This morning, Baseball America released its annual list of minor league free agents. These are the players whose contracts expired at the end of the season either because they were on one-year minor league deals or because their original contracts ran out (essentially, players drafted or signed in 2008 became free agents this year if they weren’t added to the 40-man roster).
Andrew Bailey is listed here because the Yankees declined their 2015 option on the veteran right-hander, but two sources say he’s been re-signed to a new minor league contract, which means he’ll be back in the Yankees system next year.
The Yankees originally signed Bailey back in spring training, and he spent all year rehabbing a shoulder injury. He never actually got into a game this season, but he’s been a very good big league reliever in the past. Very low-risk move bringing him back. Could be helpful if he gets healthy.
Here’s the list of Yankees minor league free agents:
RHP: Andrew Bailey (AAA), Jairo Heredia (AA), David Herndon (AAA)
RHP/LHP: Pat Venditte (AAA)
LHP: Ramon Benjamin (Hi A), Jeremy Bleich (AA), Francisco Rondon (AA), Nik Turley (AAA)
C: Jose Gil (AAA)
1B: Reymond Nunez (Hi A)
2B: Jose Toussen (AA)
3B: Scott Sizemore (AAA)
SS: Carmen Angelini (AAA)
OF: Zoilo Almonte (AAA)
A few things worth pointing out:
• Rondon, Turley and Almonte are all organizational prospects who were previously on the 40-man roster at some point. Almonte got some big league time the past two years, but he was designated for assignment, cleared waivers and became eligible for free agency. He clearly needs a fresh start with a team that might give him a real chance to get big league at-bats. Turley was released and re-signed earlier this year (he’d been hurt in spring training, and the Yankees needed to open a 40-man spot). I tend to think of him as being similar to a Rule 5 candidate: The Yankees either had to put him back on the 40-man or risk losing him. As long as he’s throwing strikes, Turley’s a solid prospect. Wouldn’t be stunned to see the Yankees try to re-sign him. Also wouldn’t be stunned to see him try his luck elsewhere.
• There was a time this season when I thought Venditte might have a real chance for a call-up. The Yankees were basically out of upper-level left-handed relievers — Rondon, Fred Lewis and Cesar Cabral had each stumbled in Triple-A — and Venditte was once again putting up pretty solid numbers. If the Yankees had suddenly needed a lefty, I wonder if Venditte might have gotten a chance (which would have been really cool to see). Instead, Rich Hill and Josh Outman were brought onboard and Venditte never got a look. Often labeled a novelty act because he throws with both hands, Venditte has a career 2.46 ERA and 1.07 WHIP in the minors.
• Bleich was a supplemental-round pick in 2008, but he had some early injury problems that derailed his development for a while. Heredia was also once considered a pretty good prospect, but he too had some health problems. Despite being a starter through most of his career, he’s only once thrown more than 100 innings in a season, and that came way back in 2008 when he threw 102.1 innings in Low-A. Similar story with Angelini, who at one point might have been the top shortstop prospect in the system, but he missed a lot of time and never hit much.
• Many others Yankees minor leaguers were either released midseason or elected free agency previously this offseason. Among those most recognizable names: RHP Jim Miller, RHP Bruce Billings, RHP Chris Leroux, LHP Cesar Cabral, LHP Josh Outman, 1B Russ Canzler, 2B Corban Joseph, OF Antoan Richardson.
Associated Press photos of Almonte and Turley; headshot of Bailey
Pregame notes: “I just feel like it’s time” • 08.16.14
Carlos Beltran last played right field on May 11. It was one day later, on May 12, that Beltran felt sudden pain in his right elbow, which led to the discovery of a bone spur, which led to the Yankees decision to keep him out of the field for several months.
But he’s been playing catch for a while now, and the tightness that had developed in his forearm has subsided, and so the Yankees feel ready to get him back into right field. Beltran prefers playing out there, he feels confident that he’s healthy, and getting Beltran in the field opens the DH spot for other regulars to get a bit of a rest from time to time.
“I just feel like it’s time,” Beltran said. “Right now I’ve been throwing and I don’t feel nothing. It’s good.”
There’s some risk here — Beltran has been a productive hitter since the All-Star break, and a setback would be a real blow to an offense that can’t afford to lose much — but Beltran said he’s convinced his elbow is up to making throws, and Joe Girardi said he doesn’t feel much need to pay extra attention to Beltran on defense.
“I feel that he’s healthy, and that it shouldn’t be an issue,” Girardi said. “They can test him (on the bases). His arm’s fine. He’s thrown. This an aggressive club anyway, so I don’t think they’re going to play any different.”
The Yankees have several long stretches late in the season, and the DH spot will surely be used to give players a half day off from time to time. Girardi wouldn’t commit to whether he considers Beltran to be the everyday right fielder or still a regular DH going forward. Surely he’ll get at least some DH days.
“Just wait to see how it goes,” Girardi said. “Let’s go day by day. I don’t want to make a decision too quickly here. Let’s just go day by day.”
Beltran is hitting .299 with five home runs and 17 RBI since the All-Star break. It seems little coincidence that his improved production has come as he’s grown more confident that the elbow and forearm are healthy.
“I guess in the back of my mind sometimes I get caught up a little bit protecting it,” Beltran said. “Especially, I don’t know, (when) it’s kind of sore a little bit, my forearm. But at the end of the day, I just have to come and prepare myself and try to do the best I can. Once the game starts, I try not to think about it, but during batting practice and cage work and things like that I try to be smart and try not to do much.”
• Brian McCann has not been activated. There’s no medical concern, the Yankees just want him to go through at least one more day of baseball drills. “I just felt that he was kind of lethargic (during drills yesterday),” Girardi said. “I think what happens is that when you are used to doing something every day for five, six months, and then you’re not able to do anything for five days, we’ve got to make sure because I don’t want to put him in there too soon and you get the foul tip and lose him for a long period of time.”
• It’s possible McCann will come off the disabled list tomorrow, but Girardi said that’s not a sure thing. Could wait until Tuesday.
• Worth noting that the Yankees wanted to play a bunch of right-handers against Drew Smyly anyway, and Francisco Cervelli has been catching Shane Greene regularly. Even so, Girardi said the determining factor on McCann had much more to do with wanting to get him more swings and work on the field. “It was more our feeling that he wasn’t quite ready to go,” Girardi said.
• Going right-handed is part of the reason today is Beltran’s return to right field. Putting him out there lets the Yankees sit both Stephen Drew and Ichiro Suzuki. “Try to get as many right-handed hitters in there against Smyly as possible,” Girardi said. “He’s been very tough against left-handers this year – and the last couple of years – and it’s one way of doing it.”
• After today’s bullpen, Masahiro Tanaka will stay with the Yankees when they leave Tampa. He’s not going to stay behind to do work at the complex. No word yet on when exactly he’ll throw his next bullpen, but he’s expected to throw some real breaking balls at that point. “We’ll see how he is tomorrow and then design the next few days,” Larry Rothschild said. “I don’t like to get ahead in the schedule with the rehabs. We have an idea of what he’ll do, but first we’ll see how he comes in.”
• What was Rothschild watching for in the bullpen today? “More facial expressions to see if he’s trying to hide something, which I don’t think he’s going to, but you never know,” Rothschild said. “You watch his delivery to make sure he’s not forcing anything. The most important part early in this is that he stays smooth and finishes his pitches so we don’t tweak anything. He’s had some time off, so it’s not only going to be the elbow. You have to watch everything.”
• Everyone involved indicates the Yankees are planning to bring Tanaka back this season regardless of where they are in the standings. Even if they’re out of it by the time Tanaka’s ready to pitch again, it’s still likely he’ll come off the disabled list to make a few starts. “I think it’s important that we know that he’s healthy,” Girardi said. “And I think the only way you’re going to find out is if you get him in games.”
• Tanaka on the possibility of coming back to a team that’s no longer in the race: “I think it’s important for the team to fight until the end of the season, so for me, if it would be possible, I’d like to contribute until the end of the season.”
• By the way, David Phelps is scheduled to be re-examined on Monday, which will be two weeks since his upper elbow/lower triceps issue. It’s entirely possible he’ll start playing catch that day as well.
• As Mark Newman said in this morning’s blog post, indications are that Andrew Bailey is not going to pitch at all for the Yankees this season. Girardi said Bailey’s had a few setbacks in his recovery from shoulder surgery, and he doesn’t expect to see him this season. Maybe next season.
• Girardi responding to last night’s Kevin Long comment about morale being low: “You’re always going to look down when you don’t score runs,” Girardi said. “That’s the nature of the game. Guys are frustrated. I’ve said that guys are frustrated because they know that they’re capable of doing more. We want to play in October, and when you lose, you should be frustrated. You shouldn’t just blow it off. Every day is a new day, and things can change very quickly in a clubhouse. You can get on a roll, and that’s what we need to do.”
Associated Press photos