Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Shohei Otani and The Yankees

I'm still not clear on the rules regarding International Free Agents, but there may be a chance for the Yankees to get 18-year old Japanese pitcher Shohei Otani.

It was reported at that the Nippon Ham Fighters intend to pick Otani during tomorrow's NPB draft. Shohei has said he wants to play in MLB, but it was originally thought that he would cost the Yankees future considerations involving IFAs, since the team is almost already at their cap of $2.9 million. But it may be possible that if Otani is drafted, and then posted by Nippon Ham, that the Yankees could get involved without affecting the IFA cap at all.

Like I said, the rules aren't very clear to me, as one person pointed out that a foreign player must be of a certain age to not have any affect on the IFA cap. So I'll be looking out for more information, and will share it with you as soon as possible.

Girardi's Press Conference A Big To Do About Nothing

As I am sure everybody predicted we all listened to and watched Joe Girardi's annual end of the season press conference expecting to get nothing out of him, and we got just that. We all expected the vast majority of the questions to center around Alex Rodriguez and the playoff debacle and we got just that, a lot more then we wanted actually.

Girardi has not spoken to any of the Yankees player since the season ended but plans to do so very soon. He says he is not worried about his relationship with certain players, Alex Rodriguez for example, being strained but acknowledged that every action has a consequence, i.e benching Alex for the last week or so of the season.  He also stated that he was not hiding any injuries from the media or the fans and that everybody was as healthy as you can be, besides Derek Jeter of course, after playing a 162 game marathon and a Division Series war with the Orioles.

Joe stated that he did not believe Alex Rodriguez would be traded this offseason and expects him to be a very productive starting 3B for the Yankees nest season. He was also adamant in his belief that CC Sabathia's elbow is fine and the trip to Dr. James Andrews will not be much more then routine because of the way he finished the season and the two starts he had against Baltimore. He expects CC to be ready to make the start on Opening Day for the Yankees. He also expects Derek Jeter to be back healthy on Opening Day for the Yankees as long as he does not try to do too much too quickly, which sounds a lot like Derek Jeter.

Joe was also asked about the impending retirement of both Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera and answered with your typical politically correct type answers. He did not ask Mariano whether he was coming back for 2013 but did state that he is convinced that he would by the way he pushed through his rehab and even started throwing earlier then expected. He mentioned Andy Pettitte's fire and competitiveness as reasons that Andy might come back for one more season with the Yankees but also played devil's advocate when he mentioned his family and growing sons.

I just touched on the high points as I could not do it nearly as well as Lohud and River Avenue Blues, to name a few, so I suggest going out there and giving them a read or two as well.

A Note About Girardi's Press Conference

Although this morning's end of season press conference with Joe Girardi wasn't going to set the Yankee blogosphere on fire, one thing the Yankee skipper had to say caught my attention. It's not a direct quote, but here is the basics of what was said...
He [Girardi] also spoke about the Yankees getting power from non-traditional power sources (specifically catcher, second base, and center field) and their [sic] ability of the offense to absorb the loss of a homerun hitter if that happens this winter. - River Ave Blues
I've had a number of conversations regarding the Yankees already hitting enough home runs, particularly a small Twitter war with a fellow Yankee blogger. What my side of the discussions boiled down to was that the Yankee offense could use a bit of a change. Emphasis on the word "bit", as the bats clearly are capable of carrying the team... regardless of what we saw during the last few weeks of Yankees' season.

Over the last three seasons the Yankees have hit 668 home runs, which is 27 more than the 2nd place team in that category... the Blue Jays. The next closest team, the Red Sox, have hit 579 homers. So it's safe to say that the team hits enough long balls.

So I believe that if the Yankees can acquire a younger player, who can regularly bat around .290 and get on base 35% of the time, while playing really good defense, then they absolutely should do it. Even if that means losing a handful of nice prospects.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that it's assumed Joe Girardi was referring to Nick Swisher when he mentioned absorbing the loss of a home run hitter.

Joe Girardi To Address The Media Today

Joe Girardi will hold his annual end of the season press conference this morning to give us any new information that he may have and answer questions. I expect the vast majority of the questions to be about Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson, Robinson Cano, his own job security, etc and I do not expect much else to come out of it. Joe will give the politically correct answers and half truths and we will all suck it up and continue to speculate on how much of A Rod's salary that we are going  to eat.

Offseason Decisions: Curtis Granderson

Yes, Curtis, your phone is cool, but I'm going to talk about your option instead.

My initial thought was that the Yankees should not pick up Granderson's option. It's kind of crazy that if you take out Granderson's 43 home runs, and replace him with a guy that hit zero home runs, then the Yankees still would have finished 4th in MLB in total homers. That makes me wonder if they need a guy that was "HR or nothing" in 2012.

Another thing that bothers me about Granderson is that his defense is only decent, and that's because of his speed. Watching Curtis run to a fly ball is like watching a car drive down Lombard St. in San Francisco. There are a handful of times in the postseason alone where you heard people say "Gardner would have gotten to that". For example, there was the run-scoring double that Miguel Cabrera hit in the bottom of the 5th inning of Game 3. I'm sure it didn't help that that hit gave Detroit a 2-0 lead, and turned out to be the winning run as the Yankees could only put up 1 run in the game. However, that was a well struck ball, so I'm not sure if Gardner or anybody else would have gotten to it, but it seemed like Granderson got a bad read.

Speaking of bad reads.

Going back to Curtis' speed... where did it go? Although I shouldn't be surprised, as that's been the pattern. His stolen base total between 2007 and 2012 is 26, 12, 20, 12, 25, 10. Maybe he steals 30 next season... I don't know. I'd like to see him steal 25 bases like he did in 2011, along with hitting 35 or more bombs, if he was brought back. Especially if he were to hit 2nd again ahead of guys like Cano and Teixeira, who would surely rack up a few more RBI during the season if Granderson was able to steal his way into scoring position.

Bloggie McBlogger made a great point on Twitter, which was that a guy that hits 43 home runs only needs a tweak, not an overhaul. It seemed like Kevin Long had hit upon something huge in August of 2010, as Granderson went on to bat .263 in September/October, then .262 the following season, on top of 50 home runs. To be fair, perhaps Grandy got a bit unlucky in 2012. His batting average on balls in play was a low .260 (career .305), while his line drive percentage was actually a bit higher than last season (18% to 16%). I think what it comes down to is being a bit more patient at the plate (he saw 4.43 pitchers per at bat in 2011, and 4.26 pitchers/PA in 2012), which could help him get better pitches to handle. And that could help him cut down on something that hurt too... a high strikeout rate (24.5% in 2011, and 28.5% in 2012).

Hey, Curtis, I found it!

What really makes me think the Yankees should pick-up Granderson's option for next season is the list of outfield free agents...

Left fielders
Travis Buck (29)
Melky Cabrera (28)
Jonny Gomes (32)
Scott Hairston (33)
Josh Hamilton (32)
Eric Hinske (35)
Reed Johnson (36)
Andruw Jones (36)
Austin Kearns (33)
Carlos Lee (37)
Ryan Ludwick (34) - $5MM mutual option for 2013 with a $500K buyout
Darnell McDonald (34)
Juan Pierre (35)
Juan Rivera (34) - $4MM club option for 2013 with a $500K buyout
Drew Sutton (30)
Delmon Young (27)

Center fielders
Alfredo Amezaga (35)
Rick Ankiel (33)
Michael Bourn (30)
Scott Hairston (33)
Mitch Maier (31)
Angel Pagan (31)
Cody Ross (32)
Grady Sizemore (30)
B.J. Upton (28)
Shane Victorino (32)

Right fielders
Brian Bixler (30)
Travis Buck (29)
Matt Diaz (35)
Kosuke Fukudome (36)
Torii Hunter (37)
Andruw Jones (36)
Ryan Ludwick (34) - $5MM mutual option for 2013 with a $500K buyout
Xavier Nady (34)
Juan Rivera (34) - $4MM club option for 2013 with a $500K buyout
Cody Ross (32)
Ichiro Suzuki (39)

There's not a single player there that I'd like to see the Yankees bring in, at least to fill the hole left by Curtis. What it comes down to his "Curtis Granderson for 1 year at $15 million, or any of those guys", and that's a resounding "Grandy!" to me.

While I don't think the Yankees need a guy that's "HR or nothing" again in 2013, I believe Granderson has more than that to offer. I totally expect him to have a year more like 2011 than 2012, and he finished 4th in MVP voting in 2011.

No, I'm not going to get ahead of myself.