Just a few notes and links from this final off day before the trade deadline:
• A fun story to check out at the end of an off day, Billy Witz from the New York Times wrote about Hideki Matsui moonlighting as a pitcher and right-handed cleanup hitter in a New York City adult rec league. “We’ve all followed him since our high school days,” one of the other players told Witz. “So whenever he comes to bat, everybody stops.”
• Jon Heyman writes that the Yankees have expressed interest in finding a starting pitcher, but they might not find one because of their unwillingness to trade Luis Severino, Aaron Judge, Greg Bird or Rob Refsnyder. Heyman says a right-handed reliever and right-handed hitter are also points of interest for the Yankees.
• Ken Rosenthal says the trade market for starting pitching could erupt as we get close to the trade deadline and teams decide whether to go all in on some of the impact arms available. Still doubt the Yankees make a play for one of these arms, but Rosenthal lists Johnny Cueto, Scott Kazmir, Cole Hamels, Jeff Samardzija, Yovani Gallardo and “even David Price” as big starters who could be available at the right price.
• If you missed it, it’s worth listening back to Michael Kay’s radio interview with Brian Cashman earlier today. There was not necessarily anything surprising about it, but he was on the air for about 20 minutes and talked through the Refsnyder demotion, the possibility of calling up Severino, and his approach to the trade deadline. Kay covered a lot of ground. Give it a listen.
• Last night Brett Gardner wore bright white cleats, which stood out as quite different from his teammates. Gardner told George King that CC Sabathia and others had been pushing him to wear the new shoes, but Cashman said during today’s radio interview that he actually talked to Gardner about sticking to the normal uniform going forward. “You’re not going to see those white spikes again,” Cashman said. “… That doesn’t look good, so we’ve fixed that. No big deal.”
• Before tonight’s Triple-A game, the Yankees activated shortstop Nick Noonan from the disabled list and immediately released him from his contract. The RailRiders have been playing Cole Figueroa at shortstop these days, and their infield has grown crowded with Gregorio Petit, Jose Pirela, Rob Refsnyder, Greg Bird and Kyle Roller.
• Speaking of the Triple-A team, Aaron Judge was held out of the lineup for the third day in a row. Cashman said earlier today that it’s a minor day-to-day issue. He sounded thoroughly unconcerned when I asked about it.
Associated Press photo
From Jim Armstrong of The Associated Press:
The 2009 World Series MVP teamed up with former New York Yankees teammate Derek Jeter on Saturday to raise funds for children from Japan’s disaster-stricken Tohoku region.
“Jeter played a big role in all of this,” Matsui said. “The kids had a magnificent day. Hopefully, when they go back to their everyday lives tomorrow, they’ll have new dreams to sustain them.”
Jeter and Matsui conducted a youth baseball clinic then managed middle school teams in a three-inning contest, won 2-0 by Matsui’s squad.
The day’s final event was a home run derby between the U.S. and Japanese students. Matsui thrilled the fans when he stepped up to the plate and hit a towering homer over the right-field wall at Tokyo Dome, where he spent 10 seasons with the Yomiuri Giants before heading to the U.S.
During his four-day visit to Japan, Jeter also took in a sumo tournament and visited Matsui’s hometown.
“It was a wonderful few days,” Jeter said. “Hideki showed me around, I got a chance to go see his hometown, I got a chance to see sumo wrestling and to top it off today was this great charity event. I’m grateful Hideki invited me and it’s all for a great cause.”
Associated Press photos
The Yankees announced today that the Hideki Matsui has been named special adviser to the general manager. From the press release:
In his first full-time role in the New York Yankees front office, Matsui will work closely with General Manager Brian Cashman and Player Development Vice President Gary Denbo. Matsui will spend the majority of the 2015 season traveling throughout the Yankees’ minor league system and focusing on aspects of hitting with managers, batting coaches and players.
Now 40, Matsui played seven seasons with the Yankees and was named World Series MVP in 2009. He’s been in camp some this spring working as a guest instructor.
“You have a player of his caliber that just always did it the right way,” Joe Girardi said. “And you think about what he had to go through on a daily basis to play – the knees that he had – and he still always found a way to get it done. Really knew how to hit. Really knew how to play the game. He was a guy that you wanted up with runners in scoring position. Lefties didn’t bother him. I think he can add a lot to our organization.”
Girardi said he didn’t remember Matsui’s name ever coming up this offseason when the Yankees were looking for a new hitting coach.
“I don’t think so, no,” Girardi said. “It would be interesting because of the communication. … I’m sure it’s something you could work through. Might take a little time, but I’m sure it’s seomthign you could work through.”
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
Yankees pregame: Old-Timers’ Day • 06.22.14
There are three first-time Old-Timers here today, Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui and John Montefusco.
Matsui said through his old interpreter Roger Kahlon that he’s basically relaxing and enjoying retirement. So Matsui was naturally asked what advice he would give the retiring Derek Jeter.
“He’s got to find a wife, first and foremost,” Matsui said.
Joe Torre is here today and he’s bound for the Hall of Fame next month. He acknowledged Jeter’s role.
“I wouldn’t be going to have a Hall of Fame speech unless he was here,” Torre said.
“It’s something that hasn’t really settled in for me yet.”
The introductions are going on now. Then comes the Goose Gossage plaque ceremony, then the Old-Timers’ Game, then Tanaka time.
As for the current team, Joe Girardi again sounded down on the idea of moving Adam Warren into the rotation to replace Vidal Nuno.
“In a sense, you’re robbing Peter to pay Paul,” Girardi said. “Whereas Warren has been able to help us twice out of every five days, you’re only going to get one start every five days. He’s been extremely important to our success in the bullpen. I know he’s been talked about a lot, but our rotation is what it is.”
I mentioned it earlier, but here’s the official release from the Yankees regarding their donation to the relief efforts taking place in Japan, plus a couple of other notes about the situation and its connection to the Yankees.
The New York Yankees announced today that they have donated $100,000 to support rescue and relief efforts following the tragic earthquake in Japan. Of the total, $50,000 will be given to the Salvation Army and $50,000 to the Red Cross, both of which are already working in relief efforts on the ground in Japan.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by the terrible earthquake in Japan,” said Yankees Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner. “We hope that the international community does everything in its power to support and assist the Japanese people in their time of need.”
Brian Cashman spoke with some reporters in Tampa about Kei Igawa’s situation.
“Obviously he has family there and he’s trying to reach out to them,” Cashman said. “He’s trying to find out if everyone he knows is OK and so he’s home doing everything in his power trying to contact people. He’s obviously glued to the TV and trying to find out every which way he can because right now the phones are down as of this morning still. It’s a very difficult time.”
Cashman said he got a call this morning from Mark Newman who told him Igawa was leaving the minor league complex to try to reach his loved ones. Cashman said Igawa has permission to go back to Japan if he needs to or wants to. “No doubt about it,” Cashman said.
I know Igawa’s name is mud within the Yankees fan base, but take it from someone who’s been around the guy a lot the past few years, Igawa is an incredibly nice and funny guy. He’s a bit of a prankster and a goofball, but he was always well liked in the clubhouse. I’m obviously hoping everything is OK for him back home, or as OK as it could possibly be under the circumstances.
“Everybody’s got Japan in their prayers right now,” Cashman said. “We’re just going to have to wait and see and that’s the frustrating thing. I was up all night watching it on TV. I absolutely have a lot of passion and I love Tokyo, love going over there, love the people of Japan. To see the devastation that’s taking place is just tragic.”
Commissioner Bud Selig’s statement:
“All of us at Major League Baseball are thinking of our many dear friends and colleagues in Japan today. Major League Baseball extends its deepest condolences to all those who have been affected, and we have the families and friends of our players as well as our peers and business partners in our thoughts.
“We have been in communication with the members of our office in Tokyo. Through our shared love of baseball for more than a century, Japan is a particularly special place to us, and we are deeply saddened by the disaster that has confronted the nation.
“Major League Baseball will certainly provide aid with the relief efforts in the days and weeks ahead. We will do everything we can to help Japan.”
The Oakland A’s announced some fundraising efforts and released a statement from Hideki Matsui. Here’s the press release from the A’s.
In the wake of the 8.9 earthquake and tsunami which hit Japan Friday afternoon, the Oakland A’s announced today that the team will help raise funds to aid victims of the disaster. The A’s open the 2011 season with a three-game series at the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum against the Seattle Mariners and plans are being made to add a fundraising component for Japanese Heritage Day, scheduled for the series’ final game Sunday, April 3.
Details of the benefit game, which will feature Japan’s two greatest modern-day players in Oakland’s Hideki Matsui and Seattle’s Ichiro Suzuki, will be announced at a later date.
Matsui, a native of Ishikawa, Japan and resident of Tokyo in the offseason, issued a statement this morning about the devastation that occurred in the past 24 hours:
“I am deeply concerned and affected by what is happening in Japan. I pray for the safety of all the people that have been affected and continue to be affected by this disaster.”
The A’s said they will be working closely with Hiroshi Inomata, San Francisco’s Japanese Consul-General, and other community leaders in their efforts to support the tsunami victims.
Associated Press photos of Igawa and Matsui, top photo is from The Yomiuri Shimbun via the AP
The timing of transition • 01.05.11
For Jorge Posada, the transition away from catcher has always been a matter of time. Even during his remarkable decade-plus stretch of durability, it was clear that at some point — either because of age, production or health — the Yankees were going to have to make a change behind the plate.
That time has come. It’s been three years since Posada started more than 88 games at catcher, and last season he was so banged up that Joe Girardi was understandably hesitant to start him behind the plate more than two days in a row. Posada was an everyday catcher in name only.
In the big picture, the timing of this transition is perfect. Posada got here gradually, and the Yankees have young players ready to take over. Short-term, though, it’s hard to look at the free agent market and not wonder if the Yankees might have been tempted to press their luck one more year.
You could look at the timing Posada’s transition based on two positions: Catcher and designated hitter. Catcher is the long-term positive. DH is the short-term regret.
Passing the torch
The Yankees minor league system is ready to takeover behind the plate. At the very least, it’s ready to give the Yankees options and reason for optimism. Jesus Montero’s second half of 2010 suggested a player growing into his enormous talent, and even if doesn’t prove Major League ready behind the plate, Austin Romine is coming quickly behind him. The Yankees have both talent and depth, and they have each of those things on the cusp of the big leagues.
Two years ago there was unproven talent. One year ago, that talent had shown some results, but it still wasn’t ready for the show. Today, there are catchers on the verge. The past two years, Posada gave the Yankees enough behind the plate that they didn’t feel compelled to rush their young players or aggressively sign a replacement. Posada bridged his own gap, with some space-fillers helping along the way.
As an added bonus, this happened to be the winter Russell Martin became a free agent. Because of their catching depth, and because Posada can still catch occasionally, the Yankees could afford to take a shot on Martin rediscovering his old self. If it works, great. If not, it only gives the young guys a little more development time. In theory, this is what a catcher transition should look like: The old guard is still around and the new talent is eased in.
Filling the hole
With one more year on his contract, Posada isn’t finished just yet. He’s not longer an everyday catcher, but he can be a productive hitter. Even in a down year, when he clearly played hurt a lot of the time, Posada still hit for power and gave the Yankees production. He’s only one year removed from a vintage Posada slash line.
To keep Posada’s bat in the lineup, while keeping his body healthy, the Yankees will make their former catcher a more-or-less full-time designated hitter. It’s a natural fit, and the spot was wide open. No more Hideki Matsui. No more Jason Giambi. No more Nick Johnson.
Then again, if ever there was an offseason to go DH hunting, it was this one. The free agent market is always full of potential designated hitters — quite literally, any available hitter could theoretically fill the spot — but this winter’s crop is loaded with players who can still hit but are best kept away from any sort of glove.
Matsui and Adam Dunn have already signed, but the free agent market still has Giambi, Jim Thome, Vladimir Guerrero, Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon. A second tier offers Marcus Thames, Russell Branyan, Jose Guillen and maybe Jermaine Dye. The price for each of them must be dropping by the day, and it’s hard to imagine any of them getting more than a one year deal. Those are bats that could help the Yankees, if only there were a place for them.
Associated Press photo of Posada, headshots of Martin and Thome
The danger of assumption and projection • 12.18.10
At the end of a slow day in baseball, I’ll turn the floor over to Joe Posnanski.
After Derek Jeter and Cliff Lee took their turns in the offseason spotlight — a place where speculation and wild guesswork are disguised as viable forms of analysis — it’s now Zack Greinke’s turn. And no one has covered Greinke as well as Posnanski, who wrote about him again this week:
I don’t know how Zack Greinke would do in New York or Chicago or any other big market. How could I know? But when I see people question his toughness or his psyche — either in direct words on Twitter or, infinitely more annoying, in read-between-the-lines quotes and stories — I guess they don’t know him any better than I do.
Feel free to debate the merits of the Yankees trading for Greinke — would he be worth the prospects, would he thrive in this market? — but that debate must always end with the realization that no one knows for certain.
Posnanski makes the argument that Kansas City might actually be the worst place for him, that pitching in games that matter would actually bring out the best in Greinke, and that a team of superstars would let him blend in rather than standout. Posnanski also acknowledges that, despite all the time he’s spent with Greinke, he can only guess what a move to New York might mean.
I also think it’s possible that the New York Yankees — with all of their money, their background checks, their good scouting and everything else — don’t know Greinke any better than anyone else.
And now a few more links and notes from a quiet Saturday.
• The Red Sox continue to build, signing reliever Dan Wheeler to help in their bullpen. Wheeler, Bobby Jenks and Daniel Bard give Boston some right-handed depth leading into the ninth inning.
• Boston is still reportedly interested in signing an additional left-handed reliever.
• Marcus Thames was being chased by Japanese team earlier this offseason. Now it seems he has some big league clubs interested in using him in left field. The Dodgers have been linked to him, and so have the Orioles. He could still fit for the Yankees as a right-handed corner outfielder, but the team would have to hope that his bat is good enough to make up for his glove.
• Hideki Matsui’s deal in Oakland has a partial no-trade clause that prevents trades to some of the worst teams in the American League. Of course, it’s hard to imagine any of those teams — except maybe the Twins — actually wanting to trade for him midseason.
• From the random, non-baseball events of my life category: This afternoon I put on an old live album called General Admission by the Pat McGee Band, one of my absolute favorites back in college. There’s no point to this paragraph, I’ve just been listening to that CD all day and felt like sharing an underrated band and an underrated album. PMB hit its peak with a studio album called Shine that seemed to come out about seven years too late, after the initial buzz of vaguely similar groups — Dave Matthews Band, Counting Crows, Blues Traveler — had died and given way to lesser forms of pop music.
A few notes and links after a long day • 12.14.10
Around here, it’s hard to see the Cliff Lee signing as anything but a punch to the Yankees gut, but there’s another side to this story. What’s taking place in Philadelphia is impressive, and Jayson Stark did a nice job writing about the Lee signing from the Phillies side.
I appreciate any story that includes this quote: “Holy [colorful adjective] [colorful noun].”
Brian Cashman wasn’t quite as colorful in his Phillies assessment, but he made the key point.
“They have evolved into one of the more premier franchises, and that’s a credit to Dave Montgomery,” Cashman said during this afternoon’s conference call. “It’s an attractive place to play. It’s healthy competition, and it’s good for baseball.”
Not a lot of “mystery teams” end up with the top free agent on the market. The Phillies made it happen. Give credit where it’s due. It’s a heckuva signing.
A few other links:
• Cool post over at MLBTradeRumors about the lessons of the Lee signing.
• Even before Lee signed, Jack Curry was already reporting that the Yankees did not consider Zack Greinke to be a legitimate Plan B. I talked to quite a few Yankees officials today, and one of them suggested it’s more likely the team will mix and match a few different upgrades rather than try to find a Lee replacement.
• The A’s have finalized their Hideki Matsui signing. He’ll get one year and less than $6 million.
• Austin Kearns is on the Diamondbacks radar, according to Jon Paul Morosi. So is former Yankees outfielder Xavier Nady.
• Jerry Crasnick says the Rangers have discussed signing Chien-Ming Wang.
• The Mariners have signed Royce Ring to a minor league deal. When it rains it pours, huh?
• Former Yankees prospect Dioner Navarro has signed with the Dodgers.
Associated Press photo
Other teams are actually doing stuff • 12.13.10
Believe it or not, as we approach the end of Day 4 of the Cliff Lee Watch, other teams are actually making small moves here and there. Don’t they know nothing else is supposed to be happening right now?
• Hideki Matsui is on the verge of a one-year deal with the Athletics. That lineup needs some sort of pop, and Matsui looks like their everyday designated hitter.
• Dustin Moseley has finalized his $900,000 deal with the Padres. Great signing for him, and probably a good one for San Diego. Despite what the linked AP story says, Moseley did not spend, “the previous four seasons in the Los Angeles Angels.” That’s wrong on many levels.
• Apparently my friend Marc Carig didn’t get the memo about Yankees reporters asking nothing but Cliff Lee questions until Lee signs. Marc reports that the Yankees have checked on Jerry Hairston Jr.
• Buried in this story from Ken Rosenthal is a note that the Dodgers might consider Bill Hall for their everyday left field job. I’ve never really bought Hall as a legitimate option for the Yankees, and an everyday opportunity in Los Angeles would make Hall even less likely for the Yankees.
• Baseball America has updated its minor league transactions, including a few familiar names: David Winfree signed with the Diamondbacks, Brian Bruney signed with the White Sox, Omir Santos signed with the Tigers, and Wilkin de la Rosa signed with the Dodgers.
• Speaking of the Bruney signing, who was the winner of last winter’s Bruney trade? I’d say the Dodgers, because they lost Jamie Hoffmann a team that was never going to keep him. The Yankees finished somewhere in the middle, if only because they didn’t have to pay Bruney. Washington lost. Definitely.