Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Hal Steinbrenner Ready To Ditch The $189 Million Plan?

It appears that Hal Steinbrenner may be ready to say adios to the $189 million austerity budget luxury tax plan for 2014, halle-freaking-lujah! Wallace Matthews of ESPN New York reported that this seems like the first time a Steinbrenner is running the Yankees since George died. Whether this is because the savings are less then expected, the fan out lash was greater than expected, season ticket sales are down, they did not want to lose Robinson Cano, they read The Greedy Pinstripes and see how much I personally hate it, or all of the above which is making the Steinbrenner's consider ditching the austerity budget but whatever it is this is one happy blogger. This is all speculation at this point but with the Yankees willingness to now break the bank to keep Robinson Cano I can see this plan going by the wayside and the Yankees cutting checks this trade dead line and next off season, not payroll.

Yankees Tell Scott Boras They Want Cano Long Term

Not that this is going to shock anyone, especially Scott Boras and Robinson Cano, but the Yankees told the super agent for Robinson Cano that they are willing to talk a mega long term contract for their future free agent second basemen. While this is all preliminary and probably none of the ground work has even been discussed maybe this is foreshadowing to a extension before this season is over. The Yankees want him long term and I am pretty sure that Cano wants to be here as well so I hope this gets done sooner rather than later. I honestly do not see Cano leaving town to go to the Dodgers or anybody unless the Yankees just offer him a slap in the face kind of deal so I am personally not worried but in the same breathe I do not want to hear about this all season long either. Get it done Cash!

David Price Will Not Sign Long Term Deal W/ Yankees

Tampa Bay Rays ace starting pitcher David Price told reporters that he would not sign a long term contract with the New York Yankees because, of all things, their facial hair policy. David will not become a free agent until after the 2015 season and I do not see the Rays trading David to the Yankees so we have a long time to think about this but it's still worth noting. The reigning AL Cy Young Award winner said "I wouldn't sign a long-term deal there. Those rules, that's old-school baseball. I was born in 1985. That's not for me. That's not something I want to be a part of." If we should change the rules for anybody should it be David Price? I would say maybe...

New York Yankees Spring Training Notes 2/20

The Yankees ran pop up drills today and we saw Curtis Granderson in center field and Brett Gardner in left field. Whether that is a sign of things to come or not I do not know but I would think if they were going to make the move that they would want Curtis Granderson to get acclimated as soon as possible. Then again I do not have access to the binder so what do I know.

Phil Hughes will miss up to two weeks with a bulging disc in his back after hurting it on a fielding practice drill. Mark Montgomery's back feels a lot better after he did a long toss session today. He will play catch again tomorrow and if all goes well we will see Mark throw a bullpen session on Friday or Saturday.

Kevin Youkilis, unsurprisingly, did not take batting practice off of Joba Chamberlain today. Apparently Joe Girardi has no sense of humor. It may have been a blessing in disguise though because Joba let one fly and almost hit Eduardo Nunez in the head with a pitch that got away. Could you imagine if Youk was in the batting box for that unintentional pitch?

David Adams says his back feels great and could be on the field with the rest of the club as early as Monday. David has yet to report to camp because of a back injury in a non baseball related incident. He would not be fully cleared by doctors until he works out a few times and does some routine drills but he seems to be on his way back regardless which is great news.

Phil Hughes To Miss Two Weeks W/ Bulging Disc

Phil Hughes will miss anywhere from five days to two weeks with a bulging disc in his back. He hurt his back on a fielding practice play covering first base an has not pitched since. He is considered to be well ahead of schedule and ahead of most people in camp so this should not hold him back too awful much. Better rest and rehab him now and be 100% for 2013, his contract year.

What About Alfonso Soriano For The Yankees In 2013?

The Chicago Cubs have indicated that they would like to move left fielder Alfonso Soriano and Soriano says that he would be willing to waive his full no trade clause to make that happen if the Cubs are not contending in 2013. Soriano submitted a list of six or seven teams including the New York Yankees, New York Mets, Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago White Sox, and the Philadelphia Phillies. If I had to guess at the two teams not included I would guess the Texas Rangers and the San Francisco Giants, for real this time, but again those are just guesses. Soriano is signed through the 2014 season and has $36 million remaining, $18 million in each of 2013 and 2014, on the deal and if I had to guess I would say the Cubs would probably be willing to eat some of that in order to move him. If the Cubs asking price was not astronomical should the Yankees be interested in a potential Soriano trade?

Soriano is a left fielder and the Yankees are generally looking for a right fielder but with the Yankees speed of Curtis Granderson and Brett Gardner, or Ichiro Suzuki I guess depending on how the outfield is set up that day, I think they could afford to cheat a little with those guys and could hide Soriano's defensive liabilities. It is worth mentioning though that Soriano did only have one error in over 200 chances last year, which is by far his career low, so maybe he is turning the corner defensively. Soriano seems to also fit the Yankees need for a right handed power hitting outfielder and is an immediate upgrade over both Matt Diaz and Juan Rivera respectively. The money should not be an issue because in December when Soriano was part of trade rumors the Cubs were reportedly willing to eat up to $26 million of the $36 million owed if the "right prospects" were involved in the deal. While I do not think we would, or should, give up any of our upper guys like Tyler Austin, Mason Williams, Gary Sanchez, or Slade Heathcott I think a deal revolving around a Brett Marshall could get it done. The Yankees need a platoon partner for both Travis Hafner and Ichiro Suzuki, both left handed players, and Soriano could fill both needs in one player splitting time between the designated hitter position and right field. The biggest downfall, which is a common occurrence in the Yankees club house, is that Soriano will be entering his age 37 season and will be under contract through his age 38 season as well which is not a welcomed sight to many.

Let's look at Soriano's splits against left handed pitching. Soriano had a triple slash of .260/.342/..489 in 66 games in 2012 which is surprisingly, yet negligibly,  lower than his right handed pitching splits. Soriano was a 1.8 WAR player last year which is no way near worth $18 million but for around $5 million and not giving up any blue chip prospects I would consider Soriano an absolute steal if we can get him for a reasonable prospect package. Here is my proposed package for Alfonso Soriano assuming that the Yankees would only be on the hook for $5 million for each of 2013 and 2014.

Cubs Get :

SP Brett Marshall
C JR Murphy
1B Greg Bird

Yankees Get:

Alfonso Soriano
$26 Million in Cash

AL East Has Tons of Questions

For the better part of the last decade, the American League East division has not only been the best division in baseball, but it has also been the easiest to predict. The Yankees have won the AL East 13 out of the last 17 years, which is an amazing accomplishment that is really underrated. That kind of consistency is remarkable and it is something we may never see again from the Yankees or another franchise.

The Orioles were the Yankees’ challenger in the late 90s, while it was the Red Sox who challenged the Yankees throughout the 2000s, until the Rays finally won the division in 2008. Up until that point, you could pretty much pencil in the Yankees and Red Sox for the top two spots every season. However, this season nobody will be doing that, and the AL East is as wide open as maybe it has ever been. You could make a case for any of the five teams winning the division.

The Rays, Blue Jays and Orioles have sensed the vulnerability of the Yankees and Red Sox and they have tried to take advantage. The Blue Jays had a monster offseason, as they acquired Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera  Josh Johnson, RA Dickey and Mark Buehrle. The Orioles shocked the baseball world last year when they won 93 games and made the playoffs. They will be bringing the same team back for the most part. The Rays lost ace James Shields, but acquired one of the best prospects in MLB in Will Myers in return for Shields. Also, they signed James Loney and Yunel Escobar to play first base and shortstop.

Meanwhile, the Yankees and Red Sox found themselves in much different positions this offseason. The Yankees had to worry about fending off all this new competition from the other division teams and they had to do it on a restricted budget. The only new additions the Yankees made were Kevin Youkilis, Travis Hafner and Matt Diaz. They chose to retain veterans like Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte and Ichiro Suzuki in the hopes that they could repeat what they did for the Yankees last season. After dumping Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, the Red Sox had a lot of money to spend to try to work their way back to the top if the division. They signed Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino, Stephen Drew, Jonny Gomes, Ryan Dempster, Koji Uehara and traded for Joel Hanrahan.

While the AL East will be a very competitive division, it seems to lack a dominant team. Nobody in the AL East has as good a roster as the Detroit Tigers and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim do right now. Every team in the division has question marks.

The Blue Jays have the most talent in the division, but the paper champions of past offseasons have disappointed, so they will need to prove it first. Being the favorite in the division is something they are not used to and playing with expectations is totally different than playing without them. Injuries are a huge question mark for the Blue Jays as both Reyes and Johnson have big injury histories. Jose Bautista is coming of a wrist injury that limited his effectiveness late last season. Cabrera will have to prove he can still be the same player without steroids. Also, Toronto did nothing to improve their bullpen, which was a huge issue last season.

The loss of Shields is huge for the Rays and they will have to rely on young pitchers stepping up. His consistency over 200 + innings every year will be sorely missed. Matt Moore and Alex Cobb will be counted on for big innings. Moore flashed potential at the end of the 2011 season and over the second half of last season, but he has yet to put it together over a full season. Also, obviously a big question with the Rays is their hitting, and that question remains this season. Evan Longoria staying healthy the full season is a must.

The Orioles had a great year last season, but there are signs that point towards them regressing to the mean this season. The Orioles went an incredible 16-2 in extra innings games and 29-9 in one run games. A lot of that is luck and it may go the other way for them in 2013. The Orioles run differential was a mere +5 last year, while the Yankees led MLB with a +129 run differential. The Orioles should have a solid offense, but their pitching could suffer. Jason Hammel had a career year last year that he is unlikely to repeat. Miguel Gonzalez and Chris Tillman were effective for 105.1 and 86 innings respectively, but they will have to prove it over a full season.

The Red Sox will be a much improved team from their disaster of last season, but I don’t see them seriously competing for the AL East title. Their rotation is still a huge question mark, as Jon Lester is coming off a terrible year and I don’t think Dempster will be able to pitch well in the AL East. Clay Buchholz and John Lackey both have huge injury and consistency issues. On offense, Napoli, Drew, Gomes Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury all have injury histories. Their bullpen should be much improved with the additions of Hanrahan and Uehara.

Lastly, we are all familiar with the questions that the Yankees face. Age is at the top of the list like always. The Yankees will be counting on several veterans like Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Ichiro Suzuki, Hiroki Kuroda and Kevin Youkilis. They will need them to remain healthy and productive. Also, the Yankees will have to adequately replace the production they lost in the offseason when they let Nick swisher, Russell Martin and Raul Ibanez walk in free agency.

As you can see, as talented as all these teams are they all have issues. A lot of them seem to be injury related, as the Yankees, Blue Jays and Red Sox are all relying on players with injury histories. However, what is so exciting is that there is little separating these teams in talent, which should make for a wild pennant race.

Meet A Prospect : Cesar Cabral

Cesar Augusto Cabral was born on February 11th, 1989 in Sabana Grande de Palenque, Dominican Republic. Standing with a 6'3" frame and 250 lb frame throwing from the left side it is easy to see why the Boston Red Sox signed him as an International Free Agent in 2006. Cabral pitches strictly from the stretch and throws a fastball that sits around 91-93 mph and tops out at 95 mph when he really dials it back. To complement his fastball is an 81-83 mph circle change up, a mid 70's mph slurve, and a 79-82 mph curve ball. He can harness all of these pitches for control and has a ton of movement on all of them for a lot of swings and misses. If healthy he will make a huge contribution for the Yankees in this coming season and may make a Clay Rapada or a Boone Logan expendable.

Cesar Cabral spent the 2006-2009 seasons in the Boston Red Sox farm system starting in the Dominican Summer League in 2006 where he went 1-4 with a 4.54 ERA in 11 games to start his professional career. In 2007 he would improve in the DSL with a 5-4 record to go with a 1.76 ERA in 14 starts. In 2008 Cesar was moved up to the Gulf Coast League Red Sox where he struggled a little with a 2-5 record with a 5.59 ERA in 11 games but did strike out 51 batters in 48.1 IP. Cesar would be moved up once in 2009 when he went to the Red Sox Short Season team the Lowell Spinners where he put up a 1-6 record with a 4.03 ERA in 15 games. In 2010 Cesar was exclusively made into a reliever and split time with the Red Sox Low A affiliate Greenville Drive and their High A affiliate the Salem Red Sox going a combined 4-0 with a 3.63 ERA in 45 appearances while striking out 80 batters in 79.1 IP. Cesar Cabral would be drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 2010 Rule 5 Draft but his stay would not be long because he would be claimed on waivers by the Toronto Blue Jays in March of the 2011 season. Two days later he was waived by the Toronto Blue Jays and was claimed back by the Tampa Bay Rays only to be returned to the Boston Red Sox two weeks later per the Rule 5 rules.

The Kansas City Royals drafted Cabral from the Boston Red Sox in the Rule 5 draft and sold him to the New York Yankees before the 2012 season. Cesar Cabral was in the middle of winning a job for the New York Yankees as the second left handed reliever last Spring Training before a stress fracture in his left throwing elbow cost him the entire 2012 season. In Spring Cesar put up a 1-0 record with a 1.59 ERA in 10 games and 11.1 IP. While in Spring Training Cesar struck out 12 batters and only walked two, one intentionally, while putting up an impressive 1.24 WHIP. If he comes back healthy this season I find it hard to see how the Yankees do not trade Boone Logan and make room for Cabral.

ETA : 2013