Rosenthal: Angels could look to hire Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler

(Charlie Neibergall/AP)
(Charlie Neibergall/AP)

According to Ken Rosenthal, the Angels could look to hire Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler to be their GM after the season. Ex-GM Jerry Dipoto stepped down a few weeks following a long power struggle with manage Mike Scioscia — owner Arte Moreno sided with Scioscia, so Dipoto left — and former GM Bill Stoneman has stepped in on an interim basis.

The Angels lost a potential GM/front office candidate yesterday when Dave Dombrowski agreed to join the Red Sox, and I’m sure he was relatively high on their list. He was high on everyone’s list. (The Yankees also lost a trade partner. Brian Cashman and Dombrowski have hooked up for a ton of trades over the years.) Then again, it seems unlikely Dombrowski would have “settled” for a GM job at this point of his career.

Eppler, 39, has interviewed for several GM jobs in recent years — he was a finalist for the Padres GM job last year before they hired A.J. Preller — and in fact he was reportedly the runner-up to Dipoto for the Angels GM job a few years ago, so Rosenthal’s report makes sense. The groundwork has been laid and the two sides are already familiar with each other. The feeling out phase is already complete.

The Yankees promoted Eppler to assistant GM in January 2012 and I thought there was a chance he was being lined up to succeed Brian Cashman, but Cashman has since signed another contract. Eppler has been with the Yankees since 2005, climbing the ranks from scout to pro scouting director to assistant GM. By all accounts he’s a really smart guy. They don’t call nobodies for GM interviews.

I don’t believe the Yankees can block Eppler from leaving for a GM job — they have the contractual right to block the interview, but that rarely happens — since it’s an upward move, so I guess the questions are a) do the Angels want him, and b) does Eppler want to join the Angels? On one hand, there are only 30 GM jobs. On the other, the Angels are kinda dysfunctional and have an unfireable manager. It’s not a great situation.

Either way, it seems like only a matter of time until Eppler gets the opportunity to be a big league GM. Maybe it’s with the Yankees as Cashman’s eventual successor, maybe it’s with the Angels, maybe it’s somewhere else entirely. (Mariners?) The Angels might not be the most desirable GM job out there, but being a GM is better than being an assistant GM.

Same Skipper, Familiar Faces Headline New-Look Coaching Staff [2015 Season Preview]

For the first time in several years, the Yankees made sweeping changes to their coaching staff this past offseason. Joe Girardi returned despite a second straight postseason-less year, but hitting coach Kevin Long did not. The base coaches were also shuffled around. It all adds up to a new-look coaching staff that still features some familiar faces. Let’s look at the coaching staff heading into the new season.


Joe Girardi: More Responsibility Than Ever Before

It goes without saying that being a big league manager comes with a ton of responsibility. Managers don’t just bring in relievers or wait for the thumbs up to ask for instant replay. We see a very small part of what managers actually do. Most of their work happens behind the scenes, in the clubhouse or on the field hours before or after first pitch. They have 25 players and 25 egos to manage. More than that when you include support staff.

Girardi is about to enter his eighth season as Yankees manager and over these last seven years we’ve learned a lot about him as an on-field strategist. He’s very good at ensuring his hitters get the platoon advantage — the Yankees had the platoon advantage in 62.9% of their plate appearances the last three years, sixth best in baseball. Girardi is also very meticulous with his bullpen and making sure his relievers are rested.

This season, the Yankees heaped more even more responsibility on Girardi’s shoulders by building what amounts to a pitching and defense team. They built up a ton of bullpen depth and are counting on Girardi not only deploying his relievers in the best way possible, but also ensuring they are rested for the long season. That’s the formula. Scratch out a few runs, then turn it over to Girardi and the bullpen. He won’t have many opportunities to platoon his hitters this season though, with only Chris Young and Garrett Jones on the bench as usable platoon bats.

Girardi is also going to have to manage the Alex Rodriguez circus. That hasn’t been too crazy in Spring Training, but it will be once the regular season starts, at least at first. Trips to visiting parks will be headaches. Girardi and the Yankees dealt with this when A-Rod returned in 2013 and that went about as well as everyone could have hoped, so hopefully the chaos will be kept to a minimum. Either way, Joe’s got his work cut out for him in 2015, on and off the field.

Larry Rothschild: The Fixer

The Yankees hired Rothschild during the 2010-11 offseason and since then they’ve handed him several project pitchers. He’s been able to fix some (Brandon McCarthy) but not all (A.J. Burnett). This year, Rothschild will be tasked with not only helping Nathan Eovaldi take a step forward in his development, but also implementing a plan to keep Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia healthy. Right now, that plan seems to be extra rest whenever possible early in the season. And, of course, the Yankees will look to acquire McCarthy-esque pitchers at a discount price during the season and hope Rothschild turns them into top shelf producers. The Yankees seem to have had two or three pitchers kinda come out of nowhere to contribute each year under Rothschild. They’ll need him to do it again in 2015.

Jeff Pentland & Alan Cockrell: It Was Him, Not Us

Pentland. (Presswire)
Pentland. (Presswire)

When the Yankees missed the postseason for the second straight year in 2014, someone was going to take the fall. And once Brian Cashman signed his new contract, Long was the obvious scapegoat. He was fired in October and eventually replaced by not just one hitting coach, but two. Pentland is the hitting coach and Cockrell is the assistant hitting coach. It’s a two-man job these days.

Simply put, Pentland and Cockrell will be asked to show Long was the problem with the offense the last two years, not the team’s collection of aging, past-prime hitters. The hitting coach duo has to get Mark Teixeira and Brian McCann to overcome the shift, coax a productive year out of soon-to-be 38-year-old Carlos Beltran, convince Stephen Drew he isn’t a true talent .162 hitter, get Brett Gardner to repeat last year’s power output, and help Didi Gregorius take a step forward. Nice and easy, right? Good luck, fellas.

Gary Tuck: Catching Instructor Extraordinaire

Tuck, the Yankees’ bullpen coach, has long been regarded as an excellent catching instructor. The Yankees value defense behind the plate very much, so while Tuck is the bullpen coach first and foremost, part of his job this year will be developing the glovework of either Austin Romine or John Ryan Murphy, whoever wins the backup catcher’s job. The pitchers are Rothschild’s responsibility. Tuck is in charge of the catchers.

Tony Pena & Joe Espada: Base Coaches

In addition to firing Long, the Yankees also fired first base coach Mick Kelleher and shuffled around their coaching staff. Rob Thomson moves from third base coach to bench coach, Pena moves from bench coach to first base coach, and Espada moves from the front office to third base coach. Thomson had a knack for bad sends — I blame some of that on the offense, Thomson had the push the envelope on occasion to score runs — and hopefully Espada is an upgrade there. We really don’t know what to expect from him though. Evaluating base coaches is pretty tough, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t important. They’re important enough that the Yankees remade the staff to get new ones this winter.

Yankees discussing minor league coaching position with Tino Martinez


The Yankees are currently discussing a minor league coaching position with former first baseman Tino Martinez, reports George King. The Associated Press says it’s a done deal, though some comments Martinez made to King yesterday make it seem like nothing is final just yet.

“We are talking about it. Seeing minor league teams a couple of times a month,” said Tino to King. “(Farm system head Gary Denbo) asked me to help out, and I have been doing a little bit of everything. These kids are so willing to learn, they want to move up.’’

Martinez, 47, has been at Spring Training as a guest instructor. He spent 2008-09 in the team’s front office as a special assistant, and he spent half of 2013 as the Marlins hitting coach. Tino resigned that July amid allegations he verbally and physically abused players, which, uh, isn’t cool.

I have no idea what kind of instructor Martinez is, so I couldn’t tell you if he would be a good hire or a bad hire. I’m sure the Yankees did their homework. That said, my guess is if this was someone other than Tino Martinez, the abuse allegations wouldn’t be overlooked so easily.

Yankees hire Hideki Matsui as special advisor to Brian Cashman

(The Times of Trenton)
(The Times of Trenton)

Yesterday afternoon, the Yankees announced they have hired former World Series MVP Hideki Matsui as a special advisor to GM Brian Cashman. It was made official with a press conference at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa earlier this morning. Here’s the blurb from the press release on Matsui’s role with the team:

In his first full-time role in the New York Yankees front office, Matsui will work closely with General Manager Brian Cashman and Player Development Vice President Gary Denbo. Matsui will spend the majority of the 2015 season traveling throughout the Yankees’ minor league system and focusing on aspects of hitting with managers, batting coaches and players.

Matsui, who retired in June 2013 after signing a one-day contract with the Yankees, spend last summer traveling to the various minor league affiliates — mostly Double-A Trenton and Short Season Staten Island it seemed — and working with minor leaguers in an unofficial capacity. Sounds like he’ll be doing the same going forward, except now with a title.

“I’m really looking forward to working with the young players and offering whatever I can,” said Matsui to the Associated Press at this morning press conference while also hinting at an interest in coaching full-time down the road. “What I hope to do is help the development of the players and support them anyway I can.”

“Hideki Matsui is capable of anything. We’ll take as much Hideki Matsui as we can (get),”  said Cashman to Pete Caldera and the Associated Press. “We’ve kind of been waiting on him to tap into all he can provide … It could evolve into something bigger down the line.”

I can’t imagine anyone doesn’t like Matsui and/or isn’t thrilled with this news. I have no idea what kind of teacher and instructor he is, but the Yankees wouldn’t have hired him if they weren’t impressed with the work he put in last year. Matsui was awesome. I’m glad he’s back in the organization in some capacity.

Joe Espada and the challenge of balancing smarts with aggressiveness on the bases

Unfortunately, there's more to being a third base coach than high-fiving guys who hit homers. (Presswire)
Unfortunately, there’s more to being a third base coach than high-fiving guys who hit homers. (Presswire)

Earlier this week, the Yankees (finally!) announced their 2015 coaching staff, most notably adding a new hitting coach and assistant hitting coach. They also added a new infield coach in Joe Espada, who also takes over as third base coach. (Espada spent 2014 as a special assistant to Brian Cashman.) Robbie Thomson is shifting to bench coach and Tony Pena is returning to his old role as first base coach. Got it? Good.

Under Thomson last season the Yankees had 21 runners thrown out at home, the fourth most in baseball. There were definitely some egregious sends on Thomson’s part last summer. We all saw that. But, under Thomson from 2009-13, the Yankees had the third, 18th, 29th, 17th, and 27th most runners thrown out at home. So that’s two good years, two bad years, and two average years in the six with Thomson at third base. That averages out to … well … average.

For many reasons, the Yankees had a lot of runners thrown out at home last season. One of those reasons was Thomson. Other reasons include slow runners, great relay throws, good hops for the catcher, and plain ol’ luck. There were other factors in play too but those are the big ones. Point is, there’s a whole lot that goes into this game we call baseball, and pinning the team’s issues with having runners thrown out at the plate last year on the third base coach is at best only partially correct.

The 2014 Yankees, as detailed in this very space back in October, were not a very good base-running team last season. They did steal a lot of bases with a high success rate — 112 steals and 81.1% success rate were fifth and second best in MLB, respectively — but they were terrible when it came to going first-to-third on a single, advancing on wild pitches, stuff like that. I mean literally worst in baseball according to the numbers. Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury stole a lot of bases, though stolen bases are only one piece of the base-running pie.

The 2015 Yankee do figure to be a little better just because Didi Gregorius has taken the extra base 55% of the time of his career (first-to-thirds, etc.), well above the ~40% league average. He doesn’t steal a lot of bases but he does take the extra bag on base hits. Chase Headley‘s and Stephen Drew‘s days of being double-digit stolen base threats are likely a thing of the past and neither has rated well at taking the extra base these last few years. Alex Rodriguez used to be an elite base-runner but with two surgically repaired hips at age 39? Nope.

New third base coach Joe Espada is going to face the same challenge Thomson faced the last two years: balancing the need to be aggressive to score runs while having a generally slow team. The Yankees had 21 guys thrown out at the plate last summer and what that number doesn’t tell you is how many times Thomson made what appeared to be a bad decision sending a runner home only to have it work out because the throw was off-line. You know, the kind of thing that happens in just about every baseball game ever. Someone you have to force the issue.

The Yankees have had a below-average offense the last two seasons, and these days stringing together three or four hits to create a rally is really tough because of infield shifts and all that, so I think Thomson did have to be aggressive with his sends as the third base coach. The team simply didn’t have as many opportunities to score as they had in the past, so he had to try to create runs and sometimes hope for that off-line throw or the catcher being unable to apply the tag on time.

Did Thomson maybe take that too far this past season? Yeah, possibly. But the Yankees had to push the envelope in these situations and they will have to continue doing so under Espada. Once upon a time the Yankees could sit around and wait for the big multi-run homer. That isn’t the case anymore. Pure station-to-station baseball won’t work too well given the hitters on the roster, but, at the same time, running at will won’t work as well either. A balance has to be struck somewhere.

In case you’re wondering, the Marlins had the 12th, 26th, eighth, and 24th most runners thrown out at the plate with Espada as their third base coach from 2010-13. And that tells us pretty much nothing about how he’ll perform as the third base coach in New York this year. Different rosters, different players, everything’s different. Espada has to find a way to push the envelope as the third base coach while not exposing the, shall we say, speed limitations of some players on the roster. That’s something Thomson struggled with in 2014.

Yankees announce new hires and changes to coaching staff for 2015

Pena has a new role for 2015. (Presswire)
Pena has a new role for 2015. (Presswire)

The Yankees have finalized and announced their 2015 coaching staff. As expected, Jeff Pentland and Alan Cockrell have been hired as the hitting coach and assistant hitting coach, respectively, and Joe Espada joins the team as infield coach. We heard those moves were coming yesterday.

There are other changes, however. Espada is taking over as third base coach with Rob Thomson shifting to bench coach. Tony Pena is now the first base coach. Bullpen coach Gary Tuck and pitching coach Larry Rothschild remain in their roles. Back when former hitting coach Kevin Long and first base coach Mick Kelleher were let go, we heard the Yankees could rearrange their staff a bit, and that’s exactly what happened.

Espada, 39, was the Marlins third base coach from 2010-13, so he has experience in that role. Thomson had been the team’s third base coach since 2009. He served as Joe Girardi‘s bench coach in 2008 and before that was the first base coach. Pena had been the bench coach since 2009 and prior to that he spent the 2005-08 seasons as the club’s first base coach, so he’s returning to a familiar role.

Thomson caught a lot of grief last year because the Yankees had 21 runners thrown out at the plate, the fourth most in baseball, and some were due to aggressive sends that were obviously bad. The Yankees had among the fewest runners thrown out at the plate in baseball from 2010-13, however. The Marlins also had a relatively small number of runners thrown out at home during Espada’s tenure, but that doesn’t tell us too much about him as a third base coach.

Either way, the most significant moves are the additions of Pentland and Cockrell. The rest is just rearranging furniture, really. The Yankees, like several other teams, have decided hitting coach is a two-man job and will count on the new voices of Pentland and Cockrell to turn around an offense that has been below-average the last two years. It seems like an impossible task to me, but that’s the job.

Curry: Yankees to name Joe Espada infield coach

(Steve Mitchell/Getty)
(Steve Mitchell/Getty)

In addition to naming Jeff Pentland and Alan Cockrell their new hitting coach and assistant hitting coach, respectively, the Yankees are also expected to name Joe Espada their new infield coach, reports Jack Curry. The hiring is not yet official but it’s only a matter of time.

It’s unclear if Espada will also take over as the team’s first base coach — Mick Kelleher had served as New York’s infield and first base coach these last several years. There was some talk the Yankees would move some coaches around, so it could be that Espada will fill another role with someone else taking over at first base. We’ll see.

Espada, 39, joined the Yankees as a special assistant to Brian Cashman last year. He had been the Marlins third base coach from 2010-13 and also spent several years in Florida’s minor league system as a hitting coach and infield coordinator. Espada’s playing career spanned ten seasons in the minors but he never did reach the show.

With Espada, Pentland, and Cockrell now on board, the Yankees have fill out their coaching staff for the 2015 season. We just have to see if Espada is going to be the first base coach as well. I suppose he could be taking over as third base coach with Robbie Thomson moving over to first base. We’ll find out soon enough.