The LoHud Yankees Blog

A New York Yankees blog by Chad Jennings and the staff of The Journal News


Year by year, Yankees longevity stands out01.23.15

Orioles Yankees Baseball

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

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What if: A spring training gone terribly wrong01.20.15

Joe Girardi

Earlier today we looked at a few problems the Yankees would like to have in spring training (too much pitching depth, too many hitters exceeding expectations). But what if the opposite happens? What if the things that could go wrong, do go wrong? This isn’t meant to be a doomsday scenario — it’s not about unpredictable injuries or unlikely declines — but rather a look at realistic problems that could pop up based on past performance and familiar issues. How would the Yankees react if the roster begins to crumble before Opening Day?

RodriguezWhat if Alex Rodriguez is absolutely finished?
This morning we considered a resurgent A-Rod, but what if the opposite is true? He’s 39 years old, he’s hardly played the past two years, he didn’t play at all last season, and he’s gone through multiple injuries in recent seasons. How would the Yankees react if Rodriguez is not only incapable of playing third base everyday, but is also no longer able to hit well enough to deserve regular playing time? Would Rodriguez get the benefit of the doubt for a few months, or would Joe Girardi decide he’d seen enough in spring training and open the season with Garrett Jones as the regular designated hitter against righties? Is it possible for Rodriguez to play so poorly that he’s not even worth platoon at-bats against lefties? Surely Rodriguez would have to be epically bad for the Yankees to completely cut ties.

BetancesWhat if Dellin Betances can’t throw strikes?
After last season, it seems like a near ridiculous idea. Betances has been a very good relief pitcher for basically a season and a half now (making a terrific transition in Triple-A, then putting together an All-Star rookie season for the Yankees). But what if some of his old minor league problems resurface in spring training? Maybe the pressure of trying repeat last season gets to him. Maybe the closer role is too much. Whatever the reason, let’s say Betances just isn’t sharp in spring training. The stuff is still great, but he’s inconsistent, and there’s a snowball effect as Betances tries to sort it out. If the Yankees don’t see the same old Betances in spring training, how thoroughly would they have to rearrange their bullpen? Would they chalk it up as an exhibition fluke and keep Betances in a key role, or would he have to prove himself all over again?

GregoriusWhat if Didi Gregorius isn’t an everyday shortstop?
Last spring, the Diamondbacks went into spring training giving Gregorius a chance to be their everyday shortstop, and he lost the job to Chris Owings. The Yankees are already well aware that Gregorius has some flaws — he hasn’t hit well against lefties, his offense as a whole remains somewhat questionable — but they’re banking on his defense and his ability to at least hit righties. If Gregorius is a massive disappointment, would the Yankees change plans to give the shortstop job to Stephen Drew (opening second base for either Rob Refsnyder or Jose Pirela), or are they fully committed to Gregorius regardless of spring performance? Basically, how long is the leash on a new guy who might be the Yankees shortstop of the future, or might be in over his head as an everyday player? Girardi hasn’t seen much of Gregorius. How important is his first impression?

TanakaWhat if the rotation really does fall apart?
This probably qualifies as a doomsday scenario, but it’s a scenario rooted in realistic possibility. We all know about Masahiro Tanaka’s elbow, Michael Pineda’s shoulder and CC Sabathia’s knee. We saw each of those three miss significant time last season. What happens if those three show up in spring training and immediately run into familiar injuries problems. Tanaka’s ligament can’t hold up, Pineda’s shoulder suffers another setback, and Sabathia’s body continues to break down. If the Yankees rotation basically runs into the same health problems as last season, but does it right away, would the Yankees desperately try to find replacement starters (sacrifice the farm for a guy like Cole Hamels) or would they simply roll the dice with guys like Adam Warren and Bryan Mitchell, deciding this season isn’t worth trying to save?

McCannWhat if there’s a clear need for firepower?
What’s the biggest source of offense the Yankees added this offseason? Garrett Jones? Chris Young? Chase Headley? A-Rod? Ultimately, the Yankees plugged a lot of holes this winter, but they didn’t necessarily add one big bat meant to make a major difference in the middle of the order. This team struggled offensively last season, and it’s really banking on bounce-back seasons from Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran and Mark Teixeira to significantly boost the run production. How would they react this spring if it looks like those bounce-backs aren’t going to happen? Could a guy like Tyler Austin suddenly get a longer look? Would the Yankees accelerate the development of Aaron Judge or Greg Bird? Would they try to get regular platoon production out of Jones or Young? Would they bat Jacoby Ellsbury third again?

Associated Press photo

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With Scherzer off the market, do the Yankees need more pitching?01.19.15

Masahiro Tanaka, Ivan Nova

Has anything changed for the Yankees in the wake of Max Scherzer’s new deal with the Nationals?

Since the fall, Brian Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner created the public perception of fiscal restraint. With a bunch of big contracts (and big mistakes) already filling the payroll, the Yankees never positioned themselves as a favorite for Scherzer. Any thought to the contrary was based on past examples of the Yankees spending unexpected money for Scherzer-type players, but there was never any evidence that they were going to get involved this time.

In that way, nothing has changed. The Yankees weren’t supposed to get Scherzer, and they didn’t.

But with Scherzer off the market, the winter’s most popular “what if” scenario is off the board, leaving the Yankees with a rotation that is what it is.

Michael PinedaTop five starters
Masahiro Tanaka
Michael Pineda
CC Sabathia
Nathan Eovaldi
Chris Capuano
These five have been in place since late December when the Yankees completed the trade for Eovaldi. Three of these players are in their mid-20s, and one exception is on a one-year, stop-gap contract. Even so, there’s such injury concern at the top that this rotation seems unreliable at best.

Major League depth
Adam Warren
Esmil Rogers
Ivan Nova
According to plan, Warren and Rogers should be relievers this season, but each has been a starter in the past — Rogers worked as a starter this winter — and so they could provide immediate rotation depth in spring training. Nova is expected back from Tommy John surgery around June or so.

Minor league depth
Chase Whitley
Bryan Mitchell
Jose De Paula
Luis Severino
Whitley made 12 big league starts last season, but unless he wins a spot as a long man in the big league bullpen, he seems likely to land in the Triple-A rotation with Mitchell and De Paula (each of whom is currently on the 40-man). Severino is not on the 40-man and has just 25 innings above A ball, but he’s talented enough to potentially pitch his way into the mix. Can’t completely rule out guys like Matt Tracy and Zach Nuding, who could round out the Triple-A rotation, or a guy like Jaron Long, who’s likely heading for Double-A but made a huge impression last season.

CC SabathiaQuestion is: Is this enough? The top five looks perfectly good, but that’s only if its healthy. There are plenty of alternatives in the mix, but each one seems to come with significant uncertainty (about upside, about health, about ability to consistently start at the big league level). So if the Yankees want to upgrade their rotation — either adding talent up top or adding depth at the bottom — what are their options?

1. Spend big – There’s still one high-end starter on the market, and he has a history of success in the American League East. But if the Yankees weren’t interested in Scherzer, what are the chances they’ll become interested in James Shields? He’s already 33, so his next contract is likely to carry him into his late 30s, which seems awfully risky at this point.

2. Take a chance – Beyond Shields, the free agent market really doesn’t have a reliable starter still available. Instead, the Yankees could roll the dice on a small contract — perhaps even a minor league deal with a non-roster invitation — with a veteran starting pitcher who comes with serious warts. Johan Santana recently got some attention, but guys like Chad Billingsley, Roberto Hernandez and Chris Young are also still out there.

3. Sacrifice the farm – The Yankees clearly prefer to keep their top prospects at this point, but they don’t have to. Cole Hamels is clearly available and signed to a contract that seems perfectly reasonable compared to Scherzer, but it would likely take a massive package to get him. The Nationals are reportedly not pushing to trade Jordan Zimmermann, but he might be available. Is it worth giving up some of the future to add a pitcher for the present?

4. Wait and see – Nothing says the Yankees have to make a change right now. Last season, they managed to rebuild a rotation on the fly, and they could try to do the same this year if necessary. They could go into spring training with this group and adjust only if/when one of those top five starters goes down. If that doesn’t happen until May, they might have Nova ready to step in. If it happens in August, Severino might be ready.

Associated Press photos

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With five weeks to go, what are we waiting for?01.16.15

Yankees Spring Baseball

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

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Happening today: Filing for salary arbitration01.13.15

Ivan Nova, Joe Girardi

It’s kind of a non-event, but today’s a deadline worth acknowledging: today’s the day for players to official file for arbitration. Teams and players will exchange figures on Friday, and they’ll go to hearings — if necessary — early next month. But the Yankees very rarely actually go to arbitration with any of their players, so agreements are more likely to come together in the next few weeks.

The Yankees started this offseason with seven arbitration-eligible players. One was released (David Huff). One reached an early contract agreement (Esmil Rogers). Three were traded away (Francisco Cervelli, David Phelps, Shawn Kelley). And two were acquired (Nathan Eovaldi and David Carpenter).

So on this day to file for arbitration, the Yankees have four players to worry about. Here are the names, along with the typically rock-solid salary predictions from MLB Trade Rumors.

David Carpenter – $1.1 million
Made slightly more than the minimum last year, but the Yankees got him in his first year of arbitration eligibility. It seems that Carpenter will essentially replace Shawn Kelley, who’s projected to make $2.5 million this year, which will be his last before free agency. Carpenter has two more years of team control, and has been a really nice reliever the past two years in Atlanta.

Nathan Eovaldi – $3.1 million
Made slightly more than the minimum last year, but like Carpenter, Eovaldi is coming to the Yankees in his first year of arbitration eligibility. Through 460 big league innings, he has a 4.07 ERA, 1.38 WHIP and 3.70 FIP. At this time last year, when Ivan Nova was in his first year of arbitration and got $3.3 million, Nova had 517 innings with a 4.04 ERA, 1.37 WHIP and 4.09 WHIP. Fairly similar, hence the similar salary projection.

Ivan Nova — $3.3 million
Made the same amount of money last year, but Tommy John surgery really knocks down a player’s arbitration earning potential. In the short term, I suppose the injury should save the Yankees some money. As long as Nova comes back as a solid starting pitcher this season, he’ll still be a financial bargain even without the month of April.

Michael Pineda – $2.1 million
Made slightly more than the minimum last year, but he’s in line for a solid raise after a strong return to the big leagues. Amazing that he’s already in line for arbitration despite having just 41 big league starts, but time on the 60-day disabled list kept his clock turning when he wasn’t on the field. If he pitches as well as he did last year, he’d be a bargain at twice the price.

Associated Press photo

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Can the Yankees find enough rotation depth with what they already have?01.09.15

CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka, Ivan Nova

So the Yankees had their catching depth in place before the offseason started, they filled one outfield weakness with the early Chris Young signing, and they’ve built infield depth throughout the winter. They’ve also added a surprising amount of bullpen depth considering they’ve lost two key relievers along the way.

What’s left — assuming they really aren’t going to splurge at any point — is to possibly add some rotation depth between now and the start of spring training, but the free agent market hasn’t helped the Yankees in that regard. Injury prone Brandon McCarthy got a whopping four years, total wild card Brett Anderson got a whopping $10 million, and the decisions that led to Kenta Maeda and Hiroki Kuroda pitching in Japan this season robbed the market of two solid, mid-rotation possibilities.

Now the best non-Scherzer, non-Shields starter left on the market is who? Ryan Vogelsong? Chad Billingsley? Maybe the Yankees will break form and make a surprising run at Max Scherzer or James Shields, or maybe they’ll blow up the youth movement and trade for Cole Hamels, but right now neither of those seems overwhelmingly likely. Could happen, but it would require a change of course. At this point, the Yankees seem more likely to make a major splash with a young international player rather than an established big league veteran.

So where could the rotation depth come from? First, here’s what the rotation depth looks like right now:

Michael PinedaFIRST FIVE
Masahiro Tanaka
Michael Pineda
CC Sabathia
Nathan Eovaldi
Chris Capuano
Same group that’s been in place since the Eovaldi trade. The good and the bad of this group is well documented.

TRIPLE-A
Jose De Paula
Bryan Mitchell
Chase Whitley
Matt Tracy
Zach Nuding
Something like this, anyway. Losing Manny Banuelos took away arguably the biggest name who seemed ticketed for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Can’t rule out the possibility of Luis Severino making a push for this group (but we’ll get to that in a bit). 

So where else can the Yankees find internal rotation depth. Here are three basic ideas that involve three specific players:

Adam WarrenAdam Warren — The “prioritize the rotation” approach
Basically, rob from the bullpen to give to the rotation. By going into camp with Warren getting stretched out and pitching on the same schedule as the five projected starting pitchers, the Yankees would give themselves an in-place sixth starter throughout the spring. Warren would be the immediate insurance should someone get hurt before Opening Day (which isn’t, you know, a crazy notion). Keeping him stretched out all spring would basically mean trusting that he could easily fall back into his bullpen role without really practicing it during the exhibitions. Could do something similar with Esmil Rogers.

Ivan Nova – The “trust the kids for a while” approach
There’s been no indication this offseason that Nova’s rehab from Tommy John surgery has fallen off the tracks. He could be ready in May or June, and if he’s still progressing toward a relatively early return, the Yankees could bank on Nova as the big boost while trusting guys like Mitchell, De Paula and Whitley to hold down the fort should a starting pitcher go down in April. Of course, putting much faith in Nova requires not only trusting the young guys, it also means trusting Nova’s elbow to be big league ready one year after surgery. Some pitchers say it takes more like two years to feel back to 100 percent.

Luis Severino – The “get really greedy” approach
Last season, the Yankees top pitching prospect started the season in Low-A and finished in Double-A, where he had a 2.52 ERA and 1.04 WHIP to go with 29 strikeouts in six starts. Severino was awesome, and even though he’s still really young — turns 21 in February — he just might be the kind of guy who could grab everyone’s attention in big league camp, push to open the year in Triple-A, dazzle at that level and be in the big leagues within a few months. The Yankees could bank on Severino’s talent, believing that their system is ready to provide more than a fill-in rotation stopgap here and there. In Severino, the Yankees could see a legitimate 2015 big leaguer, and maybe a really good one.

Associated Press photos

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The good news, the bad news, and the Yankees rotation12.17.14

CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka, Ivan Nova

The good news is, the Yankees added some rotation depth yesterday. The bad news is, it wasn’t by acquiring a front-end starter to make everyone feel better about the health concerns at the top of the rotation.

By re-signing Chris Capuano, the Yankees brought in an experienced lefty who pitched well in a fifth starter role last year. The good news is that he’s probably a little better than you’re thinking (his career numbers are nearly identical to the rock-solid results he put up with the Yankees last season), but the bad news is that the Yankees rotation still has an opening and is still crowded with uncertainty heading into next season.

Here’s a look at the Yankees starters in place — and the ones set to compete for a spot — as we move ever closer to pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training. As you might expect, with each one there’s some good news and some bad news.

Masahiro TanakaMASAHIRO TANAKA
Good news: Cy Young and Rookie of the Year candidate through his first three months in the big leagues.
Bad news: Slightly torn elbow ligament suggests Tommy John surgery is a real threat as early as spring training.

MICHAEL PINEDA
Good news: Finally joined the Yankees staff with a 1.89 ERA last season.
Bad news: That stellar ERA came in just 13 starts because of another shoulder issue.

CC SABATHIA
Good news: Says he feels strong this winter; more than 200 innings in 2013 and a 3.38 ERA as recently as 2012.
Bad news: Coming back from knee surgery with a not-so-encouraging 4.87 ERA the past two seasons.

IVAN NOVA
Good news: Farm system success story had a 3.10 ERA (and an especially good second half) in his last healthy season.
Bad news: Had Tommy John surgery after just four starts last season; not expected to be ready for Opening Day.

CHRIS CAPUANO
Good news: Solid No. 5 starter with a 4.25 ERA in 12 starts with the Yankees last season.
Bad news: Had been released and was pitching in Triple-A when the Yankees got him in July.

Phelps (3)DAVID PHELPS
Good news: Was on a roll before a upper elbow injury (believed to be minor) pushed him to the DL last season.
Bad news: In three seasons has never quite established himself as a go-to member of the rotation.

ADAM WARREN
Good news: Coming off a terrific, breakout season with a 2.97 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP.
Bad news: Truly emerged as a one-inning setup man; has just three major-league starts on his resume.

ESMIL ROGERS
Good news: Showed flashes of promise late last year including a five-inning, one-run spot start in August.
Bad news: That promise has not consistently translated, leaving Rogers a 5.54 career ERA with four different teams before the age of 30.

Yankees Blue Jays BaseballCHASE WHITLEY
Good news: Long-time minor league reliever emerged with a 2.56 ERA through his first seven major league starts last season.
Bad news: Had a 9.00 ERA through his next five starts, falling out of the rotation and back into the bullpen.

BRYAN MITCHELL
Good news: Long touted for talent that exceeded his stats, Mitchell’s results were actually pretty impressive in his brief big league cameo.
Bad news: He’s still a 24 year old with a 4.45 ERA and a 1.48 WHIP through five minor league seasons; never with as many as 150 innings.

MANNY BANUELOS
Good news: One of the top pitching prospects in the system and one of the best in baseball before Tommy John surgery.
Bad news: Inconsistent with a 4.11 ERA and just 76.2 innings in his return from surgery last season.

JOSE DE PAULA
Good news: Hard-throwing lefty impressed the Yankees enough to land a major-league contract this winter.
Bad news: Has never actually pitched in the major leagues and has just 51.1 innings of so-so Triple-A experience.

Associated Press photos

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Election day in the Yankees clubhouse11.04.14

Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, Ichiro Suzuki,

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.

Yankees Blue Jays BaseballMost 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.

Brendan RyanClass 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.

Michael PinedaMost 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

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Sorting through Yankees arbitration and non-tender candidates10.21.14

Michael Pineda

Yesterday, MLB Trade Rumors announced it’s typically reliable salary predictions for the seven Yankees who are arbitration eligible this winter. The MLBTR predictions aren’t fool-proof, and they aren’t necessarily exact, but over time we’ve learned that they tend to provide a pretty solid expectation for what an individual player stands to earn through offseason negotiations.

So with these figures in mind, which arbitration-eligible Yankees are most likely to be non-tendered this winter?

IVAN NOVA
This year: $3.3 million
Next year prediction: $3.3 million

No logical chance of a non-tender. Last year’s elbow injury cost the Yankees a full season from one of their top young starting pitchers, but it also made him significantly less expensive in his second year of arbitration. Despite the injury, the Yankees will gladly sign up for $3.3 million on a pitcher who could be at least a strong No. 3-4 starter with the potential to go on a run of near-ace-like production for several weeks at a time. The injury might keep them from considering a multi-year deal at this point, but one year at this price is surely a no-brainer.

Shawn KelleySHAWN KELLEY
This year: $1.765 million
Next year prediction: $2.5 million

A $3.5-million commitment was enough for the Yankees to cut ties with Matt Thornton back in August, so the possibility of a $2.5-million deal with Kelley shouldn’t be completely dismissed. It’s not pocket change. That said, Kelley’s been a nice find for the Yankees bullpen. A back injury slowed him down for a while this year, but his key numbers — strikeout rate, walk rate, WHIP, etc. — were actually better in 2014 than in 2013. He’s a pretty reliable strikeout pitcher, and a one-year commitment to a reliever like this seems just about perfect at this point. The Yankees have some solid arms on the way, and one more year of Kelley might perfectly bridge the gap. No compelling reason to non-tender him.

MICHAEL PINEDA
This year: roughly $500,000 (slightly more than the minimum)
Next year prediction: $2.1 million

Pretty big salary jump for a guy who’s made 13 big league starts since 2011. But that’s the nature of the business with a player who’s coming back from a long-term injury and a bunch of time on the 60-day disabled list. Ultimately, a little more than $2 million should be a bargain as long as Pineda stays healthy. And if he doesn’t, it probably means another chance for a similar low-risk, one-year contract next winter. Again, this one is a no-brainer. Pineda will certainly be back, and even with the injury concern and time missed, there’s no reason to balk at $2.1 million for a pitcher with Pineda’s proven talent.

ESMIL ROGERS
This year: $1.85 million
Next year prediction: $1.9 million

Probably the strongest non-tender candidate of the bunch. Obviously the Yankees like Rogers’ arm — and at times they got terrific production out of him during his brief Yankees tenure last season — but he’s ultimately a 29-year-old with a 1.56 career WHIP, 5.54 career ERA, and a large enough sample size to suggest those numbers are a reasonable expectation for next year. Even if $1.9 million isn’t a ton of money, a one-year deal with Rogers probably isn’t the best way to spend it. Not with better options — or at least similar options — already in the system. The 40-man is going to be tight, money could be tight, and it’s probably not be worth using either a roster spot or a couple million bucks to retain Rogers. If the Yankees had less pitching depth, the situation might be different.

David PhelpsDAVID PHELPS
This year: roughly $500,000 (slightly more than the minimum)
Next year prediction: $1.3 million

It seems Phelps just made it past the cutoff for early arbitration eligibility. I’m sure the Yankees would like one more year at the minimum, but I’m sure they also realize that Phelps is a really nice fit for them in the immediate future. He’s proven capable of filling any role, and this Yankees pitching staff should have a need for a long man who can either slide into the rotation or move into a late-inning role if necessary. That’s Phelps. As he more thoroughly defines himself one way or the other — and as his arbitration price goes up with each passing offseason — the Yankees will have a choice to make about how much he’s worth, but at slightly more than a million dollars, Phelps is still a good fit at a cheap price.

FRANCISCO CERVELLI
This year: $700,000
Next year prediction: $1.1 million

You know, Cervelli has really developed into a nice catcher. He’s played like a high-end backup or a low-end (with upside) starter. And $1.1 million isn’t too much to pay for a guy like that. Even as the Yankees surely need to make a decision behind the plate — makes sense to make a move with either Cervelli, John Ryan Murphy or Austin Romine — it would be a waste to simply non-tender Cervelli. Surely there’s trade value there, and even if the Yankees decide to cut him in spring training, arbitration-eligible players are never given guaranteed contracts, so the Yankees could move on a fraction of the price. Certainly worth signing a new contract, even if it’s also worth immediately trying to trade him.

DAVID HUFF
This year: roughly $500,000 (slightly more than the minimum)
Next year prediction: $700,000

Could be a non-tender candidate despite having a pretty nice year. Huff walks quite a few batters, and he doesn’t strike out a ton of guys, but he had a 1.31 WHIP and a 1.85 ERA during his stint with the Yankees (granted, with a much higher FIP and xFIP). Ultimately, he was fine. Nothing about his season suggests he’s not worth a modest raise to $700,000. That said, the Yankees always treated him like a last-man in the bullpen, and his career splits don’t suggest a reliable lefty specialist. Solid year, fairly cheap price, but could be non-tendered just to open a roster spot for someone else.

Associated Press photo

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith Comments Off

Salary predictions for arbitration-eligible Yankees10.20.14

Ivan Nova, Joe Girardi

These numbers are far from official, but the crew at MLB Trade Rumors — Matt Swartz in particular — has a strong record when it comes to predicting salaries for arbitration eligible players. Here’s what they’re predicting for this year’s arb-eligible Yankees:

IVAN NOVA
This year: $3.3 million
Next year prediction: $3.3 million

SHAWN KELLEY
This year: $1.765 million
Next year prediction: $2.5 million

MICHAEL PINEDA
This year: roughly $500,000 (slightly more than the minimum)
Next year prediction: $2.1 million

ESMIL ROGERS
This year: $1.85 million
Next year prediction: $1.9 million

DAVID PHELPS
This year: roughly $500,000 (slightly more than the minimum)
Next year prediction: $1.3 million

FRANCISCO CERVELLI
This year: $700,000
Next year prediction: $1.1 million

DAVID HUFF
This year: roughly $500,000 (slightly more than the minimum)
Next year prediction: $700,000

Associated Press photo

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith Comments Off

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