Sunday, March 31, 2013

DLs, DFA's, and Recalls

The Yankees finally made it official today, placing Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira and Phil Hughes on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to March 15.

Hughes will be the first to come off the list if things go as planned and will make his first start on April 7. Who's next to re-join the team remains up in the air, depending on whether Jeter's ankle or Granderson's arm heal first.

The Yankees also added Adam Warren to the 25-man roster as a long man/mop up guy out of the pen. With the need for a spot on the 40-man roster, lefty specialist Clay Rapada was designated for assignment. It's likely Rapada will pass through waivers since he didn't pitch in any of the exhibition and should be brought back with a minor league contract.

Bob Turley, '58 World Series Hero, Succumbs at 82

Bullet Bob Turley had a season for the ages in 1958. He was an All-Star, won the American League Cy Young Award and finished second in the AL MVP vote to Jackie Jensen. Turley then went on to nearly single-handedly rally the Yankees from a three games to one deficit to the Milwaukee Braves to win the World Series. Unfortunately, the now 82-year old could not defeat liver cancer and passed away Saturday morning, according his son Terry.

Turley signed with the St. Louis Browns right out of high school in 1948 and made his Major League debut with them in 1951. After Turley missed the '52 season due to military service, he re-joined the Browns in 1953 and picked up his first Major League win against the Chicago White Sox in August.

A year later the team moved to Baltimore and became the Orioles. Turley pitched the first Orioles' home game and won 14 games on the year. He also led the league with 188 strikeouts. On November 17, 1954 Turley was part of the record 17 player deal between the Orioles and Yankees. The trade would take two weeks to finalize, because all of the player to be named later aspects of the deal. Don Larsen was one of the players also sent to New York.(Ironically Gus Triandos, who passed away two days ago, also at age 82, was dealt to the Orioles.)

Turley spent the majority of his time in the Bronx as a starter, but it was his versatility to come out of the bullpen in the '58 Fall classic that made him famous After a league best 21 wins and 19 complete games in the regular season, Turley didn't make it out of the first inning in Game 2 of the World Series He retired just one hitter and was charged with four runs in the Braves 13-5 win that put them up 2-0 in the best of seven.

With the Braves one win away from their second straight title against the Yankees, Turley tossed a 5-hit, 10-strikeout complete game shutout in Game 5. He then came back in Game 6 to get the final out, with the tying and winning runs on bases in the bottom of the 10, to preserve Ryne Duren's win and even the series as three games apiece.

Larsen started Game 7, but with the Yankees ahead 2-1 in the third inning and two men aboard, manager Casey Stengel yanked his starter for Turley. The Braves tied the game, but Turley tossed shutout ball the rest  of the way. Meanwhile, the Yankees scored four times in the 8th inning (three of them on a Bill Skowron home run) and won the World Series. With two wins and a save in the final three games, Turley added the World Series MVP Award to his resume.

Turley remained with the Yankees until he was sold to the Los Angeles Angels after the 1962 season. He split the year  with the Angels and Boston Red Sox and played one final season with the Red Sox in 1963 before he retired.

Turley moved into the financial field after baseball and had other business pursuits. He is survived by his Janet, his sons Terry and Don, his daughter Rowena, and numerous grandchildren. My thoughts and prayers are with his family.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Aardsma Released As We Get Down to the Wire

Joe Girardi's lukewarm praise of David Aardsma- "He's been good"- was an omen that Aardsma's days in Yankees camp were numbered. Aardsma's number was up today as the Yankees designated him for assignment.

Among those sent to the minors were Vidal Nuno, the left-hander who was named as the winner of the James P. Dawson Award for the best rook in camp. I really thought Nuno would make the squad, but perhaps Brian Cashman would rather see him starting games every five days for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders rather than throwing parts of an inning here and there at the Major League level.

Also reassigned to the minor leagues were outfielder Melky Mesa and pitcher Jim Miller, both of whom had legitimate chances to make the squad. Pitcher Sam Demel, picked up on waivers yesterday, was sent outright to Scranton, while pitchers Preston Claiborne, Branden Pinder, Juan Cedeno, Josh Spence,  catcher Bobby Wilson, infielders Dan Johnson, Jose Pirela, Gil Velazquez and outfielders Thomas Neal were sent to the minor league camp.

The Yankees added Jayson Nix and Ben Francisco to the Major League roster and re-signed infielder David Adams to a minor league contract. Adams had been designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster.

So, he says, who is going north now?

C -  Francisco CervelliChris Stewart
1B - Lyle Overbay
2B - Robinson Cano
SS - Eduardo Nunez
3B - Kevin Youkilis
LF - Vernon Wells
CF - Brett Gardner
RF - Ichiro Suzuki
UT - Jayson Nix
OF - Ben Francisco, Brennan Boesch
DH - Travis Hafner
SP - CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, David Phelps, Ivan Nova
RP - Mariano Rivera, David Robertson, Joba Chamberlain, Boone Logan, Shawn Kelley, Cody Eppley

That leaves one one pitcher's spot open. It's possible it will be Adam Warren, who will get the start against the West Point. If not Warren, it likely would be a pitcher not currently on the 40-man roster.

Also, though there is no room on the 25-man squad, Ronnier Mustelier has not been shuttled someone where else as of yet. As I mentioned before I would love to see him get some big league AB's early, but a banged up knee has not helped his cause.

Ramon Hernandez was released by the Rockies today. The veteran catcher stands to make $3.2MM this year. II would get a deal done in a heartbeat if Colorado was willing to include $2MM. Then we could say good bye to Chris Stewart and his overrated defensive game.

For Sweet Lou, Life's a Pitch

Lou  Piniella, the fiery former Major League baseball player, manager, and general manager is enjoying his retirement these days. He's providing color commentary on a handful of Yankees games on the YES Network and will be throwing out the first pitch on Opening Day (4/1) when the Yankees start their season against the Boston Red Sox.

Sweet Lou spent parts of 18 years in the big leagues, the final 11 with the Yankees (1974-1984). In a steal of a deal, Piniella came to the Yankees from Kansas City with pitcher Ken Wright for reliever Lindy McDaniel. He split time between the corner outfields and DH, hit .295 as a Yankee and won two World Series titles.

He managed the Yankees in 1986 and 1987 (179-145) and was then moved up to general manager so George Steinbrenner could bring Billy Martin back as manager yet again. Of course, Martin didn't make it to the end of the season (fired on 6/23) and Piniella finished out the season as manager with a 45-49 record. Steinbrenner fired Piniella in favor of Dallas Green (still shaking my head at that move, but Syd Thrift's hire as Senior VP of baseball operation was an even worse replacement for Piniella).

Piniella went on to manage the Cincinnati Reds (World Series title in 1990), Seattle Mariners (AL record 116 wins), Tampa Bay Devil Rays, and Chicago Cubs.  Piniella was going to step down after the 2010 season, but left after 125 games to be with his critically ill mother.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Re-Thinking the Yankees' 25-Man Roster

"You other 24, line up behind me."

A couple of days ago I tried to figure out the 25-man roster that the Yankees will open with against Boston on Monday (4/1). Some things and some thoughts have changed though, and so has (in my mind) who will be in the Bronx next week. I am not even going to get into who exits upon the return of Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, etc.

You still have your players certain to get a spot:

C -  Francisco Cervelli
C -  Chris Stewart
2B - Robinson Cano
SS - Eduardo Nunez
3B - Kevin Youkilis
OF - Brett Gardner
OF - Ichiro Suzuki
OF - Vernon Wells
SP - CC Sabathia
SP - Hiroki Kuroda
SP - Andy Pettitte
RP - Mariano Rivera
RP - David Robertson
RP - Joba Chamberlain
RP - Boone Logan
UT - Jayson Nix
DH - Travis Hafner

That's 17 players, leaving 8 spots. The 99% sure of being on the squad are:

1B - Lyle Overbay
OF - Brennan Boesch
OF - Ben Francisco

5 more to go. Now things get tougher.

SP - David Phelps
SP/RP - Ivan Nova, who will get sent down when Phil Hughes comes back from DL. (Phelps has looked more consistent to me than Nova. Then again the Yankees may want to go with Nova's experience and put Phelps in the pen.)

RP - Vidal Nuno: I still this lefty's tremendous up side will get a shot with Clay Rapada sidelined. Thursday afternoon Boone Logan left the game after being hit in the hip with a comebacker, but hopefully that will just result in a bruise and nothing more serious.

That gets us to 23. I know longer feel David Aardsma will make the team based on Joe Girardi's lukewarm, "He's been good." evaluation. I also think Overbay's addition will mean the subtraction of Ronnier Mustelier. I am really disappointed that that will probably be the case. I would like to see what the Cuban born native could do in the short term. Hopefully Mustelier tears up Triple-A and makes his way back up to the Majors to get some fresh legs in the lineup.

Spot 24 goes to Shawn Kelley, who could be a real find out of the pen. Kelley's biggest advantage over Jim Miller is his spot on the 40-man roster. And then there was one. I've heard talk that Cody Eppley could be the guy, because he too is on the 40-man, but he's been awful this Spring.  Andy McCullough of the Star-Ledger speculated Adam Warren could make it as a long man out of the pen.

I can't see that happening. Warren looks completely over matched by Major League hitters. I give the final spot to Miller with Sam Demel, who the Yankees just claimed, designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster. Why was he even added in the first place?

So there you do or don't have the 25-man roster to start the season. We'll see what Brian Cashman is thinking very shortly.

Overbay In, J-Rivera Out

The good ol' days. Overbay objects to A-Rod''s "HA"
I was all for the Yankees releasing Juan Rivera (reported a short while ago by Fox's Ken Rosenthal), who has lost any of the pop he had in his bat and had little experience at first base. I just didn't expect someone older than Rivera to take his place on the roster.

The 34-year old became expendable when the Yankees brought in 36-year old first baseman Lyle Overbay yesterday. Overbay had been released early Wednesday and was picked up immediately by the Yankees. Overbay played in last night's exhibition game with Baltimore as well as today's game with Pittsburgh.

Neither player hits much any more, but Overbay has a big advantage defensively and will help immeasurably with his glove. However, if the Yankees lose Mark Teixeira for the season, someone else with more pop needs to occupy first base on a  regular basis.

In the meantime it appears Overbay will hold down the fort.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Forbes: Yankees Top Team Valued at $2.3 Billion

"Forbes has us on top? I will still not smile."

Forbes Magazine has released its list of Major League Baseball franchise worth, and to no surprise, the Yankees are on the top of the heap.

The average team is worth $744MM, an increase of 23% from last year and the largest increase Forbes began evaluating MLB clubs in 1998.  The Yankees are at the top of the heap with a value of $2.3 billlion.

Forbes' Mike Ozanian reports that league revenue is up 7% from 2012 (average of $227MM), while operations costs dropped 9%.

Television rights have been cited as the main reason for the increase in money. Mobil applications have also contributed as well as the sale by the league of the Washington Nationals.

Not only are the Yankees the most valued team in baseball (for the 16th straight year), they are also the most valuable team in any sport.

So maybe the Yankees could roll back ticket prices a little so fans have it a little easier when they want to see Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, Brett Gardner, and CC Sabathia.  Yeah, right.

Click here to see the complete Forbes article.

David Adams Released to Free Up 40-Man Space

With Lyle Overbay being brought into Yankees camp last night, there is more of an urgency to free up space on the 40-man roster. David Adams was the latest victim of this need.

I have to admit I was a bit surprised to hear of Adams' release. The Yankees, it was said, really liked his bat and had moved him from second base (blocked by Robinson Cano) to third base (a crumbling Alex Rodriguez) to try to get him to the Majors quicker. But Adams has been bothered by injuries in his minor league career, the latest being a back issue that has kept him out of action in the grapefruit league.

My initial thought is that Adam's back is in bad shape and the Yankees don't feel he will be able to contribute any time soon. On top of that, despite an .825 OPS in his five minor league seasons, Adams played in just 154 games over the last three seasons due to a badly broken ankle and the ensuing recovery.

It's possible he could re-sign with the Yankees, but he would probably be better off moving to another organization where, if healthy, he could get to the Majors more quickly.

Here's an interview I did with Adams back in March, 2009.

Overbay got right into the action last night against the Houston Astros. When he entered the game he immediately had two ground balls hit to him. He made a nice spinning move on one and made a perfect toss to Joba Chamberlain covering first to get thout.

Boss Jr. Lays the Plan Out to Francesa

Hal Steinbrenner, the Yankees managing general partner and youngest son of the late George Steinbrenner, was on WFAN Tuesday afternoon with Mike Francesa.

Among the topics covered were the luxury tax/payroll cut, the sale of YES shares to Fox, Alex Rodriguez and his assorted issues, Robinson Cano's possible contract extension, and the ticket/Stub Hub controversy.

Here's the transcript, with some of my editorial comments in bold italics along side:

MF: "Do you have any plans to sell the Yankees?"

Hal: "No thoughts at all of selling the Yankees. There have been no discussions with anybody about selling the Yankees. (I still find it hard to believe that the Steinbrenners may not be open to the idea even if they have had no negotiations with anyone to this point.)

MF:  "How would you describe your participation in the YES deal?"

Hal: "I think it's great. Fox is going to be a great partner. They obviously know what they're doing and they've been doing it a long time."

"I think it's going to bring great things to the YES Network and take us to places that, quite honestly, we might not have been able to get to on our own..."

MF: "Why is that a good deal for the Yankees compared to where your ownership structure was?"

Hal: "...we've had some partners that wanted to get out, number one, so we've been looking here and there for a while. But we had some partners that wanted to get out and Goldman gets into these things for a certain number of years and then they want to get out and go on to the next big deal for them.

"So, this made sense and the key was to get a good partner, and we know the Murdochs and my Dad is close to Rupert...."

"And they know what they're doing. So I think it's going to be good, and the bottom line is that some of the partner that wanted to get out are now going to be getting out, and we're going to have a really good, big company that I look at, quite frankly, as a family company."

MF: "So you are commited as a family to be in this long term?"

Hal: "We are commited as a family to be in this long term. We enjoy this; this is why we are all involved, all of my siblings. And we are going to continue, every year, to field a championship caliber team. I want the fans to know that that commitment will always be in place, because we know they expect it."

MF: "What is your thought, if any on A-Rod and the investigation going on?"

Hal: Well I don't know any more than you do Mike, I really don't. It's not our investigation obviously and anybody is innocent until proven guilty. So we'll just have to see where the investigation leads.

MF: "Have you had any discussions with A-Rod?"

Hal: "I have not."

MF: "Okay. Any plans to?"

Hal:  "I have not seen him around here and I haven't had any plans to have any discussions, no. Doesn't mean we won't at some point." (Hal may not have, but you can be sure a number of different people - Cashman, Girardi, etc. have spoken with him.)

MF: "How would you categorize the Cano negotiations to this point?

Hal: "Well this is going to be a work in progress for weeks and weeks and weeks, and the one thing I'm not going to do Mike is read about it in the papers every day. So, any significant developments we're going to let everyone know, but  things have been quiet the last couple of weeks. He's been off with the Dominican team, we've got Spring Training going on, so we'll see what the weeks ahead lead to."

MF: "Is it fair to say it's going to be shelved from now on from your standpoint to the end of the season or would you guys be open to discussions during the season?"

Hal: "No, look, every rule has exceptions, right? And obviously we've talked to Scott (Boras) about Robbie and I can see that happening on more than one occasion as the season progresses, but we'll just have to see. We have to get through opening day first and get the ball rolling here."

MF: "There's a very large incentive to be under the luxury tax sometime in the near future. I know that 2014 has been a point, a target point, let's say. Is it something that is a very important part of your strategy to be under it, for the obvious reasons, to be under it in 2014?"

Hal: "There's many reasons to be under and they've been well documented, but what hasn't been documented is I don't believe you have to have the $200MM payroll to be world champions. So it is something important to us, but only if we're sure we're fielding a championship caliber team.  I just can't say that enough.

We are going to field a championship caliber team every single year." (Somehow I think he's forgotten what team he's put together this year.)

MF: "Did the idea of being under the 189 next year impact any of your negotiations that want on this past winter?"

Hal: "I think the one year deals were partly that Mike, but they're partly because of the age of some of the players. I think if you can do a one year deal on a guy that's in his upper 30's it's probably a wise thing to do, as long he's okay with it, you're okay with it.

So I think it was partly due to that. We certainly think ahead, but it's more we're thinking 65, 70% of this  year, because that's what's in front of us."

MF: (preceded by talk about the rewards for being under the cap) "Will this be a one year thing or is it something the Yankees want to do in the future; try to be stay under that tax?"

Hal: "Again Mike, I think you can be a world champion and have a payroll under 189. Are we there yet? I don't know. We have to see how these young players do this year. And it's going to have to be a good blend, as I have been saying, of the young players and the veterans. And that's the way that every other team, every other world champion's been the last 10 years."

MF: "It will be a year to year situation, it won't be that the Yankees must stay under that for you in the future, or is that going to be kind of an edict for you?"

Hal: "Again, it's an absolute goal for me to be under 189. It makes sense for all of the reasons we've been talking about, BUT, the priority is always going to be fielding a championship caliber team."

MF: "And you believe you can do that without over...even though the Yankees have spent their life over the tax, you still feel you can put together a plan and be as competitive as you can be on the field, and keep the money under control?"  (How many times is he going to keep asking him?)

Hal: "Yes, every other team seems to."

MF: "But you guys have been in the playoffs more than a lot of the other teams. I mean you really have. You've been there, you have won't a lot of championships since 2000, but you've been in the playoffs every year which you can't say about everybody else."

Hal: "Well, time will tell Mike. As I said, the young players have to continue to develop in the minor leagues, number one, and the players already up at the Major Leagues, the young ones, have to continue - the Novas and the Phelps - to contribute, and the Pinedas. So, you know it remains to be seen. (Keep in mind Pineda may have no impact at all this year.)

MF: "With the injuries this  year, especially to your core group...there is a feeling that the Yankees are going about this in a very different way than in the past. Would you agree with that or you don't agree with that?"

Hal: "Well the way is to always field a great team and that's what we're trying to do. The free agent market, as you know, wasn't that great last year. We felt we wanted to concentrate on pitching, so we worked hard to get Andy (Pettitte) back, to get Kuroda back, Mo (Rivera), and we did the best we could.

I don't know what to tell you, but, um, so...." (Hal not too happy with the structure of the roster now either, hmm?)

MF:  "I mean right now does Brian (Cashman) have the ability to go out and bring in some players who might be costly even on a one year basis. Is that something, we see Wells, could there be more of that or is there a limit to it?"

Hal: "Well, look there a limit to anything Mike, but my door's always open to Brian and he knows that and we talk every day multiple times. And you know this Wells thing I think is going to be good for us. I think he's going to have a rebound year and he's going to contribute in a big way.

And hopefully we get Tex back, and get Granderson back, but know, no stone is left unturned. So whatever..if he (Cashman) comes into my office, we're going to sit and talk about it, and consider it."

MF: "Do you think Hal, there's been a lot of talk about tickets this year. There's been a lot of talk this year about, maybe some economic pressure. Is it cyclical? just seems to be there's a tougher time selling for everybody this year than the last couple of years.

We're learning about all this secondary market stuff and that's impact and everything else. Do you see business as being a little more challenging in 2013 for the Yankees than it has been, say in the last five or six years or is that not an accurate picture?"

Hal: "I think there are numerous teams that are down. I think we'll have to see where the numbers come in. But our ticket sales are coming around. Obviously Spring Training...beginning that whole process helps. We could use some warm weather up there Mike, that would be good to get people in the frame of mind.

But look, the secondary market is what it is. It's not going anywhere and we're trying to keep our season ticket holders happy and all of our fans happy, and give them a great experience and a great team to watch."

MF: "Hal, you're a good business man, this is an interesting question right now and maybe a dilemma for teams. The idea of what fans do with their tickets as season ticket holders. How the secondary market, how teams play this. Have you given that a lot of thought or is it still kind of evolving?"

Hal: "Well we've given it a lot of thought, which is why we have set up Yankees ticket exchange. Our own program so our season ticket holders can got on there, sell the tickets they don't need or don't want for cheaper. And in a way more convenient and safe environment. That's why we've undertaken this, so obviously we've put a lot of thought into it." (It's disgraceful for Hal to infer that Stub Hub isn't a safe place to buy and sell tickets. It's been done many times.  The Yankees do not want tickets sold on Stub Hub at a much lower price than the minimum the Yankees have set with Ticketmaster aka the devil of ticket sellers. The Yankees will also not be accepting e-tickets this season, which is the normal ticket type on Stub Hub. Instead you will need to get the actual tickets from anyone selling tickets on Stub Hub. And you know the majority of the fans hate this new procedure. It's not the fans fault that the Yankees were greedy and priced out so many fans in the new Stadium.)

MF: "But you made the move away from Stub Hub too, so you must have thought there must have thought there needed to be a change too, right?

Hal: "Well, I'm not going to get to much into Stub Hub, but I will say Mike that that partnership was not good for the New York Yankees, but every team's different and every sport's different".

MF: "Do you think it's a changing business though? That's really my point. Do you see now, 'cause I think it might be. I can't really tell, do you think the ticket business is becoming a changing business for teams right now?"

Hal: "Well I think one thing to consider is are season tickets becoming less and less because of other ways to purchase tickets? I don't know any more than you do, but I can tell you we still have a very strong season ticket base and we're very proud of that. So time will tell, but we just want to be sure that our season ticket holders have a place to resell their tickets that's a safe place." (Perhaps consider the ridiculously high price of tickets and a rough economy and high unemployment.)

MF: "Does the YES deal change the Yankees relationship TV-wise at all Hal, or does it change your business plan at all or is it business as usual even though you are going to have a different relationship with YES than you've had in the past?"

Hal: "It's absolutely business as usual. We made it absolutely clear to Fox and they were absolutely great about this- that no deal is worth doing if we lost the control we needed as to how the broadcasts were run and basically anything having to do with the franchise and the organization itself, and they were great about that and they understand. So really we still control things that are important to us."

MF: "How do you feel about this new model that baseball is going to? Do you like the model they are putting in now, that they are.installing? Do you like what they've done with the luxury tax? There's clearly incentive and a lot of people feel it was built and designed to give the Yankees some incentive. Do you like the plan that was installed? (Never though he was actually going to let Hal answer.)

Hal: "Well it was well thought out, there's no doubt about it. I haven't really philosophically thought about that Mike, to be honest with you. I'm fundamental reason, one of the reasons, for this goal is that I truly believe that 189 is a lot of money and with a good mix veterans and player development guys, you'll win championships and I firmly believe that. Time will tell if I am right or not.

MF: "Do you feel your team has made the steps in the farm system to be able to replenish, and really a key to that is coming up with power arms 'cause that's what costs so much money for the most part. With that being the case do you feel that you guys have made inroads that you need to make to replenish your system that way?"

Hal: "Well I think our pitching's been good. Phelps was a pleasant surprise last year. Nova, and uh we've got a couple of other guys. Betances, we'll see what kind of year he has. And we did trade away Austin Jackson, we traded away Jesus Montero, so a couple of good position players that aren't there for us. But I think the next couple of years for position players is going to be tricky. We're going to have to navigate through that. But, I've been pretty pleased with the young pitching.

MF: "You know this is a year for the first time Hal, in many years...maybe going back to say, might be '94. I mean maybe there was a year here and there where the Red Sox were slight favorites...this is the first time the Yankees probably haven't been favored leaving spring in a very, very long time. What is the level of your optimism with this team right now?"

Hal: "I'm always optimistic, that's just me, and you can't pay attention to rankings. You just can't do that. It's a marathon of a season, you know that better anybody, and there's injuries and six months to get through. So, I'm confident that we've got a good group of veterans that's been through the fire before, and they're going to produce."

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Overbay, When was I Underbay?

On your last legs? Don't have much punch left in your bat? Saw 30-years old a long time ago? If so, come on down to the New York Yankees training camp in lovely Tampa, FL.

The latest to respond to that "Brianslist" ad is veteran first baseman Lyle Overbay. The all glove, no-hit 36-year old was released earlier in the day Tuesday by Boston and was quickly scooped up by the short on first basemen Yankees.

With Mark Teixeira sidelined for a minimum of eight weeks, Juan Rivera was the only Major League player in camp that had a decent amount of games played at the not-so-hot corner.

Overbay produced decent numbers as a starter for Arizona, Milwaukee, and Toronto from 2004-2010. He was good for about 35 doubles (with an NL leading 53 in 2004) and 15-17 home runs during his peak years, but the last two years have been a disaster.

Overbay had just a .670 OPS in 2011 when he played with Pittsburgh and Arizona. Last year he was released in August by the Diamondbacks and then hit just .100 (2-20) in a 10 game stint with the Atlanta. The Red Sox signed him to a minor league deal in January as a precaution when Mike Napoli's injured hip nearly nixed his free agent deal. Overbay managed just nine hits in 41 at-bats (.220) this Spring.

Overbay will have just a handful of days to make the team with opening day this coming Monday.

Wells Set to Don the Pinstripes

The deal for Vernon Wells is now complete. Wells will don uniform #56 for the Yankees and is overjoyed at the idea. Wells sounded a little like Spiderman in relaying how he feels about the deal: "I feel like I'm a kid again. It gives me chills. "There are great expectations and great responsibility."

Wells has been wearing #10, but that was unavailable due to it's Hall of Fame wearer Phil Rizzuto. Bench coach Tony Pena wore 56 up until this point.

The two players the Yankees are sending to the left coast are minor leaguers Exicardo Cayones and Kramer Sneed. Cayones is an outfielder that was signed out of Venezuela  by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2009. The Yankees acquired from the Pirates before the 2012 season as part of the A.J. Burnett level. Though just 21-years old, he can't be considered a prospect based on his career numbers to date.

The Yankees took Sneed, a left-hander pitcher, in the 32nd round of the 2010 MLB Amateur Draft. The Barton College (NC) product had worked his way up to a full time gig at Tampa ('A' ball)  last year after, but with an ERA over 5.00 and 40 walks issued in 63.2 innings pitched, he had fallen off the Yankees' radar.

With the Angels paying $28.5MM of the $42MM owed to Wells and the prospects having just a longshot at making it to the Major Leagues, the deal feels like a win/win to the Yankees.

Now Wells has to produce for the Yankees or it won't matter how much they pay for him or how little they feel they gave up for him.

Wells Set For Physical; Pass and Play

According to the NY Daily News' Mark Feinsand, Vernon Wells will be taking his physical in Tampa this morning and is expected (if he passes) to be in tonight's lineup against the Houston Astros.

Feinsand also explained a scenario that could benefit the Yankees when it comes to the luxury tax.

"Although Wells’ seven-year, $126 million contract has been looked at as an albatross for the Angels, the deal could actually be quite beneficial for the Yankees financially. Despite Wells’ bloated salary, his arrival may help the Yankees achieve their goal of staying below the luxury tax threshold next year.
The Angels are sending the Yankees roughly $29 million of the $42 million still owed to Wells, who will earn $21 million in each of the next two seasons. That means the Yankees will pay Wells $13 million over the next two years, but some fancy accounting could actually make it so the three-time All-Star doesn’t count against the team’s luxury tax payroll figure at all in 2014 — or even better, earn them a credit.
Wells’ seven-year, $126 million contract carries an average annual value of $18 million, which is the figure used by MLB for luxury tax purposes. That figure decreases based on the money being paid by another team, so if the Yankees were to split the $29 million evenly, it would leave them with a $3.5 million tax figure on Wells’ deal in each of the two seasons.
But according to a league source, the Yankees are expected to pay Wells between $10 million and $12 million in 2013, leaving the Angels to pick up the other $9 million-$11 million."
Still no word on the player being sent to the Halos.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Yankees Opening Day Roster: 25 Men Once More Unto the Breach

"How the hell did I get here?"

With Opening Day a mere week away (let's hope it warms up by then), the Yankees 25-man roster next Monday will undoubtedly contain some surprises, some temporary players, and should elicit plenty of head shaking and maybe some hand wringing by fans who already think the Yankees are down and out for all of 2013.

Some spots are obvious, while others are based on numbers, my hunches, and throwing everything against the wall to see what sticks.

There's a good chance the worrywarts are right; after all the opening day roster will not include Derek Jeter (resistance is futile), Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson, Clay Rapada, and Phil Hughes. All are or will be on the disabled list to start the season. The only one (relatively) assured of a quick return is Hughes, who is being penciled in to return on April 7.

The biggest surprise on the roster, of course, will be Vernon Wells once a deal is finalized. The Yankees and Angels are still working out the details,  but a failed physical would be the only thing to nix a deal at this point. Wells has a no-trade clause, but will waive it for the opportunity to play. Brian Cashman is banking on Wells' Spring Training performance (1.112 OPS, 4 HR, 11 RBI in 36 At-Bats) carrying over to the regular season. Wells took to Twitter last night to tell everyone how stoked he is about it.

Joining Wells in the outfield will be starters Brett Gardner in center field and Ichiro Suzuki in right field. That leaves room for two more outfielders. The front runners at this point should be lefty Brennan Boesch and righty Ben Francisco.

Melky Mesa would be better served by playing every day in the minor leagues, while veteran Juan Rivera should be released (a .316 exhibition average, but no home runs and a .404 slugging pct.) even though he has been seeing time at first base as well.

Robinson Cano will be the only regular infielder from last year's team to be in the opening day lineup. You can't blame Cashman if he takes preventative measures and covers his second baseman in bubble wrap. Cano, a free agent after the coming season, turned down a "significant" contract extension in Spring Training, but the Yankees need him for the long term. He's the Yankees best player with the bat and glove.

Cano will have company in the infield with Kevin Youkilis, but will the former Red Sox primarily play to the left or right of Cano?  Youkilis was signed to supplant Rodriguez at third base, but when Teixeira went down  the Yankees needed to add another corner infielder.

The team has given Cuban born expatriate Ronnier Mustelier a good long look at third base. Mustelier has been an outfielder in the Yankees farm system, but played the hot corner in his native land. The Yankees like his bat and Mustelier gave them some more food for thought on Sunday when he hit a walk-off home run.

With Jeter on the DL, Eduardo Nunez will get the bulk of the playing time at shortstop, but Nunez has to play steady defense to keep it that way. Jayson Nix will return as the utility player and could get some increased playing time if Mustelier and/or Rivera don't make the squad. The feeling here is that Mustelier makes the team, which means that Youkilis will see more time at first base than third base.

The catching situation, or better yet the lack thereof, has been a no-brainer all Spring Training. Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart will be the team's two catchers...barring a last minute move like the one that occurred last year when Stewart came in at the last moment and Cervelli was sent to the minors.

Travis Hafner will be the left-handed hitting DH and will split time with any number of players.

That leaves the pitching staff, which has not been able to escape the injury bug either. CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, and Andy Pettitte are back as the first three starters in the rotation. Hughes will occupy the fourth spot when he returns from the DL. The fifth spot will be the winner of the Spring Training battle between Ivan Nova and David Phelps, though left-hander  Vidal Nuno has to be considered a dark horse for the spot.

Both Phelps and Nova had pitched well until recently, but Nova has been knocked around in his last two starts and Phelps got raked over the coals in his last appearance. Phelps' success in the pen last year could have an influence on Joe Girardi's decision on who ends up where, but the Yankees' manager has not publicly given any idea of who will earn the final spot in the rotation.

The bullpen will have Mariano Rivera back as closer, his repaired ACL holding up well so far. The bigger concern at the moment are the headaches he has been having. The preliminary diagnosis is migrains, but Rivera is undergoing tests (i.e. MRI) as a precaution.

David Robertson, Joba Chamberlain and his cheesy mustache, and Boone Logan will all be back, though there is an outside chance Logan could start the season on the disabled list if his inflamed left elbow acts up prior to opening day. With Rapada on the DL, the Yankees should keep Nuno as the second lefty in the bullpen.

That leaves 3-4 spots in the pen depending on whether Girardi wants to go with a 12 or 13 man staff to start the season. I'm going to go with the assumption, right or wrong, that either Nova and Phelps make the team, but not both.  The "loser" in the competition should pitch every fifth day for Scranton rather than throw out of the pen.

That leaves three spots on the 25-man roster to be occupied by relievers. One goes to David Aardsma, who looks good as he continues his recovery from Tommy John surgery. Jim Miller (inexplicably waived by the A's in the Fall and claimed by the Yankees) has had some control trouble, but overall has pitched well. The one disadvantage  facing Miller is not being on the 40-man roster.

Shawn Kelley has the advantage of being on the 40-man as well as having the ability to strike out more than one batter per inning. Though his Spring numbers don't look good at first blanch, Kelley was one of the best acquisitions this off-season (for  outfielder Abe Almonte) and should make the team.

The Yankees' 40-man roster is currently completely full  so some changes will have to be made to fit Wells and Miller, should the latter make the team. Mark Teixeira will wind up on the 60-day DL to open one spot and another will likely come from a player being designated for assignment. Based on his Spring Training performance (16 ER in 17.2 IP)  and his average numbers at Scranton the last two years I would say Adam Warren is the likely candidate. (Perhaps he'll be dealt for Wells.)

So the 25-man roster on April 1 would like this (Hopefully I just counted that all correctly and didn't leave an obvious player out.):

Outfield (5)


Infield (5)


Catcher (2)


DH (1)


Pitcher (12)


There's no guess as to how long the aforementioned players will be with the big squad as Hughes, Jeter, Granderson, Rapada and hopefully, Teixeira return. Just please return, SOON!

UPDATE - 3/26 8 A.M. - Chad Jennings of the LoHud Journal pointed out some important factors to the make up of the roster. Juan Rivera must either be released today or receive a $100K retention bonus.

Rivera has earned the clause due to service time in the Major Leagues. None of the other veterans brought in on minor league deals have the same contingency in place. WFAN's Sweeny Murti told Mike Francesa yesterday that he felt Rivera would make the team because of the lack of first basemen on the team.  The Yankees may not want to risk playing Nix, Mustelier or someone else regularly at third base with Youkiliks sliding over to first base, but Rivera has nothing left in his bat and should be let go.

Getting back to Jennings, he also reported that Mark Teixeira will NOT be on the 60-day DL as I had speculated yesterday. Teixeira's DL date could not be back tracked so he would have to definitely miss all of April and May, though that seems likely anyway.

Cesar Cabral, recovering from a fractured elbow he suffered last Spring Training, is the fore-runner to be placed on the 60-day DL. Manny Banuelos will miss the entire 2013 season, but will not be placed on the 60-day DL so that his Major League service time does not begin.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Cashman Loses Mind: Yankees About to Acquire Vernon Wells

"What do you mean we just signed Josh Hamilton?"

I received a text from a friend (kudos Tmags) a few minutes ago that the Yankees are about to acquire Vernon Wells from the outfield laden Los Angeles Angels.

My immediate response was "Why?!" Is Wells better than a platoon of Brennan Boesch and Ben Francisco?

This is not the 2002-2006 Vernon Wells of the Toronto Blue Jays that was one of the best players in the game. He could hit for average (for a time), power, steal a handful of bases, run down any ball in the outfield from his perch in centerfield, and had a rifle of an arm.  The Blue Jays rewarded their star after the 2006 season by giving him a 7-year,  $126MM extension.

According to Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Passan, the Angels will send Wells and a large sum of cash (Two years and $42MM remain on the contract.) to the Yankees. No names have been mentioned concerning who would be sent to the Angels, but that will certainly depend on how much money accompanies Wells to the Bronx.

The 3-time All-Star has a no-trade clause and could make the whole situation moot. However, he has no role with the Angels and would be, according to Passan, in the Yankees every day lineup. At least until left-fielder Curtis Granderson comes back. The right-handed hitter could then split time with all three starting/left-handed hitting outfielders and lefty DH Travis Hafner.

The deal doesn't make a lot of sense for a number of reasons. To take on a one year deal would be one thing, but to have Wells under contract next season (no matter how much money the Angels send) makes no sense whatsoever.  Injuries and age have zapped him of much of his power, speed, and flash that was so much a part of his game.

The big cash on Wells' contract didn't kick in until 2010-a mere $15MM+ the first year- and escalated upward over $20MM annually after that.  Unfortunately for all concerned, the injuries set in long before the new deal did.

A bad shoulder hampered Wells' play in 2007 and limited him to a .245 batting average and .402 slugging. His 16 home runs were the lowest total since he became an every player. Wells' missed 54 games in 2008 with a broken wrist, but managed to put up an .840 OPS.

2009 was another down year caused by lingering wrist issues that required off-season surgery. He had a mini resurgence in 2010 (31 HR's, over .800 OPS), but it has been downhill since.

When 2011 started badly, the Blue Jays felt it was time to rid themselves of the fifth player chosen overall in the 1997 MLB amateur draft. They found a partner in the Angels, who dealt outfielder Juan Rivera and catcher Mike Napoli to Toronto in January, 2011.

What followed were two sub-par seasons; Wells hit 25 home runs in 2011, but both years produced a sub-.700 OPS.  Brian Cashman wasn't satisfied with his current cadre of reserve outfielders - veterans Boesch (may have oblique injury), Francisco, Juan Rivera, and youngsters Ronnier Mustelier and Melky Mesa - and evidently feels he has nothing to lose by going to Wells once too often.

UPDATE - 5:20 PM : Angels' beat writer Alden Gonzalez asked Wells if he would waive his no-trade clause. Wells said "possibly" and flashed a big grin. Wells added,“It’d be a huge change. I don’t think it’s ever easy saying goodbye, but at the same time, if this were to happen, it’s a good group of guys over there. I’ll just get to know a new family.”

Angels' GM Jerry DiPoto was noncommittall  when queried by Gonzalez.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Yankees, Red Sox Step Up While Congress Cowers

It will be a long time before the tragedy at the Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, CT. can be thought of without feeling crushing pain and a tremendous sense of loss. It's also started a battle between gun advocates and anti-gun individuals.

I am going to only speak briefly about the political side of this - Our representatives in Washington, D.C. are an embarrassment to our country. A majority of cowards that care more for getting re-elected, having power, and taking kickbacks from groups like the National Rife Association than doing the right thing.  Congress hit a new low when it removed the assault weapons ban from a new bill that will increase the difficulty in legally obtaining a gun. Enough about those spineless bastards and scum of the earth lobbyists.

Newtown, CT is a town that probably most of us never heard of until 11 days before Christmas last year when a deranged gunmen killed six members of the faculty and 20 first grade students. A horror that words can't do justice to.

Since that awful day on December 11, many organizations and individuals have tried to help ease the pain felt by the Newtown community. The NFL honored the victims, the school's choir appeared on the Christmas episode of Saturday Night Live, and now it is MLB's turn to step up. (Shortly after the shooting, Derek Jeter called the mother of one the teachers killed.)

Since Connecticut has a large number of both Yankees and Red Sox fans, it's appropriate that the two should share in honoring the victims and their families as well as the survivors of the massacre.

From the Wall St. Journal:
Pregame ceremonies include a joint honor guard of Newtown police and firefighters, and a moment of silence at which time a list of the victims' names will be recognized on the center-field scoreboard.
"On opening day, we will reflect upon more important things and the play the game to honor the community of Newtown," Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said in a statement. "Since the day of the tragedy, our hearts and thoughts have been with those who were affected."
Commissioner Bud Selig has also asked all 30 teams to wear a special ribbon for their opening games. In addition to the Opening Day ceremonies, the Yankees have invited 3,000 people from Newtown to attend "Newtown Day at Yankee Stadium" on July 7.

Hopefully all of these gestures will help the town get back to some kind of normalcy, because nothing will ever be the same again.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Nuno Impresses in Win Over Red Sox

If you mentioned the name Vidal Nuno to anyone at the start of Spring Training this year, they probably scrunched up their eye brows at the person who queried you and said, "Who?".  There's a chance that won't be the case much longer.

Nuno continued to make the Yankees front office and manager Joe Girardi take notice with five shutout innings in the Yankees 4-0 win over the Boston Red Sox Wednesday afternoon.

Nuno impressed in the 20 starts he made for Double-A Trenton last year. He had a 2.54 ERA against Eastern League hitters, struck out 100 in 114 innings and walked just 27 to help finish 9-5.

The 5'11", 25-year old was drafted out of Baker (KS) University by the Cleveland Indians in the 48th round of the 2009 MLB amateur draft. Household names don't usually get selected in the 48th round of anything. After an impressive post-draft stint in the New York-Penn League (NYPL), Nuno didn't fare as well the following season (6-9, 4.96 in 'A' ball) though his impeccable control continued. Inexplicably, the Indians released him the following March.

After six games in the independent Frontier League, the Yankees signed Nuno in mid-June. The 24-year old dominated the NYPL hitters, most of which were just out of high school or college. The Yankees quickly moved Nuno from Staten Island to 'A' ball in Charleston where continued to dominate opposing batters. Between the two levels, Nuno had a laughable 11.2:1 strikeout to walk ratio. The Indians loss appeared to be the Yankees gain.

Soon the Yankees will have decisions to make concerning the team that goes north for the April 1 home opener with Boston and which players get sent to the minors or released. The Yankees two left-handers in the pen were both banged up this spring. Boone Logan appeared in his first spring training game on Tuesday after sitting out with elbow inflammation. Clay Rapada made two appearances this spring, but has been out for nearly two weeks after he was diagnosed with bursitis in his shoulder.

The Yankees don't necessarily need two left-handers in the pen to start the season, but if Logan or Rapada is not ready, the Yankees could turn to Nuno.  The California native could also be considered a dark horse for a spot in the rotation if Phil Hughes starts the season on the disabled list. (Ivan Nova and David Phelps are the experienced pitchers that are currently battling for the number five spot among the starters.)

The most likely spot for Nuno will be in the starting rotation for the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (What a horrible name). With Manny Banuelos recovering from Tommy John surgery, Nuno has leaped to the top of the charts among the team's left-handed pitching prospects.

Jeter Out With Crankle, Logan Returns

From the moment he reported to training camp Derek Jeter has insisted he and his previously broken left ankle would be ready for Opening Day on April 1.  Each time he has also thrown in a slight caveat to hedge his bets.  Jeter is still maintaining he will be in the lineup come April 1, but he is sitting it out the grapefruit league games for the second straight day with what has been referred to as "cranky" ankle (or a crankle, if you will).

It's no surprise that there would be a setback since you generally don't rehab from an injury without some pauses here and there. It's perfectly normal and more apt to happen once you are on the other side of 30-years old.

An MRI showed inflammation in the Captain's ankle and he will take things day-to-day for now.

The Yankees got some good news on Tuesday when Boone Logan (how come he's never been nicknamed "Wolverine"?) pitched in a game for the first time this spring. Logan had been out with elbow inflammation, and though he maintains he is pain-free, he believes there is still inflammation in the elbow.

Never one to ice his elbow after an appearance, Logan has begun the practice to help his arm rebound from the stress a game puts on it. Perhaps Joe Girardi would like to keep Logan from pitching in 80 games as well (not to mention how many times he warms up without coming in).

UPDATE 1:10 PM - Just got word that Derek Jeter got a cortisone shot in his ankle this morning. The likelihood of missing Opening Day just increased by A LOT.