It’s hard to believe that after everything that happened last week, today is the first day of the Winter Meetings in Orlando. These next three days — the fourth day of the Winter Meetings is always slow because teams head home around noon-ish — might be a little slower than usual only because some of the very top free agents are always off the board. I still expect this week to be pretty busy, with lots of rumors and trades and signings with whatnot.
Robinson Cano is leaving for the Mariners and Curtis Granderson is going across town to the Mets, but the Yankees have already inked Jacoby Ellsbury (seven years, $153M), Brian McCann (five years, $85M), Carlos Beltran (three years, $45M), Hiroki Kuroda (one year, $16M), and Kelly Johnson (one year, $3M). They still need another infielder to help replace Cano as well as another starting pitcher — Yu Darvish was posted during the 2011 Winter Meetings, so hopefully we get some clarification about Masahiro Tanaka this week — and some bullpen help. General depth is always something to monitor as well.
Brian Cashman is not expected to arrive in Orlando until this afternoon according to Andy McCullough, but that’s pretty typical. A few clubs and executives are already there but most trickle in throughout Monday. We’re going to keep track of any Yankees-related news right here throughout the day, so make sure you check back often. All of the timestamps are ET.
- 10:58pm: The Yankees have not changed their stance on Gardner. They will listen to offers but aren’t overly motivated to trade him. [Jack Curry]
- 7:47pm: The asking price for Gardner is “through (the) roof” and the Giants don’t have much interest in Ichiro Suzuki. Not surprised on either count. [John Shea]
- 6:58pm: The Giants are intrigued by Gardner. One person involved in talks called a trade “not likely, but not impossible.” [Sherman]
- 6:38pm: The most likely return for Gardner would be a number four starter, according to rival executives. A number three would be a strong return. Just keep him in that case. [McCullough]
- 5:05pm: The Yankees are looking for relievers and they have stayed in contact with Boone Logan. He had a bone spur removed from his elbow after the season and is expected to start throwing this month. [McCullough]
- 5:01pm: Cuban shortstop Aledmys Diaz will be eligible to sign on February 19th after being suspended for falsifying his age. The Yankees had a “large presence” at the 23-year-old’s recent showcase events in Mexico. Some teams like him more as a second baseman. [Jeff Passan]
- 11:10am: The Yankees have not expressed interest in Johan Santana. He’s coming off his second torn shoulder capsule and the first is usually the kiss of death. [McCullough]
- 11:03am: Thinking about Roy Halladay? Forget it. He’s retiring. Halladay will sign a one-day contract with the Blue Jays and make the official announcement later today. [Jon Heyman]
- The Yankees are one of the teams with interest in trading for Cubs right-hander Jeff Samardzija. I wrote about him around the trade deadline. [Bruce Levine]
- 9:00am: “That’s the last thing I’m worried about,” said Cashman when asked about acquiring a closer. He acknowledged they’re seeking another starter and bullpen help in general. “Listen, we have enough voids that you don’t have to prioritize any of it. You hope to run into something sooner than later that makes you better.” [Dan Martin]
- The Yankees did look into a reunion with Raul Ibanez but he isn’t much of a fit now. The outfield is crowded and there’s no room for another DH-type. Ibanez is expected to sign this week. [Joel Sherman]
- The Yankees still have interest in Omar Infante as a Cano replacement. They are not talking to Mark Ellis, however. [Ken Rosenthal]
Reminder: Your trade proposal sucks.
Baseball America published their list of the top ten Yankees prospects today, and the list is free for all. The scouting reports, however, are not. You’ll need a subscription to read them. The name atop the list won’t be a surprise, but things are pretty wide open after that. They could have gone in any number of directions. Here’s the top ten:
- C Gary Sanchez
- OF Slade Heathcott
- OF Mason Williams
- C J.R. Murphy
- 3B Eric Jagielo
- OF Aaron Judge
- LHP Ian Clarkin
- 1B Greg Bird
- RHP Luis Severino
- 2B Gosuke Katoh
The feature also includes a list of the organization’s top 15 players under the age of 25 and none of the 15 are big leaguers. Can’t say I’m surprised. Those ten guys up there are the top ten and are followed (in order) by LHP Manny Banuelos, SS Abi Avelino, RHP Jose Ramirez, RHP Jose Campos, and RHP Rafael DePaula. I suspect those guys will be prospects 11-15 when the Prospect Handbook comes out in a few weeks. The notable omission is OF Tyler Austin, who had an okay year but dealt with injury problems, specifically a bone bruise in his right wrist. It forced him from the Arizona Fall League after only four games. His stock took a hit this summer.
Sanchez, who has “effortless, well-above-average raw power and an above-average hit tool,” is an easy call for the top spot, especially now that his defense has improved. After him? I don’t see how there could be a consensus. I think it’s somewhat interesting that the top three prospects all have some kind of makeup concern — Sanchez was suspended for insubordination in 2011, Heathcott has had drug an alcohol problems, Williams was arrested for DUI earlier this year and has had run-ins with coaches — despite the team’s renewed emphasis on character. In the end, talent always reigns supreme. Can’t teach it.
A few things from the write-ups stand out. Williams “adopted an Ichiro-style slapping approach” this year and didn’t show the same tools as he had last year. Like Austin, he took a step back. The Yankees project Murphy as a “potential future .280 hitter with 10-12 homer power” while Sanchez is regarded as more of a “.260-.270 hitter with at least 20 home runs annually.” Both profiles fit just fine behind the plate. As for Bird, “some scouts and SAL managers questioned his future power” despite his awesome year. The plate discipline and everything else is fine, but low-power first baseman aren’t exactly a hot commodity. Severino is said to have “raw stuff that is as good as any Yankees farmhand” with a fastball that “sits between 93-95 mph and touches the upper 90s often.” His slider was his best secondary pitch when he signed but his changeup has since surpassed it. Neat.
Heathcott and Murphy are the only players in the top ten slated to open next season with Triple-A Scranton, and I suppose there’s a chance Heathcott will be sent back to Double-A Trenton to start the year. That’s unlikely though. The Yankees didn’t have any big league ready help this past season and for the most part, that will be the case again in 2014. Their farm system took a slight step back overall but not as big as it would have been without those three first rounders. The team needed to add some impact talent and it did with that draft. Most of their highest ceiling prospects are in the low minors — the short season leagues — and will need time to develop.
The Yankees came into the offseason needing an everyday caliber infielder, and that need still exists after Robinson Cano took a ten-year contract from the Mariners last week. Kelly Johnson is a solid role player but probably not someone the team wants to earmark for 600+ plate appearances next season, though his versatility allows them to search for a second or third baseman. They have some flexibility when it comes to adding that infielder.
One of the best infielders still available on the open market is former Tigers second baseman Omar Infante, whom the Yankees contacted within the first few days of free agency. Jon Morosi recently reported the club even made Infante an offer a few weeks ago. I assume that was just a first offer and they plan to get a little more serious now that Cano is bolting for Seattle. Chances are Infante and his agent will bump up their price a little bit knowing New York just lost their franchise player. Can’t blame them.
Infante, who will turn 32 in a little more than two weeks, definitely fills a need for the Yankees, at least on paper. How good of a fit is he for the roster? That’s another question. Let’s dig in.
- Infante is a pure contact hitter from the right side. He hit .318 (.333 BAIP) with a 9.2% strikeout rate and an 84.5% contact rate this past season and .288 (.306 BABIP) with a 10.3% strikeout rate and an 86.7% contact rate over the last three years. That the 14th lowest strikeout rate and 33rd highest contact rate among 226 qualified hitters since 2011. He’s a classic all-fields hitter.
- Infante didn’t have much of a platoon split this past season, hitting .326 with a 113 wRC+ against righties and .301 with a 124 wRC+ against lefties. The split is a bit more pronounced over the last three years but not enough to make him a straight platoon player: .283 average with a 90 wRC+ against righties and a .298 average with a 118 wRC+.
- Although he was a utility man earlier in his career, Infante has settled in at second base over the last three years. The various metrics — +18 UZR, +5 DRS, +9 FRAA, and +29 Total Zone — say he’s been anywhere from slightly above-average to outstanding there. Infante also has a bunch of experience at third, short, and all three outfield positions.
- Infante isn’t a burner but he is an asset on the bases. He has gone 26-for-33 (79%) in stolen base attempts over the last three years while taking the extra base (first-to-third on a single, etc.) a very good 49% of the time. The league average is around 40%.
- The Tigers did not tender Infante a qualifying offer so teams will not have to forfeit a draft pick to sign him.
- Outside of hitting for contact, Infante doesn’t provide much else with the bat. He hit 30 doubles and 12 homers (.144 ISO) last year and 24 doubles with ten homers (.132 ISO) this year, so the extra base hits are few and far between. As the batted ball distance plot shows, he simply doesn’t hit the ball very far. Yankee Stadium doesn’t figure to boost his power output all that much.
- Infante doesn’t walk, like at all. He drew a walk in 4.2% of plate appearances this year and 4.4% from 2011-2013, both well-below-average. Basically half the league average. Because he puts the ball in play so easily, he rarely works deep counts and has averaged only 3.40 pitches per plate appearances over the last three years.
- Injuries have been a problem throughout his career, specifically hand injuries. Infante missed a little more than a month with a left wrist sprain this year and two weeks with a broken finger in 2011. He had surgery to repair a broken bone in his left hand in both 2008 and 2009, and also had a sports hernia repaired during the 2010-2011 offseason.
- If you are concerned about such things, Infante has stunk (62 wRC+) in his limited postseason action (30 games and 119 plate appearances). He has played for contending teams in Atlanta and Detroit, so that won’t be a new experience.
Infante had the best offseason season of his career in 2013 (.318/.345/.450, 117 wRC+) and it came at a good time, right before free agency. From 2011-2012, he hit .275/.308/.400 (90 wRC+) in over 1,200 plate appearances. If he hits like he did this year, Infante is an above-average player thanks to his defense. If he hits like he did from 2011-2012, he’s average at best. Jon Heyman says the Royals are among the other clubs trying to land him, so the Yankees have competition.
A contract in line with Marco Scutaro’s three-year, $20M pact with the Giants would seem appropriate, but the market is crazy and Infante could wind up with three years and closer to $30M instead. That strikes me as pretty pricey for a guy with one above-average offensive season in the last three years and just two in his ten full seasons. His versatility is more reputation than reality at this point as well — it’s been fours years since he last played more than 30 innings at any position other than second — so I’m not sure how flexible he really is. Infante might be the best option at second base, but he also might be a guy who disappoints because he had his best season with the bat at just the right time.
The manager of the most recent Yankees’ dynasty is heading to Cooperstown. Joe Torre was unanimously elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the 16-person Expansion Era committee, it was announced. Bobby Cox and Tony LaRussa were elected unanimously as well. Former MLBPA head Marvin Miller, former Yankees manager Billy Martin, former Yankees pitcher Tommy John, and Yankees owner George Steinbrenner were not elected.
“It hits you like a sledgehammer,” said Torre after being elected to the Hall of Fame. “I really have to thank [Joe McDonald] and Donald Grant for allowing me to manage the New York Mets at the age of 36 … once you get into the competition, it never gets old.”
Torre, 73, managed the Yankees from 1996-2007 and led the team to six pennants and four World Series titles. The club went 1,173-767 (.605) during his 12-year tenure and finished in first place ten times. Torre also managed Mets (1977-1981), Braves (1982-1984), Cardinals (1990-1995), and Dodgers (2008-2010), but he is heading to the Hall of Fame because of his success in New York. He is the second winningest manager in franchise history behind Joe McCarthy, who won 1,460 games from 1931-1946.
“On behalf of the Steinbrenner family and our entire organization, I’d like to congratulate Joe Torre on his induction today into the Hall of Fame,” said Hal Steinbrenner in a statement. “Joe led our team during one of the most successful runs in our storied history, and he did it with a quiet dignity that was true to the Yankee way. Joe’s place in Yankees history has been secure for quite some time and it is appropriate that he now gets to take his place among the greats in Cooperstown.”
As a player, Torre hit .297/.365/.452 (129 OPS+) with 2,342 hits and 252 homeruns in parts of 18 seasons. He spent the majority of his career as a catcher and first baseman but also played some third. He won the 1971 NL MVP with the Cardinals, when he led baseball in hits (230), batting average (.363), runs driven in (137) and total bases (352). Torre, who was born and raised in Brooklyn, also played for the Braves and Mets. Although his playing career was excellent, he’s going in as a manager.
Miller, Martin, John, and Steinbrenner all received fewer than six votes. Twelve votes are needed for induction. Miller not being elected is ridiculous given his impact on baseball and the union, but he’s been getting snubbed for years. It’s par for the course at this point. Steinbrenner’s legacy is a mixed bag with a lot of good and a lot of bad. I think he belongs and will eventually get in, but I can definitely understand him being left out. That’s a case worthy of much debate.
2013 Season: 85-77 (637 RS, 671 RA, 77-85 pythag. record), didn’t qualify for playoffs
Top stories from last week:
- The Yankees lost their best player to free agency when Robinson Cano agreed to a ten-year, $240M contract with the Mariners. New York’s final offer was seven years and $175M, so Seattle blew them out of the water. He couldn’t pass that up. Curtis Granderson signed a four-year, $60M deal with the Mets.
- Despite losing Cano and Granderson, the Yankees were very busy last week. They signed Jacoby Ellsbury (seven years, $153M), Carlos Beltran (three years, $45M), and Kelly Johnson (one year, $3M) as free agents while retaining Hiroki Kuroda (one year, $16M). As a result of all the moves, the team has forfeited their first and two supplemental first round (for Cano and Granderson) picks.
- In the wake of the two outfield additions, the Yankees are shopping Ichiro Suzuki and have received “significant interest” in Brett Gardner. Chris Stewart was traded to the Pirates for a player to be named later. Jayson Nix, Matt Daley, and David Adams were non-tendered.
- MLB and NPB are likely to agree to a new posting system soon. According to the latest proposal, bids will be capped at $20M and any team who bids the maximum will be allowed to negotiate with the player. It’s unclear if Masahiro Tanaka will still be posted.
- The Yankees have interest in Mike Pelfrey but not Dan Uggla. They signed Brian Gordon and Russ Canzler to a minor league deals and “strongly believe” they will be able to retain Matt Daley. A fifth starter competition will be held in camp.
- Matthew Krause was hired as the new strength and conditioning coach. Gary Tuck is likely to take over as bullpen coach. Former big league managers Trey Hillman and Mike Quade were added to the front office and developmental staff.
- The Yankees lost $58M in ticket revenue from 2012 to 2013.
Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the interactive Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.
Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?
Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?
Via Ken Davidoff: The Yankees have signed right-hander Brian Gordon to a minor league contract. You might remember him from those two spot starts he made for the Bombers back in 2011, one against the Rangers (two runs, 5.1 innings) and one against the Reds (four runs, five innings). I assume he received an invitation to Spring Training.
Gordon, 35, moved into the bullpen full-time last season and had a 3.57 ERA (2.45 FIP) with awesome strikeout (9.43 K/9 and 25.4 K%) and walk (1.29 BB/9 and 3.5 BB%) rates in 63 innings for the Athletics’ Triple-A affiliate. He spent the second half of 2011 and all of 2012 pitching in Korea. Gordon is an older guy, but the Yankees definitely need bullpen help and he had an outstanding year in 2013. It’s worth the minor league contract to find out if it was legitimate improvement following the role change or just a fluke.
Via Joel Sherman: The Yankees “strongly believe” they will re-sign right-hander Matt Daley to what I assume is a minor league contract. The team non-tendered the Queens native earlier this week after deciding he wasn’t worth carrying on the 40-man roster all winter.
Daley, 31, returned from shoulder surgery this year and struck out eight in six scoreless and walkless innings with New York in September. He was awesome (2.02 ERA and 1.88 FIP) in 53.1 innings at three minor league levels during the summer. The Yankees signed Daley two offseasons ago and rehabbed him from the surgery. They seem to really like him, just not enough to keep him on the 40-man for the time being. If he does return to the organization, I expect Daley to get a long look for a bullpen spot in camp.
I pretty much never look at RAB’s traffic. I’m not trying to be cool or anything, it’s the truth. I used to obsess over it but that has (thankfully) subsided. For the first time in months, I decided to check out today’s traffic for obvious reasons. Thanks to Robinson Cano‘s defection to the Mariners, we have set a new single-day traffic record at RAB. That’s what it took to beat the previous record set on July 9th, 2010, otherwise known as the day of the Cliff Lee non-trade. Believe it or not, the third highest-trafficked day in RAB history was just two days ago, when they agreed to sign Jacoby Ellsbury. I sincerely thank you for making RAB one of your stops for the latest on the Yankees.
Now that that’s out of the way, it is Friday and I did promise you links on Fridays a few weeks ago, so here are this week’s Friday links.
- If you’re wondering how the other half feels about the Cano stuff, I recommend by buddy Jeff Sullivan’s post over at USS Mariner. The common thread here is that regardless of whether the Yankees or Mariners would have signed Cano, that team still would have had more walk to do to get back into the postseason.
- In the wake of Ellsbury deal, here is Dave Cameron’s post about how speed players tend to age. It’s worth pointing out that of the speed guys who aged well, either they drew a lot of walks (Rickey Henderson, Kenny Lofton, Tim Raines) or hit for some power (Devon White, Steve Finley). The ones who did neither (Aaron Rowand, Marquis Grisson) either stunk as they got older or were a total freak like Ichiro Suzuki. Ellsbury’s walk rate is about league average and he’s a low power guy, which is part of the reason why I’m skeptical.
- Know how hitters always say it’s easier to hit once the knuckleballer is out of the game because you’re used to seeing 90+ mph fastballs and all that? Christopher Carruthers examined R.A. Dickey and the pitchers who follow him either in the same game or as the next day’s starter and found that as a whole, they perform a whole lot better following Dickey than they do in other situations. His value extends beyond his time on the mound because of the adjustments hitters have to make against his knuckleball.
- Jeff Passan, Charleson Robinson, and Rand Getlin have a story about what amounts to a human-trafficking ring involving Cuban baseball players. After they defect, some players are basically held for ransom and auctioned off to the highest bidder, with a portion of their big league earnings going to the people who held them and their families captive for months at a time. It’s pretty frightening stuff. The article focuses on Rangers outfielder Leonys Martin, but he’s far from the only guy to go through this.
- For all of you who are hockey fans like me (what else am I supposed to watch all winter?), I really enjoyed this Seth Wickersham article about the life of an enforcer and fighting in the NHL in general. I enjoy watching a guy beat the crap out of another guy as much as anyone, but it’s only a matter of time before the league bans fighting all together. Has to be done.
- Les Carpenter wrote a feature on the legacy of Chuck Hughes, the only NFL player to die on the field during the game. He had a severely clogged artery and a blood clot broke loose during a hit, becoming trapped in the artery and cut off blood flow to his heart. The tackle essentially resulted in a heart attack. Really interesting story.
Friday: Here is your open thread for the night. The Devils and Knicks are playing and that’s pretty much it. Good night to go out and forget about Cano no longer being a Yankee. Talk about anything you like here. Go nuts.
Saturday: Once again, here is your open thread. All three hockey locals plus the Nets are playing, and there’s college football on as well. You folks know how this works by now, so have at it.
Sunday: This is your open thread for the night yet again. The Panthers and Saints are the late NFL game plus the Rangers are playing as well. Talk about whatever here. Enjoy.
Got a handful of notes:
- Scouting director Damon Oppenheimer told George King (subs. req’d) that RHP Ty Hensley participated in Instructional League after the season and will be ready to go for camp. “He looked like he was ready to go. He should be good for Spring Training,” said Oppenheimer. Hensley had surgery on both hips earlier this year.
- MiLB.com posted their Yankees’ farm system All-Star team the other week it’s basically a roster of the best performers in the organization. C Gary Sanchez and 1B Greg Bird headline the team for obvious reasons. Both mashed this summer.
- C R.J. Baker has been suspended 50 games for refusing to take an offseason drug test. The 29-year-old has been an organizational catcher for a few years now, spending a lot of time on the phantom DL and bouncing between levels, going wherever an extra backstop was needed.
Now, onto the stats:
Arizona Fall League (season is over, so these stats are final)
- OF Tyler Austin: 4 G, 4-12, 2 R, 1 3B, 3 RBI, 2 BB, 1 K, 1 HBP (.333/.438/.500) — left the league with a wrist injury
- UTIL Addison Maruszak: 10 G, 9-32, 8 R, 2 2B, 2 RBI, 10 BB, 5 K, 1 SB, 1 CS (.281/.452/.344)
- 3B/C Peter O’Brien: 16 G, 12-63, 5 R, 2 2B, 4 HR, 13 RBI, 2 BB, 26 K (.190/.212/.413)
- OF Mason Williams: 22 G, 23-86, 11 R, 6 2B, 4 RBI, 8 BB, 18 K, 4 SB, 2 CS (.267/.330/.337)
- RHP Brett Gerritse: 9 G, 11.2 IP, 12 H, 12 R, 12 ER, 11 BB, 12 K, 2 HR,1 WP, 1 HB (9.26 ERA, 1.96 WHIP)
- LHP Fred Lewis: 11 G, 11 IP, 8 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 5 BB, 10 K, 1 WP (0.00 ERA, 1.18 WHIP) — probably going to get taken in the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday
- LHP Vidal Nuno: 5 G, 4 GS, 19.2 IP, 20 H, 10 R, 7 ER, 3 BB, 18 K, 1 HR (3.20 ERA, 1.17 WHIP)
- LHP James Pazos: 10 G, 10.1 IP, 13 H, 5 R, 2 ER, 7 BB, 9 K, 2 WP (1.74 ERA, 1.94 WHIP)
Via Jon Heyman: The Yankees have checked in on free agent right-hander Mike Pelfrey. The team is still looking for a number three-ish type starter even after re-signing Hiroki Kuroda. They’re going to hold a competition for the fifth spot in Spring Training.
Pelfrey, 29, had a 5.19 ERA (3.99 FIP) in 152.2 innings for the Twins in 2013, his first season following Tommy John surgery. At his best before elbow construction, he had a 3.66 ERA (3.82 FIP) in 204 innings for the Mets back in 2010. That’s probably his best case scenario. Pelfrey has the size (6-foot-7, 250 lbs.) and stuff (sinker averaged almost 93 mph this past season) that make you think he could be great, but he’s never lived up to the billing of being the ninth overall pick in the 2005 draft. No harm in checking in. Hopefully he’s nothing more than a backup plan.