Sunday, August 31, 2014

Yankees Can't Afford To Put This One In The Ell Column



When Jacoby Ellsbury and the Yankees agreed to a seven-year, $153MM contract this past offseason, a very loud, "WHAT?" was said in unison in the baseball world. For Jacoby Ellsbury? The guy who had one very good season and was known more for his injury plagued years. That Jacoby Ellsbury?

It's only the first year of his contract, but the Yankees would be nowhere without Ellsbury, unquestionably the team's MVP. (Masahiro Tanaka would have been in the mix had he not injured his elbow - be very glad they are shutting him down now after he experienced soreness in his elbow after his latest rehab throw.)

Ellbsury had the misfortune Friday night to slide into the league in the leg of Toronto Blue Jays' catcher Dioner Navarro. Not only was Ellsbury out at the plate, but sprained/jammed his ankle. Tests results came back negative, but Ellsbury is hurting. He sat out Saturday's game with Toronto, and though he feels he'll play on Sunday, a conservative Joe Girardi is more likely to give him another day off. Especially since the Yankees have their next to last off day on Monday.

It's an especially painful loss for a team that has had trouble scoring runs all season. The former Red Sox outfielder has been on a tear of late - 11-22 (.500), 4 HR, 9 RBI, 6 runs in his last six games - and entered Sunday leading the team with 64 RBI and 37 steals, and is second to Brett Gardner with 64 runs scored.

Like everyone else, Ellsbury has had his dry spells too. He hit just .231 in May with a .664 OPS. But as the race for the second wild card has heated up, so has Ellsbury. In 25 starts and one substitute appearance in August, his slash line is .317/.360/.525 with 5 HR, 16 RBI, 9 SB (without being thrown out), 32 hits, and 13 runs scored. Girardi has used him primarily in the three-hole in the lineup this season, but as of late has inserted him into the lead off spot. Ellsbury has a robust .926 OPS at the top of the order, compared to a .728 OPS batting behind #2, Derek Jeter in the two-hole.

Over the years, many teams have thrown left-handers at the Yankees so as not to let them take advantage of the short porch in Yankee Stadium's right field, but Ellsbury has hit better - nearly .100 points higher in his OPS - against southpaws rather than right-handers. Sunday's game is no different, though it's on the road. The Blue Jays have lefty J.A. Happ scheduled to make a start. The Yankees can only hope the first batter he faces is Jacoby Ellsbury. Otherwise, the Yankees are already going into the game trying to come from behind.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Yankees to Change Name to Butchers


While there has been much talk in the media about the campaign/pressure to get the Washington Redskins to change their team name, the New York Yankees name change has gone ignored.

Yes, the one time Highlanders are now to be known as the New York Butchers. It has nothing to do with the many butcher shops there have been over the years in the Big Apple. No, this has to do with the 2014 Yankees' exceptional job at butchering baseball games. Last night's 5-2 loss to the Houston Astros was another example of the Yankees turning a victory into a loss.

The last time that happened was, well, the night before. So the Yankees take the field Thursday afternoon hoping to salvage the finale of a three game series with a young Astros team that suddenly doesn't look like the doormats of the American League. Then again, the Yankees make most teams look good.

Michael Pineda was grooving last night. Handed a 2-0 lead, he didn't allow a hit until the 4th inning and departed, with a 2-1 lead, after he walked the lead off man in the 7th. That's when Joe Girardi made a call to the Butcher Shop bullpen. Moments later, David Huff and Esmil Rogers had turned a possible win into another damaging loss.

Forget the A.L. East - the Yankees are 9.5 games behind the Baltimore Orioles - the Yankees are now five games out of the second wild card spot amd have three teams (Mariners, Blue Jays, Indians) in between them and the holders of the second wild card, Detroit.

The Yankees startering pitching put in decent efforts over the last six games; They held opponents to 2.29 runs per game and averaged nearly 8.5 K's per nine innings. Despite the solid efforts, the team won just twice in those half dozen games. While the defense has improved, the once reliable bullpen has been anything but reliable and the hitters have continued to not produce runs. (The lineup might actually hit better with a meat cleaver.)

The Yankees season is sinking faster than the Titanic, and the ship's captain, Derek Jeter, will depart MLB without making the playoffs for two consecutive years. That will be one first he does not want.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The 2015 Jeter-less Yankees - Who Are They?

The Jeter maze is probably easier to figure out than next year's squad.


This has not been a happy summer of Yankees’ baseball. It’s not helped by the fact that the summer is flying buy either. Football is around the corner and the final 1-1/2 months of the regular season is here. The Yankees semi-salvaged their road trip to Baltimore and Tampa Bay with a pair of wins this past weekend, but they enter Tuesday’s play a long 7.5 games behind the AL East leading Baltimore Orioles. They’re still in the wild card race (three games back of Detroit), but there are many others in the mix.

The fans are restless, bored, and unenthusiastic. It’s hard to blame them though. This current squad of Yankees has been turning in some dull efforts. It’s a team that can’t stay healthy, struggles to hit, and has a patchwork rotation.

It makes you wonder what things will be like next year. It will be the first Jeter-less Yankees team since 1995. (Yes, he had a cup of coffee with the team, but his impact wasn’t felt until a year later.) So the first thing to consider is:

Who will be the Yankees starting shortstop in 2015?
That is a difficult question to answer. There was speculation when Stephen Drew was acquired from Boston that the Yankees would try to re-sign him for next season to take over at his natural position, shortstop.

Earlier this year, it looked like Yangervis Solarte might be the answer. Then he flamed out and is now a member of the San Diego Padres.

All-Star Troy Tulowitzki, who wears the number 2 in honor of his idol, basically came out and said he wanted out of Colorado and would like to be the next Yankees shortstop. There are several problems with that, not the least of which is the guaranteed $118MM he is owed through 2021. He’s injury prone and in fact, underwent season ending surgery last week to repair a torn labrum in his left hip. At this point, how quickly he is ready to play next year is anyone’s guess.  Oh, and let’s not forget…he’s still a member of the Colorado Rockies.

The veterans that are potential free agents include the Dodgers’ Hanley Ramirez, the Nationals’ Asdrubal Cabrera, and the Orioles’ J.J. Hardy. The best option of the three is Ramirez, the former star with the Florida Marlins. Ramirez earned $16MM this year, a season in which his production has dropped off some from last year, when he suffered a shoulder injury. Ramirez will be 31 when next season starts. Health and wanting a long-term, big money deal are the drawback.
Cabrera’s numbers have steadily slid since his 2011 All-Star season and Hardy has just 7 HR in 112 games after having averaged 25 HR the prior three seasons.

Who will be manning second base and third base?
Things get really sticky here. Yankees principal owner Hal Steinbrenner stated last week that he expected Alex Rodriguez to be back as the Yankees third baseman in 2015. Can you really see that happening? Despite the fact they owe A-Rod $61MM, do you really think they want to deal with the circus that will come to town with him? It’s odd not to think the Yankees will attempt to either buy him out or eat a chunk of his salary and deal him to a team like the Florida Marlins. A-Rod would be in his hometown area and maybe the Marlins would have a drawing card. For his part, A-Rod would probably like to return to the Bronx just to stick it to the team he feels conspired with Major League Baseball to get him suspended. He’s going to have to weigh that against a mixed reception from the fans.

Barring an unusual circumstance, Martin Prado becomes the regular second baseman. (Perhaps third baseman if A-Rod departs.) Acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks at the trade deadline, Prado has two years and $22MM left on his contract.

Free agent options for the two positions include Chase Headley, acquired at the deadline from the San Diego Padres. After a hot start, Headley entered this weekend with just eight hits in his last 47 at-bats, for a .250/.349/.375 slash line with 2 HR and 8 RBI in 20 games. His defense at third base, however, has been superb.

Pablo Sandoval is the biggest name among the pending free agents at third base, though his hitting has curtailed a bit the last couple of years. After making $8.2MM this year, “Kung Fu Panda” will be looking for a long term, big money deal.  He’s under 30-years of age, practically unheard of in the Bronx these days, and is a switch-hitter.

Among the second baseman that could become free agents are the Tampa Rays’ Ben Zobrist. The team will likely pick up his bargain basement $7.5MM option, but if they don’t, Zobrist will bring versatility to any team he joins. This season alone, Zobrist has played both corner outfield positions and both middle infield positions. The last two seasons, he has not shown the power or speed he had in previous years, but he could still put up 15 HR and 10-15 steals.

Will there be a healthy body in the starting rotation?
CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Ivan Nova, Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda. That’s a starting five that can go toe-to-toe with any starting five in baseball. But Nova never made it past April, Sabathia’s season ended on May 10, Pineda was out from April 24 to August 11, and Tanaka made his last start on July 8. The oldest of the group, the 39-year old Kuroda, is the only member of the staff to take his regular turn.

The Yankees traded for Brandon McCarthy and Chris Capuano, plugged in David Phelps and Vidal Nuno, called up Chase Whitley and Shane Greene, and gave a spot start to Esmil Rogers. The replacements have had their ups and downs, and have been the victims of a lack of run support too many times to count.

In a perfect world, Sabathia returns next season with a healthy knee (no microfracture surgery was needed), Tanaka avoids Tommy John surgery and is in the rotation from the get-go, and Pineda remains healthy. The final two spots in the rotation would be filled in with free agents, trade acquisitions, or free agents.  Nova would not likely return until at least the mid-season point.

The Candidates
McCarthy has been outstanding since joining the Yankees. Granted, it’s a small sampling, but as of his first six starts as Yankee, McCarthy posted a 2.21 ERA, 1.282 WHIP, and had allowed three home runs in 36.2 innings pitched. If the price was right, the Yankees certainly would be interested in McCarthy, who won’t be 31-years old until next July.

Phelps was up and down in his 17 starts before he landed on the 15-day DL with an inflamed elbow. He had put together five solid starts before his final two, when it became apparent there was an injury issue. He’s due to begin a throwing program this week if he’s cleared by the medical staff.

Manny Banuelos was expected to be in the Yankees rotation by now. But poor performance and then Tommy John surgery sidelined him from May, 2012 until April of this year. Still just 23-years old, the left-hander has progressed steadily as the season has gone on. Over a period of three starts from July 22 through August 1, Banuelos allowed one earned run and three hits over 14 innings for the Double-A Trenton Thunder.  Though he was hit hard his next time out, the Yankees moved him up to Triple-A Scranton, where he allowed one run and one hit over five innings on August 12. (Banuelos had control issues in his start yesterday.) If not at the beginning of 2015 season, Banuelos is a good bet to join the Major League squad at some point during next season. The question is, will it be as a starter or reliever?

The internal long shot would be Luis Severino, who is now considered by many to be the organization’s top pitching prospect. The native of the Dominican Republic will be 21-years old shortly after pitchers and catchers report to training camp. The six-foot right-hander has struck out 118 batters over 103 innings combined at Charleston (‘A’), Tampa (‘A+’), and Trenton. The most remarkable stat for such a young strikeout artist is that Severino has walked just 25 batters. That works out to a nifty 4.72 strikeout to walk ratio. Severino’s ascension may be slowed for the remainder of the season – he’ll return tonight after being out 10 days with an oblique injury.

Free agency will see some heavy duty price wars for the services of left-hander Jon Lester and last season’s AL Cy Young winner, Max Scherzer.  Royals’ ace James Shields and Seattle’s steady right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma lead the next level of starters, many of whom will wait to see what the top guns get before agreeing to deals.

With all the money the Yankees have tied up in players with questionable health right now, it’s hard to see the team making a push for Lester or Scherzer. Iwakuma would probably be the cheaper option of the tier 2 pitchers.

Does D-Rob return?
Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman better be sure he has enough money in the pot to bring back free agent closer David Robertson. “D-Rob” has done an outstanding job in his first full season as Yankees closer, a job made even more difficult by being the replacement for Mariano Rivera. The native Alabaman has saved 33 of 35 chances and averaged a career high 13.7 strikeouts per nine innings.

The 29-year old earned $5.215MM this season and will get a substantial raise next season.  His departure would be a huge blow to the Yankees pen. (Many fans feel Dellin Betances is ready to step into the role already due to his 13.4 K’s per nine innings.  But this is Betances’ first full season in the Majors and it shouldn’t be assumed he’s ready for the 9th inning role.)

Who will be Brian McCann’s backup?
Francisco Cervelli has been solid as McCann’s’ backup. With injuries to McCann and first baseman Mark Teixeira (McCann has filled in), Cervelli has seen his playing time increase since he returned from the disabled list in mid-June. He’s hit .296 with an .825 OPS in 98 at-bats. The Yankees need to decide whether it will be Cervelli, John Ryan Murphy, who backed up McCann while Cervelli was out this season, veteran minor leaguer Austin Romine, or if will be a wild card entry to share the catching duties next season. With Gary Sanchez and others on their way up the ladder, one of the many Yankees’ catchers could be dealt in the offseason.

Can the Yankees trade Mark Teixeira?
Your guess is as good as mine. Teixeira has had one injury after another this season after missing most of last year with a wrist tendon injury. He’s been decent when he’s played - .768 OPS, 19 HR, 52 RBI in 87 games – but his status is nearly questionable every day.  Teixeira has two years and $45MM remaining on his contract beyond this season. He’s also got a no-trade clause in his pact. Barring a financial arrangement of some kind, Teixeira is in New York for the next two years.

Will the Yankees make the playoffs in 2015?
I have no answer for that. There are a lot more questions about next year’s team and so far, not many answers. A healthy team would be a good place to start.

Yankees and MLB Roll Out New Security Measures

"You! Why are wearing long sleeves on an 80 degree day?"

Hopefully body scanning isn't next, though some fans may want to be frisked by the member of NYPD of their choice.

So leave those screws in your ankle and your retainer home when you go see Derek Jeter play his final season.

Press Release:
As part of Major League Baseball's initiative to standardize security procedures at all 30 Major League parks for the start of the 2015 season, metal detectors will be added at various entry points at Yankee Stadium beginning today, Tuesday, August 19, for the start of the Yankees' upcoming homestand.

The Yankees are introducing metal detection at select Stadium entrances this season - before the 2015 mandate - in an effort to acclimate staff and fans to the new procedure. The Yankees urge all fans to leave a few extra minutes for entry into the Stadium, especially with large crowds expected for this weekend's series vs. the White Sox.

Upon entering the ballpark, fans will be asked to remove cell phones and all large metal objects from their pockets before walking through the metal detector; they can be retrieved immediately after entering. All bags still will be checked, and only MLB-compliant bags - 16x16x8 or smaller - will be admitted.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Tanaka Tosses, Thornton Tossed



Every time you hear the name Masahiro Tanaka, you are at once hopeful and also want to curl up in a fetal position. The expensive Japanese import was having a phenomenal first season in Major League Baseball when he felt something wrong in his very valuable right elbow. If you listen closely you can still hear the cries of "Nooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" echoing throughout the country after his last start on July 8.

Tanaka had been taking it easy since then, but threw 25 baseballs (correction - previously reported as 50) in a light and easy game of catch on Monday. Today, Tuesday, he followed up with another 50 throws. Hopefully he'll feel as good as he did yesterday when he wakes up tomorrow morning after back-to-back efforts.

GM Brian Cashman's nails must be bitten down to the cuticle as he sees one of his starting pitchers after another fall to the wayside. David Phelps was the latest injury victim when he was diagnosed with elbow inflammation after his short start this past Sunday. He was placed on the 15-day DL forcing the Yankees to once again maneuver things around to put someone in the rotation to take his place.

Chase Whitley should not be that choice. We've seen how that experiment went downhill after a great start. Michael Pineda should not be rushed back either. He's just beginning to ramp up his throwing rehab. David Huff could be moved into that spot or Cashman might find someone on the waiver wire.

There has been a shift in the bullpen as well. Matt Thornton got one out in Monday night's game and was headed to Washington, D.C. on Tuesday. The Yankees placed Thornton on waivers and the Washington Nationals scooped him and the $4MM he'll paid next season. Veteran Rich Hill will take his place for now, while Cashman looks for a more viable replacement. Either way, the Yankees have some extra cash to play with.

There's already been talk by members of the media that the Yankees will promote their first pick (2nd round) in June's amateur draft, Jacob Lindgren, to fill the void. The Mississippi State University product was promoted to Double-A Trenton on Tuesday after one game in the Gulf Coast League, four games at Single-A Charleston, and six games at Advanced-A Tampa.

One look at the 5'11" southpaw's stats and it's easy to see why the Yankees and the media are thinking the 21-year old could join the team this year. What stands out the most are 30 strikeouts in 13.1 innings pitched. While he's averaged over 20 K's per nine innings, Lindgren has walked just four batters, meaning that not to many opponents have put the bat on the ball and put it in fair play when they did make contact. But before declaring Lindgren as a star as making, remember that he's not facing David Ortiz or a young Justin Morneau. Hopefully the Yankees keep that in mind when it comes to deciding if Lindgren should be fast-tracked.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Cashman Brings In Mediocrity in Capuano, Aims Higher

Capuano is the latest lefty to join the Yankees

Chris Capuano had solid years for the Milwaukee Brewers. Notice the past tense in that sentence. Capuano is the latest player in the new game show, "Throw it against the wall and see if it sticks." It's also known as the Brian Cashman "I'll take what I can get" show.

Cashman isn't done looking for pitching though. Reports have the Yankees in discussions for their former first round draft pick Ian Kennedy and Rockies' starter, Jorge De La Rosa.

The Yankees acquired Capuano from the Colorado for cash. The 35-year old left-hander was released on July 1 after he pitched poorly in relief for the Red Sox. The Rockies signed him to a minor league deal just three days later. Capuano was at his peak in his third and fourth full seasons (2005-06) in the Major Leagues. He won 18 games with a sub-4.00 ERA in '05 and followed it up a year later with a tough luck won/loss  record (11-12), despite a 4.03 ERA.

Not yet 30, Capuano appeared ready to make a name for himself, but underwent surgery on his non-throwing shoulder after a miserable 2007 season. The following spring he injured a ligament in his left elbow during Spring Training and had to undergo Tommy John surgery for the second time in his career. (He previously had the surgery in 2002.)

Capuano returned to the Majors and Milwaukee as a reliever/starter in 2010, before he joined the Mets as a free agent for the 2011 season. He was a decent back-end-of-the-rotation starter for the guys from Queens and topped 186 innings. His comeback was truly complete as a member of the Dodgersin 2011, when he put together solid ERA and WHIP numbers (3.72, 1.220), threw 198.1 innings, and led the NL with 33 starts A variety of injuries limited him to 20 starts in 2013 and his production dropped off as well.

ESPN's Jim Bowden reported on Thursday the Yankees were in discussions with the Padres for Kennedy's services, with prospects Eric Jagielo (3B) and Ian Clarkin (P) being mentioned as part of a deal. However, on Friday, Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish reported that the Yankees were not "aggressively pursuing" Kennedy. Earlier in the week, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman stated that the Pads would not trade Kennedy unless they were blown away by an offer.

It was also Bowden who reported the Yankees had talked to the Rockies about De La Rosa. A couple of weeks ago, Bowden's colleague Jayson Stark had written that the Rockies were looking for a young pitcher that could join the staff ASAP. The Yankees are not in possession of that type of player, nor are most teams.

After he beat the Nationals on Wednesday, De La Rosa's record stood at 11-6, 4.19 with a 1.284 WHIP in 116.1 innings pitched. The 33-year old left-hander has actually had better results at hitter-friendly Coor's Field than on the road. With some home cooking, De La Rosa's ERA (3.23) is more than two points lower than when he dons the Rockies' road uniform. He's also won seven of his nine decisions in Colorado.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Yankees Must Now Address Right Field

The Yankees should fly Byrd to New York


When the Yankees signed Carlos Beltran to a three year, multi-million deal this past offseason, they expected a 25 HR, 90 RBI season from their new right fielder. What they didn't expect was for Beltran to be limited to designated hitter duties to a balky right elbow that may eventually lead to surgery.

For now, Beltran has begun throwing again, but is limited to the designated hitter role. Even if he gets cleared to play the outfield, it will be on a limited bases. Right now, Ichiro Suzuki is the right fielder. Kelly Johnson is on the DL with a groin strain and Zelous Wheeler has a little outfield experience. Yes, the Yankees need an outfielder, preferably someone who can play right field.

The possibilities:

Most teams aren't making deals since they are within close range of either the division leader or the two wild cards. But there are some teams ready to bite the dust.

Josh Willingham
The Twins are one of those team that are quickly descending back to the AL Central basement. The 35-year old had fabulous back to back seasons with the A's and Twins in 2011-12. But injuries limited him to 111 games last year and he missed three-quarters of May this season. His OPS is a modest .770, but his .412 slugging pct. is a vast improvement from last year.

Willingham is a free agent after this year and would be owed the remainder of the $7MM he's set to earn this season. The drawback is that Willingham has primarily been a left-fielder in his career. He has 35 games of experience in right field and that all came in the 2009 season, while he was a member of the Washington Nationals.

Had Beltran been healthy, Kendry Morales would have been a good acquistion from Minny to fill in for the much injured Mark Teixeira.

Marlon Byrd
The Phillies are "phading" fast - they enter Thursday's play 15 games under .500. The 36-year old (these guys are the perfect age to be a Yankee) has played 98 games in right field this season. The much traveled Byrd - he's been with seven organizations in the Major Leagues (and more than once as a member of the Phillies)  - has put up a .796 OPS with 19 HR and 58 RBI in 387 at-bats.

The drawback is that Byrd is owed $8MM next year with the possibility of a vesting option in 2016 (also at $8MM). The Phillies will get more in return in if they eat some of the contract, but they already have a ton of money owed to several players. So far, the rumor is that the Phillies are asking for too much in return.

Alex Rios
The player that was once compared to Dave Winfield is a conundrum. A two-time All-Star, a player let go off recallable waivers, 25 home run power one year and just four home runs in 97 games this year.

It's hard to believe Rios is 33-years old. It seems like yesterday that he was an up and coming five-tool athlete with the Toronto Blue Jays. Rios was an All-Star in 2006-7 and hasn't been since. Toronto signed him to a six-year, $64MM extension prior to the 2008 season. But after a solid, but not upper tier season in 2008, the Blue Jays put him on waivers during the 2009 season. At the time his production had dropped off more and the Blue Jays must have been regretting the contract extension they gave to the then 28-year old.

They could have pulled Rios off of waivers and tried to make a deal with the White Sox, but they simply let him go and allowed the White Sox to assume the rest of the contract. He had just a .530 OPS in 41 games. But he bounced back the next season with 21 HR, 88 RBI, and 34 steals. For the most part he did well with Chicago, but was dealt to Texas last August (after clearing waivers) for Leury Garcia, a light hitting infielder.

This season, Rios leads the AL in triples and has 16 stolen  bases. He has a $13.5MM team option for next season, which no team will exercise. He sprained his ankle a few days ago and has been unable to play, though the team does not think a DL trip is necessary. Rios is a risk, but at the right price, one worth taking for a handful of months.

Drew Stubbs
Stay away from the Colorado Rockies outfielder. The 29-year old once stole 40 bases in a season, but doesn't hit. His .297/.335/.498 slash line and 10 home runs in 82 games is merely a product of playing his home games at Coor's Field. Stubbs road line is .229/.277/.343.

There you have it
And sadly, that's about it. I would love for the Yankees to pick up  Jay Bruce, who has having an off-year. While the Reds might be willing to dump his salary, the Yankees aren't likely to pick up more. ($25.5MM guaranteed with the potential of $12MM more.) The Reds would also demand a king's ransom for him. Marlon Byrd should be the top target in this flip-a-coin reality.

The Yankees also need to address starting pitching, but let's solve one crisis at a time.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Headley's Two Day Journey Ends With 14th Inning Game Winner

Headley celebrates his game winning hit over Texas

Chase Headley (@chaseheadley7 on Twitter) woke up in Chicago on Tuesday, 7/22 and will go to bed in New York early Wednesday morning as a baseball hero. Headley has been the subject of trade rumors involving the Yankees for the last three years, but it took until Tuesday for rumor to become fact.

Almost a dozen hours later, Headley was getting doused with Gatorade by new teammate Brett Gardner and was being interviewed on the field by Meredith Marokovits (YES Network) and Suzyn Waldman (WFAN-AM). With the game tied at one apiece in the 14th inning, Brian Roberts reached with a one-out ground rule double. Francisco Cervelli, who ripped a potential game winning line drive to Adrian Belte at third base two innnigs earlier, singled to push Roberts to third base and gave Headley a second chance to play the hero.

Headley, who had arrived shortly after the game started, pinch-hit for Zelous Wheeler in the 8th inning and struck out. He made the second out in the 11th inning with a ground out and bounced out again with the bases loaded to end the 12th.

But with his fourth at-bat of the night, Headley got his first Yankees' RBI when he dropped a Nick Tepesch pitch into left-center to drive home Roberts with the game winner. It was a satisfying ending to a long day.

Headley had been informed around 11:30 CDT this morning that he had been traded. He got the first plane out to New York and walked into the dugout in pinstripes with the number 12 on his back as the Yankees battled the Rangers in a scoreless duel. Headley told Marokovits after the game that he was excited "to go from the situation I was in (the Padres fell to 43-56 after the Cubs shut them out 8-0 on Tuesday), to go right into a pennant race."

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Yankees Get Headley - No Additional Joy in Mudville


The Yankees are counting on Chase Headley to strike a pose at the friendly confines of Yankee Stadium.

Had this been the 2012 trade deadline or the offseason heading into 2013, the Yankees acquisition of Chase Headley would have been met with more enthusiasm. But the trade between the Yankees and Padres, announced moments ago, has been met with a ho-hum.

That's because, since his breakout 2012 season, Headley hasn't been impressive at the plate. He led the National League with 115 RBI in 2012, to go along with 31 home runs, 17 steals, and a .286/.376/.498 split. While the Padres are a horrible team, Headley's production should be better than it was, even though he played most of last season with a torn meniscus. He had corrective surgery in the offseason.

Headley was limited to 141 games last year and put up a .257/.347/.400 slash line. He hit 13 HR, drove in 50 runs and struck out 142 times. This season Headley missed some time early with a calf issue and has not hit, particularly at his home field, Petco Park.

.229/.296/.355 is the ugly truth Headley is staring at as he heads to New York. 7 HR, 32 RBI, and 73 K's in 77 games. That doesn't sound much different than one of the players he was dealt for, Yangervis Solarte. The rookie took New York by storm the first two months of the season and has a .254/.337/.381 split with 6 HR and 31 RBI in 75 games. Joining him on the way to San Diego is right-handed pitcher, Rafael De Paula.

The 23-year old was pitching at Advanced-A ball Tampa and had compiled a 6-5 record with a 4.15 ERA. De Paula averaged 10.5 K's and 3.8 BB's per nine innings this season. He's a prospect that could still move up the charts and come back to haunt the Yankees one day. Yes, I am not in favor of dealing pitching prospects.

Headley will become the every day third baseman, with Zelous Wheeler sent back to Scranton. (Wheeler's spot could be taken by another reliever or perhaps outfielder Zoilo Almonte.) The 30-year old Padre will be reportedly be sent with $1MM to alleviate the remainder of the $10.525MM owed him this season. He's eligible to become a free agent next year; that's the biggest positive of the deal  until Headley can prove otherwise.

Headley will also have to choose another number than his current 7 or his old number 16. Now, can this mean the removal of Kelly Johnson? Probably not, but one can wish for it.

UPDATED 2:50 pm - Here's prospect guru John Sickels' assessment of De Paula:
Rafael De Paula, RHP: The Yankees signed De Paula out of the Dominican Republic in 2010. He earned a $500,000 bonus but it took some doing: his identity was in question, with De Paula having used various names and birthdays since scouts started showing interest in him. Once his identity was finally settled, he was suspended for a year until eventually signing the Yankees contract.

He finally got to North America in 2013, posting a 2.94 ERA in 13 starts for Low-A Charleston last year, with a 96/23 K/BB in 64 innings. Promoted to High-A Tampa in the second half, he struggled with his command and his secondary pitches, resulting in a 6.06 ERA in 49 innings and a 50/30 K/BB. He's improved in 2014, lowering his ERA to 4.15 for Tampa with a 104/38 K/BB in 88 innings.

Listed at 6-2, 215, De Paula's current birthday is March 24, 1991. He had one of the top fastballs in the Yankees system, consistently in the mid-90s with movement. However, his slider and changeup are very erratic and he loses the touch with his mechanics at times, hampering his control. Many scouts see him as a future reliever due to his inconsistency with his secondary pitches.

Monday, July 21, 2014

I Got It, You Take It: Yankees Win

You can only celebrate modestly on a winner that barely made it to the outfield.

It wasn't quite Luis Castillo dropping a pop up with the Yankees down to their last out, but the Cincinnati Reds' "circle the wagons" routine that allowed Brian McCann's pop up to fall in was pretty close. Jacoby Ellsbury raced home from third with the winning run after McCann's "hit" fell between first baseman Todd Frazier, second baseman Skip Schumaker, and right fielder Jay Bruce.

Frazier had tied the game at a run apiece when he turned on a Dellin Betances 98-mph fastball in the 8th inning and sent it into the left field seats. But with triple-digit thrower Aroldis Chapman on the mound, Ellsbury reached in the 9th with a lead off single.It was his fourth hit of the day and the fifth time he had reached base safely. (He had earlier drawn a walk.) Ellsbury then stole second base and moved to third on a wild pitch.

With the infield in, Chapman got Mark Teixeira to ground out to Frazier, with Ellsbury forced to stay at third. Chapman, again, made the pitch he needed to the Yankees catcher, but with Schumaker in on the cut of the infield grass, McCann's pop fly landed in the middle of Cincinnati's Bermuda triangle. Had Schumaker been back in his normal position it would have been a routine play, not that Reds manager Bryan Price had any choice but to play him in. Frazier mistakenly turned his back to the infield and actually overran the ball and Bruce was too far away in right to get there.

The victory gave the Yankees a three game sweep that enabled them to move to within three games of first place Baltimore in the AL East.

Next up, the stumbling Texas Rangers, who have lost 13 of 15 on the road.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

D4Assignment: Jeter's Last All-Star Hurrah



My latest column for my new online sports and entertainment magazine. Be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook, and if you are interested in joining our team, email me at dsarver@d4assignment.com

It seems like it was only yesterday that Derek Jeter  was in his rookie season with the New York Yankees. I was younger then, than he is now. It’s odd enough to not see Mariano Rivera  in a Yankees uniform this season, but to not see Jeter in the home pinstripes or the road greys next season is incomprehensible. Life moves fast and so has Jeter’s final season as a Major League baseball player. Tuesday night, he’ll be introduced as the starting shortstop for the American League in the 85th MLB All-Star game at Target Field in Minnesota.

The fans voted in Jeter as the starter this season, as a tribute rather than because of his play this season. They recognize the special player they have witnessed on a nightly basis for nearly 20 seasons. (The anti-Yankees/anti-Jeter sentiment among some fans, specifically those criticizing his place on the team, is more about those fans and their lack of perception of the baseball world outside of their own team.)

Jeter made his first All-Star appearance in 1998, his third full season in the Major Leagues. In an interview with former teammate, and current ESPN analyst Aaron Boone, Jeter admitted to being “scared to death” in his first mid-Summer classic. It’s hard to believe, coming from a player with the confidence that Jeter has, but newbies are newbies. Things have changed since then. (See the entire ESPN interview by clicking here.)

Read the rest of the column for free (always) at Designated4Assignment.

And to read more about Derek Jeter's phenomenal career look for the Derek Jeter commemorative magazine, from I-5 Publishing, in stores now. I had the incredible fortune to contribute to the publication by writing about Jeter's career from 1995 through 2002.


Friday, July 11, 2014

Steinbrenners to Introduce GeorgeCare

A view you may not see again this year.

Yankees' Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner announced earlier today that the team is rolling out new healthcare legislation, "GeorgeCare", due to the rash of injuries the team has suffered this season. The new legislation will allow the Yankees to carry a 50-man active roster and fans will receive rebates every time Matt Thornton pitches or Kelly Johnson bobbles a ball at first base.

All kidding aside, the Yankees are a physical mess right now and there is no hope in sight for a healthy turnaround.

The death knell to the season may have come when it was discovered that Masahiro Tanaka had a slight tear of his Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL). Tanaka will be out a minimum of six weeks, and Tommy John surgery has not been ruled out of his future.

The injury leaves Hiroki Kuroda as the only starting pitcher left from the five man rotation the Yankees hoped to trot out to the pitcher's mound.  CC Sabathia has been out since mid-May due to a degenerative knee injury; Michael Pineda was DL'ed on May 6, when he felt pain in the area below his right shoulder, and Ivan Nova, who looked to have returned to his 2011 form in the second half of last season, went down early to Tommy John surgery. And then the big blow to the season came with the loss of Tanaka, who was among the league leaders in all positive pitching categories.

Unless a decision is made prior to that, if Tanaka needs surgery and doesn't have the operation until August or September, there goes the entire 2015 season and probably part of 2016.  For now David Phelps, Shane Greene, and Brandon McCarthy are in the rotation, along with Kuroda. But who will be joining them?

Chase Whitley started out fantastically, but crashed back to Earth in his last three starts (17 earned runs in 10.1 innings pitched). He did pick up the win in relief on Wednesday when the Yankees topped the Indians 4-2 in 14 innings.

Left-hander David Huff has pitched fairly effectively out of the bullpen and is a former starter, though he has only started six games since 2011.  (Two with the Yankees last year and four with the Indians in 2012.)

The Yankees added another left-hander to the mix Friday when they acquired Jeff Francis from the Oakland A's for a player to be named later. Francis had been designated for assignment on July 3 after he had allowed nine earned runs in 13.1 innings pitched. Francis pitched through shoulder pain for the Colorado Rockies in 2008 and missed the entire 2009 season after he underwent shou7lder surgery. He's never regained the effectiveness he had in 2006-2007, when he averaged 15 wins and a 4.19 ERA, with his home games played in hitter-friendly Coors Field.

The Yankees lineup is suffering too. Carlos Beltran has been a walking disaster area. He missed time due to a bone spur in his elbow and a strained hamstring.  Then during batting practice on Wednesday, Beltran fouled a ball into the cage. It ricocheted back into his face, causing two small facial fractures. He was placed on the 7-day disabled list to check for a concussion as well. So far, the three-year deal given to Beltran is a complete bust.

The trade deadline (July 31) will be coming up before you know it. The Yankees always go for the gold, but do they sell instead this year? If their still floundering in three weeks, it might be for the best to try to deal some players. David Robertson will be a free agent after this season. He can always come back, so why not trade him to a team willing to pay a heavy price for one of the better relievers in baseball.

Though his hitting hasn't been tremendous, Brian Roberts has stayed healthy and could be traded for a minor prospect or two. See if Hiroki Kuroda is willing to waive his no-trade clause. Perhaps a reunion with the Los Angeles Dodgers could be in the offing.

Who should build/rebuild this team?

You never know when injuries will strike, but there's a greater chance with older players. Combined with the lack of top prospects at the top tier of the farm system, and you can see why it maybe time for Brian Cashman and the scouting department to be under more scrutiny. Cashman has been creative, at times, in building a team, but the putrid play the last two seasons have shown that maybe it's time someone else was the team's foreman.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Find A Ledge: Tanaka Headed Back to New York For MRI



MRI, the three little letters that no athlete ever wants to here. Especially pitchers, when it comes to their arms. More specifically, the elbow and shoulder. The Yankees' veteran rookie ace, Masahiro Tanaka, left Cleveland after last night's poor performance and headed back to NYC for an MRI.

As first reported by the NY Post's George King III (shouldn't he go by King George III? Though he didn't fare too well back in 1776), Tanaka didn't feel too bad after the game, but evidently had more pain/discomfort/soreness today.

Japanese pitchers are used to pitching every seventh day, not every fifth, so hopefully this is just a bump in the road. Brett Gardner, who will miss Wednesday night's game with an abdominal strain, said it best. “We just hope and pray we get good news. “He’s a special player.”

Just in case, find a ledge.

UPDATE - 6 pm; As expected Tanaka has been placed on the 15-day disabled list. The results of the MRI will determine the next step.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Greene Baseballs and A Ham



Shane Greene has waited for this moment since he was selected by the Yankees in the 15th round of the 2009 MLB amateur draft. Sure, he's had a cup of coffee, a very tiny cup, in the Majors already. That came on April 24 when he put on the Yankees' road greys with a  #39 on the back and strode out to the mound against the Boston Red Sox. It didn't end well.

Greene only got one out, walked three batters, and allowed three unearned runs. Well, at least his ERA is still 0.00. Tonight the Yankees are counting on Greene to last a lot longer than that when he makes a spot start against the Indians in Cleveland. Hopefully there will be no midges.

This would have been Vidal Nuno's start, but the lefty was dealt to Arizona on Sunday for Brandon McCarthy. With McCarthy on his way, it was just logical for the Yankees to grab Greene for one start. The 25-year old has made 15 appearances this year, 13 of them starts, for the Triple-A Scranton RailRiders. His 5-2 record, 4.61. and 1.583 WHIP means the Yankees will have a long man ready early to back him up.

Greene opened some eyes last year, when he made 26 starts (plus one relief appearance) between Scranton and Double-A Trenton. His combined sub-4.00 ERA, 1.328 ERA, and better than eight K's per nine innings gave him a legitimate shot to be a call-up this season. His command issues and more than a hit allowed per inning caused a professional setback.

But Greene can open some eyes again tonight with solid start.

Oh, the ham? That would be the Indians' Nick Swisher.