Feb
11

Thoughts before pitchers and catchers report

By
(Scott Halleran/Getty)

(Scott Halleran/Getty)

The Yankees will introduce Masahiro Tanaka at a press conference this afternoon and then pitchers and catchers will report to Spring Training on Friday, so the offseason is dangerously close to an end. Here are some thoughts as we wait for the 2014 season to get going.

1. At first, I thought it was pretty weird Alex Rodriguez dropped his various lawsuits and accepted his suspension over the weekend, but it makes more sense now that I think about it. First and foremost, A-Rod wanted to avoid having to testify under oath, which he already did once by storming out of his arbitration hearing. I know he denied everything on Mike Francesa’s show a few weeks ago, but doing it under oath is a different matter entirely. I’m sure Alex hopes to get back into baseball one day — I don’t know how realistic that is at this point, either as player or coach or broadcaster or whatever — and the whole scorched Earth approach isn’t conducive to returning to the game. The move caught me by surprise and it seems like Rodriguez simply came to his senses a few weeks too late.

2. Know how there are usually a ton of off-days in April? That isn’t the case this year. The Yankees play 13 straight games and 19 games in 20 days to start this season — ten of their first 19 games will either be indoors or in a park with a retractable roof (Houston, Toronto, Tampa) — so they’re going to need their fifth starter right out of the chute. The schedule doesn’t allow them to hide whoever wins the job until the end of the month or anything like that. I wouldn’t say this is a bad thing, necessarily, because all those off-days they should get in April will be spread out during the other months. It just means that whoever wins the fifth starter’s job has to be ready to go as soon as the regular season begins. There’s no grace period at the end of Spring Training.

3. As of right now, there are three bullpen spots up for grabs in camp, assuming either David Phelps or Adam Warren steps in as the long man. I’m interested to see if the Yankees use one of those spots on a second left-hander (Cesar Cabral?) because while carrying one would be rather useful with guys like David Ortiz and Chris Davis in the division, I think there’s a need to take the best relievers regardless of handedness. If the bullpen was a little stronger — let’s face it, Shawn Kelley and Matt Thornton are solid but not exactly shutdown relievers — it would be easier to squeeze that second southpaw in there. The Yankees don’t really have enough quality depth right now to get super specialized with bullpen roles.

Tyler Austin. (Presswire)

Tyler Austin. (Presswire)

4. My annual Preseason Top 30 Prospects List comes out on Thursday and the thing that stood out to me the most while writing it was all the turnover. Sixteen (!) players from last year’s list did not make this year’s list due to a variety of a reasons. Graduated to MLB, traded, released, poor performance, injury, whatever. More than half the players are new to the list and that’s pretty mind-blowing. They Yankees had three first round picks in last summer’s draft and a bunch of young international guys had strong stateside debuts last year, so that helped fill in the gaps, but it’s still crazy to see that much turnover in one year. It’s not a bad thing either, the team needed some change down on the farm.

5. Speaking of the Top 30, one prospect I am really looking forward to following this summer is third baseman Miguel Andujar. I just didn’t realize how good he actually is. The kid mashed in the Rookie Gulf Coast League last summer (.323/.368/.496 while repeating the level) and he has just about every tool other speed, plus he doesn’t turn 19 until next month. The Yankees will probably hold him back in Extended Spring Training before assigning him to Short Season Staten Island when the season starts in June, but there’s some serious breakout potential there. Andujar, who signed for $775k a few years ago, can do almost everything on the field and it might not be long before he follows Jesus Montero and Gary Sanchez as an internationally signed position player who becomes the team’s top prospect.

Categories : Musings
  • John C

    Also curious to see if guys like Abatino, Thairo Estrada, Tyler Wade and Gosuke Katoh can build off their very impressive 2013 pro debuts. Couple of guys I’m curious to see how they rebound from injuries are Angelo Gumbs and Anderson Feliz. Any updates on if these guys will be ready for the start of ST?

  • Darren

    It’s funny (funny queer, not funny ha-ha), A-Rod had about 5 different options on how to proceed in light of Selig’s investigation and witch-hunt, and he picked the absolute worst ne of all.

    If he admitted he did something wrong, came clean (again), he probably could have received a 100 or 125 games suspension, saved millions on lawyers’ fees, saved millions on lost money due to the year long suspension, and stayed in the news all year as the Yankees waited for his return in August. Instead, he presented a seemingly terrible defense, blew millions, pissed off fellow players even more, and is gone for the entire year. Worst of all for his centaur-sized ego, he’ll be out of the news unless he does even more stupid shit.

    Oy!

    • OldYanksFan

      I’m not sure of that. I think I read that early on, when ARod tried to negotiate, Bud’s best offer was 162 games, and he would budge from that.

      I believe ARod said he would ‘accept’ 75-100 games, and Bud said 162. If Bud offered 125, ARod probably would have gone with it.

      • Darren

        I don’t think we’ve ever heard legit evidence one way or the other of what was offered, but you have to think that Selig would have accepted a 125 game suspension, which still would have been the longest ever, or even 150 games, IF it was accompanied by an admission of guilt.

        • Gin and Juiced

          Unless Selig was truly out to get a big name to protect his own legacy. That’s why I was rooting for A-Rod. Too bad he’s a moron.

          • Darren

            There’s no question Selig was out to get a big name, but I think he has better advisors in place than ARod. He would have been able to claim a pretty clear victory if he got ARod to accept a suspension of more than 100 games.

          • Kiko Jones

            I’d hoped A-Rod would drag Selig with him and expose the Commissioner’s hypocrisy once and for all. Instead, A-Rod gives up and now St. Bud gets to further his canonization via that bulls**t farce of his in which he exhibits A-Rod’s carcass to prove he’s baseball’s savior, when in fact he presided over and eagerly looked the other way during The Steroid Era.

            In the end, who but the Yankees—by not having to pay A-Rod’s 2014 salary—came out of this mess looking good?

            • CS Yankee

              Scott Sizemore?

  • OldYanksFan

    In ARod’s denial, he said something to the effect of:
    “The allegations are NOT true, as laid out in the MLB complaint”

    The complaint said something like “… using in multiple years from 2009 thru 2012″… and then named some specific substances.

    My guess is, the complaint had a technical error, such a it was 2010 thru 2012, or the list of substances wasn’t exact, or some other small error.

    I remember reading that in his denial, ARod SPECIFICALLY said “as laid out in the complaint”. My guess is his lawyers told him that the statement, as exactly stated was technically ‘wrong’, even thought the basic allegation was truth.

    So if you got caught for speeding because you were doing 77 MPH on the highway, but in court you were accused of driving 75 MPH, technicaly the accusation would be wrong. But were still speeding and you will get a ticket.

    • Bryan

      And you would get off free because of the technicality. It is the reason why Braun got off (minus the whole shaming the worker part). If the collection of evidence has any potential for being discredited, well then it brings to question EVERYTHING.

  • wallypip

    Does anyone know what happens to A-Rod’s performance bonuses if the Yankees cut him next year. Obviously he still gets what they owe on his contract, but he’s due $6M if he hits 6 more HRs and then up to $30M if he hits a lot more HRs–which I’m sure he thinks he’s capable of. It seems to me that there is financial reason for him to make sure he gets on the field next year.

    • Darren

      I’m not sure of the answer, but I assume he only gets the bonuses if he reaches them. I would be surprised if the contract was drafted so that he was automatically entitled to the bonuses if the Yankees released or traded him. Although you never know.

      And I think his desire to get back on the field in 2015 is motivated by three factors. You can order them any way you want:

      (1) His love and passion for baseball
      (2) His love and passion for being in the spotlight
      (3) His love and passion for $21,000,000 (plus bonuses)

      • OldYanksFan

        Number (1) is all you need. He whole being is wrapped up in playing baseball.

        This guy is driven. He played last year (and raised a big fuss because the Yankees held him back a few weeks) after TWO hip surgeries.

        This guy is driven.

    • OldYanksFan

      ARod is racking up some all time numbers.
      We KNOW he wants to pass Willie in HR, and he probably thinks he has a shot at the Babe.
      He has 2,939 Hits. You KNOW he will go for 3,000.
      He is 6th all-time in RBI with 1969. 107 more moves him to 3rd.
      He has 5480 TB (9th all-time). 374 more moves him past Cobb for 5th place.
      He has 1919 RS (10th all-time).
      143 more puts him in 7th, passing Willie.
      255 more puts him in 4th, passing Hank and the Babe.
      He has 2568 Games Played (44th all-time). With 3 relatively healthy years, he could move to 15th.
      His career bWAR in 115.7, 12th places. 8.4 more moves him to 10th place.
      He has 1203 XBH, 6th place. Ahead of him are Willie (1323), the Babe (1356) and Stan the Man (1377).
      He has 2161 RC, 11th place. 222 more, and he passes Williams for 6th place.

      Alex is NOT going anywhere. If the Yankees cut him, he will just play for cheap for someone else, as the Yankees will still have to pay him, he will actually make more if he is cut… along with an extra $6m for passing Willie.

      I’m SURE Miami would be thrilled to have him.
      Make NO mistake. ARod sells tickets, and lots of them.

      The Yankees would be crazy to cut him as long as he can be a 1.5-2.0 War player. That costs $10m in today’s market.

      Make NO mistake. If ARod can walk, then ARod will play.

      • wallypip

        I agree with you, OYF. However, I am confused. If the Yankees cut Alex and he goes somewhere else and hits 6 HRs, do the Yankees owe him the $6M? It is technically a “marketing bonus.”

        • Gin and Juiced

          Yes, the Yankees will still owe him that. The contract is guaranteed, even if he’s playing elsewhere. That’s also true of other perks – like a hotel suite, travel, etc, the Yankees have to pick up all of those costs.

          • Ed

            That’s a really awkward one. To get around the rules in the CBA against stat based bonuses, it really is structured as a marketing bonus. He doesn’t actually get the money for hitting the home runs, but rather for doing promotional work associated with reaching the milestones.

            He has to do things like give the Yankees a large quantity of signed memorabilia, participate in promotional events, etc. That stuff’s going to be REALLY awkward if it comes up. I wonder how much room the Yankees have to say “this is no longer marketable, so we won’t market it.” Also, how does that play out if they do release him, then he hits milestones playing for someone else?

      • Dan

        I honestly don’t think that anyone else would sign him if the Yankees cut him, even if he played for the league minimum. Think about this, Bonds was still an elite offensive player in his last year with a 169 OPS+. A-Rod is, at best, slightly above average. And he’ll be coming back after missing an entire year, and after having played about a quarter of a season the previous year after coming off his second major hip surgery. And he didn’t exactly look elite last year.

        Plus Bonds never sued the union. That will probably make A-Rod a club house pariah. Maybe a year will make players forget it, but I doubt it. With him it’s Yankees or bust. But, I honestly don’t think the Yanks will cut him, because of the money owed.

        • Gin and Juiced

          Bonds wasn’t willing to take a significant pay cut. Big. Difference.

          If A-Rod is willing to play for the Marlins for league minimum, I have little doubt Loria would eat that right up. Even the Rays I think are smarter than the norm. A league minimum DH and make the Yankees pay? I bet even the Red Sox would consider it.

          • Ed

            Bonds was willing to play for the MLB minimum. Link.

        • Dalek Jeter

          On top of what Gin and Juiced (great name btw) said, it’s not like Bonds wasn’t even considered while making demands to still be payed like a superstar. I remember the Yankees (or at least Yankee fans and the NY media) considered it.

          For the record: I was completely for signing Bonds as a DH back then and I’m totally okay with A-Rod coming back next season and playing if he can be of value.

        • Gonzo

          Fun Fact: Barry Bonds withdrew from the union well before his final season. I have no clue how other players viewed this though.

          • The Tenth Inning Stretch

            I remember that. It made me mad because in every video game he became a right-handed white dude with the same initials.

      • Farewell Mo

        His milestone numbers really mean nothing at this point since they are tainted, legitimately or not depending what you believe, other than maybe to him.

        • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

          “other than maybe to him.”

          Which is all that matters if it’s his reason to come back.

        • The Great Gonzo

          They will also mean something to the Payroll Dept., I would assume

      • Chris

        Does he really sell tickets anymore? I’m not arguing really, I’m just curious if you guys think he really has that many fans still to be able to sell the tickets. Idk, I really question how many fans Arod really has anymore. He’s been destroyed by himself and the media for so long now that I question how many people out there really still like him and care if he gets 3000 hits etc. I just don’t know if he really makes that much money for the team these days. I don’t see that many people wearing number 13 jerseys and the like anymore.

        Just thinking out loud here. It’s sad really, he used to be a great player.

        • Ed

          Who knows if he will post suspension, but as for last season, here’s your answer.

        • Kiko Jones

          His decision not to follow thru with the scorched earth/’I’m innocent’ approach may have cost him a big chunk of whatever fans he had left, IMO.

          Then again, they still might support him in Miami.

        • I’m a looser and a trader baby so why don’t you kill me?

          He’ll definitely sell boo bird tickets at away games.

        • Holy Ghost

          Financially, he’s still an asset even if people hate him. People will buy tickets just to boo ARod.

          He’s still better than anyone the Yankees can play at 3rd base right now.

          He wants to leave the game on his own terms.

          I think there’s a greater than 50% chance he’ll be back with the Yankees in 2015

          • Holy Ghost

            Also, the choice for the Yanks is:

            A) Eat 60+ million and cut A-Rod then spend another 30+ million for someone else to play 3rd base

            or

            B) Play A-Rod at 3rd base until a better option comes along

            • Ahk

              I agree, he is the best option they have at 3rd right now. If he comes back in 2015, hits .260-.270 with 20 home runs and superior defense at third. who’s going to top that on the team right now? IMO, as much as I like him defensively, I think he’d be best served by being the full time DH. I just don’t trust his body to hold up anymore otherwise.

  • Havok9120

    I can’t help thinking that this was the kiss of death on Miguel Andujar career.

    Mainly because I enjoy giving Mike a ribbing, but still.

    • Accent Shallow

      I guess repeating Rookie League (at 17 and 18) is much different than repeating A or AA ball.

    • The Great Gonzo

      Mike Axisa just killed Miguel Andujar, pass it on…

      • I’m One

        So, someone is dead now?

        • The Great Gonzo

          Manny Banuelos breathes a sigh of relief…

          • Jorge Steinbrenner

            Damn you, Stephen Drew.

  • Gin and Juiced

    The real problem with figuring out the rotation and bullpen at the same time – they’ll burn each other out. And that’s if only the #5 is faulty. If any other starter craps the bed in April, the bullpen is going to be in rough shape. They don’t have the experience to figure it out and the team doesn’t have the wiggle room to lose too much distance early on.

    • Dalek Jeter

      “They don’t have the experience to figure it out.” Disagree. While he may not be more than a swing guy, Phelps has now had over a year and a half in the league and as shown he can be successful. Pineda has a full year of MLB experience under his belt, granted it was a couple years ago, but still that’s a year of experience pitching to major league hitters. Warren also has a full year, granted as a long reliever. Honestly, one of the reasons I’m so excited for a legit fifth starter competition is because they all have big league experience (apart from Nuno, who I think is the long shot) and have had levels of success in the big leagues.

  • Gin and Juiced

    “Sixteen (!) players from last year’s list did not make this year’s list due to a variety of a reasons. ”

    I really have to question the value of a 30-man list if this is the result one year later. You are basically guessing and so what’s the point?

    Even on the 10-man lists, I’m shocked by how many great players never make them. A top 100 i nthe sport I kinda get, but even there the latter half always seems like guess work, especially when talent evaluators hide behind “ceiling” and “potential” rather than results.

    Better, i think, to name “Prospects to keep an eye on this year”. That seems more accurate as to what actually being evaluated.

    • Dalek Jeter

      Well, in defense of a top 30, and huge turn around this particular season: Melky Mesa (#26 in 2013), Corey Black (#24), and David Adamns (#18) are no longer with the team. Meanwhile 1st round talents Eric Jiagelo, Aaron Judge, and Ian Clarkin weren’t with the team and guys like Marshall and Romine spent a lot of time with the big club last season and may no longer be considered “prospects.” Don’t get me wrong, 16 is a very large turn around but it’s not just because 16 prospects failed out last season.

      • Gin and Juiced

        But even those 1st rounds talents – one weak year and they become skeptical prospects.

        I’m not saying 16 failed out. I’m saying with that much turnover, what’s the point? Even lists 10 deep seem silly.

        Name 30 prospects to watch this year and I got no complaints.

        • Dalek Jeter

          “30 prospects to watch” is honestly how I look at the list apart from maybe the top 5. To me the difference between the number 1 and the number 5 on any prospect list is much greater than the difference between the number 5 and the number 15.

        • mitch

          It’s usually acknowledged that the back half of the list is pretty interchangeable. Hell, after Sanchez the next 10 guys are all pretty similar. I don’t think putting a number next to the name is much more than making it easier to read.

          • Kevin

            And it’s a fun debate. We all know the numbers are meaningless, but at the end of the day this a blog devoted to talking about people who run around throwing, hitting, and chasing a ball. It’s all meaningless, but it’s fun.

      • Bryan

        Not to mention you have to think that guys like DBJ and Culver are off. Santana was picked in the rule 5 minor league portion. In my opinion I get the feeling Marshall will still be on since he still has the tools to be a top guy. Here the ones I think are gone…

        DBJ (terrible)
        Culver (still potential…but still not a good one at the moment so kicked off)
        Santana (rule 5)
        Romine (no longer a prospect)
        Mesa (no longer with club)
        Black (traded)
        Adams (waived)
        Corban Joseph (not very good…maybe he makes the back end but…meh)
        Adam Warren (no longer a prospect)
        Austin Aune (gosh what a horrible year he had)
        Chase Whitley (reliever who may have some potential…but is still just a reliever)
        Dellin Betances (failure as a starter. But relievers are not top prospects)
        Matt Tracy (bad year…plus already 25)
        Nick Goody (missed all of last year…though could sneak on the tail end)

        I guess I am missing a few but I am pretty certain on most of those.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      So, on your blog….

      (keeps in mind this is a screen name he’s never seen before today)

  • keith

    Please please please no more words or pictures of Arod….I am so sick of Arod….Lets us have at least one year with no freaking drama….thank you

    • Farewell Mo

      Amen to that.

    • PhillyMatt

      I second the motion. Can we add Robinson Cano to that list please?

      I did’t get a hurumph out of that guy.

    • I’m a looser and a trader baby so why don’t you kill me?

      Not me. Drama please.

  • Dan G

    I remember Cabral reminding me of a poor man’s Damaso Marte. Similar motion, sweeping breaking ball to get lefties out. If he doesn’t break camp he’s pretty much guarenteed to be around at some point, particularly in the post season against lefties. He still has options right?

    • CS Yankee

      A poor man’s Marte would have to be a guy that lives in a third-world country.

      • jjyank

        I assume he was talking about Marte when he was still good. And he was pretty good for awhile.

  • mick taylor

    arod is yesterdays papers. what i would like the self righteous blowhard bill madden is ask his beloved david ortiz, this one question. would you be willling to have baseball disclose what substance you tested positive for in 2003, so as to clear any suspicions it was nothing more than vitamins as you claim. i mean, my beloved m.v. p , big papi, you could ask those test results be released since you could as an individual waive your confidentiality rights. of course our beloved big papi would not agree to that because it would reveal he tested for peds he knowingly took to enhance his game. hey bill madden, how about it.
    ds

    • Kiko Jones

      I’m with you, Mick Taylor. But expecting ethical consistency from Madden is a pipe dream.

  • Joe Kotulak

    I know this is off topic, but I would like to make a point about clutch hitting. To me a clutch hitter exists, but not in the traditional sense of what a casual fan would expect from a clutch hitter. A casual fan would expect a clutch hitter to be consistently great late and in close situations from year to year. I don’t look at it that way as consistency can be defined in many different ways when talking about RISP.

    To me I would define a clutch hitter as far as consistency as any hitter than can hit 50 points above what the league average is with RISP for 3 out of every 5 years. In other words if the league average were 258, one would have to hit 308 that year with RISP and 50 points above the what league average is for that particular year every 3 out of 5 years. See I disagree with anyone who thinks that only a key hit with a RISP late in a game is most important. All hits in my opinion are important with RISP. No one sits there watching a game in the 5th where a guy hits a grand slam to make a 4-1 score to a 8-1 score and thinks man this hit with a RISP is meaningless. Contrary to popular belief there is no such thing as having enough runs. I’ve seen my fair share of comebacks in sports and I fully buy into Yogi’s belief that “it ain’t over until it’s over.” Just because people like to associate clutch hitting with the accolade of hero doesn’t make a key hit with RISP in the first inning any less important than a key hit in the 9th inning. But fans mistakenly seem to think that.

    We know what a guy will do with RISP is unpredictable from year to year, but what we can predict with a fair amount of confidence what a guy will do with RISP over a 5 year period given the type of hitter we are talking about. So Yadier Molina for example, we would expect him to be 50 points above league average with RISP at least 3 times in 5 years where he is about 50 points above league average with RISP. With someone like Soriano we would expect him to be about in line with league average with RISP over the next several years +/- 25 points.

    Now a guy’s success in the past doesn’t guarantee success in the future with RISP, however one could argue that someone who comes through more frequently in the past is more clutch because they come through more often than someone else. It’s not something that is an exact science, but it is understandable how people could look at it that way since human nature would only rear jealous towards though he came through more often in the past compared to another.

    Also I think there is something to be said for luck with RISP. I mean if you look at Jeter for example, he was a 300 hitter with RISP for 5 straight years from 1998-2003. I think it took a lot more than luck for Jeter to have a stretch like that. It wouldn’t surprise if the league success rate with RISP went up if guys went to right field more. I think we take for granted that it is harder to have a higher success rate with RISP for pull hitters and as a result we attribute their less success with RISP to luck rather than the lack of willingness to hit the ball up the middle the other way. Of course sample size could be a part of it, but typically sample size does not matter so much for a great hitter. A guy like Trout will hit great with RISP regardless of the sample size. Same thing for Jeter when he is having his typical good year.