Apr
01

Thoughts on Opening Day

By
No more Spring Training photos after today. Probably. (Presswire)

No more Spring Training photos after today. Probably. (Presswire)

Finally, Opening Day has arrived. The Yankees (and Astros) are the last team in baseball to play their first game this year, but at this point, waiting another day or two is no big deal. I kinda enjoyed getting the league-wide Opening Day excitement out of the way yesterday so I can focus exclusively on the Yankees today. Anyway, here are some thoughts before Game One.

1. There’s still no word on how the Yankees will squeeze Yangervis Solarte onto the 40-man roster and I honestly have no idea what the move will be. There’s nothing obvious. I would be surprised if they cut ties with Eduardo Nunez considering, well, their infield stinks and getting rid of infield depth isn’t a good idea right now. Teams like the Tigers, Rangers, and Mets all need middle infield help at the moment and he’d get claimed off waivers in a heartbeat. Maybe Nik Turley and his mysterious arm injury will go to the 60-day DL, but the long delay in announcing the move leads me to believe a trade might be in the works. Something small. Preston Claiborne for a decent prospect. Something like that. One way or another, we’ll find out today.

2. Solarte will be one of five rookies on the team’s Opening Day roster, joining Masahiro Tanaka, Dean Anna, Vidal Nuno, and Dellin Betances. I have no idea when the last time that happened was. I can’t imagine it was recent. The 2009 Yankees had four rookies on the Opening Day roster (Brett Gardner, Ramiro Pena, Phil Coke, Jon Albaladejo) and that’s as far back as I looked. Not sure if there’s an easier way to do it besides manually, which is hardly easy. Tanaka is obviously very important and both Nuno and Betances have a chance to pitch their way into the club’s long-term bullpen picture. Anna and Solarte … they’re bench players until proven otherwise in my book. Add in Michael Pineda, Ivan Nova, and some other relievers and the Yankees seem to have more youth on the season-opening roster than at any other point in the last, I dunno, 10-15 years.

3. Aside from Tanaka, Solarte, and Anna, who will be the first player to make his MLB debut with the Yankees this year? Eight guys made their big league debut with New York last season (Nuno, Claiborne, Corban Joseph, David Adams, Zoilo Almonte, John Ryan Murphy, Brett Marshall, Cesar Cabral), though 2013 was an aberration because of all the injuries. I’m guessing the first guy to get called up and make his debut will be lefty Fred Lewis. Almost seems too obvious, no? A reliever is the safe pick because there’s so much turnover in the bullpen, and with Matt Thornton looking kinda crappy in camp, a lefty could be called on in a hurry. Lewis seemed to jump Cabral on  the depth chart, though 40-man issues may complicate things.

(Elsa/Getty)

(Elsa/Getty)

4. So now that the regular season has started, how long until Stephen Drew signs? It’s after Opening Day, meaning he can not receive a qualifying offer next winter if he signs a one-year deal. (He’d have to sign after the draft to not cost a pick.) As I said before, there are a ton of teams out there that need middle infield help, and I can’t imagine he’ll hang around unsigned much longer. Some team will get desperate and jump on him, and that team will be better for it. Will that team be the Yankees? I think it’s possible but unlikely. I’m guessing the team wants to see how Derek Jeter and Brian Roberts perform on an everyday basis before bringing in someone else. Plus there isn’t any time to learn a new position. Still makes sense though.

5. Remember when the Yankees always seemed to get off to slow starts? Well, they didn’t seem to get off to slow starts, they absolutely did. They went 58-64 in March and April from 2004-08, a .475 winning percentage. Thankfully that isn’t the case anymore. In the last five years they’ve gone 71-45 in March and April, a .612 winning percentage. The scheduling gods did the Yankees a solid this season by sending them to Houston for the first series, giving them a chance to bank some wins early in 2014. We can even expand that to include the second series against the Blue Jays. Six straight games against last place teams from a year ago, meaning the Yankees will have a chance to play their first home game one week from today with four or five wins already in the bank. The AL East is going to be tight this year and the Bombers are in position to get off to a nice start.

Categories : Musings

77 Comments»

  1. TWTR says:

    If they buy-out/DFA Ichiro to make room on the 40 man, it would be pretty impressive.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

      I’d be truly shocked if that was the move. Way down on my list.

      • mitch says:

        I agree. I don’t really understand all the Ichiro hate. Who cares if he’s overpaid by a few million dollars? There are probably a half dozen guys on the team that are more overpaid. He’s perfectly fine as the 5th outfielder, and he’s taken the demotion as professionally as anyone could have hoped.

        • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

          Thank you.

        • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

          I also meant that it was way down on my list simply because I don’t think it’s likely to happen.

        • Jersey Joe says:

          I don’t really understand the “hate” either, but I’d much rather have Zolio than Ichiro. No offense intended to Ichiro, especially since he’s handled this well, but I’d rather have Solarte than Ichiro. I would do all possible to get him off the 40-man roster.

          • lightSABR says:

            I understand the hate. It’s just misplaced. Really we’re all just mad that Steinbrenner got sucked into such an obviously idiotic deal last year, and we’re taking it on Ichiro instead of Steinbrenner because we didn’t spend 2013 watching Steinbrenner ground out over and over again.

            • lightSABR says:

              But I agree with all the good stuff that’s been said about Ichiro here: perfectly serviceable fifth outfielder, not as badly overpaid as some, and deserving serious respect for the way he’s handled himself during the twilight of his career.

          • jjyank says:

            I mean in a vacuum, I’d probably have Zoilo as well, but there are two factors that change my mind when I come out of said vacuum.

            1. Depth. Ichiro can’t go to the minors, but Zoilo can.

            2. Zoilo’s development. How much playing time would he get on the MLB roster? It’s probably better for him long term to be getting regular at bats in the minors.

            • mitch says:

              Exactly. If Gardner or Ellsbury got injured and had to miss a couple months, i’d give the bulk of the innings to Almonte. However, the primary function of the 5th OF spot is going to be late inning defensive replacement. Ichiro can do that just fine. No need to sacrifice Almonte’s development so he can do that.

            • Darren says:

              With point #1, I think the point is that if you get rid of Ichiro, his lack of flexibility (options-wise) is no longer an issue.

              With point #2, at some point it’s no longer about minor league development and steady ABs, it’s about contributing the Major League team. It’s not like Zoilo is 22 anymore. If we need him in the Bigs, then he’s more important to use in whatever limited capacity then he is hitting everyday for Scranton.

              BTW, I wouldn’t trade Ichiro unless we get something back for him. I can see him playing an important role for the Yanks this year, one he is MUCH better suited for than he was last year’s role.

          • D$1184 says:

            Why would you rather have Zolio up here with no direct path to getting ABs? Even if Almonte were on the roster, he’s not going to start up here in front of Beltran, Gardner, Ellsbury and Soriano. So why have Almonte up here, just to sit on the bench?

        • jjyank says:

          Agreed entirely. I hated the Ichiro contract, and I was very vocal on here about not wanting to sign him at all. However, what’s done is done now. As long as he remains in the role he is currently in, I’m perfectly fine with him on the roster.

        • TWTR says:

          It’s not hate, it’s purely about maximizing roster construction.

        • nycsportzfan says:

          Well said.

        • Dan G says:

          We’re talking about the team that knowingly paid Youkilis and Wells about $13M each and currently have a 40 year old PED user to whom they still own between $60 and $80M (depending on HRs). $6.5M for Ichiro is hardly the worst investment ever made.

          Not to mention the revenue they will probably earn from having 3 Japanese megastars more than makes up for it.

          And let’s be honest, it’s not like he’s blocking Mike Trout from coming up.

          • OB/GYN Kenobi, bushmaster says:

            “And let’s be honest, it’s not like he’s blocking Mike Trout from coming up.”

            FHOFRM says “shut your whore mouth.”

            Also, Sizemore.

    • Dave Guarnieeri says:

      Earlier, the Yanks gave #26 to Solarte.

      Now, officially, Nunez DFA’d.

      May have been a mutual agreement, Nunez can help some MLB team.

  2. Mike Myers says:

    They get the jays minus reyes too!

    baseball starts today yayyyyyyyyy!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead says:

    Yankee baseball is back! WOOHOO.

    Now if only the next 9 hours would pass quickly.

  4. Jorge Steinbrenner says:

    There’s no amount of fan hatred towards Nunez that makes just cutting ties with him the right move. He’s still a better player right now than half the guys they ran out there past April at short and third. We need the depth.

    Fred Lewis? Disagree on that one. Not convinced he’s even about Cabral on the depth chart for lefties. My pick? You see a healthy Slade in June when an outfielder gets injured and Zoilo mistakingly locks himself in the bathroom. That wacky Zoilo.

    I’m still waiting for Jon Albajadejo to break out. This is his year. He looked great pitching in Guam last season. 200 saves.

    Know what’s worth than Mark Teixeira’s slow starts? The Yankees’ slow starts. Let’s hit the ground running this year!

    Confidence level times infinity! Go Yanks!

    • Pinedamaybegreata (formerly Monterowasdinero) says:

      Albaladejo? He was dominant in Scranton years back. Is he available?

      Hope Ellsbury and Gardy run like crazy this year.

      Hope Girardi reigns in the sac bunt. So tired of giving up outs….

  5. OB/GYN Kenobi, bushmaster says:

    We play today. We win today. Das eet.

  6. jgibs says:

    Exactly what is the deadline for getting Solarte on the 40-man roster? Is it by the start of the first game? And what exactly happens if that deadline passes without the Yankees making a move to accommodate him?

    • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

      If no move is made, Alex Rodriguez makes the roster by default.

    • lightSABR says:

      I’ve always wondered things like that–what’s the penalty if you miss deadlines in the MLB?

      In this case, it wouldn’t surprise me if the penalty is that we can’t add Solarte to the roster.

  7. Leg-End says:

    It’s time for baseball, today is a good day.

  8. Robert says:

    Nothing against Ichiro but I dont understand why a HOF’er would want to hang on to a 5th Outfielder spot on the Bench!

    The Yankees held on to Zolio and he is in Scranton while Abraham Almonte who the Yankees dumped started yesterday in the Big leagues for the Mariners, wasnt Zmont the way better prospect?

    • pat says:

      Is it possible that maybe, just maybe, Ichiro actually loves the game and loves playing?

    • The Great Gonzo says:

      So, you want Almonte back? How bout Dickerson? Shelly Duncan? Greg Golson?

      There is a reason these guys get big league jobs outside of the Yankees…. Because Seattle, KC and Houston are NOT THE FUCKING YANKEES.

    • OB/GYN Kenobi, bushmaster says:

      Because he’s under contract for way more money than any other team would pay him?

    • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

      Cannot be serious.

    • D$1184 says:

      Even future Hall of Famers get old. Skills fade, bat speed slows, range in the field diminishes. Even the rare player who doesn’t have to move off his position (like Jeter) doesn’t stay at the top of his game forever.

  9. jjyank says:

    Okay, it’s a new year. Maybe I’ll give game threads another shot tonight :P

  10. Baked McBride says:

    I hope people expect nothign from us this year, because we are gonna sneak up and beat the living spit out of people this year. Kind of like the MLB knockout game. We owe certain teams multiple beatdowns.

  11. Matt DiBari says:

    I still maintain that Eduardo Nunez being a warm body who has stood where infielders stand shouldn’t shield him from getting cut. He can’t play any position in the field. And if anything, he’s getting *worse* in the field. He’s not a good enough hitter to make up for that. He’s not some special unique talent that we’d kick ourselves for losing. It can’t possibly be that hard to replace him.*

    *And yes, I say that knowing the Yankees rolled out some of the worst infielders imaginable last year. That’s how little I think of Nunez.

  12. Axis of Mike says:

    I want to chime in on the (much appreciated) pro-Ichiro comments above. I know we’re all anonymous here and no one would ever say the things they do to actual baseball players’ faces. For one thing, I doubt anybody here would do well in a fight with even a smaller MLB player, but I digress.

    I’m not a big stats guy but here goes: the stats-based rebuttal to the “Ichiro’s done” drum beat:
    His WAR was actually higher last year than in 2011. His WAR does show a steady decline but, honestly, without an exhaustive search to support this, whose doesn’t in a long career? His RBIs were up last year and not far off his ’08 numbers.

    It’s all moot anyway because we all know he’s not gonna be an everyday player for the Yankees and maybe not anywhere, but I’d love to see him prove me right, got to some other team and have one last hot year. I really dislike the disrespect for him I’ve seen here, as for other players, and it sometimes almost makes me not want to visit here. But I can’t help myself, this is the best Yankee site and I am a hopeless fan.

    Now let’s get ‘em tonight, Yanks.

    • Dalek Jeter says:

      The only reason his fWAR (I assume you’re using fangraphs but bref basically says the same) is so low in 2011 because of an aberration in his defensive statistics. If you look at the two years since he shows positive value defensively. 2011 shouldn’t be a point to look at that says “look see Ichiro is better than he was two years ago” because he was actually slightly better offensively, it should be a point to look to and say “this is how bad Ichiro would be if he all of a sudden was bad defensively.”

      As for your second point about WAR decreasing as time goes on and players get older, of course that is true…but there comes a point where you’re no longer an everyday player, then you’re no longer worth it as a part time player. In my honest opinion, Ichiro is closer to being no longer worth a part time player than he is an everyday player.

      The only thing I will validate in arguing his number of RBI is that RBI is a stat of situation. Give me a player that hit .320/.410/.500 with 30 HR and 75 RBI over a player who hit .250/.300/.400 with 20 HR and 100 RBI every day of the week. Now that I look at it though, Ichiro had a career low in RBI last season by a wide margin, so that entire point is moot.

      With all that said however, I think Ichiro is a fine (if not vastly overpaid) 5th outfielder, providing solid defense and speed. Perfect end of game defensive replacement for whoever we have in RF on a given day.

      • Axis of Mike says:

        Right, and I say he’s better than that is not being given the chance. I know all about the RBI argument, I could’ve gone on to other stats but I am frankly bored to death by stats. I was using Baseball Reference, btw. I am, for the record, an agnostic on WAR. I’ll believe it when it’s proven beyond a shadow of a doubt to be real.

        But here’s really why I think Ichiro’s not done: because I watched him play. He’s not done.

        • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead says:

          This comment makes no sense. You can have your opinions, but it’s clear you really don’t understand the stats you were trying to look at.

        • Dalek Jeter says:

          Mitch Williams? Is that you and Harold Reynolds trolling blogs again?

        • TWTR says:

          It doesn’t matter whether or not he is done, although based on his recent seasons, he is clearly in a significant decline.

          The larger point is that because he is unlikely to get much playing time, and their roster crunch, why not use the spot for a younger player who is likely to get better rather than an older player who is more likely to get worse?

          • jjyank says:

            As I mentioned above, I think the answer to your question is actually in your question. If Zoilo can get better and improve, I think he has a better chance to do that in the minors where he can get regular playing time. Riding the bench in the big leagues and pinch running here and there doesn’t seem like it would lend itself to improvement.

            Now if Beltran or Ellsbury or someone gets hurt and Zoilo doesn’t get called up and leapfrog Ichiro on the depth chart, I can understand your sentiment.

            • Dalek Jeter says:

              I agree 100%, I’d much rather Zolio playing all game, every game, than playing an inning or two in the field and getting maybe 10 ABs a week. Ichiro is fine for that, I just think the assertion that he’s not “done” as an everyday player is ridiculous.

            • TWTR says:

              He hit pretty well in AAA last year (.297 .369 .421 .789 ), albeit in 293 PA, and he hit initially when he was called up (June: .303 .351 .485 .836), before trailing off.

              The issue then is who goes if not Ichiro? Cost/benefit, I think he makes the most sense, and for some to call that hate is comically bizarre.

          • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

            Because, unscientifically, I’d rather have the old guy coming in cold off the bench once a week than the young guy. Just my $0.02 on that.

        • jjyank says:

          “But here’s really why I think Ichiro’s not done: because I watched him play. He’s not done.”

          lol wut?

          You realized how silly that sounds, right? Stats are simply the quantification of what we’re watching. Your eyes are deceiving and your memory can be selective. Stats helps with that.

          Ichiro has been bad for 3 years now. I’m not sure what’s wrong with your eyes if what you’ve seen recently leads you to believe that he’s not done.

          He’s fine as the 5th OF. But pretty much all 5th OFs are bad, that’s why they aren’t starting, or even the primary back up.

        • Dalek Jeter says:

          Also, how is he not getting the chance?! He’s gotten 795 ABs since joining the Yankees and in that time he’s had a .279/.301/.356 slash line. That is the emptiest .280 ever.

          • Dalek Jeter says:

            795PA’s** (also I did that slash line manually because b-ref doesn’t let you add half a season to a season. Be grateful.)

        • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

          I respect your opinion, but you cannot possibly expect everyone to see exactly what you see when they watch him. Not the type of rationale you come to a discussion like this with. Sorry.

    • mitch says:

      He had a positive WAR last year because of his good defense and base-running, which will be the primary functions of the 5th OF role. That’s why i see him as an asset on the bench.

  13. D$1184 says:

    What’s the consequence for taking Ramon Flores off the 40 man roster? Is it just that if they want to call him up (unlikely, since they’ve got minor league outfielders ahead of him on the depth chart), they have to put him back on it and they’d risk exposing him to the Rule V draft in the Fall? Because there’s plenty of time to put him back on it before that occurs. Just off the top of my head, Jeter’s retirement will open up a spot for him.

  14. FLYER7 says:

    Could lose Flores not, not in December…

  15. D$1184 says:

    So if a team signs Stephen Drew, does he need to go through a Spring Training like session? Could the signing team have it written into the contract that Drew goes to the minors until he has swing ready?

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