The Last Question of Spring Training

Yankees re-sign Eric Chavez
2012 Draft: Working with the draft pool
(REUTERS/Steve Nesius)

Spring Training is about more than just players getting into shape for the upcoming season, there are also roster spots up for grabs and jobs to be claimed. That isn’t going to be the case in Yankees camp this spring, however. Less than three days into workouts, the club already has 24 of 25 roster spots accounted for following last night’s Eric Chavez re-signing. Here, take a look…

Starting Lineup (9) Bench (4) Rotation (5) Bullpen (6 of 7)
Derek Jeter Frankie Cervelli CC Sabathia Mariano Rivera
Curtis Granderson Eduardo Nunez Hiroki Kuroda David Robertson
Robinson Cano Chavez Ivan Nova Rafael Soriano
Alex Rodriguez Ibanez/Jones Michael Pineda Boone Logan
Mark Teixeira Phil Hughes/Freddy Garcia Cory Wade
Nick Swisher Hughes/Garcia
Raul Ibanez/Andruw Jones ???
Russell Martin
Brett Gardner

The Hughes-Garcia battle for the fifth starter’s job will end with one in the rotation and one in the bullpen, so the only serious, wide-open competition remaining is that last bullpen spot. The Yankees could go any number of ways with that spot, with plenty of candidates to serve as a second lefty (Mike O’Connor, Cesar Cabral, Clay Rapada), another multi-inning guy (D.J. Mitchell, David Phelps, Brad Meyers), or a typical one-inning reliever (George Kontos*, Matt Daley, Adam Miller, Manny Delcarmen).

* Kontos suffered an oblique injury yesterday, so he’s going to be behind everyone else in this fight for the last bullpen spot.

Because both Ibanez and Chavez landed guaranteed big league contracts, there’s no mystery. They’re going to make the club barring injury, so Russell Branyan and Bill Hall are nothing more than insurance policies. The same can be said of Justin Maxwell and Chris Dickerson, who are both out of minor league options and must first clear waivers before being sent down. The former might clear, but the latter will definitely get claimed as a left-handed hitting fourth outfield type with speed and defense. Some team (likely in the NL) will find a use for Dickerson. Brandon Laird, Ramiro Pena, et al are headed back to Triple-A to open the season.

I don’t think having close to the entire roster already set is much of a problem, though I would have preferred to see both Ibanez and Chavez get minor league contracts and compete for their roster spots in Spring Training. Even a fake competition would have been fine, you want guys to push each other. Competition is a healthy thing. That’s not the case though, and the Yankees will go through camp trying to sort out their last bullpen spot and figure out who will be the fifth starter. All the other questions have already been answered.

Yankees re-sign Eric Chavez
2012 Draft: Working with the draft pool
  • Robinson Tilapia

    Would love to see Kontos in that slot, with DJ Mitchell in the Ramiro Mendoza role second, however unlikely that may be. I’ve been talked into some hype over Cabral by blogs like this. His mother must be giving Axisa a kickback or something.

    Moral indignation over Ibanez/Chavez starts…..NOW.

  • ADam

    Would not be surprised if it was one of the lefty’s. With Hughes or Garcia in the pen there really isn’t a need for a long man like Phelps, Mitchell, Meyers or Warren (assuming that is the role they would fill). I’d bet on Cabral if he has a lights out spring like he did in the winter leagues.

  • Rainbow Pinstripes

    How stupid does Bill Hall feel?

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Did he slip on a banana peel or something? Is he the only person in America still “watching American Idol?” What makes this man stupid in your eyes…

      ….it’s Chavez, isn’t it? Because Bill Hall hasn’t figured out that he could opt out of a MiLB deal and is the first guy to be usurped by a later signing in history.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Did he slip on a banana peel or something? Is he the only person in America still watching “American Idol?” What makes this man stupid in your eyes…

      ….it’s Chavez, isn’t it? Because Bill Hall hasn’t figured out that he could opt out of a MiLB deal and is the first guy to be usurped by a later signing in history.

    • Rainbow Connection

      Does he root for a team with a $200 million payroll?

      • Robinson Tilapia

        Wait…’re not the same guy as the original poster?

        • Jumpin’ Pinstripes Tilapia

          Wait, I’m not you?

          • Rainbow Troll

            I guess not. Silly me.

      • CW.

        Is he a hack troll?

  • Mo

    I wouldn’t be surprised if they took 14 position players, letting Branyan, Hall, Dickerson, and Maxwell fight for that spot.

  • thenamestsam

    I think the choice for the last spot partially depends on the rotation battle. If Garcia takes the #5 spot and Hughes is in the pen then I’m sure that would mark a permanent transition for him, and I’m fairly confident they’d use him as a one-inning “6-th Inning Guy” or something like that, as much as I’d prefer to see him in a Mendoza-like 100-130 inning role. In that case they might prefer to carry another pitcher since Hughes would be used less as a designated “long-man”.

    On the other hand if Garcia goes to the pen than I do expect him to be used as a long-man/swing-man, since it’s hard to see his style translating as a one-inning type reliever. In that case the need for another pitcher is significantly reduced and I think it’s more likely they’d carry another bench player, Branyan perhaps.

    • CP

      I predict that Hughes will be the 5th starter unless he’s injured.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Makes sense to me.

      If it were me choosing a position guy for that last slot, I’d probably go with Dickerson. I think there’s, hopefully, enough veteran bat presence on the bench already, and an actual defensive-oriented OF would round out things nicely. I see where the temptation to watch Branyan launch one into Bronx Family Court would lie, though.

    • Troll Killer

      I rather trade Hughes, Yankees don’t need anymore relievers being wasted in the pen. Phil has to start, I wouldn’t be happy if he became a long reliever.

      • thenamestsam

        I also don’t love throwing Hughes in the pen, but it might be a better option than trading him. I’m not sure they can get much for Phil at this point, and I think he could be quite good in a Mendoza like swing-man role. He could make say ~8 starts a year getting to ~110 innings every year and if that helped him hold his velocity I could see him being worth 2-3 WAR in that role, which is as valuable as he has ever been as a starter.

  • DM

    “All the other questions have already been answered.”

    Not until those last few days of ST. You’re one “quad strain” or “shut down due to elbow soreness” from making a change. There might be more than Kontos’s “*” during the spring. And leave some room for a stellar or awful performance too. Expect the unexpected.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Except, other than the correctly-stated injury, I’m not seeing much room for “the unexpected” here. Ibanez/Chavez would have to look so cooked that they probably would go home themselves to not make the team out of ST.

      • DM

        That’s what ST is for — to find out. An article titled “The Last Question of Spring Training” in Feb, before ST has really started, is a bit premature.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          Yes. A boulder could fall on Mark Teixiera. Correct. Had to be Axisa.

          • DM

            Nah, he’d push it on Garcia. That would leave a spot in both the rotation and the bullpen for Hughes. We could then let Phil choose which he feels more comfortable with. We wouldn’t want to upset him or anything.

            • Robinson Tilapia

              Well played. Nice doing business with you.

        • Plank

          Teams shouldn’t be making a lot of roster decisions based on Spring training. If they are, they’re doing it wrong.

          • DM

            Not a lot — but some. Girardi could announce who’s going north today otherwise. Stuff happens over the next month.

  • Johnny O

    Not to be fatalistic, but someone always gets hurt in spring training and starts the season on the DL. So that’ll be one spot openining up from the top list. If an infielder, Pena comes north, if an OF, Dickerson comes north, if a pitcher, my guess would be DJ Mitchell unless a lefty goes down. If Cervelli gets hurt or concussed, maybe they bring a Molina back. Any Molina will do.

  •!/philgalletto theyankeewarrior

    Any chance we keep Bill Hall if he doesn’t make the team? Is he guaranteed to make a 25-man somewhere?

    • Robinson Tilapia

      That’s probably up to Hall and how long he’s willing to wait to don pinstripes. Like DM said above, injuries happen, and I have to assume he’d be first up if any infielders went down. Is that worth it for him? Only he can tell you. Vets have put in some time in AAA before in order to see if they had a shot on this team.

  • JohnC

    I’m rooting hard for Cabral this Spring. He could be the Yankees Victor Cruz/Jeremy Lin of 2012. You never know

    • j

      Wide receiver, point guard, middle reliever. One of these is not like the others.

  • Chris

    Could the Yanks trade Dickerson for a B- or C+ pitching prospect with options? It seems like they are going to lose him unless he plays gold glove OF and hits about 9 home runs in spring training.

    • Monterowasdinero

      9 homers in ST? To match his career total? lol

    • RetroRob

      I think a trade is likely. Since the Yankees know he will be grabbed and won’t clear waivers, and since there will be several teams that will want him, the best answer it to trade him for something, even if it’s a depth move for the minors. Won’t be much, but they can get something as opposed to losing him entirely. That’s how he ended up on the Yankees. A trade last spring.

  • Guest

    Is it me, or is this deepest 25 man roster that the Yanks have had *ON PAPER* in a long time?

    Yes, there is age on the left side of the infield. Yes, their second best starter talent wise is young and unproven in the cauldron of the AL east. But where, exactly, are the roster holes?

    Deep proven lineup with power, speed, and on base skills: check

    At least five solid starters with one true ace, a second true ace in the making, and one of the best no.3’s in baseball: check

    Very good defensive outfield and solid defensive infield: check

    Deep bullpen with power arms, the greatest closer of all time, set-up men and long men: check

    Deep bench with lefties, righties, and versatile infielders: check

    Seriously, where are the holes?

    • Monterowasdinero

      No Kim Jones?

    • Plank

      It’s basically the same team as last season. They have a more sure rotation (turned out to be a strength last season) and a less sure DH situation (turned out to be a small weakness last season). On paper, they are very similar to last season because it’s almost the same team. They are definitely strong on paper.

      • Guest

        I think the rotation is a big step up (on paper) than last year. Yes, I know the rotation actually overperformed expectations last year, but I think it would be very reasonable to expect this years rotation to solidly outperform last year’s. Pineda/Kuroda >>>> AJ/Bartolo.

        The bench is better, too. (Nunez is one year closer to his prime/more experienced. Ibanez is better than dickerson.)

        As for DH, I think they are better off than they were last year with Jones locked in against lefties and Ibanez can’t be any worse than Jorge was for most of the season.

        • Plank

          Nunez is one year closer to his prime but nearly every other player is one year further from it.

  • Preston

    I hope that Russell will accept a AAA assignment. I don’t trust Ibanez to be our only LHDH option.

  • Mariano’s Pimp Hand

    How long until Joba is ready to go?

    • Preston

      They are saying mid June.

  • paul

    like it. I am psyched to see the AAA strating pitching: banuelos, bettances, mitchell, phelps and ?? Let those guys throw, get innings under their belt and be ready down the road….

    • Hennessy


  • ABS

    I hate the Ibanez/Chavez deals – they should not have been MLB deals. How in the world does nobody seem to be concerned that the starting DH HAD AN OBP OF .289??????? That is AWFUL for a bench player much less a DH, I don’t care how many HRs he hit (only 20 last year in a bandbox). And what are the chances the unathletic 39 year old will IMPROVE?? They’d have been better off letting Branyan and Hall fight it out, cheaper and more upside – Branyan is one year removed from a .810 OPS, and two years removed from a .867 OPS and 31 HRs and four years younger than Ibanez. Moreover, people seem to think Chavez was some stud last year – when he wasn’t injured he slugged a measley .356 with an OPS not even close to .700?? Love the moves this offseason, including the Burnett trade, HATE the Ibanez signing and don’t like the Chavez signing…

    • STONE COLD Austin Romine

      I was with you until you wrote ” the unathletic 39 year old” Ibanez body/athleticism is better than most 20 year olds.

      •!/Clay_Bellinger Clay Bellinger

        Unfortunately, he’s not going to be playing against those 20 year olds. Not that I agree with this guy’s whole rant, but the athleticism is relative to the competition.

    • CMP

      I agree Ibanez is a pretty weak lefty DH and it’s frightening to think the Yankees are actually talking about playing him in the field but I’m pretty sure that will be an easy spot to fill around the All Star break. Hopefully the Dodgers will suck and want to move Ethier.

    • RetroRob

      I don’t disagree with much of what you’re saying, but I don’t have anywhere near the level of emotion of hate toward either of the moves, especially Chavez.

      Depth wise, third base is a very weak position now in the majors. There are obviously the big names, but a pretty big drop off after the Longoria, A-Rod, Wright, Beltre, Zimmerman types. So a back-up third baseman who is actually good means in most cases he’s not going to be a bench player. Chavez produced a positive fWAR for the Yankees last year. He’s fine as a bench option, certainly nothing to hate. Sure, it would be great if the Yankees could have come up with a third base, bench, DH option who fills the need of being a lefthanded bat who is highly productive. Good luck finding that at a price the Yankees can afford considering that player will be a valuable commodity.

      As for Ibanez, I don’t believe he’ll survive the year in pinstripes, but I also don’t think the Yankees will blink an eye and cut him. This is not a Posada situation, a Yankee legend who was making $13 million. Nothing is owed Ibanez beyond a small sum of money in Yankee world. If he doesn’t produce he will be gone.

  • Jesse

    “I would have preferred to see both Ibanez and Chavez get minor league contracts and compete for their roster spots in Spring Training. Even a fake competition would have been fine, you want guys to push each other. Competition is a healthy thing.”

    Couldn’t agree more.

  • David Ortiz’s Dealer

    I may be in the minority, but unless its a lefty I would not be opposed to the 7th bullpen spot being Bill Hall especially if Nunez has more fielding issues.

    I think the rotation will be strong enough where 7 may be overkill in the pen.

    • Jesse

      Wait, what? Bill Hall to the bullpen?

      • Robinson Tilapia

        Your refusal to think outside the box sometimes, Jesse….

      • G

        Career 0.00 ERA. Best of all time, sorry Mo.

        I’d give the spot to Hall unless Cabral really impresses. They’ve got enough depth in AAA that it’s an easy fix if they find they don’t have enough bullpen guys.

  • CMP

    I’d like to see Adam Miller pitch well and make the team considering all he’s gone through but he’d probably be better served pitching regularly in AAA rather then as 12th man on the major league staff.

  • Jeff

    According to the WSJ today the Yankees DH for 2012 is… “Everyone”

    Quote: “In order to rest his aging stars Girardi will employ a complicated platoon with Ibanez added to the fold”

    • Brain Dead Ted


      • Jeff


    • Robinson Tilapia

      What’s exactly surprising about that?

      • Jeff

        Nothing really, the question is how much OF will Ibanez actually see?

        • Robinson Tilapia

          If all goes right, not enough to be concerned about, but probably enough to look like an ass out there. :)

          • Jeff


      • DM

        To me? Nothing at all.

        To a certain other poster who believed that the Yankees will have a full-time DH (who’ll play little or not at all in the field) as a preference, with no one else possibly getting ABs there besides A-Rod, it might be yet another example of said poster’s complete lack of knowledge and insight.

  • Chris

    Dickerson seems like a AAAA guy.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      My unscientific opinion is that he’s slightly higher than that, but that’s what a 4/5 outfielder is, and that’s the most likely role for him here.

  • mt

    I think the criticism of the minor league contracts is a bit overdone.
    The Yankees main focus was to get people who would take $2 million total (base) – I am sure that as part of negotiation both Ibanez and Chavez said fine I will take lower money but at least give me a major league contract – part of the give and take. I do not think they wanted Vlad or Matsui even if those 2 would have been willing to sign a minor league contract and Damon’s supposed last price tag was $5 Million – now that will come down but I do feel Cashman’s past negotiation history with Damon may have entered into it – Cashman did not want to do the endless back and forth with Damon to get his price down.

    When Damon went to the press to say that Yanks were going in a different direction last week, I did not hear anything about he was willing to play for any amount of money.

    I still they they can cut or replace either Ibanez/Chavez and replace with someone like Hall/Branyan/Nix/Laird/Vasquez. They also can swing a trade at deadline.

    I am intrigued by Branyan’s power so it will be unfortunate if we let Branyan go before season begins, he signs with someone else, and then we need a Ibanez replacement sooner rather than later.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      If they needed that replacement, and it didn’t turn out to be Branyan because he moved on, would you really feel like they were missing out on that much?

      Yes, I’d love to see a home run hit the roof of Bronx Family Court, but I’m not losing sleep over not seeing a few.

    • Jeff

      Great point. The negotiations with Damon in 2010 were a bit ugly. I personally don’t think the Ibanez deal was a bad move, and I’m doubtful they would cut him although I have been wrong before.

  • mt

    Meant criticism of “major league contracts”

  • Monterowasdinero

    DH will be “everyone”

    That’s what it takes to replace Montero.

  • David Ortiz’s Dealer

    all this talk about boulders falling but ARod and Chavez missed time last year and did the Captain, Nunez played much more than anyone expected, more than 25 guys will wear pinstripes this year.

  • cranky

    I’m a fan of Kontos’.
    But, I’d really like to see Cesar Cabral make the team.
    And, if Cabral doesn’t make the team, I’d like to see the Yanks find a way to keep him in their fold.
    I think, if he doesn’t make the 25-man, he becomes a free agent.
    Cabral is oh-so-close. He’s a young lefty with a +fastball and +change-up who might need a little more minor league experience. It’d be a shame to lose him, just to watch him catch on with another big league team and turn into a solid ML lefty reliever.