On the 40-man: Masahiro Tanaka • 02.19.15
With pitchers and catchers reporting tomorrow, our look at every player on the Yankees 40-man roster shifts to perhaps the most important player on the roster. The success of this rotation could hinge on the health of his right elbow.
Age on Opening Day: 26
Acquired: Signed out of Japan last winter
Added to the 40-man: The signing became official January 22
In the past: A standout in Japan, Tanaka became last winter’s most prized commodity. The Yankees had already signed a slew of Major League free agents, but their biggest splash of a nearly half-billion-dollar offseason was a seven-year, $155-million deal with Tanaka. He arrived with incredible fanfare and looked like a Rookie of the Year and Cy Young candidate before discovering a slight tear in his right elbow ligament. Multiple specialists recommended he rehab the injury before surgery, and Tanaka returned to make two healthy starts at the end of the season.
Role in 2015: Regardless of whether he gets the nod on Opening Day, Tanaka is clearly the Yankees’ ace. Last year’s first half was enough to show his enormous ability and potential, and even with CC Sabathia still signed and Michael Pineda coming off a strong (but brief) return, Tanaka still stands out as the Yankees No. 1 starter. Of course, filling that role is contingent upon staying healthy. That torn elbow ligament could be a ticking time bomb. The Yankees have avoided surgery so far, but how much longer will that last?
Best case scenario: After last season’s six-month tease, the bar is incredible high. A Cy Young award doesn’t seem out of reach in an absolute best-case scenario. If Tanaka’s able to maintain last year’s numbers through a full season of 30-plus starts, he could be one of the elite starting pitchers in all of baseball, a true ace that makes the late-career decline of Sabathia more manageable for the Yankees. Health and dominance. Is that too much to ask?
Worst case scenario: A pop right at the end of spring training. That’s the nightmare scenario. Tanaka could get tantalizingly close to Opening Day only to have his elbow blow out, forcing him to miss all of 2015 and perhaps the very beginning of 2016 (with the looming risk that he returns as a lesser pitcher than the one we saw last season). If Tanaka fall short of last year’s numbers, he could still be a very good starting pitcher. What’s more troubling is that ligament and the constant threat that it could snap at any moment.
What the future holds: The Yankees signed Tanaka to a seven-year deal, but the contract includes an opt-out clause after the 2017 season. That means, for right now, the Yankees can only bank on having Tanaka for this season and two more. That’s four total years of guaranteed team control, and the Yankees have already lost half a season due to injury. They’d like to get their money’s worth for the next three. If Tanaka stays healthy and effective, he’ll surely take the opt out to maximize his value yet again. If he doesn’t take the opt out, it could very well be because something has gone wrong between now and then.
Associated Press photo
Predictably quiet Thursday considering it’s the day before pitchers and catchers officially report to Yankees camp. I’m actually just now getting on my flight to Tampa, getting into town in time to check into a hotel, guy some groceries and get some sleep before our first open clubhouse of the spring (and before Joe Girardi does his annual start-of-spring-training press conference tomorrow morning).
Two things making some news down in Tampa today.
1. Yoan Moncada had another private workout with the Yankees. George King reported today that the Yankees brought Moncada to Steinbrenner Field on Wednesday night for a private and secret (at the time) workout for team officials. Clearly the Yankees are doing their full homework on the young Cuban infielder, who King says would most likely play second base and open the season in A ball.
2. Masahiro Tanaka threw his scheduled bullpen at the minor league complex. This was Tanaka’s first official bullpen of the spring, and it was predictably light. Erik Boland counted 21 pitches and provided that favorite quote for all early spring bullpens: Tanaka was throwing “free and easy.” How much to make of a light, early bullpen? Probably not much, but at least Tanaka didn’t grab his elbow on on pitch No. 21.
Associated Press photo
The latest from The Associated Press in Tampa:
Tanaka missed 2½ months last year while rehabilitating a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, managed to avoid surgery and returned for two late-September starts. The right-hander threw for 34 minutes on level ground Tuesday, a day after arriving from Japan ahead of the opening spring training workout this weekend.
“Just pretty much what I expected to see,” Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild said Wednesday. “No problems. Right now everything is where it should be.”
Signed to a $155 million, seven-year contract, Tanaka went 13-5 with a 2.77 ERA in 20 starts last year.
“We’ll bring him along as his arm will dictate,” Rothschild said. “I’m not going to push it. As things crop up, if we need to deal with them we will. Right now, I’m just looking at him as a guy that we’re going to bring along according to how his arm will allow us. I’m approaching it that he’s a healthy pitcher that we just need to be aware of what the history is there.”
Tanaka and the other Yankees rotation members could be getting extra days off during the regular season.
“I think we have 30 games in 31 days from April into May,” Rothschild said. We’re going to have to examine if we’re going to use a sixth starter during some of those stretches, but not necessarily to have a six-man rotation.”
Associated Press photo
This morning’s Pinch Hitter post centered on an issue that seems key to the perception of the Yankees’ offseason: there’s a real sense that there’s nothing to be excited about this season.
With familiar icons having faded into retirement, the Yankees are now a collection of relatively new guys, many of them disappointing veterans whose best years are behind them. Even those players who could bring some excitement also bring cause for concern either because of an injury, because of lagging numbers, or because of one very prominent suspension.
As Derek pointed out this morning, the Yankees don’t have a standout source of constant excitement. There’s no Enter Sandman playing in the ninth inning, no Bob Sheppard announcing No. 2, and no telling what to expect from Alex Rodriguez. Out of that desperation, Derek wrote this morning that he sees hope for Rodriguez to create some kind of stir; to at least grab the crowd’s attention four or five times every game.
I’m wondering if there might be other reasons — in some cases, more likely reasons — to cheer this season.
Here’s my list of 10 things that could grab fans’ attention and give reason to cheer at Yankee Stadium this season. As always, these are based on positive scenarios, because how often does a worst-case scenario capture our imagination?
This is probably the most obvious and most important element in making any stadium feel “electric.” Fans like a winner, even if it’s a winner that doesn’t have some roster ties to past championships. Want Yankee Stadium to feel exciting again? Put a winner on the field. Teams that miss the playoffs two years in a row tend to draw less-than-enthusiastic crowds. Want Yankee Stadium to be a place opposing players fear? Put those opposing players against a good team.
2. Masahiro Tanaka
More than A-Rod, I think it’s Tanaka who has the best chance to single-handedly bring some excitement to Yankee Stadium this season. Sure, he pitches only once every five days, might pitch only once in a given home stand, and might not pitch at all if his elbow blows out — but if Tanaka is healthy and as good as he was last year, he could be electric and bring some true excitement. This isn’t a past-his-prime veteran. This is an ace in his mid-20s with a bright present and a bright future (assuming things go the right way).
3. Young guys up the middle
If the common knock against the Yankees is that they’re too old with a roster past its collective prime, Didi Gregorius and Rob Refsnyder could change that with a pair of 20-somethings playing in the middle of the infield. Gregorius isn’t homegrown, but he never really established himself elsewhere, so any upside belongs to the Yankees. Refsnyder isn’t a finished product, but he could hit his way into the lineup, and he could stick around for the next decade. These two could make a case for helping the Yankees in the short-term, while giving fans some long-term hope for the future.
4. Resurgent veterans
If CC Sabathia is good again, I think he’s worth watching every time he’s on the mound. He’s an emotional player. He’s a clubhouse leader. He’s a guy who’s fallen down the past two seasons, and seeing him pick himself up would surely make him a fan favorite (even if he’s nothing more than a No. 2 or 3 starter at this point). Carlos Beltran could also be a rallying point, and a strong Mark Teixeira could give the Yankees a true home run threat, the kind of guy who could change a game with one swing.
5. Second-half arrivals
I suppose it depends on the circumstances in which they arrive, but there’s a lot to be said for a wave of young players showing up it the second half to make a difference. Maybe Refsnyder takes the second base job. Maybe Jacob Lindgren joins the bullpen. Maybe Slade Heathcott gets healthy, gets back on track, and gets a chance. Maybe it’s not out of the question that Aaron Judge and/or Luis Severino could be in the Bronx before September. A mid-season youth movement should catch the attention of the fan base.
6. Speed on the bases
I’ve said it several times: I love the way speed plays in the game of baseball. I love watching someone track down a fly ball in the outfield. I love watching an infielder charge a slow roller while a hitter sprints down the first-base line. I love watching a guy steal second base or try to leg out a triple. The Yankees have speed in Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner, and those could can generate excitement without hitting home runs.
7. Dellin Betances
Asking that he become the next Mariano Rivera is probably asking too much, but give this guy the closer role and pick a good song to serenade his trip to the mound, and Betances could be a show worth watching in the ninth inning. Homegrown prospect, raised in New York City, throwing 99 mph fastballs and striking out a ton of guys? How is that not worth watching? How is that not going to grab the attention of Yankee Stadium?
8. A rotation of 20-somethings
If Tanaka’s elbow holds up, and Michael Pineda’s shoulder doesn’t blow out, and Ivan Nova comes back from Tommy John, and Nathan Eovaldi improves his strikeout numbers — that’s four starting pitchers, each in his 20s, filling almost all of the Yankees’ rotation. Yes, the Yankees’ rotation is a giant question mark right now, but if it gets/stays healthy, it could be an exciting group to watch for now and for the future.
9. Alex Rodriguez
Let’s face it, Derek was onto something this morning. Rodriguez could be worth all of the attention he’s going to get. If he’s terrible, he’s going to be just another part of the problem; just another guy who fans don’t want to see at the plate or in the field. If Rodriguez stinks, he’ll be a microcosm of all that’s drained the life out of Yankee Stadium (too rich, too old, too unproductive, too unappealing). But if he hits, people will take notice, and people will react one way or another. If Rodriguez is doing anything positive on the field, Yankee Stadium will not be quiet about it.
10. Some sense of a plan
Maybe this is too broad, but I do think that some life will return to Yankee Stadium if there’s some sense of a clear direction. Back in 2013, the lineup was a complete mess and it was clear that the roster was full of short-term placeholders. Last year, injuries again took away key pieces, and it was hard to tell whether the Yankees were still focused on spending or development. This year, some clarity — something to let us know which direction this team is heading — might renew confidence and let fans focus on the bigger picture instead of booing every disappointment along the way.
Associated Press photos
A quick update on the Yankees’ ace from The Associated Press in Florida:
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Masahiro Tanaka threw for 34 minutes on level ground in his first workout of the year at the New York Yankees’ minor league complex.
Tanaka missed 2½ months last year while rehabilitating a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, managed to avoid surgery and returned for two late-September starts.
After arriving from Japan, he threw at up to about 200 feet. He ended his session by using his delivery to make 16 level ground pitches at 60 feet.
Tanaka didn’t speak with reporters after the workout.
“He looked good,” teammate Ivan Nova said. “I’m sure he worked really hard. The way he handled it, unbelievable.”
Signed to a $155 million, seven-year contract, Tanaka went 13-5 with a 2.77 ERA in 20 starts. The Yankees say he has been throwing as part of his normal conditioning program in Japan.
NOTES: Nova might throw off a mound this week for the first time since elbow ligament-replacement surgery and appears on track to rejoin the team by June. He tore a ligament in his right elbow last April 19 during a game against Tampa Bay and had surgery 10 days later.
Associated Press photo
A few quick things to have on your radar this afternoon:
• As expected, Masahiro Tanaka began working out at the Yankees minor league complex today. The Yankees have said all reports are positive so far. He played catch today.
• Baseball America’s Ben Badler still pegs the Yankees as the favorites to sign Yoan Moncada. “(If) the Yankees are motivated to do whatever it takes to sign Moncada, they should be able to get him,” Badler writes.
• This could be interesting: The Daily News reports Alex Rodriguez is considering The Players’ Tribune as his format for issuing a public apology before spring training begins.
• Also, in case you missed it, our friend Mark Feinsand reports that former Yankees first baseman Jason Giambi has decided to retire. I’ve done everything I possibly can in my career,” Giambi said. He now wants to focus on his kids.
• Finally, here’s here’s Curt Anderson with The Associated Press providing the details of today’s sentencing of Anthony Bosch:
MIAMI (AP) — The former owner of a Florida medical clinic who posed as a doctor and illegally supplied steroid injections and other performance-enhancing drugs to professional baseball players and even high school athletes was sentenced Tuesday to four years in federal prison.
Anthony Bosch — who choked back tears in court and said the clinic was a legitimate business gone awry — sought a more lenient term because of his cooperation in the investigation, but U.S. District Judge Darrin Gayles refused.
“This defendant was the most culpable in this conspiracy,” the judge said.
Prosecutors said Bosch could still get his sentence reduced through further cooperation, including potential trial testimony.
Gayles said Bosch falsely held himself out as a licensed medical doctor at his Biogenesis of America clinic, where he accepted thousands of dollars a month to provide steroid injections to players such as New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers. Most troubling, Gayles said, was Bosch’s injections of high school players in the Miami area.
“He was the mastermind,” Gayles said. “He was the one who recruited others to assist him.”
Bosch, 51, pleaded guilty in October to conspiracy to distribute testosterone, the sixth person charged in the Biogenesis case to do so. Bosch and Rodriguez are expected to testify if the last two defendants — Rodriguez cousin Yuri Sucart and ex-University of Miami pitching coach Lazaro Collazo — go to trial as scheduled in early April.
MLB imposed a record season-long suspension last year on Rodriguez, one of 14 players penalized in the scandal. The Yankees say Rodriguez, 39, is no longer their third baseman and will have a chance to earn at-bats as a designated hitter.
MLB spokesman Pat Courtney declined to comment.
Bosch, who has been undergoing treatment for cocaine addiction since his guilty plea, was joined by more than two dozen friends and family members at his sentencing hearing.
“I’m ashamed of myself. I’m remorseful,” Bosch said. “I can’t put into words how sorry I am.”
But Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan said that rather than help people with medical problems, Bosch’s main goal was to rake in money by illegally making the athletes “bigger, stronger and faster ballplayers.” Bosch liked to call himself “Dr. T,” according to court records.
“He was not a legitimate doctor. He wasn’t treating an illness. He wasn’t treating a disease,” Sullivan said.
Bosch lawyer Guy Lewis, a former U.S. attorney in Miami, said that without his cooperation, MLB would not have had sufficient evidence to sustain Rodriguez’s suspension. Lewis said Bosch has met dozens of times with U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents and helped prosecutors pore over thousands of pages of documents.
That cooperation, Lewis added, came despite threats from unnamed people warning Bosch to keep his mouth shut, forcing him to hire security services and move to several different locations. Bosch was also offered $150,000 to flee to Colombia and “lay low,” but he did not, Lewis said.
“Mr. Bosch has cooperated thoroughly and extensively,” Lewis said. “He was truthful. He was reliable.”
But Gayles refused Lewis’ request that Bosch receive a lighter sentence of just under three years.
Associated Press photos
The Yankees announced today that they have signed right-handed reliever Jared Burton to a minor league contract with an invitation to big league spring training. Burton, 33, spent most of the past eight years in the big leagues. His past two seasons were with the Twins, and he had a cumulative 1.28 WHIP those two years. His strikeouts went down quite a bit last year. Looks like just another bit of bullpen depth.
Also, here are three Yankees items coming from The Associated Press today: two straight from the minor league complex in Tampa, and one random story from New York.
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Chase Headley says Alex Rodriguez has “reached out and introduced himself.”
Headley was signed to a $52 million, four-year contract by the Yankees, who plan to start him at third base and shift Rodriguez to designated hitter.
Returning from a season-long suspension for violations of baseball’s drug agreement and labor contract, the 39-year-old Rodriguez hopes to win back his old job at third base. Headley said A-Rod contacted him shortly after he reached the agreement in mid-December.
“We didn’t talk about that,” Headley said Monday after working out at the Yankees’ minor league complex. “It was just more of an introduction. I think we both care about winning. That’s the most important thing and that’s what we talked about. That (other) stuff will sort itself out. I’m not going to concern myself with that. I’m going to come out and try to do the best I can to do my job, and however that shakes out it will shake out.”
Headley was acquired from the San Diego Padres last July, then became a free agent before signing with the Yankees.
Rodriguez met with top Yankees officials last Tuesday and apologized to the team as he prepares to report to spring training ahead of the first full-squad workout on Feb. 26.
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — New York Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka is set to start workouts ahead of spring training.
Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild said Tanaka was scheduled to arrive in Florida on Monday night from Japan. Tanaka missed 2½ months last year while rehabilitating a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. He returned for two late-September starts.
“So far everything is good,” Rothschild said Monday at the Yankees’ minor league complex. “That doesn’t mean it will be going forward, but we’re going to do everything we can. We’ll put schedules together and things like that to try to keep him healthy.”
Signing to a $155 million, seven-year contract, Tanaka went 13-5 with a 2.77 ERA in 20 starts. The Yankees say he has been throwing as part of his normal conditioning program in Japan.
NEW YORK (AP) — The glove Jeffrey Maier used to catch Derek Jeter’s tying home run against Baltimore in the eighth inning of the 1996 AL Championship Series opener at the original Yankee Stadium will be auctioned.
Heritage Auction said Monday the glove will be put up for bids on Feb. 21 in New York. It did not identify the current owner, who it said had purchased the glove from Maier.
Then 12, Maier reached in front of the right-field wall and prevented Tony Tarasco from catching Jeter’s drive on Oct. 9, 1996. Umpire Rich Garcia declined to call fan interference and Bernie Williams hit an 11th-inning home run that gave the Yankees a 5-4 victory. Baltimore’s protest was denied by baseball’s ruling executive council and AL President Gene Budig.
New York went on to defeat the Orioles in five games and win the first of what would be four World Series titles in five years.
Associated Press photos
From Mark Didtler at The Associated Press…
“So far he’s felt good,” Rothschild said Monday at the Yankees minor league complex. “He’s had a good winter.”
Tanaka is throwing and doing his normal conditioning program in Japan. Signed to a $155 million, seven-year contract in January 2014, Tanaka went 13-5 with a .277 ERA over 20 starts. He missed 2 1/2 months while rehabilitating a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in the elbow and returned for two late September starts. Boston chased him with an eight-run second inning in his finale on Sept. 27.
“The last start he didn’t pitch well, but he didn’t feel bad,” Rothschild said. “We’ve got to manage a few guys in spring training and try and get them through healthy, and he’s one of them.”
Rothschild also has received encouraging reports on CC Sabathia, who was sidelined with a degenerative cartilage problem in his right knee and had season-ending surgery in July.
The six-time All-Star and 2007 AL Cy Young Award winner was 3-4 in eight starts with a career-worst 5.28 ERA.
“He needs to pitch this spring,” Rothschild said.” He hasn’t pitched much the last two years, so you’ve got to watch his arm too and get that ready, and be smart about that. The knee, you’ve got to be aware of. There’s a lot that we’ve just got to pay attention to.”
Associated Press photo
When I put out the call for Pinch Hitters, I honestly didn’t expect to get one in defense of Brian Cashman. That said, I kind of like when these posts go against the typical public opinion, and this winter, a pro-Cashman blog post certainly qualifies.
Now that James Shields has landed in San Diego, we know the Yankees are not going to make a free agent signing any bigger than Chase Headley. They’re going to roll the dice in the rotation, lean heavily on the bullpen, and hope for bounce-back seasons from several veteran hitters.
As a general rule, I’m of the opinion that the Yankees needed to restrict spending this offseason to avoid some familiar pitfalls, so I mostly agree with Daniel’s morning post: I basically think Cashman did a fine job under the circumstances. There are plenty of questions in the rotation and the lineup, and the farm system seems a year away from making a major contribution, but the Yankees did manage to get younger without adding any huge-risk contracts.
I think it was a reasonable approach to the offseason, but it clearly comes with considerable risk. Whether it works in the short-term will depend on several touch-to-predict factors.
Here are 10 issues that may determine whether we look back at Cashman’s offseason as a real success or a total failure.
1. Masahiro Tanaka’s elbow
Of all the health questions in the Yankees’ rotation, none is as significant as Tanaka’s torn elbow ligament. When the injury came to light last season, some of the top medical experts in the world recommended the Yankees postpone surgery and try to rehab the injury. The Yankees listened, followed that advice, and Tanaka returned to make a couple of late-season starts. The elbow, though, still looms as a ticking time bomb. Whether it was his decision or not — his evaluation or not — Cashman will most certainly take the heat if Tanaka’s elbow blows out between now and the postseason. If it holds up, the Yankees have their ace. If it doesn’t, Cashman will have missed out on the opportunity to acquire a ready replacement in Max Scherzer or Jon Lester.
2. Brian McCann’s bat
Last winter, there seemed to be near universal agreement that McCann was a natural fit for the Yankees. There were certainly those who wanted the team to stay away, but the Yankees have a long tradition of impact catchers, and McCann’s left-handed power and pitch-framing reputation made him an obvious target. Cashman gave him a five-year deal, despite the presence of John Ryan Murphy and Gary Sanchez. Now the Yankees are committed, and McCann stands out as the one middle-of-the-order slugger who can’t blame injuries of last year’s diminished production. His bat remains a key piece of this lineup, both in the short term and the long term. If he doesn’t produce for a second straight season, McCann’s contract is going to look like an overwhelming problem going forward.
3. Stephen Drew’s return
A one-year, $5-million deal isn’t a make-or-break contract for the Yankees. In this case, though, it seems like an all-or-nothing decision for Cashman. If Drew struggles to another sub-.200 batting average, Cashman is going to look foolish for giving a second opportunity to a player who performed so poorly a year ago (especially when there were younger second basemen in place). If Drew bounces back to his 2013 level of production — providing a great glove and decent power for a middle infielder — Cashman will appear savvy, taking advantage of a buy-low opportunity (especially for a player who provides insurance at not only second base but also at shortstop).
4. The ninth inning
Whoever takes the job, the Yankees need someone to effectively close the door in the ninth inning. It stands out as an especially sensitive issue because of the decision to let Dave Robertson sign with the White Sox for marginally more money than the Yankees gave Andrew Miller. Cashman has said the decision was based, at least partially, on the draft pick compensation tied to Robertson. A draft pick, though, is no sure thing, and right now the Yankees don’t have a single reliever with significant ninth-inning experience. Robertson was a known quantity. If Miller or Dellin Betances or whoever else can’t handle the closer role, Cashman will have neglected a job that the Yankees — after two decades of Mariano Rivera — should appreciate as much as anyone.
5. The fifth starter
Top-of-the-rotation concerns aside, one of the Yankees most pressing rotation issues is the apparent lack of depth. If healthy, the Yankees seem to have a perfectly good top four, but right now their fifth starter is Chris Capuano, with relievers Adam Warren and Esmil Rogers looking like the most immediate sixth starter candidates. Pitching prices got out of control this winter — four years for Brandon McCarthy, eight figures for Brett Anderson — but the Yankees certainly went into the offseason recognizing their need for rotation help. They acquired Nathan Eovaldi, but also gave up Shane Greene. Essentially, Cashman chose to roll the dice on the health of his in-place starters, the return of Ivan Nova, and the short-term ability of Capuano. A big contract would have been a big risk, but the alternative isn’t exactly risk-free.
6. Everything about Didi Gregorius
This was the choice at shortstop. With Derek Jeter retired, the Yankees were left with a glaring hole at a position once claimed by an icon. Cashman chose to make a trade for a 24-year-old kid who’s never proven he can be an everyday player in the big leagues. If Gregorius is a great defensive player (and others are able to provide some offense), the decision might look like a solid one. If Gregorius can actually hit beyond his Arizona numbers, the decision could look like a great one. But if Gregorius falls flat, the Yankees will have given up a young starting pitcher — one who might have solved some of those familiar rotation issues — for a guy who does nothing to solve an issue the Yankees had to see coming for several years.
7. Everything about third base
There was little Cashman could do this offseason about Alex Rodriguez. Unless ownership decided to simply cut ties, Cashman was stuck with a roster that included a 39-year-old coming off a year-long suspension after a series of injuries and several seasons of declining numbers. All Cashman could do was try to work around the Rodriguez issue. He did so by making his most expensive commitment of the winter: a four-year, $52-million deal with Chase Headley, a player with a history of back problems and only one season with more than 13 home runs. It was a fairly risky deal, but if Headley plays well — and doesn’t cause a stir with A-Rod — it will look like a reasonable reaction to a difficult situation. If Headley gets hurt or doesn’t produce, it will stir questions about the decision to give such a contract while trading away a guy like Martin Prado.
8. Three names: Judge, Bird, Severino
Rob Refsnyder and Jacob Lindgren might be the first chance to make the big league roster, but the perceived value of the Yankees farm system could hinge heavily on the continued development of Aaron Judge, Greg Bird and Luis Severino. Those are the high-end, upper-level talents — or at least, those are the perceived high-end, upper-level talents — and those three are natural in-house solutions for the bad contracts that currently belong to Carlos Beltran, Mark Teixeira and CC Sabathia. Younger guys like Jorge Mateo and Luis Torrens might help eventually, but Cashman needs a minor league victory sooner than that. Get Judge, Bird and Severino to Triple-A this year — perhaps even to New York before the end of the year — and the Yankees will at least have a farm system that seems ready to provide immediate impact.
9. One other name: Manny Banuelos
Prospect success goes both ways for Cashman. If he’s going to get credit for the success of those he’s kept, he has to take the blame for those he’s traded away. Even without a single inning in the big leagues, Banuelos was pretty close to a household name as far as prospects go (at least among Yankees fans). He was kind of like Jesus Montero in that way. Fans were waiting for him and expecting big things, and Cashman traded him away. If Banuelos gets back on track with Atlanta and lives up to his potential, Cashman will have given up a young, much-anticipated young starter for a couple of relief pitchers. Even if David Carpenter and Chasen Shreve are great, that trade will look ugly if Banuelos is racking up wins in Atlanta.
10. Yoan Moncada’s free agency
This is a strange fit on this list for two reasons: 1. it will have absolutely no impact on the 2015 Yankees, and 2. it will probably have very little to do with Cashman himself. That said, if ownership is willing to pay a massive price to sign the market’s most coveted international free agent, Moncada could very well stand out as the Yankees most impressive signing of the offseason. It will show a willingness to spend big bucks, it will give the farm system a huge talent — and a big name — and every evaluation of the Yankees’ winter will have to include the fact that, while they passed on a guy like Scherzer, they went all in for Moncada. It will make very clear that Cashman came into this offseason with a plan to get younger and build for something long-term.
Associated Press photos
Year by year, Yankees longevity stands out • 01.23.15
My first reaction to seeing the graphic in this morning’s Pinch Hitter post was a bit of criticism: where were the names?
It seemed awkward to look at a chart that was created by individual players and showed no individual names, but as I looked at it a little longer, the lack of names became one of my favorite parts.
Whether intentional or not, one thing Steve and Rich really emphasized in their graphic was the value of longevity.
If you’re looking for individual superstars, they’re easy enough to find — just look for the huge patches of blue. Lou Gehrig and Don Mattingly are easy to spot in the first base column. Yogi Berra, Thurman Munson and Jorge Posada stand out at catcher. Joe Gordon, Willie Randolph and Robinson Cano are obvious at second. It’s not hard to spot Babe Ruth, it’s easy to find Derek Jeter, and the transition from Joe DiMaggio to Mickey Mantle is obvious.
There are some important specks on that chart — one speck is the year Rickey Henderson moved from center field to left field — but the graphic really emphasizes sustained success, either through one long-term player or through one very successful transition. And the Yankees are in a period of obvious transition without a lot of blue in these most recent years.
So what positions are close to developing large patches of sustained success?
Center field and left field could be heading that direction. There’s a 2014 dot of blue in left field because Brett Gardner had a nice season, and that season came after a very small gap of red following the mix-and-match left field success of the late 2000s. Jacoby Ellsbury also provided a blue dot last season as a transition from Curtis Granderson to Gardner to Ellsbury in center field. Gardner and Ellsbury are signed long term and could continue that outfield success through the end of this decade.
If a guy like Rob Refsnyder can take hold of the second base position, that could be another strong and relatively quick transition after the standout seasons of Robinson Cano. Maybe Dellin Betances can provide a strong transition in the relief column. Obviously the top two starters have generally provided a lot of blue-dot success over the years, and Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda seem poised to keep that going as long as they stay healthy.
Plugging short term holes is helpful and necessary along the way, but sustained success is what really stands out.
Associated Press photo