Murti: Yankees have discussed signing Jason Grilli

(Jim Rogash/Getty)
(Jim Rogash/Getty)

As they mull over potential bullpen options, the Yankees have discussed signing free agent right-hander Jason Grilli, reports Sweeny Murti. Murti makes it sound like the team was talking about Grilli as a potential replacement for David Robertson should their incumbent closer sign elsewhere this winter. Then again, it’s the bullpen. There are several spots to fill. Grilli’s agent is Gary Sheffield, by the way. (Yes, really.)

Grilli, 38, has a 4.00 ERA (3.37 FIP) in 54 innings split between the Pirates and Angels this past season. He had a 2.82 ERA (2.42 FIP) with Pittsburgh from 2012-13 and was their closer in 2013 before losing the job earlier this year. Grilli seemed to figure some things out while in Triple-A with the Phillies in 2011, and was able to carry his success over into MLB. Here’s a quick breakdown of his last three seasons:

IP ERA FIP K% BB% GB% HR/9 RHB wOBA LHP wOBA
2012 58.2 2.91 2.80 36.9% 9.0% 30.7% 1.07 0.328 0.217
2013 50.0 2.70 1.97 36.6% 6.4% 33.0% 0.72 0.220 0.316
2014 54.0 4.00 3.37 24.3% 8.9% 32.0% 0.67 0.313 0.310

Grilli’s fastball has consistently sat in the 92-94 range these last three years and he throws a frickin’ ton of sliders — 33.3% in 2014 and 29.5% from 2012-13. Only 16 of the 88 relievers who’ve thrown at least 150 innings over the last three seasons have thrown a higher percentage of sliders than Grilli. I guess that explains why he missed most of the second half of 2013 with a flexor strain in his elbow. Grilli also missed the entire 2010 season following right quad surgery and about a month this summer with an oblique strain.

If the Yankees were to lose Robertson to free agency, I like the idea of signing someone like Grilli to take over as the traditional one-inning closer. It doesn’t specifically have to be him — others like Sergio Romo, Casey Janssen, and even Rafael Soriano could work in that role — but the point is keeping Dellin Betances in that multi-inning setup role he was so damn good at in 2014. Let the inferior reliever start the ninth inning fresh with the bases empty while Betances handles the most high-leverage spots.

Grilli isn’t the sexiest bullpen option there, but he’s likely to take a one-year contract given his age and is just as likely to adequately close out ball games as any other low-cost option out there. If the Yankees won’t spend big to re-sign Robertson, then they probably won’t spend big for Andrew Miller either. Someone like Grilli is the best of the rest.

2014 Season Review: Foul Territory

Teixeira Foul Territory

We spend a lot of time here at RAB — like, a ridiculous amount of time — talking about the Yankees and being super serious about stuff. Moves have to be discussed and performances need to be analyzed. This is serious business.

If you’re looking for more of that this afternoon, this isn’t the post for you. We have something like 20,000 posts of serious stuff dating back to 2007 you can dig through if you want. This post is for everyone who wants to forget about the serious stuff for a few minutes and focus on the parts of the 2014 Yankees that made us laugh. Stuff like this:

That didn’t happen at a Yankees game, but I watched it happen live while the Yankees were on a commercial break in Spring Training. I’m pretty sure former Yankee Curtis Granderson hit that ground rule double too. See? Fun. Baseball can actually be fun sometimes. No need to be serious all the time. It’s baseball, man. A kid’s game.

Anyway, I think one of my favorite moments of the 2014 season came way back in Spring Training, when a Yankees-Red Sox game was randomly halted because there was a swarm of bees on the field. It took them like ten minutes to get things sorted out before the game could resume. I remember that moment because it produced this GIF (via The Big Lead):

Wait, wait. You need to hear why Mark Teixeira was holding two bottles of honey. From Mark Feinsand:

“I’m a big peanut butter-and-honey guy, so I always know where the honey is,” Teixeira said. “What I thought was if you could just do a line of honey out to the parking lot the bees would maybe follow it and leave us alone.”

“Do a line of honey out to the parking lot the bees would maybe follow it.”

That … isn’t the worst idea in the world? It would definitely backfire though. Kinda like when the coyote painted a tunnel on the giant rock and the roadrunner ran through it anyway.

Unbeknownst to us, while Teixeira was working on his beekeeping skills in Tampa, he was also recording a fake talk show called Foul Territory for the YES Network. And it was actually funny! At least at first. Teixeira told Dan Barbarisi he came up with the idea for Foul Territory in Spring Training as a way “for the new guys to get broken in, in kind of a funny way—not necessarily hazing, because I’m hazing myself more than anything.”

Teixeira interviewed just about every new player who joined the team last offseason, including Jacoby Ellsbury (video) and Brian McCann (video). My personal favorite was either Masahiro Tanaka‘s appearance …

… or Jack Curry’s appearance …

… or the overlooked (probably because everyone lost interest by the end of the season) Brendan Ryan appearance …

… but that’s just me. The entire Foul Territory archive is right here, by the way.

It still amazes me a Yankee was able to record a multi-part fake talk show in Spring Training and have it be almost universally well-received. I get the feeling that would have not gone over all that well a few years and decades ago. Is Foul Territory an indication the Yankees are loosening up the rules a bit? Nah, of course not. They’re still the Yankees and will always have that business-like vibe. I guess that’s what made Foul Territory so much fun — it was a break from the norm.

This past season I made a point of making sure I enjoyed baseball more and didn’t take it so seriously. Especially since it was kinda clear the Yankees would stink. If I’m going to commit to watching a mediocre team everyday, then I’m going to laugh at everything I can. And with that, I’ll leave you with this GIF (via Buzzfeed):

Cashman Speaks: Priorities, Free Agency, Kuroda, Hitting Coach

For the fifth straight year, Brian Cashman slept in the West 41st Street courtyard of Covenant House last night as part of an nationwide event to raise money to benefit the homeless. “I don’t know how any human beings can deal with this on a daily, weekly, monthly basis. There’s no comfort on that ground. Even one night is terrible. With all the elements, with nature. It’s not right. No one should have to live like that,” he told Wally Matthews. Here are some notes from the GM, courtesy of Matthews, Mark Feinsand, Brendan Kuty, and Bryan Hoch.

  • On the team’s priorities: “I can restate clearly shortstop, maybe third base; the left side of the infield is definitely a priority. I think we have good pitching, but there’s obviously some volatility in it because of the health status and health histories of some of them. Those are two areas I would like to focus on. Bullpen, clearly with the (David) Robertson circumstance, is an issue. That’s a handful, right off the bat.”
  • On signing a big name free agent: “I can’t really say if any of the big-ticket items are in play or not in play. I’m just going to say we’re doing everything in our power to improve the club. Ownership has always been very beneficial with the resources to put the team on the field.”
  • On adding two starters and free agency in general: “I would be open to (adding two starters) … (There have been) lots of calls, lots of texts, but nothing to show for it yet. It’s certainly taking its time, but it’s been busy. Certainly a lot of conversations. Hopefully they’ll lead somewhere positive … We’re looking at ways to improve our club. But we’re looking at smart ways to improve our club. I guess I can say that much.”
  • On re-signing Hiroki Kuroda, who still hasn’t indicated whether he will retire: “Every dollar counts to something. Everything we do has to be accounted for, so it will have an impact on something else. It depends on the entire context of the roster. But I do need starting pitching so he’s clearly an area that would solve some issues. We’ll see … If he wants to keep playing, he’ll have a market.”
  • On the hitting coach: Cashman confirmed the Yankees have an interview with a new candidate lined up for next week, though he didn’t say who it is. He also said no one has been brought back for a second interview yet. Apparently no one asked about the first base coach situation because no one really cares about first base coaches.

Mailbag: Swisher, Cervelli, Johnson, Cabrera, Non-Tenders

Only five questions for you this week but they’re five good ones. As a reminder, we got rid of the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar as part of the redesign. There’s a new email button in the sidebar, right under the YES Network video widget. Use that to email us questions.

(Jason Miller/Getty)
(Jason Miller/Getty)

Many asked: What about a Nick Swisher reunion?

Earlier this week Ken Rosenthal reported the Indians are exploring ways to move Swisher, perhaps in a bad contract-for-bad contract swap. Swisher is owed $15M in each of the next two seasons with a $14M vesting option for 2017 based on his plate appearance total in 2016. He hit a weak .208/.278/.331 (75 wRC+) with eight homers in 97 games this year while batting injury — he had season-ending arthroscopic surgery on both knees in August — after hitting .246/.341/.423 (115 wRC+) with 22 homers in 145 games a year ago.

The Yankees already have a full outfield, complete with a right fielder with bad knees. Alex Rodriguez is clogging up the DH spot as well. Carlos Beltran will make $15M in each of the next two seasons, and a few people asked about trading him straight up for Swisher, but I don’t see any way Beltran will waive his no-trade clause to go to Cleveland. Not after waiting all these years to wear pinstripes. If the Yankees weren’t stuck with A-Rod or hadn’t already re-signed Chris Young, maybe Swisher would have made sense as a fourth outfielder/backup first baseman/part-time DH if the Tribe were willing to eat a bunch of money, especially if you think he’ll rebound following knee surgery. That’s not happening though. There’s no fit for Swisher on the current roster and I don’t think the Yankees would bring him back anyway.

Dan asks: Do you think the Yankees pulled the trigger too early on dealing Francisco Cervelli?  With Russell Martin signing in Toronto, the Cubs and Dodgers are in need of catching. Maybe they could have done better than Justin Wilson? Doesn’t it seem like Brian Cashman acts too early in general on minor moves, in a way that could foreclose better moves later in the offseason? (See also Chris Young.)

I don’t agree with this at all. I’m surprised the Yankees got as much as they did for Cervelli, who was on the verge of being designated for assignment at various points within the last two years. Injury prone backup catchers don’t have much trade value, especially when they’re slated to make seven figures next season. Maybe the Yankees could have gotten something very slightly better than Wilson if they had waited a few weeks … or maybe they wind up with nothing at all because the Cubs and Dodgers find comparable players at a lower cost. With small moves like this, I think you need to pull the trigger as soon as possible. The risk of being the last last one standing in the game of roster musical chairs is high. Now, if they were shopping someone like Brett Gardner in the trade? That’s a different story.

Arad asks: Could Chris Johnson from the Braves be a nice pickup? Bad contract and had an overall down year, but just look at his splits vs. lefties in 2014 and for his career. Could be a great platoon option for 3rd and 1st base.

Johnson, 30, had an insane BABIP-fueled season in 2013, hitting .321/.358/.457 (127 wRC+) with 12 homers and a .394 BABIP. He has a .260/.310/.391 (~96 wRC+) batting line with a .328 BABIP every other year since becoming a regular in 2010, including a .263/.292/.361 (82 wRC+) line with a .345 BABIP in 2014. We can’t ignore 2013, it happened and Johnson deserves credit for it, but it’s a big time outlier and I’m not sure you could expect him to repeat that in the future.

Johnson. (Scott Cunningham/Getty)
Johnson. (Scott Cunningham/Getty)

That said, Johnson hit .395/.435/.553 (177 wRC+) against southpaws this past season and has a career .312/.349/.443 (116 wRC+) line against lefties, so he’s a viable platoon option. He can also play both corner infield spots (not well though), which fits what the Yankees need. The Braves jumped the gun and signed Johnson to a big contract following his career year in 2013, so he’s owed $6M in 2015, $7.5M in 2016, and $9M in 2017 with a $10M club option for 2018. That’s a lot of scratch for a platoon corner infielder you can stash on your bench. Johnson can be a useful player if used properly even if he is overpaid, but since the Yankees are saddled with A-Rod (who projects to fill the exact same role), I’m not sure there’s a spot for Johnson on the roster.

Michael asks: If he’s non tendered can you see the Yankees going after Everth Cabrera? Or any of the other theoretical at this point non-tenders?

Cabrera, 28, quietly led the NL with 44 stolen bases in 2012 and then stole 37 more in 2013. He hit a very weak .232/.272/.300 (65 wRC+) with 18 steals in 90 games this season, and is projected to earn $2.9M through arbitration next year, which is why he’s a non-tender candidate. That and his litany of off-the-field issues. Cabrera was arrested for domestic abuse in 2012, suspended 50 games for his ties to Biogenesis in 2013, and arrested for driving under the influence in 2014. The Yankees need a shortstop and hey, a 28-year-old shortstop would be cool, but Cabrera isn’t the type of person you want on the team. Dude is bad news.

As for some other interesting non-tenders, infielder Gordon Beckham, first baseman/outfielder Mitch Moreland, right-hander David Hernandez, and left-hander Travis Wood stand out to me. I’m going off MLBTR’s list of potential non-tenders, by the way. The actual non-tender deadline is December 2nd. Beckham’s salary will come down to maybe $1M or so next year, at which point he might be worth a flier because the Yankees need infield help. When he was making $4M? Forget it. Moreland seems like a real nice fit as a left-handed bench piece, Hernandez is a shutdown reliever coming off Tommy John surgery, and Wood could be a league average-ish fifth starter if things click. Once the non-tender deadline passes and we know who is and isn’t available, we’ll circle back around and discuss this further.

Eric asks: Do you think letting David Robertson leave sets a bad trend for the Yanks? This will be the 2nd year in a row they let a homegrown player leave.

Well, Robertson hasn’t left yet, and even if he does, we need to see the details first. If some team comes out of nowhere and offers him five years at, say, $14M per year, I wouldn’t be heartbroken about letting him walk. That’s essentially what happened with Robinson Cano. The Yankees made him that seven-year, $175M offer that was the high bid until the Mariners completely blew it out of the water. As much as the team misses him, I have no trouble with letting Robbie walk at that rate.

Now, if the Yankees don’t re-sign Robertson because they’re unwilling to meet a totally reasonable contract request, something like three years and $39M or four years and $48M, then yeah, that would bug me. I don’t think the Yankees should lose out on the top players at their positions — which Cano clearly is and Robertson is among — over nickels and dimes. If they get blown out of the water like Cano last year, fine. I can live with that. But letting Roberson go because of a small amount wouldn’t sit well with me. They’re the Yankees, after all.