This has been a winter of wheeling and dealing in the Yankees front office. Apparently left with not a ton of money to spend — the budget was clobbered by Alex Rodriguez coming off the suspended list — Brian Cashman has been busy on the trade market. Dealing a catcher was fairly predictable, but his other moves came with some creativity and a clear expectation of more moves to come. Here are the Yankees five major trades, all of which — except the last one, so far — have set the stage for something else.
1. Trade Francisco Cervelli for Justin Wilson
Immediate impact – Traded from a position of depth to fill a position of need. The Yankees had too many catchers, and — at the time, anyway — no proven left-handed relievers.
Cheaper and younger– Cervelli is already in his second year of arbitration eligibility and is immediately replaced by one of two younger, cheaper catcher. Wilson has four more years of team control, including one season at basically the league minimum.
Opening a door – By dealing Cervelli, the Yankees freed themselves to get even younger by giving the backup catcher role to either John Ryan Murphy or Austin Romine. Cervelli was good in the role, but the Yankees needed to move on. Slugging prospect Gary Sanchez should move up a level to become the starting catcher in Triple-A.
2. Trade Shane Greene for Didi Gregorius
Immediate impact – The Yankees sold high on Greene and bought low on Gregorius. By sacrificing a young pitcher, they filled their immediate need at shortstop by acquiring a player who could be a long-term solution at the position.
Cheaper and younger – Both Greene and Gregorius are still pre-arbitration, but Gregorius hits arbitration well before Greene. In terms of player for player, this swap will cost the Yankees some money. Gregorius is younger than Greene, but not by much. Less than two years.
Opening a door – By dealing Greene, the Yankees opened a hole in their rotation but filled a hole in their infield. With a young infielder in place, the Yankees ultimately freed themselves to trade another infielder to add a different young starter.
3. Trade Martin Prado and David Phelps for Nathan Eovaldi, Garrett Jones and Domingo German
Immediate impact – The Yankees farm system is ready to handle second base — or at least try to handle second base — which made Prado expendable. In return, the Yankees got a starting pitcher to replace Greene and a veteran left-handed hitter to backup first base, right field and designated hitter.
Cheaper and younger – By paying some of Prado’s salary, the Yankees made the short-term money essentially a wash. Jones is two years older than Prado but signed for one year less. Eovaldi is 3.5 years younger than Phelps, but both are just now entering arbitration. German adds a 22-year-old prospect to the mix.
Opening a door – By dealing Prado, the Yankees opened the door for either Rob Refsnyder or Jose Pirela to play second base this season. Eovaldi essentially took the rotation spot that might have belonged to Greene, while the swingman role that Phelps has filled recently could now go to Esmil Rogers or one of the upper-level pitching prospects (Chase Whitley, Bryan Mitchell, etc).
4. Trade Shawn Kelley for Johnny Barbato
Immediate impact – In the short term, the Yankees made themselves weaker. They traded a late-inning reliever — one who’s not overly expensive or particularly old — for a 22-year-old prospect who might need surgery and likely won’t be big league ready for at least another year.
Cheaper and younger – While it’s not a lot of money, Kelley was on track to make about $2.5 million this season. At 31, he’s eight years older than Barbato. This was a pure veteran-for-prospect swap.
Opening a door – By dealing Kelley, the Yankees opened a hole in their bullpen. At a time when teams are valuing bullpen depth, the Kelley move seemed to be a clear precursor to something more, and that additional move came just a few days later when the Yankees added a younger, cheaper reliever to take Kelley’s spot.
5. Trade Manny Banuelos for David Carpenter and Chasen Shreve
Immediate impact – Clearly, Carpenter is the replacement for Kelley. After back-to-back strong seasons out of the Braves bullpen, Carpenter will step immediately into the Yankees bullpen while Shreve adds left-handed depth. He could make the team out of spring training, or he could go to Triple-A.
Cheaper and younger – Banuelos turns 24 in March; Shreve turns 25 in July, just three days before Carpenter turns 30. Banuelos and Shreve are in basically the same boat in terms of salary, while Carpenter is in his first year of arbitration. Carpenter is younger and cheaper than the guy he’s replacing in the bullpen (Kelley), but Banuelos is still the youngest player in this deal (and almost certainly the one with the highest upside if he gets back on track).
Opening a door — Right now, this trade does not necessarily open a door for something else. Carpenter plugs the bullpen hole, Shreve steps in as bullpen depth, and all of that came at the cost of a once top prospect who was knocked off track by injury. If this opens any door, I suppose it could open the possibility of using Shreve to make one of the other left-handed relief prospects (Lindgren, Webb, Pazos) available in a trade.
Associated Press photo
Well, quite a bit has happened since I got on this airplane. Here are some quick thoughts about all of the Yankees pieces that have moved around in the past two hours or so:
Two things that immediately jump to mind about the key piece coming to the Yankees in the Marlins trade:
1. He’s young. In that way, this reminds me very much of the Didi Gregorius acquisition. Yes, Eovaldi has plenty of warts – he gave up the most hits in the National League last season, he’s never had huge strikeout numbers despite his velocity – but he was born in 1990 and has 79 big league starts already. This guy is younger than Branden Pinder, who has some legitimate promise and was just added to the 40-man roster last month. Eovaldi is 24. Masahiro Tanaka just turned 26. Michael Pineda turns 26 in January. Ivan Nova will be 28 all next season. Suddenly CC Sabathia and placeholder Chris Capuano are the only members of the Yankees rotation who are in their 30s. And that’s to say nothing of Manny Banuelos, Bryan Mitchell, Chase Whitley and — eventually — Luis Severino. Just like at shortstop, the term “upside” actually applies to this Yankees rotation for 2015 and beyond.
2. He pitched 199.2 innings last season. That’s two-thirds of an inning more than Hiroki Kuroda pitched last season, and Kuroda led the Yankees in innings pitched by quite a bit. The Yankees have some obvious questions about rotation durability, but Eovaldi gave a bunch of innings and 33 starts last season. It’s true that a young arm could blow out under the weight of a heavy workload, but that’s an unavoidable hazard. The Yankees need someone who can provide some durability in the rotation, and Eovaldi has done it before.
Jones plays three positions: First base, right field and designated hitter. Those happen to be three positions where the Yankees face real uncertainty about durability and production.
This addition seems to be a safeguard for Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran and Alex Rodriguez, but it comes at the cost of roster versatility. Barring another move, the addition of Jones basically fills the Yankees bench John Ryan Murphy, Chris Young, Brendan Ryan and Jones. There’s no longer space for a Jose Pirela-type utility man (Pirela might win the second base job, but that’s not the same as having a guy that versatile on the bench).
So does this mean Ryan to backs up both shortstop and second base, Rodriguez backs up at third base, Jones backs up at first base, and a Jones/Young platoon backs up in the outfield corners?
Here’s what the numbers show: The prospect coming to the Yankees is a 22-year-old kid who spent 2014 in Low-A with a 2.48 ERA, a 1.43 WHIP, 8.2 strikeouts per nine, and 1.8 walks per nine.
Here’s what Baseball America says: Just a few days ago, German was named the Marlins sixth-best prospect, and here’s what the magazine wrote about him in connection to today’s trade: “Pitchability isn’t German’s strength right now, but throwing strikes is. He has an easy delivery he repeats well to go with a loose, live arm that produces above-average life on a heavy sinking fastball that sits in the 91-96 mph range and touches 97. He’ll need to develop his secondary stuff to be a future rotation option in Miami.”
Here’s what an opposing team’s scout had to say: “Chance to be a back-end starter or potential bullpen piece. (In rookie ball in 2013), the fastball was 91-94 but needed strike control and polish. Excellent feel for the changeup (83-87) and wider break (on the) curveball (78-81) that needed to tighten. Interesting arm to acquire.”
When the Yankees traded Shane Greene to get Gregorius, Billy Eppler called it robbing Peter to pay Paul. In that way, the Yankees today robbed Paul to pay back Peter. Instead of giving up a young starter to help the infield, the Yankees today gave up an infielder to add a young starter.
Barring another move for someone like Asdrubal Cabrera, the Prado trade leaves second base wide open for either Pirela or Rob Refsnyder, and the Yankees really do seem willing to let those two battle for the job. Doesn’t mean that will happen — if a guy like Cabrera can be acquired on a good deal, I”m not sure they would/should pass up the opportunity — but the Yankees are clearly opening the possibility that seemed to close when they acquired Chase Headley.
Prado was a nice fit for this team — he can play a lot of positions, and that’s nice for a team with so many questions in the lineup — but he wasn’t especially cheap, and trading him let the Yankees get younger in both the rotation and infield. I like Prado a lot, but I think there’s a chance Refsnyder can be just as good offensively while Pirela can be just as versatile (though probably not as good) defensively.
Let me start by saying Phelps was one of my favorite guys on the Yankees roster. Not that he was a go-to source for anything — he’d always laugh at me when I’d try to get real information out of him — but we’re both from Missouri and found that common ground a long time ago before he ever reached the big leagues. When I grew a bit of a beard last spring and kept it through the season, Phelps gave me a hard time about it at every opportunity. I tried to return the favor by giving him a hard time about choosing Notre Dame over the University of Missouri. On a personal level, I liked having Phelps around, and I truly believed — and still believe — that he made some real strides just before that minor elbow injury last season.
That said, I’m not sure the Yankees were ever sure what to do with Phelps. They knew he could start, but it seemed they never really wanted to trust him with that job unless forced to do so. They knew his stuff might play up in short bullpen stints, but Adam Warren and Dellin Betances had jumped ahead of him in that pecking order. He was a useful piece for many jobs, but he never really had a specific job.
In that way, I can understand sacrificing him for a guy who’s nearly four years younger with nearly 200 more big league innings. I hope Phelps gets a chance to establish himself in Miami. I hope his young family is happy down in Florida. I hope he has a long career. I’m just not sure that long career was ever meant to happen with the Yankees.
I know almost nothing about Germen, and what I do know about him can be found on his page at Baseball Reference: He strikes out quite a few guys, puts a decent number of guys on base, and just turned 27 years old in September.
Don’t really need to know much about him to make this evaluation: The Yankees believe Germen is better than Claiborne.
Although he had a really, really good first month or so in the big leagues, Claiborne was never an overpowering bullpen arm and he was never a guy predicted to have a significant role in New York. I honestly thought he might be designated for assignment out of spring training this year, and I still think there’s a chance he’ll clear waivers and stick with the Yankees as Triple-A depth.
Purchasing Germen and designating Claiborne is clearly all about the Yankees trying to get incrementally better. I don’t think Claiborne was meant to play a significant role going forward, and I’m not sure Germen will either.
Associated Press photo
Here’s the official announcement:
The New York Yankees today announced they have made a five-player trade with the Marlins, acquiring RHP Nathan Eovaldi, INF Garrett Jones and RHP Domingo German in exchange for RHP David Phelps and INF Martin Prado.
Eovaldi, 24, went 6-14 with a 4.37 ERA (199.2IP, 97ER) in 33 starts with the Marlins in 2014, establishing career highs in games started, innings pitched and strikeouts (142). In 83 career appearances (79 starts) with Los Angeles-NL (2011-12) and Miami (2012-14), the right-hander has gone 15-35 with a 4.07 ERA (460.0IP, 208ER) and 321K.
The Houston, Tex., native was originally selected by the Dodgers in the 11th round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft and was acquired by the Marlins with RHP Scott McGough from Los Angeles-NL on July 25, 2012 in exchange for LHP Randy Choate and INF Hanley Ramirez.
Jones, 33, played in 146 games in 2014, hitting .246 (122-for-496) with 59R, 15HR, 53RBI and 33 doubles in his first season with the Marlins. In 854 career Major League games with Minnesota (2007), Pittsburgh (2009-13) and Miami (2014), the left-handed batter has hit .253 (703-for-2,780) with 335R, 174 doubles, 117HR and 383RBI.
Jones has hit at least 15HR in each of the last six seasons (2009-14), one of 16 Major Leaguers—and one of just four in the National League—to accomplish the feat. He has appeared in two career postseason games, both in the NLDS with Pittsburgh in 2013, going 0-for-2.
Born in Harvey, Ill., Jones has seen time at first base (468 games), right field (285 games) and left field (21 games) in his Major League career. He was originally selected by the Braves in the 14th round of the 1999 First-Year Player Draft. Jones signed a two-year contract with Miami on December 10, 2013, extending through the 2015 season.
German, 22, spent the 2014 season with Single-A Greensboro, going 9-3 with a 2.48 ERA (123.1IP, 34ER) and 113K in 25 starts for the Grasshoppers. He led the team in strikeouts and tied for the team lead in games started, setting career highs in both categories. The San Pedro de Macoris, D.R., native has made 77 career minor league appearances (44 starts), going 20-10 with a 2.33 ERA (293.2IP, 76ER) and 286K. He was originally signed by the Marlins as a non-drafted free agent on August 8, 2009 and added to Miami’s 40-man roster on November 20, 2014.
Phelps, 28, went 5-5 with a 4.38 ERA (113.0IP, 55ER) in 32 games (17 starts) with the Yankees in 2014. In 87 career Major League appearances (40 starts) over three seasons with the Yankees (2012-14), he has gone 15-14 with a 4.21 ERA (299.1IP, 140ER). He was originally selected by the Yankees in the 14th round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft.
Prado, 31, was acquired by the Yankees from the Arizona Diamondbacks on July 31, 2014 in exchange for minor leaguer Pete O’Brien and either cash considerations or a player to be named later. In 143 combined games with the Yankees and Diamondbacks in 2014, he hit .282 (151-for-536) with 62R, 26 doubles, 12HR and 58RBI. He played in 37 games with the Yankees following his trade, batting .316 (42-for-133) with 18R, 9 doubles, 7HR and 16RBI. Originally signed by the Braves as a non-drafted free agent on February 13, 2001, Prado is a career .291 (1,075-for-3,691) batter with 78HR and 426RBI in 981 games with Atlanta (2006-12), Arizona (2013-14) and the Yankees (2014).
The Yankees’ 40-man roster now stands at 40.
Associated Press photo
By my count, the Yankees added 10 brand new players to the big league roster — players who had not been in the organization when the season started — between the July 15 All-Star Game and the end of the regular season.
Second-half moves like that happen every year as teams try to plug holes here and there, but the Yankees’ second-half additions stand out because of just how many have either re-signed, stayed on the roster, or otherwise impacted the organization going forward. This list isn’t made entirely of lingering players, but there are lot of them.
LHP Rich Hill – Signed to a minor league deal immediately after the all-star break, Hill was allowed to leave via free agency this offseason. Perhaps his lasting impact is the fact he was the guy called up when the Yankees let go of Matt Thornton on waivers. That was a money saving move, and having Hill in Triple-A presumably made it a little easier (there really wasn’t another lefty to bring up before Hill was added to the mix).
3B Chase Headley – Seems safe to assume Headley would have been on the Yankees radar this offseason regardless of his second-half stint in pinstripes, but the Yankees clearly liked what they saw, and Headley has acknowledged that he enjoyed the New York experience more than he expected. Would these two have found common ground without that late-season audition? Maybe not.
LHP Chris Capuano – The Yankees were desperate for a starting pitcher, and Capuano was available. He had been released and was pitching in Triple-A when the Yankees acquired him, and he pitched like a good No. 5 during his 12-start stint as a rotation replacement. As other rotation options came off the table earlier this month, the Yankees eventually found their way back to the guy who pitched better than expected late in the season.
2B Martin Prado – Of all the names on the list, this is the only one clearly intended to be a long-term fix. The Yankees planned to use Prado in the outfield last season, but he wound up playing all over the field, and it was that versatility that made him a strong fit going forward. His ability to play second base has freed the Yankees to re-sign Headley, and Prado’s ability to play the outfield might eventually free them to add Rob Refsnyder.
SS Stephen Drew – Perhaps this was the audition that had the opposite impact of Headley. Finishing off a strange year in which he signed late and missed spring training, Drew came to the Yankees at the trade deadline with the expectation that he could learn and new position and improve his offensive numbers. The first part was no problem — Drew looked good at second — but the offense never got better. It seems telling that Drew’s still on the free agent market.
RHP Esmil Rogers – A waiver claim at the trade deadline, Rogers showed moments of promise mixed with moments that explained why he was so readily available in the first place. As the season was winding down, Rogers didn’t have a defined role and he entered this offseason as a prime non-tender candidate. The Yankees, though, got him to take a pay cut as they prepare to give him one more look as either a long man, a one-inning reliever, or possibly a starter.
OF Chris Young — This move was easy to mock at the time. Young, after all, had been released by the Mets earlier in the season and there seemed little chance that such a castaway would play any sort of role with the Yankees. But he signed a minor league deal, got a September call-up, hit a few home runs, and wound up with a new one-year deal as the team’s fourth outfielder. That late signing might have made all the difference.
LHP Josh Outman – Basically added to the mix because he seemed like a better left-on-left option than Hill, but late in the year it was Hill getting more of the prime matchup situations, and Outman wound up dumped back into free agency. Hard to remember Outman was ever on the roster in the first place.
RHP Chaz Roe – A late acquisition turned September call-up, Roe is a former first-round pick who pitched two innings for the Yankees, walked three guys, allowed three hits, gave up two earned runs and was never heard from again.
OF Eury Perez – End-of-the-season waiver claim who got 10 at-bats before the end of the season. He might have been let go this winter, but Perez was given an extra option and now seems likely to open the season in Triple-A as a bit of right-handed outfield depth. He has some speed to go with a .360 on-base percentage in the minors. Probably not a guy who’s going to play a significant role going forward, but he’s still in the mix at this point.
Associated Press photos
Yankees remodeled infield in place for 2015 • 12.15.14
The Yankees have significantly overhauled the infield in the past six months. Here’s a look at the four regular infielders from last year (plus their primary backups) along with the players projected to play each position next season. Is the Yankees 2015 infield going to be better than it was in 2014?
2014: Mark Teixeira (Kelly Johnson for 23 games)
2015: Mark Teixeira
Just like the catcher position, the Yankees are committed at first base, and they have to hope for better production from the guy who’s already in place. The Yankees — and Teixeira — believe that healthy and a normal offseason will be significant factors in keeping Teixeira’s power production relatively high. He slugged .474 through the end of June last season (a pretty high number in the current climate) but he slugged just .324 after July 1. Last year the Yankees didn’t have a real backup at the position. It seems Alex Rodriguez could play that backup role this year.
2014: Brian Roberts (Stephen Drew for 31 games)
2015: Martin Prado
Although there was a lot of mixing and matching at second base, it was Roberts who spent more time at the position than any other Yankee last season (Prado, Ryan and Solarte also had double-digit starts at second). In theory, Prado’s a solid bet to outperform Roberts’ .237/.300/.360 slash line. He hit .282/.321/.412 last season and has slugged below .400 only once since becoming a big league regular. If Prado can’t hit beyond Roberts’ numbers, Rob Refsnyder and Jose Pirela are waiting as young alternatives.
2014: Derek Jeter (Brendan Ryan for 19 games)
2015: Didi Gregorius
Although Gregorius hasn’t been much of a hitter in the big leagues, his .653 OPS last season was better than Jeter’s .617, and Gregorius is also considered a much better defensive player. The Yankees could try to get even more of an offensive boost by platooning Gregorius (who’s struggled against lefties) with right-handed-hitting Ryan, another good glove, questionable bat shortstop. By the way, kind of amazing just how many games 40-year-old Jeter was able to play last year.
2014: Yangervis Solarte (Chase Headley for 49 games, Kelly Johnson for 33)
2015: Chase Headley
Third base was supposed to be Johnson’s job last season, but he lost it to Solarte, who was eventually traded for Headley. As it turned out, Solarte had the most starts at third, but even he barely started a third of the games there. Headley surged after the trade to New York, and that came after Solarte’s numbers had seriously dragged following his standout first month and a half. In theory, Headley is a better defender and potentially a better hitter than what the Yankees had last season, but Headley’s also had back issues and he’s rarely hit for much power.
Associated Press photo
Random thoughts on this Friday morning • 12.05.14
It’s Friday, and I’m actually off the clock for about 72 hours. I’m taking a few vacation days to spend today and the rest of the weekend with my parents, who are visiting from Missouri. I’ll check back in on Monday — or late Sunday night — when I get to San Diego for the Winter Meetings. Until then, a few random thoughts.
• One sure indication that this free agent market hasn’t played out in the Yankees favor is the fact Chase Headley has gotten a ton of attention lately. He’s a nice player — great glove, does enough offensively, strong presence in the clubhouse — but we just reached the start of December and he’s the best infielder out there. That’s not a great thing for a Yankees team that would like to add not one but two everyday infielders this offseason. With that in mind, last year’s Martin Prado trade looks better and better. Can you imagine trying to find three everyday infielders in this market? If that were the case, wouldn’t the Yankees have to simply roll the dice with either Alex Rodriguez or Rob Refsnyder?
• Andrew Miller is really good, and between him and Dellin Betances, the Yankees could surely find a closer. But I still think if the Yankees do end up signing Miller — without signing Dave Robertson — they might go after a guy like Jason Grilli or Casey Janssen on a one-year deal to potentially handle the ninth inning. Closer is an unusual job, but it’s not necessarily the most important job in the bullpen. Find a one-inning guy who’s been there and done that, and use Miller and Dellin Betances to really shorten the game. Just an idea. I still think the better way to go is simply re-signing Robertson.
• Isn’t it a bit odd that the free agent rumor mill seems to have completely forgotten Asdrubal Cabrera and Jed Lowrie? Stephen Drew’s name pops up occasionally in reports about the market’s lack of a standout shortstop, and Headley has gotten a ton of attention ever since Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval came off the market, but there’s been hardly a peep about Cabrera or Lowrie. Those two might not be shortstops, but in a market that’s thin on third basemen and second basemen, they can surely find an everyday job somewhere. Maybe even with the Yankees if dominoes fall the right way.
• Some talk earlier this week about the possibility of giving up the pursuit of Headley and simply giving Refsnyder a chance to play second base. How would the market have to develop for the Yankees to engage in similar conversations about letting Brendan Ryan play shortstop every day? He hardly played last season, but he carries a well-earned reputation as a defensive wizard. There are worse fallback options, I just what it takes for the Yankees to legitimately open that particular possibility.
• Six at least fairly interesting Yankees prospects who can play center field in Triple-A and/or Double-A next season: Eury Perez, Jake Cave, Mason Williams, Ramon Flores, Taylor Dugas and Adonis Garcia. That’s not to mention Ben Gamel, and even Jose Pirela got some center field time with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last year. Point is, the Yankees have a lot of center fielders in the upper levels, so many that I have no idea where exactly Slade Heathcott will play if he re-signs. Losing a first-round pick in a situation like this — ultimately non-tendered because of recurring injuries — is obviously no good, but at this point, I’m not sure Heathcott is a better prospect than a lot of guys just mentioned. Maybe he’ll be back, maybe he won’t, but I have a hard time disagreeing with the Yankees decision that they could no longer hold onto him at all costs. (By the way, all of this is to say nothing of Tyler Austin and Aaron Judge who will surely get most of the time in right field, and give the Yankees two more legitimate upper-level outfield prospects.)
• A quick checklist of topics for the first couple weeks of spring training: Don’t forget to ask about Masahiro Tanaka’s elbow, Carlos Beltran’s elbow, CC Sabathia’s knee, Michael Pineda’s shoulder, Ivan Nova’s rehab, Mark Teixeira’s wrist, Tyler Austin’s wrist, Martin Prado’s appendix, Brett Gardner’s abdomen, and Alex Rodriguez’s … everything. Offseason injury updates usually fill a day or two down in spring training. They might take up all of February this time.
Associated Press photo
Election day in the Yankees clubhouse • 11.04.14
It’s election day, so let’s have some fun with that!
I’m not going to say that I hope you all voted today. I’ll say instead that I hope you got yourself educated on the issues, really looked into the candidates and the possibilities, and then voted. That’s the way to take the responsibility seriously.
This blog post is one way to not take it seriously.
Remember being a senior in high school and voting on class personalities? If not, I’m sure you at least understand the reference. It’s not like voting for a senator or voting for an amendment. It’s done with a sense of having a good time, and that’s what this blog post is about. Here are a few suggestions for the leading candidates for various class superlatives on the current Yankees roster.
Most Likely to Succeed – Jacoby Ellsbury
With good reason, we focus a lot on the uncertainty of the Yankees current roster (and we’re going to focus on it again in a few sentences), but it’s interesting to do the opposite. What’s the most reliable piece heading into next season? I’d argue it’s Ellsbury, who more or less lived up to expectation in his first season with the Yankees. Factoring in track record, injury concerns, age, and everything else, I’d say Ellsbury is as reliable as it gets for next season.
Least Certain to Succeed – Masahiro Tanaka
Not least likely to succeed, just least certain. There can be no doubt about Tanaka’s talent – the first half of his rookie year proved his stuff can be plenty effective against major league hitters – but we also know that his elbow ligament was slightly torn last season. We know he can succeed, just can’t be certain he’ll have a successful 2015.
Class President – CC Sabathia
It will probably be several years before we see another Yankees captain, and the current roster really has no one quite like Derek Jeter in terms of clear clubhouse leadership. Recognizing that reality — acknowledging there’s no natural fit for team captain — who carries all those qualities you think of in a Class President? I think Sabathia fits best. He’s most certainly respected, he’s incredibly well liked, and he’s been around almost as long as anyone in the room.
Class Clown – Brendan Ryan
This is not intended as a joke about Ryan’s talent or impact. This is intended literally to point out that he’s a bit of a goofball. In a clubhouse full of veterans, where the word stoic is far more applicable than silly, Ryan is a breath of fresh air. He was in good spirits despite rarely playing last season, and there were days he literally went bounding through the locker room laughing like a little kid. As long as it doesn’t cross the line from amusing to annoying, I tend to think a clubhouse needs a guy like that.
Teacher’s Pet – Martin Prado
Honestly, I’m kind of guessing here, but doesn’t Prado seem like exactly the kind of guy a manager could fall in love with? Willing and able to play anywhere in the field. Willing and able to hit basically anywhere in the lineup. Willing (and sometimes able) to play hurt. Does all of that with a real sense of professionalism. With good reason, I could see Prado becoming a Joe Girardi favorite.
Greatest Overachiever – Brett Gardner
Walk-on in college. Labeled a fourth outfielder throughout the minor leagues. Relegated to platoon playing time when he got to the big leagues. Even Gardner’s believers seemed to always acknowledge that he might not actually become an everyday guy, yet this season he landed a multi-year deal and led the Yankees in WAR (according to Baseball Reference; FanGraphs had him second). That’s defying expectation in a big way.
Greatest Underachiever – Brian McCann
At this point, I’m just piling on against a player who I still believe could be a really nice hitter next season (he was awfully good in September). But, the thing with McCann’s disappointing season is that it can’t be blamed on injury or age. Carlos Beltran, Mark Teixeira, Brian Roberts and Alfonso Soriano had some excuses in place. McCann never really had one — and to his credit, he never made one — for his disappointing year.
Most Anticipated – Michael Pineda
If we’re looking ahead to next year, then Rob Refsnyder might fit in this spot. If we’re looking beyond next year, then maybe Luis Severino or Aaron Judge. If we’re looking back to last year, then it’s surely Tanaka. But as a combination — last season, next season, and beyond — the anticipation of Pineda is difficult to overlook. The Yankees waited years to finally get him on the field, and they still haven’t seen what he can do in a full season.
Mr. Nice Guy – Adam Warren
Here’s the thing: If Adam reads this and sees a “Mr. Nice Guy” category, he’ll know that he’s going to win it. So will every one of his teammates. It’s not that there are a bunch of jerks in that room — Francisco Cervelli? Incredibly nice guy. Zelous Wheeler? Impossible to dislike. CC Sabathia? Ivan Nova? Brett Gardner? All invited to any dinner I’m attending. — but Warren’s a really, genuinely, nice guy. I don’t know how else to describe him. By the way, Chase Whitley might have been the choice here, but he’s made fun of Missouri football too many times. Total jerk, that guy.
Least Popular – Alex Rodriguez
I know, I know, this one is too easy. But who else fits this description, and what other distinction best fits this player? Rodriguez has gone beyond a lightning rod. At this point, he’s simply a cautionary tale about bad contracts, and performance enhancing drugs, and poor public relations decisions. Rodriguez will probably be booed a lot next year, but if he hits, I bet he’ll be cheered again.
Life of the Party – Dellin Betances
Not in the usual sense. Betances isn’t the life of the party because he’s an over-the-top personality (he’s actually pretty subdued for the most part). He’s the life of the party because he was surely the best thing about last season, and he’s one of the absolute bright spots heading into next season. If you want to look at the roster and find an undeniably good thing, a young success story like Betances — who’s not tied to a bad contract, who’s still in his 20s, who came up through the minor league system, who still has an exciting future — is about as good as it gets for the Yankees right now. The life of the party brings excitement when things get dull, and that’s certainly what Betances is doing.
Associated Press photos
What to do about second base? • 10.27.14
The Yankees really don’t have a problem at second base. They have a perfectly capable big league option in place with Martin Prado, and they have on-the-verge second base prospects in Rob Refsnyder and Jose Pirela. They’re set in the short term, and they have some hope for the long term.
None of these guys is Robinson Cano, but the options aren’t bad.
Problem is, what happens at second base is connected to what happens at third base, and so there’s still a bit of uncertainty. Move Prado to third and second base becomes all about potential and nothing about proven experience.
So what to do about second base?
1. Make third base a separate issue
This means, essentially, committing to Prado as the Opening Day second baseman. Pirela could still play his way into a bench role, and Refsnyder could force a change if he rakes in spring training (or in the first month or so back at Triple-A) but the Yankees could essentially approach this offseason with Prado locked in at second base, making the third base uncertainty a separate issue. If the second base situation is what it is – with Prado and the two young guys – then there’s little else to discuss at the position.
2. Commit to one of the young guys
Essentially, do nothing at either second base or third base. The roster stays as it is, but instead of Prado being penciled in at second base, he’s penciled in at third base. Alex Rodriguez is the regular designated hitter, and the Yankees commit to either Refsnyder or Pirela playing second base on Opening Day. It would essentially let them spend money elsewhere, but would force some level of belief and patience through inevitable growing pains.
3. Prepare to mix and match
Don’t commit to anything at either second base or third base. Simply try to find three options for two infield positions: Rodriguez, Prado and someone else. That likely means signing some sort of veteran second baseman – maybe a Mark Ellis type – to add an experienced option just in case Refsnyder and Pirela each fall flat. Mixing and matching would not require the kind of contract that absolutely has to be in the lineup, but it would likely involve some sort of free agent who has experience.
4. Focus on a second base upgrade
Maybe Chase Headley is too expensive for a defense-first player. Maybe Pablo Sandoval is too expensive, period. Maybe there’s not a great third-base option out there, so instead of focusing on third base a position of uncertainty, the Yankees decide that Prado is the third baseman, Rodriguez is the DH, and they go looking for help at second. That could mean finding a low-cost veteran to compete with Pirela and Refsnyder – perhaps that’s all the market will allow – but it would surely mean a more concentrated effort to do more. For example: how readily available and viable is Chase Utley? Essentially, instead of signing a new third baseman, the Yankees commit resources toward a regular second baseman.
Associated Press photos
State of the organization: Second base • 10.08.14
Moving around the diamond in our look at the state of the Yankees organization, we settle into second base where the Yankees made a massive decision last winter to pass on the 10-year deal it would take to sign Robinson Cano. Recognizing that Cano was the team’s best short-term fit, the team instead made a long-term decision to avoid a potential repeat of the Alex Rodriguez contract. Passing on Cano has left uncertainty but also opportunity at the position.
Signed through 2016
For now, Prado projects as the Opening Day second baseman, but that’s hardly a sure thing. In fact, it’s Prado’s ability to play so many other positions that makes him a nice fit for this current Yankees roster. If the lineup is full uncertainty, it’s nice to have a guy who can plug a lot of holes, and that’s Prado. In a perfect world, Alex Rodriguez will be able to play third base, Carlos Beltran will be able to play right field, and second base will belong to Prado until one of the young guys is ready to take over. But if Rodriguez isn’t moving well in spring training — and if the Yankees haven’t signed a go-to backup — then Prado could shift to third base. If Beltran suffers some sort of setback and can’t handle right field, then Prado could become an outfield regular (which is the way the Yankees planned to use him this season when they acquired him at the trade deadline). Through most of his career, Prado has hit for a strong average while showing a decent amount of power, especially for a middle infielder, and he’s clearly going to play regularly. If it’s not at second base, it will be somewhere.
On the verge
Really, there are two second basemen who qualify as “on the verge” of winning a big league job. The bigger name, and arguably the safer bet, is Rob Refsnyder, but he fits best in the next category. So we’ll use Pirela in this spot. Despite his standout season in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre — hit .305/.351/.441 and made the postseason All-Star team — the Yankees initially held off on giving Pirela a September call-up. It wasn’t until Prado with down with a season-ending appendectomy that Pirela got to make his big league debut, and it seems telling that he was the Yankees starting second baseman for each of those final three games in Boston. The Yankees big league staff got a chance to see him at the position before heading into the winter. Pirela does not have a great defensive reputation, but he does have plenty of defensive flexibility. He’s played every position except catcher and pitcher, and while he would be more of an emergency option at shortstop or center field, he seems at least passable at second, third, first and the outfield corners. He’s on the 40-man roster now, which suggests the Yankees intend to keep him and give him a look in spring training. Could be a utility man off the bench, or he could play his way into more regular playing time if he carries this year’s offensive success to the next level.
Of the Yankees top position prospects, Refsnyder is the one most immediately in the discussion for a big league job. Aaron Judge, Eric Jagielo, Greg Bird and Gary Sanchez aren’t ready to compete for jobs this spring, John Ryan Murphy is blocked at his position, and it’s hard to call Slade Heathcott or Mason Williams a top position prospect at this point. Refsnyder, though, has moved quickly, and he spent most of this year hitting .300/.389/.456 in Triple-A. His bat was impressive enough that the Yankees began to prepare him for a possible outfield job until trade deadline reinforcements let Refsnyder continue to get reps at second base, where the team has been impressed by his improvement. So far Refsnyder has lived up to his billing as an advanced hitter, and he seems to impress everyone around him with his work ethic and maturity. When the Yankees decide Refsnyder is ready, there may be no easing-in process. He could very well show up in New York — either on Opening Day or soon after — already holding the keys to the second base job.
Deeper in the system
A second-round draft pick out of a California high school, Katoh was drafted a year and a half ago, and he’s just now — on this very day, actually — turning 20 years old. He’s young, and his first full season of pro ball seemed to show some of that youthful inexperience along with some of the tools that made the Yankees draft him so highly in the first place. Katoh’s overall slash line in Charleston wasn’t overly impressive (.222/.345/.326) but the on-base percentage stands out. He struck out a whopping 142 times, but he also walked 71 times. And he showed improvement, hitting .190/.302/.315 in the first half before hitting .251/.382/.337 in the second half. “He’s a good defender,” Mark Newman said. “He can run. He can play. He’s smart. He’s got the kind of approach at the plate that’s going to allow him to get on base. It was a big jump for him.” That’s true. A full season at Low-A is pretty aggressive for a 19 year old. Katoh’s performance was a sign of what he could be, with proof that he’s not there yet. Even so, he’s clearly ahead of Angelo Gumbs and Anderson Feliz among organizational second base prospects, and he’s still a step ahead of 2014 draftee Ty McFarland (who had a solid debut in Staten Island) and versatile Dominican Junior Valera (who had a nice U.S. debut in rookie ball).
A game of adjustments
Cano’s first year of pro ball, he played shortstop and third base. Pirela was primarily a shortstop through Double-A. Refsnyder was an outfielder in college. Point is, predicting long-term second basemen is often tough when looking through a minor league system. At this point it seems safe to assume Refsnyder is a second baseman barring a surprising twist of fate — or a complete inability to do the job in New York — but as long as we’re looking at the state of the entire organization, it’s worth recognizing that the long-term future of second base could depend on a young kid who’s never played the position at this point. Shortstop prospect Abe Avelino, for example. Just this year, the Yankees spent heavily on young international free agents, and many of them were infielders who currently profile at shortstop — guys like Wilkerman Garcia, Diego Castillo, Hyo-Jun Park — but their position could certainly change as they get older. The biggest name of that bunch is Jorge Mateo, an incredibly toolsy young shortstop out of the Dominican Republic. Expectation is that he can stay at short, but circumstances and opportunity may dictate that he’s eventually part of the second base conversation. Think about what happened with Manny Machado moving off shortstop for a while in Baltimore. It happens.
Associated Press photo
After yesterday’s five innings against low-level minor leaguers, Masahiro Tanaka complained of no unusual pain or discomfort today and will step back into the Yankees rotation on Sunday. It’s entirely possible the game will be completely meaningless in the standings, but it will be Tanaka’s most significant test of an elbow ligament that was found to be slightly torn in early July.
“More than anything, I want to see if my body is able to go fully on a major-league mound; pitch on the mound,” Tanaka said. “That’s by far, (more than) anything, most important to me. Also, the fact that, to be able to contribute in the team’s win would be something important to me too.”
Joe Girardi made it clear that Tanaka will pitch Sunday even if the Yankees are mathematically eliminated at that point.
“Obviously he’s got to throw his bullpen again, which I don’t suspect will be a problem, but he’s got to do that,” Girardi said. “… He’s pitching if he’s OK.”
Roughly 70-75 pitches, Girardi said. It seems likely Tanaka would make one more start as long as Sunday goes as hoped.
“Even if it’s short, if I’m able to go out there and have a strong outing, it’ll give me some good confidence (that the elbow has healed),” Tanaka said.
• No surprise that Martin Prado is out of the lineup, but it was a mild surprise that Mark Teixeira’s not in there. It’s hit right wrist again. Girardi said it was bothering him the final game of last week’s home stand, but now it’s significant enough to keep him out of the lineup. “I told him, come see me when you’re ready to go again,” Girardi said.
• Girardi gave absolutely no indication that Teixeira will miss the rest of the season, but it seems worth wondering if that’s possible. “You’re hoping when you have the surgery (last year) that you’re healthy and you can play every day,” Girardi said. “But for whatever reason, it’s lingered with him. Maybe the offseason will help and he’ll get through it and we won’t have that problem. That’s my hope for next year.”
• As for Prado, he had the appendectomy this morning. “He had a stomach ache all day yesterday and played through it,” Girardi said. “He went right from here to (the hospital) to have the tests and they determined that he needed to have surgery.”
• To add similar defensive flexibility, the Yankees have called up Jose Pirela, but he hasn’t played since the end of the Triple-A season two weeks ago. “We’ll try to get him in there,” Girardi said. “He hasn’t done much for two weeks. We’ll work him out a couple of days, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t just throw him in there one day.”
• Girardi said Francisco Cervelli got full medical clearance last night, but Girardi waited until today to get Cervelli back on the field. This is Cervelli’s first game action since those migraines earlier this month.
• This is another Michael Pineda start. He’s faced 102 consecutive batters without allowing a walk or a hit-by-pitch. He hasn’t walked anyone since August 20.
Associated Press photos