Wednesday Notes: Minor League Rosters, Payroll, Betances

Andujar. (Presswire)
Andujar. (Presswire)

The Yankees will wrap up their first series of the season later today, then enjoy yet another off-day tomorrow. Two off-days in a series at a domed ballpark. Not the best move by the schedule makers. Anyway, here are some bits of news and notes to check out.

Minor league rosters announced

The minor league regular season begins tomorrow and, over the last few days, the Yankees’ full season affiliates have started releasing their Opening Day rosters. The farm system is loaded, so the rosters are pretty exciting. Here are links to the rosters and the top 30 prospects at each level:

There’s always one roster holdout and that is High-A Tampa this year. They haven’t announced their roster yet. We can figure out which top 30 prospects are likely to be on the roster through the process of elimination though: RHP Domingo Acevedo, LHP Ian Clarkin, SS Kyle Holder, RHP James Kaprielian, SS/OF Jorge Mateo, LHP Josh Rogers, and RHP Dillon Tate. That’s a hell of a rotation.

3B Dermis Garcia is not on the Charleston roster and will instead start the season back in Extended Spring Training. Even without him, the RiverDogs are stacked. Non-top 30 prospects like IF Oswaldo Cabrera, SS Diego Castillo, OF Isiah Gilliam, RHP Nick Green, RHP Nick Nelson, RHP Freicer Perez, and C Donny Sands are all on the roster and worth knowing. Cabrera, Castillo, Nelson, Perez, and especially Sands could be top 30 prospects next year.

I should note that while Montgomery and Green are on the Triple-A and Double-A rosters, respectively, both will pitch for High-A Tampa tomorrow. The weather in the Northeast isn’t looking too good and the Yankees want to make sure those two get their work in and stay lined up for the fifth starter’s spot.

Yankees rank third in Opening Day payroll

According to the Ronald Blum, the Yankees opened the 2017 season with a $195M payroll, third highest in MLB. That’s down from $225M last year. The Dodgers (duh) rank first in payroll this year at $225M while the Tigers are second at $199.75M. This is the first time since 1993 that the Yankees are not among the top two teams in Opening Day payroll. Been a while, huh?

Keep in mind this payroll number reflects the Opening Day active roster and disabled list only, so the Yankees aren’t getting dinged for the $21M they have to pay Alex Rodriguez this season. Or the $5.5M they’re paying Brian McCann. Their payroll for luxury tax purposes is much higher. The Yankees are looking to get under the luxury tax threshold soon and the 2018 season will be their best chance to do it. A-Rod and CC Sabathia will be off the books, possibly Masahiro Tanaka as well.

Yankees, Betances discussed two-year deal

Dellin and Larry Rothschild. (Presswire)
Dellin and Larry Rothschild. (Presswire)

At some point prior to their arbitration hearing, the Yankees and Dellin Betances briefly discussed a two-year contract, reports Jon Heyman. We heard the two sides talked about a multiyear deal a few weeks ago, though now we know the term. It was a two-year deal, not a longer contract that would have bought out free agent years. The Yankees beat Betances in arbitration and will pay him $3M this season, not the $5M he was seeking.

Betances, 29, will not be eligible for free agency until after the 2019 season. A two-year contract would have given him a nice little guaranteed payday and the team cost certainty over his next two seasons. These two-year “bridge” deals that buy out arbitration years but not free agent years are becoming quite popular around baseball. Nolan Arenado, Josh Donaldson, A.J. Pollock, Eric Hosmer, Todd Frazier, and Bryce Harper are among those who have signed one within the last few years. As good as Betances is, I’m totally cool with going year-to-year given his history of command issues.

Tiebreaker rules officially added in low minors

The extra inning tiebreaker rules have officially been approved for the low minors, according to Josh Norris. Extra innings in the rookie level Gulf Coast League, Arizona League, and Dominican Summer League will begin with a runner on second base. (The Yankees have affiliates in the GCL and DSL.) The rules will be in effect for the regular season only. Not the postseason. Also, the automatic intentional walk rule has been implemented at every level of the minors.

The extra inning tiebreaker rules were used during the World Baseball Classic and my gosh, they were terrible. Thankfully commissioner Rob Manfred said they are not being considered for MLB. They’re using the tiebreaker rules in the low minors to avoid overworking young pitchers, which is totally cool with me. Those games don’t mean anything — the crowds are basically friends and family at that level, so it’s not like there are many paying customers in attendance — and protecting the young players is the smart move. I’m guessing it’ll be only a matter of time until the tiebreaker rules make their way to other levels of the minors.

Piecoro: Yanks believed to have some interest in Nick Ahmed

(Norm Hall/Getty)
(Norm Hall/Getty)

According to Nick Piecoro, the Yankees are believed to have some level of interest in Diamondbacks shortstop Nick Ahmed. Arizona has plenty of middle infielders (Ketel Marte, Chris Owings, Brandon Drury, Daniel Descalso) and they reportedly started gauging interest in Ahmed a few days ago. The Yankees will be without Didi Gregorius for a few weeks, hence their interest.

Ahmed, 27, starred at UConn and was a second round pick by the Braves in 2011. They sent him to the D’Backs in the Justin Upton trade a few years ago. Ahmed has spent the last two seasons as Arizona’s most of the time shortstop, hitting .223/.271/.335 (56 wRC+) in 767 plate appearances overall. He had surgery to repair the labrum and an impingement in his right hip last August, but he’s fully recovered and playing without restrictions in Spring Training.

As you probably figured given that batting line, Ahmed isn’t in the lineup for his bat. It’s his glove. He’s an excellent defender beloved by both the stats — he is third among all shortstops in DRS (+32) and sixth in UZR (+19.9) the last two seasons despite playing less than full-time — and the eye test. You better be able to pick it when you hit like that. Here’s some video:

The Yankees have some decent shortstop options in-house, though you can understand why they’d keep an out for anyone who might become available. Also, they’ve shown a willingness to completely punt offense when no great options exist. They did it for entire seasons with Stephen Drew at second base and Chris Stewart behind the plate, remember. Ahmed would be a defensive upgrade over Ronald Torreyes, Ruben Tejada, etc.

As always, it boils down to cost. The Yankees will check in on Ahmed because they should absolutely check in following the Gregorius injury, but that doesn’t mean they’ll pay big to get him. I wonder if Tyler Jones could be a factor. The D’Backs took Jones from the Yankees in the Rule 5 Draft, so New York could trade his rights to Arizona, thereby removing the Rule 5 shackles. Jones plus a low-to-mid range prospect? My trade proposal sucks.

I would be remiss if I didn’t point out Ahmed is still in his pre-arbitration years, so he’s making something close to the league minimum, plus he has at least one minor league option remaining. (Possibly two but it’s hard to tell for sure.) He won’t cost much money and the Yankees could stash him in Triple-A once Gregorius is healthy. Not the worst piece of infield depth when the alternatives are guys like Tejada and Pete Kozma.

Anyway, we’ll see whether this leads anywhere. Like I said, the Yankees are smart to check in following the Gregorius injury, and if the price is right, perhaps there’s a deal to be made. Maybe not. Maybe the D’Backs value Ahmed highly and are willing to stash him in Triple-A themselves if they don’t get an offer they like.

(For what it’s worth, Brendan Kuty says Jose Iglesias and Zack Cozart have also been “floated as potential targets.” They’d both cost quite a bit more than Ahmed, both in terms of prospects and salary. Cozart is definitely available because the Reds are rebuilding. I have a hard time believing the Tigers would trade their starting shortstop though.)

The White Sox are scouting the Yankees for a possible Jose Quintana trade, because of course they are

(Jonathan Daniel/Getty)
(Jonathan Daniel/Getty)

The Yankees remain in the mix for White Sox southpaw Jose Quintana. Or at least the White Sox hope they do. According to George King, the ChiSox have been scouting the Yankees all throughout Spring Training in preparation for a potential Quintana trade. Bruce Levine recently reported the Yankees are one of four clubs “believed to be dug into the sweepstakes” for the left-hander. The Astros, Cardinals, and Pirates are the others.

“I think our asks are commensurate with what we are willing to give up,” said White Sox GM Rick Hahn to Joel Sherman. “We are open. We did deals with Boston and Washington, teams with World Series aspirations. Clubs like ours are focused more on the future and so if we are helping someone win in the short term, we have to feel they are helping us win in the long term.”

The Yankees have been connected to Quintana since December, when the ChiSox decided to commit to their rebuild by trading Chris Sale and Adam Eaton. At one point it was reported Quintana talks were expanded to include David Robertson. The White Sox, weirdly, haven’t done much of anything since the Sale and Eaton trades; Quintana, Robertson, Todd Frazier, Nate Jones, and Melky Cabrera remain in their employ. Anyway, I have some thoughts.

1. This passes the sniff test. Does it make sense the Yankees would want Quintana? Yes. He’s very good, he’ll spend the entire 2017 season at age 28, and he’s signed affordably for another four years ($35.35M total). Does it also make sense the White Sox identified the Yankees as a realistic trade partner for Quintana, so much so that they’re scouting them this spring? Yes! The Yankees have one of the best farm systems in baseball, with both the high-end talent to headline a big trade package and the depth to provide quality second, third, and fourth pieces. Trade rumors can be a tricky business with lots of nonsense. There’s something to this one though. It’s not outlandish.

2. The Yankees sure could use a pitcher like Quintana. Obvious statement is obvious. Every team could use a pitcher like Quintana. He’s really good! But, at the moment, the Yankees have very little established pitching under contract/team control beyond 2017. Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia will both be free agents after the season and Masahiro Tanaka figures to use his opt-out if he stays healthy. Imagine a rotation without those guys. Oy vey.

The Yankees are committed to their youth movement, so much so that two of Luis Severino, Luis Cessa, Bryan Mitchell, and Chad Green will be in the rotation on Opening Day. And, as always, the odds are strongly in favor of all four of them (and possibly others!) making starts this year. No team goes through a season with five starters these days. With any luck, one or two or three of those guys will emerge as long-term rotation going forward. That’d be cool.

The thing is, even if that happens, there’s still room in the rotation for Quintana. It’s not Quintana or Severino, Quintana or Cessa, or anything like that. The Yankees can have all of ’em. There’s no such thing as a blocked pitching prospect. Quintana is right smack in the prime of his career and he’s signed well-below market. He’d fit in well with the youth movement and the plan to get under the luxury tax threshold. It’s hard to find another starter who does both so well (and is actually available).

3. Don’t forget to trade your prospects. My stupid and long-running shtick is intended to serve as a reminder that putting all your eggs in the prospect basket is going to lead to a lot of heartbreak. They don’t all work out, that’s why it’s good and necessary to build a deep farm system like the Yankees have. If you’re going to sit on your prospects, you’ll inevitably be left with a lot of nothing. It’s okay to trade some of them. Consider the last two World Series:

  • 2016: The Cubs traded prospects for Aroldis Chapman and the Indians traded prospects for Andrew Miller. Cleveland also agreed to trade prospects for Jonathan Lucroy before he invoked his no-trade clause.
  • 2015: The Royals traded prospects for Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist. The Mets traded prospects for Yoenis Cespedes (and Addison Reed and Tyler Clippard).

Trading prospects for high-end veterans tends to look good for the team getting the veterans when it’s all said and done. (There are always exceptions, and hopefully the Chapman and Miller deals are two of ’em.)

Now, I’m not saying the Yankees should go out and gut their farm system by trading for every available veteran. I’m saying that when someone like Quintana comes along, a very good and young and affordable player who fills a glaring long-term need, it’s okay to deal from that prospect depth. The Yankees have the pieces to make a strong offer while still having an excellent farm system.

4. Yes, I am for trading for Quintana. I guess I should make that clear. I am totally for a Quintana trade. Just don’t ask me to put together a trade package. My trade proposal sucks. The White Sox smartly emphasized quality over quantity (and positional needs) in the Sale and Eaton trades, so I doubt this is a “cobble together four prospects you don’t like and send them to Chicago” situation. Getting a pitcher like Quintana is going to hurt.

Obviously some prospects are more tradeable than others. Trading Gleyber Torres would be tough to swallow and the good news is the Yankees presumably have the pieces to swing a Quintana deal without including Gleyber. Would a package led by, say, Clint Frazier and James Kaprielian be enough? Aaron Judge and Justus Sheffield? Jorge Mateo and Severino? It’s cool to have options and not just have to say “the trade needs to include this one specific guy because he’s the organization’s only elite prospect.” Point is, it’s okay to trade some prospects for a really good pitcher, especially when you have a lot of prospects.

King: Yankees have put Rob Refsnyder on the trade block

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

According to George King, the Yankees have let other teams know they’re willing to list to trade offers for Rob Refsnyder. I suppose that applies to every player. It’s unclear whether any other clubs have interest, or if offers have been made. The Athletics have had interest in Refsnyder in the past. They wanted him (and Adam Warren) for Ben Zobrist at the 2015 trade deadline.

Refsnyder, 26 later this month, is on the outside looking in at the Opening Day roster right now, even after Tyler Austin‘s fluke foot injury. Greg Bird has had a very strong Grapefruit League season to date, giving him the leg up on the first base job. That means Chris Carter figures to join the backup catcher (Austin Romine), backup infielder (Ronald Torreyes), and backup outfielder (Aaron Hicks) on the bench.

An injury could always clear a roster spot, as could Aaron Judge striking out in 60% of his at-bats the rest of the month, but otherwise there’s no clear path to playing time for Refsnyder. He’s a depth player for the Yankees, one they don’t trust defensively at second or third bases. They’ve made that clear with their reluctance to use him at those positions. Right field and first base are his primary positions, for all intents and purposes.

Refsnyder managed to get into 58 games last season, hitting .250/.328/.309 (72 wRC+) overall and .274/.370/.355 (94 wRC+) against lefties. The lack of power is hard to ignore. He hit zero MLB homers last season even though balls were flying out of the park all around the league, and only once in five pro seasons has he hit double digit homers (14 in the minors in 2014). Refsnyder will grind out at-bats, but that’s about it.

What could the Yankees get for Refsnyder? Not a whole lot, probably. Players like this — non-top prospects with questions about both his bat and glove — usually don’t bring a big return. Remember Jose Pirela? Getting Ronald Herrera for him turned out to be a coup. The Rays got a middling pitching prospect (Buddy Borden) for Sean Rodriguez two years ago. The most optimistic projection system (ZiPS) pegs Refsnyder as a +1 WAR player in 2017 and that’s just not very valuable.

The fact Refsnyder is cheap (still in his pre-arbitration years), optionable (he has one option left), and somewhat versatile makes me think an NL team could take a look at him as a bench player. That would be best for Refsnyder at this point. It’s hard to see where he fits with the Yankees long-term. At the same time, keeping him and stashing him in Triple-A for depth in 2017 wouldn’t be a bad idea either, at least while Austin is out.

Saturday Links: Gardner, Rule Changes, Farm System Rankings

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

The Yankees continue the Grapefruit League season this afternoon on the road against the Tigers. Michael Pineda is making his first start of the spring. Unfortunately, the game will not be televised anywhere. Not on YES, not on FOX Sports Detroit, not on MLB Network, not online, nowhere. Sucks. Instead of a game, I offer you some links for the weekend.

Yankees had chances to salary dump Gardner

According to Jon Heyman, the Yankees had trade offers for Brett Gardner this past offseason that involved no money changing hands. They could have sent Gardner and the $25M left on his contract elsewhere. Of course, chances are these offers were essentially salary dumps, meaning the Yankees wouldn’t have received much of anything in return. Gardner isn’t a star or anything, but giving him away as a salary dump would be kinda silly.

My guess is the Yankees will eventually trade Gardner, the longest tenured player on the big league roster and the longest tenured player in the organization, at some point in the next 12 months. And maybe that trade will be a pure salary dump. Who knows. Maybe the Yankees will eat some money to get actual prospects in return, a la Brian McCann. Gardner’s contract isn’t onerous and he’s the team’s best on-base player. I can’t blame the Yankees for not giving him away in a salary dump.

MLB implements new rule changes

Earlier this week MLB and the MLBPA announced a series of rule changes for the 2017 season. None of the changes figure to have a dramatic impact on the game. They didn’t raise the bottom of the strike zone or anything like that. Here’s the full press release and here are the highlights:

  • Intentional walks are now automatic. The manager gives a signal from the dugout and the batter is sent right to first base.
  • Managers have 30 seconds to ask for a replay review. Also, the review crew in New York has a “conditional two-minute guideline” to made their replay decision.
  • Carter Capps’ delivery is now illegal. Pitchers may not take a “second step towards home plate with either foot.”

The automatic intentional walk rule is whatever. I don’t like it but it’s not the end of the world either. The two-minute guideline for replay reviews does sound pretty great even though it’s not a hard limit, just a guideline. Some of those reviews take a long time. Waiting out a replay is easily my least favorite part of baseball these days.

As for Capps, both he and Padres manager Andy Green told A.J. Cassavell they believe his delivery is still legal, but we’ll see. Read the press release. The rule change reads as if it was written specifically for Capps (and Jordan Walden). All of these rule changes take effect right away, so they’re in place for the 2017 season.

(Future trivia answer: The last Yankee to receive a traditional four-pitch intentional walk was Mark Teixeira. Drew Smyly intentionally walked him in the sixth inning on September 20th of last season. The last player to get one is Addison Russell. He was intentionally walked in the tenth inning of Game Seven of the World Series.)

Torres. (Presswire)
Gleyber. (Presswire)

Yankees rank second in BA’s and BP’s farm system rankings

Both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus (subs. req’d) released their annual organizational rankings within the last few days. The Yankees ranked second behind the Braves on both lists. The same was true was on Keith Law’s farm system rankings. The BP list groups teams into tiers, and the Yankees and Braves were alone at the top. Here’s a snippet of the write-up:

I generally don’t care all that much if the seventeenth best prospect in your system has a chance to be a decent middle reliever or a useful bench piece. That’s true of the vast majority of systems in any given year. Now when you have thirty of those guys? It felt like half the Trenton pitching staff might pitch in the majors at some point … We didn’t rank Dustin Fowler on our Yankees (top ten, showing their depth) … These are two of the best systems I can remember in my six years of covering prospects.

The BA write-up (subs. req’d) mentioned OF Estevan Florial as the system’s high-upside sleeper and RHP Dillon Tate as the breakout prospect. Tate was the fourth overall pick in the 2015 draft, remember. The Yankees got him for rental Carlos Beltran and he’s not even one of the ten best prospects in the organization. Pretty cool.

Yankees had $4M to sign Carter

I thought this was interesting. According to Jared Diamond, Hal Steinbrenner okayed one last $4M signing late in the offseason, after it became clear there were bargains to be had. The Yankees didn’t even need the full $4M to sign Chris Carter. He took $3.5M guaranteed. Prior to signing Carter the Yankees had been connected mostly to lefty relievers like Travis Wood and Jerry Blevins. The 40-homer dude made more sense.

I know saving $500,000 with Carter doesn’t sound like much, and it’s really not in the grand scheme of things, but what if it was enough to finish off the Jon Niese signing? He’ll make $1.25M at the big league level. Steinbrenner gave the thumbs up for $4M and they wound up with Carter and Niese for $4.75M total, possibly less because Niese might not make the Opening Day roster, and his $1.25M salary will be pro-rated. Anyway, I’m just kinda interested in how this worked out. The Yankees were done for the offseason until the free agent market collapsed.

Poll: Second-Guessing the Matt Holliday Deal

(MLB.com)
(MLB.com)

When the Yankees signed Matt Holliday to a one-year, $13 MM deal back in December, the consensus was largely positive. Or, at the very least, a bit better than lukewarm. Holliday was coming off of a down year and was soon to be 37-years-old, but he was probably the best DH option this side of Edwin Encarnacion (who would require a large commitment and a surrendered draft pick) and Carlos Beltran. And that’s before you factor in his reputation as a great teammate and mentor for younger players (insert joke about ‘veteran presents’ here), which was undoubtedly a consideration for the Yankees in the midst of their youth movement.

A bit over two months later, however, the Yankees signed Chris Carter – a player whose best role would be that which Holliday was slated to play. The immediate reaction revolved around DINGERS!, but was followed promptly by questions about when and where the 30-year-old would play. His $3.5 MM salary (along with an extra $500,000 in bonuses based on plate appearances) is veritable chump change to this team (if not all organizations at this point in time, given the influx of cash into Major League Baseball), so it might not matter if he’s riding the bench more often than not. Moreover, there are always injuries: Tyler Austin succumbed to a broken foot already, Greg Bird missed the entirety of 2016 with a torn labrum in his shoulder, and the aforementioned Holliday has missed 50-plus games in each of the last two seasons. Phrased differently, opportunities for playing time are never too far away in the big leagues.

All that being said, the Carter signing – and the subsequent discussions – reminded me of the criticisms hurled at the Blue Jays when they signed Kendrys Morales to a 3-year, $33 MM deal. The signing happened what felt like hours after free agency opened, and was greeted with derision as much better options (including their own Encarnacion) remained on the market. It only looked worse in the weeks to come, as comparable-at-worst DH options were scooped up on cheap one-year commitments, eventually turning disastrous when Encarnacion signed with the Indians for 3-years, $60 MM. If it wasn’t clear that the Blue Jays jumped the gun way back in November, it certainly was once the new year rolled around.

And so the question becomes whether the Yankees jumped the gun with Holliday.

It’s a bit different here, on a few levels. The Yankees are not striving to contend this year, so Holliday’s off-the-field qualities mean a bit more to them. Moreover, they didn’t prevent themselves from signing a better option to a comparably superior deal. Carter was better than Holliday last season, but that doesn’t quite matter because (1) they still signed Carter, and (2) the projection systems see them as a toss-up.

Should we be looking at the opportunity cost differently, though?

Holliday will likely earn $9.5 MM more than Carter this year. If the Yankees could have signed Carter to this deal all along, it stands to reason that they would have had at least another $9.5 MM to spend – if not the full $13 MM, considering that Holliday’s deal didn’t prevent them from signing Carter. With that extra money they could have signed Brett Anderson as a reclamation project, or Bartolo Colon, R.A. Dickey, or Jason Hammel to solidify the back of the rotation (or both Anderson and Hammel). Or they could have signed one of Anderson and Jerry Blevins (or Hammel and Blevins, if they had the full $13 MM to spend). There are several permutations out there that would have improved their rotation and bullpen.

This is laden with assumptions, of course. I’m comfortable saying that the Carter deal could have come to fruition regardless, given that the Brewers couldn’t get anything for him at the trade deadline or prior to non-tendering him, but everything else is guesswork. Even so, it seems clear that the Yankees could look better as a whole with Carter as the starting DH and between $9.5 MM and $13 MM invested elsewhere.

Did the Yankees act too soon by signing Holliday?
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Revisiting the MLBTR Archives: March 2012

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

Is it really March already? Geez. I feel like New Years was last week. Anyway, now that we’re in a new month, it’s again time to go back through the MLB Trade Rumors archives. We’re now in March 2012, and March is traditionally one of the slowest months for free agent and trade rumors. The offseason is over and teams usually wait a few weeks into the regular season before getting serious about acquiring upgrades.

The Yankees wrapped up their 2011-12 offseason business in February, when they traded A.J. Burnett following the Hiroki Kuroda and Michael Pineda pickups. They also filled out their bench with low cost veterans like Raul Ibanez and Eric Chavez. The rotation looked great and an offense that ranked second in baseball with 5.35 runs per game in 2011 was mostly intact. There were plenty of reasons to be excited in March 2012. Let’s dive into the rumors.

March 1st, 2012: Quick Hits: Burnett, Sizemore, Posey, Yankees

Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner confirmed to reporters, including Marc Carig of the Star-Ledger, that he is intent on lowering payroll below $189MM by 2014 for luxury tax purposes (Twitter link).

The first reports of the austerity plan arrived a few weeks before this nugget. It started out as a little thing, then it continued to gain steam over the next year or two. The Yankees still haven’t gotten under the luxury tax, as you know, mostly because they reacted to their yucky 2013 season by committing $438M total to Masahiro Tanaka, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, and Carlos Beltran. (That doesn’t include the $20M release fee for Tanaka.)

Given what we know now, those four signings have worked out fairly well overall. The Ellsbury deal is pretty bad and will only look worse over time. Both McCann and Beltran were productive during their time in pinstripes though, and they were traded for some pretty good prospects. Tanaka has been pretty damn awesome when healthy, which has been most of the time. At the same time, the Yankees have played one postseason game since handing out those contracts, and you know the team’s ultimate goal is playing in October. Either way, the austerity play went bye bye in 2014. The Yankees are poised to try again in 2018.

March 7th, 2012: Mariano Rivera May Announce Decision Before All-Star Break

“I think maybe it will be before the All-Star break,” legendary Yankees closer Mariano Rivera told Kevin Kernan of the New York Post regarding an announcement of whether he will pitch in 2013.  Rivera wants to be certain of his decision, which he seems to have already made privately.  Rivera said that when he does retire, “It would be nice that you tell the fans, so every stadium you go to, the fans will be there to show their appreciation and you appreciate the fans.”

Mo never did get a chance to announce his decision that year. He blew out his knee on the Kauffman Stadium warning track on May 3rd, ending his season. Rivera later said he was planning to retire following the 2012 season, and the injury changed his mind. He didn’t want to go out like that. Thank goodness. Had Rivera not changed his mind, this never would have happened …

… and that would have sucked.

March 10th, 2012: Levine: Yankees Plan To Keep Cano And Granderson

With the Yankees planning to get under the $189MM luxury tax threshold by 2014, many have wondered if the club will be able to retain both Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson after their contracts expire following the 2013 season.  Today, team president Randy Levine flatly stated that the team has a plan in place to retain both stars, writes Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.

I literally lol’d when I saw this headline. I guess the plan was a) never make Granderson a competitive offer, and b) hope Cano is willing to take a discount. Swing and a miss, that was.

In all seriousness, this is a nice reminder plans can and do change. Levine made these comments 20 months before Granderson and Cano actually became free agents, and I’m sure the Yankees had every intention of retaining both at the time. Then Granderson missed a ton of time with hit-by-pitch related injuries in 2013 and Cano continued to raise his earning potential with his performance. Something something best laid plans.

March 11th, 2012: Cafardo On Phillies, Blanton, Lannan, Ramirez

With several teams in the market for a center fielder, Cafardo asked a National League scout if the Yankees would entertain a deal for Brett Gardner.  Gardner is currently slated to start in left field for the Yanks but a National League scout said that at some point the club might seek out a more traditional left field option.

Does the scout make those comments if the Yankees were playing Granderson (41 homers in 2011) in left and Gardner (49 steals in 2011) in center instead of vice versa? Granderson’s production certainly qualified him as a “traditional left field option,” and hey, Gardner in center and Granderson in left would have been a better defensive alignment too. Each position has a traditional offensive and defensive profile, but it’s okay to break from the norm once in a while.

March 15th, 2012: AL East Notes: Ibanez, Blue Jays, Red Sox, Orioles

Raul Ibanez doesn’t have emotional, historical or financial ties keeping him on the Yankees’ roster, so Joel Sherman of the New York Post wonders how long the club will stick with Ibanez if his struggles continue. But as Sherman point out, it’s still just March 15th.

Ibanez was so, so bad in Spring Training 2012. He hit .150/.190/.333 in 63 plate appearances, and it wasn’t until the final week of camp that he finally hit a ball out of the park. Ibanez wasn’t particularly great in the first half either, hitting .240/.298/.457 (98 wRC+) before the All-Star break. For a bat only dude, that ain’t good. Gardner hurt his elbow making a sliding catch in April though, leaving the Yankees short an outfielder the rest of the season. I wonder if they would have moved on from Ibanez at some point had Gardner been healthy. Fortunately for the Yankees, they kept Ibanez and he got molten hot at exactly the right time in September (and October).

March 16th, 2012: Yankees Notes: Pineda, Ibanez, Willis

The Yankees offered Dontrelle Willis a minor league deal this offseason, Sherman tweets. The Yankees might look into signing Willis, who was released by the Phillies this morning.

Dontrelle Willis! I don’t remember the Yankees being on him on at all. Willis was pretty far gone by this point too. His last good season was 2006, and from 2008-11, he had a 6.15 ERA (5.46 FIP) in 199 total innings. I assume the Yankees were looking at the then 30-year-old Willis as a reliever — he held left-handed batters to a .123/.169/.200 (.168 wOBA) batting line with 33.3% strikeouts, 3.3% walks, and 58.3% grounders in 2011, albeit in a limited sample. D-Train continued pitching in the minors and independent ball until 2014. He never pitched in the big leagues after 2011 though. It went so bad, so fast with him.

March 16th, 2012: Yankees Sign Andy Pettitte

A year after retiring, Andy Pettitte is back in pinstripes. The Yankees announced that they signed the 39-year-old left-hander to a minor league contract. Pettitte, a Hendricks Sports client, can potentially earn $2.5MM on the deal, which doesn’t include incentives. 

I’ll never forget the moment we learned Pettitte was coming out of retirement. Joe and I were in the middle of recording the RAB Podcast (RIP) when Jack Curry broke the news on Twitter. We were both just kinda speechless, so we scrapped that podcast and started writing about the signing instead. It was a pretty crazy afternoon. Pettitte’s un-retirement came out of nowhere. There were no rumbling at all. If anything, there was the opposite. Pettitte was in camp as a guest instructor that year and he told everyone he had no interest in playing again. Funny how that works.

Andy’s return — he threw another 260.2 innings with a 3.49 ERA (3.64 FIP) after coming back — was pretty awesome. I was kinda worried he’d come back and get knocked around, and it would all look like one giant mistake, but nope. He was great.

March 17th, 2012: Yankees Links: Pettitte, Garcia, Posada, Wise, A-Rod

Alex Rodriguez told Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com that he’d like to own a baseball team one day (Twitter link). According to the game’s bylaws, A-Rod will have to wait until he’s no longer under contract with one of the 30 clubs to do so.

I too would like to own a baseball team one day. My chances aren’t as good as A-Rod’s though. Being an owner is pretty good work if you can get it. The national television contracts and revenue sharing system make it basically impossible to lose money. I feel like it’s only a matter of time until A-Rod gets involved with an ownership group and purchases a team. Same with Derek Jeter. A-Rod stays in Miami and buys the Marlins while Jeter stays in Tampa and buys the Rays. Sounds good to me.

March 20th, 2012: Yankees Notes: Pettitte, Hughes, Nova, Damon

There was a split between upper management and the field staff over whether to sign Johnny Damon or Raul Ibanez, Tom Verducci of SI.com writes. Damon told the Yankees he would play for whatever they were offering Ibanez, but it wasn’t enough.

Interesting! I don’t remember hearing this. I assume the front office wanted Ibanez since, you know, he’s the guy they actually signed. Plus it makes sense that Joe Girardi and the other members of his staff would prefer Damon since they had him for a few years, and won a title with him. Ibanez went on to hit .240/.308/.453 (102 wRC+) with 19 homers in 2012, plus he had all the postseason heroics. Damon hit .222/.281/.329 (70 wRC+) with four homers for the Indians that year and was released in August. Score one for the front office nerds.

March 21st, 2012: Spanish Links: Vazquez, Wandy, Jorge Vazquez

Slugging Yankee prospect Jorge Vazquez is growing impatient with the minor leagues and would like to try Japan or Korea if there’s not a place for him in the major leagues, according to the president of the Mexican League’s Tigres de Quintana Roo, where Vazquez played in 2007 and 2008. “If they don’t give him an opportunity this year, he wants them to trade him, or to go to [play] baseball in the east,” Cuauhtémoc “Chito” Rodríguez told Fernando Ballesteros at Puro Béisbol. “He doesn’t want to continue on in Triple A anymore, not just with the Yankees, but with any other organization as well.” Vazquez made a case for being MLB-ready in 2011, putting up a .262/.314/.516 line with 32 homers at Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

That .262/.314/.516 (121 wRC+) line in 2011 also came with a 33.2% strikeout rate and a 6.0% walk rate. He was repeating the level too. Remember how much everyone freaked out about Aaron Judge‘s strikeouts in Triple-A in the second half of the 2015 season? He had a 28.5% strikeout rate and an 11.2% walk rate. Vazquez was an extreme free swinger. The Yankees ended up releasing him at the end of Spring Training in 2012 and he’s been playing in Mexico ever since. He hit .319/.403/.513 (146 wRC+) with six homers in 33 games last year, and, as far as I can tell, he’s under contract to play again this year too.

March 22nd 2012: DePaula Obtains Visa; Yankees Deal Still In Place

Rafael DePaula is finally on the verge of beginning his professional baseball career. The pitching prospect agreed to sign with the Yankees for $500K in November, 2010, but hasn’t had a visa until now, so the deal hasn’t been completed. Agent Charisse Espinosa-Dash told MLBTR today that DePaula has his visa and that the original deal is expected to go through once the Dominican right-hander passes a physical.

The DePaula signing came with a lot of headache and very little reward. It took about 18 months for the contract to be finalized due to visa issues — DePaula had been previously suspended for lying about his age, which tends to gum up the works — and once he was able to play, his top prospect status didn’t last long. The Yankees traded DePaula as the second piece in the Chase Headley trade a few years back. DePaula, 26 next month, had a 2.66 ERA (2.17 FIP) with 32.8% strikeouts and 8.3% walks in 64.1 innings between Double-A and Triple-A last year. It was his first season as a full-time reliever. DePaula was not selected in December’s Rule 5 Draft for the second straight year. Lot of hype, little payoff. Such is life.

March 23rd, 2012: Quick Hits: Nationals, Blue Jays, Soria, Carpenter

Joba Chamberlain dislocated his right ankle and lost a life-threatening amount of blood yesterday, Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News reports. The injury will end Chamberlain’s season and could threaten his career.

Ugh, the Joba ankle injury. That was brutal. Joba was rehabbing from Tommy John surgery at the time of the trampoline accident, so the ankle injury didn’t delay his return all that much. He returned on August 1st and had a 4.35 ERA (4.01 FIP) in 20.2 innings the rest of the season. Chamberlain had a 3.70 ERA (3.62 FIP) in 382 innings before the Tommy John surgery and ankle injury, and he has a 4.05 ERA (4.29 FIP) in 173.1 innings since. He’s in camp as a non-roster players with the Brewers this spring. Prospects will break your heart, yo.

March 24th, 2012: Quick Hits: Phillies, Garcia, Abreu, Beras, Mets

Word is that the Yankees offered Freddy Garcia to the Marlins but Miami wasn’t interested, tweets Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com.  Garcia, who is a trade candidate following the club’s signing of Andy Pettitte, is signed to a one-year deal worth $4MM plus incentives.

In 2011, the Yankees had so little pitching they were signing guys like Garcia and Bartolo Colon out of near retirement. In 2012, they had so many arms they were able to trade Burnett and shop Garcia. Sweaty Freddy never did go anywhere though. He had a 5.20 ERA (4.68 FIP) in 107.1 innings spread across 17 starts and 13 relief appearances for the Yankees year. Yuck. In hindsight, letting Colon go and keeping Garcia was a huge mistake. You’re lying if you said you knew Colon would still be pitching in 2017 (!) though.

March 25th, 2012: Phillies Have Interest In Yankees’ Ramiro Pena

With second baseman Chase Utley sidelined with no timetable to return, the Phillies plan to start Freddy Galvis and are hoping to bolster their infield depth behind him.  With that in mind, General Manager Ruben Amaro & Co. have some interest in Yankees utilityman Ramiro Pena, according to George A. King III of the New York Post.

That’s 2009 World Series Champion Ramiro Pena to you. He had his moments as an up-and-down utility man from 2009-11. Pena spent just about the entire 2012 season in Triple-A, where he hit .258/.325/.328 (85 wRC+) in 101 games. The Yankees dropped him from the 40-man roster after the season and Pena went on his way. Rakin’ Ramiro did play in the big leagues last year, you know. With the Giants. He hit .299/.330/.425 (103 wRC+) with a homer in 30 games while they were dealing with some infield injuries. Pena signed with the Hiroshima Carp, Kuroda’s former team, over the winter.

March 28th, 2012: Yankees Sign Jack Cust

The Yankees have signed Jack Cust to a minor league contract, reports Sweeny Murti of WFAN (on Twitter). Last night we heard that the TWC Sports client was likely to sign with an NL team, but the Yankees apparently swooped in.

I completely forgot the Yankees had Cust for a while. He never did play for them in the big leagues, but he did hit .249/.400/.475 (147 wRC+) with 20 homers in 98 games with Triple-A Scranton before being released. My lasting memory of Cust will be his baserunning gaffes against the Yankees back in 2003:

The Yankees led the game 5-4 in the 12th inning at the time. Had Cust not fallen down (twice!), he would have scored the game tying run. I miss the days when the O’s were a punching bag. Don’t you?

March 28th, 2012: Yankees Claim Craig Tatum Off Waivers

The Yankees have claimed catcher Craig Tatum off waivers from the Diamondbacks, the team announced. The 29-year-old backstop has been claimed off waivers three times in the last few months, first by the Astros, then by the D’Backs, and now by the Yankees. Their 40-man roster is now full.

I am an embarrassingly huge baseball nerd, so it’s not often a transaction involves a player I’ve never heard of, especially if said player once played for the Yankees. I have zero recollection of Tatum though. None at all. Apparently the Yankees claimed him from the Diamondbacks, outrighted him off the 40-man roster a few days later, and he played eight games with Triple-A Scranton that summer. Been out of baseball since. I remember most things and I have no memory of this happening. Now I wonder what else I’ve forgotten.

March 28th, 2012: AL East Notes: Maxwell, Moore, Red Sox

The Astros and Orioles have some interest in Yankees outfielder Justin Maxwell, but haven’t discussed a possible deal with GM Brian Cashman, George A. King III of the New York Post reports. Maxwell is out of options and could be available in trades before Opening Day.

“The stupid Yankees shoulda kept Maxwell and dumped Andruw Jones” was a thing for a while in 2012. Andruw was terrible that year, hitting .197/.294/.408 (89 wRC+) overall and .202/.294/.411 (88 wRC+) against lefties. The Yankees had no room on the roster for Maxwell, who was claimed by the Astros after New York put him on waivers at the end of camp. He went on to hit .229/.304/.460 (106 wRC+) overall that year, and .272/.387/.505 (143 wRC+) against lefties. Maxwell has bounced around since then, and he currently plays for the Lotte Giants in the Korea Baseball Organization.

March 29th, 2012: Minor Moves: Bard, Sullivan, Pearce, Michaels

The Yankees have signed Steve Pearce to a minor league contract, reports Josh Norris of the Trentonian (Twitter link).  Pearce, a former well-regarded prospect with the Pirates, signed a minor league deal with the Twins in December but was released on Tuesday.

At the time Pearce was a busted former top-ish prospect. He’d hit .232/.302/.366 (78 wRC+) in 521 total plate appearances with the Pirates as an up-and-down guy from 2007-11. Pittsburgh then cut him loose after the 2011 season. Here is how Pearce’s 2012 season played out:

  • March 27th: Released by Twins (signed a minor league deal over the winter).
  • March 29th: Signs minor league deal with Yankees.
  • June 2nd: Traded to the Orioles for cash.
  • July 28th: Claimed on waivers by the Astros from the O’s.
  • August 27th: Claimed on waivers by the Yankees from the Astros.
  • September 29th: Claimed on waivers by the Orioles from the Yankees.

Pearce didn’t play for the big league Yankees the first time. He hit .318/.419/.568 (173 wRC+) with eleven homers in 73 games with Triple-A Scranton before exercising an opt-out clause in his contract. The Yankees could either trade him to the O’s for some cash, or let him complete the opt-out and go there as a free agent. They took the cash.

After coming back to New York in August, Pearce went 4-for-25 (.160) with a homer in 30 plate appearances for the Yankees. He was essentially an extra bench bat once rosters expanded in September. It wasn’t until 2013 that Pearce really established himself as a big league caliber hitter. I was hoping the Yankees would sign him this winter — for the Chris Carter role, essentially, except Pearce can also play the outfield — but alas. He’s with the Blue Jays now.