Thursday, October 15, 2015

2015 New York Yankees Highlights

We've gone over some of the specific player highlights and achievements, why not the entire team?

Bring me Tyler Clippard

The New York Yankees may or may not be in on a right-handed relief pitcher this coming offseason as the team continues their goal towards building a super bullpen. As of right now I am banking on Adam Warren somehow working his way into the 2016 starting rotation leaving a large gaping hole in the Yankees bullpen, especially from the right side of the pitching rubber. Darren O'Day would be nice, albeit expensive, but would a familiar face for the Yankees be even better? Remember the Yankees once traded away their former top pitching prospect for a relief pitcher named Jonathan Albaladejo in 2007, that man's name was Tyler Clippard.

Clippard has had success both in the American League and the National League as the 7th inning guy, the 8th inning guy and most notably in the closer position. Clippard has pitched with the New York Yankees, the Washington Nationals, the Oakland Athletics and the New York Mets thus proving he is suited just as well in either league and seemingly suited for a big market like New York during a pennant chase and a playoff series. Clippard is legit and would not be attached to any sort of draft pick compensation after being traded before the July 31st trade deadline.

I'm not quite sure what Clippard would want in terms of a contract but if he was willing to come to New York for three years and an average annual value of $10 million I sign him every day of the week. If Clippard wants to sign a two-year deal to be off the books after 2017 just in time for the luxury tax plan to come to fruition for a higher AAV then I am okay with that too. Clippard allows the team to move Adam Warren to the starting rotation and completely locks down the back end of the bullpen from the 5th or 6th inning on. He's that good and he makes the bullpen that good.

Bring me T-Clip so I can go back to 2005 when I was quite possibly Clippard's biggest fan.

What If Alex Rodriguez Retires This Winter?

I hate to even bring up things like this because I have a tendency of being right for whatever reason but what would the New York Yankees do if Alex Rodriguez retired this winter rather than returning to the club in 2016? The last time I made one of these “worst case scenario” posts I wondered what the Yankees would do if Robinson Cano walked via free agency and most of the Core Four retired, and they did, so what if lighting strikes twice? Will it be a blessing in disguise for the Yankees or will it be the straw that already broke the camel’s back in 2016?

First and foremost the man jumping up and down the most, well besides former Commissioner of Major League Baseball Bud Selig, if Alex announced his retirement would be Greg Bird. Bird seems like the odd man out in the Bronx right now assuming Mark Teixeira comes back fully and healthy after fracturing a bone in his shin earlier this season. The man jumping up the second highest, but not too high I hope, is Carlos Beltran who could be penciled into the full-time DH position allowing the Yankees the roster flexibility to sign a Justin Upton or another right-handed outfield option. Seeing Alex retire, as much as it would bother me as a fan, may be the best thing to happen to the team as long as Hal Steinbrenner is willing to reinvest that money he is owed.

Speaking of the money owed to Rodriguez for the 2016 and 2017 season, and someone correct me if I’m wrong, the Yankees DH and former third baseman would still be entitled to that money whether he steps foot on the baseball diamond or not. The Yankees have insurance on the contract so they may be able to recoup around 80% of that, I’m honestly not sure how that works exactly, but at minimum the team is eating 20% of a huge amount of money. Hal, using the bottom line as a mindset, would not be able to reinvest that money per se as it would still be on the books for two more seasons.

If Alex were to retire in the winter of 2015 Alex would be able to do it in true Alex fashion, at least prior to 2015. Alex would shock the baseball world, Alex would leave the fans with yet another reason to hate him and he would leave behind a trillion questions and a media circus. It’s unlikely that Alex retires, he has stated in years past that he wants to pass Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth and Barry Bonds on the all-time home run list, but if he did he would definitely change the whole face of the winter before 2016 and the 2016 New York Yankees.

You Kept the Prospects, Now Use the Prospects

As a fan of the New York Yankees first and Major League Baseball second I am thoroughly enjoying the 2015 edition of the MLB Playoffs, with or without the Yankees. There have been touch pitching matchups with great arms like Dallas Keuchel, Jake Arrieta, Masahiro Tanaka, Gerrit Cole, Marcus Stroman, Clayton Kershaw, Jacob deGrom, Zack Greinke, Cole Hamels and a slew of other names I could throw out there. There has also  been exciting young talent also making a name for themselves, players like Colin McHugh, Kyle Schwarber, Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Stephen Piscotty, Robert Osuna, Josh Donaldson, Michael Conforto, Greg Bird, Carlos Correa and a slew of others I could also throw out there. Watching the 2015 MLB Playoffs got me thinking about the Yankees, their direction the team is going and the 2016 season specifically. In July of 2015 the Yankees held onto their prospects rather than acquiring a Ben Zobrist, a David Price or a Johnny Cueto revealing half of their plan, the other half of the plan just has to include using those same prospects.

Taking a quick glance at the Chicago Cubs depth chart you can see homegrown and young talent at many key positions including first base (Anthony Rizzo), second base (Tommy LaStella and Starlin Castro), shortstop (Addison Russell), third base (Kris Bryant), left field (Kyle Schwarber), center field (Dexter Fowler), right field (Jorge Soler) and the pitching staff (Travis Wood, Neil Ramirez, Hector Rondon, Jake Arrieta, Kyle Kendricks, etc.). The Cubs are a team with a plan, to build from within their deep farm system and fill in the rest via free agency, and it’s a model that the Yankees should consider emulating.

The Cubs were terrible for many years and that will not fly in New York, there are no rebuilding years with the Yankees simply re-tooling years, but it can still be done with the proper plan. It’s just going to take longer. The plan was put into play this season when the team refused to part with Luis Severino, Aaron Judge, Jorge Mateo or Greg Bird and it needs to continue with Robert Refsnyder, Rookie Davis, Brady Lail, Domingo Acevedo and the rest of the team’s top prospects. Stockpiling prospects is great, well until Rule 5 Draft time anyway, but they are useless unless you use them. So be more like Theo Epstein and the Cubs and use them already. 

Are We Still Worried About Tanaka in 2016?

The talk of the offseason before the 2015 season around many New York Yankees fans water coolers was centered around all the question marks entering the year. Would Mark Teixeira be healthy and able to beat the shift? Was Carlos Beltran done and would Brian McCann improve? Would the shoulder of Michael Pineda, the elbow of Ivan Nova, the knee of CC Sabathia and the elbow of Masahiro Tanaka hold up? While many of those questions were answered in 2015 a few of them probably still linger into the 2016 season, is Tanaka’s elbow one of them?

First and foremost, before I get bombarded with tweets and emails about how Tanaka needs to get the surgery done to “repair” a ligament that isn’t broken (per five doctors including Dr. James Andrews, not just speculating), Tanaka should not just go get Tommy John surgery just for kicks and giggles. That’s the wrong opinion and there’s no doubt about it. If the ligament tears then you get the surgery, not before. Tommy John surgery has come a long way since becoming so prevalent in Major League Baseball but it’s not 100% effective. Ask Ryan Madson, ask these guys getting their second and third UCL’s replace ask anyone who has had the surgery since Tommy John made it mainstream and never made it back to the mound. That’s like saying we should completely break Mark Teixeira’s leg and start from scratch because the fracture, which is exactly what Tanaka’s less than 10% tear that was treated with rest and rehab, is.

Anyway, sorry I had to get that off my chest. The Yankees pitched Tanaka as often as they could on five days of rest or more in 2015, should we expect the same out of the club in 2016? Honestly I think they will, the team is going to milk Tanaka’s arm out and baby it as long as they can (and again before you flood my email let’s remember that Ervin Santana had a partially torn UCL and never had the surgery and Adam Wainwright pitched for a long, long time before needing the surgery) with the hopes of at least getting him to his 2017 opt-out date healthy.

New York has a laundry list of names that will be vying for a starting rotation spot and once again most of the team would benefit from the extra rest that would come along with a true six-man rotation or an occasional 6th man. Luis Severino’s innings may become a concern if he makes 30+ starts, Ivan Nova is still recovering from Tommy John surgery himself, Michael Pineda’s shoulder will probably always be a concern, Nathan Eovaldi’s elbow inflammation is scary for a former TJS recipient and CC Sabathia’s knee could break at any second. So if you’re asking me if Tanaka will still be handled with delicate white gloves in 2016 the answer is probably a YES. 

Quick Hit: Coaching Changes on the Way in the Bronx?

The 2015 season is over for the New York Yankees and I am turning almost all my focus to the 2016 season. I know I've said this before but I want to drill it into everyone's heads when they ask me why the blog is not posting more about the postseason or the World Series, it's because the Yankees aren't in it. I'm still watching, don't get me wrong, but this blog is a Yankees-based blog for a reason. With that said I got thinking the other day that widespread change could actually come to New York this offseason, but it will have to come in the way of coaching changes.

The contracts of bench coach Rob Thomson, first base coach Tony Pena and hitting coach Jeff Pentland expire when the 2015 World Series comes to an end and there is no guarantee that any of the three will be back in 2016. It seems like Pena will be back if he doesn't find a managerial position elsewhere but Pentland may fall on the blade after the team's offense disappeared for much of the last month and a half of the season.

Thomson was a terrible third base coach, let's not equivocate, but seemingly did better as the team's bench coach. It's hard to quantify how well he did but he has been with the organization for a while now and the team may look to head into a new direction in 2016 with a new and maybe a familiar face for the young guys like Dave Miley.

This Day in New York Yankees History 10/15: 2001 Yankees Move On

Just days after Derek Jeter saved the Yankees season in the ALDS against the Oakland Athletics with “the flip” the Yankees clinched the ALDS victory and a trip to the 2001 ALCS with a 5-3 victory over the A’s. The Yankees became the first team ever to win a best of five series after losing the first two games at home.

Also on this day in 1981 the Yankees clinched their 33rd American League pennant in the franchise’s history with a 4-0 victory and sweep of the Oakland Athletics. Dave Righetti, Ron Davis, and Goose Gossage combined for the victory sending the Yankees to play the Dodgers for the third time in the past five Fall Classics.

Finally on this day in 1923 the New York Yankees captured their first World Series championship when they beat the New York Giants in six games. The Yankees, still playing in the Polo Grounds at that time, would win the game by the score of 6-4.