Thoughts after the first week of spring games

(Scott Iskowitz/Getty)

(Scott Iskowitz/Getty)

The Grapefruit League season is one week old and we’ve learned … well, pretty much nothing so far. Masahiro Tanaka still has a nasty splitter with the MLB ball. I guess that’s something. Otherwise it’s still too early to draw any meaningful conclusions from the handful of games that have been played. Everyone’s healthy and that’s the most important thing. Here are some scattered thoughts.

1. So far, so good for Derek Jeter. He appears to be moving well both in the field and down the line, looking far more mobile than he did at any point last year. It’s very encouraging. The Cap’n has looked awful at the plate — one strikeout, one walk, eight ground balls (three double plays) in ten plate appearances — though that is to be expected after missing just about all of last season. His timing is not even close to being there yet and he’s got a little under four weeks to find it. As far as his ability to move laterally in the field and run down the line are concerned, everything looks good. That’s most important right now following all the leg injuries.

2. It sure seems like Frankie Cervelli is being groomed as Tanaka’s personal catcher. He’s caught most of his bullpen and live batting practice sessions, plus he was behind the plate when he made his Spring Training debut over the weekend. Brian McCann has to learn an entire new staff this spring, so it makes sense to have Cervelli spend so much time with the new guy since he already knows the rest of the staff. Joe Girardi has proven himself to be a fan of personal catchers — I can’t help but think this stems from who he was as a player — and it looks like Tanaka/Cervelli will be a thing this year. They just have to make sure McCann spends enough time with Tanaka this spring so they aren’t total strangers should Cervelli get hurt or something.

3. One little thing that usually means more than nothing in Spring Training: reliever usage. Over the last few springs, the Yankees have shown that the guys who are being more seriously considered for the roster are scheduled to pitch on specific days and get to start an inning clean, at least early in camp. The guys who are further behind in the bullpen race are usually held back in case someone hits their pitch count in the middle of an inning. Based on how they’ve been used over this last week, that’s good news for Dellin Betances and Preston Claiborne, and bad news for Mark Montgomery, Cesar Cabral, and others. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t definitive proof of anything, but the Yankees may be tipping their hand based on what they’ve done in the past and how they’ve used guys so far.

Chris Owings. (Denis Poroy/Getty)

Chris Owings. (Denis Poroy/Getty)

4. Is it just me, or does a March trade feel inevitable this year? The Yankees have actually made a Spring Training trade that directly impacted their Opening Day roster in each of the last three years (Vernon Wells in 2013, Chris Stewart in 2012, Sergio Mitre for Chris Dickerson in 2011), so a deal in the next few weeks would hardly be unprecedented. The needs on the infield and in the bullpen still exist and both Austin Romine and John Ryan Murphy are so obviously being showcased given all their playing time (particularly at DH) so far. Murphy for one of the Diamondbacks’ extra shortstops make so much sense, at least from this end of the deal. Arizona simply might not like New York’s catchers all that much. Either way, I can’t shake this feeling that a trade will go down before Opening Day.

5. You’ve probably seen it by now, but the other day Robinson Cano made some comments to Jon Heyman about the Mariners’ need for another bat and another pitcher. Not exactly groundbreaking stuff, everyone knows Seattle needs more help. It sounded very much like a player who is just starting to realize he is no longer on a big payroll team that will go out and spend money to address its needs. I’m not sure how else to take the “if it was up to me, we’d have (Ervin) Santana, (Nelson) Cruz and Ubaldo (Jimenez)” comment. We all know Cano left for the biggest payday, pure and simple, but man this whole thing is so weird. It seems playing for the Not Yankees has been a shock to his system. I really wish he was still wearing pinstripes, but I can’t begrudge the team for refusing to meet those demands.

Categories : Musings


  1. Nate says:

    I’d much, much rather trade Romine than Murphy, but I’d imagine that murphy has much more trade value than Romine.

    • Tanakapalooza Floozy says:

      I’d say Romine has very little trade value at this point.

      • nycsportzfan says:

        SOme team could easily view Romine as ready to go catcher though. Hes got enough pop in his bat, is not bad defensively, and has paid his due.

        • Chris H says:

          What “pop”? His .279 SLG in 154 big league ABs, his .364 SLG in 118 AAA ABs, or his .392 SLG in 791 AA ABs? He’s highly unlikely to become anything more than a plus defense, below average offense, backup catcher long term. There’s a slight chance he’s league average with the bat but that would require making more contact than I think he’s capable of at the major league level, regardless no team is giving anything of real value on that slight chance.

          • RetroRob says:

            I don’t know if “slight chance” is correct, although I think it’s fair to say his peak value is more of an unknown right now, which is why the Yankees should not trade him when his value is at the bottom.

            The numbers you mentioned don’t necessarily tell us much. Romine was twice rated as one of the top 100 prospects in the game, something Murphy has yet to accomplish. Most evaluators have him as a hitter with some pop (whatever that means), projecting 15 HRs, 25-30 doubles if he were to play regularly. There actually is more questions about his glove than his bat.

            The issue for Romine is he made it to AA and his first full year there hit for a solid BA and very good OBP, but his power numbers did dip. Not a shock for his first full year in AA, which is the big transition point, yet I’d say he more than held his own. Also not a surprise because the Yankees AA park in Trenton is a tough power park for righties.

            Then we all know what happened. Romine hid the severity of his back injury, forcing the Yankees to trade a potential solid reliever for Chris Stewart, which is something to keep in mind when saying Romine will bring noting of value back, since the Yankees did have to give up a player who could have been useful to them.

            Romine then had a chance last year to play regularly (as Murphy did) and knock off the rust, continue his development, etc. Then Cervelli got injured, he was called up to the majors too soon and then spent long periods of time sitting, substituting, etc. Not exactly the best way to continue his career. He needed to be catching and batting regularly in AAA.

            Other MLB teams know this and they’ll try to get Romine for pennies on the dollar. No reason for the Yankees to do that. They can still get those pennies on the dollar next year, but it makes far more sense to let him and Murphy share catching in AAA this year (although with Murphy getting the heavier share), DH a lot and see if the lost two years (and I do consider 2013 mostly lost development wise even though he was in the majors) can be recovered with regular playing time.

    • nycsportzfan says:

      Sorry to hijack your post, but was just wondering where the Game thread is for todays game, Mike? Figured i’d have better chance of Mike seeing this up here instead of down the bottom of the page. Yanks looking good so far. Warren is pulling a Phelpsy, giving up some hits, but battling outta jams, and Nuny is already 2-2 wit run scored and double, and Canzler has a ribby.

  2. Wicomico Pinstripes says:

    Tanakavelli? I can dig it.

  3. Eddy says:

    Oh man Mike, you hit the nail on the head with point #5 above. I was thinking the exact same thing when I saw those comments the other day. I said to myself, “well look who finally opened his eyes and realized his situation…” Poor Robby.

    • Mr. Roth says:

      I kind of feel sorry for Cano. I mean, I can’t feel too bad for a guy set to make $240 million over the next 10 years, but I feel a little bad.

      I think the idea of the huge payday is something that appealed to him, but now that he has more money than he’ll ever need, he might be starting to realize that the biggest payday isn’t the only thing he should have considered when making his decision. Whether he got $175 million from the Yankees or $240 million from the Mariners, he’d still be filthy rich.

      At least with the Yankees he wouldn’t have been a filthy rich loser.

      • Darren says:

        Them’s the breaks

      • vin says:

        I wonder just how much Jack Z and ownership lied to Robbie regarding their additional spending. They might have promised him that they’d spend money elsewhere, and haven’t come through on that yet. I’m interested in seeing how this plays out. I still think he ends up back with the Yankees at some point in the next 10 years with the Mariners footing a portion of the bill.

        • BeanTooth says:

          Just take what they said at the time of the deal. There was all kinds of chest thumping about adding more big pieces. And then they signed Corey Hart.

        • The Great Gonzo says:

          In fairness to Jack Z, he may believe that Hart/LoMo/Cruz is a giant haul alongside Cano. And for a team like the Mariners, it kinda is. I don’t think, if your speculation is correct, that Jack thought he was lying.

        • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

          Would you have believed Seattle at the time? It’s a couple of steps away from believing Jeffrey Loria, even when you’re the 5th FA he signed tha off-season.

          At least Robbie’s got that bathtub full of money, “Arthur” style. Hope he enjoys it.

      • Mahkk says:

        I don’t feel bad at all and it’s not just because of the money. In that division, with their payroll flexibility, it doesn’t take a genius to realize that the Mariners are outclassed. I’ll give them credit for spending big this year, but Robbie Cano alone is not going to tip the balance away from Texas and LA. It is going to take several seasons of work and creative thinking.

        In the end, he had a decision to make- “Do I take the money and become fantastically wealthy rather than just really rich or do I stay with the Yankees, have better numbers and more chances of winning”. He chose the become fantastically wealthy route. I don’t blame him a bit. But I just think if you choose that route, then you have to know what that means and what you’re getting yourself into. Complaining about it, even if just a little bit, sounds more like a sulking child who realizes he is about to face the consequences of his decision.

        In the end, Robbie will continue to put up impressive numbers, if drop off a bit from hitter friendly Yankee stadium with all the protection he received in the lineup. Maybe the Mariners can pull a playoff birth sometime in the next few seasons if they get lucky and sign some guys or make a few good trades.

        But at the end of the day, Robbie is eventually going to retire to a huge mansion with a ton of foreign cars, several vacation homes, a trophy wife, debt-free, with the knowledge that not only did he set his life up, but that of his entire family for the next 2-3 generations, maybe more if he invests well. He’ll still be known as one of the greatest 2nd basemen of all time and possibly make the HOF.

        So no… I don’t feel bad at all for him. He’s being forced to lay in the bed he made. And guess what? That bed ain’t too bad.

      • Joel says:

        I hope Cano falls flat on his face this year…he’s just a greedy SOB….Pedroia took a home team discount …Cano went for the bucks….HOW MUCH DOES ONE PERSON NEED !!!!!….I hope he cries every day of the season

        • The Great Gonzo says:


          Ian Kinsler

        • Pasqua says:

          The next time you’re offered a raise at work, be sure to turn it down. I mean, how much does one person need, right?

          • OldYanksFan says:

            Really senseless comment.
            If one is making $60k a year, and another company offers your $75k, that extra $15k will definitely make a difference in the quality of your life. Reducing debt, saving for college, buying a new car.

            Tell me (within some modicum of reason) what Robbie can NOT have on $175m that he can have with $240m.

            This wasn’t about money.
            This was pure ego.

            When Mantle was given $100,000 in the early ’70s, he said
            ‘Shucks… I don’t know what I’ll do with all that money’.

            • Steve says:

              Pretty irrelevant. What can Derek Jeter not have with 9 mil that he can have with 12? He’s everybody’s prince though, plus he stayed with the team, so we’ll ignore that.

              Literally the Yankees are the team that have benefited by far the most in the Majors from players being “greedy” or “money grubbers.” The one time they don’t, everybody kills the guy. It’s a really bad look.

              • Chris H says:

                Jeter has gotten hammered at just about every turn by most real Yankee fans over his last two deal (the original and his most recent raise on the player option) so that’s a poor counter.

        • nycsportzfan says:

          I know preseason dosen’t matter, but the M’s look pretty dang good in the very early stages of the spring.

      • ALZ says:

        And it’s not like it is for a year or 2 like many people do. 10 years is a long time to go and not win.

  4. gageagainstthemachine says:

    “They just have to make sure McCann spends enough time with Tanaka this spring so they aren’t total strangers should Cervelli get hurt or something…”
    …and for when the Yankees make the playoffs and there’s no chance in hell the Yankees bench Jorge Posada Brian McCann because Jose Molina Francisco Cervelli was A.J. Burnett’s Masahiro Tanaka’s personal catcher the whole season.
    Did I get the narrative right there?

    • BronxBomber98 says:

      Well done. I had forgotten about that ordeal, thinking “they won’t really take Posada out of the lineup in the World Series right? RIGHT?!?!”

    • roadrider says:

      Yeah, I really, really hate the personal catcher thing. It’s another one of Girardi’s dumb-ass conceits (like playing Stewart nearly every day) that stem from his delusions of his own importance as a (mediocre) player. No wonder Posada hated him.

      • I'm One says:

        Yeah, it would make much more sense to play the 2 catchers based on the opposing pitcher. Defensively, Cervelli holds his own and he seems to be the better hitter against LH pitchers. So what do the Yankees do in this case, ensure Tanaka only pitches against LH starters?

      • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

        Uhhhhh……Girardi didn’t invent that. Not even by a longshot. Maybe you should be giving Bobby Cox a call, amongst others.

        I’ll get out of the way of your narrative, though.

        • Darren says:

          I don’t think he said Girardi invented it, which obviously he didn’t. But Girardi sure embraced the hell out of that strategy. And in light of the increased availability of analysis between the time Cox was using Eddie Perez to catch Maddux and the time Girardi started to take Jorge’s bat out of the lineup, it was even more of an egregious move.

          • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

            I think Bobby Cox was well aware that Eddie Perez wasn’t Javy Lopez at the plate, or whoever the hell was catching at that time.

          • ALZ says:

            But it is an easy way to work in McCann getting a day or 2 off a week, like he should be.

      • OldYanksFan says:

        Really… what the fuck does Girardi know about Catching in MLB? Especially compared to ME!

    • The Great Gonzo says:

      um… yup

      • mt says:

        I normally agree with not having personal catchers but given Tanaka’s major transition AND McCann’s newness to AL and need for learning an entire staff (inlcuding CC who will need more focus than a normal veteran #1 pitcher given his issues last year ) and also learning a new league of hitters, I am in favor of Cervelli doing this in this particular set of circumstances.

        • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead says:

          Yeah, I’m on this train. Normally not a fan, but am a BIG fan of adapting based on circumstances. Seems to make sense here.

        • The Great Gonzo says:

          Yeah, I am not discounting the value of using a personal catcher on this VERY unique circumstance… That said, I would want McCann to catch him once in a while at least. Don’t keep them separated…

  5. gbyanks says:

    The question is, is there a way to get owings without giving up sanchez?

    • Dicka24 says:

      Possibly yes. It would be by trading Murphy. Might cost you another asset as well though.

    • Preston says:

      Maybe the Dbacks like Owings more than Gregorius. It seems to make sense for them to keep both and trade Aaron Hill and his salary instead. I’d be interested in Hill too.

      • The Great Gonzo says:

        Hill for Romine and the Yankees eat the salary could CERTAINLY work, methinks. I could get behind that.

        • gbyanks says:

          it would take a hell of alot more to get hill. 2nd baseman who hits for average power and isnt signed long term. only makes 12 million

          • Preston says:

            Also an injury risk though and 12 million isn’t a drop in the bucket to the Dbacks.

          • The Great Gonzo says:

            OK throw in a B Prospect that the flock will automatically assume is a MASSIVE overpay.

            Regardless, if you can get a non-Owings infielder for a non Sanchez/Murphy catcher, you fucking do it.

  6. TWTR says:

    Those March trades you mentioned largely stunk, so I would hope for no moves.

    As I have said, I really don’t want to trade Murphy yet.

  7. Dicka24 says:

    I feel no pity for Cano, or anyone in the same predicament. I say that with the understanding that I have no issue with players/Cano, taking the monster money. If Cano left for a few measly millions, then I’d call him names. He left for what though, $65 million more in total dollars, not counting the massive savings in taxes. So I totally get why he took the Mariners deal, but with that, I don’t feel bad at all for him, for being in a situation with less around him. That was his choice, and it is the trade off players make when these decisions are made. So sorry Cano, enjoy the money you wanted and received, but that roster is one of the consequences.

    • mt says:

      Also with injuries to Walker and Iwakuma, he may get his wish and they may go after Ervin Santana. Also at some point Morales price will be so low that Mariners may re-sign him. I keep hearing that M’s have exhausted their budget but I thought their ownership was pretty deep pocketed so that they can switch to bringing in more players and taking the financial hit pretty easily (sort of like the Yankees can do).

      What I would love to know is whether Cano’s comments have any impact on making Mariners more likely to exceed their budget – I would think so – M’s have so much invested in the idea of acquiring Cano as a sign that team is now a major force in MLB, as opposed to a afterthought – not sure they want an unhappy team icon (non-Felix division).

  8. mt says:

    Use of Cervelli like this also means that there really is no competition for back-up catcher – both Romine and Murphy will go to AAA or one will be traded. (also Cervelli has no options, I believe). If Cervelli is focusing on Tanaka, not sure Yanks would blow that partnership at end of spring just to get either Romine or Murphy in majors or even to get the incremental trade return from another team that Cervelli, as opposed to one of the other two, might bring. Having Tanaka comfortable is more important.

    Hopefully Jeter will regain his 2012 swing but if he does not, we all know Jeter will be given a long benefit of the doubt. The fact that he is retiring this year hopefully gives Girardi more “cover” or confidence to pull the plug on him batting 2nd earlier than Girardi would do in a season where Jeter’s future were still up in the air. (Strange to talk about a manager having to have confidence to make a line-up move but this is Jeter we are talking about here.)

    To be fair, in defense of Jeter batting 2nd, let’s be clear: batting two lefties Elllsbury and Gardner at top of line-up has never been Girardi’s type of preferred move (although when Gardner bats ninth you still have two lefties in a row except for first inning.) I know Jeter will hit into DPs: I am just resigned to some DPs; I am still hoping that it is not too excessive or leads to us losing games.

    Yanks must optimize Ellsbury (both keeping him on bases by Jeter not hitting into massive amount of DPs and Jeter allowing him a chance to steal). I think press will fixate/focus on Jeter if he is floundering or cancelling out Ellsbury once season starts, hopefully moving Girardi along to make any necessary change.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

      I’d say that, if we see Cervelli getting the majority of the time with Tanaka early on, that it’s certainly a tipping of the hand. Yes.

  9. The Great Gonzo says:

    This pretty much covers it, Robbie:

  10. adjusts batting gloves says:

    Before everyone, Mike included, pushes the panic button on Jeter batting second, I’d like to point out that there have been no ‘hit and run’ calls or clean steal attempts b/c it was the first week of spring training. When Gardner got on ahead of Jeter in that televised ‘captain’s return’ game against Pittsburgh, he barely took a lead. Jeter’s usefulness in the 2-hole will be predicated on the aggressiveness of the baserunners ahead of him, and right now they’re taking it easy, as they should.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

      Anyone judging Derek Jeter’s hitting on a week’s worth of ST games needs a one-way ticket on a time machine to 1984, with Frank Messer in it, to the days that you’d barely even know they were playing at this point in time.

      • mitch says:

        Jeter may never get a hit again, but Yangervis Solarte will more than make up for it.

        (.800 + .000)/2 = .400. Having Yang and an automatic out is basically like having two Ted Williams in the lineup.

      • nyyankfan_7 says:

        But if it’s only a one way trip how would they learn from their mistake? They’d be stuck in 1984 desperately trying to find out if the Yankees won their grapefruit league game, if Marty McFly actually was able save his parents marriage and his subsequent birth before he turned invisible at the “Under the Sea” dance and why their cell phone is so much smaller than everyone else’s and the 4G doesn’t work.

        Sounds like a Twilight Zone episode. (That’s an old tv shows kiddos, and not it’s not about vampires)

      • Tanakapalooza Floozy says:

        God I miss the Frank Messer/Bill White tandem.

  11. John Duci says:

    I hope that is not going to happen. I want McCann as tanakas Cather. I want the better player in the lineup and McCann makes pitchers better he calls a great game. Plus what about the playoffs were not going to sit McCann and it would be stupid to have them not familiar with eachother

    • The Great Gonzo says:

      What if Tanaka is a fan of fist pumps and funny faces?

    • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

      Ye of little faith.

    • stuckey says:

      McCann isn’t going to catch 162 games. Cervilli’s lesser ‘bat’ is going to be in the line-up every 4th or 4th day ANY WHICH WAY, so what difference does it make if its managed that way?

      • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

        Because Posada and Flaherty and Girardi hates Jorgie and other things that have no bearing on today.

        Kelly Stinnett did suck buckets.

    • stuckey says:

      “One note about Tanaka’s start: Francisco Cervelli is not making the trip, but Brian McCann is. Looks like McCann will catch Tanaka this time around.”

      Our long national nightmare is over.

  12. Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead says:

    I’d much, MUCH rather give up Romine than Murphy. But that probably doesn’t get much done, and we end up having to give up someone else of value.

    If we could give up Romine + B prospect for Gregorius, I’d probably be on board. But if we’re giving up Murphy, it had better be for Owings.

  13. Jorge Steinbrenner says:

    6. Scott Sizemore.

  14. Darren says:

    In hindsight, what Cano really should have done was signed a crazy extension before 2013 or sometime during the year. I bet he could have gotten the Yankees to go up to $200mm. That way he never would have been tempted to hear any other offers. Because once you know there’s an offer out there for an extra $65mm, there’s NO WAY to turn it down. Nobody would. You just have to avoid being put in that position.

  15. JRod says:

    I actually almost feel bad for the M’s. They gave their new toy a quarter of a billion dollar contract, and while he hasn’t played a game for them yet, he’s already nudging them in the press: “we should get this guy, we should get that guy.” How long of a honeymoon do they get before he’s openly disgruntled? Maybe you should sub-contract for Santana personally and pay him out of your own pocket, Robbie.

  16. Grover says:

    No problem showcasing both catchers as someone will eventually overpay for one based on injury or nonperformance but I do not see the urgency on the infield or the pen that is pounded out every day in your posts. I would rather they wait and get a slightly better arm or prospect when somebody calls on Murphy a month in to the season when the price for catching is along the lines of bend over.

    • Tanakapalooza Floozy says:

      I’m actually not that worried about the pen in here grand scheme of things. But the IF? Come on.

  17. Matt DiBari says:

    I’ just still not comfortable with Cervelli behind the plate. When they gave him his shot in 2010 and 2011 he was the worst catcher in baseball.

    He may have improved, and I suppose the only way to find out is if they give him a shot. But they need to be willing to pull the plug quickly.

    • nycsportzfan says:

      He has improved, and has a very good arm, and its rare, a catcher can play 3rd in a pinch, and his speed for a catcher is very nice little extra, as well as his bat overall. Not to mention, the energy he brings, can only help. I love Cervelli. I think hes extremely underrated.

  18. nycsportzfan says:

    After the 1st wk of spring games, I think the yanks are as underrated as I’ve said they are for the past couple months or so. They have much starting pitching depth, versatility within the pitching ranks, a potent offense, that has nice blend of power and speed, and a insane defender coming off the bench in Ryan, and some really high upside player in the fold, with guys like Betances and Pineda. Outside of Infield depth(I actually really like Nuny, and who knows about Solarte), they are looking extremely beastly.

    Postseason baby!

    • Captain Turbo says:

      They look better than I was expecting at this point. If we can get some magic from the Captain and Pineda a some of the other question marks, who knows how far they go?

  19. Captain Turbo says:

    I can’t blame Robbie for taking the money but he has to face the fact that he might not see the playoffs again for a very long time, if ever. I wonder though if he will get more vocal against management if the Mariners continue to fall short.

  20. Wheels says:

    I know this is kinda out there, but could Cervelli back up Teixeira at first? I bet he could handle it.

    • Chris H says:

      McCann makes more sense at first in that scenario, gives McCann a break from catching, keeps his bat in the lineup, bat plays better at first, and doesn’t clog up the DH spot in the lineup.

  21. Giancarlo Murphy says:

    My first thought on Robbie also was “get used to it” but he’s not an idiot and I think he knew exactly what he was doing. There is no reason Nintendo of America can’t pay Robbie what he’s making (i.e. his market value) AND bolster the team by signing the players he’s suggested. Same situation for Kobe Bryant with the Lakers.

    As for “rich vs. wealthy”:

  22. Yogi says:

    Deja vu all over again.

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