Monday, December 31, 2012

Tejada Returns to AL With Royals

After sitting out the 2012 season, 38-year old Miguel Tejada has decided to try another comeback and has reportedly signed a deal with the Kansas City Royals.

Tejada says he will earn $1.1MM with the change to win another $400K with incentives. The native of the Dominican Republic played in 91 games in the 2011 season for the San Francisco Giants, but was released in September aftering compiling a .596 OPS. Tejada signed a minor league deal with the Baltimore Orioles this past May and hoped to play with the them at the big league level for the third time in his career. But after 36 games in the minors, Tejada had no home runs, 18 RBI, and hit just .259. The Orioles released him in late June.

Tejada won the American League MVP Award while a member of the Oakland A's in 2002. He hit 34 HR, drove in 131 runs, scored 108, and batted .308 while playing in all 162 regular season games. Tejada drove in 100 runs or better in five straight seasons between Oakland and Baltimore. He finished two RBI shy of 100 in 2005 or the streak would have been seven straight seasons.

The reputation of the shortstop/third baseman took a hit in 2009 when he admitted to lying to Congress about HGH and steroid use. Tejada had been mentioned in the Mitchell Report and was named as a suspect steroid user  by Jose Canseco in his 2005 book, Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant 'Roids, Smash Hits & How Baseball Got Big".

Andy Reid Leads List of NFL Firings

Updated 12/31 10:25 PM

The NFL regular season ended yesterday, Dec 30, which means that Monday morning will see a lot of coaches and GMs joining the unemployment line. 

The biggest name fired Monday morning, as expected, was Philadelphia's Andy Reid. The longest tenured coach in the NFL at 14 seasons, Reid was done after his team finished 4-12 finish this season. Philly came into the season with high expectations (QB Michael Vick anointed them a dynasty before they ever won anything), but after winning three of four to start the year, the Eagles won just once more the rest of the year. 

Many of the problems with the Eagles could be contributed to injuries, but the good teams overcome them. The Eagles weren't able to do so. Reid finished 130-93-1 overall and took the team to the Super Bowl in 2004. The dismissal ends a terrible year for Reid, who lost his son Garrett to a heroin overdose in August. 

The first announced firing on Monday was the New York Jets letting go of GM Mike Tannenbaum whose poor draft choices and free agent signings was part of the Jets' disappointing 6-10 season and a second straight season without reaching the playoffs. Coach Rex Ryan will be back, though he will need a new quarterback to replace Mark Sanchez. Owner Woody Johnson might want to fire himself too for the Tim Tebow debacle. 

Cleveland has already given the axe to head coach Pat Schurmer after two years and a combined 9-23 record. GM Tom Heckert was also shown the door. 

The Jacksonville Jaguars have canned GM Gene Smith after the team's worst season - 2-14 - on the heels of a 5-11 season in 2011. Head coach Mike Mularkey is safe for the moment, but that could all change when a new GM is hired. 

San Diego's Norv Turner saw the chopping block as well. Turner has been long recognized as a great offensive mind, but a poor head coach. Turner's teams, perennially underachievers, won 113 and lost 122 in his 14 years as a head coach with Washington, Oakland, and San Diego. General Manager A.J. Smith was llet go as well. He's held the position since 2003. 

Kansas City fired head coach Romeo Crennel after the Chiefs 2-14 season. Crennel was hired as interim coach for the final three games in 2011 after Todd Haley was fired as the top man. GM Scott Pioli survived the day. 

Dallas head coach Jason Garrett could be a victim of the Dallas Cowboys' inconsistency and two straight non-playoff 8-8 seasons. Dallas owner Jerry Jones is extremely unpredictable, so a decision could go either way. 

Lovie Smith won 10 games this year in Chicago, but rumors proved to be correct when the Bears fired Smith. The biggest reason being the Bears started 7-1, but then lost five of their last eight games to miss the playoffs. The Bears were 8-8 last season, but 11-5 in 2010, which is the last time they made the playoffs. Smith also led the Bears to the Super Bowl in 2006, where they lost to the Indianapolis Colts. His removal would be an injustice and a mistake. 

No surprise that the Buffalo Bills handed a pink slip to coach Chan Gailey, who compiled a 34-46 mark in three seasons in Buffalo. GM Buddy Nix could be in trouble too since expectations were high for Buffalo this season, especially after signing free agent defensive end Mario Williams. Whether Gailey and/or Nix stay put, the Bills need to rid themselves of QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. Ever since Fitzpatrick got a six-year, $59MM extension in October, 2011 he has not been the same quarterback and the Bills have not won football games. 

The Arizona Cardinals' Ken Whisenhunt will be looking for work after the Cardinals 5-11 season led to his dismissal. Arizona somehow won their first four games before losing 10 straight. Whisenhunt was hired by the Cards before the 2007 season and took Arizona to their only Super Bowl appearance a year later. The Cardinals followed that up with a 10-6 record and another playoff appearance in 2009, but they've gone just 18-30 the last three years. 

Other coaches and GMs could also be let go whether there have been rumors or not. Plenty of assistant coaches will be looking for new jobs as well.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Yankees Should Look Into Napoli

It looked like the Boston Red Sox were a cinch to sign free agent Mike Napoli to a three-year, $39MM contract. The only thing that stood in the way was the prerequisite physical. Apparently, the results of which have led to a renegotiation between the Red Sox and Napoli's representation.

The hold up is rumored to be an issue with one of Napoli's hips. Burned or semi-burned by big contracts to Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez in 2010-2011, the Red Sox will be very cautious in what they will pay a player that might be damaged goods.

The situation could still fall apart completely, and is the impetus behind the rumor that the Red Sox have reached out to free agent first baseman Adam LaRoche. The 33-year old is coming off a career year for the Washington Nationals in which he hit a career high 33 home runs, tied his best season with 100 RBI, made his first All-Star appearance, and also snared his first Gold Glove Award. He would almost certainly come at a higher cost than Napoli, despite being two years older than the former member of the  Los Angeles Angels and Texas Rangers.

You can bet Red Sox GM Ben Cherington has pictured Napoli peppering the Green Monster of Fenway Park, but LaRoche would actually make more sense. The Sox have prided themselves on defense for a number of years now and LaRoche would fit the bill as a superior first baseman to the more inexperienced Napoli (133 career games at first base). On the down side, LaRoche tends to be a pull hitter, which doesn't necessarily work well for a left-handed hitter in Fenway Park.

But enough about the Red Sox; after all, this is supposed to be about the Yankees checking in on Napoli. Obviously, they too would have to check in on the condition of Napoli's hip. (One highly paid player in NY with bad hips is enough.) But they should try to offer Napoli a two year deal worth $30MM or even have only one year guaranteed with an optional second year that can kick in automatically if Napoli meets certain criteria (games played, hits, etc.).

Though Napoli is not as stupendous player as some people think - his 2011 post-season has warped the view of him - he's a much better hitter than the recently signed Matt Diaz. Granted, the two would not be competing for the same spot, but the Yankees are going to need a better right-handed bat than Diaz to make up for the loss of Alex Rodriguez. (Or more precisely, what the A-Rod achieved at one time.)

It's already been made crystal clear that these are not the George Steinbrenner Yankees and staying under the $189MM limit by 2014 is a hard and fast rule in Yankeeland. That being said, some money will be freed up when Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera will likely be coming off the books after the 2013 season (a combined $22MM) and Curtis Granderson's $15MM will as well.

Whether the Yankees are setting things up to sell the team or managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner is being more fiscally prudent than his Dad, the Yankees still need to be competitive if they expect the fans to fork over their hard earned dollars to buy single game and season tickets.

Adding Mike Napoli to the lineup could help in that regard.

Sayonara Godzilla: Matsui to Retire

Hideki Matsui showed nothing but class since he joined the New York Yankees in 2003 after a long career in Japan. He became as beloved in the Big Apple, especially by fans of Japanese descent, as he was in his native country and was the World Series MVP when the Yankees captured their 27th title in 2009. Now 38-years old, Matsui has decided it's time to hang up his cleats for good.

No official announcement will be made until tomorrow, Friday, at a press conference in New York City, but Matsui indicated he is retiring from baseball.

Matsui debuted as a 19-year old third baseman for the Yomiuri Giants in 1993 and though his numbers were nothing spectacular, his 11 home runs in 57 games was a portend of things to come. He would average 35 home runs over the next nine years in Japan's Central League and hit a career high 50 home runs the season before his move to New York. His OPS topped 1.000 five of his 10 seasons for Yomiuri.

The Yankees and Yomiuri agreed to a scouting and minor league non-player personnel deal in 2002 that was the first of its kind between Major League Baseball and a Japanese team.1
Exchange of general baseball information, including scouting reports on professional baseball players in the U.S. and Japan.
Exchange baseball rules and regulations active in the U.S. and Japan.
Hold at least one meeting annually about the above mentioned topics.
Exchange of minor league personnel, such as coaches and staff, but not including players.
The Yankees will support the Giants in scouting and player development in Latin America.
The Giants will support the Yankees in scouting and player development of Asia and the Asian Pacific rim.
The two teams will exchange technology and information on player rehabilitation and conditioning.
Though the Yankees denied the agreement had anything to do with Matsui, the Japanese star signed a three-year, $21MM deal in December, 2002. His first season in New York didn't produce the power that some were expecting (Baseball Tonight's Bobby Valentine said he would hit 50 home runs his first year), but Matsui did drive in 106 runs, hit .287, and got adjusted to the spacious confines of left field in the old Yankee Stadium.

He made a huge splash in his first game at the Stadium with an opening day grand slam against the Minnesota Twins. A year later the Yankees and Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays toured Japan for the opening of the regular season. Matsui was greeted by throngs of fans who were ecstatic to see their countryman home, even if it was in a Yankees uniform.

His success in the States continued. His second and third seasons again produced more than 100 RBI and he averaged 27 home runs (with a US career high of 31 in 2004) over the final two years of his original contract. Prior to the 2006 season, Matsui and the Yankees agreed to a new four-year, $52MM deal.

In the final year of his contract, with free agency looming and the likelihood of him not returning to the Bronx for another year, Matsui went out with a bang. He produced an .876 OPS, 28 HR and 90 RBI in the regular season, but it was in the post-season that Matsui saved his best for last in New York.

After going a combined 7-30 (.233) in the division and league championship series, Matsui unloaded against the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series. He homered in Game 2 against Pedro Martinez as the Yankees evened the series at a game apiece. He added some insurance with a pinch-hit home run in the Yankees Game 3 victory, and in the Game 6 finale he drove in six runs in the Yankees clinching 7-3 triumph.

Matsui homered again off Martinez and added a single and double. He became the first Japanese born player to win the World Series MVP Award.

Matsui signed with the Los Angeles Angels for 2010 and got a hero's welcome when he returned to Yankee Stadium for Opening Day. This time it wasn't only the fans that greeted him joyously; in presenting him with his World Series ring, Matsui's former teammates mobbed him with hugs and handshakes.

Matsui spent one year in LA, before playing for a season in Oakland, and a brief spell in Tampa in 2012 before he was released on August 1.

Between Japan and the US, the man who became known as Godzilla hit 507 career home runs. He was already missed in New York, but now he will be missed by all of Major League Baseball.

Good luck Godzilla!

"He's the Hideki you know." - John Sterling

Update 7:30 PM - Yankees General Partner Hal Steinbrenner released the following statement:

"Hideki Matsui, in many ways, embodied what this organization stands for. He was dedicated to his craft, embraced his responsibilities to his team and fans, and elevated his play when he was needed the most. He did all these things with a humility that was distinctly his own, which is why he was such a big part of our success and why he will always be a cherished member of the Yankees family." 

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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Top 10 NY Chumps: Another Ridiculous ESPN List

Dave Rothenberg was sitting in for Michael Kay on ESPN radio earlier today and was discussing the Top 10 Chumps in New York sports in 2012. Yes, another ridiculous list among a plethora of ridiculous lists that ESPN compiles.

Before I heard the 10 people it was obvious that Alex Rodriguez and several members of the NY Jets would be involved. There was voting for the list, but at the moment I don't know if it was done by members of ESPN and/or the fans. Rothenberg mentioned that he had voted, but I did not hear any other details. But I was truly shocked to hear that Curtis Granderson was #10.

The selection of Granderson immediately told me how absurd the list was going to be. Granderson did not have a good 2012 season or post-season. There's no question about that. However, Granderson is the kind of player you want on your team. A stand up guy, who always talks to the media, Granderson has also been a great ambassador for the game with trips overseas the last two years.  His selection also makes me think the fickle New York fans definitely had a hand in things.

Even the #9 selection of Nick Swisher was a bit silly. Swisher had a good regular season and a bad post-season, his normal season in other words.  But how far has this guy has fallen with Yankees fans is amazing - he has gone from being extremely popular to being the #9 chump on a list that deserved to be part of the list. I doubt such lists exists in Cleveland.

As for A-Rod, he was #4; barring some miracle A-Rod will be vilified for the remaining time he's in the Bronx whether he deserves it or not.

Jets coach Rex Ryan topped the list, followed by the team's GM Mike Tannenbaum, and QB Mark Sanchez. The first two you can understand, but I feel for Sanchez. He was over-hyped by the team from the start and because he hasn't played up to a perceived ability, people hate him and that's asinine.

Jets owner Woody Johnson was eighth on the list, and in my opinion, should have been #2 for creating the Tim Tebow fiasco. Despite having not played in New York/New Jersey, the LA Lakers Dwight Howard finished 7th. The fact that he never ended up with Nets  when it almost seemed certain he would and his immature exit from Orlando apparently weighed heavily with the voters.

Former Knicks coach and current Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni  finished 5th. D'Antoni did the best he could with a less than stellar squad, but his refusal to have the offense flow through Carmelo Anthony damned him to New Yorkers.

Fred and Jeff Wilpon finished 6th and clearly would have been #1 had the list been voted on in early September.

Yankees Go to the Matt with Diaz

Matt Diaz maybe the New York Yankees starting right fielder next season...if there's a left-hander on the mound. The NY Daily News' Mark Feinsand reported the Yankees agreed to a minor league deal and an invation to spring training with the former Atlanta Brave.

With Ichiro Suzuki signed, the Yankees had been in search for someone to face left-handed pitchers. Diaz can make $1.2MM if he goes north with the team out of spring training, and has incentives for another $800K. Diaz could also see at-bats for Brett Gardner and Curtis Granderson against some left-handers.

After playing for Tampa Bay and Kansas City, Diaz, except for a brief period of 2011, was a member of the Braves organization since 2006. Diaz, who will turn 35 in March had his best season in 2009 when he received semi-regular at-bats. He hit .313 with 13 HR and 58 RBI, and had an .878 OPS in 125 games.

Diaz signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates a free agent prior to the 2011 season, but was dealt back to Atlanta on the final day of August for a minor leaguer.

Pirates-Red Sox Hanrahan Deal Complete

It's taken several days to become official, but the Pirates and Red Sox have completed a six player deal that sends Pirates' closer Joel Hanrahan to the Red Sox.

In return the Pirates will receive prospects Jerry Sands (1B), Stolmy Pimentel (P), infielder Ivan DeJesus (had been acquired in the trade deadline mega deal with the Dodgers) and reliever Mark Melancon.

Boston will also receive minor league second baseman Brock Holt.

Hanrahan is expected to take over the closer role for Boston, with Andrew Bailey either moved to a set up role or traded away. Hanrahan spent parts of three unremarkable seasons with the Washington Nationals before he was dealt with Lastings Milledge to the Pirates for Sean Burnett and Nyjer Morgan during the 2009 season.

Hanrahan's career took off as a set up man in 2010 and he became the team's full-time closer a year later. The right-hander averaged 38 saves and nine strikeouts per nine innings in 133 total apperances. Hanrahan earned $4.1MM last season and is in his second year of arbitration eligibility. He can become a free agent after this coming season.

Melancon will have a chance to compete for the Pirates' closer role after one undistinguished season in Boston. He had a break out 2011 season when he saved 20 games in 71 appearances for the Houston Astros. Melancon was then dealt to Boston last December for shortstop Jed Lowrie and prospect Kyle Weiland.

As a set up man to Al Aceves, Melancon struggled with his control and finished the season with an ERA over 6. He also had a stint in the minor leagues in attempt to straighten out his pitching issues.

Sands is a slugging first baseman that was part of the same deal (as a player to be named later) that brought DeJesus to Boston last year. After Sands slugged 35 home runs in the minor leagues in 2010, he appeared in 61 games for the Dodgers in 2011, but hit just four home runs in 227 plate appearances. Last season he played in just nine Major Leagues games and was 4-23 with no home runs.

Pilmentel has been in the Red Sox organization since he was a 17-year old in 2007. Thus far his production has been mediocre, but still just 22-years old, the Pirates hope that he can find his 'A' game.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Andruw Jones' Christmas Arrest- Tis the season?

Andruw Jones, who spent the last two seasons with the Yankees and is headed to Japan to play for the Rakuten Golden Eagles next year, was arrested outside of Atlanta at 4 a.m. Christmas morning.

Jones was arrested for battery, but there are no other details at the moment. Hopefully, he did not attack Santa Claus for not getting him a US baseball contract.

UPDATE: 8:40 PM - The Associated Press has learned that the arrest involved a dispute between Jones and his wife Nicole, whom he's been married to for 10 years.

UPDATE: 12/26 - More details of come out about Jones' arresting and they are pretty ugly ones. Jones reportedly attacked his wife after she asked him to help set up for Christmas morning. She tried to run up the stairs, but Jones grabbed her by the ankle and dragged her down the stairs. He then held her down and told her that he wanted to kill her. No word if alcohol or drugs were involved.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Ibanez is Once, Twice, Three Times a Mariner

After a heroic 2012 campaign, Raul Ibanez was hoping to return the Bronx this coming season, but instead chose to play for the Seattle Mariners for the third time in his career. He'll earn $2.75MM in base salary with incentives to earn more money.

Ibanez likely took a look at the glut of left-handed hitters on the current Yankees' 40-man roster and decided he would get more playing time elsewhere. He's expected to share left field and DH duties for the Mariners, who lost 87 games last season.  Seattle had already added Kendrys Morales via a trade with the Los Angeles Angels.

Ibanez played more than expected during the regular season due to injuries and came through with 19 home runs and 62 RBI in 384 at-bats But it was.Ibanez's late inning heroics in the stretch run and post-season that will not be forgotten. None more so than Game 3 of the division series with Baltimore when Ibanez, pinch-hitting for Alex Rodriguez, tied the game with a home run and then won it with another home run in the 12th inning.

All that being said the Yankees certainly did not need another 40+ year old player on the 2013 roster.  Ibanez was a member of the Mariners from 1996-2000 and again from 2004-2008. He was a  member of the NL pennant winning Philadelphia Phillies that lost to the Yankees in the 2009 World Series.

Swisher Changes Tribes

For most of the period (2009-2012) that Nick Swisher was in New York, the flamboyant outfielder was extremely popular with fans. His regular season numbers helped the Yankees to the post-season in each of his four seasons and as a right fielder he bonded with the Bleacher Creatures.  But Swisher struggled each post-season, including this last post-season, when many of the fans took out their frustration on Swisher and others. It will be interesting to see the reaction (likely positive) when Swisher returns in 2013 as a member of the Cleveland Indians.

The nine year veteran agreed to a four-year, $56MM deal on Sunday to play the outfield for the Indians through 2016. For Swisher, it's a homecoming of sorts, since he played for the Ohio State Buckeyes in college. He'll replace Shin-Soo Choo who was dealt to the Cincinnati Reds earlier this month.

Swisher will play for manager Terry Francona, who was named to replaced Manny Acta, after one year of working in the ESPN Sunday night baseball broadcast booth. Swisher averaged 26 HRs and 87 RBI in his four seasons in New York and was excellent at working the count. He topped 90 walks twice and compiled an .850 OPS. But Swisher hit just .161 in 36 career post-season games, with four home runs and eight RBI.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Red Sox Lose Ross, Close to Gaining Hanrahan

The Yankees aren't the only AL East team who will enter 2013 with a different right fielder. Free agent Cody Ross, who signed a one year deal with Boston prior to last season, has agreed to a three-year, $26MM deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Ross will join his 7th organization in 10 seasons and will nearly triple the annual salary he earned ($3MM) last season. The Red Sox were expected to lose Ross and had signed Shane Victorino and Jonny Gomes in the meantime to add depth to their outfield.

It appears the Red Sox will also be shaking up their bullpen, which struggled last year. ESPN Boston's Gordon Edes reported earlier that the Sox were close to acquire closer Joel Hanrahan from the Pittsburgh Pirates. No word on who the Pirates would get back.

The 31-year old went from making the league minimum to $4.1MM last season and has averaged 38 saves the last two years. He enters his third year of arbitration eligibility and should get a substantial increase from 2012.

The Red Sox acquired Andrew Bailey from the Oakland A's prior to last season for outfielder Josh Reddick and two minor leaguers. The move backfired when Bailey injured his thumb in spring training and pitched in just 19 games. Meanwhile, Reddick hit 32 home runs, drove in 85 runs, and won his first Gold Glove. The Sox could move Bailey to a set up role or use him in deal to land another part. The former AL Rookie of the Year is in his first year of arbitration eligibility after he earned $3.9MM last season.

Either move for Bailey stinks for me since I have him as a cheap closer in my keeper league. :/

Earlier this week the Red Sox also brought in free agent shortstop Stephen Drew, younger brother of former Red Sox outfielder J.D. Drew. The younger Drew was on the verge of stardom with the Diamondbacks when he suffered a severely broken ankle in 2011. He's struggled to regain his health and offensive form since then, but the Red Sox reportedly agreed to a one year, $9.5MM deal pending a physical.

A physical is apparently what has kept the Red Sox from officially signing Mike Napoli. The two sides had originally agreed to a three-year, $39MM deal, but the Sox are reportedly concerned about a hip issue and are back to negotiating with Napoli on a possible shorter, less expensive deal.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Where Are They Now: Steve Sax

I was reading the paper this morning - yes, you heard that correctly - and saw a familiar name that I hadn't seen in a while. Former Yankees second baseman Steve Sax was named as the first base coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Sax is more famous for his years as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers, but he had a semi-successful three year run in the Bronx at the expense of fan favorite Willie Randolph. I was among the many that hoped Randolph would spend his entire career (aside from the 30 games he played with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1975) in a Yankees uniform.

Dallas Green was named manager of the 1989 Yankees and word was he wanted Sax as his second baseman.  Both players were free agents - Sax signed with the Yankees on November 13 and just under a month later Randolph, ironically, signed with the Dodgers.

Sax was the '82 NL Rookie of the Year and a three-time All-Star before joining the Yankees. (He would add two more All-Star games to his resume while with the Yankees.) But Sax was also Chuck Knoblauch before Knoblauch was. I'm referring to the brain cramp Sax developed trying to make a routine throw to first base.

In just his second full season in the big leagues, Sax committed 30 errors and topped the 20 mark the next two years. Sax turned things around by the time he got to the Yankees, but there were times he was criticized for his defensive play, especially where he was positioned on some plays. (e.g. relays from the outfield.)

Sax hit .315 his first year in New York, with 205 hits, 43 stolen bases, and a .751 OPS. Though he stole 43 bases again in 1990, Sax's splits dropped to .260/.316/.325. But in his final year with the Yankees, Sax bounced back. He topped the .300 mark again, put up a .759 OPS, and hit a career high 10 home runs.

Following the 1991 season, Sax was dealt to the Chicago White Sox for Bob Wickman, Domingo Jean, and Melido Perez. Sax spent two seasons with the White Sox and finished his career with the Oakland A's in 1994.

Sax had worked in the financial industry and as a motivational speaker before joining the Dbacks organization, where he will be reunited with former Dodgers teammate and current AZ manager Kirk Gibson.

Edwin Jackson, Illusionist

I won't say something as dramatic as "I nearly drove off the road..." but I was stunned when I heard on ESPN radio or WFAN that Edwin Jackson was close to an agreement with the Chicago Cubs on a four year contract that would pay him $52MM. Even now I feel like shouting "WHAT?"

Jackson is the epitome of mediocrity; a guy who every now and then catches lightning in a bottle, but for the most part produces a middling performance. Despite that he has seen his yearly salary go from $2.2MM in 2009 to $4.6 a year later to $8.75 in 2011 to $11MM last season.

The $11MM was a one year deal he signed with the Washington Nationals based on his 2011 season that was slightly better than average. Jackson started the 2011 season with the Chicago White Sox, the fifth of seven teams he has played for in his 10 years in the Major Leagues. He had a 2.2 WAR with Chicago, but a WHIP over 1.4 an ERA of nearly 4, which would have been good in years past, but not in the "The Year of the Pitcher" season.

He was dealt to the Cardinals at the '11 trade deadline and finished with a 3.58 ERA in 12 starts and a relief appearance. His WAR was only 0.6 and has been the case throughout his career, Jackson struggled with his control. The right-hander's career strike out to walk ratio is just 1.95. (He's surpassed 3.0 just once in his career.)

Jackson has gotten better with age - he's still just 29 - but his past performance is not worth a four year deal or worth $13MM per season.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Yankees Officially Bring Back Ichiro

As expected, the Yankees and Ichiro Suzuki reached agreement on a new two-year deal. The Yankees were hoping to sign the 39-year old to a one year deal, but when Suzuki got two year offers from other teams, the Bombers had no choice but to add a second year.

Ichiro will earn $13MM over the life of the contract and is expected to platoon in right field with a player yet to be acquired.

The future Hall of Fame right fielder was having the worst season of his career, when the Seattle Mariners dealt him to the Yankees at last year's trade deadline. After a slow start, Ichiro was blisteringly hot over the final month of the season and hit .322 as a Yankee. He also added a small ball component to the lineup, something the Yankees lost when Brett Gardner went down in April with an elbow injury that kept him sidelined until the end of the season.

Yankees' fans also have an outside chance to see a second player reach 3,000 career hits in a Yankees uniform for the second time in three years. Ichiro is 394 hits away from joining Derek Jeter in the 3K club.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Swisher, Soriano Among the Bigger Names Left in FA Market

When Nick Swisher and Rafael Soriano turned down one year, $13.3MM qualifying offers from the Yankees, it was obvious there time in New York was officially over. The two are among the handful of valuable players that are still available via the free agent market.

It's no surprise that Swisher had not signed up until now given the market had to be set first by Josh Hamilton, the biggest prize among every day players. In the case of Soriano, I suspect  agent Scott Boras have overvalued the market. (Boras blames players of a lesser value - he specifically mentioned Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino - for getting too much money and throwing things off. Wait, what? Boras said someone is overpaid?!)

It came as no surprise when Soriano opted out of the three year, $35MM deal he had with the Yankees with one year remaining. Soriano took advantage of closer Mariano Rivera's misfortune in 2012 to save 42 games in 46 attempts. With Jose Valverde being the only other closer on the market who has had recent success (2011, he stunk this past season), one would think there would be plenty of teams willing to sign Soriano to a three or four year big money deal. Boras pushed the Tigers hard to replace Valverde with Soriano but has been rebuffed in his attempts thus far.

Swisher put together a steady regular season resume with the Yankees from 2009 - 2012.  Swisher's .850 OPS was accompanied by an average of 26 HR and 83 RBI. He also walked more than 90 times in a season in half of his career in the Bronx.

As steady as he was during the regular season, Swisher was just as unreliable during the post-season. His 5-30 (.167) showing in two playoff series this past Fall left him with a career split of .169/.283/.305 in 181 post-season plate appearances.

The Cleveland Indians have been the team most mentioned when Swisher's names comes up. The switch-hitting outfielder is said to be looking for a four year deal in his first entree into the free agent extravaganza. He earned $10.25MM last season and recently turned 32-years old.

Other outfielders still available include Michael Bourn, Scott Hairston, and Cody Ross. The Yankees have reportedly shown some interest in the soon-to-be 30-year old Bourn. The Yankees are hopeful they'll get a new two-year deal done soon with Ichiro Suzuki, who with Curtis Granderson, and Brett Gardner, would split outfield time with a right-handed bat.

The left-handed hitting Bourn would not fit that bill and is a similar type of player to Gardner, who made about a third of Bourn's salary last year. If the Yankees were to deal Curtis Granderson, it would relieve them of $15MM in salary, but leave a substantial power hole in the lineup. Considering he becomes a free agent after the 2013 season, it makes no sense to deal Granderson, especially if he can recapture his 2011 swing.

Hairston would be a decent fit for the Yankees if he can approach the .803 OPS he compiled with the Mets last season. Hairston has battled injuries often in his career, but played in 134 games last season and hit 20 home runs for the first time.

This is the second consecutive season as a free agent for Ross, who signed a one year deal with Boston for just $3MM prior to the 2012 season. It was less than half the amount he had earned with the San Francisco Giants the year before. The righty hitting outfielder hit 22 HR and drove in 81 runs for the Red Sox and added an .807 OPS. But there was a wide chasm between his Fenway Park numbers and those he put together on the road. (.921 OPS at home; .684 on the road) The Phillies are said to be interested in bringing Ross back to the National League, where he had played the previous seven years.

First baseman Adam LaRoche appears set to cash in on his 2012 season in which he hit a career high 33 home runs for the Washington Nationals and matched his career high of 100 RBI. The Nats would like to retain LaRoche's services, but so far the two sides have not been able to agree on the length and amount of a contract.

Catcher A.J. Pierzynski will be 36-years old before the calendar changes to 2013, but one of the game's lightning rods is still in demand. It's largely due Pierzynski's 27 HR, 77 RBI campaign last season and his ability to handle a pitching staff. Yankees fans would love to see Pierzysnki brought in with a two-year deal to bolster the current group of catchers as well as to mentor guys like Austin Romine and Gary Sanchez.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Yankees Add Bobby Wilson to the Catcher Merry-Go-Round

The Yankees expected Eli Whiteside to possibly play a major part in their catching situation next season. Having already determined to let Russell Martin walk, Whiteside was expected to compete for part of a catching platoon with Austin Romine, Francisco Cervelli, Chris Stewart or whomever else the Yankees might sign in the meantime.

But in that meantime Whiteside got grabbed off waivers by the Blue Jays, and then again on Wednesday by the Rangers. But there's always a non-hitting veteran out there and the Yankees grabbed up another one in Bobby Wilson, formerly of the LA Angels.

Wilson was signed to a minor league deal after hitting .211 last year and has just a .593 career OPS. He is considered a decent defensive catcher.

One good thing Wilson did last year was quit Twitter - a very smart move before possibly playing in NYC for sure.
“I’m done with twitter. Try to be fan friendly and all I get is criticism. I wasn’t blessed with 5 tools. I worked hard to get here.”

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Hamilton Official to Halos

Go west not so young man; perhaps that was the calling Josh Hamilton heard when he decided to sign with the Los Angeles Angels. Or more likely it is because the Angels were the only team to offer Hamilton $25MM a year and a five year contract to boot.

It couldn't have hurt either that Hamilton's former Texas Rangers' teammate C.J. Wilson had signed a free agent deal with the Halos last season and probably reached out to him. Despite his production, teams were reluctant to give Hamilton too many years or too many millions to a player that has battled substance abuse, injuries, and prolonged slumps, several times. On the other hand he's still one of the most dangerous bats in baseball.

Hamilton hit 43 HR and drove in 128 runs in 143 games last season. His .930 OPS was second only to his 2009 AL MVP season when he finished with a league best 1.044.

Hamilton gets added to a lineup that already includes Albert Pujols, reigning AL Rookie of the Year Mike Trout, and Mark Trumbo, who averaged 30 HR and 91 RBI the last two seasons. The Angels also have a glut of outfielders even with Torii Hunter gone.

The Angels have said they don't want to deal Trumbo and neither Peter Bourjos nor Vernon Wells have much value right now. DH Kendrys Morales is said to be expendable and, on a frightening note if you are a Yankees fan, Ken Rosenthal wrote earlier today that his sources indicate the Yankees could be a destination for Wells. The two teams supposedly discussed it at the recent winter meetings.

The Yankees want a right-handed bat to platoon/fill in for Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson, and Ichiro Suzuki. (If he returns as is expected.) Between 2002 and 2006, teams would have killed to get Wells, but not any more. Except for a comeback season in 2010 when he hit 31 home runs and drove in 88, he's done next to nothing and/or been hurt. Wells has had a sub .700 OPS in his two years in LA and is owed $42MM over the next two years. I wouldn't trade a half dozen donuts for him.

Yankees Don't Need Glaus or Ransom

WFAN's Sweeny Murti reported early today that Troy Glaus, retired since 2010, had gotten in contact with the Yankees about a possible comeback.

The 36-year old played 128 games for the Atlanta Braves two years and earned $1.75MM. He produced 16 HR and 71 RBI along with a .744 OPS as a first baseman. Glaus missed nearly the entire 2009 season due to back and shoulder problems.

Murti also reported that Cody Ransom was interested in a job. Most Yankees fans will remember that Ransom looked like his game was held for ransom when he subbed for Alex Rodriguez during his last hip surgery in 2009.

Ransom put up a .190/.244/.333 split in 31 games for the Bombers, one year after a 1.051 OPS in 33 games gave the Yankees hope that he could ably fill in for A-Rod. To make matters worse, Ransom also struggled in the field.

Even if Kevin Youkilis had not been acquired, neither player would be a good fit for a host of reasons.

Ransom will just have to hold on to his high jumping memories.

Jays-Mets Getting Close to Dickey Deal

Several media outlets reported last night and this morning that the New York Mets and Toronto Blue Jays were closing in on a trade that would send reigning NL CY Young winner R.A. Dickey to Toronto.

The Mets were hoping to sign Dickey to an extension after his 2012 season, but the two sides are reportedly far apart. Dickey finished 20-6, 2.73 in a season that included back-to-back one hitters. He also threw five straight games without an earned run allowed (41.2 innings).

The 38-year old knuckleballer is set to make $5MM in 2013, a $750K bump from the prior year's salary. Mets' GM Sandy Alderson knows that Dickey's value will never be higher, hence the "hurry" to deal him now rather than the 2013 trade deadline.

Rumored to be going to the Mets in the deal are highly touted catching prospect Travis d'Arnaud, who was originally acquired from the Phils for Roy Halladay, and outfield prospect Anthony Gose.

Gose played 56 games for the Blue Jays in 2012 and did not display a Major League ready bat. However, he did steal 15 bases in 18 attempts.

The 23-year old D'Arnaud is considered expendable with power hitting catcher J.P. Arencibia the current starter in Toronto and John Buck as the backup. There is some question as to whether the Blue Jays should move Arencibia and hold on to d'Arnaud rather than the other way around.

Dickey, who threw over 230 innings in 2012, is said to be looking for a two year, $26MM extension. It's something the Blue Jays don't need to give him either, though they would be more likely to sign him to an extension if they are to give up D'Arnaud.

UPDATE 11:15 pm - Joel Sherman of the NY Post tweeted tonight that the deal is closer to happening. The Blue Jays will send d'Arnaud, Buck, Noah Syndergaard, and a low level prospect to the Mets for Dickey, catcher Josh Thole, and a low level prospect.

UPDATE 12/16 7:25 PM - The Mets and Jays have reportedly finalized the terms of the deal, with a contract extension for Dickey the only thing that is holding things up. Dickey would join a rotation that includes Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle, both of whom were acquired in the Floirda Marlins' latest purge.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

7th Anniversary of My Pinstripes

Yesterday - December 12 - marked seven years since I started My Pinstripes back in 2005. At the time I probably did not expect to still be creating material seven years later.

I've tried different things over the years - minor league interviews, game recaps, etc. - and hope to find some new things to add to the blog as it enters it's eighth year. Derek Jeter and I will both be back this year.

I thank those of you have stopped in over the years and those who have been loyal readers. It's nice to know someone is reading it, LOL.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Youk a Yank, Ichiro Getting Close

The mere thought of Kevin Youkilis donning the Pinstripes has made many a Yankees fan shudder over the years. Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, and Josh Beckett probably topped the list (in no particular order) of the most hated Red Sox in Yankeedom the last few years.

Beckett is now in LA, Pedroia is still covered in mud in Boston, and Youkilis, well, Youkilis is a Yankee (pending a physical). With Alex Rodriguez missing anywhere from four months to eternity with off-season hip surgery, Youkilis and the Yankees have agrreed to the one year, $12MM deal that was bandied about last week.

Youkilis probably could have gotten a two year deal elsewhere, but it wasn't apparent that any of the rumored teams had a better or as good a chance of making the post-season as the Yankees do year in and year out.

I wrote last week that Youkilis can turn Yankees fans around just like Wade Boggs did when he came to New York and I still maintain that opinion. (Roger Clemens did so to some degree as well though he then turned just about all teams' fans against him in recent years.) On the other hand, Youkilis' return to Boston may not be so happy since he'll be returning in the New York road greys. He got a nice ovation last year when the White Sox traveled to Boston after Youkilis changed Sox.

Youkilis has shown some decline the last few seasons, primarily because of nagging injuries. His best stretch as a pro was from 2006-2008 when he played more than 140 games for the only time in his career. He'll turn 33 shortly before the start of the 2013 season.
 Be sure to check out Jack Curry's Youkilis-Paul O'Neill comparison.
The Yankees are also said to be closing in on bringing back Ichiro Suzuki in what would likely be part of an outfield platoon. After he posted the worst numbers of his career in Seattle last season, Ichiro got red hot down the stretch after being acquired at the trade deadline. He finished with a .322 average and .794 OPS as a Yankee and finished the season with a solid performance in the ALCS. According to CBS' Jon Heyman, the deal could include an option for 2014.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

A-Rod to Have Surgery in Mid-January

Alex Rodriguez's hip surgery is set for January - the assumption is to build up some muscle prior to surgery - and is committed to coming back strong.
'I am fully committed to a very hard road back,'' Rodriguez said. ''We've done it before in '09 and it was a great result, both on a personal level and on a team level, more importantly. I take it as a great challenge and I'm excited for the challenge.''  
''Don't count us out,'' Rodriguez said. ''We are the New York Yankees.'' 
Onward and upward.

Dodgers Want to Go Crazy on Greinke

Ever since the sale of the LA Dodgers went through last year the team has looked to break the bank. They acquired Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez and their ridiculously large contracts from Boston at the 2012 trade deadline.

Now comes word from the LA Times' Dylan Hernandez that the Dodgers are working with free agent pitcher Zack Greinke on a reported six year, $145MM contract. The dumb just keep getting dumber.

I am tired of owners bitching and moaning about salaries getting out of whack and then they each make these ridiculous offers year after year. Of course, some of them are by Jeffrey Loria, who just lies through his con man's teeth and trades the player a year (or less) later.

How long until the Dodgers realize they're losing money and start whining?

UPDATE: A deal appears to be set in place (Physical, etc. needs to be done), six years for $147MM. The Dodgers payroll is now at a league record $225MM. The pressure is now on Donnie Baseball, who will feel like he's managing in Pinstripes.

Sayonara Jones san

Where did I leave my bat speed?
Andruw Jones tore up left-handed pitching in 2011, then only tore up dirt in the batter's box in 2012. The two-year member of the Yankees is headed to the Far East to play in Japan for the Rakuten Golden Eagles.

Jones' US career came full circle - as a member of the Atlanta Braves he was the youngest player to hit a World Series home run when he hit a pair of blasts against the Yankees in Game 1 of the 1996 Fall Classic.

Jones hit 434 career home runs in 17 years in the Majors, that also included stops with the LA Dodgers, Texas Rangers, and Chicago White Sox. He had back-to-back monster seasons for Atlanta in 2005-2006, and finished second in the '05 NL MVP voting. He belted a career high 51 home runs that season and drove in 128 runs, both tops in the NL. A year later he hit 41 home runs and knocked in a career high 129 runs.

After 12 years in Atlanta, the 10-time Gold Glove centerfielder signed with the Dodgers as a free agent prior to the 2008 season, but was never the same offensively or defensively. While his HR and RBI numbers in two seasons in New York were nearly identical, his OPS dipped from .851 to .701.

Report: Texas Ships Young To Philly

Michael Young got tired of being shifted around the Texas Rangers' infield the last few years and having to check if and where he was in the lineup. So Young reportedly waived his no-trade clause and has been dealt to the Philadelphia Phillies for reliever Josh Lindblom and minor leaguer Lisalverto Bonilla.

Young will be the Phillies regular third baseman, a role he last had with the Rangers in 2010. Originally brought to the Majors as a second baseman, Young was moved to shortstop in 2003 and manned that spot until 2008.  He shifted to third  base a year the next two years as youngster Elvis Andrus took over the shortstop position.

When Texas signed third baseman Adrian Beltre prior to the 2011 season, Young became a player without a permanent position and he split time with the likes of Mike Napoli, Mitch Moreland, and others. The 36-year old is a seven time All-Star and captured his only Gold Glove in 2008. After recording 213 hits in 2011, Young hit for a career low .682 OPS last season.

Young will earn $16MM for the 2013 season and is set to become a free agent in 2014.

Yankees Re-Sign Gardner; Rumors of Hamilton

The Yankees avoided arbitration with left fielder Brett Gardner on Friday by agreeing to a one year deal worth $2.85MM. Gardner got a slight bump from the $2.8MM he made in 2011 despite missing almost the entire season due to elbow surgery.

There have been rumors that the Yankees may switch Gardner and Curtis Granderson's positions in the outfield. A bigger rumor has the Yankees looking into free agent outfielder Josh Hamilton.

The 2010 AL MVP winner is not coming close to get the long term offer he was hoping for. Teams are concerned about Hamilton's history of injuries and drug and alcohol abuse.  Long term contracts are also not in vogue at the moment as teams see what happens when a player like Alex Rodriguez shows diminished skills and health.

The Yankees thinking has to be short term, big money, and still be able to fit under the $189MM luxury tax ceiling that goes into effect in 2014. In the event the Yankees sign Hamilton, they may consider dealing Curtis Granderson who becomes a free agent after the current season and will make $15MM in 2013.

Hamilton definitely falls under the category of "Let the buyer beware."

Friday, December 7, 2012

Rumor: Indians Offer Youkilis 2-Year Deal

The Yankees know their biggest competition for the services of free agent corner infielder Kevin Youkilis is the Cleveland Indians. Youkilis is a native of Ohio and played at the U. of Cincinnati to boot. Whether that has an impact on his final decision remains to be seen.

The Yankees offered Youkilis a one year, $12MM deal; the Indians have reportedly countered with a two year deal rumored to be in the $16MM - $18MM range.

Youkilis has to weigh out the money vs. playing for a team that is a perennial contending or a team that seems to be in a constant state of flux for the last decade.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Yankees Quiet on Rule V Draft

Johan Santana was one of the best Rule V draftees.

The MLB Rule V draft is never as exciting as the entire hot stove process and rumor mill that is associated with it, but occasionally a team can come away with a player that makes a big impact. (e.g. Johan Santana selected by the Marlins from the Astros in '99 and subsequently dealt to the Twins.)

The Yankees were one of just six teams that didn't draft anyone in Thursday's Major League and Triple-A phases. Additionally, the Yankees and the Atlanta Braves were the only teams not to have a player selected from their system. The Braves, White Sox, Rays, Nationals, and Brewers joined the Yankees in not selecting any players.

The top player chosen was Red Sox right-hander Josh Fields (not to be confused with the former White Sox third baseman of the same name) by the Astros.

Check out for a break down of the day's drafting.

Jason Bay Signs to Play at Yosemite

My expression is better than gymnast Maroney's

One of the most disastrous free agent deals of the last decade (not as bad as Carl Pavano's) was the NY Mets signing of outfielder Jason Bay prior to the 2009 season.  It was a four year deal worth $66MM with opportunities to increase the dollar amount.

Bay went from hitter friendly Fenway Park to the spacious new Citi Field and the rest is misery. Bay made up for the loss of Manny Ramirez in Boston when he slugged 36 HRs and drove in 119 runs in 2008.  It led to a 7th place finish in the AL MVP voting and the shiny new deal with the Mets.

But Bay was constantly battling injuries in New York, the worst of which was a bad back that drained him of his power. He hit 26 home runs and drove in 104 runs over three seasons and averaged just 96 games a year.

The Mets finally gave up this off-season and released the 34-year old native of Canada on November 7th with  one year left on his deal. (The Mets and Bay reached a financial agreement that included deferred money, and Bay became a free agent.)

First things first, if you're a hitter you want to find a home ball park that is conducive to hitting.  Of course in Bay's case, team's weren't knocking down his door based on his last three seasons. The Seattle Mariners did have interest and were willing to gamble. They reached a one year agreement yesterday for an undisclosed (low) amount of money.

Yes, after playing at spacious Citi Field, Bay signed with a team whose home park is always referred to as a "pitcher's park".

Good luck with that.