Friday, December 4, 2015

Yankees Sign Pete Kozma to MiLB Deal

The New York Yankees have signed Pete Kozma, former St. Louis Cardinals shortstop and postseason hero, to a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training 2016. Kozma is all defense and no bat and may be another alternative/option for the last utility player spot on the roster. Brendan Ryan is now officially on notice.

More to come later on Kozma. This is not going to change the season much and Kozma will likely start the season in Scranton manning the shortstop position.

FYI: Top 20 Contracts in Major League Baseball

Just an FYI to end your night, the Top 20 highest paid players in Major League Baseball as it stands today. Why? Just because, it's not like much else is going on.

1. Giancarlo Stanton, $325,000,000 (2015-27)
2. Alex Rodriguez, $275,000,000 (2008-17)
3. Miguel Cabrera, $248,000,000 (2016-23)
4. Albert Pujols, $240,000,000 (2012-21)
5. Robinson Cano, $240,000,000 (2014-23)
6. Joey Votto, $225,000,000 (2014-23)
7. Clayton Kershaw, $215,000,000 (2014-20)
8. Prince Fielder, $214,000,000 (2012-20)
9. Max Scherzer, $210,000,000 (2015-21)
10. Joe Mauer, $184,000,000 (2011-18)
11. Mark Teixeira, $180,000,000 (2009-16)
12 . Justin Verlander, $180,000,000 (2013-19)
13. Felix Hernandez, $175,000,000 (2013-19)
14. Buster Posey, $167,000,000 (2013-21)
15. CC Sabathia, $161,000,000 (2009-15)
16. Matt Kemp, $160,000,000 (2012-19)
17. Troy Tulowitzki, $157,750,000 (2011-20)
18. Masahiro Tanaka, $155,000,000 (2014-20)
19 . Jon Lester, $155,000,000 (2015-20)
20. Adrian Gonzalez, $154,000,000 (2012-18)

All stats according to Cots Baseball Contracts on Baseball Prospectus's Precious Medal: Thankful trip to White House

By Lindsay Berra /

It is nearly 10 at night, and I am riding in the passenger seat of my dad's car along the long, dark stretch of I-95 between Washington, D.C., and New Jersey. We're listening to country music, and we're both too emotionally spent to really have a conversation. Because, wedged between our duffel bags in the back seat, in a glossy mahogany box with a bronze nameplate on its front, is my Grampa's Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Depending on how you look at it, the Presidential Medal of Freedom that my late grandfather, Yogi Berra, was presented on Tuesday, was either six months or 90 years in the making. It was last May that we started the online petition on to nominate Grampa for the medal, in celebration of his 90th birthday. Getting those 100,000 signatures in 30 days is something my family is incredibly proud of, and we then spent the summer writing letters to the president to keep it at the top of his mind. I remember one July afternoon, reading Grampa a portion of a letter I would send to Obama to try to expedite the process. "You'd better be careful," Grampa said, "insulting the king."
Grampa passed away on September 22nd, a month before we were notified by the White House that he would receive the medal. The news then was bittersweet; I was so sad that Grampa would not be able to get the medal in person, but so, so proud that he would receive the of Freedom
President Obama honors Yogi Berra with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, accepted in his honor by Larry Berra

On Tuesday at the White House, my emotions were much the same. I watched the president shake my father's hand and give him that box that now rests in our back seat. I imagined my grandfather getting the Medal himself, having to remove his ever-present Yankee cap to have it draped around his neck, and I cried, still feeling a bit like I'd come up short for a man who never came up short for anyone in his life. But I was also immensely proud to see my father, beaming, representing my grandfather, on a golden stage filled with luminaries and dignitaries, between those two famous, gilt-framed pictures of George and Martha Washington in the East Wing.

The charismatic President Obama is a pro at these things and did not disappoint. He went off-teleprompter frequently, ad-libbing comments and jokes, and did a wonderful job of keeping the ceremony funny and entertaining while also making it touching and poignant.

My dad thinks Grampa would have been overwhelmed by the honor, and would wonder why he belonged in company with NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson or world-renowned violinist Itzhak Perlman. And Dad is probably right; despite the number of lives he touched for the better, Grampa didn't think of himself as an above-average American citizen. He just did his best on the battlefield and the ballfield and did his best to be a good man.

Still, he would have enjoyed the company. Grampa had met director Steven Spielberg on numerous occasions, and they could have caught up. He would have chatted with Spielberg's wife, the actress Kate Capshaw, about their shared hometown of St. Louis; up until Capshaw's mother passed away two years ago, she frequented Tony's restaurant on The Hill, one of my grandparents' favorite haunts.
Johnson could have expressed her admiration for my plucky Grampa to him rather than to my dad and me, and Perlman could have told him his stories about watching him and the Yankees play in the early 60s. 2015

Grampa would no doubt have loved to see his long-time pal Willie Mays, who accepted his medal in his Giants' cap; like Grampa's Yankee cap, that hat is as much a part of who Willie is as his DNA. Those two Hall of Famers would have talked the day away; I've never seen a picture of them in which they weren't both smiling ear-to-ear.

And I have no doubt Grampa was smiling down on us.He would have laughed at my history-buff father, who took pictures of every White House painting of every president and first lady, of the chandelier in the library that once belonged to James Fenimore Cooper, of George Washington's sword on the wall. He would have given me a thumbs-up for wearing a leopard-print top in homage to my very stylish Grammy Carmen. And he would have loved the orchestra playing scores from Stephen Sondheim's musicals and Spielberg's movies in the Grand Foyer.

I know Grampa would have enjoyed President Obama's sense of humor as he chided the medal recipients. When he talked about Grampa, the president said, "He lived his life with pride and humility and an original, open mind." That was Grampa, to a T. President Obama also said, "What can be said about Lawrence 'Yogi' Berra that he couldn't say better himself?" I am certain, though, that Grampa would have come up with a gem. And I am doubly certain that as Grampa strolled into the Green Room to take his picture with the president, who arrived a few minutes behind schedule after a day of meetings with French President Francois Hollande, he would have tapped his watch and said, "You're late."

Instead, it was my dad and me, along with my uncles Tim and Dale and aunts Jane and Betsy, who shook hands with President Obama and received big, hearty, I've-known-you-for-years kind of hugs from First Lady Michelle Obama. The president expressed his condolences on the loss of my grandfather and said he had just assumed Grampa had already received a medal of Freedom.

I'm OK with that, the fact that the President of the United States thought enough of my Grampa to think he must have been awarded our nation's greatest civilian honor sometime in the past. And I've come to terms with the fact that Grampa finally received his medal posthumously, because Grampa wasn't the man he was because he thought it would earn him a Medal. He simply was who he was.
Still, I'm thrilled about that piece of hardware sitting in the back seat. Soon, we'll deliver it to the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center, where the 20,000 school kids who visit each year can see it for exactly what it is: an exclamation point at the end of my Grampa Yogi's amazing, exemplary life.

Lindsay Berra is a columnist for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Comparing the Yankees & Red Sox Lineups

The New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox rivalry is one of the most storied and at times hated rivalries in all of North American sports. While the rivalry has taken a back seat in recent years these two teams are always a high-and-tight fastball away or two good teams away from rekindling the flame. That season could come in 2016 as the Red Sox look to rebuild and retool in hopes of getting back to the playoffs and out of the cellar of the American League East Division. We will do a run of these lineup comparisons now, as they stand, today and we will have to do another the closer we get to the regular season. A trade in Boston is coming, you don’t give former Yankees outfielder Chris Young a multi-year deal if you’re not about to trade one of your talented outfielders, and that trade may change the entire landscape of the AL East. 

Brian McCann/ Ryan Hanigan

First Base
Mark Teixeira/ Hanley Ramirez

Second Base
Robert Refsnyder/ Dustin Pedroia

Third Base
Chase Headley/ Pablo Sandoval
*could be a push. Homer in me makes me go Headley

Didi Gregorius/ Xander Bogaerts

Left Field
Brett Gardner/ Rusney Castillo

Center Field
Jacoby Ellsbury/ Jackie Bradley Jr.

Right Field
Carlos Beltran/ Mookie Betts

Designated Hitter
Alex Rodriguez/ David Ortiz

Looking at the final tally I have the New York Yankees “winning” five spots out of the nine. Remember, bolded player wins. I think we all thought the Yankees would have the advantage in the lineup department over the Red Sox, especially now, but I think we all know a lot of change is coming to Bean Town. With Dave Dombrowski at the helm and a plethora of prospects for him to trade for established talent I don’t expect the Red Sox to stay down long, especially in David Ortiz’s last season. I can see the Red Sox going all in this season with their young core and established farm system. This is not good news for the New York Yankees so enjoy the “victory” while you still can.

Also it’s worth mentioning that the Boston Red Sox had one of the worst records in the American League in 2015. They finished in last place in the AL East Division and were a whopping 15 games behind the Toronto Blue Jays for first place. I’ve already shown why I think the Yankees have a better offensive player in six or seven of the nine positions over Toronto but have  New York winning less positional battles here. This goes to show you that it is a team sport, not a sport for individuals, and it all comes down to actually putting in the work and getting the job done. Winning on paper is fun, winning in real life is so much better. This is the perfect example, to answer a question I received on the Toronto vs. New York lineup comparison, of how the Blue Jays can outscore the Yankees by over 120 runs and lead the league in offense and still “lose” the head-to-head battles. 

Possible Yankees Losses in the Rule 5 Draft

As we inch closer and closer to the Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tennessee we also inch closer and closer to some actual activity in the baseball community. We have seen a few trades get pulled off, a few free agents overpaid (totally not looking at you Cliff Pennington), a few starting pitchers get paid (and I am totally looking at you Jordan Zimmerman) and a whole lot of talk. That talk equates to moves at the Winter Meetings and it also means the Rule 5 Draft comes leaving us with the answers to the “will he stay or will he go?” questions. We know who is staying for New York but looking at the roster the Yankees may see more than a few go as well this December.

Mark Montgomery was once thought to be the heir-apparent to Mariano Rivera after being drafted in the 11th round of the 2011 MLB Draft but a lot has happened since a shoulder injury dampened his 2013 season. Montgomery had a nice 2014 season and basically repeated the solid season in 2015 between Double-A and Triple-A posting a 4-4 record with a 2.66 ERA and 17 saves with 53 strikeouts in 50.2 innings. Montgomery was especially good in Triple-A posting a 1.17 ERA and 0.391 WHIP in just 7.2 innings leaving many to wonder if he couldn’t stick as a long man on a MLB roster. I certainly think he could, and will, as he is much better in my opinion than Tommy Kahnle who the Colorado Rockies hid on their roster two years ago after taking him from New York in the draft.

Taylor Dugas and Jake Cave fit a similar mold not only in the draft but inside the Yankees system. New York has so many left-handed defensive first outfielders in their system, Mason Williams, recently protected Ben Gamel and Slade Heathcott immediately come to mind, that it may not be the worst thing to see one or both picked. For their sake, not the team’s sake. Dugas and Cave can play all three outfield positions, have high on-base percentages and have hit for average at every minor league stop they’ve made. Neither have large sample sizes above Double-A to base their picks on but could easily be hidden as a fourth or even fifth outfielder on a MLB roster this season.

Tony Renda is a second baseman that lost out to the versatility “metta” currently going on in Major League Baseball. Renda plays second base well but the problem is that’s the only position he can play. In a world where every team wants their own shiny Ben Zobrist type player Renda was made available in the draft. His bat is average and he hasn’t had much time above Double-A so he’s unlikely to be selected, but he could be and that’s enough at this point.

Finally we finish with a prospect we did one of our “Weekly Check In” posts with multiple times this season, left-handed starter Miguel Sulbaran. Sulbaran was acquired from the Minnesota Twins in the Eduardo Nunez trade from a couple years back and made it all the way to Double-A with the Trenton Thunder before the 2015 season came to a close. Sulbaran is not a sexy name and probably not a common household name for many despite being in his age 21 season but was solid this season and is left-handed, that’s intriguing to some teams in itself.

Just as a reminder there are three phases to the Rule 5 Draft, the Major League portion being the most popular. If a player is taken in the Major League portion a $50,000 fee is charged to the team selecting the player and the team must keep the player on their 25-man roster for the entire 2015 season. If they do not they must offer the player back to his original team with a $25,000 price tag attached to him before he is eligible to sign elsewhere.

The Luxury Tax, the Yankees and Getting Greedy

We learned this week that the New York Yankees would have to pay another $26 million in luxury tax penalties for the 2015 season. The Yankees are once again preaching austerity, and why wouldn’t they after spending more money than I will ever see in my lifetime every single season in luxury tax for basically nothing. If the team was winning playoff series and World Series rings that would be one thing, but they aren’t lately. I can’t believe I’m saying this as the owner of a Yankees blog donned “The Greedy Pinstripes” but for once I agree with Hal Steinbrenner. Cut the payroll.

The two highest paid teams in Major League Baseball, the Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers, both made the postseason in 2015 and both were gone after one game. The Yankees lost the AL Wild Card Round to the Houston Astros while the Dodgers fell in the NLDS to the New York Mets. In fact, none of the top nine payrolls in all of Major League Baseball won a playoff series in 2015, the Chicago Cubs with the 10th highest payroll in baseball won a series in the National League as the second Wild Card winner. To take it one step further the Yankees have paid the tax in every season of its existence and haven’t won a World Series since the 2009 season. To take it even one more step forward the Yankees haven’t won a playoff game since Derek Jeter’s ankle snapped in Game One of the 2012 ALCS. That’s a lot of money for, if you believe in the World Series or bust mantra, a whole lot of nothing.

Imagine if the Yankees had $26 million to spend last winter, would Max Scherzer or Jon Lester be Yankees right about now? What if the Yankees had an extra $26 million to spend this season? Would we be seeing a Brett Gardner trade and a Jason Heyward or a Justin Upton? Maybe a David Price? Jordan Zimmermann is 29-years old and only got $22 million annually and he was considered to be one of the Top 3 best starting pitchers on all of the free agent market.

Every single season the Yankees take one of those big names and high-priced free agent acquisitions that we as fans demand and enjoy and flush it down the toilet labeled “Major League Baseball Luxury Tax.” Let that sink in for a minute. Getting under the cap for just one season allows the Yankees 100% resets on their taxes and allows them to not only Get Greedy but to own the free agency market once again if they see fit. I think I could handle one season with a payroll under $200 million, the rumored luxury tax threshold limit after the 2016 collective bargaining agreement expires this season, in order to once again wear the Greedy Pinstripes crown but maybe that’s just me. 

Injuries, Depth, Versatility and the New York Yankees

Scranton, PA. Where all the talent comes from. 

The New York Yankees have been hampered by the injury bug more so than not over the past three or four seasons. Ever since Derek Jeter thought he could play through a fracture in his ankle during the 2012 season that left him on the field in pain in the ALCS against the Detroit Tigers the Yankees have had more DL time than most teams around the league. The problem in New York has been despite the large payroll the team has been exposed during these DL stints and injuries due to a lack of depth. The Yankees offense went stagnant in a sweep at the hands of the Tigers in that ALCS and the offense remained stagnant for much of the 2013 and 2014 seasons. In 2015 the team was moving right along until Mark Teixeira and Nathan Eovaldi went to the DL in the second half leaving the club backing into the playoffs in an eventual Wild Card round loss to the Houston Astros. Fool me once with injuries, shame on you. Fool me twice with injuries, shame on me. The Yankees have been fooled four times in a row now but they don’t look poised to make it a five-peat.

When the Yankees lost Mark Teixeira last year the offense got exposed, especially against good left-handed starting pitching, but this year may be different. The Yankees now have a much clearer idea what they have in Greg Bird and the big first baseman will be the first one called up in the event of a Teixeira injury.

If the Yankees were to lose Alex Rodriguez for any significant amount of time in 2015 the team likely doesn’t make the postseason without him and his 150+ games at DH. This time around the Yankees can inject some right-handed power and youth into the position, either in case of an injury or to keep Rodriguez fresh to prevent another second-half fall off, by letting Gary Sanchez get some at bats there. He’s likely going to be the backup catcher anyway so why not keep his development going while getting him regular at bats rather than allowing him to rot on the bench.

The Yankees pitching staff went to pieces at the end of the 2015 season with a few exceptions. The biggest exception was Luis Severino. Having a full season of Severino in the rotation can only help while Bryan Mitchell looks to put it all together finally, Rookie Davis continues to knock on the door and while whoever the 2016 version of Kyle Davies and Chris Capuano are stay stashed in Triple-A as depth.

Did I really make it this far without mentioning Aaron Judge? The first outfielder, regardless of position, to go down brings up Judge in my opinion barring a 40 man roster crunch. If that’s the case then obviously Slade Heathcott and Mason Williams are still on the roster and ready to contribute alongside Ben Gamel. But really, call up Judge. The Yankees outfield is set with three center fielders on the roster. The positions are so interchangeable that it doesn’t matter at this point with the exception of Carlos Beltran who is a right fielder only at this point. Aaron Hicks, Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner could play any of the three positions if needed at any given time.

Finally, the bullpen. The Yankees will already have one of the deeper bullpens in the league before even mentioning the “Scranton Shuttle” which is comprised of Caleb Cotham, Branden Pinder, James Pazos, Nick Goody, Nick Rumbelow and others. That’s before mentioning, and the Rule 5 Draft may have a lot to say about this list, the likes of Mark Montgomery and a slew of relievers that were left unprotected.

The Yankees have depth and have depth at almost every position but shortstop. The Yankees are seemingly ready for the 2016 season and we’re not even to the Winter Meetings yet. Don’t expect a lot of major moves or signings, that’s because the team doesn’t necessarily have to. Although another bat would be nice, just saying. 

This Day in New York Yankees History 12/4: Free Agent Draft

On this day in 1964, in an effort to prevent teams like the New York Yankees from locking up all the talent in Major League Baseball, the owners voted to start a free agent draft. The team with the worst record would pick first and the team with the best record from the previous year would pick last obviously and this draft would happen every four months.