Monday, December 15, 2014


The latest free agents are comprised of a player moving on to his sixth team in seven years and one that is staying where he was two-month rental. The Chicago White Sox have been busy this offseason and they continued their re-tooling over the weekend with the free agent signing of outfielder Melky Cabrera. Meanwhile, the New York Yankees agreed, on Monday, with Chase Headley to keep the free agent third baseman for the next four years (at a cost of $52MM).

Cabrera, who played four full seasons with the Yankees, then spent one season in Atlanta, one in Kansas City, one in San Francisco, and two years in Toronto. He'll replace the lackluster bat of Dayan Viciedo in left field and join newcomers Jeff Samardzija and former Yankees teammate David Robertson on the list of big time acquisitions by GM Kenny Williams.

Read the rest of this column for free at Designated For Assignment

Yankees Continue to Spend Stupidly, Near 4-Year Deal With Headley

I got 52MM bucks

I've repeated it numerous times this offseason. The Yankees do not have a philosophy for building the 2015 team. They're avoiding giving big bucks to those who will help the team (i.e. David Robertson) one second, and in the next moment they are spending money in a ridiculous manner. It continued on Monday when media outlets reported that the Yankees and Chase Headley agreed to to a four-year, $52MM deal.

While $12MM a season is reasonable these days, giving Headley four years is not. This is a guy who has had ONE great season. It was a fabulous, MVP-type season. But he did nothing before it and he's done nothing since. Acquired at this past season's trade deadline, Headley had ONE good stretch as Yankee. He brings a great glove to the position, but having the left side of the infield as a complete good-glove, no-hit combo is not a good combo.

It is clear that Hal Steinbrenner does not want to spend money like his Dad. Which is fine, but spend it wisely. George made plenty of mistakes in that department too, but getting cheap on David Robertson isn't the way to do it. They should have used this money to lure back Brandon McCarthy. They overspent last year on Jacoby Ellsbury (by a lot) and Brian McCann.

This isn't the Kansas City Royals where it takes more than a decade to build a contender. This is New York and though the Yankees don't need to win the World Series every year, you at least want to be competetive.

The team still does not have a solid rotation due to injuries and uncertainities, and the lineup will have a hard time producing runs. Much of the issues comes down to Alex Rodriguez and, believe it or not, this is not his fault. The Yankees stupidly gave him a 10-year deal at an average of $27.5MM a year and it has completely hamstrung them.

This team is in disarray from top to bottom.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Yankees Send Cervelli to Pirates for Lefty Reliever

Francisco Cervelli had an up and down career in his time in New York.  A fan favorite to some, part of the Biogenesis scandal, a sufferer of serious injuries, and one of the most spirited players in the Major Leagues.  But with Brian McCann signed to a five-year deal prior to the 2014 season and a laundry list of catching prospects making their towards the Majors, the Venezuela native became expendable. The Yankees sent their backup catcher to the Pittsburgh Pirates for left-handed reliever Justin Wilson.

Cervelli hit a career hit .301 this past season, but appeared in just 49 games. A strained hamstring in mid-April sent him to the 60-day disabled list and missed 59 games. He got hot towards the end of July, but drove in just 13 runs on the season. Defensively, he threw out just six of 24 potential base stealers.

Cervelli, who will be 28-years old when the 2015 season is in his first season of arbitration eligibility after he earned $700K last year.

The 27-year old Wilson appeared in 70 games this past season, his second full season in the Major Leagues. He finished 3-4, 4.20 with better than 9 K's/9 IP. In 2013, Wilson made 58 appearances and posted an ERA just over 2.00.

His numbers were actually better against right-handed hitters rather than lefties and he suffered some control issues. (30 walks in 60 IP). The California native was a 5th rd draft choice out of Cal St.-Fresno in 2008.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Yankees Talk D-Rob, Headley, Likely Say Sayonora to Kuroda

The postseason is over with the San Francisco Giants sleeping at night with visions of Madison Bumgarner dancing in their heads. It means it's time to get back to the business of baseball or more precisely, getting ready for next year.

First  on the docket is deciding whether to extend a qualifying offer to your team's eligible free agents. The Yankees most certainly will extend an offer to David Robertson, aka "D-Rob", who did a very good job in his first season as a full-time closer. Those who think the Yankees should let him go and immediately install Dellin Betances as closer are either bananas or haven't paid much attention to the games they watched.

Robertson will turn down the offer, which is set this year at $15.3MM, up from $14.1MM from last season. This is Robertson first chance at a multi-year, multimillion dollar deal and there will be plenty of calls to his agents. He would be a fool to accept a one year deal to keep his high socks in the Big Apple.

No player accepted the 2014 qualifying offer last season and that's a pattern that's likely to repeat this season. The exception, though, could be Hiroki Kuroda. Which is wjy the Yankees should NOT extend him a qualifying offer. After a fabulous 2013 season, Kuroda was very erratic this past season, though the team's lack of defense and run production hurt his record and adversely affected the outcome of many of the games he started. He would probably jump on the offer, if he intends to play another season and wants to stay a Yankee. There's no way the Yankees would (should) give him an amount close to that. The Yankees need to reserve their money for younger, talent-rich players. (And no, that doesn't mean an All-Star at every position.)

Though the only starting pitcher, at the moment, the Yankees have under contract and is (somewhat) healthy is Michael Pineda. Since CC Sabathia hasn't thrown a pitch in a Major League game since May 10, he's not yet in the equation. Ivan Nova is coming off Tommy John surgery. Masahiro Tanaka's seven innings in September, after two months off, doesn't inspire confidence, and Brandon McCarthy is also a free agent. David Phelps, Chase Whitley, and Shane Greene are all question marks for consistency, among other things.

In addition to not retaining Kuroda, the Yankees should also not pursue Max Scherzer, who turned down a six-year, $144MM offer from the Detroit Tigers earlier this year, or lefty Jon Lester, who figures to earn a boatload of money as a free agent. While either would be fine acquisitions, their cost is too high, especially for a team with so much money owed to underachieving players.

The Yankees should try to bring back McCarthy, who adapted to well to Yankee Stadium, and James Shields. While Shields does not always live up to that "Big Game" moniker, he'll give you a solid regular season and 200+ innings, and will make less than Scherzer or Lester. Jeff Samardzija is also likely to demand too many greenbacks.

The Yankees liked what they saw in third baseman Chase Headley, though he has not come close to his 2012 offensive production. (31 HR-115 RBI-.875 OPS) Headley was spectacular manning the hot corner and occassionally filled in at first base. Several media outlets reported today the Yankees are already in negotiations for a new contract with the 30-year old Colorado native. It may not be easy though, as Headley is preferred by a number of team to free agent Pablo Sandoval and his expected wish for a big money contract.

Headley had a .768 OPS in 58 games in pinstripes with 6 HR and 17 RBI. While far from spectacular, it was difficult for anyone  on the team to drive in runs when no one was getting on base on a regular basis. The plan would be for Headley to regular man third base with Alex Rodriguez becoming the primary DH.

UPDATE -  The Yankees indeed made an offer to Robertson and bypassed Kuroda.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Jeter Reveals Players' Tribune Site

Derek Jeter has a job! No having to apply for unemployment! The choice of job is a curious one though. The freshly retired Yankees' shortstop is the publisher of his own brand new website, The Players' Tribune.

It's a site for "unfiltered" talk between athletes and the fans (and the media?) from a player who was notorious for not giving the media many worthy sound bites. This is a snippet from Jeter's website welcome:
"I do think fans deserve more than “no comments” or “I don’t knows.” Those simple answers have always stemmed from a genuine concern that any statement, any opinion or detail, might be distorted. I have a unique perspective.
Many of you saw me after that final home game, when the enormity of the moment hit me. I’m not a robot. Neither are the other athletes who at times might seem unapproachable. We all have emotions. We just need to be sure our thoughts will come across the way we intend."
Some would disagree about the robot part and the timing is strange considering Major League Baseball is in the middle of the post-season. While not comparing apples to apples, Alex Rodriguez was vilified when he opted out of his contract with the Yankees during the 2007 World Series.

Quick tip from a longtime blogger - Make sure your site isn't out of alignment like it is right now on the closing paragraph. Centering an entire paragraph usually doesn't look good. ;)

The Players' Tribune intro closing

"Introducing The Players’ Tribune, a new media platform that will present the unfiltered voices of professional athletes, bringing fans closer to the games they love than ever before. Founded by Derek Jeter, The Players’ Tribune aims to provide unique insight into the daily sports conversation and to publish first-person stories directly from athletes. From video to podcasts to player polls and written pieces, The Tribune will strive to be “The Voice of the Game.”

The initial reaction of the fans is "huh?" while some in the mainstream media would like to figuratively, or literally, flip Jeter the bird. The site mentions there will be more of a real today, October 2. Stay tuned.

Derek Jeter's appearance on the Today Show

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

D4Assignment: Big Names, Big Games in AL Wild Card Contest

James Shields and Jon Lester, dueling aces

It has been 29 years since the Kansas City Royals reached the postseason. 1985 saw the Royals win their one and only World Series Championship. (With a little help from umpire Don Denkinger.) Tuesday night, the Royals will host the Oakland A’s in a one game showdown between the two AL Wild Card winners. To the victor go the spoils and a divisional round match up with the Los Angeles Angels. You know where the losers go.

The A’s have been to the playoffs 11 times during the Royals drought, but haven’t been to the World Series since 1990. Their last World Series title, the ninth in franchise history (The first five were won when they called Philadelphia home), came in the “Earthquake series” with the San Francisco Giants.

The Royals were an expansion team in 1969, two years after the A’s departed Kansas City after a 13-season run. The only prior postseason meeting between the two squads came after the strike-shortened 1981 regular season. The Billy Martin-managed A’s swept KC in three straight games before they were swept in three games by the New York Yankees in the ALCS. It was a disappointing end of the season for Kansas City, which lost the World Series to the Philadelphia Phillies one year earlier.

Read the rest of the article for free (as always)at Designated For Assignment.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Jeter's Big Night: What They Are Saying

Teammate Brett Gardner:

 Teammate CC Sabathia:

 YES Network announcer Michael Kay when Jeter delivered in the 9th:
"Derek Jeter; turning fantasy into reality."

You could hear Tino Martinez yell, "That was awesome!" to his former teammate and fellow Florida snowbird. Charles Jeter told his "I'm proud of you."

Former teammate Paul O'Neill:

Yankees announcer Ken Singleton:
Tigers pitcher David Price, who gave up hit #3000 to Jeter when Price was on the Rays.

Price's teammate Justin Verlander:
Hall of Fame Wide Receive Chris Carter
Former Braves 3rd baseman Chipper Jones:
Former teammate and YES Network announcer John Flaherty:
Twins infielder Brian Dozier:

YES Network's Jack Curry:

More from Jack on the YES website.

Under The Glare Of The Spotlight Jeter Still Has Ice Water In His Veins

Last night's game 2014 Yankee Stadium finale between the Baltimore Orioles and the Yankees will be like Woodstock. Everyone will claim they were there due to the incredible start, middle, and especially the ending of Derek Jeter's career in pinstripes.

With the fans on pins and needles waiting to see if Jeter would exit the 9th inning early to a standing ovation, closer David Robertson gave up a pair of home runs to blow a 3-run lead. Tied 5-5 in the bottom of the 9th, Robertson was quickly forgiven by the fans. The tie meant that Jeter would get at least one more at-bat in his home away from home, and what an at-bat it was.

John Sterling's call of Jeter's game winner: 

Jose Pirela, who has played 2,741 less games than Jeter, started off the bottom of the 9th with a single through the left side of the infield. Brett Gardner bunted to move the winning run into scoring position and set a showdown between Evan Meek, who was making his 23rd big league appearance, and Jeter. Would Buck Showalter walk Jeter to set up the double play? Just as Jeter plays until the final out or winning run, Showalter manages in the same manner.

When Orioles' catcher Caleb Joseph got into his normal squat behind home plate, you knew the 46,000-plus in attendance and anyone watching or listening on the TV or radio were relieved. And Jeter didn't wait long to let Showalter change his mind. In a very "Jeterian" moment, the Yankees' shortstop jumped on Meek's first pitch, and drilled it through the right side, just like he has done thousands of times before. Right fielder Nick Markakis has a cannon for an arm, but his throw was late as speedy pinch-runner Antoan Richardson slid across home plate with the winning run. Jeter raised his arms in exaltation and jumped in the air as he saw Richardson. (Incredibly, it was the Captain's first walk off winner in seven years).

Jeter's teammates quickly flooded the field and lifted him off the ground. And the smiles and tears flowed, Jeter included. He greeted all of his current teammates, manager, and coaches, his former teammates Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams, Tino Martinez, and Gerald Williams, and his former manager Joe Torre. His parents, sister, nephew, and girlfriend all got hugs and kisses. And as the YesNetwork's Meredith Marakovits interviewed him on the field, he even allowed CC Sabathia and Gardner to give him a Gatorade shower.

The way the game ended left everyone mumbling, "did I just see that". Yes you did. Sadly, for the last time.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Jeter's Thirst Quenching Finish With Gatorade

I might not ordinarily write what you are, hopefully, about to read, but hey it has to do with Derek Jeter. Once Jeter announced that this would be his final season, he and Gatorade teamed up for a new commercial to be shown in the final week of Jeter's career.

The commercial will air publicly beginning September 20, but you can see it here (and on other Yankees blogs) first. The commercial is an extension of the public letter Jeter released back in February (see a copy at the bottom of this post), in which the Yankees' captain took the opportunity to thank the fans. Perhaps one of you is even in the commercial that features Jeter interacting with fans.

There will be ads in the NY Times and NY Daily News as well. (I guess the NY Post wasn't interested.)

Here is the 90-second "Thank you" commercial:

As you can see in the photos below, during the Yankees series with the Orioles (beginning Sept. 22), Gatorade advertising (coolers, cups, and towels) inside the Yankees' dugout will feature the #2 instead of the traditional capital "G" on the Gatorade logo.

Check out the #2 Gatorade Squeeze bottles that you can win: Just be one of the first 10 people to email me at with your name and home address (including zip code), and Gatorade will send you one of the #2 squeeze bottles. Be sure to put "Jeter Prize" in the subject line.
The Contest is closed. The winners are:

Jen Parrish
Evan Goldfarb
Lex Johnson
Tina Stawinski
Jack Newman
Malinda Singh
Michael Held
Connor Rogers
Doug Klein
Ralph Lepore

Jeter's February, 2014 Thank you

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Despite Win, A Horrible Year For The Yankees Continues

Carlos Beltran with his wife Jessica and daughters Ivana and Kiera in happier times.

The Yankees topped the Tampa Bay Rays tonight, 3-2, but it's hard to find much joy due to the sad news that was released tonight.

Carlos Beltran announced on his Facebook page that his wife had a miscarriage and they had lost the baby son she was carrying. It would have been the family's first son.

Below is the statement from Beltran in Spanish and the English translation, which could be slightly incorrect.
La vida me acaba de quitar la bendición de tener mi primer hijo (varón). Conozco de Dios y vivo agradecido por todas sus bendiciones como mi bella familia, amigos, fanáticos y mi carrera. Todo es y será en el tiempo perfecto de Dios y así mi esposa y yo lo aceptamos. Gracias por el cariño y los mensajes. 

The life of me just take the blessing of having my first son ( man ). I know God and I am grateful for all his blessings like my beautiful family, friends, fans and my career. Everything is and will be at the time, a perfect God and my wife and i accept this. Thank you for the love and the messages.

Beltran had left earlier in the day in what was described as a "personal matter".
My condolences to the Beltran family for their tragic loss.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Yankees and Jeter Running to the Sunset

Jeter and Prado have fist bumped for the last time.

If you still held out hope that the Yankees could somehow grab an AL wild card spot, you can completely forget it now. The team that has been dropping like flies in losses and manpower, is now completely done. Versatile Martin Prado, who has been one of the few players to swing a consistently good bat, is done for the rest of the year after his appendix decided it wanted to come out.

Yes, what you hear is the final nail being hammered into the 2014 coffin. Feel free to add any other cliche you would like. The announcement that Prado's season was done was met with laughter and not just by me. No, I don't think it's funny that Prado needed surgery. It is gallows humor, because just about everything that could go wrong with this team has gone wrong. Injuries, sub-par seasons, overpaid/underachieving players shuttling in and out of the lineup. It's been miserable.

Last night's walk-off loss, the third in the last five games came as no surprise. There was no anger on my part, just a resigned, "I knew that would happen" attitude. And that's coming from one of the most optimistic fans you will find. But the writing has been on the wall for this season for some time. And it's a shame, but that's what happens when you give tons of money to the wrong people, collect a roster full of elderly players, and don't make front office changes. I never liked the way George Steinbrenner handled things in his heyday, but Hal needs to start wielding a front office axe or the Yankees dry spell for the playoffs will be a lot longer than two years.

Derek Jeter's mediocre season in a mediocre year has made it even touger to watch games over these last six months. The Captain, in the midst of an 0-24 skid at the plate, sat out last night's l-0, 9th inning loss to Tampa Bay. Just 13 games remain in Jeter's final season. His last home game is a week from Thursday before a three game adios in Fenway Park. It's been a more disappointing season than Mariano Rivera's final bow in 2013. The Yankees' closer was still sharp and saved 44 games. The long-time Yankees' shortstop has seen his average dip to .250, his on-base PCT. to .298 and his OPS to a sickly .596.

Yes, those are the worst numbers of Jeter's career for any season in which he has played in 100 or more games. And THAT has been every season except 1995, when he got a brief call up and the injury riddled 2013 season. (His lowest OPS in a 100+ season until this point was .710 in 2010)

Hopefully, Jeter has one more run in him. A streak of singles and doubles, and perhaps one last home run in him before the season ends. That's all Yankees' fans have to hope for now.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Young Proves Sterling Is Right

You've heard the mantra thousands of times on the Yankees' radio broadcast. The "voice of the Yankees" (Mel Allen is turning over in his grave), John Sterling, will utter the phrase, "You can't predict baseball, Suzyn" at least once a game. The Suzyn, of course, is Suzyn Waldman, Sterling's sidekick on WFAN radio.

Last night the Yankees' Chris Young proved that Sterling has been on the money with that statement all along. Young, cut by the Mets on August 15 due to a complete lack of productivity (it's safe to say he sucked), hit a very improbably walk-off, 3-run home run that gave the Yankees a 5-4 win over the Tampa Bay Rays and kept the unrealistic dream of the playoffs alive for another day.

If Thursday night's game was a championship bout, the Yankees were down on the mat and the referee had counted to seven and was about to count to eight. Rays' starter Alex Cobb was within six outs of a no-hitter (there was no perfect game due to an error charged to centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier, who dropped a routine fly ball in the 3rd inning.) when Young broke it up with a double to the gap in right-center.

With the no-no gone, Rays' skipper Joe Maddon sent for Brad Boxberger to face Brendan Ryan. Joe Girardi countered with Martin Prado and the pinch-hitter promptly deposited a 2-run home run into the left field seats. Suddenly, the Yankees were alive...if you consider a team that struggles to get three runs a game, alive.

Hard throwing lefty Jake McGee came on in the 9th to close things out, but hit Chase Headley in the chin to start the inning. McGee was clearly shaken up by what had occurred and left a pitch up to Ichiro Suzuki. He's not the hitter he once was, but Ichiro can still occassionaly use his bat like a master swordsman. He did against McGee, lashing double to left-center.

Zealous Wheeler pinch-hit for Stephen Drew, but was clearly overmatched and struck out for the first out of the inning. That brought up Young, who had a .630 OPS when the Mets kicked him to the curb. He fouled off a 98-mph fastball and then jumped on a 97-mph heater that left quickly left the field of play. A wild celebration ensured, complete with Gatorade dousing.. You could predict that.

But you can't predict baseball, Suzyn.


As a Yankee, Young has a 1.667 OPS. He's 6-12 (.500) with two home runs, two doubles, and seven RBI.

Michael Pineda had pitched beautifully since his return from shoulder soreness earlier this year. Last night was not his night though. He gave up a pair of home runs to shortsop Yunel Escobar, who entered the game with four home runs for the year. Pineda has been a victim of a lack of run support, but last night his teammates bailed him out. Shawn Kelley improved to 3-5 with the win.

A scarey moment occurred in the 7th inning when Boxberger hit Derek Jeter in the elbow with a pitch. Jeter's left arm went dead, but he remained in the game.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Washington Quits Rangers

In a surprising move Friday, Texas Rangers' manager Ron Washington stepped down as skipper of the ball club. Washington cited a "personal matter" for his departure after 140 games had been played this season. Texas has had an awful year, posting just 53 wins after five straight 90-win seasons. The team missed much of its manpower this season, including three starting pitchers (Derek Holland, Martin Perez, Matt Harrison) due to injuries.

The first thing that came to mind when I heard the news was that Washington might be having a drug related issue - he admitted to cocaine use in 2009 - but club GM Jon Daniels vehemently denied that was the case.

Washington was hired as Rangers manager prior to the 2007 season after a successful run as an Oakland A's coach. The team finished 75-87, but two years later was 87-75. They won the American League pennant in 2010 and 2011, losing in the World Series to San Francisco and St. Louis. The Rangers were eliminated by Baltimore in the one game wild card playoff in 2012, and failed to make the post-season last year despite a 91-win campaign.

Washington's in-game strategy has always been a curious one, but he was popular with his players and leaves with a 664-611 (.521) lifetime record at the helm. Bench coach Tim Bogar will take over as interim manager for the remainder of the season.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Yankees to Change Name to Butchers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The 2015 Jeter-less Yankees - Who Are They?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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