Masahiro Tanaka and the quest for 2014 pitching

(Koji Watanabe/Getty)
(Koji Watanabe/Getty)

Mike has kept us informed on the Masahiro Tanaka front over the past few weeks. At this point, it certainly seems as though the team is doing its due diligence and is at least showing some degree of interest, though who knows if it’ll materialize into anything in the offseason. The Yankees have sent their assistant GM, Billy Eppler, along with special assignment scout (and former Mariners manager/Blue Jays bench coach/MLB player), Don Wakamatsu, to go and check him out. I’m sure New York has a bevy of other scouts who have followed Tanaka’s career as well. Whether the team should pursue Tanaka is a difficult question, but one worth asking. Let’s take a look.

Does Tanaka satisfy a need?

Obviously, the Yankees have a lot of question marks surrounding the 2014 rotation. Who knows whether CC Sabathia can become a solid pitcher again, nevermind a top of the rotation arm. Who knows if Andy Pettitte or Hiroki Kuroda plan on returning. Hell, who knows what Ivan Nova really is at this point. David Phelps and Michael Pineda provide zero certainty as well. Phil Hughes will almost certainly be gone. Can the team promote from within sufficiently? Well, they can try, but color me unconvinced.

Point is, the Yankees need pitching heading into next season in a big way. Now the skeptic could rightfully ask, does it make sense to replace so many question marks with another question mark? To that I would reply: probably, since scouts seem to agree that Tanaka is MLB ready and capable of producing positively. Additionally, every potential pitcher replacement has some degree of inherent risk, so perhaps what we really should be asking is whether Tanaka is more of a question mark than some of the alternatives (i.e. Roy Halladay or Tim Lincecum), and I don’t think that he necessarily is. As an aside, even after the presumably exorbitant posting fee and subsequent contract are offered, I’d still have to wonder if he would be a cheaper alternative than a “proven guy” like Matt Garza (who may not even be available anyway), which of course would be desirable if the $189M payroll is still the objective.

Does free agency offer anyone better?

With the exception of Matt Garza, the 2014 free agent crop of starting pitchers is pretty wanting. Maybe Ubaldo Jimenez is available and maybe you can make the argument that he’s more desirable at this point (he’s pitched great for the Indians since the All-Star break and his strikeout rates are heading back in the right direction). I’m not sure I’m sold on Ubaldo though (admittedly, I’ve never been his biggest fan). You can bet Jon Lester will have his club option picked up. Ditto for James Shields. Halladay will be 37 years old with some major health concerns. I guess there’s Tim Lincecum if you believe that ship can be righted (though as I insinuated above, I think both he and Halladay have major red flags). I suppose Dan Haren (33) is an option too, though I have my doubts about his health and skill set (talk about home run prone!). We talk about assuming risk. Well, prepare to assume a fair amount with all these guys.

Will Tanaka’s skill set hold up in the Majors?

That’s the key question, isn’t it? I’ll defer you to Mike’s scouting report from the other day for the details, but to put it succinctly, if Tanaka can become a number two type of arm at the MLB level immediately — which is apparently the consensus among scouts at this point – he’d be a major boost to any team, including New York. Is he Yu Darvish? No. Will he ever be? Probably not. Should that matter? I don’t think so. Most pitchers don’t wind up being one of the league’s best. Above average pitchers still have a lot of value though, and we’ve seen what happens to the bullpen (and record, ultimately) when one guy pitches great but is followed by a bunch of poor starts.

Are the Yankees leery of signing pitchers from Japan?

Unfortunately for Yankee fans, we’re all aware of this perception. Once upon a time, the Red Sox signed a supposed hot-shot pitcher named Daisuke Matsuzaka, while the Yankees paid a ton of cash for notable “other guy,” Kei Igawa. Obviously, neither contract worked out, though it’s clear that the Yanks hired the bigger bust. Then Darvish came along with impressive stuff. Everyone knew about the hype. The Rangers blew all the other organizations away with their bid while the Yankees posted a very conservative offer that was basically expected to fall short from the start. Apparently, this was partially due to the team’s experience with Igawa. So, here we are. The Rangers have a certifiable ace on their hands. The Yankees have a reputation of being scared of players from Japan (whether it’s justifiable or not). To wit, the Yanks also posted a conservative bid for Hyun-Jin Ryu ( though he was coming from South Korea).

I would hope the team could look at these players independently, and then assess whether they can be successful at the big league level. Avoiding talent because Igawa didn’t work out would not only be myopic, but just plain dumb. This needs to be a case-by-case decision. If Tanaka is MLB capable, he should be considered accordingly, period. If this is a question of Yankees scouting misreading talent (relative to their competition), that’s an entirely different problem and one that should be addressed immediately. That all said, I think there may be some degree of truth to the theory that the organization is worried about being burnt by an aggressive bid for one of these guys after the Igawa fiasco.

How much will Tanaka cost?

Total cop out answer: it depends, really. It’s a closed auction, so things have a tendency to get out of control pretty quickly. The Rangers won the Darvish bid at $51.7M. The Sox bid approximately $51.1M for the rights to talk with Dice-K. Last season, Ryu’s posting bid was roughly $25.7M. Tanaka is presumably not as good as Darvish, so maybe he winds up costing less. On the other hand, maybe teams are desperate for pitching and see him as someone at least comparable to Ryu, or maybe they even consider him more of a “sure thing” than Ryu. If I had to guess, I’d say the winning bid is about $40M.

From there, you then get to talk about player contracts. Darvish received a six-year, $56M contract which includes a player opt-out clause after the fifth year. It was a lot of money, but I think at this point, the Rangers are probably considering the contract a success in terms of production provided relative to the cost (at least so far). The Sox offered a six-year, $52M deal to Dice-K, which was a disaster. Ryu was also given a six-year deal that could be worth as much as $36M by the Dodgers. I suspect Tanaka will wind up closer to Darvish’s end of the spectrum than Ryu’s though. That means probably six years at approximately $7-8M per. In any event, when you consider what Garza will probably get, I think that a guy like Tanaka might make a ton of sense.

Yankees’ fate is in their own hands

As of this morning, Baseball Prospectus lists the Yankees odds of making the postseason at 10.5%. Cool Standings is slightly more optimistic at 16.4%. Obviously, neither of these sites spark very much confidence. And yet, it feels like the postseason isn’t just doable, but realistic if the Yankees play some quality baseball for the remainder of the month. Right?

Maybe it’s just that we’re accustomed to big moments in New York, or desperate for another playoff berth. Or, perhaps, as fans, we’re just not quite ready to concede until the postseason is no longer mathematically feasible. After all, these are the Yankees. When I speak with my father, he’s very matter-of-fact about it. He reminds me that the Yanks are only 2.5 games out with 24 to play. One legitimate hot streak, or one slump by a divisional rival, gets it done. I think there’s something to be said for his sentiments too.

Regardless of the odds or one’s blind faith in incredible outcomes, the fact still remains, New York needs to win games in a big way and they’ll probably need some help from their competition as well. Let’s take a look at how the final eight series are scheduled to play out for each team that could potentially grab that second sacred Wild Card spot.

schedgraphic

The Rangers and Athletics are in an extremely tight race. One of the teams will get in no matter what. The other will still have a very good opportunity to participate in October baseball. Unfortunately for the Yankees, both the Rangers and the A’s have fairly favorable schedules remaining too. Aside from the six games remaining against each other, each of these two clubs have plenty of games left against sub .500 teams (though the Angels have been hot of late and could potentially dampen the mood). Still, if I were a betting man, I’d figure both these teams will be enjoying October baseball.

Frankly, I just don’t envision the Royals or the Indians getting the job done. While both teams are definitely in the playoff hunt, I’d be surprised if it worked out favorably for either of them. Aside from the six games against the Indians remaining, the Royals also have to deal with the Rangers and Tigers. The Indians have a very convenient schedule remaining but haven’t been playing particular well of late (they’ve lost 16 of their last 27 games). Meanwhile, the Tigers will conclude their regular season against a lot of mediocre teams, not to mention the fact that they definitely do have a playoff caliber roster that’s been playing well. You also have to figure Miguel Cabrera will be healthy enough to contribute at his typical pace by the time it counts.

So that leaves the gauntlet that is the American League East. As was expected from moment one, it looks as though the division could come down to the wire. The Rays, Orioles, and Yankees are all fighting desperately for that last gasp of air. Seventeen of the final 24 games for the Yankees are against divisional rivals. Their fate (while statistically improbable) is still absolutely within their own hands. Of course, the same could be said for their competition. Hell, even though the Sox have a nice healthy lead on the division, 19 of their final 22 games are against divisional rivals (not to mention the two remaining against a formidable Tigers squad).

Needless to say, the road to the playoffs won’t be easy (or even necessarily pretty) for any of the teams involved. I don’t know how this all is going to end. Probability keeps our heads in check and our hopes from getting too lofty, but as we all know, the games aren’t played on paper.  I, for one, am preparing for an exciting September.

A popular gripe that’s worth considering

(Otto Greule Jr/Getty)
(Otto Greule Jr/Getty)

If the Yankees are serious about successfully completing the Hail Mary pass that is their playoff hopes, they’ll need to win for the remainder of the season. For the first time all season, they’ve had a roster that resembles something competitive, despite still not being at full strength. Last week, Joe discussed a couple ways the team could improve their chances as it pertains to the pitching staff.

Today, I’m here to discuss another idea that seems to be gaining popularity — specifically, upgrading the lineup from within. It’s time for Joe Girardi to give Austin Romine more opportunities. This doesn’t necessarily mean Romine has to be the full-time catcher after this year; if the team wants to pursue the likes of Brian McCann, by all means, they should. We’re talking right now.

Let’s start with Chris Stewart. Through 277 plate appearances this season, he’s batted .231/.305/.302 (.276 wOBA, 68 wRC+). He’s managed four home runs all season (.070 ISO) and has been valued at 0.8 fWAR. He doesn’t walk a ton and doesn’t strike out a ton, but he also doesn’t really get on base. I’m not claiming he’s a bad catcher, but I don’t think he’s cut out to be the main guy.

It seems pretty clear by this point that the team values his defensive contributions. In terms of fielding metrics, FanGraphs lists him at 4.3 Fld (based on UZR) which is good but not great. Even though I personal question the legitimacy of fielding metrics in general, particularly as they pertain to catchers, I’m willing to concede that Stewart is probably a capable catcher defensively in general (though he has only thrown out 28% of base runners which is slightly below average, and it seems like he’s bobbled more pitches than one would expect out of a defensive-oriented guy).

What’s interesting though about Stewart is that he’s basically been utilized far more this season than he ever has throughout his career at the MLB level. In 2011, he started 67 games with the Giants (183 plate appearances), which was significantly more than he had prior with any of his former teams (the Padres, Yankees, Rangers, and White Sox). This year, he’s already played in 86 games (and counting), and has already accumulated about 100 more plate appearances (and counting). Anecdotally, Stewart has looked gassed at times. If this theory is indeed true, it would make sense that he would be struggling by this point in the season. After all, he does play a very demanding position.

Interestingly enough, Stewart’s splits seem to support this theory to some degree. Through the first half of the year, Stewart produced a .283 wOBA (73 wRC+). While the first half of the season wasn’t great by any stretch of the imagination, the second half of the year (at least thus far), by comparison, has been considerably worse (.260 wOBA, 57 wRC+). Although Stewart has picked up his production in August, his July was completely abysmal (.200 wOBA, 16 wRC+). Hilariously, his lone home run this month was the first one he hit since May. Although August has been better for Stewart (.316 wOBA, 96 wRC+), he’s also had several more breathers.

On the other hand, Romine is young, healthy, available and has shown increasing value of late. Of course it’s a gamble; I’m sure the fact that he was awful early on in the season hasn’t inspired a ton of confidence in Girardi either. I think the team is in a position though where it has to take risks that could pay off if they’re serious about remaining in the hunt – even if those risks only provide incremental benefit.

Admittedly, Romine’s overall season stats aren’t exactly inspiring (.227/.271/.327, .265 wOBA, 61 wRC+, 0.1 fWAR). He’s hit one home run, walks very little (5.0 BB%), strikes out at a fair pace (25.6 K%) and has been graded as below average defensively (-0.2 Fld), though the same caveats about defensive metrics apply to Romine as well, in addition to the small sample size disclaimer (23% caught stealing rate for what that’s worth).

So what’s the draw you may ask? It’s simple; Romine is the hot bat and has been for a while. If he cools off, fine, sub him out without blinking. But for now, take advantage of him and get offense from a position traditionally void of offensive production. During Romine’s eight games started in July, he produced a .385 wOBA (143 wRC+). In August, through eight games he’s improved further (.395 wOBA, 150 wRC+). Am I claiming Romine is the next Posada? Of course not, nor do I have those expectations. I’m just saying give the kid’s bat a chance with more frequency as Stewart really hasn’t giving the team any incentive not too.

Of course, the small sample size disclaimer applies to Romine’s offensive contributions as well. But isn’t it worth considering the idea at this point? At the very least, if Girardi wants to approach this matter conservatively, he could always just level out the playing time between the two catchers rather than giving Romine the starting gig altogether. It may not be desirable for those two players on am emotional level, but it may be what’s best for the team. Changing the roles of Stewart and Romine probably won’t be the ultimate factor that decides the fate of the season, but if it could help, the team should consider it. Unfortunately, it seems like Girardi isn’t quite as sold on the idea.

Poll: Which player have the Yankees missed the most this season?

The Yankees need all the wins they can get at this point.  On Tuesday, they managed to grab two against the Blue Jays.  Around the fifth or six inning of the second game in the doubleheader, Michael Kay sparked a discussion about who the Yankees missed most this season.  The players to choose from were Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, or Kevin Youkilis.  Now upon hearing this question, the answer seemed fairly obvious to me – that is to say, Derek Jeter.  Of course, that didn’t stop Michael Kay from picking a different (and rather unexpected) option, Mark Teixeira, and sparking a conversation between me and several others on Twitter.  So here we are; let’s dissect.

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

Derek Jeter

Jeter has been the Captain of this team for quite some time, and for a reason.  He’s been a historically great player, and even in his sunset years still remains a legitimate upgrade over the other options accessible to the Yankees at this time.  To put this in perspective, last season, Derek batted .316/.362/.429 (.347 wOBA, 117 wRC+) over 159 games.  As a bonus, he provided the team with 15 homeruns and a 3.1 fWAR season.  The Captain is known for putting the ball in play and has a reputation for timely hitting (though that concept is a discussion for another day).  The fielding metrics are generally unkind to Jeter, and depending on which metric you prefer, they can be downright ugly.  That’s not a surprise though.  I think everyone views Jeter as a “bat first” type of shortstop.  For what it’s worth, ZiPS had Jeter producing a .703 OPS (.311 wOBA, 1.7 fWAR) over 120 games played this season.  Obviously, it’s a moot point now.

In any event, compare Jeter’s numbers from last season (if you’re feeling optimistic) or the ZiPS projection for this season (if you’re feeling more bearish) to the alternatives, Eduardo Nunez and Jayson Nix.  Both Nunez and Nix have their moments (Nix as recently as Tuesday), but one would be hard pressed to make the case that either player should be a full time starter, let alone a sufficient replacement to Derek Jeter. Neither player is even in shouting distance of Jeter if he replicates his 2012 numbers.  Nunez has the slight edge over Nix (+12 in wRC+), but is still about 45 points lower than what Jeter was last year.  Jeter would still have to fall approximately 25 points in wOBA, if his 2013 ZiPS projection ended up being accurate, to match Nunez’s current contributions. Even in Jeter’s 2010 campaign, which was a terrible year by his standards, Nunez still falls short by about 20 points of wRC+.  Now to be fair, one stat is not the end all of player analysis (nor should it be), but I think some of these metrics offer a convenient snap shot of the offensive gap between a fill-in shortstop against what we, as fans, have been used to seeing on a daily basis for the last decade or so.

So if the currently-injured Nix and Nunez can’t hit like Jeter, perhaps they make up the difference in runs defensively.  Well, that’s the theory anyway.  Unfortunately for Nunez, defensive metrics tend to rate him basically as gruesomely as they do the Captain.  Nix on the other hand, is a bit more positive in this regard.  Are the runs prevented by Nix enough to offset the difference in runs created by Jeter though?  Not really.

Kevin Youkilis

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

If you don’t want to vote for Jeter, I see the logic in voting for Kevin Youkilis, at least from a more macro level.  We’re all aware of how dismal the Yankees third baseman have been this season (and for a brief period, Youkilis contributed to those shortcomings).  Despite A-Rod’s contributions over the past couple weeks, the team still ranks in the bottom six of all Major League Baseball (-0.5 fWAR collectively) in terms of production from this position.  The group of fill-ins for A-Rod have shown very little patience at the plate (6.1 BB%) and have struck out often (24.9 K%).  The Yankee third basemen have produced 8 (!) home runs all year.  We’re talking .259 wOBA, 56 wRC+ bad.

Hypothetically, if we pretend Youkilis wasn’t injured all year (which in itself involves a stretch of the imagination) and performed similarly to last year (which I’m also dubious about given how fried he looked when he was playing early on this season), that would still represent a definitive upgrade over what the team has had.  Over 509 plate appearances in 2012, Youk smashed 19 long balls, walked 10% of the time and struck out 21.2% of the time.  More importantly though, his offensive contributions were basically league average overall (103 wRC+) despite his noticeable splits.  League average isn’t necessarily a desirable or complimentary trait, but it sure as hell wins out over the abysmal production the Yankees have experienced — especially considering it was a last minute desperation move in the offseason.

This same logic applies to Alex Rodriguez as well, now that he has returned.  Drama aside, he’s basically an average third baseman at this point (though he does account for 25% of the team’s home runs this season among third basemen after only 12 games played).  No one expected a return of Alex’s MVP days, but even a replacement level third baseman marks a huge upgrade in terms of production over the course of a season compared to what the team has had.  If the Yankees had had Jeter or A-Rod all year, the offensive boost would be fairly substantial considering they were going from basically nothing at all to something that is closer to resembling acceptable big league production.  We’ve witnessed over the past few days how the lineup has basically felt completely different; it’s transformed into something much more formidable.  It’s much deeper now than it has been all season and the results speak for themselves — a two run deficit is no longer instant loss.

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

Mark Teixeira

Let me preface the rest of this post by saying that I do believe Tex is a superior player to both Lyle Overbay and Mark Reynolds — both offensively and defensively — despite the fact that his stats have been on the decline for the past few seasons.  That said, Overbay has been an adequate fill-in this season, generally speaking.  Over 409 plate appearances, Overbay has hit 13 home runs and batted .254/.304/.421 (.317 wOBA, 96 wRC+ — good for a 0.5 fWAR).  He’s had some timely hits and appears competent with the glove.  With Reynolds complementing the first base platoon now, the offensive production from this spot in the lineup is that much more complete.

The 2012 season was probably Tex’s worst year professionally since his debut year with the Rangers, and most certainly was his worst season with the Yankees since he joined the team in 2009.  Even still, he managed to hit 24 dingers, walked 10.3% of the time (patience that would be highly desirable in this year’s lineup) and produced a .345 wOBA (116 wRC+).  Additionally, his glove is somewhere in the average to very good range depending on which metrics you trust.  He’s better than what the Yankees have deployed these past several months undoubtedly.  But the gap in total production just isn’t as severe.  Going forward, perhaps it could become as severe as the gap between the shortstop and third base replacements compared with the respective starters if Overbay and Reynolds both slide in performance, but right now that seems to be the least of the priorities.  Perhaps one underrated point for Teixeira is that he (sort of) theoretically eliminates the need for another platoon combination on the roster which enables other possibilities.

In any event, I think rather than asking, “Which player does the team miss the most?,” perhaps the question should be, “Which supstitute replacement player(s) marks the biggest drop off?”  What do you think?

Which player have the Yankees missed the most this season?

Ken Singleton weighs in – Part 3

(YES Network)
(YES Network)

The third and final part of our discussion with YES Network announcer and long-time big leaguer, Ken Singleton, tackles a variety of “state of the Yankees” topics. Here are parts one and two in case you missed them.

Matt Warden: Do you feel that the team is heading in a clear direction? I can’t tell if they’re trying to rebuild, trying to contend, or trying to do some weird (and maybe semi-ineffective) blend of both? Where do you see the team going in the next month or so? A year down the road? Are you expecting things to get worse before they get better?

Ken Singleton: I think right now they’re just worried about getting through this season and I think the offseason would give you better insight into where they’re heading in the future. But as for now, the important thing is getting Curtis Granderson going. Maybe he can provide a bit more spark to the offense. Same with Soriano and hopefully Jeter once he returns. This is what I think is going to happen with this team this year.

I don’t know about the future so much. They could go in a totally different direction after the year’s over. They could start letting people go which would give you an indication of what they’re planning on in the near future. But, as for this year, going out and getting Soriano, Jeter’s coming back, Granderson’s back … I’m not counting on A-Rod, I’m not really sure how that’ll play out…

I do think when you start to put a better lineup on the field, the team starts to feel better about itself and better about their chances. The Yankees, of all the teams in the division, particularly the contending teams — I’m leaving the Blue Jays out of it, but even they did it – all these teams had a stretch where they really played well. Red Sox have done it. Rays have done it most recently. The Orioles had a very good stretch there. Even the Blue Jays won 11 in a row recently. The Yankees are the only team who haven’t really had one of those stretches yet.

MW: You’re not going to count April? The Yanks had a pretty good (albeit surprising) run early on.

KS: Yeah they were okay, but I’m just saying the Rays won 21 out of 25. The Yankees were pretty good in April. Even then, they weren’t at full strength. My point is by putting people back in the lineup, it makes the team feel better about itself and better about its chances on a daily basis. I’m looking for one really good run which could hopefully propel them into the playoff contention even though the odds suggest it is unlikely at this point. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t, but the excuse is there. Not to say it’s an excuse people want to hear, but the reality will be that the team wasn’t able to overcome the injuries. That’s it. They couldn’t overcome them.

MW: I agree with that. I’m sure the injuries will be a big part of whatever discussions take place pertaining to reconciling the season. The Yankees have experienced a crippling amount of injuries that no team on the planet could easily manage, let alone thrive with. Now, to play devil’s advocate, when the Red Sox were in fourth place around this time last year, they jettisoned some of their big named guys.

KS: Yeah they got rid of them. But some of those guys also didn’t want to be there and there was the whole chemistry issue with Bobby Valentine, so I think the situation was a little different. Adrian Gonzalez didn’t want to be in Boston. Crawford didn’t seem like he was flourishing in Boston, and they got rid of all of them in one deal once it felt like they were becoming derisive factors in the clubhouse. Plus the Dodgers were also agreeable to that sort of deal.

MW: I want to hear some bold predictions, Ken, about the off season.

KS: Offseason? I have no idea. [Laughs] Matt, don’t take offense, but I do my job and I react to what’s going on. I don’t pretend to be able to do other people’s job. I just worry about my own, and for me to predict what Brian Cashman’s going to do, I just don’t know. I don’t know what other GMs are going to do either. I would like to see the team get better. I think we all would. I think we would all like the ’98 Yankees on the field every game but those days are gone. Paul O’Neill isn’t here. David Cone isn’t here. El Duque isn’t here. They have to go with what they have or somehow try and improve the team. Remember, these are the Yankees and they always want to win. I’m sure Brian Cashman will try to make the team better. I just don’t know how he’s going to do it.

MW: Sure, and that’s totally fair. You don’t know what the rest of the market will do or what Cashman’s objectives are. Let me rephrase the question. In terms of points of improvement, I see a rotation in flux. There is an obvious hole at third base and question marks surround the catcher – whether it’ll be Cervelli or Stewart, or one of the young guys in the system or whether the team will pursue a big name like Brian McCann. Those are a lot of tough positions to fill in a relatively short time span. Where does Cashman start?

KS: You’re right. Pitching’s first. You have Phil Hughes who’ll be a free agent. Andy Pettitte may retire. Sabathia isn’t having the best year. Kuroda may not return. I’ve heard he’s looking to end his career back in Japan. They have some holes to fill. But I don’t know how they’ll do it. The way I look at it, you have to figure out tonight and go day to day for the remainder of this season and worry about the offseason when you get there.

It remains to be seen what will happen. I’ve been around baseball long enough to know that if you try to be Nostradamus, it doesn’t work out very well. It just doesn’t. You know, look at all the predictions people make about the divisions at the beginning of the year. Look at the Toronto Blue Jays!

[Laughs]

Where are they? I kind of liked them at the beginning too. But I was hesitant to pick them because when you put a whole new team together, sometimes the chemistry is just not there. They’ve had issues too. Their pitching isn’t as good as what they thought it’d be.

MW: Everyone short changed the Sox too.

KS: Yeah, you know I did as well. And I know why I did it. I’ve just never liked the Red Sox.

[Laughs]

MW: [Laughs] On behalf of our readership, Ken, thank you for that. Okay. Let’s shift direction momentarily. It’ll be interesting to see what happens next year in the outfield. The team will have to figure out how to utilize Ichiro, Wells, Gardner, and Soriano. Plus there’s the pending issue of Granderson and the qualifying offer. The team basically went from a shortage of outfielders to a surplus, though I’d argue none of them are really “complete” players, with the exception of Gardner maybe, in terms of skillset.

KS: Yeah, that’s why I say, they seem to be getting through this year and you’ll get a better idea of what happens in the off season.

[Pauses]

Looking out my window here in San Diego. The weather is beautiful out here.

MW: [Laughs] I’m envious Ken. I’m guessing my view here in Connecticut isn’t quite the same.

KS: [Laughs]

MW: I could see a guy like Granderson passing on the offer. He’s had some fluky injuries and hasn’t played much this season. While he won’t hit for average, he does offer premiere power at a position often lacking it. I can see a team taking a chance on him with a multi-year deal. Hughes though, has been a complete rollercoaster. I could him possibly accepting the QO. Thoughts?

KS: Well we saw Nick Swisher not accept it last year. I think players are looking for the big deal at this point in their career. Hughes is 27 years old. Granderson’s a little older. I think both would choose free agency if given the opportunity.

MW: Mariano Rivera. This is his last year. Ceremonies are happening all season. He still looks dominant and brutally efficient. How does the team recover from his retirement? Does D-Rob get it done as a closer? At the very least, that has to be a major gap in bullpen depth. I hate to say this, but D-Rob on his best day cannot duplicate the level of comfort and security synonymous with The Sandman.

KS: Yep. Mariano is the biggest security blanket in all of sports. He sits out in the bullpen and the other team knows it. If the Yankees have the lead heading into the ninth, you might as well start up the bus and turn on the showers, because you’re getting ready to go home. For his career he’s like 90%, maybe better. Yeah, it’s going to be difficult. It’s not even so much what he’s done, it’s how’s he’s done it. So much class and dignity. He’s a standup guy. The Yankees will miss that too. When he blows a save, he owns up to it. And when he completes a save, he’s very modest and very humble. You never see him rile up opponents with antics on the mound. After picking up a save, Mo never shoots arrows into the sky.

MW: The $189M budget…is this happening or not?

KS: These are the Yankees. They like to win, and their fans expect it. To get to $189M, it would help if A-Rod were off the books as Showalter said. He was right, but he should worry about the Orioles first and not so much about what the Yankees are doing. They’re trying to get away from this luxury tax because if they do they can start all over. I think that’s what they’ll try and do. If the Yanks can stay under the budget while still adding a guy they’ll do it, but I think $189M is legit.

MW: Yikes. Well, let me end this by saying that I really appreciate you talking with me. I know our readership enjoys it. I’m not sure if you’ve checked out the comments section, but you have more than a few fans.

KS: Yeah, well I’m really glad to hear they like what I do. I really appreciate the fact that I get to be around a team that’s been so good for so long. I really enjoy what I do, and I get to work with some great people for a tremendous network that puts a lot of money into production. I want to have fun and I want people to enjoy the games because that’s what I’m doing.

MW: It shows, Ken. Your efforts have not gone unnoticed! Thank you so much for your time. Folks, be sure to check Ken out on Twitter (@29alltime), and of course, on the YES Network during Yankee games.