Welcome to February. Spring Training is right around the corner. Now that we’re in a new month, it’s time again to dive into the MLB Trade Rumors archives to remember Some Guys and relive some old hot stove rumblings. The Yankees went 85-77 against all odds in 2013 and were looking to get back to the postseason. The Alex Rodriguez suspension saga was looming over them, as was an aging roster.
The 2013-14 offseason was a big one for the Yankees. Most notably, they lost Robinson Cano to the Mariners. They attempted to prop up the roster with four big signings (Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, Masahiro Tanaka) and several smaller signings (Kelly Johnson, Brian Roberts, Matt Thornton). It didn’t work out — the Yankees went 84-78 in 2014 and missed the postseason again — but we didn’t know that in February. Let’s go back in time, shall we?
February 6th, 2014: Twelve Teams Have Asked Nationals About Espinosa
The Nats are balking at moving Espinosa despite interest from the Yankees, among other clubs, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
The Danny Espinosa collapse was well underway at this point. He hit .242/.319/.408 (99 wRC+) with 38 homers from 2011-12 and was a +3 WAR player each year. A league average hitting middle infielder with 20-ish homer pop and very good defense is a nice little player. Espinosa fell apart in 2013 (22 wRC+), however, and never really recovered. Given the state of the infield in February 2014, it made sense for the Yankees to try to buy low on 26-year-old Espinosa and see whether he could get back to being a +3 WAR player. I can’t help but wonder what they were willing to give up. Espinosa was in camp with the Yankees as a non-roster invitee last spring. They got their man eventually.
February 7th, 2014: Minor Moves: Cole Kimball, Omir Santos
The Yankees have signed righty Cole Kimball to a minor league deal, reports Matt Eddy of Baseball America. Kimball, 28, had spent his entire career with the Nationals organization, making a brief big league debut in 2011 with a 1.93 ERA in 14 innings (though he both struck out and walked 7.1 batters per nine). Since then, however, Kimball has struggled with shoulder issues. In 2012, he threw just 5 2/3 minor league innings. Last year, splitting time between Rookie ball and Triple-A, Kimball posted a 7.31 ERA in 28 1/3 innings with 8.9 K/9 against 4.8 BB/9.
Once upon a time Kimball had some prospect shine as a reliever with the Nationals. The Yankees scooped him up to see whether he could help out with a healthy shoulder, then he allowed 14 runs in 26.2 innings with Double-A Trenton. Kimball went to an independent league and later Mexico, and was out of baseball by 2015. Pretty wild how quickly it can fall apart in this game. Kimball was a good reliever prospect who got a taste of the show in 2011 and was poised to assume a larger role with Washington in 2012. Instead, out of baseball by 2015. Yeesh.
February 7th, 2014: Quick Hits: Epstein, Cespedes, Tanaka, Arb Hearings
Turning back to the aforementioned Tanaka, Yankees GM Brian Cashman told ESPN Radio today (via ESPNNewYork.com’s Andrew Marchand) that the club views its new acquisition as “a really solid, consistent number three starter.” Cashman noted that, though the club scouted Tanaka extensively, uncertainty remains as to how he will transition to the big leagues. “If we get more than that,” Cashman said, “all the better. He’s got a great deal of ability.”
Ah yes, the famed “a really solid, consistent number three starter” comment that was repeated ad nauseum for weeks. Brian Cashman always — always — downplays expectations. The Yankees had just given Masahiro Tanaka a seven-year contract worth $155M, and paid a $20M release fee on top of that. Yeah, sure, they expected a No. 3 starter. Cashman has always been an “underperform and over-deliver” guy and I’m not sure there’s a better example of that than Tanaka. Since his 2014 debut Tanaka is 21st in WAR and 22nd in ERA+ among all pitchers (min. 500 innings). That ain’t no No. 3 starter.
February 8th, 2014: East Notes: Marlins, Orioles, Yankees
The Yankees are making upgrades to their minor-league complex in Tampa, Fla., including a cafeteria for players and field refurbishments, reports Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News. The Yankees have also added to their player development staff, bringing in more scouts and a statistics guru, following a season that saw struggles up and down their farm system.
This was the start of the farm system turnaround. For years the Yankees struggled to produce even complementary players from within. There was Robinson Cano and Chien-Ming Wang in 2005 and Brett Gardner in 2008, and not much else before the current crop of homegrown players. In 2014 the Yankees overhauled their player development system. Facilities were upgraded and personnel was changed, most notably Gary Denbo replacing longtime farm system head Mark Newman. We can never truly know how much of the farm system revival is the result of the changes that took place in 2014. My guess is basically all of it can be attributed to the overhaul. Things weren’t working out, things changed, things got better. Hooray for that.
February 12th, 2014: Derek Jeter To Retire After 2014
Legendary Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter announced today on his Facebook page that he will retire after the 2014 season (hat tip to Andy Martino of the New York Daily News, whose colleague Mark Feinsand tweets that agent Casey Close has confirmed the retirement). Jeter, who turns 40 in June, re-signed with the Yankees — the only franchise he’s ever played for — earlier in the off-season.
Jeter’s announcement came as a surprise, even to the Yankees. I mean, yeah, it was not the most shocking thing in the world that a soon-to-be 40-year-old shortstop announced his impending retirement following an injury-plagued season the year before, but it was not set in stone. With Mariano Rivera, there were some pretty good indications he was ready to call it a career following the 2013 given what happened with his knee and everything in 2012. With Jeter, it kinda came out of nowhere.
The 2014 season was not Jeter’s best — he hit .256/.304/.313 (75 wRC+) with four homers in 634 plate appearances — but he did do this in his final Yankee Stadium at-bat, and this was pretty darn cool:
February 18th, 2014: Yankees Made Offer To Drew Earlier In Off-Season
The Yankees made an offer to free agent infielder Stephen Drew earlier in the off-season, believed to be for two or three years, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Nevertheless, the report indicates, the Yankees do not appear to be one of the four teams still pursuing the 30-year-old.
Yikes, I do not remember this. Drew eventually signed a one-year deal to return to the Red Sox in late-May. It was worth $10.2M, or the pro-rated portion of the $14.1M qualifying offer he rejected over the winter. We’ve seen top free agents wait very long to sign these last few years, even before these last two offseasons. Drew, Ubaldo Jimenez, Nelson Cruz, Kendrys Morales, and Yovani Gallardo all got stuck sitting in free agency until February and March (or later) in recent years. This isn’t a new phenomenon. It’s just more wide-spread.
Anyway, the Yankees were tentatively scheduled to go to into the 2014 season with Kelly Johnson at third, Derek Jeter at short, Brian Roberts at second, and Mark Teixeira at first. Eduardo Nunez was in the mix as well, though he lost his roster spot to Yangervis Solarte in Spring Training. The Yankees eventually traded Johnson for Drew at the deadline, then re-signed Drew the next year. If they offered him two years as this report says, they wound up with him for a year and a half.
February 23rd, 2014: Yankees Agree To Terms With Andrew Bailey
SATURDAY, 11:18pm: Bailey will earn a prorated base salary of $1.975MM if he works his way up to the Major League club, Olney reports. All told, the Major League side of the deal is valued at $2.5MM, and includes a 2015 option and buyout.
Once upon a time Bailey was a Rookie of the Year closer with the Athletics. He wound up with the Red Sox and made 49 appearances from 2012-13 (4.91 ERA and 4.68 FIP) before his shoulder gave out. The Yankees signed him and rehabbed him through numerous setbacks in 2014 and 2015, and then he allowed eight runs in 8.2 innings as a September call-up in 2015. My lasting memory of Bailey as a Yankee will be the three-run home run he gave up to Russell Martin …
February 24th, 2014: Yankees Extend Brett Gardner
Brett Gardner was positioned to be one of the top free agents in next year’s class, but he’s no longer on the market. The Yankees officially announced today that they have signed the Pro Star Management client to a four-year extension with a club option for a fifth season. Gardner’s new deal begins in the 2015 season and is reportedly worth $52MM. He receives a $2MM signing bonus and will earn $12MM in 2015, $13MM in 2016, $12MM in 2017 and $11MM in 2018. The 2019 club option is worth $12.5MM and contains a $2MM buyout.
Only four times this century have the Yankees signed a player in his arbitration years to a long-term extension: Derek Jeter in 2001 (ten years, $189M), Javy Vazquez in 2004 (four years, $45M), Robinson Cano in 2008 (four years, $30M), and Brett Gardner in 2014 (four years, $52M). All except Cano were entering their final season of team control. (The Yankees also signed CC Sabathia and Hideki Matsui to extensions, but those guys were veterans already working on free agent contracts.)
The Yankees have been stingy with long-term extensions and I thought the Gardner deal was an indication the way the team did business was going to change, but nope. To be fair, it’s only now that the Yankees have some young players worth extending. It sure would’ve been rad had they signed Didi Gregorius in, like, January 2016, but alas. The Gardner contract worked out quite well — that $52M bought them +14.2 WAR across four years — and it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see the Yankees wait until Aaron Judge, Luis Severino, et al are a year away from free agency before extending them.
February 25th, 2014: Quick Hits: Santana, Billingsley, Tejada, Drew, Hanrahan, Diaz
Across town, the Yankees are keeping tabs on reliever Joel Hanrahan after inking another rehabbing former closer in Andrew Bailey, reports Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. As Martino explains, interest in arms like Bailey and Hanrahan shows that the club has some concern with its pen depth.
The Red Sox made some really terrible reliever trades back in the day. They gave up Josh Reddick (and two others) to get Andrew Bailey, who stunk for them and got hurt. They also gave up Mark Melancon (and three others) to get Joel Hanrahan. Hanrahan allowed eight runs in 7.1 innings with the Red Sox, all in 2013, and never pitched again. Wrecked his arm. The Tigers gave him a look in Spring Training in 2014 and 2015 but nothing came of it. Hanrahan was a two-time All-Star with a 2.24 ERA (3.24 FIP) from 2012-13. His career lasted 7.1 more innings. Brutal.