Thursday, October 17, 2013

What I'd Like To See For 2014: Bench, Bullpen & Wrap-Up

Well, this is it. The final post in my "What I'd Like To See For 2014" series.

Not sure if I should be offended by this celebration.

I started by going over what I'd like to see done about the infield. Two of the five spots are fairly obvious, as first base would be filled by Mark Teixiera, and Robinson Cano should be re-signed to take care of second base. While my solution for the catching situation isn't bold by any means, I'm sure many disagreed with me and thought the team should sign Brian McCann instead of giving Francisco Cervelli another shot behind the dish. Then we come to some questionable decisions, as I'd first move Derek Jeter over to third base. Derek's range is bad enough that he can't cover shortstop effectively any more, but I think he can be a solid part of the lineup. So like Alex Rodriguez did when he became a Yankee years ago, Jeter should cover third. This is where our first real free agent signing comes in (I say "real", because while Cano is a free agent, he's a Yankee until proven otherwise).... Stephen Drew. Drew would take over shortstop, and we've seen him have plenty of success on the field, and a fair amount of success in the batter's box too.

Next came the outfield. Brett Gardner would continue to take care of things in center field, where he'd hopefully get more comfortable (aka "better"). As for left field, instead of plugging in Vernon Wells or Ichiro Suzuki, I would bring back Curtis Granderson. We're still not sure if Grandy would take a qualifying offer, or go for a multi-year deal now instead of next year, but either way I think Curtis is a great fit for the Yankees. And as for right field, and again... no Wells or Suzuki, I'd love to see the Yankees bring in Corey Hart. I know that Hart's coming off of a serious injury, one that cost him the entire 2013 season, but his talent and probable cost for 2014 really intrigues me. Not only could Hart take care of things for the most part in right field, but he has plenty of experience at first base and could give Teixiera some rest to stay healthy there too.

Alfonso Soriano did plenty for the Yankees in 2013, so he absolutely deserves a starting spot in the lineup next season. So I penciled him into the designated hitter spot. Now, after my article about the outfield was published, it was pointed out that perhaps Corey Hart should be the designated hitter most of the time, while Alfonso Soriano was in right field. This is something that I'm perfectly fine with. Although Soriano is not a Gold Glove outfielder, you have to figure that Hart's knee could be a problem.

"Yes, doctor, your fantasy football team looks good. But shouldn't we be looking at Mr. Hart's x-ray?"

Finally I talked about the starting rotation. As bad as the pitching was most of the season, I don't see a whole lot that needs to be done. We're not sure yet whether Hiroki Kuroda wants to be a Yankee again, let alone whether he even wants to pitch any longer, but I'd let him go. His struggles in the second half of 2012 and 2013 scares me, and Kuroda will be 39 years old come Opening Day 2014. Another loss is Andy Pettitte, who is retiring for real this time. So you'd think the team would be looking for two starters. But you'd be forgetting that Michael Pineda will be ready to jump back into things.

Now, I know that Pineda is no "sure thing", but the guy should get a legitimate shot at starting for the Yankees. I'm not saying they should start Michael to try and "win" the trade with Seattle, in which the Yankees sent top prospect Jesus Montero. Pineda simply has a ton of talent, making his upside still pretty darn high.

With CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, and one of David Phelps or Adam Warren also around, I see one free agent signing that should happen... Masahiro Tanaka. Like Corey Hart, Tanaka will be very cheap relative to his talent. But while Hart would be cheap due to coming off a major knee injury, Tanaka would be cheap because the posting fee does not figure into his average annual salary.

Looking at what the bench should look like, two of the four spots are pretty simple.

"Nothing is simple about my job."

Even though Austin Romine left a lot to be desired, he's young enough that I'd like the Yankees to give him a few more chances in MLB before sticking him back in the minors or releasing him. I totally understand some fans wanting JR Murphy to stay with the big club, but I think more seasoning in AAA would do some good. It's not like JR has already spent a full year in AAA, as the guy only had 257 plate appearances at that level in 2013. So I see no reason to push him into MLB service right now. If Cervelli gets hurt again, then by all means call Murphy up. But for right now, I think Romine is fine on the bench.

I'm not an Eduardo Nunez fan by any means, but he is a year away from being arbitration eligible, so he'd be fairly cheap. Honestly, if the guy cost the Yankees seven figures, then I'd cut him loose without giving it a second thought. We're talking about a guy that's been worth negative dollars for the Yankees. I guess seeing the team give him so many chances has messed with my mind, making it so I'd give him one last chance too. But his real saving grace is that he won't be the only infielder on the bench.

I imagine there are a number of readers thinking "he said he'd have another infielder on the bench, but there are only two more spots left and he has yet to talk about Ichiro and Wells". Well I'm going to make this next part simple... release Vernon Wells. I could have picked either him or Suzuki, as neither player is good, but like so many other things in life it came down to money. While the Yankees have to give Ichiro $6.5 million this season, or a touch less should he be released and signed by another team, Vernon Wells would cost virtually nothing.

Unless there's something in the details of the trade that say the Yankees would take a hit if he were released, Wells cost against the Luxury Tax would be nothing whether he was on the team or not. So why not cut the guy if it wouldn't hurt you at all? It's not like we'd miss his triple-slash of .233/.282/.349. So I say let the guy go, and use that last bench spot on somebody that could actually help.

And that "help" would be Brendan Ryan. Mind you, Ryan isn't going to hit any better than Vernon Wells would, but having an offense that could put up more than three runs a game gives us some leeway in that department. Brendan's worth comes in giving the Yankees elite defense anywhere in the infield. Sure, he's played mainly at shortstop, but I'd trust Ryan's glove anywhere. I don't like having another bench player that makes that much money, but he'd only cost the team one year and would fit fine in the budget.

"Can't you spare a little bit of money on me?"

So here is my choice for the Yankees bench on Opening Day 2014...

Bench - Eduardo Nunez $500,000 million (pre-arbitration)
Bench - Austin Romine $500,000 (pre-arbitration)
Bench - Ichiro Suzuki $6.5 million
Bench - Brendan Ryan $3.25 (signed for 1 year/$3,250,000 million)

I struggled a bit with the bullpen, since there were three left-handers I'd like to have around. At first, I thought that was too many. But to be honest... who cares? If the guy can get it done, and all three of those lefties have (Nuno, Huff, and Cabral), then we should go with it. And it would certainly give Joe Girardi a number of options.

Speaking of the bullpen, looking at it I'm not nearly as confident as in years past. To nobody's surprise, David Robertson is not Mariano Rivera, so the closer spot is going to see a downgrade. By the way, it would be a downgrade no matter who took over for Mo, so I don't see the need to bring in a new closer. Give David the shot. But Shawn Kelley, or somebody else already on the team, being the set-up man is a big downgrade. So perhaps this is another area in which Cashman can find a better set-up man, and for not a lot of money (meaning through a trade, instead of free agency).

As things sit right now, and with a number of options to fill a reliever spot, this is what I'm thinking for the 'pen...

Closer - David Robertson $5 million (arbitration 3)
Relief Pitcher - Shawn Kelley $1.5 million (arbitration 2)
Relief Pitcher - Adam Warren $500,000 (pre-arbitration)
Relief Pitcher - Dellin Betances $500,000 (pre-arbitration)
Relief Pitcher - Vidal Nuno* $500,000 (pre-arbitration)
Relief Pitcher - David Huff* $750,000 (pre-arbitration)
Relief Pitcher - Cesar Cabral* $500,000 (pre-arbitration)

To wrap things up, here is my complete 25-man roster for Opening Day 2014. Along with that I've listed the average annual value of each man's contract, along with the total payroll for the team. Keep in mind that the total not only includes players on the 25-man roster, but also the other 15 on the 40-man roster (about $5 million), along with the team's portion of the league player bonuses (about $12 million).

Catcher - Francisco Cervelli $1.5 million (arbitration 1)
First Base - Mark Teixeira $22.5 million
Second Base - Robinson Cano $25 million (signed for 7 years/$175 million)
Third Base - Derek Jeter $14.375 million
Shortstop - Stephen Drew $13 million (signed for 4 years/$52 million)
Left Field - Curtis Granderson $14.1 million (signed for 1 year/$14.1 million qualifying offer)
Center Field - Brett Gardner $6 million (arbitration 3)
Right Field – Corey Hart $10 million (signed for 1 year/$10 million)
Designated Hitter - Alfonso Soriano $4 million

Bench - Eduardo Nunez $500,000 million (pre-arbitration)
Bench - Austin Romine $500,000 (pre-arbitration)
Bench - Ichiro Suzuki $6.5 million
Bench - Brendan Ryan $3.25 (signed for 1 year/$3,250,000 million)

Starting Pitcher - CC Sabathia $24.4 million
Starting Pitcher - Masahiro Tanaka $9 million (signed for 6 years/$54 million)
Starting Pitcher - Ivan Nova $2.5 million (arbitration 1)
Starting Pitcher - Michael Pineda $500,000 (pre-arbitration)
Starting Pitcher - David Phelps $500,000 (pre-arbitration)

Closer - David Robertson $5 million (arbitration 3)
Relief Pitcher - Shawn Kelley $1.5 million (arbitration 2)
Relief Pitcher - Adam Warren $500,000 (pre-arbitration)
Relief Pitcher - Preston Claiborne $500,000 (pre-arbitration)
Relief Pitcher - Dellin Betances $500,000 (pre-arbitration)
Relief Pitcher - David Huff* $750,000 (pre-arbitration)
Relief Pitcher - Cesar Cabral* $500,000 (pre-arbitration)

Total: $184.375 million ($4.625 million left)

And one final thing... the starting lineup...

1. Brett Gardner*
2. Derek Jeter
3. Robinson Cano*
4. Alfonso Soriano
5. Curtis Granderson*
6. Corey Hart
7. Mark Teixeira#
8. Stephen Drew
9. Francisco Cervelli

* - bats left-handed
# - switch hitter

"If you ever quit, I'm hiring this guy."

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Sorry for the Capatcha... Blame the Russians :)