The LoHud Yankees Blog

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


On the 40-man: Carlos Beltran01.26.15

Carlos Beltran

Continuing our look at each individual player on the Yankees 40-man roster, we’ll next move to one of the great mysteries of the upcoming season. Can this guy still play at a high level? Was an injury to blame for his disappointing Yankees debut? Or is he simply finished, a borderline Hall of Famer no longer able to produce?

BeltranCARLOS BELTRAN

Age on Opening Day: 37 (turns 38 in late April)
Acquired: Signed as a free agent last winter
Added to the 40-man: The signing became official December 19

In the past: Beginning with his Rookie of the Year award in 1999, Beltran built a career that just might be enough for the Hall of Fame. At his peak, he was a Gold Glove center fielder who could hit for average, hit for power and steal bases. He bounced around a little — or a lot — and went through some injury problems, but at his best, Beltran could basically do it all. Last winter he signed a three-year deal with the Yankees and got off to a strong start before a bone spur in his elbow derailed the rest of his season.

Role in 2015: Right back where the Yankees planned to have him last season. Beltran is once again penciled in as the everyday right fielder, and based on the current makeup of the roster, the Yankees would clearly like to put him somewhere in the middle of the order, perhaps even back in the No. 3 spot. With few reliable power hitters in place, the Yankees have to hope that last year’s elbow problem was the cause of his .233/.301/.402 slash line: career lows for batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.

Best case scenario: As recently as 2013, Beltran was a .296/.339/.491 hitter. That’s probably the absolute best-case situation, that he can return to his level of production from just two years ago. Beltran was even better in 2012, and he was better still in 2011, but a repeat of 2013 would be plenty. It would certainly leave Beltran carrying his weight. He hit .263/.311/.516 last April before the elbow injury, so there’s some cause for hope.

Worst case scenario: After that strong start last season, Beltran’s numbers began to decline at the very end of April. From April 26 to May 12, he hit just .116/.220/.140. Then the elbow flared up and Beltran didn’t play again until June 5. From that point forward, he hit .233/.307/.389. The worst-case scenario is that the bone spur only partially explains those numbers, and Beltran simply can’t hit well enough to be a regular corner outfielder any more. There’s also the obvious threat of year another injury that could leave the Yankees trying to plug that hole again.

What the future holds: Aaron Judge is the top offensive prospect in the Yankees system, and he’s a right fielder. Tyler Austin got healthy and finished strong last season, and he too is a right fielder. With Judge in Double-A and Austin in Triple-A, the Yankees have potential replacements on the way, but Beltran is still signed for two more years. Ideally, he’ll bounce back and hold the fort until one of the young guys is ready, but clearly Beltran is not a part of the long-term future in the Bronx.

Associated Press photo

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Key stats for key players could make an offensive difference this season01.22.15

Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann

Whatever the batting order, it’s the hitters themselves that will determine whether the Yankees lineup is any good this season. Joe Girardi could put them in the perfect 1 through 9, but if key players don’t perform up to their abilities, the offense simply won’t work. Hitters don’t have to be at their absolute peak to become valuable assets again, but key hitters reverting back toward key career stats would be a good strong step in the right direction.

If these specific players could bounce back in these specific ways, it would make a big difference.

TeixeiraMARK TEIXEIRA – Slugging percentage
Last season: .398
Career: .516
Teixeira has acknowledged that he’s probably not going to be a .300 hitter at this stage of his career. The shift has taken away a lot of his hits, and he’s just not a .300/.400/.500 guy anymore. But in 2012 — his last healthy season before last year — Teixeira slugged .475. That would have been the 12th-heighest slugging percentage in the American League last season. And it’s not that Teixeira absolutely can’t do that any more (he was slugging .474 at the end of June before a brutal second half). Power is at a premium these days, and Teixeira doesn’t have to be a great overall hitter to be a productive run producer.

McCannBRIAN MCCANN – OPS vs. RHP
Last season: .633
Career: .831
McCann actually hit pretty well against lefties last season. Even exceeded his career numbers against them. What he did not do is hit against right-handers. He’d typically crushed them, but last season McCann slugged less than .400 with a sub-.300 on-base percentage against right-handers. Blame it on the shift. Blame it on the transition. Blame it on a bad year fully of lofty expectations. For whatever reason, McCann simply didn’t hit right-handers. Now that the American League East has lost several left-handed starters — including standouts Jon Lester and David Price — McCann should be able to feast on a bunch of righties in the division. Improve his splits, and McCann should significantly improve his production.

BeltranCARLOS BELTRAN – RBI
Last season: 49
Career: 103
Because of the elbow injury, it’s hard to know what to make of Beltran’s capabilities at this point. Was last year’s diminished slash line the product of age or injury? As recently as 2013, Beltran was still an .830 OPS guy. In his career he’s typically hit for a good average, hit for good power, and played a role in the middle of the order. That’s why he’s averaged more than 100 RBI per 162 games. Clearly RBI is not really an individual statistic. It depends heavily on playing time, and it depends on the rest of the lineup, and that’s why it’s such a key stat for Beltran. However he does it — through raw power or clutch hits or simply an abundance of opportunities — another 100 RBI season from Beltran would indicate that he’s stayed healthy and stayed in a lineup that’s generating plenty of run-scoring chances. As a guy the Yankees will surely count on in the middle of the order, a lot of Beltran RBI would be a good sign for the entire Yankees team.

EllsburyJACOBY ELLSBURY – Stolen bases
Last season: 39
Career: 53
This is just a guess, but if Ellsbury is back at the top of the order (focusing on getting on base and creating havoc) rather than hitting in the middle (focusing on driving in runs and being a typical No. 3 hitter), I bet he’ll steal more bases this season. I might be completely wrong — and certainly a 39-steal season isn’t bad by any measure, it was the second-most in the American League — but a higher number of stolen bases would seem to indicate a better job getting on base and a willingness to run. In each of Ellsbury’s two highest-steal seasons, he’s had a .355 on-base percentage, which is 27 points higher than his on-base percentage last season. Stolen bases are hardly an absolute proof of Ellsbury’s productivity — he also had 39 steals in 2011, which was easily his overall best season — but a lot of steals in 2015 could be a sign of several things for the Yankees: It would suggest Ellsbury’s getting on base a lot, and that someone else hitting well enough in the middle of the order that Ellsbury gets to stay in his more-natural No. 1 or 2 spot.

DrewSTEPHEN DREW – Batting average on balls in play
Last season: .194
Career: .299
At times, BABIP is considered a measure of luck. If a typically good hitters has abnormally bad numbers, then a low batting average on balls in play could be an indication that he’s a few inches away from typical production. In the case of Drew, last year’s abnormally low BABIP could also be explained by his abnormally low line drive percentage. His home runs per fly ball were also down, as were his infield hits. His strikeout rate was significantly higher than usual. All of that could be an indication that Drew wasn’t simply unlucky last season, he simply wasn’t as prepared, making weaker contact when he made contact at all. Surely the Yankees aren’t banking on Drew being a dominant offensive player, but they’re obviously banking on him being better than last season’s .162/.237/.299. Better and more consistent contact should help.

YoungCHRIS YOUNG – OPS vs. LHP
Last season: .561
Career: .817
Similar to the McCann situation, but from the opposite side of the plate and in a much smaller role. Even with that strong month of September, Young’s splits last season were not at all what’s come to be expected. He was alright against right handers, but he was brutal against lefties. Given all of the left-handed hitters in the Yankees regular lineup — and the presence of Garrett Jones as left-handed outfield option off the bench — Young’s role this season seems to be entirely in a platoon situation, bringing some right-handed balance to a team that leans to the left. Whether he’s in the lineup against lefties or coming off the bench to pinch hit for Drew or Didi Gregorius, Young could have a real impact if he’s able to make the most of his limited playing time against left-handers.

Associated Press photos

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What if: A spring training gone terribly wrong01.20.15

Joe Girardi

Earlier today we looked at a few problems the Yankees would like to have in spring training (too much pitching depth, too many hitters exceeding expectations). But what if the opposite happens? What if the things that could go wrong, do go wrong? This isn’t meant to be a doomsday scenario — it’s not about unpredictable injuries or unlikely declines — but rather a look at realistic problems that could pop up based on past performance and familiar issues. How would the Yankees react if the roster begins to crumble before Opening Day?

RodriguezWhat if Alex Rodriguez is absolutely finished?
This morning we considered a resurgent A-Rod, but what if the opposite is true? He’s 39 years old, he’s hardly played the past two years, he didn’t play at all last season, and he’s gone through multiple injuries in recent seasons. How would the Yankees react if Rodriguez is not only incapable of playing third base everyday, but is also no longer able to hit well enough to deserve regular playing time? Would Rodriguez get the benefit of the doubt for a few months, or would Joe Girardi decide he’d seen enough in spring training and open the season with Garrett Jones as the regular designated hitter against righties? Is it possible for Rodriguez to play so poorly that he’s not even worth platoon at-bats against lefties? Surely Rodriguez would have to be epically bad for the Yankees to completely cut ties.

BetancesWhat if Dellin Betances can’t throw strikes?
After last season, it seems like a near ridiculous idea. Betances has been a very good relief pitcher for basically a season and a half now (making a terrific transition in Triple-A, then putting together an All-Star rookie season for the Yankees). But what if some of his old minor league problems resurface in spring training? Maybe the pressure of trying repeat last season gets to him. Maybe the closer role is too much. Whatever the reason, let’s say Betances just isn’t sharp in spring training. The stuff is still great, but he’s inconsistent, and there’s a snowball effect as Betances tries to sort it out. If the Yankees don’t see the same old Betances in spring training, how thoroughly would they have to rearrange their bullpen? Would they chalk it up as an exhibition fluke and keep Betances in a key role, or would he have to prove himself all over again?

GregoriusWhat if Didi Gregorius isn’t an everyday shortstop?
Last spring, the Diamondbacks went into spring training giving Gregorius a chance to be their everyday shortstop, and he lost the job to Chris Owings. The Yankees are already well aware that Gregorius has some flaws — he hasn’t hit well against lefties, his offense as a whole remains somewhat questionable — but they’re banking on his defense and his ability to at least hit righties. If Gregorius is a massive disappointment, would the Yankees change plans to give the shortstop job to Stephen Drew (opening second base for either Rob Refsnyder or Jose Pirela), or are they fully committed to Gregorius regardless of spring performance? Basically, how long is the leash on a new guy who might be the Yankees shortstop of the future, or might be in over his head as an everyday player? Girardi hasn’t seen much of Gregorius. How important is his first impression?

TanakaWhat if the rotation really does fall apart?
This probably qualifies as a doomsday scenario, but it’s a scenario rooted in realistic possibility. We all know about Masahiro Tanaka’s elbow, Michael Pineda’s shoulder and CC Sabathia’s knee. We saw each of those three miss significant time last season. What happens if those three show up in spring training and immediately run into familiar injuries problems. Tanaka’s ligament can’t hold up, Pineda’s shoulder suffers another setback, and Sabathia’s body continues to break down. If the Yankees rotation basically runs into the same health problems as last season, but does it right away, would the Yankees desperately try to find replacement starters (sacrifice the farm for a guy like Cole Hamels) or would they simply roll the dice with guys like Adam Warren and Bryan Mitchell, deciding this season isn’t worth trying to save?

McCannWhat if there’s a clear need for firepower?
What’s the biggest source of offense the Yankees added this offseason? Garrett Jones? Chris Young? Chase Headley? A-Rod? Ultimately, the Yankees plugged a lot of holes this winter, but they didn’t necessarily add one big bat meant to make a major difference in the middle of the order. This team struggled offensively last season, and it’s really banking on bounce-back seasons from Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran and Mark Teixeira to significantly boost the run production. How would they react this spring if it looks like those bounce-backs aren’t going to happen? Could a guy like Tyler Austin suddenly get a longer look? Would the Yankees accelerate the development of Aaron Judge or Greg Bird? Would they try to get regular platoon production out of Jones or Young? Would they bat Jacoby Ellsbury third again?

Associated Press photo

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Video: Carlos Beltran training for the upcoming season01.19.15

In his first year with the Yankees, Carlos Beltran got off to a strong start — he was slugging .516 at the end of April — but his elbow began to bother him in May, and he was never the same again. He missed a lot of time, got a bunch of injections, and eventually needed offseason surgery to repair a bone spur.

Now Beltran is preparing for a return, and the Yankees are hoping for better results. He’s essentially locked in as their regular right fielder, and ideally he’ll be productive enough to slide into the middle of the order, possibly back in the No. 3 spot he was meant to fill last season.

In the video above, the YES Network has footage of Beltran working out this offseason. He acknowledges that he can’t and shouldn’t do all the workouts he did when he was younger, but it’s clear that Beltran expects to be healthy and more productive this season.

“The strengthening program, we kind of basically did everything so the range of motion is there,” Beltran said. “Bending is there. So that’s the most important part of the rehab, trying to be able to have that range of motion back.”

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Pentland odds and ends: A-Rod, Gregorius and being a pitcher01.15.15

Some odds and ends from today’s Jeff Pentland conference call:

Alex RodriguezOn Alex Rodriguez
“I’ve seen Alex for a long time. I saw him in his first professional games in the instructional league. He’s been a tremendous talent over the years. I’m looking forward to being around him and being with him. Him and I have talked over the years, just hi and hello kind of conversations, but I have a great deal of respect for his career and what he’s done, so, you know, I have a great deal of respect for him. I hope he has a successful season and I’ll be there for him.”

On Carlos Beltran
“I had Carlos when he was a little younger (in Kansas City), but him and I had a great rapport and I’m sure that will continue. He was a tremendous athlete. Obviously he’s not 25 anymore, but there’s plenty left in him, and his experience and his knowledge of hitting, he’s been in New York before. We just got to keep him healthy.”

On Mark Teixeira
“You’ve got to remember, I’m not a young guy, so I’ve seen most of these guys probably. Mark Teixeira was certainly a plus player in Texas, and he has been with the Yankees. I think you said it best; if we can keep him injury-free, and he needs any adjustments, we’ll be there for him. I’ve talked to him briefly when he was with the Rangers, kind of like a ‘hello, how are you’ kind of deal. I’m looking forward to spending time with him and being around him. I have an open mind. Whatever happened in the past means nothing to me. We’ll start anew, and from what I understand, he’s had some wrist injuries. Injury is part of this game. Hopefully we can keep him healthy.”

On Didi Gregorius
“I saw Didi a lot when I was with the Dodgers. I was there when they brought him up, and he started out very well, but just like most young hitters, they figure him out eventually. He’s an incredibly athletic player, he’s got a huge future, and I’m very excited that he’s a Yankee. I always thought there’s a lot (of ability) in there. We’ve got to get it out, and we’ve got to work it, but the problem with younger players, you’ve got to be a little bit more patient. I think this guy has a big upside.”

On assistant hitting coach Alan Cockrell
“Obviously hitting coaches have their own circle; we’re kind of like a fraternity. And we have spoken more than a few times. I don’t there will be any problems among the two of us, it’s just our ability to deal with the players. … The job has just gotten huge. The technical ability of video and TVs and statistics, it’s just become overwhelming. As hitting coaches, we have to weed out information to give the hitters a simple approach. When you’re sitting in there against 95 (mph), your brain can’t do a whole lot. It kind of has to be focused on the ball. Walks and staying in the strike zone and the information on pitchers, it’s not so much mechanical or technical side of it from a hitting standpoint, it’s gathering all the information, putting together good plans and good information, (to build) a simplistic, easy plan for a hitter to understand and go up there with somewhat of an empty mind. Most of your great athletes, they don’t think a lot. They have the information in the back of their mind, but they’re basically on the attack.”

On having been a pitcher for part of his playing career
“I’ve been asked that question all my life. I was very good at pitching, I just hated it. The days that I played, there wasn’t a lot of money in, so we basically did what we wanted, and I loved to hit. Hitting was a little bit harder for me, and if you look at me, I’m not a gigantic guy, and I’m left-handed so I was very limited in the positions I could play. But I was born with a good arm. … Most of the communication and talk I have is with pitchers because I have to know pitchers to attack them, and pitchers have to know hitters to get them out. I have been with Larry (Rothschild) before, and Larry is as good as it gets, so we talk a lot. It might be about opposing hitters, or it might be about opposing pitchers. We have always had a great relationship, but there’s a bond there just because of what our jobs are.”

Associated Press photo

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Yankees have outfield depth (but not necessarily outfield trade bait)01.06.15

Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury

With Slade Heathcott re-signed to a minor league deal, the Yankees now have a ton of outfield depth, but still not the kind of depth that necessitates a trade or a particularly difficult decision. It’s not like the Francisco Cervelli situation in which the Yankees have a player with a defined value, along with the need to move someone in order to open up the proper at-bats for everyone else. Here’s a rough look at the Yankees top upper-level outfielders. Each comes with some good, some bad, and some reason — either because of the team’s needs or because of his own value — that limits his trade possibilities.

Brett GardnerIN THE BIG LEAGUES

Carlos Beltran
The good: Already a borderline Hall of Famer expected to be healthy again after last year’s elbow injury.
The bad: About to turn 38 years old — are we sure last year’s .703 OPS was strictly the product of injury?
Trade him? Not a lot of trade value in an aging player, coming of a bad year, with $30 million left on his deal.

Jacoby Ellsbury
The good: Signed a hefty deal last winter and more or less delivered an as-expected season in his Yankees debut.
The bad: Even coming off a solid season, seven years and $153 million is a massive contract.
Trade him? Might be the best position player on the roster right now.

Brett Gardner
The good: Power numbers spiked, and for a while he looked like a better player than Ellsbury last year.
The bad: Still a rather streaky player with limited power for a corner outfielder.
Trade him? Might be the most valuable trade chip on the big league roster, but also signed to a reasonable extension.

Garrett Jones
The good: History of left-handed power with an ability to backup first base, right field and designated hitter.
The bad: Turns 34 in June and his power numbers have been down the past two seasons.
Trade him? Would be more of a salary dump than an actual effort to get anything valuable in return (also provides first base insurance).

Chris Young
The good: Returns to bring right-handed balance after reestablishing himself with a terrific September.
The bad: Other than one good month, last season was bad enough to get him released … by the Mets.
Trade him? Plays a role the Yankees need as a veteran right-handed bat with power and speed off the bench.

Ramon FloresON THE 40 MAN

Tyler Austin
The good: Last year’s terrific second half brought back memories of how good a hitter he was earlier in his career.
The bad: A wrist injury contributed to much less exciting numbers before that second-half resurgence.
Trade him? Of all the outfielders ticketed for Triple-A, Austin probably has the most offensive impact potential.

Ramon Flores
The good: Left-handed hitters with speed and some defensive flexibility; looks like a nice fourth outfielder down the road.
The bad: Coming off an ankle injury and isn’t a great fit while Gardner and Ellsbury are on the roster.
Trade him? Low power potential probably limits his value to more of a second or third piece in a significant trade.

Eury Perez
The good: Right-handed hitter who’s shown some speed, defense and on-base ability in the minor leagues.
The bad: Plucked off waivers, suggesting he was not exactly a high commodity (also put up bad winter ball numbers this year).
Trade him? Value is pretty low just a few months after being placed on the waiver wire; DFA might be more likely than a trade.

Jose Pirela
The good: Offensive utility man put himself back on the prospect map — and in the big league picture — with a terrific Triple-A season.
The bad: Can’t really play shortstop and hasn’t really established whether he hits enough to keep a job in the big leagues.
Trade him? First and foremost, he seems to have a legitimate shot at the big league second base job heading into spring training.

Mason Williams
The good: Speed and defense were deemed major-league ready, enough to protect him from the Rule 5 draft this winter.
The bad: Hasn’t hit the past two years, doing a number on his once elite prospect status.
Trade him? Would be selling awfully low — Williams no longer has the value to remotely headline a significant deal.

—-

Slade Heathcott, Ronnier MustelierON THE VERGE

Jake Cave
The good: Might have surpassed Williams and Heathcott as the system’s top center field prospect.
The bad: Doesn’t have overwhelming speed or power, and doesn’t have more than 42 games above A ball.
Trade him? Could be a nice complementary trade piece; could also be the most viable center fielder in the minor league system.

Taylor Dugas
The good: The guys gets on base way too much to ignore; played his way out of the shadows and up to Triple-A last year.
The bad: Never a standout prospect, doesn’t run much, very little power, has spent more time in left field than center.
Trade him? Has never moved the needle among prospect watchers, suggesting his stock is too low to be considered a real chip.

Ben Gamel
The good: Has been a solid hitter throughout the minor leagues, even when easily overshadowed by other prospects.
The bad: Always kind of a sleeper prospect, but not one who’s forced people to really wake up and take notice.
Trade him? Hasn’t done nearly enough; could more easily simply become a Double-A bench player behind all of this depth.

Adonis Garcia
The good: Has been a pretty nice hitter both in Triple-A and in winter ball (able to play center field and third base in a pinch).
The bad: Turns 30 years old in April so the upside is probably limited.
Trade him? Sure, if some team values a 30-year-old with no major league experience; could be another Ronnier Mustelier.

Slade Heathcott
The good: No one seems to question the former first-round pick’s raw talent and ultimate potential.
The bad: Just can’t stay healthy, which has cost valuable development time; hard to gauge his ceiling at this point.
Trade him? Was a free agent until yesterday; if another team valued him highly, he probably wouldn’t have come back.

Aaron Judge
The good: After a standout first full season, he emerged as the top offensive prospect in the entire minor league system.
The bad: Ultimately we’re talking about fewer than 500 minor league at-bats; he’s promising but unproven.
Trade him? Plenty of value here, but Judge could be the best middle-of-the-order bat the Yankees have developed since Robinson Cano.

Associated Press photos

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With Young, and without a trade, Yankees outfield is set11.12.14

Jacoby Ellsbury,  Chris Young

The Yankees first significant signing came this weekend when they agreed to a new one-year deal with Chris Young, bringing some right-handed balance to the outfield and some power/speed potential to the bench. With that signing, the Yankees seem set in the outfield with no need to add either a big league bat or additional minor league depth.

As it is, the Yankees have seven full-time outfielders on their 40-man roster — that’s to say nothing of the three 40-man infielders who have a solid amount of outfield experience — and they’re likely to add one or two more outfielders when it comes time to protect Tyler Austin and possibly Mason Williams from the Rule 5 draft.

Just taking a look at the projected big league roster, and the potential options at the highest levels of the minor league system, it seems the Yankees should have all that they need in the outfield. The depth could also leaves the Yankees with trade options should they decide to make a move.

Beltran EllsburyNEW YORK
Projected outfield: Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran
Fourth outfielder: Chris Young
Infielder/outfielders: Martin Prado, Jose Pirela, Zelous Wheeler

Granted, it’s not remotely a lock that Pirela is going to make the team, and there’s a solid chance Wheeler will be designated for assignment at some point, but this is still a clear picture of three obvious starters, an experienced fourth outfielder, and at least one infielder who can play the outfield regularly if necessary. This roster also has three guys who can play center field when necessary, so the Yankees are covered as the most difficult-to-fill outfield position. Maybe another outfielder comes to camp on a non-roster invitation just in case — stranger things have happened — but there’s no overwhelming need here. Especially if the Yankees carrying a versatile utility guy like Pirela, they have plenty of big league outfield options as it is.

PerezFloresSCRANTON/WILKES-BARRE
Projected outfield: Ramon Flores, Eury Perez, Tyler Austin
Fourth outfielder: Taylor Dugas
Infielder/outfielders: Adonis Garcia, Rob Refsnyder

Picking the three “starting” outfielders for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre next season isn’t an easy task. I assume Austin will move up after his finishing strong in Double-A, and the bulk of his playing time will surely come in the outfield corners (perhaps with a little bit of corner infield now and then). Flores and Perez clearly need regular at-bats as well — they could be first in line for an outfield call-up — and both Dugas and Garcia have played well enough to also deserve playing time. Chances are Refsnyder will be strictly a second baseman, but he’s listed here just to show the Yankees have yet another guy who could play some Triple-A outfield if necessary. There’s also the chance that Pirela and/or Wheeler could end up back in Triple-A providing even more depth. There’s not much big league experience here, but there are only so many Triple-A at-bats to go around, and the Yankees surely want to prioritize legitimate prospects ahead of minor league veterans. Bringing back a guy like Antoan Richardson or signing someone similar would only take away at-bats from young guys who need the playing time.

Williams CaveTRENTON
Projected outfield: Slade Heathcott, Jake Cave, Aaron Judge
Fourth outfielder: Mason Williams, Ben Gamel
Infielder/outfielders: Ali Castillo, Zach Wilson

Kind of like the Triple-A outfield, the Double-A outfield has more than three guys who seem worth of everyday at-bats. The tough part here is predicting what the Yankees are going to do with Heathcott and Williams. Is Heathcott going to be healthy enough to stay on the field (and if so, is he going back to Double-A or finally jumping to Triple-A)? Is Williams going to be lost in the Rule 5 draft (and if not, would he get priority playing time ahead of the other guys listed here)? Like with Austin, I’m assuming Judge will be challenged with a jump up a level, which means right field is taken, and Cave has played too well to be anything less than an everyday outfielder next season. In terms of immediate outfield depth, the important thing to notice here is that Heathcott and Williams are still looming as upper-level outfielders who could be on the 40-man roster and still warrant playing time as well. That leaves the Yankees with a lot of outfielders who need at-bats.

Associated Press photo

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Looking for a re-do on the Yankees roster11.08.14

Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann

Last winter, the Yankees added nearly a half-billion dollars in new contracts, but they refused to give a 10-year deal to their best player. The Yankees reluctance with Robinson Cano seemed to be a clear attempt to avoid repeating past mistakes (specifically, an attempt to avoid the pitfalls of one other decade-long contract).

Of all the current regrets on the roster, I think it’s a safe bet that Alex Rodriguez’s contract is the one the Yankees would most like to void if they could. Three more years at basically $20 million a year for a guy who might be a non-factor on the field? That’s pretty bad, and that’s before factoring in all of the off-the-field problems. Total mess.

But if the Yankees could magically get out of one other current obligation, which would it be?

I’m going to assume the Yankees feel good about the Brett Gardner extension, considering he’s coming off a strong season and looks like a relative bargain. They also probably don’t have much regret about two more years and $22 million left on Martin Prado’s deal, if only because it’s a relatively small contract that isn’t going to cripple their payroll. The Brendan Ryan contract also is not the sort of thing that creates many payroll problems.

So, of the other multi-year contracts on the Yankees roster — non-Rodriguez division — which are you second guessing most?

CC Sabathia, David OrtizCC SABATHIA
Contract: Five years, $122 million (plus a vesting option)
What’s left: Two years (plus the vesting option)
This is the triple crown of contract concerns: Age, performance and injury. And that vesting option is based on shoulder injury, not a knee or elbow injury, so that option could vest despite the current concerns. Pitchers are always risky investments, and while there was very little doubt the Yankees would extend Sabathia back in 2011. He was good again in 2012, but the contract has been a problem ever since. If Sabathia can become a steady middle-of-the-rotation arm for the remaining years, the Yankees will surely be happy with that production at this point. The rotation now belongs to Tanaka and Michael Pineda.

MARK TEIXEIRA
Contract: Eight years, $180 million
What’s left: Two years
I’ve written before that if you go back to that 2008 offseason, Teixeira was exactly the kind of player worth a long-term investment. He was consistent, he was terrific on both offense and defense, there was little indication he’d ever have to abandon his position, and he was — perhaps most importantly — always healthy. One great years, though, and things started to slide in a big way. To me, Teixeira is the strongest example of why all long-term contracts are giant risks. If he hits for power like he did the first three months of 2014, and carries that through a full season, Teixeira can still be plenty productive for the Yankees. There are a lot of red flags at the moment, though.

CARLOS BELTRAN
Contract: Three years, $45 million
What’s left: Two years
This is a relatively short and relatively inexpensive contract, but because of Beltran’s age and overwhelming unproductive season, I think the Yankees would back out of his deal before they’d back out of some others. Losing Beltran might open right field for a free agent like Melky Cabrera or Nelson Cruz. This isn’t a contract that’s going to cripple the Yankees payroll for an extended period of time, but it’s a contract that looked bad just two months into its first season.

Brian McCannBRIAN McCANN
Contract: Five years, $85 million (plus a club option)
What’s left: Four years (plus the club option)
Even after a brutal first season in New York, I’m not sure the Yankees would be desperate to get out of this contract. After another year like this year, it might be a different story, but McCann seemed to show some signs of significant improvement late in the year. He also helped get a strong season out of a patchwork pitching staff, and I think that has to count for something. That said, the fact the Yankees are deep in upper-level catching prospects means they have some young and cheap alternatives behind the plate. I doubt the Yankees are too bothered by the McCann deal at the moment, but that first year certainly didn’t go as planned.

JACOBY ELLSBURY
Contract: Seven years, $153 million (plus a club option)
What’s left: Six years (plus the club option)
In his first year after coming from the Red Sox to the Yankees, Ellsbury’s performance was more or less in keeping with his past production. He hit the second-most home runs of his career, put up a slash line pretty close to his career numbers, and more or less provided the same speed and defense that the Yankees had seen from afar. The only immediate regret in the Ellsbury contract is that there are so many years left. Any contract of this length is worth second guessing. Which brings us to…

MASAHIRO TANAKA
Contract: Seven years, $155 million
What’s left: Six years (with a player opt out after 2017)
My guess is that the Yankees don’t regret this deal. Yes, Tanaka’s elbow could go out at any moment, but that’s basically true of any pitcher. Bigger risk with Tanaka, obviously, but they also signed a legitimate front-line starter who’s Japanese numbers carried over to the big leagues. That’s a big deal, and a young ace is nearly impossible to find. Even with the injury risk, that’s a guy worth signing for big money. That said, this is a lot of money and a lot of years for a guy who broke down midway through his first season.

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith Comments Off

Week in review: First week of a long offseason10.05.14

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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.”

Alex Rodriguez• 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

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith Comments Off

Pregame notes: “I just need to get stronger from top to bottom”09.23.14

Bud Selig is at Yankee Stadium today, and he’s going to address the media in just a few minutes so I need to head back down to the press conference room in just a few minutes. A few quick pregame notes before I head downstairs.

Yankees Rays Baseball• Mark Teixeira had his latest cortisone injection on Sunday, and he’s back in the lineup tonight. “I’ve gone through all the basic tests, and it seems to have taken,” Teixeira said. “Unless something crazy happens during BP, I should be fine.”

• Teixeira said he usually takes a full month off when the offseason starts. This year, he’s planning to take maybe a week before beginning regular offseason workouts. “Get right back into strengthening,” he said. “My upper body strengthening really didn’t start full time until January (last offseason). Like I’ve told you guys a number of times, I definitely need to get stronger, my whole upper body, but definitely the wrist. … We’re past the rehab point. We need to get into the strengthening point. The strength will help the inflammation stay out of there. Hopefully the little things in my legs that happened this year, I just need to get stronger from top to bottom, but especially the wrist.”

• No baseball activities for either Carlos Beltran or Jacoby Ellsbury today, though Ellsbury will do some light exercises just to see how he responds. Girardi acknowledged that the way he treats those two going forward will likely depend on whether the Yankees stay in the mathematical playoff race. “That’s probably fair to say,” Girardi said. “My guess is, we wouldn’t push it (if the team were eliminated).”

• Is Derek Jeter going to play all three games in Boston this weekend? “My plan is to play him,” Girardi said. “Obviously if things happen and we are eliminated, then obviously I’ll talk to him on a daily basis. My plan is to play him, but I’m going to talk to him and see what he physically needs and what he mentally wants. … My guess is, he’s going to want to play every day.”

• New outfielder Eury Perez is here today. Not in the lineup, but he was in the clubhouse and on the lineup sheet. I assume he’s available off the bench.

• If Masahiro Tanaka is starting Saturday and Michael Pineda is starting Sunday, it seems this will likely be Brandon McCarthy’s final start unless the Yankees advance to a wild card game. He’s been a terrific second-half addition heading into free agency. “For the most part, he has brought out the same stuff almost every game and has gotten deep into games,” Girardi said. “And his sinker has been outstanding. He’s gotten a ton of ground balls. There’s a lot of times when you’ll see guys when they don’t have their A stuff and they have to battle through it, but his stuff has been consistent for the whole time that we’ve had him, for the most part.”

Associated Press photo

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith Comments Off

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