Piggybacking on Olney’s keys for the ’13 Yankees

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Last Friday, Buster Olney (Insider req’d) put together a post listing eight things that must go right for the Yankees in 2013. Most of them are obvious, like CC Sabathia having a strong season and Mariano Rivera returning to form, but I figured this was a good chance to piggyback on his idea and list some things I believe must go right for the club this year. I’m talking about big picture stuff, not just things that will help them contend in 2013.

Olney listed eight items, but I’m only going six deep. These aren’t listed in order of importance or anything like that, just in the order they came to me. They’re all important, but some are obviously more important than others.

1. Either Ivan Nova or David Phelps must emerge as a legitimate MLB starter.

The Yankees have three starting pitchers scheduled to become free agents after the season — Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, and Phil Hughes — and the plan to get under the $189M luxury tax threshold in 2014 means they won’t be able to go crazy on the free agent market next winter. Getting something out of Michael Pineda in the second half would obviously be helpful, but it’ll be just as important for either Nova or Phelps to step forward and solidify themselves as long-term starters. Finding a cheap starter in the organization is a necessity to remain competitive once payroll is slashed.

2. Austin Romine must stay healthy.

Romine is likely to open the season in Triple-A while Chris Stewart and Frankie Cervelli make us want to claw our eyes out at the big league level, which is the best thing for his development. The 24-year-old has caught just 103 total games over the last two years due to persistent back problems, so he’s lost a lot of development time at a crucial age. Gary Sanchez is still several years away, so Romine is the organization’s best hope for a productive catcher in the near future. He needs to actually stay healthy for that to happen, so a full season in 2013 is imperative for his long-term future.

3. Either Joba Chamberlain or David Aardsma must return to pre-surgery form.

(Jared Wickerham/Getty)

(Jared Wickerham/Getty)

Rivera is a baseball playing robot and I expect him to have little trouble being productive following knee surgery. David Robertson is as good a setup man as you’ll find in the game, and the left-handed duo of Boone Logan and Clay Rapada is one of the better LOOGY tandems in baseball. The middle innings — fifth, sixth, and seventh, basically — fall on the shoulders of two pitchers who have combined to throw 50.1 innings over the last two seasons.

Joba, 27, struggled when he came off the DL at the trade deadline but finished the season very well, allowing just one earned run and one walk against 17 strikeouts in his final 13 innings of the season. It’s not a guarantee he’ll pitch well in 2013 of course, but it is encouraging. Aardsma made one late-season appearance and will be coming off two lost years due to elbow and hip surgery. The Yankees can get by if one of these two flames out and is unable to find his form from a few years ago, but getting nothing from both would create some major bullpen headaches.

4. Ichiro Suzuki must produce on an extreme, either good or bad.

The Yankees handed out just one multi-year contract this offseason, deciding the 39-year-old Ichiro was worthy of that kind of commitment. It’s my belief the deal was motivated by off-field factors — merchandise and ticket sales, advertising opportunities, increased popularity in Japan, etc. — and not so much his expected on-field performance. The late-season hot streak was nice and all, but Ichiro has managed just a .277/.308/.361 batting line in his last 1,384 plate appearances. Consider me skeptical.

So, what the club needs most from Suzuki next year is an extreme performance. He either needs to hit the cover off the ball like he did down the stretch and make me look like an idiot, or he needs to play so poorly the club will have no choice but to replace him. Splitting the middle and treading water won’t help, it just means he’ll remain in the lineup and be a question mark heading into 2014. Ichiro needs to erase doubt this summer, either by hitting so well they have to keep him or by hitting so poorly they have to dump him.

5. Mason Williams, Slade Heathcott, and Jose Campos must stay healthy.

Every team needs their top prospects to stay healthy for obvious reasons, and the Yankees have three of their best minor leaguers coming off major injuries. Williams (shoulder) missed the second half following surgery while Campos (elbow) barely pitched in 2012. Heathcott (shoulder) missed the first half following his second surgery in as many offseasons and has yet to play more than 76 games in a single season. All three are among the team’s very best prospects and if the Yankees are serious about sticking to a budget, they’re going to need cheap production. That isn’t limited to plugging these guys into the roster down the line either, they need to stay healthy to boost potential trade value as well.

6. Alex Rodriguez must hit at least 13 homers.

Despite all the recent PED stuff, I’m working under the assumption A-Rod will rejoin the team around the All-Star break because that’s what the doctors (and the Yankees!) said following his latest hip surgery. If they’re able to void or otherwise shed his contract, great. But I’ll believe it when I see it.

Anyway, A-Rod is currently sitting on 647 career homers and is 13 away from triggering the first of five $6M homerun milestones in his contract. Triggering that bonus in 2013 — the next homer bonus would then be 54 homers away, a total even in-his-prime Alex would have trouble reaching in one year — gives the team another $6M to spend under the luxury tax threshold in 2014. It doesn’t sound like much, but $6M does go a long way. It’s enough to add an $18M player at the trade deadline. I don’t care anything about this latest PED stuff, I care about A-Rod reaching this first homer bonus this summer to give the team more flexibility next year.

Categories : Musings
  • TheOneWhoKnocks

    I have a hard time seeing A-Rod reaching 13 homers in about half a season(probably a little less than half a season)
    All of the rest seem like reasonable expectations, though I’m not sure Romine at his best is much of an upgrade over Cervelli/Stewart.

    • Bertin Lefkovic

      Hopefully, A-Rod spends the next five months or so, loading up on HGH, so that he will be in the right condition to hit 13 HRs in August and September. If that happens, I am sure that everyone who is rooting for the Yankees to find a way to get rid of him will welcome him back with open arms.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        The supposed HGH wouldn’t have been very helpful last year if he was taking it now, would it?

        We still don’t know enough about what the stuff does or how it actually impacts performance.

    • Ted Nelson

      I don’t expect 13 HRs, but the hope would be that his range of motion improves to the point where he is better than he’s been the last few years.

      Every indication seems to be that Romine at his best would be a solid MLB starting C.

    • dalelama

      Arod won’t even play this year much less hit 13 home runs and Romine is a stiff so what happens with him won’t matter. One big thing ignored is will the hammerhead aka Tex still refuse to hit the ball to the oppposite field and insure further decline.

      • Arnold Palmer’s Putter

        A triple ppplay!

  • Jersey Joe

    That bonus thing is officially the only reason I am rooting for ARod to be healthy.

    • Ted Nelson

      Yeah, helping the team win would be a terrible reason. And wishing poor health on someone you don’t even know is great form. Reflects very well on you.

      • Scott Steiner

        I saw nothing in his post that said he wished A-Rod “poor health.”

        And my god, you make it seem like the man is dying of cancer or something. “Poor health”? His hip hurts. Cry me a river.

        • Ted Nelson

          What’s the opposite of healthy?

          • Scott Steiner

            Stating that you aren’t actively rooting for A-Rod to get back does not imply that you enjoy seeing him “hurt.” It could mean that Jersey Joe here is indifferent, and that he is sick of Alex’s nonsense.

            • Ted Nelson

              It could mean anything Joe wants it to mean, why do you feel the need to make up what he meant by his comment?

              • Manny’s BanWagon (formerly Andy Pettitte’s Fibula)

                Maybe because he’s sick of reading your hostile self righteous, holier than thou post today.

                You had been posting like a civilized human being the last few days.
                Did you forget to pick up your medication refill at the pharmacy today?

                No one is really wishing bad things upon Arod and for as long as he’s a Yankee, nearly all will hope that he produces but for many of us, this was the last straw and IMO, he can’t possibly be run out of NY fast enough and these comments are just venting and not meant literally.

              • WhittakerWalt

                “why do you feel the need to make up what he meant by his comment?”

                You just did the exact same thing. Why was it OK for you to do it?

                • Steve

                  Do as he says, not as he does

  • Ed

    I thought it was already established that A-Rod’s bonuses don’t count against the luxury tax. They were only allowed by the union because they *weren’t* considered as bonuses for his playing performance – his contract calls them marketing bonuses, and they’re tied to him participating in marketing activities for the team.

    A-Rod’s bonuses and the personal services payments for Pujols led to MLB and the union cracking down on these extra payments and banning them, as they circumvented a bunch of rules. MLB cared because of the luxury tax issues, while the union cared because they don’t want salaries tied to stats.

    • Need Pitching & Hitting (but mostly hitting)

      I’ve seen the luxury tax impact of ARod’s bonuses reported both ways, but most recently it seems the consensus has been that they do count against the luxury tax threshold. The luxury tax issue with the bonuses seems to have been more about them not being counted as guaranteed money in the AAV, but they’d still count as regular bonuses count when earned.
      The main reason those type of payments were under scrutiny was that they violated MLB’s longstanding policy against bonuses tied to statistical performance.

  • Jersey Joe

    On Romine, I don’t really think he’ll be much of a factor, healthy or not. I mean, his OPS numbers are not really inspiring from any level he was at. And look at his AAA numbers. The fact of the matter is, Romine needs to be healthy to develop in AAA. Maybe by September, we’ll see something, but right now, Romine’s just a shiny new toy.

    • Ted Nelson

      He’s a C, so the offensive bar is not very high. His “AAA numbers” are a small sample, almost all of which was coming off a major injury.

    • Laz

      21 games over 2 seasons is not enough to judge Romine on. He has been solid in AA.

  • Zach

    The Yankees will have 84 players in big league camp which seems like a lot to me.A lot of these guys won’t contriubte this year in the Bronx. Are the Yankees doing this so teams can see first hand what we have in the minors to maybe make a move for a Catcher or RH OF after ST?

    • Havok9120

      There are a lot of competitions, some pitchers worth checking out (all of which need catchers to throw to), some players you’d rather have with the big league coaches/players for a bit for moral and training reasons, etc.

      Not sure if any FOs still treat ST as a useful metric, let alone a showcase, unless there’s a competition on.

  • Adam

    I don’t even think A-Rod could hit 13 homers if he played all 162 games.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      He’s not Ichiro. He’d hit 13 homers on upper-body strength alone.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      He’d hit 13 if healthy. I don’t doubt that.

      Of course, I actually doubt that’s actually Alex Rodriguez we’ve been watching these past few years at this point.

    • jjyank

      Well he hit 18 homers in 122 games last year, so I think you’re wrong on that.

  • mark

    I would be shocked if A-Rod hit 13 homers in 2013.

    • trr

      hell, I’d be shocked if he plays at all

    • Laz

      Based on his hr/game totals last year, if he plays 81 games that would be 12 hr. Is nothing out of the ordinary to get to 13 hr.

      • hogsmog

        For Arod to come back at the all-star break and play every game going forward would surprise me much, much more than him hitting 13 home runs, even in fewer games.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    Feel stronger about points 1-3 than I do about points 4-6. I don’t necessarily think we need extremes from Ichiro as much as we do solid performance combined with solid performance from whoever the RF counterpart is. It matters just as much to me to see a solid comeback from Manny Banuelos as it does from Jose Campos (although I agree that Slade remaining healthy would be a beautiful, precious thing.) I have no clue what to expect from Alex at this point. I don’t even think that’s been him I’ve been watching play baseball anymore.

    • hogsmog

      I was also surprised to not see Banuelos on the list of critical prospects coming off injuries.

      • Strat

        Is Banuelos even supposed to pitch this season? I thought the forecast was that he’d be lucky to be long-tossing late in the year, no? I don’t expect we’ll get anything encouraging (or otherwise) on him until a year from now.

  • grouchonyy

    I expect major cuts after the Florida East Coast trip, March 7 and 8. There is no downside to a big camp early on. Minor League camp opens later than ML camp (this year). The WBC always neccesitates larger rosters.

  • Preston

    I think Cervelli and Stewart are going to start most games next year regardless of Romine, he just hasn’t played enough or well enough to deserve the shot. If he’s not healthy/productive in 2013 he’ll be overtaken by J.R. Murphy or Peter Obrien, and all of those guys are just waiting for Gary Sanchez to take the job in 2014-15, so they are all fungible to me.

    • Ted Nelson

      Not so sure about that. He’s a good defender and respectable for a C prospect with the bat. I’m not saying he’s a favorite to start, but I think he’s firmly in the conversation.

      While they could develop at any rate going forward, Murphy and O’Brien have their own issues. I mean O’Brien hasn’t played in full season ball, and he’s MLB ready this season? Murphy struggled to break a .700 OPS himself this season, so I’m not sure what he has proven that Romine hasn’t.

      • Preston

        I meant 2014, Romine will probably start at AAA this year, if he doesn’t hit/stay healthy, he won’t play this season. At that point Murphy will probably have joined him in AAA, and Obrien who was a college senior will probably be promoted aggressively and be knocking at the door, so Romine will probably cease to be “the guy” and just become one of a group of guys. My point being I don’t have much faith in Romine being significantly better than Stewart/Cervelli and if he doesn’t entrench himself as the teams starter this season there will be other options next season, with Sanchez slated to arrive in 2015.

        • Ted Nelson

          We’ll see. I think Murphy is an option, though I don’t know that he’s any better than a healthy Romine. I think you are overly optimistic on O’Brien. I would love to see a fast ascent, but he hasn’t played in full season, has his own injury questions (he didn’t hit in the penn league, and the lingering injury is a better explanation for his chances than just stinking), and has defensive questions. Two levels a season would be quite aggressive, and put him on track for 2015 not 14.

          • Preston

            For me a senior like Obrien is either going to move quickly or be a non-prospect. I’m hoping for the former, while I realize that the latter is also a possibility.

        • Laz

          Murphy hasn’t proven that he even deserves AA yet. Sanchez is still awhile off, too far to count on him yet.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        The only way I see him being surpassed as far as pure luster goes by either of those two is if it becomes apparent that injury is going to get in the way of his being an everyday option, even a poor one.

        Like you said, it is way too early to have an inkling at what you’ve got long-term in O’Brien, and there appear to be questions as to how far Murphy will progress.

        Our disappointment with how injury has led to Romine not filling in the Jesus-hole in our hearts is coloring what we think of his potential moving forward.

      • thomas

        If you remember, they used him instead of Montero, or Cervelli when he was called up the year before last. Therefore, the Yankees are very high on him.

        • Manny’s BanWagon (formerly Andy Pettitte’s Fibula)

          or they didn’t want to show the rest of MLB just how bad Montero was behind the plate because they planned on trading him.

          • Ted Nelson

            Because other teams don’t scout minor league games. Those tricky Yankees.

            • Manny’s BanWagon (formerly Andy Pettitte’s Fibula)

              Obviously catching on the major league level, even defensively, is more difficult than in AAA but I’m sure a super genius like you would know that.

              You’re really in extra prick mode today which for you is saying a lot.

  • thomas

    I disagree on two points.
    1. I would not want to use Pineda at all, in order to have him an extra year before FA.
    2. Ichiro doesn’t have a no trade clause, therefore if he outperforms, trade at deadline or offseason, we they need the money to sign Cano.

    • Need Pitching & Hitting (but mostly hitting)

      They could eventually use Pineda this season and still gain an extra year before his free agency.
      Pineda would only have to be optioned for at least 20 days to gain an extra year before free agency (more, about a month and a half I believe, to avoid Super 2 status as well).

    • Laz

      This isn’t 2k baseball. An Ichiro that is way outperforming still isn’t going to get the best trade package.

      • Thomas

        No, not the best trade package but trade to free up money or a position. Yankees picked up Woods the same way. Oh and it wasn’t on 2k baseball A.H.

  • Manny’s BanWagon (formerly Andy Pettitte’s Fibula)

    I would think it’s pretty unlikely Arod’s gonna hit 13 HRs in less than half a season though it’s not impossible. That extra $6 million would he a big help in next years budget obviously.

    They’re pretty much stuck with him at this point so if it’ll help him hit HRs, I don’t care if he uses veterinary steroids and actually does become a centaur. It would probably be great for ticket sales. I’m sure they can add hay and apples to their post game buffet if necessary.

    • Laz

      from arod’s hr/game last year half a season would get him 12 hr. If he is healthy I really don’t think it is that much of a stretch.

      • Manny’s BanWagon (formerly Andy Pettitte’s Fibula)

        If he comes back after the All star break, there’s about 75 games left and I doubt the Yankees would give him absolutely no games off coming back from hip surgery.

        I think 65 games, maybe 70 is about the most you can expect him to play so while there isn’t a non zero chance he’ll hit more than 13, I think if you were a betting man, you’d take the under.

  • Scott Steiner

    How about, “Mark Teixeira needs to get back to form.”

    It seems unlikely at this point, 2010-2011 is no longer a small sample size. But it would help us get by without Alex much easier if Mark could play like it’s 2009 all over again.

    • Manny’s BanWagon (formerly Andy Pettitte’s Fibula)

      Great point. I think his decline at an age where you’d still think he’d be highly productive is something that the FO likely didn’t anticipate.

      If he was still a .370 wOBA, 135 wRC+ hitter, it would go a long way towards maintaining an elite level offense.

    • Laz

      2010/11 were down years but they were still solid seasons. 2012 he was bad, but if he can get back to the .350 obp/ 35 hr guy he was then that will really help the middle of the lineup.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      If you’re going to continue here, you must end every comment with “Big Poppa Pump is your hookup. Holla if you hear me!”

  • http://pinstripepundits.com Derek

    What part of the CBA stipulates the Yankees get an extra $6M for competitive balance tax purposes? Not sure I’m following this.

    • http://pinstripepundits.com Derek

      Nevermind, I think I get it. You’re saying that if he doesn’t hit 13 this year, he’ll probably reach it in 2014, which would add an extra 6M to the payroll…in effect forcing the Yankees to be under $183M this winter.

  • RetroRob

    Is there anything to prevent the Yankees from deciding to pay A-Rod’s marketing HR bonus in 2013? There’s probably no way to answer that question, but I’d be exploring the possibility if I was part of the Yankees front off.

    • RetroRob


    • Havok9120


      I mean, the MLB might veto, but it’s worth asking/trying.

      • RetroRob

        My gut says MLB would deny this since it would represent an attempt to get around the intent of the luxury tax threshold, which is to provide a drag on payroll growth and to constrain the bigger market teams.

        Yet that said, these marketing clauses are now no longer allowed, with the existing ones grandfathered in. I believe A-Rod and Pujols are the only ones with them, and I’m not even sure if Pujols’ were actually allowed. Can’t remember.

        That all said, MLB may be less concerned about setting some type of precedent since A-Rod (and maybe Pujols) are the only ones impacted and no other player(s) will have these clauses in the future. Secondly, if the Yankees opt to do it this year, they would pay additional luxury tax to MLB. If they do it next year, and they hold to Plan 189, then MLB will get no additional revenue from the Yankees, so MLB may decide to take the money and run.

        Meanwhile, the Player’s Association will be fine with it since their player is getting his money, and A-Rod will certainly have no issue with getting paid early.

        As said, I don’t think it’s likely, but it might be worth exploring if the Yankees are less concerned about paying the additional tax this year so they have a little more luxury tax room in 2014.