodriguez is back in the news. Sports Illustrated has an excerpt from a new book claiming MLB gave A-Rod permission to use a PED – testosterone – through a therapeutic use exemption in his MVP season of 2007.
MLB countered with a statement:
“All decisions regarding whether a player shall receive a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) under the Joint Drug Program are made by the Independent Program Administrator (IPA) in consultation with outside medical experts, with no input by either the Office of the Commissioner or the Players Association. The process is confidentially administered by the IPA, and MLB and the MLBPA are not even made aware of which players applied for TUEs.
“The TUE process under the Joint Drug Program is comparable to the process under the World Anti-Doping Code. The standard for receiving a TUE for a medication listed as a performance-enhancing substance is stringent, with only a few such TUEs being issued each year by the IPA. MLB and the MLBPA annually review the TUE process to make sure it meets the most up-to-date standards for the issuance of TUEs.
“As recommended by the Mitchell Report, since 2008 MLB and the MLBPA have publicly issued the IPA’s annual report, which documents how many TUEs were granted for each category of medication. We believe this high level of transparency helps to ensure the proper operation of the TUE process.”
Photo by The Associated Press
The Yankees seemed more encouraged than unhappy after this 8-4 loss ended their four-game winning streak and prevented them from sweeping four from the Angels. The Yankees should have done more with 15 hits and three walks, but the lineup is at least more formidable now with Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez and especially Alfonso Soriano.
Those three weren’t around when the Yankees dropped two of three at Fenway last month. They will start another three-game series there Friday night.
“I think it’s a different club,” Joe Girardi said. “The way we’re swinging the bats, it’s a much different club.”
The Yankees were nine back of the Red Sox heading into Thursday night’s play.
“We’re the team that’s chasing them now,” Granderson said. “So it’s going to be a very big three-game series, not the fact that’s it’s a Boston and Yankees series, but the fact that we can gain a lot of ground. It’s very important for us. We have to also be cautious that they can also create a lot of ground, too.”
They have another power-hitting bat on the way, according to Jon Heyman at CBSSports.com and some others Thursday night. The word from them is the Yankees have agreed to terms with Mark Reynolds. The righty batter, of course, is known for homering and striking out. But he can back up at third and platoon with Lyle Overbay at first. When the Indians designated Reynolds last week, he was at .215 with 15 homers, 48 RBI and 123 strikeouts. He has been cold in the homer department, none since June 28. He batted .098 in July. Your thoughts?
The Yankees delivered 46 hits in these last three games. They batted .366 and scored 31 runs in the four games.
Soriano had four singles and an RBI in this game and went 10 for 14 and drove in 14 in the last three. That was a major-league high for RBI in one series this season. The last Yankee with at least 14 RBI in a series of any length was named Joe DiMaggio, who knocked in 14 in a six-game series vs. the Indians in 1938.
“The last three games, I’ve been hitting the ball good and seeing the ball good,” Soriano said.
Phil Hughes finally showed some improvement after failing to get through five in his previous three starts. He allowed three runs and six hits over six, but he fell to 4-12.
“It was obviously better,” Hughes said. “It would’ve been hard to pitch much worse than I had been.”
Girardi said that until he hears more about it from MLB, he didn’t want to comment on the new manager’s challenge rules for replay that will go into effect next season if the owners, players association and umpires approve.
Associated Press photo.
A-Rod and life for those on the marquee • 08.10.13
“I often wonder how guys like Michael Jordan and some of the greatest football players and some of the greatest hockey players — their life has to be so much different, because what I might consider being able to go out and do every day and just trying to be normal, I don’t necessarily think it’s that way for them.
“I lived close to Michael Jordan when we were in Chicago. His yard was fenced. He had his own movie theater in his house because it was easier for him to watch it there. The time he handed out candy on Halloween through the fence, the line was a mile long. It’s never happened to me. I don’t get that many people in five years.
“I think their lives are different because of who they are and what they’ve done in their careers. So for me to try to imagine what a superstar would go through, I can’t.”
A-Rod is still a marquee name, but he’s no longer a superstar. He didn’t look good in the Yankees’ 10-inning, 4-3 win over the Tigers last night at Yankee Stadium, going 0 for 4 with three strikeouts, leaving him at 3 for 15 in four games.
He’s going to have to tune out some of the sounds like he heard during this game, the loud boos from the home crowd that were competing with the cheers, the boos that came as a result of the PED allegations for which MLB suspended him 211 games, pending his appeal.
“Alex has had to deal with stuff before,” Girardi said. “He’s been booed before. He knows what he has to do, and I expect him to do it.”
This morning, ESPNNewYork.com reported that the Yankees informed Rodriguez in writing before the game that they intend to discipline him for getting a second opinion on his quad issue last month without their authorization. A-Rod stood up the media after the game. Here’s a link to my story about what went on last night. Also, Curtis Granderson has literally had a couple of unlucky breaks this season, but he did contribute to the winning rally. Here’s a link to my story on his year and the struggles in his latest comeback.
Associated Press photo
Yankees postgame: So Alex, your thoughts? • 08.10.13
We were all waiting around A-Rod’s locker for a comment about the reception he got here tonight during the 4-3 win in 10 over the Tigers. But we were finally told by media relations director Jason Zillo that Rodriguez had left.
Joe Girardi did speak about the boos and the cheers for his lightning rod at third.
“It was probably 50-50, maybe a little more cheers,” Girardi said. “It’s something he has to be able to put out of his mind and be a player for us.”
Rodriguez wasn’t a very effective player for them in this game. He went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts. He’s now 3 for 15 since his return.
Mariano Rivera hasn’t been effective the last two games, blowing back-to-back saves for the first time since April 2011. Miguel Cabrera got him for a two-run homer to tie it at 3-3 in the ninth.
“You’re talking about one of the great hitters,” Rivera said.
The Yankees won it on Brett Gardner’s two-out walk-off single. That stopped their four-game losing streak and the Tigers’ 12-game winning streak. It also saved the Yankees from falling to .500. They’re up to 58-56.
“We haven’t been playing good baseball for a couple of months,” Gardner said. “Sometime you have to keep winning or you’ll be out of it.”
Robinson Cano had two RBI on a double. He had driven in two runs in his previous 15 games combined.
The pitching matchup later today will be Phil Hughes and Anibal Sanchez.
Associated Press photo.
Yankees pregame: All about A-Rod • 08.09.13
Of course, our question of the day is: How will Yankees fans greet Alex Rodriguez tonight? He’s batting fifth and playing third in his 2013 home debut. I’ll guess there will be more boos than cheers with the 211-game suspension dangling over him.
“I don’t really have a way they should receive him,” Joe Girardi said. “That’s not my job. … I’m not so sure how it’s going to go out there. The only thing that you hope is when you walk into a ballpark, whether you’re at home or a visiting ballpark, it’s not personal. That’s the only thing you hope. But the fans are going to react the way they’re going to react. They buy the tickets and that’s part of it.”
Girardi was asked this: If he were just a regular guy coming to the game with his son, what would he say to him about reacting to this situation?
“I’ve talked about this with my son and how things have went in baseball,” Girardi said. “In this day and age, with cameraphones and everything that goes on, the chances of you ever getting away with anything aren’t very good. There are consequences to your actions and you’re usually going to have to pay for them. I talked to my son about the value of hard work and doing things the right way. As far as my son as a fan, I’d tell him not to get wrapped up in what goes on in the stands. Be respectful and go from there. Because I think a lot of times the kids are going to imitate what your mom and dad do in a sense, when they’re smaller.
“I talked about that in Chicago, that someone cheered when Alex was hit. Now it’s their perogative to do what they want, but if it was your son, would you cheer if a guy got plunked? Probably not. But as far as the other part of the reception, that’s up to the people.”
After three games, Rodriguez is 3 for 11, with all the hits being singles. He has walked twice and has been hit once.
“I think his swing has been a little bit more explosive than I thought it might be,” Girardi said. “You never how a guy is going to react off a second hip surgery. He’s just missed a few balls. He’s squared up a few balls. But I’m pleased with how his lower half is working, and I wasn’t sure how that was going to work when he came back from this second hip surgery and being older. But I’ve been pleased with it.”
A-Rod reportedly apologized to all his teammates the other day for creating a distraction, but Curtis Granderson has seen business as usual in that regard.
“There’s media here all the time,” Granderson said. “And between the first inning and the ninth inning, it’s us against them. Fans have booed us. Fans are going to cheer us. That’s part of it. We’re the New York Yankees and I don’t expect anything different.”