Whatever the batting order, it’s the hitters themselves that will determine whether the Yankees lineup is any good this season. Joe Girardi could put them in the perfect 1 through 9, but if key players don’t perform up to their abilities, the offense simply won’t work. Hitters don’t have to be at their absolute peak to become valuable assets again, but key hitters reverting back toward key career stats would be a good strong step in the right direction.
If these specific players could bounce back in these specific ways, it would make a big difference.
MARK TEIXEIRA – Slugging percentage
Last season: .398
Teixeira has acknowledged that he’s probably not going to be a .300 hitter at this stage of his career. The shift has taken away a lot of his hits, and he’s just not a .300/.400/.500 guy anymore. But in 2012 — his last healthy season before last year — Teixeira slugged .475. That would have been the 12th-heighest slugging percentage in the American League last season. And it’s not that Teixeira absolutely can’t do that any more (he was slugging .474 at the end of June before a brutal second half). Power is at a premium these days, and Teixeira doesn’t have to be a great overall hitter to be a productive run producer.
BRIAN MCCANN – OPS vs. RHP
Last season: .633
McCann actually hit pretty well against lefties last season. Even exceeded his career numbers against them. What he did not do is hit against right-handers. He’d typically crushed them, but last season McCann slugged less than .400 with a sub-.300 on-base percentage against right-handers. Blame it on the shift. Blame it on the transition. Blame it on a bad year fully of lofty expectations. For whatever reason, McCann simply didn’t hit right-handers. Now that the American League East has lost several left-handed starters — including standouts Jon Lester and David Price — McCann should be able to feast on a bunch of righties in the division. Improve his splits, and McCann should significantly improve his production.
CARLOS BELTRAN – RBI
Last season: 49
Because of the elbow injury, it’s hard to know what to make of Beltran’s capabilities at this point. Was last year’s diminished slash line the product of age or injury? As recently as 2013, Beltran was still an .830 OPS guy. In his career he’s typically hit for a good average, hit for good power, and played a role in the middle of the order. That’s why he’s averaged more than 100 RBI per 162 games. Clearly RBI is not really an individual statistic. It depends heavily on playing time, and it depends on the rest of the lineup, and that’s why it’s such a key stat for Beltran. However he does it — through raw power or clutch hits or simply an abundance of opportunities — another 100 RBI season from Beltran would indicate that he’s stayed healthy and stayed in a lineup that’s generating plenty of run-scoring chances. As a guy the Yankees will surely count on in the middle of the order, a lot of Beltran RBI would be a good sign for the entire Yankees team.
JACOBY ELLSBURY – Stolen bases
Last season: 39
This is just a guess, but if Ellsbury is back at the top of the order (focusing on getting on base and creating havoc) rather than hitting in the middle (focusing on driving in runs and being a typical No. 3 hitter), I bet he’ll steal more bases this season. I might be completely wrong — and certainly a 39-steal season isn’t bad by any measure, it was the second-most in the American League — but a higher number of stolen bases would seem to indicate a better job getting on base and a willingness to run. In each of Ellsbury’s two highest-steal seasons, he’s had a .355 on-base percentage, which is 27 points higher than his on-base percentage last season. Stolen bases are hardly an absolute proof of Ellsbury’s productivity — he also had 39 steals in 2011, which was easily his overall best season — but a lot of steals in 2015 could be a sign of several things for the Yankees: It would suggest Ellsbury’s getting on base a lot, and that someone else hitting well enough in the middle of the order that Ellsbury gets to stay in his more-natural No. 1 or 2 spot.
STEPHEN DREW – Batting average on balls in play
Last season: .194
At times, BABIP is considered a measure of luck. If a typically good hitters has abnormally bad numbers, then a low batting average on balls in play could be an indication that he’s a few inches away from typical production. In the case of Drew, last year’s abnormally low BABIP could also be explained by his abnormally low line drive percentage. His home runs per fly ball were also down, as were his infield hits. His strikeout rate was significantly higher than usual. All of that could be an indication that Drew wasn’t simply unlucky last season, he simply wasn’t as prepared, making weaker contact when he made contact at all. Surely the Yankees aren’t banking on Drew being a dominant offensive player, but they’re obviously banking on him being better than last season’s .162/.237/.299. Better and more consistent contact should help.
CHRIS YOUNG – OPS vs. LHP
Last season: .561
Similar to the McCann situation, but from the opposite side of the plate and in a much smaller role. Even with that strong month of September, Young’s splits last season were not at all what’s come to be expected. He was alright against right handers, but he was brutal against lefties. Given all of the left-handed hitters in the Yankees regular lineup — and the presence of Garrett Jones as left-handed outfield option off the bench — Young’s role this season seems to be entirely in a platoon situation, bringing some right-handed balance to a team that leans to the left. Whether he’s in the lineup against lefties or coming off the bench to pinch hit for Drew or Didi Gregorius, Young could have a real impact if he’s able to make the most of his limited playing time against left-handers.
Associated Press photos
Now that Stephen Drew is officially on the roster, manager Joe Girardi sees a benefit to having Drew and Brendan Ryan sharing a clubhouse with young shortstop Didi Gregorius.
“It’s nice having a veteran shortstop presence with (Drew) and Brendan for a young kid like Didi,” Girardi told MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch. “Guys that have played the position. You look at Stephen Drew, he has played on a world championship team. He understands what it’s like to play in the American League East, and so does Brendan Ryan. I think it’s going to be really helpful to Didi.”
But even with that shortstop trio in place, Girardi isn’t ruling out the idea of Rob Refsnyder or Jose Pirela winning a spot on the roster.
“They’re going to have a chance to make the team,” Girardi said. “Obviously, when you put someone like Stephen Drew in front of them, I understand that’s probably extremely frustrating, but just continue to work extremely hard, and your opportunity is going to come.”
Associated Press photo
Finally, the Stephen Drew signing is official. Comes as little surprise that outfielder Eury Perez was designated for assignment.
Drew, 31, combined to hit .162 (44-for-271) with 18R, 14 doubles, 7HR and 26RBI in 85 games with the Yankees and Red Sox in 2014. On May 21, he signed a one-year contract with the Red Sox, appearing in 39 games for Boston before being acquired by the Yankees along with cash considerations in exchange for INF Kelly Johnson on July 31. In 46 games with the Yankees, he hit .150 (21-for-140) with 7R, 8 doubles, 3HR and 15RBI and appeared in 34 games at second base, his first career experience at the position.
In 1,021 career games over parts of nine Major League seasons with Arizona (2006-12), Oakland (2012), Boston (2013-14) and the Yankees (2014), he has hit .256 (970-for-3,782) with 489R, 224 doubles, 97HR and 442RBI. From 2008-10, Drew was the only Major Leaguer to record double-digits in doubles, triples and home runs in each of those three seasons.
Drew was originally selected by the Diamondbacks in the first round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft.
In order to make room on the 40-man roster, OF Eury Perez was designated for assignment.
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
Just when you thought the Yankees had moved on from Stephen Drew, they’ve decided to bring him back.
This week, the Yankees and Drew agreed to a one-year deal worth $5 million plus some incentives based on plate appearances. For now, it seems Drew slides in as the team’s regular second baseman with the flexibility to add depth at shortstop and perhaps third base if necessary.
Really, though, it seems we’re going to have to wait until spring training to see how exactly Drew impacts the 25-man roster. His contract is not so substantial that the Yankees absolutely have to stick with him no matter what happens elsewhere. If Rob Refsnyder, for example, looks like a stronger option at second, the Yankees could get creative to find a way to make that happen.
Ultimately, Drew is a veteran option at a position where the Yankees had no one with substantial big league experience. He hits left-handed and has typically been a much better hitter than what last year’s numbers suggest. This could be a strong buy-low situation, or it could be a $5 million mistake that ends with a mid-season release much like Brian Roberts a year ago.
For now, though, Drew is coming to spring training to give the Yankees another option in an infield that has changed almost completely in the past few months.
• Yankees pitching prospect Ty Hensley was hospitalized with multiple facial injuries after a fight at a friend’s house in Oklahoma. A former college linebacker has been charged with assault, and each side claims the other started the whole thing. Hensley suffered a broken jaw but seems optimistic that this will not derail his career. Just a sad situation all around.
• Speaking of prospects, the Yankees have re-signed their own prospect by agreeing to a new minor league deal with Slade Heathcott. Released earlier this offseason to open a 40-man spot, Heathcott has always been a high-potential center fielder, but his progress has been slowed by a series of injuries. He and Jose Campos were both released at the non-tender deadline, and both have since been re-signed.
• Whatever you want to make of it, Alex Rodriguez posted a picture to his Instagram account showing him going through third base fielding drills as a high school in Miami. Seems little surprise that Rodriguez wants to at least get ready to play some third base. I’m sure he’d like to prove he can handle the position better than Chase Headley, even if the Yankees are clearly doubtful.
• Speaking of DH options, Jerry Crasnick reported that Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard left the Yankees off his no-trade list. In theory, that opens the possibility of trading for Howard in a bad-contract swap, but the Howard contract might actually be worse than anything on the Yankees roster (aside from maybe Rodriguez, who seems perfectly unmovable under any circumstances).
• Coaches were named for Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Most notable seems to be the promotion of hitting coach Marcus Thames to Triple-A, and the promotion of P.J. Pilittere to Double-A. Those two seem to be among the organizational favorites, and both could be rising toward big league roles in the future. Manager Dave Miley and pitching coach Scott Aldred are returning to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, while Al Pedrique is replacing Tony Franklin as the manager in Trenton.
• The leagues in Venezuela, Mexico and the Dominican Republic have entered their postseason, which means several young Yankees have wrapped up their winter league regular seasons. Ramon Flores, Adonis Garcia, Jose Pirela and Ali Castillo stand out as Yankees who played particularly well this offseason.
• Speaking of winter ball, it’s worth noting and remembering that Esmil Rogers has been working as a starting pitcher in the Dominican Republic this winter. Could be stretched out as rotation insurance in spring training.
Associated Press photos
Well, Stephen Drew is back. He was seemingly pushed out of the picture when the Yankees signed Didi Gregorius to be their shortstop, but now Drew is on the verge of a one-year deal worth $5 million. He mostly naturally fits the Yankees at second base, where the Yankees were previously preparing for a competition among young players.
At this point, though, the Drew signing seems like a wait-and-see situation. Have to see how a few things play out before we really know what Drew means going forward. A few questions:
Can the Yankees get creative with their bench?
Here’s the easy prediction for the Yankees lineup (in some order): C Brian McCann, 1B Mark Teixeira, 2B Drew, 3B Chase Headley, SS Gregorius, LF Brett Gardner, CF Jacoby Ellsbury, RF Carlos Beltran, DH Alex Rodriguez.
That means, this is the easy prediction for the Yankees bench: C John Ryan Murphy, INF Brendan Ryan, OF Chris Young, OF/1B Garrett Jones.
With Drew in the mix, there seems to be little room for Rob Refsnyder or Jose Pirela. That said, wouldn’t either Refsnyder or Pirela be a perfect platoon partner at second base? Either one could also fill in as a corner outfielder occasionally, or free Drew to play shortstop or third base from time to time. As it stands, the Yankees seem to have their 13 position players in place — with at least some level of competition to decide the backup catcher — but I wonder if the team could get creative during spring training to change the plan.
By late March, the easy predictions could be much different than they are today. Let’s see how the team’s health holds up, and let’s see how some of these guys perform, before we decide that anyone is absolutely out of the mix based on one signing.
Does this really open further trade possibilities?
When news of the Drew signing broke, the first email I received was a suggestion that a trade must be in the works. I understand the thinking, but I’m not sure it’s a given. Signing Drew doesn’t actually give the Yankees overwhelming depth in the infield. They were so thin to begin with that Drew kind of brings them up to code as much as anything.
Clearly Headley isn’t going anywhere, and neither is Teixeira. The Yankees could trade Gregorius, but that would wipe out the major benefit of having a young shortstop who might be able to handle the position well into the future. The Yankees could Ryan and let Drew serve as the backup shortstop — with either Pirela or Refsnyder on the bench — but that would leave two left-handed shortstops on the roster (and surely Ryan’s trade value is extremely minimal).
With Drew at second base, I suppose the Yankees could trade either Refsnyder or Pirela, but I have a hard time believing a one-year deal with Drew has squashed the idea of Refsnyder as the second baseman of the future or eliminated the need for a young, cost-controlled utility man who might just now be reaching his potential.
I wouldn’t suggest the Yankees can’t make a trade based on the Drew signing — Brian Cashman’s gotten plenty creative already this winter, and this frees some opportunity to get creative again — I just don’t think adding Drew automatically means there’s another deal in the works.
Are we really surprised by a desire to build infield depth?
I’ll admit being a bit surprised at first. Drew was brutal last season, the Yankees already found their shortstop, and the farm system is ready to provide young options at second base.
But seriously, why is it stunning that this team would want to secure some extra infield depth heading into spring training?
Yes, Gregorius should be the regular shortstop, but he also lost a starting job last season. If Gregorius falls on his face again, Drew’s a nice guy to have waiting in the wings. Second base is also a position of uncertainty. Refsnyder is talented, and Pirela looks like a solid hitter, but neither is a defensive standout, and neither has a meaningful big league track record. Headley’s had a bad back in the past. Teixeira went through seemingly endless injuries last season. No one knows what Rodriguez is capable of doing.
On a one-year deal, Drew’s clearly a short-term fix. At $5 million, he’s not breaking the budget. I’m not sure Drew’s necessary, but I’m not sure he has to stand in anyone’s way, either.
Associated Press photo
By my count, the Yankees added 10 brand new players to the big league roster — players who had not been in the organization when the season started — between the July 15 All-Star Game and the end of the regular season.
Second-half moves like that happen every year as teams try to plug holes here and there, but the Yankees’ second-half additions stand out because of just how many have either re-signed, stayed on the roster, or otherwise impacted the organization going forward. This list isn’t made entirely of lingering players, but there are lot of them.
LHP Rich Hill – Signed to a minor league deal immediately after the all-star break, Hill was allowed to leave via free agency this offseason. Perhaps his lasting impact is the fact he was the guy called up when the Yankees let go of Matt Thornton on waivers. That was a money saving move, and having Hill in Triple-A presumably made it a little easier (there really wasn’t another lefty to bring up before Hill was added to the mix).
3B Chase Headley – Seems safe to assume Headley would have been on the Yankees radar this offseason regardless of his second-half stint in pinstripes, but the Yankees clearly liked what they saw, and Headley has acknowledged that he enjoyed the New York experience more than he expected. Would these two have found common ground without that late-season audition? Maybe not.
LHP Chris Capuano – The Yankees were desperate for a starting pitcher, and Capuano was available. He had been released and was pitching in Triple-A when the Yankees acquired him, and he pitched like a good No. 5 during his 12-start stint as a rotation replacement. As other rotation options came off the table earlier this month, the Yankees eventually found their way back to the guy who pitched better than expected late in the season.
2B Martin Prado – Of all the names on the list, this is the only one clearly intended to be a long-term fix. The Yankees planned to use Prado in the outfield last season, but he wound up playing all over the field, and it was that versatility that made him a strong fit going forward. His ability to play second base has freed the Yankees to re-sign Headley, and Prado’s ability to play the outfield might eventually free them to add Rob Refsnyder.
SS Stephen Drew – Perhaps this was the audition that had the opposite impact of Headley. Finishing off a strange year in which he signed late and missed spring training, Drew came to the Yankees at the trade deadline with the expectation that he could learn and new position and improve his offensive numbers. The first part was no problem — Drew looked good at second — but the offense never got better. It seems telling that Drew’s still on the free agent market.
RHP Esmil Rogers – A waiver claim at the trade deadline, Rogers showed moments of promise mixed with moments that explained why he was so readily available in the first place. As the season was winding down, Rogers didn’t have a defined role and he entered this offseason as a prime non-tender candidate. The Yankees, though, got him to take a pay cut as they prepare to give him one more look as either a long man, a one-inning reliever, or possibly a starter.
OF Chris Young — This move was easy to mock at the time. Young, after all, had been released by the Mets earlier in the season and there seemed little chance that such a castaway would play any sort of role with the Yankees. But he signed a minor league deal, got a September call-up, hit a few home runs, and wound up with a new one-year deal as the team’s fourth outfielder. That late signing might have made all the difference.
LHP Josh Outman – Basically added to the mix because he seemed like a better left-on-left option than Hill, but late in the year it was Hill getting more of the prime matchup situations, and Outman wound up dumped back into free agency. Hard to remember Outman was ever on the roster in the first place.
RHP Chaz Roe – A late acquisition turned September call-up, Roe is a former first-round pick who pitched two innings for the Yankees, walked three guys, allowed three hits, gave up two earned runs and was never heard from again.
OF Eury Perez – End-of-the-season waiver claim who got 10 at-bats before the end of the season. He might have been let go this winter, but Perez was given an extra option and now seems likely to open the season in Triple-A as a bit of right-handed outfield depth. He has some speed to go with a .360 on-base percentage in the minors. Probably not a guy who’s going to play a significant role going forward, but he’s still in the mix at this point.
Associated Press photos
Pieces falling off the board always seem to bring fresh perspective during the offseason, and to some extent, that’s what happened yesterday when J.J. Hardy signed a contract extension.
I have no idea whether the Yankees would have been fully motivated to make a real run at Hardy had he hit the open market. I thought he was a relatively good fit considering the alternatives – strong glove, hit in the past, experience in the division, fairly short contract – but the Yankees are in such a strange spot that it’s hard to perfectly pinpoint what they might do. I liked Hardy more the alternatives. Doesn’t mean he would have actually landed in the Bronx.
At the very least, though, Hardy gave us some perspective on the price of a proven shortstop these days. The Orioles gave three years, $40 million, plus a vesting option, to bring back a 32-year-old. Hanley Ramirez is going to cost more. Stephen Drew will surely cost less.
And maybe that’s the spectrum we need to look at now.
Ramirez is the headliner of a fairly strong shortstop market that still includes Drew, Asdrubal Cabrera, Jed Lowrie and international possibility Jung-ho Kang. Ramirez is the biggest bat of the bunch – and the Yankees most certainly need offense – but he’s not a great defender, he’s been hurt plenty in the past, and he’s likely to require another high-risk, long-term contract.
You know, the kind of contract that put the Yankees roster in its current state of frustration.
Maybe it’s worth the risk because Ramirez is certainly a heck of a player when he’s in the lineup, but the Yankees have enough bad contracts as it is. Might make more sense to buy low on a guy like Drew, hope for a big bounce-back season, and if nothing else pair him with Brendan Ryan as a defense-first platoon (to his credit, Andrew Marchand began beating that drum long before I did).
Amazing to think bring Drew back is even a remote possibility given the way he performed during his two-month rental period, but the Yankees really have to pick their battles at this point. Maybe buying low on Drew is the way to go. I wouldn’t have said that yesterday, but perspective is always changing.
Associated Press photo
Now that Derek Jeter has decided to become a sports blogger, the Yankees need to find someone else to play shortstop. We’ve known for a long time that this transition was coming, and now that it’s here, there’s no perfect solution. There is no shortage of options, just nothing that stands out as an obvious, can’t-miss way to go.
Essentially, the Yankees are going to have to make a choice. Take an injury risk? Go for a big bat? Settle for a great glove? Spend big money? Go with a cheap platoon?
There might be preferences, but I don’t think there’s a slam dunk out there.
For one of two reasons, several of the market’s best shortstops might not actually be able to play the position this season. They’re either significant injury risks, or they’re mostly likely second basemen or third basemen masquerading as shortstops.
At the top of this list is Hanley Ramirez, who’s either the best free agent position player on the market or the market’s biggest gamble (or maybe he’s both). The Yankees need offense, and Ramirez can hit. He had an .817 OPS this season, and that was a down year. He also played just 128 games, and that’s one year after playing just 93 games. Health has to be a huge concern, and there are questions about his ability to stick at shortstop, but Ramirez is surely going to cash in with a massive contract. Is he worth that risk?
If not Ramirez, what about Asdrubal Cabrera, who moved to second base with the Nationals, and whose offensive numbers are trending the wrong way? What about Jed Lowrie, who slugged just .355 this season and not so long ago looked more like a high-end utility man than a true everyday shortstop? How about Korean standout Jung-Ho Kang, who’s hit for power but brings the usual uncertainty that comes with any international free agent?
If next season started tomorrow with the Yankees current roster, they would at least have a true defensive shortstop in place. Brendan Ryan hardly played this season, so it’s hard to make much of his numbers, but he’s historically been an elite defender. Hasn’t hit much (at all) but he can handle the position. That’s worth something.
Which brings us to an unusual free agent alternative: Stephen Drew. Also a proven defensive option at shortstop, Drew’s coming off a season surely wrecked his earning power. After turning down a qualifying offer last winter, Drew hit just .162/.237/.299 this season, and the Yankees spent two months seeing that kind of production up close. It wasn’t pretty.
But if there’s not a reliable offensive shortstop available, would the Yankees consider some sort of defense-first platoon of Drew and Ryan? Might be worth spending money elsewhere — Yasmani Tomas? Jon Lester? — while prioritizing a relatively cheap glove at shortstop (with the upside that Drew might reestablish himself and become a real bargain).
Realistic or not, at some point Troy Tulowitzki has to be a part of the conversation, if only because he’s the best shortstop in the game. He brings his own obvious injury risks, and if the Rockies actually make him available, there might be other teams better positioned to get him, but he’s still worth mentioning. Trades are about hoping for the best, and Tulowitzki’s best-case scenario is about as good as it gets.
But trades are tough, because it’s not only about the Yankees needing to have “enough” to trade for a guy like Tulowitzki, it’s about them having and giving more than anyone else. Would the Cubs trade Starlin Castro at a price that make sense? Is Alexei Ramirez worth the prospect price at 33 years old? How willing to deal are the teams that have young depth at shortstop — Diamondbacks, Mariners, Cubs — and would the Yankees really plug a kid into that spot?
Trade speculation is a favorite winter activity, and the Yankees will surely be a big part of the rumor mill, even if it’s far more smoke than fire.
A separate category largely because I’ve long thought Hardy might be the best combination of offense and defense at a reasonable price. Here’s the problem: Hardy has warts of his own.
He turns 33 in August, he’s surely going to require a multi-year deal, and his home run power seriously declined this season. Hardy might still have 25-homer potential — he’s averaged 21 homers per 162 games during his career — but he’s not exactly a guy who wipes out the Yankees current run-production problems. Metrics still like his defense, but he’s also moving past his prime years.
I still think Hardy might make the most sense, but just like all the other options, he comes with plenty of causes for concern.
Associated Press photos
Plenty of confusion tonight about the fifth-inning play at the plate that essentially cost the Yankees their best chance to tie the game. But the reality is — and everyone seemed to agree — that baseball’s evolving rule about blocking the plate never should have come into play because Stephen Drew never should have been waved home in the first place.
“To begin with, just a bad send,” third-base coach Rob Thomson said. “Just an error on my judgment. I take full responsibility for it. We’re all accountable around here. It just wasn’t a good decision. Nobody out, the middle of the lineup coming to the plate, I’ve got to stop him right there. I thought the outfielder was going a little bit further to the line. He came up and squared up (to throw) pretty quick. I should’ve stopped him. … From my perspective, the ruling doesn’t really come into play. It’s just a matter of whether I think that guy is going to be able to score or not, and (the rule) shouldn’t come into play, especially with nobody out.”
Or, to put it another way:
“You can’t make the first out at home,” Joe Giradi said. “It’s a quick decision he has to make. It’s a bang-bang decision — and it’s not an easy job — but you have the bases loaded and nobody out (if he doesn’t send the runner).”
The confusion came because Rays catcher Ryan Hanigan clearly blocked the plate without the ball, but the league actually sent a memo earlier today saying that catchers can stand in front of the plate if they have the ball in plenty of time (basically making sure runners aren’t safe on a technicality, which is the best Drew could have hoped for). With or without the memo, it seems Drew would have been allowed to run over the catcher, but runners are basically conditioned to slide at this point.
“They still want them to slide,” Girardi said. “It really hasn’t changed a whole lot. They talk about they want the guys to slide. And the guys know that if the guy’s blocking the plate, they can run them over. They are so used to sliding now, in a sense, it’s going back and forth.”
That’s what Drew said. He basically had no lane and wasn’t sure what he was allowed to do, so he slid. But it all comes back to the decision to send the runner.
“If I had to do it again I’d probably do it the other way (and run him over) because of the outcome,” Drew said. “… At the time I thought it was be a little closer than it was when Tomper sent me there. At that point, it was already too late.”
• I’ll probably write more about this in the morning, but my impression of Girardi and everyone else was that this was the most resigned the Yankees have seemed all season. This really felt like the blow that knocked out what little hope remains for a playoff push. “It leaves us in a pretty big hole,” Girardi said. “Basically we have to win every day. That’s the bottom line: we have to win every day.”
• Girardi pointed out that immediately after Drew was thrown out at the plate, Derek Jeter still had a chance to drive in the tying run and he instead lined into double play. Sending Drew was a bad decision. Jeter’s ball was pretty bad luck.
• Girardi also called it bad luck that Ichiro Suzuki was doubled up at second base in the seventh inning. Ichiro had singled and stolen second base and he had a great jump trying to steal third, but Drew flied to right and Ichiro couldn’t get back in time.
• Chris Young drove in two of the Yankees three runs tonight. He got his first Yankees hit in his first Yankees start. It was his first hit and first start since August 5 with the Mets. It was his first RBI July 30 and first multi-RBI game since July 13.
• The other Yankees run came on Jacoby Ellsbury’s 15th home run. This is the second time in his career that he’s hit at least 15 homers in a season. Ellsbury is hitting .361 with 12 runs, three triples, five homers and 15 RBI in his past 19 games.
• Brutal game for Hiroki Kuroda, who’d been pitching extremely well before tonight’s debacle. “I had a great start in the first inning,” Kuroda said. “But I feel like they changed their approach in the second inning on, and I wasn’t able to re-adjust instantly. … I guess I should have changed my approach on my first pitches, which I didn’t do.”
• Kuroda struck out the game’s first three batters, but beginning with a leadoff homer in the second, he allowed four runs on nine hits without pitching through the fourth inning. It was the first time this season that he lasted fewer than four innings. “I just didn’t think he located his fastball very well and his split didn’t have quite the bite it had all of his other starts that we’ve been seeing when he’s been on a roll,” Girardi said.
• This was Kuroda’s shortest outing since May 22 of last year, and it was the most hits he’d ever allowed in a start of 3.1 innings or less. He was one hit shy of a season-high in hits allowed.
• The Yankees bullpen was exceptional. Seven relievers combined for 5.2 scoreless innings with just two hits, two walks and six strikeouts. The bullpen has pitched 20.2 scoreless inning in their past six games.
• Derek Jeter went 0-for-4 while playing in his 2,730th career game. He is now tied with Mel Ott for the eight-most games ever played among players who played their whole career with one team. According to Elias, Jeter also tied Ott for the most games ever played for a New York MLB team.
• We’ll give the final word to Mark Teixeira: “I mean, we want to win, obviously. That’s a tough game. We made a little run there, but you have to get to these guys before their eighth- and ninth-inning relievers. They’re two of the best in baseball. We had some chances in the middle innings but just couldn’t get over the hump. … We have to win a lot of games. We’ve said it before; we have very little margin for error. We have to try to win every night.”
Associated Press photos