Pinch hitting: Neil Van Dyke • 01.21.15
Today’s Pinch Hitter was born in New York City. Although Neil Van Dyke was the second baseman and captain of his high school baseball team — wearing No. 20 in honor of Horace Clarke — he was cut during tryouts for his college freshman team. Neil wrote that he likes to blame the end of his baseball career on having to hit against classmate Jim Beattie during tryouts (as you might know, Beattie went on to have a nine-year career in the big leagues).
Neil now lives in Red Sox country in Vermont. He works in public safety, and for his post, Neil looked at the Yankees roster to find one thing that’s clearly missing.
In 1961, I was 7 years old growing up in New York City and just starting to follow Major League Baseball. I didn’t really understand or appreciate the frenzy that accompanied the reporting of the American League home run race that year, nor did I truly suffer the agonizing disappointment of Game 7 of the World Series.
The Yankees were the only game in town, so I latched onto them as a fan, but it wasn’t until 1962 that I attended any games at the Stadium including my first (and only) World Series contest. I was hooked.
My career as a Yankee fan started with the end of the Mantle/Berra/Ford era.
With Derek Jeter’s retirement this year it occurred to me that 2015 will be the first Yankees team in the 50-plus years that I have cheered for them that they will not have what I would consider to be an “iconic” Yankee on their roster. In fact, with the “before my time” succession of Ruth, Gehrig and DiMaggio leading up to Berra and Mantle, one could say it has been closer to 95 years since the Yankees were without an icon!
I won’t come up with a scientific definition of what the qualifications for such a player entails, but they would certainly have played most or all of their career for the Yanks, never been a star for another team, likely have come up through the farm system (if not, then joined the organization early in their career), were a cornerstone of the team, and will be forever and unquestionably linked with the Yankees.
These iconic players don’t have to be superstars – a player like Roy White being just one example. At the end of the day, I think Yankees fans know an iconic Yankee when they see one.
Bobby Murcer, yes.
Ricky Henderson, no.
Through the years, Mantle and company transitioned to Stottlemyre, Murcer, White, Munson, Randolph, Guidry, Mattingly, Williams, and you know the rest. Every season would have at least one of these Yankee touchstones on the squad.
Nobody on the current roster has this pedigree, and it just feels a bit strange and slightly unsettling. Who knows, maybe 10 years from now with the perspective of hindsight, this will all seem irrelevant as all-time Yankees greats Brett Gardner and Dellin Betances turn out to be mainstays who go on to long, successful Yankees careers. Or maybe not. Maybe it will be remembered as the beginning of a different type of Yankees team, one on which players come and go with far greater frequency.
If that’s the case, I for one will miss my Yankees icons – win or lose.
Associated Press photo
From Jim Armstrong of The Associated Press:
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
While most of the baseball world was focused on San Diego, former Yankees captain Derek Jeter made a fairly quiet trip to Hamilton College on Wednesday to join their Great Names at Hamilton guest speaker series. Jeter participated with his friend Harold Reynolds, the former second baseman who now works as an analyst for MLB Network.
Consider it a bit of a distraction at the end of a busy week (or not at all busy week, depending on your perspective).
• Asked about handling the media in New York, Jeter said: “There’s two things you can always say to the media: one is, you have no comment. There’s no follow-up to that. The second thing I think most people get in trouble with, they’re afraid to say, ‘I don’t know.’ If you ask me a question and I say, ‘I don’t know,’ how are you going to follow it up?”
• Asked about his professional life after baseball, Jeter said: “In some sense, it’s like the minor leagues again. I’m very good at knowing what I don’t know, if that makes sense. And I try to surround myself with people who are smarter than me, which is not hard to do. I continue to learn. … I’m the first to say there’s a lot of things I need to learn. I’m not afraid to look stupid or sound stupid.”
• Asked about his personal life after baseball, Jeter said: “I’ve always had another dream, actually, of having a son or daughter and coaching their Little League baseball or softball. I don’t know enough about the other sports to do it, but baseball or softball and picking all the worst kids in the league and putting them on my team and just making sure they have fun.”
• With this link, you can check out video of Jeter’s pre-event press conference at Hamilton.
Associated Press photos
As details of the Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval deals filtered through the internet yesterday, a friend sent this text message: “Remember when the Red Sox went (overboard) in the winter 2010? Traded for Adrian Gonzalez? Got (Carl) Crawford? Yankees responded with…”
The ellipsis was his own, essentially a stand-in for a question mark. His point was this: What exactly did the Yankees do the last time the Red Sox got incredibly aggressive during an offseason?
So lets flash back to the winter of 2010-11…
What the Red Sox did: Most notably, they traded young talent for Adrian Gonzalez and signed Carl Crawford to a seven-year deal. Those two additions were in place before the end of the Winter Meetings (kind of like the Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval deals this offseason). The Red Sox also signed Jason Varitek to one last contract, and they brought in Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler to add bullpen depth (in a relatively minor move at the time, they also signed Andrew Miller).
What others thought: At the time, the Red Sox seemed to have built a powerhouse. They seemed deep in the lineup, in the rotation and in the bullpen. Sports Illustrated picked them to win the World Series. Of course, we now know that the end result was a total mess, but at the time, it looked like the Red Sox were building a juggernaut and the Yankees would have to keep up.
What the Yankees did: It was actually a pretty busy winter for the Yankees. Trading Juan Miranda to the Diamondbacks was only the beginning! The biggest moves, though, weren’t necessarily additions and it’s hard to classify any of these moves as direct reactions to the Red Sox (except maybe one unexpected splash for a player who seemed completely off the radar until he was suddenly on the roster).
These were the Yankees major moves in the winter of 2010-11, the last time the Red Sox went on an offseason spending spree:
1. Re-sign Derek Jeter — This was essentially The Captain’s final contract. It was a three-year deal with an option for a fourth year (rather than exercise that option, Jeter technically signed a new deal for 2014, but it comes down to the same thing). Coming off a bad 2010, Jeter was given four more seasons. He gave the Yankees a solid 2011, a very good 2012, an injured 2013 and a disappointing but memorable 2014.
2. Re-sign Mariano Rivera — This was supposed to be Rivera’s final contract. He signed a two-year deal that would take him through his age-42 season (which seemed perfect for the game’s final No. 42), but after injuring his knee in 2012, Rivera decided to come back for a farewell season. Without the injury, the two-year deal signed in December of 2010 would have been a success. Rivera was as good as ever in 2011 and was off to a strong start in 2012.
3. Sign Russell Martin — This was the initial one-year deal, with the Yankees having Martin under team control for a second year because of arbitration eligibility. Martin had an OK season. He was an all-star and hit for power, but his batting average was down. The Yankees brought him back for one more season, his average dipped even more, and Martin left for Pittsburgh.
4. Sign Pedro Feliciano — This was a total mess. Coming off three straight seasons in which he led the league in games pitched, Feliciano landed a two-year deal with the Yankees, who needed left-handed help in the bullpen. Feliciano was, of course, injured by the time the Yankees broke camp and he never pitched a single inning for the team. Boone Logan, instead, emerged as the go-to lefty.
5. Sign Rafael Soriano — I remember this one quite well because I’m the one who happened to be on the phone with Brian Cashman when he finally seemed to lose his patience with all of the questions about possibly signing Soriano. “I will not lose our No. 1 draft pick,” Cashman told me. “I would have for Cliff Lee. I won’t lose our No. 1 draft pick for anyone else.” Within a few days, Cashman was overruled, a draft pick was gone, and Soriano was in the Yankees bullpen.
6. Sign Bartolo Colon/Freddy Garcia — Two separate signings based on the same idea. The Yankees knew they needed additional rotation depth, and they went looking for it in unlikely places. Colon hadn’t pitched in the big leagues in more than a year, and Garcia had been extremely limited in three of the previous four seasons. Of course, both wound up pitching well that year, with Colon in particular launching a stunning career resurgence.
7. Sign Eric Chavez — Once a star player in Oakland, Chavez had been hurt so often that there were questions about whether he could even handle a part-time role at this point. The Yankees took a shot and got a decent but predictably injury shortened year off the bench. It was the next year that Chavez returned to the Yankees and delivered a truly impressive bounce-back season.
8. Sign Andruw Jones — His second year with the Yankees was kind of a mess, which makes it easy to forget that Jones was actually really good in his first year. The Yankees didn’t finalize their deal with Jones until spring training — he had a locker before he officially had a spot on the roster — and he delivered a .286/.384/.540 slash line against lefties.
Nine fairly significant signings — even if one of them never actually got on the field — but it’s hard to label any one of them a direct reaction to the Red Sox maneuvering. Certainly re-signing Jeter and Rivera had nothing to do with Boston, signing Martin had more to do with internal concerns about Jorge Posada, the Soriano signing didn’t happen until more than a month after the Red Sox big additions, and the other deals were basically attempts at bargain hunting. Seems likely we’ll see more of the same this offseason as the Yankees seem poised to stick with their original plan rather than spend recklessly based on the Red Sox signing two players the Yankees were never really after in the first place.
Associated Press and USA Today photos
With black-and-white photographs and some of Jeter’s own words, the Yankees captain takes us through the day he went back to Yankee Stadium to clear out his locker. There were a lot of things to throw out, and a lot of things Jeter wanted to keep…
“But more than any one thing,” Jeter wrote. “I know what I’ll miss most of all is the people. So after spending way too long trying to figure out what to take, I just decided to box it all up and ship it to my house in Tampa. I wanted to spend my last afternoon hanging out with the clubhouse guys.”
Pretty cool pictures of Jeter’s spot at the very back of the clubhosue — or very front, depending on where you enter. It’ll be interesting to see who, if anyone, gets that prime spot next season.
Know who played the most games at shortstop for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this year?
It was Carmen Angelini, the mostly forgotten prospect who, for at least a little while, was one of the Yankees top young players at the position. He was a 10th-round pick out of high school, and he would have gone sooner if not for a commitment to play college ball at Rice. He was a smart kid, by all accounts a good kid, and he was awfully gifted for such a young player. There was a sense that if everything worked out, he just might play his way into the conversation as an everyday player in the big leagues.
But he never reached that point. Angelini was hurt for a while, he’s 26 years old now, and a .607 OPS in Triple-A actually made this one of his better professional seasons.
Point is, it’s easy to dream on the potential of young talent. It’s harder to actually clear all the hurdles and turn that young talent into a big league regular. The Yankees have gotten some shortstops to the majors, but guys like Ramiro Pena and Eduardo Nunez never proved themselves as anything more than part-timers.
What the Yankees have done lately to shift the odds is to add a bunch of options. Right now, the lower levels of the minor league system are loaded with young shortstops who give the Yankees several opportunities to actually find a player who reaches his best-case scenario.
“They can all play shortstop, and they can play well,” outgoing vice president of baseball operations Mark Newman said.
International prospect Abiatal Avelino and fourth-round pick Tyler Wade were in Charleston this year. Young Venezuelan Thairo Estrada spent some time with Staten Island. Two guys from the 2012 international class, Angel Aguilar and Jorge Mateo, made this U.S. debuts and each landed on Baseball America’s Top 20 prospects list for the Gulf Coast League.
“So that’s five guys there,” Newman said. “And then we’ve signed three shortstops (off the international market this year): a guy named Wilkerman Garcia, Diego Castillo — two Venezuelan shortstops — and then a South Korean guy named Hyo Park. We’ve got shortstop depth. A few years ago it was catching. Now we’ve got shortstop depth.”
It’s depth in every sense of the word, including the fact that it’s extremely deep in the system with a long way to go. But there’s talent and potential.
“Jorge Mateo has as many tools (as anyone),” Newman said. “What (Luis) Severino is from a pitching perspective, this guy is from a position-player perspective. Now, they can’t move as fast because hitting’s different than pitching, but he can fly. He’s an 80 runner. Wow. Wow tools. I mean, holy (cow) tools.”
The Yankees have a bunch of lottery tickets. The trick is getting one to actually pay off down the road.
Associated Press photo
State of the organization: Shortstop • 10.10.14
It’s been two decades since the state of Yankees at shortstop looked quite like this. The position was in safe hands for almost all of a 20-year window that produced five championships and an iconic Hall of Fame infielder, but now the Yankees face short-term uncertainty in the big leagues while their top prospects are mostly teenagers who are still several years from their arrival in the Bronx (and that’s assuming everything goes exactly right, which is rarely the case). This is a state of transition, and the transition might last a while.
Seems dumb to start this post with anyone else. I’ve tried to start these “state of the organization” posts by listing the projected starter at each position, but for shortstop, there’s really no projected starter in place. I suppose Brendan Ryan sits at the top of the depth chart, but there’s little sense pretending that he’s currently the favorite to be at the position on Opening Day. The reality is that one of Jeter’s great strengths was his durability and reliability. Through his 20-year career he really only had two significant injuries. The worst was the broken ankle that basically cost him all of 2013, but even at 40 years old last season, he still played 145 games. The Yankees have almost always had a shortstop in place, so it’s odd to be in this position of complete uncertainty. If there’s a bright spot to the Yankees overwhelming uncertainty it’s this: they’re not replacing the version of Jeter that’s going into the Hall of Fame. In his final season, Jeter was among the least productive everyday players in baseball, and he was especially bad in the second half. Finding an upgrade over a .617 OPS with questionable defense shouldn’t be especially hard. Replacing everything else that came with Jeter’s status and persona might be impossible.
On the verge
If you create a current Yankees depth chart, Ryan would be the starting shortstop. Zelous Wheeler played some shortstop in Triple-A last season, and Jose Pirela played the position in the lower levels, but neither is a true shortstop at this point (I’ve had people ask about Pirela, but it’s worth remembering that he was moved off the position for a reason, and there aren’t any scouts raving about his defense as it is). So what the Yankees have in place is Ryan, who’s kind of an all-glove fallback plan. If everything else falls through, the Yankees at least have a guy who was once considered perhaps the best defensive infielder in baseball. He hasn’t hit a bit since those early years in St. Louis, but Ryan can handle the position. Having him play it regularly, though, does not seem to be the plan. The Yankees are clearly in the market for a shortstop, and the free agent market offers several options even with J.J. Hardy off the board. It’s all but certain that Jeter’s immediate replacement is not currently in the system.
The name you put here probably depends on your definition of “top” prospect. The Yankees really don’t have an upper-level shortstop who stands out. The hope was that Cito Culver would have that distinction by now, but he’s simply never hit enough to gain any traction. He is by all accounts a rock-solid fielder, but he hit .220/.298/.303 in High-A Tampa this season, and it wasn’t the first time he’d put up a line like that. Culver’s an easy guy to like, and by all accounts he puts in all the work, he just hasn’t hit. So to find a true “top” prospect, you have to dig all the way down to Low-A Charleston where Abe Avelino (that’s him on the right) and Tyler Wade are each legitimate prospects. From there, the list continues through a bunch of international free agents headlined by Mateo, a ridiculously toolsy 19-year-old out of the Dominican Republic. I’ve heard Mateo rated as an 80 runner — very top of the scale — and Baseball America named him the fourth-best prospect in the Gulf Coast League. But he’s a long, long way from the big leagues.
Deeper in the system
Everything about the Yankees organizational shortstop depth should be labeled “deeper in the system,” because the high-end talent is about as far from the big leagues as it can get. While Avelino and Wade (pictured on right) could open next season in High-A Tampa, both are still just 19 years old and there’s simply a lot of distance between them and New York. From there, the list is long and deep, dotted with a flurry of international signings. Mateo, Angel Aguilar and Thairo Estrada signed back in 2012, and this month Mateo and Aguilar landed on Baseball America’s Top 20 prospects list for the GCL. That’s the first wave. The next wave signed this year in an international class of Wilkerman Garcia, Diego Castillo, Dermis Garcia, and Hyo-Jun Park. All four are at least initially listed as shortstops — Garcia in particular seems likely to change positions — and there’s clearly an organizational attempt to stockpile options at the position. The Yankees know first-hand how difficult it is to develop a shortstop, so they’re buying as many lottery tickets as possible. It’s worth remembering these 2014 signees are incredibly young and raw. A lot of talent. A long way to go.
The value of the glove
Last winter, the Yankees gave Ryan a two-year deal — plus an option for a third year — strictly because of his defense. I think there’s a lot to be said for his personality in the clubhouse, but personality doesn’t lead to multi-year contracts. Ryan was signed because he can catch and throw at the game’s most difficult position. And that might be the biggest reason to hold out some hope for Culver, the former first-round pick who gets positive reviews for his defense but has hit just .233/.316/.321 through five seasons in the minors. I think there’s a solid comparison to Cardinals utility infielder Pete Kozma, who was also a first-round pick and hit just .238/.311/.348 in the minors. My Cardinals-fan friends back home were already calling him a bust years ago, but Kozma could always play defense, and he’s scratched out a big league career that way. He was even the Cardinals’ regular shortstop last season despite hitting just .217 (and that team was awfully good with Kozma at the position). Kozma’s back on their postseason roster this year. Offense is down across the board, which could open more chances for a defense-first shortstop like Culver.
Associated Press photo
Late in the season and early in the offseason, I try to save some Associated Press pictures to use on the blog throughout the winter. I put them in a folder on my desktop, label them with a player’s name, and I use them through these quiet months when there’s not a lot of Yankees content moving on the wire.
Just last week, I saved the picture that you see at the top of this post.
J.J. Hardy wasn’t with the Yankees — not yet, anyway — but I thought there was a good chance I’d end up writing a lot about him this winter. In fact, if you’d asked me roughly an hour ago, I would have said Hardy was my guess for the Yankees Opening Day shortstop in 2015.
But not anymore.
First reported by Jeremy Conn and confirmed by various reporters including Ken Rosenthal and Roch Kubatka, the Orioles have locked Hardy into a three-year, $40-million contract extension with an option for a fourth year. It takes one of the most attractive shortstops off the market and leaves the Yankees with one less option for replacing Derek Jeter.
Why did I think Hardy fit so well in the first place? There’s really not a perfect option out there — though there are a lot of alternatives — but Hardy’s a good defender and he’s shown a lot of power for a middle infielder (granted, this year was an exception). Hardy’s already 32 years old, and he’s coming off a down year, so there’s considerable risk in committing to him long term. But that’s true of any free agent these days.
Bottom line for the Yankees is this: They need a shortstop, and a pretty decent one just came off the board.
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
Now that Derek Jeter has decided to become a sports blogger, the Yankees need to find someone else to play shortstop. We’ve known for a long time that this transition was coming, and now that it’s here, there’s no perfect solution. There is no shortage of options, just nothing that stands out as an obvious, can’t-miss way to go.
Essentially, the Yankees are going to have to make a choice. Take an injury risk? Go for a big bat? Settle for a great glove? Spend big money? Go with a cheap platoon?
There might be preferences, but I don’t think there’s a slam dunk out there.
For one of two reasons, several of the market’s best shortstops might not actually be able to play the position this season. They’re either significant injury risks, or they’re mostly likely second basemen or third basemen masquerading as shortstops.
At the top of this list is Hanley Ramirez, who’s either the best free agent position player on the market or the market’s biggest gamble (or maybe he’s both). The Yankees need offense, and Ramirez can hit. He had an .817 OPS this season, and that was a down year. He also played just 128 games, and that’s one year after playing just 93 games. Health has to be a huge concern, and there are questions about his ability to stick at shortstop, but Ramirez is surely going to cash in with a massive contract. Is he worth that risk?
If not Ramirez, what about Asdrubal Cabrera, who moved to second base with the Nationals, and whose offensive numbers are trending the wrong way? What about Jed Lowrie, who slugged just .355 this season and not so long ago looked more like a high-end utility man than a true everyday shortstop? How about Korean standout Jung-Ho Kang, who’s hit for power but brings the usual uncertainty that comes with any international free agent?
If next season started tomorrow with the Yankees current roster, they would at least have a true defensive shortstop in place. Brendan Ryan hardly played this season, so it’s hard to make much of his numbers, but he’s historically been an elite defender. Hasn’t hit much (at all) but he can handle the position. That’s worth something.
Which brings us to an unusual free agent alternative: Stephen Drew. Also a proven defensive option at shortstop, Drew’s coming off a season surely wrecked his earning power. After turning down a qualifying offer last winter, Drew hit just .162/.237/.299 this season, and the Yankees spent two months seeing that kind of production up close. It wasn’t pretty.
But if there’s not a reliable offensive shortstop available, would the Yankees consider some sort of defense-first platoon of Drew and Ryan? Might be worth spending money elsewhere — Yasmani Tomas? Jon Lester? — while prioritizing a relatively cheap glove at shortstop (with the upside that Drew might reestablish himself and become a real bargain).
Realistic or not, at some point Troy Tulowitzki has to be a part of the conversation, if only because he’s the best shortstop in the game. He brings his own obvious injury risks, and if the Rockies actually make him available, there might be other teams better positioned to get him, but he’s still worth mentioning. Trades are about hoping for the best, and Tulowitzki’s best-case scenario is about as good as it gets.
But trades are tough, because it’s not only about the Yankees needing to have “enough” to trade for a guy like Tulowitzki, it’s about them having and giving more than anyone else. Would the Cubs trade Starlin Castro at a price that make sense? Is Alexei Ramirez worth the prospect price at 33 years old? How willing to deal are the teams that have young depth at shortstop — Diamondbacks, Mariners, Cubs — and would the Yankees really plug a kid into that spot?
Trade speculation is a favorite winter activity, and the Yankees will surely be a big part of the rumor mill, even if it’s far more smoke than fire.
A separate category largely because I’ve long thought Hardy might be the best combination of offense and defense at a reasonable price. Here’s the problem: Hardy has warts of his own.
He turns 33 in August, he’s surely going to require a multi-year deal, and his home run power seriously declined this season. Hardy might still have 25-homer potential — he’s averaged 21 homers per 162 games during his career — but he’s not exactly a guy who wipes out the Yankees current run-production problems. Metrics still like his defense, but he’s also moving past his prime years.
I still think Hardy might make the most sense, but just like all the other options, he comes with plenty of causes for concern.
Associated Press photos