Thursday, October 10, 2013

Winter League Assignments Are In

Just a quick blurb here announcing where the Yankees minor league players will be playing their winter ball this season. Obviously just because they are assigned there and on the team does not mean that they will necessarily play there as the Yankees still have full control over these players but the lists are what they are, and here they are:

Mexican Pacific League
OF Jose Figueroa
 IF Walt Ibarra
UTIL Ronnie Mustelier

Venezuelan Winter League:
 C Francisco Arcia
 IF Ali Castillo
 C Francisco Cervelli 
 C Jose Gil
UTIL Jose Pirela

King: Yankees Will Be "Big Bidders" On Tanaka

George A. King reports that the Yankees are expected to be "big bidders" for Masahiro Tanaka this offseason when he is posted by his team in the Japanese League. The Yankees may finally be ready to step back into the international free agency pool after missing out on big signings like Yu Darvish, Yoenis Cespedes, Yasiel Puig, and Jorge Soler and recent years. I guess missing out on Daisuke Matsuzaka, thankfully, and Kei Igawa left a sour taste of Japanese food in the Yankees mouths in recent offseasons but the Yankees seem to be ready to jump back in.

The Yankees are entering the offseason without three of their five starting pitchers in Phil Hughes, Andy Pettitte, and Hiroki Kuroda. The Yankees are expected to be very active in the free agent starting pitchers pool as their farm system has shown less than spectacular results in the starting pitching department and Tanaka may be at the top of their wish list.

Assistant general manager Billy Eppler and scout Don Wakamatsu were sent to Japan to scout him and have seen every start he has made since Tanaka expressed interest in being posted this offseason. The Yankees are doing their homework, unlike when they signed Kei Igawa not even knowing what pitches he threw, and the Yankees scouts think that he could be the best pitcher to come out of Japan ever. Wakamatsu was quoted as saying the following about the Yu Darvish and Tanaka comparison:

"He is better than Darvish because he is a strike thrower,'' the scout said. "Overall, Darvish's stuff might be a little bit better, but this guy knows how to pitch. He is like Kuroda, he has a lot of guts. He throws four pitches but when it gets to [stone]-cutting time, it's fastball and splitter.''

Tanaka will not be posted before November 1st and if the Japanese World Series goes seven games the season will not officially end until November 3rd so we have some time before we really worry with this. Experts speculate that the bidding could match or exceed the $60,000,000 it took just to talk with Yu Darvish and that is before Tanaka gets an expected five year deal worth another $60,000,000.

Tanaka finished the 2013 season with a perfect 20-0 record and a 1.24 ERA in 181 innings spread across 23 starts. Tanaka threw seven complete games and has not had an ERA above 2.00 since the 2010 season. The Yankees seem to be serious about making a run at Tanaka this offseason and this makes me, and it should make all Yankees fans, very very happy.

New York Yankees Coaching Staff Updates

The New York Yankees have already brought back manager Joe Girardi for the 2014 season and beyond and have pretty much brought back Larry Rothschild, the pitching coach, along for the ride but what about everyone else?

The Seattle Mariners are having internal discussions about bringing the Yankees third base coach Rob Thompson in to be their next manager. Please, please take Thompson so we can get someone who knows when and when not to send someone at third base. The Mariners have not asked the Yankees for permission just yet and I am not entirely sold on the fact that the Yankees will let them so stay tuned on this one.

Pete Mackanin was a scout in the New York Yankees organization this past season and will be the Philadelphia Phillies third base coach in 2014. Mackanin was reportedly on the short list of guys to replace Joe Girardi if he left so he must be pretty well regarded and respected around the league.

The Yankees have eliminated the advanced scouting video coordinator position within the organization which means Charlie Wonsowicz is now out of a job after spending parts of the last 21 seasons with the Yankees in some capacity. This must be part of coupon clipping Hal Steinbrenner's plan or something because this makes no sense at all.

Yankees On The Verge Of Extending Rothschild

The New York Yankees are on the verge of bringing pitching coach Larry Rothschild back for at least one more year in pinstripes. No word on any of the contract details as far as years, I am guessing three though, or the money, I do not even care how much he gets paid just bring him back, but the fact that it is about to get done is encouraging. We heard rumors and speculation that Rothschild would only return if Joe Girardi did, and he has, and Brian Cashman said that he wanted Girardi and his entire staff back so this is the first step. next step is bring the wonder kid Kevin Long back for another couple of years as the Yankees hitting coach.

Scorpions drop second consecutive game to Javelinas, 6-3

Yankees outfield prospect Mason Williams went 2-for-4 with a double and a run this afternoon as he and the Scorpions last their road game today to the Peoria Javelinas, 6-3. This game was never really competitive, but at least Williams played well. He wasn't very good in the first game he appeared in, so this kinda performance should definitely help boost his confidence. 

The only other Yankee prospect who was in action today, first basemen Tyler Austin, didn't do as well. Despite going 2-for-3 with an RBI in his first game Tuesday, Austin went hitless today in three at-bats but did drive in a run on a sac fly. With this performance, he is now 2-for-5 with a walk, 2 RBIs, and two runs scored so far this month. I don't know about you guys, but I'll take those numbers despite the fact that most of those stats came in one game. 

Yankees Offseason Plan

A lot of people think that with the $189 million plan that the Yankees have no chance to compete next year. If Alex Rodriguez remains suspended that is simply not the case. According to Joel Shareman, if Rodriguez remains suspended, and his $27 million AAV does not count against the luxury tax, then the Yankees will have about $80 million to spend. That is enough to make this team competitive in 2014 even with all the holes. Here is what I would do with that $80 million.

1. Re-sign Robinson Cano- This is really a no brainer. Cano is by far the best second baseman in MLB. His .314/.383/.516/.899 slash line in 2012 was once again at an MVP level. People who are turned off by him asking for $300 million are fools. That is just how negotiation works. According to FanGraphs, Cano was worth $34 million in 2012 and $30 million in 2013, so the Yankees have been severely underpaying for his value. The Yankees need his elite bat going forward, as there is no suitable replacement. A seven-year contract for $175 million would be my contract offer. I just don't see a team that will give much more than that but if there is the Yankees should really do whatever it takes.

AAV: $25 million

2. Sign Brian McCann- McCann may be a douche, but he is one of the best catchers in MLB. McCann hit .256/.336/.461/.796 with 20 home runs, 122 wRC+ and a .347 wOBA. He bounced back from an off 2012 season when he was hindered with a shoulder injury. Catcher could be a place they try ti save money with Austin Romine and J.R. Murphy, but I would go after McCann. He would be a gigantic upgrade from the Chris Stewart disaster and he could hit 30 home runs in Yankee Stadium with the short porch. Signing McCann could make Romine or Murphy trade bait. At the age of 30 McCann still has prime years left. An ideal scenario for the Yankees would be for McCann to play catcher for three more seaosns before and then have Gary Sanchez be ready to take over while McCann moves to a first base/DH role, which he has a good enough bat to be able to do. The bidding war for McCann could be high, but I would estimate he gets a deal for about 5 years and $85 million.

AAV: $17 million

3. Sign Masahiro Tanaka- The Yankees have to start flexing their muscles in the international market again and Tanaka would be a good place to start. The Yankees have been rumored to be heavily scouting him so I would be surprised if they did not make a significant posting bid. That posting bid does not count against the luxury tax, which is huge for the Yankees. Tanaka is 20-0 with a 1.24 era in the Japanese League. He is not considered as good as a pitcher as Yu Darvish coming over, but he is not to far behind. He features an mid 90s fastball with a splitter that some scouts consider to be one of the best in the world. If the Yankees post a huge posting fee that should keep the contract at a reasonable level. A 5-year, $45 million deal sounds about right.

AAV: $9 million

4. Sign Stephen Drew- The Yankees need to fix the left side of their infield and Drew would be a good place to start. He is unlikely to resign with Boston with Xander Boegarts ready to take over. He can play shortstop or third and he is very good on defense, as he had a 10.9 defensive rating on FanGraphs. He hit .253/.333/.433/.777 and 109 wRC+, which is very good for a shortstop. The Yankees really cannot go into the season relying on Derek Jeter as their main shortstop again. A four-year deal for $48 million sounds fair

AAV: 12 million

5. Trade for Chase Headley- Brian Cashman must be more aggressive in the trade market and Headley may be on the block for San Diego. He is entering the final year of his contract and has shown no desire to remain in San Diego. He is coming off an down year, so perhaps his trade value may be down a little as well. His ability to play third base and the outfield would be great for the Yankees.

AAV: $8.75 million

6. Sign Joaquin Benoit: Benoit would be the oerfect setup man to add and he could be insurance in case David Robertson fails as closer. Benoit had 24 saves and a 2.01 ERA this year and is 36 years old. A two- year contract for about $16 million sounds good.

AAV: $8 million

This comes out to $79.75 million. Obviously, the chances of the Yankees making all of these moves are slim and who knows if my contract estimations turn out to be correct, but this just goes to show you that $80 million is a lot to work with. This is the best team I could out together for that $80, which was the purpose of this exercise.  Obviously, Rodriguez getting suspended is the key. If he does, then the Yankees will have plenty of money to work with. Here is  my 2014 Yankees roster with these moves:
Starting Rotation:
1. CC Sabathia
2. Masahiro Tanaka
3. Ivan Nova
4. Michael Pineda
5. David Phelps

1. Brett Gardner CF
2. Derek Jeter DH
3. Robinson Cano 2B
4. Mark Teixeira 1B
5. Brian McCann C
6. Alfonso Soriano LF
7. Chase Headley 3B
8. Stephen Drew SS
9. Zoilo Almonte RF (yes i refuse to put Ichiro as a starter)

Austin Romine
Eduardo Nunez
Jayson Nix
Ichiro Suzuki

(release Vernon Wells)

David Robertson
Joaquin Benoit
Shawn Kelley
Casaer Cabral
Dellin Betances
Preston Claiborne
Adam Warren

This would be a very competitive team even though the starting pitching is a little suspect. So, it is possible for this team to be a contender and Brian Cashman needs to get to work on it.

Alfonso Soriano Yankees Legacy Highlights

Check out Alfonso Soriano's New York Yankees legacy highlights. Enjoy

Welcoming Alfonso Soriano Back To The Yankees Again

Welcome back to the New York Yankees for Alfonso Soriano. Looking forward to what he will bring in 2014. 

Francisco Cervelli Opens Up About Using Steroids In 2011

Originally Francisco Cervelli was very adamant that he only consulted with Tony Bosch and his Biogenesis clinic down in Miami that we all know all too well by now but now we have a whole new side of the story being told. Cervelli opened up and talked a bit about his steroid usage and suspension and admitted to taking the steroids after breaking his foot in March of 2011. Cervelli went to Yankees Stadium this year to personally apologize to manager Joe Girardi after the news broke but nothing was said of Girardi's reaction or how his teammates welcomed him. 

 Here are a few quotes from Cervelli's interview:

Talking about why he used the steroids-

"I felt so many times in my career a little scared I'm going to lose my job...Every year I have to go to spring training and fight for a job."

Talking about being surrounded by the wrong crowd-

"Sometimes you listen to people who have nothing to lose; that's dangerous," he said. "When you're desperate or anxious or scared, that's when you have to step back, slow down and think about what can happen in the future with your actions in the present."

Talking about his new job mentoring younger players-

"I talked to all the kids here in the rookie league, just be careful with your circle and the people around you, especially the people that have nothing to lose because they don't care if you fail or are a success," he said. "I'm not going to tell anybody what they have to do, what decisions they have to make. Prevent a little bit about when you're desperate, anxious or whatever, what bad decisions you can make, so just be careful. Just listen to your heart and listen to good people."

The question is now raised on whether Cervelli would be "forgiven" and accepted again inside the Yankees clubhouse and around baseball. If what he says is true, that he only used it to get back onto the field, then that helps his case a bit. I know that people will say "well we all forgave Andy Pettitte" but Pettitte did it before it was against the MLB's rules and written in the Collective Bargaining Agreement. 

Paul O'Neill May Manage The Cincinnati Reds

Paul O'Neill is my favorite baseball player of all time.

"Thanks, Bryan."

I won't get far into the reasons why, let's just say that I love his passion for the game. When he became a Yankee in 1993, I was really excited. Honestly, I liked him as a Red, but it wasn't until he helped the Yankees win four World Series titles that he became "the man" to me.

I'm happy that he may be getting an opportunity to manage, as I think he'd be really good at the job. I suppose his emotions could get the better of him at times, which could be a problem, but Paul is a very smart person, as Yankee fans like myself have heard recently.

Oh, and I'm sure there are more than a few water coolers that are getting nervous that Paul could be back in the dugout.

At the same time I'm sad that he may be getting an opportunity to manage, but that it won't be with the Yankees. I don't mean to say I didn't want Girardi back (I did), I'll just miss having Paulie around the Bombers.

O'Neill and the Reds are just in the discussion phase of things, so nothing's set in stone. But I wish The Warrior the best in whatever he does.

What I'd Like To See For 2014: Outfield

I've decided to pull a Peyton Manning and call an audible.

"I'll allow it."

Instead of releasing each post in this series on Mondays, I decided to push them up. Part of that decision had to do with my impatience, and another part had to do with the possibility of something big happening soon after I finished this series, making the whole thing nearly pointless.

But it's mainly the impatient thing. I mean, I'm sure you've all been there. You get a great present for somebody for Christmas or their birthday, and you can't wait to give it to them. Of course, sometimes that present isn't as great as you thought. But that's not the case here... right?

So moving to the outfield, I'm going to start with what is the easiest position to plan for... centerfield.

Brett Gardner finished the 2013 season with a batting line of .273/.344/.416, while leading Major League Baseball in triples with ten (tied with Starling Marte and Jean Segura). Brett only stole 24 bases this season, thanks in part to the fact that he only attempted 32 steals. But keep in mind that in 2011, his last healthy season, Gardner attempted 62 steals. While a lower walk rate didn't help things this past season, that's not the reason he tried 30 less steals. It could be because he played in a few less games, it could be because Gardner was nursing an injury or two, or it could be that Brett was afraid of taking the bat out of somebody's hands . Either way, Brett is enough of a threat on offense that he warrants a spot in the starting lineup in 2014.

But what about Gardy's defense? Your initial reaction might be "DUH", but I'm going to throw out a couple of stats. Let me preface this by saying that Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) is not perfect by any means, but the numbers do give us a decent idea of the type of defender somebody is. Anyway, Brett's UZR/150 this past season was -0.3. In 2011, again... his last healthy season, his UZR/150 was -4.7. Even if you assume the numbers are off some, Brett is really an average centerfielder. For that reason, you may think the Yankees should be on the look-out for a replacement centerfielder. But remember that this is Gardner's first full-season at that position, so there's reason to believe he will improve out there.

So Brett Gardner is my pick to be the Yankees starting centerfielder in 2014.

I want to see this over and over again.

The other two positions are a bit more work, seeing as how the Yankees are not only losing one of their outfielders to free agency (Granderson), but the other two that are under contract through next season are hardly guys to be excited about (Wells and Ichiro). As for youngsters who have some MLB experience, that could work there way into the mix, you have Zoilo Almonte, Brennan Boesch, and Melky Mesa. I don't know about you, but not one of those three names even makes me pause. Sure, Almonte started off strong with the Yankees this season, but he ended up with pretty poor numbers. When it comes to minor leaguers with no MLB experience, there's nothing there either. The Yankees big three outfield prospects (Tyler Austin, Mason Williams, and Slade Heathcott) are still a couple of years away. Ronnier Mustelier once looked like a sure call-up, but after returning from injury he did nothing to force the Yankees hand, finishing with a triple-slash of .272/.319/.398. Musty may get another shot at MLB next year, but it shouldn't be on Opening Day.

So what do the Yankees do? I say they make Curtis Granderson a qualifying offer.

I'm sure some fans may look at his batting line of .244/.337/.432, with only six home runs, and think I'm nuts, but you can't tell me missing 98 games this season didn't have a negative effect. And we're not talking about just a little bit of production when he was healthy. Curtis hit 84 home runs between 2011 and 2012. I don't care that his batting average over that same time period was only .247, because 84 home runs is still huge.

With a bit more work in left field, where he's only played 100.2 innings at Yankee Stadium, I think he can be an above average defender. Couple that with his production with the bat, and I think this is a guy the Yankees should seriously consider bringing back. Even if the cost is more than the qualifying offer.

Speaking of that qualifying offer, I'm starting to think Grandy won't take it. I'm not the only one that sees how much potential Curtis has, and is willing to give him a multi-year deal. Sure, like I said, he missed 98 games, but that was due to two freak injuries. A hit by pitch that broke his forearm in Spring Training, and another hit by pitch that broke a finger shortly after he returned from the first broken bone.

The only reason Granderson should take the qualifying offer is to rebuild his stock for another free agent run next year. If it wasn't for those injuries, and assuming he continued to hit homers like he did in 2011 and 2012, then he could be looking at a 5 year deal worth upwards of $17 million a season. I guess we'll see if Curtis is a gambler. Will he gamble on getting a four-year deal next offseason, and take the qualifying offer this year? Or will he just play it safe and take a three or four year deal now?

I don't know what the answer to that is, but either way I think the Yankees should think long and hard about re-signing Curtis Granderson. Assuming it wouldn't cost five year, I'm bringing Curtis Granderson back to the Yankees.

Who wouldn't want this guy around?

That brings us to the final piece of the outfield puzzle... right field.

While it's true that the team has Ichiro Suzuki and Vernon Wells under contract for 2014, it's also true that neither one of those players deserves regular playing time. Take away Suzuki's performance after being dealt to the Yankees last season, and you're left with a guy that struggles to get on base 30% of the time. Then you have Ichiro's complete lack of power (seriously, his SLG the past three years is only .358). If he was still able to hit .300 we may have something, but his batting average of .273 the past three years (and that includes his 227 at bats with the Yankees last year) makes me say the words "Suzuki" and "bench" at the same time.

Vernon Wells is also not somebody you want to lean on. In his last five years Vernon's triple-slash is .249/.296/.425. You're reading that right. A batting average under .250, and an on-base percentage below .300. Oh, and that .425 slugging percentage may be respectable, but when it's attached to those other two numbers then you can take this guy and shove it. And it doesn't matter to me that Wells is essentially free in 2014, thanks to Cashman fiddling with the money the Angels owe the Yankees from the trade that brought him to New York. The Yankees would have to get paid, and paid a lot, to allow Vernon to play more than a handful of times a month. And even that may be a stretch.

But the Yankees don't have a ton of money to work with, so what should they do. I'll give you two words... Corey Hart.

Before missing the entire 2013 season due to a microfracture injury to his left knee, we're talking about a guy that hit just under .280 over the previous three seasons. And in those three seasons, Hart hit 87 home runs, for an average of 29 a season. Yankee Stadium is a bit deeper in left field than Miller Park in Milwaukee, but I don't think that will make much of a difference for Corey. I mean, perhaps he'd hit like five less homers, but we're not talking about a pull hitter. If you check out Hart's spray chart from his last three healthy seasons, you see that he's hit quite a few home runs to the opposite field. 

The best part about signing Hart is his cost. You see, he's in pretty much the same boat as Curtis Granderson is. Both guys have a lot of potential, but both of them suffered injuries this past season that cost them so much time that they won't be able to cash-in like many thought they would back in March. So I can see Corey accepting a one-year deal to raise his stock back up for another run at a big contract after the 2014 season, which is where the Yankees swoop in. Not only would the deal be for less years than Corey may otherwise deserve, but it would be for a lot less money. My guess is around $10 million. That may seem like a lot for a guy that just missed the entire season, but not many guys have 30-homer power either. 

By the way, if you're worried about defense, Hart is an average defender. He's mainly played right field, and right field at Miller Park is much bigger than right field in Yankee Stadium. You don't have to be a fielding genius to know that less ground to cover usually means a guy will be better off. Even if Hart's injury lingers a bit, and his defense gets a bit worse, I don't see it getting to the point where the Yankees really have to worry. 

Oh, and Corey would be of help in the infield too, where Mark Teixiera will likely need regular rest. Something I mentioned on Monday when planning the infield. Corey has actually spent 857.1 innings at first base. Now, it's not at the level of Teixiera or other Gold Glove caliber first basemen, but it's not so bad that other infielders need to think before throwing him the ball.

"For the last time... I DON'T wear my sunglasses at night!"

To wrap this up, I'd like to see Brett Gardner return to center field. I want the Yankees to give Curtis Granderson a qualifying offer to continue playing left field. And finally I'd like the team to bring in Corey Hart to man right field.

*salaries are by Average Annual Value (AAV)
Left Field: Curtis Granderson $15 million (whether it's a qualifying offer, or a multi-year deal, Granderson's salary will be something like this)
Center Field - Brett Gardner $6 million (arbitration 3)
Right Field – Corey Hart $10 million (signed for 1 year/$10 million)

Yanks prospect O'Brien homers in Scorpions loss

Last night, the Yankee-affiliated Scottsdale Scorpions lost their 2013 AFL home opener to the Salt River Rafters, 12-2. This game was very one sided, as the Scorpions had just 1 hit through 6 innings. But on the bright side, Yankees third base/catching prospect Peter O'Brien did hit a two-run home run in this one, Scottsdale's only bright spot. 

Two Yankees pitching prospects, Fred Lewis and Brett Gerritse, did appear in this game. Now Lewis did great, throwing a scoreless frame while striking out one. 
But Gerritse really struggled. In his 1.1 innings of work, the right-hander walked two, gave up two hits, and surrendered three earned runs. I'd prefer he do better, but it's just game 2. He still has plenty of time to improve. 

This Day In New York Yankees History 10/10

On this day in 1923 the Yankees played their first postseason game at Yankees Stadium in it's history with the Giants winning 5-4. Giants outfielder Casey Stengel hit an inside the park home run in the top of the 9th to give the Giants the lead they would not relinquish. This was also the first game to be nationally televised in the history of the World Series.

On this day in 1941 the Yankees would win their  14th World Series championship in their storied history as they beat the Giants 4-3 in Game 6.

On this day in 1964 Mickey Mantle hit a walk off home run in Yankees Stadium beating the St. Louis Cardinals 2-1. This would be Mantle's 16th home run of the postseason passing Babe Ruth for the most home runs in the postseason at the time. Also Mantle was only the fifth player to ever have hit a game winning home run in World Series history.

On this day in 2000 the Yankees and the Mariners set an ALCS record for strike outs in a single game with 22 combined K's. The Yankees struck out 13 times and the Mariners struck out 9 times in the game.