The Yankees have always been big players on the international market, and their current big league roster shows the fruits of their labor in the Dominican Republic (Robinson Cano, Ivan Nova), Venezuela (Jesus Montero, Frankie Cervelli), and Panama (Mariano Rivera). They’ve also started to emphasize Mexico in recent years, with scout Lee Sigman heading up the operation down there. They were reportedly prepared to select a little know Mexican League right-hander named Joakim Soria in the 2006 Rule 5 Draft at Sigman’s behest, but the Royals beat them to it.
A few years ago, Sigman and the Yankees worked out a package deal to acquire four players from one Mexican League club for a total of $450k. One of those players was top pitching prospect Manny Banuelos, and another was the veteran Al Aceves. Less than ten months after signing, Aceves was in the big leagues, starting games down the stretch in 2008. He established himself as a bullpen extraordinaire in 2009, proving capable of throwing four pitches or four innings in an outing at a moment’s notice. The Mexican Gangster was invaluable in bridging the gap between the starting pitcher and the Phil Hughes-Mariano Rivera tandem at the end of the game as the Yankees stormed to the World Series.
Aceves never came close to achieving that kind of success in New York again. Following a lengthy rain delay at Fenway Park on May 8th of last season, Joe Girardi called on the righty in the fifth inning. He worked out of a jam then came back for the sixth, but he slipped a bit while delivering a pitch and his back locked up on him. We never saw Aceves in pinstripes again. The back problems — which were nothing new — and numerous setbacks kept him on the shelf for the rest of the season, and during the offseason he made things worse by falling off his bike and breaking his collarbone.
The injury was expected to keep Aceves out of action for three months, meaning he was going to miss the majority of Spring Training. The Yankees non-tendered Aceves one year ago today, just one day after the injury was reported. “Because of the back issue, we could not give him [a major league contract],” said Brian Cashman, who later tried to re-sign him to a minor league deal. The move to cut Aceves loose looks mind-numbingly stupid in hindsight, as he showed up to camp not only healthy and ready to go on the first day, but he did so for the Red Sox. The Gangster threw 122 total innings for Boston this past season (majors and minors), so either he healed better than expected or the Yankees’ doctors completely mis-evaluated him. Either way, there’s nothing they can do now other than learn from their mistakes.
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Here’s your open thread for the night. Both the Devils and Islanders are in action, but you can talk about anything you want here. Go nuts.