Thursday, October 30, 2014

Yankees Considering Reunion w/ the Rally Cricket

Back during the 2012 playoffs when Raul Ibanez was on the team and pinch hitting for Alex Rodriguez a few followers and I donned Ibanez the "Rally Cricket" after a few clutch home runs or five. News broke today that the Yankees may be interested in a reunion with Ibanez, this time in a hitting coach role.

Ibanez is 42 years old and very likely to retire after the season after being left off the World Series roster. Reportedly the Yankees waited until the World Series was over to gauge his interest in the job before signing another coach.

This will be interesting to watch as it unfolds.

Report: Yankees, Red Sox Interested in Headley

The Yankees and Red Sox could end up in a race to sign free agent Third Baseman Chase Headley this offseason, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reports.

Headley will hit the market this winter after a solid 58-game stint with the Yankees in 2014. During that time, the career .265 hitter somewhat-disappointingly batted just .216, but still managed to collect a respectable six home runs and 17 RBI. 

From Heyman's article:  

"Boston has been long rumored to have its eye on [Pablo] Sandoval, but Headley makes sense, as well. The Red Sox seek production after their awful offensive season.
Sandoval and Headley are both free agents, with the incumbent teams both interested in re-signing them. The Giants have made no secret about wanting to keep Sandoval, and they have a terrific track record of keeping their starters, especially through their recent mini dynasty -- though they seemed to prefer a three-year deal in spring training, with Sandoval said to be seeking a $100-million-plus contract at the time.
The Yankees are said to want to re-sign Headley in what is an indication they have doubts whether Alex Rodriguez can return as a starting third baseman."
Headley said earlier this offseason that he has interest in staying with the Yankees, but doesn't mean the Red Sox are off the table. Coming off a dismal 71-win campaign during which they traded away Jon Lester, John Lackey, Andrew Miller, and Stephen Drew, it's clear that they're looking to build a contender for next year, with Headley possibly being a piece to that puzzle.
He'd certainly be cheaper than Sandoval, whom the Yankees may also take a look at. Nonetheless, since the Giants probably won't just let Sandoval walk after winning the World Series, it's definitely possible that Headley will eventually have to choose which side of baseball's biggest rivalry he wants to be on for 2015, although a bidding war between the two at this point still doesn't appear likely considering the infielder's decling stats.
Either way, this could get interesting.

MLBTR: Free Agency Outlook Jason Hammel

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Texas Rangers

A bounceback stint with the Cubs made Jason Hammel, a 6’6 righty, one of the most anticipated summer trade targets, and he ultimately became the second piece in the deal that sent top prospect Addison Russell to Chicago. But the 32-year-old faded in Oakland and now joins a loaded market for mid-level starters. Hammel’s reps at Octagon will go out looking for multiple years, but can he achieve it without taking a lower AAV?
Though he went through a rough stretch after moving to Oakland, putting a hurt on his bottom-line results, Hammel actually finished quite strong. He allowed just 14 earned runs over his last 50 2/3 frames for the A’s, good for a sub-3.00 mark that was more reminiscent of his sturdy open to the year with the Cubs. On the whole, you can’t argue with 176 1/3 innings of 3.47 ERA pitching, and that’s what Hammel delivered in 2014.
Neither is there reason to believe that those figures were the result of some dumb luck. Hammel did benefit from a .272 BABIP and 78.3% strand rate, but the 12.0% home run-per-flyball rate fell above his career average and could be due for a bit of regression. ERA estimators were generally supportive of the final earned-run tally, as Hammel posted a 3.92 FIP, 3.57 xFIP, and 3.50 SIERA.
Best of all, Hammel showed a restored ability to generate strikeouts. Back in 2012, his breakout year with the Orioles, Hammel posted 8.6 K/9 against 3.2 BB/9. In 2014, after a drop in the intervening year, he landed at 8.1 strikeouts and 2.3 walks per nine. He also has maintained his fastball velocity in the 92-93 mph range, a tick off from ’12 but in line with his career standards. And he increased the usage of his slider, with positive results.
Hammel also managed reasonable effectiveness against batters from both sides of the plate, yielding a .305 wOBA to lefties and a .297 mark to righties.
In spite of his overall success last year, Hammel is not without his areas of concern. For one thing, the stellar groundball rate he reached in 2012 (53.2%) has dropped over a dozen percentage points in each of the last two years. That could be due in part to the fact that he has gone to the four-seamer more frequently, with his two-seam offering dropping in effectiveness.
Likewise, Hammel has seen an advanced proclivity to allow the long ball. His home run-per nine figures have both returned to the levels they sat when Hammel was struggling to establish himself at Coors Field. And pitching in Wrigley Field does not offer an excuse; the park actually landed in the middle of the pack in terms of permitting the long ball, and Hammel did not exhibit strong home/road splits in this department.
Then there is the question of durability — or, perhaps more to the point, innings. Hammel did miss significant time over 2012-13 with knee and elbow issues. He came back to deliver an injury-free 2014, of course, but those recent, reasonably significant issues cannot be discounted entirely.
On the whole, while his medical sheet does not look overly concerning, Hammel has yet to finish a season with more than 177 2/3 frames to his record. He nearly matched that mark this year, logging 176 1/3 innings, and probably would have bettered it had the A’s not skipped his turn down the stretch. But the fact remains that Hammel has not established himself as a 200-inning workhorse, even when he has been healthy — a fact which delivers its own concerns.
Hammel is married with one child. He writes on his personal blog that he loves spending extra time in the offseason with his wife, Elissa, and young son. LEGO construction, in particular, seem to be a preferred family pastime.
Per a somewhat outdated profile, Hammel resides in Rehoboth, Massachusetts, close to his wife’s hometown. Hammel himself was born in South Carolina and graduated from high school in Washington. He also attended Treasure Valley Community College in Oregon, from where he was plucked in the tenth round of the 2002 draft.
This is where things start to get tough for Hammel. On the one hand, in terms of recent results and career workload, Hammel looks like a better bet than Scott Feldman, who landed three years and $30MM on last year’s market. And he is a good deal younger (or less risky) than the roughly comparable arms that landed two-year deals last year: Bartolo Colon(2/$20MM), Scott Kazmir (2/$22MM), Tim Hudson (2/$23MM), and Bronson Arroyo(2/$23.5MM).
But this is a different market, one that includes a good number of arms that offer more extended track records or higher upside.
I’ll crib from Tim Dierkes’s profile of Santana. As Tim noted there, the second tier of starters (behind the big three) includes not only Santana but names like Kenta MaedaBrandon McCarthyFrancisco LirianoJustin MastersonJake Peavy, and Hiroki Kuroda(assuming the latter decides to pitch). Other than Kuroda, the only players even eligible to receive qualifying offers are Santana and Liriano, meaning that Hammel will not stand out in that regard.
In some respects, Hammel’s trajectory over the last three years looks something like that of Santana entering last year’s market: first a strong year that made him look like a long-term piece, then a dud that led to a change of scenery, chased with an ultimately fulfilled chance to re-claim value. But 2013 Santana was arguably the second-best arm available in a thin market. For Hammel, there’s a case to be made that he lands outside the top ten.
Expected Contract
Though the competition is fierce, the volume of good arms loose on the market also indicates that multiple clubs will be looking to fill in the gaps that were left. But last year, in a free-spending environment that blew out previous cash outlays and awarded significantly more deals of three-or-more years in duration, only eight pitchers got more than two yearsguaranteed, with six others getting a second year (and that’s if you include Tim Lincecum, who was extended just before officially reaching free agency).
Ultimately, I think there is a decent chance that Hammel ends up being one of the hurlers who falls through the cracks somewhat and does not maximize his value in a competitive market. While a two-year deal at a strong AAV cannot be discounted as a realistic outcome, I’ll predict that Hammel gets a third year but has to sacrifice some annual salary to do so, landing at the Feldman deal with a three-year, $30MM contract.

2015 Free Agency Royal Rumble – Starting Pitching

Ladies and gentleman welcome to the 2015 Major League Baseball free agency Royal Rumble brought to you by The Greedy Pinstripes. Tonight we have all the potential starting pitching options for the New York Yankees heading into this winter in one ring vying for the contract of a lifetime, let’s go down to the ring.

In the red corner stands former Red Sox Jon Lester, in the blue corner stands Max Scherzer, in the green corner stands James Shields, and in the black corner stands Brandon McCarthy. Let’s get it on!

James Shields and his “Big Game” moniker walk up to Jon Lester and before Shields can really get going the monkey that was on his back promptly named “postseason” with his 5.00+ ERA T-shirt forces Shields out of the ring and out of the running for the contract. Scherzer and McCarthy tangle before Scherzer’s qualifying offer becomes a factor and the Yankees first round pick knocks him over the top rope and onto the floor eliminating Mr. Scherzer.

Jon Lester vs. Brandon McCarthy for the contract. The devil we know vs. the devil we know. We’ve known Lester longer watching him pitch in the American League East and in the World Series while McCarthy spent parts of three months with the club. McCarthy unleashes his secret weapon, the short term contract, and knocks Lester out of the ring and out of the match.

You’re winner for the free agent starting pitcher that the Yankees should sign this winter is, Brandon… McCarthy! McCarthy does not block the production of the young kids for the long term like Lester does and would not require the AAV that Lester would either. McCarthy’s reward is a two year deal worth $30 million plus incentives. 

Let The Free Agent Battle Royal Begin!

The World Series is over so now it’s time to let the free agent battle royal begin. The New York Yankees have many positions to fill including, but not limited to, a combination of third base, second base, shortstop, right field, a fourth outfielder, the bench, and maybe some pitching. There are plenty of attractive names out there in Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval, Jon Lester, Max Scherzer, James Shields, and others that New York could be inclined to bid on.

Then you have the players with some international flare in Yasmany Tomas, Kenta Maeda, and others that New York could acquire for another pennant run. It’s going to be slow for a while but the offseason has officially begun Yankees family. Now it’s time to get to work. 

My Ideas For The Yankees Offseason

Now that that pesky World Series thing is out of the way, it's time to get the offseason started.

While a number of writers are breaking down what the Yankees should do this offseason by going position by position, I thought I'd skip those that don't need attention, and move to their more pressing problems. I mean, Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner have center and left field pretty well covered. The same goes for right field, as the team is likely hoping Carlos Beltran can play the majority of games there, or could play Martin Prado out there again like they did last season. Oh, and you can pencil in Brian McCann as the Opening Day starter at catcher.

Then you come to the left side of the infield, the bullpen, and of course... the starting rotation. I suppose a backup first baseman shouldn't be ignored, either.

McCann didn't do a bad job, but another option would be nice.

I wanted to lead off with the starting rotation. While I understand people wanting to see the Yankees sign Max Scherzer or Jon Lester, I don't understand why some people see it as a need.

Per Fangraphs WAR, Yankees' starters were 3rd in the American League. Two of the guys returning to the team next season, Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda, were ranked 2nd and 3rd among starters. However, keep in mind that they each missed quite a few starts, and without those missed starts they could have easily been the top two starters on the team. There's good reason to be worried about each player's health, but that doesn't mean the Yankees should go out and spend upwards of $150 million for Scherzer or Lester in case either or both of them go down again. You have to plan on those two being around. That doesn't mean not having depth, but "depth" falls on guys like David Phelps and Shane Greene... not somebody making over $20 million a season. I've said it plenty of times before... spending that much money should be done on guys needed, not simply wanted.

CC Sabathia has at least 2 more years left with the Yankees (he has an option for another year depending on the health of his left shoulder), and that makes some fans sad. Not me. You see, even though Sabathia probably won't ever again be the ace we saw years ago, that doesn't mean he's worthless. In 2013, quite possible his worst season as a professional, CC was still ranked 46th among qualified starters. So while I wouldn't want him starting big games for the Yankees, as a #3 starter I'm perfectly content. Stop thinking about what he's paid, and just think about what he can or can't do for the team.

Shane Green is somebody that's caught the eye of many in the Yankees organization. In 14 starts last season he posted an ERA of 3.79, while striking out just over a batter an inning. And keeping half of batted balls on the ground bodes well for a guy that would pitch most of the time at homer-friendly Yankee Stadium. That doesn't mean I think Shane should be thrust into the top of the rotation, but as a 4th or 5th starter I think he'd not only do well but could excel.

So there we have four starters for Opening Day. By the way, I said "for Opening Day" because a month or two into the season Ivan Nova will return from Tommy John surgery. And if Ivan can pitch anything like he did in 2013, then the Yankees will be in a very nice position.

On the surface you might think the Yankees just need somebody to give the team a few starts until Nova returns (David Phelps?), at which point the rotation will be all set, but I wouldn't feel comfortable doing that. Sure, I may be optimistic about the health of Tanaka, Pineda, and Sabathia, but I'm not stupid. Even if those three didn't miss a single start in 2015, there's still a chance that Green gets hurt, Nova suffers a setback during rehab, or Phelps has issues.That means bringing in another pitcher as insurance. And not just any "insurance," but good "insurance." And to me that guy is Brandon McCarthy.

While Lester and Scherzer will likely demand contracts in the range of 7 years and $165 million, McCarthy could be looking at a deal around 3 years and $45 million. No matter how good he was last season, Brandon has missed way too much time over the years to warrant being given a deal much higher. Should Brandon go down with injury again, a contract like that would be much easier for a team like the Yankees to stomach, making it a good gamble in my opinion. And if McCarthy does stay healthy, then the Yankees have an average starter at worst.

Yeah, this picture has nothing to do with what I'm talking about. But it's NPH, and he's awesome.

Since we're on the subject of pitching I'm going to next take a look at the bullpen. Last season, again... per Fangraphs WAR, the Yankees were tied with the Royals as having the best bullpen in baseball. And while middle relievers have something to do with that, I'm more concerned with the two guys that the Yankees depend on most in the 'pen...the closer and set-up man. Dellin Betances, who busted out in a huge way last season, will be back next season. And while he may not be quite as dominant in his sophomore season in MLB, I see no reason why he won't be among the better relievers yet again. However, just because he could very likely thrive as the new closer, that doesn't mean the Yankees should let David Robertson walk away.

The loss of Robertson would leave gigantic shoes to fill. Face it, the Yankees were lucky last year when they didn't find a suitable replacement for Mariano Rivera. Even though Robertson was there to step into the closer's role, the set-up spot was hardly solidified. If it wasn't for Dellin stepping up like he did, then there's a good chance the team would have been eliminated from postseason play much sooner than they were. And I sure as hell don't want to go into next season hoping to get lucky again. So re-signing Robertson should be fairly high on the team's to-do list this offseason. In fact, they should get it done as soon as possible so they can move on to other things.

Onto the infield... I really think the team should bring back Chase Headley. Not only will the team not have to give Headley a large contract like they would somebody like Pablo Sandoval, but the guy has shown a love of New York. That means quite a bit to me.

On that note, the fact that Carlos Beltran wanted to be a Yankee so bad that he turned down two larger offers makes me believe in him bouncing back. Playing poorly is bad enough for a professional athlete, but doing so in a place where you really want to play has to hurt quite a bit more.

Back to Headley...

Chase's wOBA of .347 is pretty good, and would be welcome back. Sure, I'd like to see him get some more power back, as a .398 slugging percentage (what he did with the Yankees last season) is cringe-worthy, but being able to get on base as often as he did is certainly a good thing.

Then you have Headley's ability to play 1B. Mark Teixeira is not going to be able to play a ton in the field, as he has a fairly good size injury history (as mentioned in a previous article of mine), making Headley's ability to handle 1B every so often a good one. And in that case you can play either Alex Rodriguez (whose contract is not going to be terminated... sorry) or Martin Prado at third.

I suppose I should have mentioned that I really don't think Alex Rodriguez is going to be able to play regularly at third base. With all his hip issues, his missed time due too suspension, and the fact that he was an average defender there in the first place, I think ARod will spend the majority his remaining MLB career as a designated hitter.

Then again, it might be a good idea to just release Rodriguez. The team would probably be better off, as it's highly likely that Alex has to go on the DL again at some point anyway. Not to mention that they will have to give DH time to Carlos Beltran and Mark Teixeira too.

That's probably a dream, though. So might as well include ARod when talking about the 2015 Yankees.

Yeah, that looks better.

That leaves the most pressing concern... shortstop. The only guy within the organization that could regularly take over the position is Brendan Ryan, and I really wouldn't want a guy that's hit .234/.295/.314 in his career to get anything close to regular playing time. And looking at the free agency pool doesn't get me excited either.

Asdrubal Cabrera has hit pretty bad the past two years, Jed Lowrie's bat isn't much better, and Stephen Drew doesn't instill a ton of confidence at the plate either. For a team like the Yankees, who were pretty bad offensively last season, those options are bad, bad, and bad. Then we come to Hanley Ramirez.

Now, I'm well aware of the fact that Ramirez is a shortstop by name only. As a matter of fact, he reminds me of a player that is good for fantasy baseball, as he's eligible at a premium position, but in reality you probably wouldn't play him there. But when thinking about Ramirez I remembered two things...

  1. The Yankees have to put offensive ability before defensive ability. Run prevention wasn't nearly as big a problem as run production.
  2. The Yankees previous shortstop wasn't the greatest defender, either.

At 30 years old, with a little work, I think Hanley could get the job done at short for a few more years. That doesn't mean I think he could win a Gold Glove, but I don't think he would be a huge liability on defense. And assuming he were signed for five years, third or first base could open up for him to be moved to.

Again, run production is the key thing to gain this offseason, and Hanley's the best option to get that done.

So let's review...

  1. Sign Brandon McCarthy
  2. Re-sign David Robertson
  3. Sign Chase Headley
  4. Sign Hanley Ramirez

I believe the top three things could happen pretty soon. The Yankees should take advantage of their exclusive negotiating window with Robertson and get him locked up, while McCarthy and Headley have said they loved their time with the Yankees and would like to return. I don't know much of anything about what Ramirez is thinking, so he could be tough. Perhaps he bought a house and is settled on the west coast, making it easier for the Dodgers to retain him. But he did play for the Marlins and the Mets before going to LA, and playing for the Yankees is still attractive to baseball players.

So you bring back the majority of what was the best pitching staff in the American League last season, improve on offense with Ramirez over Jeter, and hope guys like McCann and Beltran can get back to their pre-2014 selves. Not to mention Alex Rodriguez being able to come back from missing the last 1+ years and contribute, and Mark Teixeira being able to cope with a something as minor as a hangnail without needing to take a day or two off. What I'm saying is the Yankees have a tough hill to climb to be true contenders in 2015, but it's not impossible to do so either.

Seriously, Mark... get up and play already.

TGP Daily Poll: Less Than 10 Players Get Qualifying Offers

The World Series is over and now it’s time for the offseason and the offseason gets started with Qualifying Offers. I predict that less than 10 players will receive qualifying offers this winter.

Vote in our poll!

This Day in New York Yankees History 10/30: Joe Replaces Joe

On this day in 2007 the New York Yankees signed manager Joe Girardi to a three year deal worth $7,500,000 to replace longtime manager Joe Torre. Girardi was coming off of a Manager of the Year award with the Miami Marlins in 2006 and beat out coaches Don Mattingly and Tony Pena for the job. Girardi would be the Yankees 42nd manager in their storied history.

Also on this day in 2001 President George W. Bush became the eight President to attend a World Series game and the first since Dwight D. Eisenhower to throw out a ceremonial first pitch. This all obviously came on the heels of the September 11th terrorists attacks. Bush brought the nation back together with his thumbs up and his perfect strike off the mound. 'Merica!