Didn’t really expect to run a Mariano Rivera post as part of this year’s Pinch Hitters series, but I actually thought Mark’s post this morning carried some weight this winter.
Mark wrote about Rivera’s longevity, and as the Yankees look ahead to the 2015 season, longevity just might be their biggest issue. Their major investments this offseason were four-year deals with Andrew Miller and Chase Headley, but their most significant investments remain the multi-year contracts signed during past offseasons.
The longevity of Carlos Beltran, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and CC Sabathia — their ability to remain productive, or become productive again, late in their careers — will be key to the Yankees season.
Andy Pettitte found a way to do it. Derek Jeter did it until the very end. Rivera, as Mark noted, did it consistently from start to finish.
A post about Mariano Rivera might not have seemed like a strong fit for this offseason, but a post about longevity and late-career consistency absolutely fits with the Yankees current roster.
As for the major Yankees events of the past week…
• The big news of the week was the signing of Max Scherzer to a seven-year, $210-million deal with the Nationals. The agreement officially ends any speculation that the Yankees might get into the Scherzer sweepstakes. It’s also a massive contract that will actually be paid out over the course of 14 years instead of seven. Scherzer’s signing leaves James Shields as the only real standout left on the free agent market.
• Bringing back the kind of eye-rolling attention he’s mostly avoided during the past year, it was reported this week that Alex Rodriguez has worked out with Barry Bonds this offseason. Rodriguez has also reportedly worked with Edgar Martinez as he tries to regain his form after a year-long suspension. Rodriguez is hardly the first big league hitter to get tips from Bonds, but obviously it generates some attention when two of the game’s most notorious PED users are working together.
• The Yankees have held a private workout for Cuban prospect Yoan Moncada, who could get the largest signing bonus ever given to an international amateur. The 19-year-old infielder will likely become on of baseball’s top 25 prospects upon signing, but he still has to be cleared by the government to become truly available. The Yankees are believed to be one of the favorites to get him.
• Reliever Gonzalez Germen was designated for assignment after the Yankees acquired Chris Martin. This week, the Yankees sold his rights to Texas, which promptly designated him for assignment after acquiring a new catcher. Quite a winter for Gonzalez, who entered this offseason as a member of the Mets.
• YES Network officially announced that it’s reached an agreement to switch over-the-air broadcasts from MY9 to WPIX, which is Channel 11. PIX11 will televise approximately 20 games this season, and its broadcast schedule will be announced at a later date.
• Speaking of broadcasts, Yankees radio play-by-play man John Sterling’s apartment building was hit by a massive fire on Wednesday night. Sterling was not hurt and was just returning home as the fire began to engulf the building.
Associated Press photos
Last night, the bidding for starting pitcher Max Scherzer seemed to reach its conclusion.
According to various reports including Jon Heyman’s, Scherzer has agreed to a seven-year deal to join the Nationals rotation. It would give Washington a starting five of Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez and Doug Fister. Although the Nationals have reportedly shopped Zimmermann this offseason, the Washingon Post reports that the Nats would not necessarily have to dump Zimmerman in order to make the Scherzer contract work.
All along, the Yankees have insisted that they were not likely to join the bidding for Scherzer. Although he was widely viewed as the top free agent on the market — and although the Yankees clearly needed rotation help — the Yankees already have a long list of long-term contracts, many of which have become significant problems in the past few years.
This past week, Hal Steinbrenner told reporters at the owners meetings:
“There’s just a certain amount I’m going to go (with payroll). You all know my opinions about payroll, where you should be and where you really don’t need to be to win championships.”
Associated Press photo
We’ve made it to the middle of January, which means the bulk of our offseason news is probably behind us.
The Yankees have already traded for a shortstop and a new starting pitcher. They’ve signed a third baseman and a new reliever. They’ve restructured their bullpen, reworked their infield, and remodeled their bench. They’ve left every indication that they want to keep their remaining prospects and stay away from any more huge contracts (at least for the rest of this winter).
So if the bulk of the heavy lifting is finished, what are we waiting for in these last five weeks before spring training? Here are a few things:
1. The Stephen Drew announcement
We know this one is coming, but at this point, Drew is still not officially on the roster. How Drew impacts the final roster is a question for another day — one we can speculate about but not really answer until late March — so for now, we’re just waiting for him to officially arrive. And with his arrival, we’ll find out who’s coming off the roster.
2. Final arbitration-eligible settlements
Kind of like the Drew signing, this is largely a formality. The Yankees very, very rarely actually go to arbitration, so there’s no real reason to think the won’t eventually settle on fresh contracts for their three remaining arb-eligible players. We already have a pretty good idea how much money David Carpenter, Nathan Eovaldi and Michael Pineda will make this season, it’s just a matter of getting the contracts finished.
3. Non-roster invitations
A few minor league signings have already been reported, so we know guys like Nick Noonan and Slade Heathcott will be non-roster players in spring training. But it’s always interesting to see the final list of minor league guys who get to spend at least a few weeks with the big leaguers. Surely guys like Aaron Judge, Greg Bird and Luis Severino will be there. What about a guy like Cito Culver? Despite the outfield depth, hasn’t Taylor Dugas done enough to get an invitation?
4. Max Scherzer and James Shields closure
They’ll either sign with the Yankees or they won’t, and right now the expectation is that the Yankees will not spend big money in either one. But until both Scherzer and Shields are off the market, the Yankees will be occasionally linked to them. It’s simply too difficult to completely dismiss the possibility of a surprise investment. Doesn’t seem likely, but doesn’t seem impossible.
5. Additional pitching depth
Scherzer and Shields might be out of the Yankees price range, and the desire to keep the system’s top prospects might keep the Yankees from making a trade for a guy like Cole Hamels, but there’s an obvious level of concern with the current rotation. Isn’t it entirely possible the Yankees might eventually add some veteran starter on either a tiny major league deal or a non-roster minor league contract? Could a veteran closer jump into the picture if his price falls far enough? If you’re looking for another addition, pitching depth might be the thing to monitor.
6. Inevitable Alex Rodriguez speculation
Based on his recent Instagram posts, we know Rodriguez has started batting practice and fielding drills. Isn’t it inevitable that we’ll start to hear rumblings about the way he looks in these early baseball drills? Maybe it’ll be some source within the organization, or maybe someone who’s close to A-Rod himself. At some point between now and spring training, though, it seems inevitable that we’ll hear something about Rodriguez, either good or bad.
7. Early arrivals at the minor league complex
Pitchers and catchers officially report on February 20, but some guys always show up early. Usually those early arrivals don’t mean a ton — Brett Gardner is taking early swings! — but given all of the guys coming back from injuries this season, those early arrivals might carry a little more weight this year. If Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia or Carlos Beltran shows up early, there will be some interesting questions and answers.
8. Yoan Moncada developments
Even if the Yankees aren’t willing to spend the money necessary to sign Scherzer or Shields, they could still make a huge investment between now and spring training. If Cuban teenager Moncada becomes a fully available free agent, the Yankees could land one of the top young players on the planet, giving themselves a new high-end prospect with the potential to significantly impact this team within a few years.
Associated Press photos
Yankees strength coach Matt Krause was in Miami today to get an updated evaluation of Alex Rodriguez.
“He talked to (Rodriguez) maybe a month ago, maybe longer,” Cashman said. “And then he assessed him now. He’s working hard. Obviously he’s continuing to get ready for spring training, and he’s moving in the right direction.”
This was strictly a physical fitness evaluation, not an evaluation of baseball skills or performance.
“I know he’s weighing him in and stuff like that,” Cashman said. “Like all our players, he’s got a report weight that we’re hopeful they hit. He’s approaching that. He’s not at the spring training weight that we desire just yet, but there is progress, and he continues to tweak. Matt continues to tweak his conditioning program. They’re building a relationship. They don’t know each other, so that’s good (that they’re spending time together). This is not just Matt checking on Alex. He’s seeing McCann, Gardner, Ellsbury, all our guys. He’s going across meeting up with everybody.”
Winter Meeting progress
Without getting into specifics, Cashman said he remains engaged with a bunch of trade and free agent possibilities. He’s been talking to Chase Headley, but wouldn’t say whether there’s been progress between the two sides. Cashman did say the pitching market is “going to go fast,” and the Yankees are obviously engaged with various starters and relievers.
“I honestly can tell you that we’re patient,” Cashman said. “We’re not going to do something that we don’t feel comfortable with.”
For whatever it’s worth, Cashman said he’s not planning to meet with the media before he flies back to New York tomorrow, and he said that’s because he’s not expecting the Yankees situation to change between now and then. But you really never know. The Yankees are clearly in serious talks with a wide range of possibilities, it’s just unclear whether any of those talks are going to lead to something in the next 18 hours or so.
Potential bullpen additions
Cashman wouldn’t comment on a report that he’s shown interest in former Giants closer Sergio Romo, but he made it clear that he’s still open to adding another piece to the bullpen.
“If it’s the right guy, I have no problem signing a (reliever) to a major league deal,” Cashman said. “If it’s the right guy; if it fits with everything else we’re also trying to accomplish. We also have a lot of good young arms. It’s just, we’ll have to wait and see how it plays out. We have trade opportunities, so it can come in a lot of different ways whether it’s from within, whether it’s non-roster invite, major league signing from the free agent market, or trade. It’s tough to say right now.”
Today’s infielder trades
The Dodgers traded second baseman Dee Gordon earlier today, and the Phillies are said to be finalizing a Jimmy Rollins trade. Cashman acknowledged that he checked on the availability of both players. He asked about Rollins early in the offseason and was told only that the asking price would be higher than the Yankees would be willing to pay. No names were discussed, the Phillies just made it clear they would need a ton in return (might have been a kind way of telling the Yankees that Rollins wouldn’t waive his no-trade to play in New York).
As for Gordon, that conversation happened this week. “I just said, ‘If you see any fits, let me know,’” Cashman said. “They were down the tracks with (the actual trade to Miami). This was yesterday or two days ago when his name surfaced as a potential move.”
Tomorrow’s Rule 5 draft
Sounds like the Yankees won’t take anyone in tomorrow’s draft. They have three spots open on the 40-man, but Cashman clearly plans to add at least three more players this offseason.
“As of right now, I don’t think I’ll be active in the Rule 5 draft,” Cashman said. “But I know our guys want to talk to me about some things. The certain amount of roster spots that we have, and we have a certain amount of needs still to fill, so I think those roster spots can go quickly because of our needs. I’m not sure that Rule 5 is going to make sense for us this year because of that.”
Reaction to Boras
Earlier today, Scott Boras said that Max Scherzer would give the Yankees a World Series caliber rotation. Cashman laughed when he heard the quote.
“Good,” he said. “That means he likes the four we’ve got.”
Associated Press photos
Brandon McCarthy has started five times since coming over from Arizona and he’s now 4-0 with a 2.08 ERA after this 2-1 win over the Central-leading Tigers.
This is the first time in his career that he has won four straight starts.
“He’s been huge for our rotation,” Joe Girardi said. “… He’s meant a lot. He’s come over here and pitched as well as he could.”
McCarthy allowed an unearned run and five hits and two walks while striking out eight over 5 2/3 innings. He threw 116 pitches, and 50 of them came in keeping Detroit scoreless over the first two innings.
“I know this is a big series and I know what they’re throwing at us this series,” McCarthy said. “I took that as a challenge.”
Detroit is throwing the last three AL Cy Young winners at the Yankees in the first three games of this four-game series, the first time three consecutive Cy Young winners will have faced a team in three straight games. Max Scherzer, the 2013 winner, gave up two runs in the third and nine hits overall in his seven-inning start.
“We know how talented their starting rotation is, but they’re not always going to have their perfect stuff,” Girardi said.
Jacoby Ellsbury went 2 for 22 on the trip, then went 2 for 3 with a sac fly in this one. The sac fly, with the bases loaded and nobody out, came on an outrageous grab in left-center by Ezequiel Carrera, who went sprinting back and then dove. The ball stuck in the heel of his glove as he landed on the warning track.
I asked Ellsbury about it and he said, “It was a spectacular catch. I don’t know if I’ve seen a better catch this year. It saved most likely three runs.”
Mark Teixeira was scratched with lightheadedness that resulted in IV treatment. Girardi hopes he will be able to play Tuesday night when David Price is the Detroit starter. Chase Headley ended up making his first career start and third appearance at first.
“I hope it’s just a weird one-day thing,” Teixeira said. “It could’ve been a bug. It could’ve been food poisoning. It could’ve been a lot of things. It knocked me on my tail at little bit.”
David Robertson pitched for the third straight day for the first time this season, throwing a perfect ninth with two Ks to nail down his 30th save in 32 chances. He has converted 18 straight.
It enabled the Yankees to move to 9-6 in their last 15 games, all decided by two runs or less. The 15-game streak extended the franchise record. It’s the longest two-runs-or-less streak in the majors since the the 1975 Orioles had 16 straight games decided that way.
“As long as we win them, it’s OK,” Girardi said.
The Yankees are now one game back of the Blue Jays for the second wild card.
Here’s my Lohud.com/Journal News story on the game and the latest with Masahiro Tanaka and David Phelps.
Photo by The Associated Press.
Scherzer and the long ball • 10.02.11
Sure, he also throws hard and has a good slider and pitched an eight-inning gem against the Yankees earlier this season, but only two American League pitchers allowed more home runs this season, and one was A.J. Burnett. Scherzer has a 3.80 ERA at spacious Comerica Park this season, but on the road his ERA is 5.23.
The Tigers had him lined up to start at home, but Friday’s rain has pushed Scherzer into a ballpark that’s much less-friendly to the way he pitches.
“My road splits are worse,” Scherzer said. “For me, it really doesn’t matter. Every start is a new start. For my challenge here to go out in Game 2 and pitch, it’s just like any other start. I prepare for it whether it was home or road. You take the ballpark completely out of it. I’m more worried about their lineup.”
Of course, the Yankees lineup hit more home runs than any other team in the big leagues.
It’s worth noting that Scherzer’s eight scoreless innings against the Yankees came in Detroit. When he faced the Yankees in the Bronx in April, Scherzer allowed six earned runs in five innings. Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira and Jorge Posada (twice) all homered off him.
“He’s got a great arm,” Joe Girardi said. “He’s got a good slider. He’s pitched well for them. He’s pitched pretty well against us. But he’s got a big arm. He’s got some run on his ball as well. You think about it goes back to that three-way trade. Here’s another guy that was involved in it. It’s worked out well for everyone.”
Associated Press photo
Game 28: Yankees at Tigers • 05.04.11
Derek Jeter SS
Curtis Granderson CF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Nick Swisher RF
Jorge Posada DH
Brett Gardner LF
Francisco Cervelli C
RHP Freddy Garcia (1-1, 2.00)
Garcia vs. Tigers
Austin Jackson CF
Scott Sizemore 2B
Brennan Boesch LF
Miguel Cabrera 1B
Victor Martinez DH
Magglio Ordonez RF
Jhonny Peralta SS
Alex Avila C
Brandon Inge 3B
RHP Max Scherzer (4-0, 3.82)
Scherzer vs. Yankees
TIME/TV: 7:05 p.m., YES Network
WEATHER: First thing Joe Girardi did when he sat down to talk to the media in the visiting dugout this afternoon was to make everyone turn around and look at the sky. There was sunshine. Haven’t seen that much this year, but this has been a pretty nice day in Detroit.
UMPIRES: HP Bill Welke, 1B Tim Tschida, 2B Jeff Nelson, 3B Marty Foster
GO GO GARDNER: In his past eight games, Brett Gardner has a .739 on-base percentage and a .571 batting average with six runs scored, nine walks and a stolen base. In his first 18 games this season he hit .136 with a .190 on-base percentage.
GO GO ROTATION: Even with CC Sabathia shaky start last night, the Yankees rotation has a 2.73 ERA through the past 15 games, a sample size of 99 innings. In that time, the Yankees have gone 10-5.
FOUR AWAY: Derek Jeter needs four hits to tie Willie Keeler on baseball’s all-time hits list. Jeter will move into 30th place when he matches Keeler’s total of 2,956.
UPDATE, 7:34 p.m.: Three straight singles to open the bottom of the second have given the Tigers a 1-0 lead and put Garcia in a bit of an early bind.
UPDATE, 7:59 p.m.: Garcia is once again having trouble with the middle of the order. RBI double by Miguel Cabrera and now a two-run home run by Magglio Ordonez. It’s 4-0 Tigers in the third.
UPDATE, 8:28 p.m.: Well, he’s not throwing curveballs, but Max Scherzer is dealing. His fastball-changeup combo has been very effective.
UPDATE, 8:40 p.m.: Intentional walk to Cabrera pays off as Garcia gets Martines and Ordonez to fly to left and strand two in the bottom of the fifth.