Archive for Front Office

5:00pm: Cashman confirmed long-time baseball operations staffer Steve Martone will replace Kuntz, according to Andrew Marchand. Kuntz will take over as the Director of Player Relations for the MLS, so he’ll deal with labor issues and their Collective Bargaining Agreement, stuff like that.

11:30am: Via George King: Will Kuntz, the Yankees’ manager of pro scouting, has left the club for an unknown position with Major League Soccer. “He loves soccer and that’s a huge job,” said Brian Cashman.

Kuntz took over as the head of the pro scouting department when Billy Eppler was promoted to assistant GM during the 2011-12 offseason. The team has not really unearthed any hidden gems like Bartolo Colon or Eric Chavez this last year or two, which may or may not have to do with Kuntz. Who the hell knows. No word on his replacement yet, but the Yankees almost always promote from within.

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The Yankees announced five additions to their Major League/pro scouting staff today: Kendall Carter, Brandon Duckworth, Joe Espada, Dan Giese, and Dennis Twombley. Background info on all five is right here. Carter and Twombley are moving over from the amateur scouting staff and Espada was hired away from the Marlins. You probably remember Giese from his brief 2008 stint in pinstripes.

Duckworth, who bounced around the league as a journeyman right-hander for more than a decade, is the most interesting of the new hires simply because he spent the last two years as Masahiro Tanaka‘s teammate with the Rakuten Golden Eagles. Did they hire him to help ease Tanaka’s transition, or did they get to know Duckworth while scouting Tanaka and felt he could help them as a scout? Either way, the Yankees haven’t dug up many hidden gems since Billy Eppler was promoted from pro scouting director to assistant GM two years ago. Hopefully that changes with the new additions.

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The Yankees have officially announcing the hiring of Gary Tuck (bullpen coach), Matthew Krause (strength and conditioning coordinator), Trey Hillman (special assistant, major and minor league operations), and Mike Quade (roving outfield and baserunning instructor). The moves have been in the works for weeks. Tuck replaces Mike Harkey, who left to become the Diamondbacks’ pitching coach a few weeks ago. Here’s the press release if you’re looking for background info on all four new hires.

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Dec
05

Staff Notes: Tuck, Hillman, Quade

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Hillman. (Scott Cunningham/Getty)

Hillman. (Scott Cunningham/Getty)

Lost in the chaos of the last few days were some coaching staff and front office notes. Here is the latest, courtesy of Ken Davidoff and Bruce Levine:

  • Gary Tuck is likely to get the bullpen coach job now that Mike Harkey has been officially introduced as the Diamondbacks’ pitching coach. We heard he was a strong candidate earlier this week. Tuck was the team’s bullpen coach in 1990 and he held the same role with the Red Sox from 2007-2012. He was also Joe Girardi‘s bench coach with the Marlins in 2006, so he’s not a stranger.
  • Trey Hillman has joined the Yankees in a development/consultant role. I figured this would happen. Hillman coached in the Yankees’ farm system from 1990-2001 and he is supposedly very close friends with Brian Cashman, close enough that he was considered a dark horse for the manager’s job before Girardi was hired. The Dodgers replaced Hillman as their bench coach a few weeks ago and it felt like only a matter of time before wound up in New York.
  • The Yankees have hired Mike Quade as a roving outfield instructor. He served as the Cubs manager from 2010-2011 under GM Jim Hendry, who is now a special assistant in the Yankees’ front office. Quade has tons and tons of coaching and managerial experience in the minors.
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Krause. (Jamie Ramsey/Reds)

Krause. (Jamie Ramsey/Reds)

Joe Girardi‘s coaching staff was shaken up a bit last week when we learned bullpen coach Mike Harkey is leaving the Yankees to become the Diamondbacks’ pitching coach. Harkey was one of Girardi’s closest friends and confidants, so replacing him won’t be easy in that sense. Here’s the latest on some coaching and front office positions courtesy of George King, George King (again), George King (yet again), and Josh Norris.

  • The Yankees have hired Matthew Krause as their new strength and conditioning coach after declining to renew Dana Cavalea’s contract a few weeks ago. Krause held the same role with the Reds from 2005-2013. He also spent three years with the Pirates and eight years in the Marines, so the Yankees are in good shape for potential benches-clearing brawls. New York has been one of the most injured teams in baseball over the last four years while Cincinnati has been one of the least injured, though obviously not all of that can be attributed to the strength and conditioning coach.
  • Gary Tuck is one candidate to replace Harkey as bullpen coach. He held that role with the Yankees in 1990 and with the Red Sox from 2007-2012. Tuck also served as Joe Girardi’s bench coach with the Marlins in 2006 and spent 1998-1999 as a catching instructor in the Yankees’ minor league system.
  • Among the internal candidates to replace Harkey are Triple-A Scranton pitching coach Scott Aldred, Triple-A manager Dave Miley, Triple-A hitting coach Butch Wynegar, senior pitching instructor Greg Pavlick, minor league pitching instructor Gil Patterson, catching coordinator Julio Mosquera, and Rookie GCL Yanks manager Tom Nieto. All except Aldred have some kind of big league coaching experience.
  • Pro scout Rick Williams has left the Yankees to take a job with the Braves. He and Atlanta GM Frank Wren have known each other for a while, dating back to their playing days and time working for the Marlins. Williams was most often used to scout pitchers prior to the trade deadline.
  • Double-A Trenton hitting coach Justin Turner is out for whatever reason. He has been with the organization for a while but this was his first season with the Thunder. It appears High-A Tampa hitting coach Marcus Thames (yes, that Marcus Thames) will take over in Trenton.
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Via Jack Magruder: The Diamondbacks are set to name Mike Harkey their new pitching coach on Monday. Good for him. Harkey, 47, has been the Yankees’ bullpen coach since 2008 and he is one of Joe Girardi‘s closest friends and confidants. Obviously the team will need to dig up a replacement now. Triple-A pitching Scott Aldred, who also interviewed for the D’Backs pitching coach gig, could be a candidate for the job.

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Mr. Cashman, why can't you force other teams to trade you their best players? (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Mr. Cashman, why can’t you force other teams to trade you their best players? (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Given how the 2013 season unfolded and where the Yankees finished in the standings, you might assume that we’ve produced more What Went Wrong posts than ever in the past. How could things have gone more wrong than any year in the recent past? you might ask. Apparently more things went wrong last year, when we produced twenty-six posts in the What Went Wrong series. This post marks number twenty-three this year.

In one sense, this statistic does not check out. How could have more things gone wrong in a season when the Yankees won the division, owned the best record in the American League, and made a trip to the ALCS, than in a season where they won 85 games and missed the playoffs by a healthy margin? Clearly that is not the case. So why did we produce more What Went Wrong posts last year than this year?

Because the entire roster suffered from poor construction and bad luck.

Perhaps that was by design, to an extent. Last year’s free agent crop was paltry and pathetic, with few players worthy of a multiyear deal. This off-season, while thin by 00s standards, stands out above both the 2013 and 2015 free agent classes. Better to hold off, then, during a poor free agent class and reload when there are better players available.

Design cannot explain all, or even most, of the Yankees’ roster woes in 2013. Many needs went completely unaddressed in the off-season. Losing a few key players during, and before, the season hurt them further, exacerbating those off-season construction flaws. As a result the Yankees fielded what was almost certainly their weakest roster since 1993.

Off-season construction

The 2012 Yankees featured a fairly balanced lineup. They hit lefties and righties very well, and hitters of both handedness produced impressive numbers. But as we quickly learned, many of those players would not be back. Nick Swisher, for one, was almost certainly a goner. Russell Martin jumped on an early offer from the Pirates. Then we learned that Alex Rodriguez would require hip surgery, shelving him until July at the earliest. More than 30 HR from the right side of the plate were leaving town, and it was anyone’s guess how much they’d lose from A-Rod. Combine that with Derek Jeter‘s injury and uncertain return, and it added up to an enormous need for right-handed production.

Adding Kevin Youkilis made sense in many regards. He hit right-handed and played third base, and so could replace at least some of Rodriguez’s production. One folly was replacing an injured player with a guy who has had trouble staying on the field, specifically with back troubles. The other was adding no other right-handed hitters, at all.

Instead the Yankees added Ichiro Suzuki, a no-power lefty, and — and that’s basically it. Perhaps the players they liked wanted to play elsewhere, or signed contracts the Yankees deemed out of their desired price range. Maybe the trade market didn’t develop in the way they’d imagined. Whatever the case, the Yankees knew they were losing a huge chunk of their right-handed production and did very little to address that depletion.

Why didn’t the Yankees make a more concerted effort to keep Martin (he reportedly would have accepted a one-year deal) or sign a player who fit, like Torii Hunter? The story we heard was that they were focusing on pitching. They wanted to make sure that they re-signed Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera. That would ensure a strong pitching staff. The offense, by their own admission, took a back seat. By the time they were ready, the good players were off the board. It showed in the team’s performance.

Key injuries and replacement players

At least when the Yankees learned of Rodriguez’s injury, they had time to find a replacement. When a J.A. Happ pitch stuck Curtis Granderson‘s forearm in his first spring training at-bat, the Yanks had few potential replacements; while Brett Gardner could slide into center field, that still left vacant an outfield spot and further depleted the lineup’s power.

About a week later further disaster struck when Mark Teixeira left the WBC with a wrist injury. Not only would the Yankees be without their slugging first baseman for the start of the season, but they had absolutely no one in camp to replace him; at the time the candidates were Dan Johnson and Juan Rivera, who ended up getting a combined 5 PA in the majors in 2013 (all Johnson), and Youkilis, who was already replacing Rodriguez.

Had they been so inclined, the Yankees could have used Eduardo Nunez to replace Rodriguez at third, sliding Youkilis over to first. Alas, towards the end of camp Derek Jeter reinjured his ankle, moving Nunez into the shortstop position. To man first base they nabbed Lyle Overbay, who had been released by Boston — who wouldn’t have been so bad if they had a right-handed platoon partner for him.*

*Overbay did hit .258/.317/.432 against righties, and that number was quite a bit higher earlier in the season, so he wasn’t a total zero the entire time. Then again, who’s to say what would have happened if they’d found a platoon partner. Does Overbay produce those numbers while sitting against lefties? That’s the big unknown about platoons: anyone in one has to buy into it. If a guy feels he needs consistent at-bats to get into a groove, chances are he won’t succeed in a platoon even if his splits suggest he would. Ya know, 90 percent of the game being half mental and all.

To replace Granderson the Yankees flexed their financial biceps to acquire Vernon Wells from the Angels. They ended up paying him $13 million in 2013, just so they could avoid having him count against the luxury tax in 2014. For about a month that worked out well — which seemed perfect, because Granderson was due back in a little over a month. Which is another disaster story in itself.

It didn’t take Youkilis even a month to hurt himself, even further depleting the infield. Matters got worse when Eduardo Nunez got hurt in early May — and you know your roster is in poor shape when it takes a significant hit with a Nunez injury. Then, as if things couldn’t get any worse, Jayson Nix, the guy who might not have even made the team had Jeter not reinjured his ankle, got hurt in early July. That necessitated acquiring Luis Cruz, recently DFA’d by the Dodgers.

In early May Travis Hafner, who had enjoyed a resurgent April, suffered a shoulder injury. Fans winced, but to our surprise he did not go on the disabled list. Clearly he should have. From that point onward he hit .169/.250/.301, after hitting .260/.383/.510 through mid-May. It should have been predictable that Hafner, who made four disabled list trips in 2011 and 2012, would have gotten hurt.

Granderson came back and got hurt again. Teixeira came back and wasn’t ready for action. Youkilis came back and hobbled around until it was apparent he needed surgery. Jeter eventually came back, and then got hurt. And then came back again. And then got hurt. Finally, after collecting just eight hits in 44 at-bats, he shut it down. Even Rodriguez got hurt after coming back, forcing him into the DH spot for the last 20 or so games of the season. Gardner got hurt at the end of the season, which seemed to demolish whatever little hope the Yankees had remaining; they went 6-9 afterward, half of those wins coming against the punchless Astros and another two coming against the nearly equally punchless Giants.

Lack of outfield depth

To say the Yankees have failed to produce outfielders doesn’t state the case strongly enough. Yes, they drafted and developed Brett Gardner, a small speedster who developed into a decent ballplayer, but other than him what outfielders have they developed in the last six years? The last eight? The last ten? It seems that ever since they traded away Juan Rivera and Ricky Ledee 10 years ago that they have lagged greatly in the outfielder development department. There was Melky Cabrera, who was OK, Gardner, who is a fair success, and who else?

It is no wonder, then, that they were ill prepared for injuries in the outfield. By itself letting Swisher walk might not have been a bad call. They acquired him for essentially nothing, one of those my junk for your good player trades we frequently see, and laugh at, in the comments. They paid him a wage commensurate with his contribution, during his prime years. Letting him go was probably the smart move, if not the typical Yankee move. Only problem was, they had no viable replacements.

Did they honestly think Ichiro would continue the run he started after heading to the Yankees? From what we read in the aftermath, ownership forced the issue there, convinced Ichiro would earn his salary in marketing dollars. When Granderson went down they had to trade for Wells, who had produced an 86 OPS+ in the last two seasons combined. Their only hopes on the farm were Melky Mesa, a strikeout-heavy guy who wasn’t going to hit major league pitching, and Zoilo Almonte, another strikeout guy who actually got better in that regard during the 2013 season, came up, hit some baseballs, and got hurt.

It wasn’t until they acquired Alfonso Soriano that they started to trot out halfway decent outfields. Which brings us to…

Futility of the trade deadline

At close of business on May 23, the Yankees sat alone atop the AL East. A combination of unexpected offensive contributions and an expectedly good pitching staff put them in a position to contend. That’s all they could have asked for, given the circumstances. It appeared that reinforcements were in the offing. Curtis Granderson had just returned to the lineup. Mark Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis were nearing rehab games. The band was getting back together.

The next day, Granderson got hit with another pitch that broke a bone. A week after that both Teixeira and Youkilis did return, but they provided almost no positives before they both went back on the DL and underwent season-ending surgeries. The Yankees, still in first place by a few percentage points on May 26, had fallen into third place by June 13. On July 1 they sat in fourth place. The fill-ins had done an admirable job while the main players recovered from injury. But now that they were injured again, the Yanks needed more reinforcements.

The trade deadline can be considered a failure, but only because the Yankees didn’t acquire the players they needed to put them over the top. But could they really have expected to replace all the players who fell victim to injury? The list of needs ran deep: an outfielder and a first baseman, one of whom absolutely needed to be a right-handed hitter with power, and a pitcher, at the very least. A catcher would have been nice, too, if unattainable. When was the last time a team was able to add that many players — at least two of them impact players — at any one trade deadline?

Complicating the issue was the matter of players available. It takes two parties to consummate a trade, so if other teams weren’t selling, or weren’t buying what the Yankees were offering, no deals were possible. There didn’t seem to be many impact hitters available at all. In fact, the Yankees undoubtedly got the best hitter who was traded at the deadline in Soriano. In terms of pitching there were Matt Garza and Jake Peavy, who both could have helped the Yankees. But can it be considered a failure that they failed to acquire either?

The problem with the trade deadline represented a microcosm of the trouble with the entire roster throughout 2013. The pickings were slim. Flaws cropped up in the off-season, and became exposed when a few key players suffered injuries. The lack of depth on the farm, resulting in the inability to call up useful players, further complicated the roster woes. By the time the trade deadline rolled around it was too late to make any meaningful upgrades. There were too many holes.

It remains a surprise that the Yankees, with their pitiful roster, managed to remain interesting for more than half of the 2013 season (April, May, August, half of September). They managed to win only 85 games, but that far outpaced almost all of their projections, based on run differential and strength of schedule. So while the team was pretty unwatchable for a few months, they did manage to remain in contention far longer than anyone imagined.

Categories : Front Office
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Nov
20

What Went Right: Joe Girardi

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When a team expects to win and fails, the players are typically at fault. They are, after all, the ones who take the field every day and therefore control the team’s fate. But as the old saying goes, you can’t fire all the players.* As an alternative, teams often opt to fire the manager. Leaders make for good scapegoats, even if they do not directly participate. It’s also easier to get rid of one man and one contract (coaches typically go year-to-year) than to publicly identify the players at fault and get rid of them.

* Unless you’re the Red Sox, who fired three highly paid players and the manager. It’s almost as if winning the World Series was a reward for that decision.

It would have been easy to blame the Yankees’ 2013 season on the manager. The team was expected to win and it did not. The Yankees could have walked away from Girardi cleanly, too, since his contract expired after the season. Instead they signed him to a new four-year deal that exceeds his previous three-year contract. It shows just what upper management thinks of the on-field boss. If anything, 2013 further solidified Girardi as one of the game’s top skippers.

Many fans disagree with that sentiment, but certain fans will always hate the manager for one reason or another. It’s just the nature of baseball. A few close friends of mine dislike Girardi.* They have their criticisms, and while I disagree they do deserve fair trial.

* One of them dislikes Girardi, but likes Big Bang Theory, so I think it’s fair to call his judgment into question.

They don’t like his bullpen management

Pardon me if I don’t pay this critique much credence. While there are managers who handle their bullpens poorly, it seems that vocal, if not large, groups of fans from every team bemoan the manager’s pitching changes. All managers could be wrong, and fans could be right, about bullpen management tactics — in theory. In theory Communism works. In theory.

Three main factors are at play here. First is the now-tired, but still relevant, trope that managers possess far more information than fans. Girardi, we learned early in his tenure, keeps track of not only when his relievers get into games, but also when they warm up in the pen. You might not have seen David Robertson for a few days, but if he pitched two days in a row and then warmed up in each of the next two, he might not be available. This information gap also extends to Girardi’s knowledge of the individual player. Perhaps he doesn’t feel a particular player, on a particular day, is well-suited for a particular situation. We can criticize that, but it doesn’t hold much water if we don’t know the players and the circumstances.

Second is negativity bias. We tend to remember the bad decisions, because they result in agita and, in many instances, losses. Losing sucks, so that feeling sticks in our craws far longer than, say, the time when Girardi brought in David Robertson in the third inning after Andy Pettitte, who left with an injury, put two on with one out and had three balls on the batter. We might not remember that Robertson got out of the bases loaded, one out situation unscathed, which kept the game close at hand for when the Yanks exploded for seven runs and won.

The third is general discontent with managers. Moe Szyslak aptly sums up the sentiment: “The only thing I know about strategy is that whatever the manager does, it’s wrong. Unless it works, in which case he’s a button pusher.”

They don’t like how he deals with the media

I find this gripe odd. Why do fans care if the manager gets testy when the media asks its typically dumb questions? In many instances it comes off as endearing. There are good reporters who ask thoughtful questions, and they certainly deserve a respectful answer. So far as I have seen, Girardi has done just that. There are other reporters who ask the same pointless questions, or cliched and meaningless questions, all the time.* There comes a point where it’s reasonable to lose patience with them. We saw Girardi get a little angry in those situations in 2013.

* At a game I was covering in 2010, Girardi was giving his pre-game press talk. Javy Vazquez had pitched the previous night, and Phil Hughes was on the mound that night. The reporter asked a random question about A.J. Burnett — something asinine, too, along the lines of, “how would you characterize your confidence in A.J. Burnett?”

Honestly, I appreciate it when players and personnel take an attitude with the media. Yes, the reporters are just doing their jobs, but the good ones recognize that asking dumb, repetitive questions don’t help their causes. I miss the days when Mike Mussina scoffed at reporters. In 2013 I missed Derek Jeter poking fun at Kim Jones’s generic questions. It sure beats hearing players give the same boring responses to the same boring questions.

They mock the binder

Heaven forbid the manager has material at hand to inform his decision. For some reason, the media started mocking Girardi for consulting this binder in 2008, and fans followed in kind. This I will never understand. You mock a guy who makes poor “gut” decisions, but also mock a guy who employs data when making those same decisions? It’s senseless, and it goes right back to what Moe said.

Friend of RAB R.J. Anderson wrote about this issue at the time of Girardi’s previous extension:

Pretend for a moment that Girardi’s binder contains information about platoon splits and the basic rundown of data that a manager should be equipped with for in-game decisions. Whether this is the case or not is unbeknown to outsiders, but just pretend. Is there any downside to a manager having the information on hand with which to consult? Perhaps if the information itself is trivial or useless (i.e. how batters fared versus lefties over the last week or on Sundays), then Girardi is hurting the club, otherwise it’s hard to think of a downside.

Assuming that is not the case, the mocking of Girardi’s binder highlights the weird juxtaposition of the media’s treatment toward baseball managers who use information and prep work and their football counterparts who absorb film and schemes. Using numbers does not make Girardi a great manager, but it also does not make him a nincompoop. If he acknowledges that his gut and experience in the game does not hold all of the game’s answers, then he might be more self-aware and conscious than quite a few of his managing counterparts.

The binder contains information that can help balance data and gut feelings. It can influence better decisions. I’m sure that if he kept all the data in an iPad (which, as far as I can tell, isn’t allowed in an MLB dugout), fans and media wouldn’t say a word.

There are, to be sure, a number of other reasons why fans dislike Girardi, and I encourage detractors to elaborate in the comments. For our current purposes, I’ll list the one reason, above all others, I like Joe Girardi and think that he’s a great fit for the Yankees:

He protects his players

When the media asks questions of his players, he refocuses the conversation to himself. In other contexts that might sound egotistical, but in the case of a baseball manager it’s a virtue. Fans lauded Joe Torre his ability to manage the media, and Girardi is in many ways growing into that role (though he’s quite a bit surlier than his predecessor). Girardi never speaks even a drop of ill about his players, even when they deserve it.

If you stick up for your players, you can earn their respect. It does seem that Girardi has the team’s respect, which is all you can really ask of a manager. What effect did that have on the team? Well, they did outperform their Pythagorean record by six wins and their third-order wins by more than 10. Not all of that was due to Girardi’s influence, but if even one of those wins stemmed from something intangible he brings to the table it speaks well of his clubhouse presence.

In terms of the 2013 season, Girardi took an impossible situation, which started with shaky roster construction and continued with key injuries, and did a good a job as you can expect from anyone in that position. What could he done to further tip the scales in his team’s favor? From this perspective, little to nothing. The four-year deal he just signed signals the Yankees feel the same way.

Categories : Coaching Staff
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Late last night, word came down from Hal Steinbrenner that the Yankees will not be making any changes to their player development system this winter. No major personnel changes, anyway. Damon Oppenheimer will remain amateur scouting director, Mark Newman will remain VP of Baseball Ops, and Pat Roessler will remain director of player development. This comes after nearly three months of auditing the farm system and trying to figure out why it was so unproductive this past season and has been over the last several years.

“Yeah, we have. We’ve made some changes,” said Hal to Andy McCullough yesterday when asked about the development staff. “The vast majority of the changes will be procedural. We’ve changed a few coaches, and we’ve brought in a few people. But [Brian Cashman] spent a lot of time, a good two months, looking at process: How we do things, how people communicate with each other. And we found some things that we were not happy with. So we changed them.”

“Procedural” changes. They’re going to change the way they communicate. They’re going to rearrange some furniture, slap some lipstick on the organizational pig, and go about business as usual. The problems were big enough to swap out some coaches and improve communication but not make wholesale changes. The guys in charge are on the right path, they just need to tweak some things and everything will be good. Change some procedures and ¯\_(:-/)_/¯. That’s one way to take that quote.

Now, let’s be serious for a second. Over the last few years, the Yankees have seen many prospects either stall out or go down with a major injury, especially pitchers. The last top pitching prospect, a “hey this guy could be really special” guy, to not blow out his arm in the minors was Joba Chamberlain in 2007. Andrew Brackman blew out his arm, Dellin Betances blew out his arm, Manny Banuelos blew out his arm, Alan Horne blew out his arm, Jose Campos blew out his arm, and Christian Garcia blew out his arm twice. Ty Hensley blew out his hip, so I guess he’s the exception right now.

There are always going to injuries (especially to pitchers) and there will always be some level of attrition. It’s completely unavoidable. But I think we’re beyond the point of blaming it on attrition or bad luck. The Yankees admitted to feeling the same way when Hal launched his investigation into the team’s farm system a few months ago. That was an admission on his part that something is going wrong somewhere, that things are not turning out the way they should be. Simply put, New York has not been able to turn their prospects into productive big leaguers. They fart out some relievers every so often but so does every other club, they aren’t anything special in that regard.

Now here’s the thing: I think the Yankees actually do a pretty good job of acquiring high-end talent, both internationally (before the spending restrictions were put into place, anyway) and in the draft. Yes, it could be better (it could always be better), they have made some questionable high picks in recent years (Cito Culver and Dante Bichette Jr., most notably), but they still walked away with top shelf guys like Tyler Austin, Mason Williams, and Greg Bird in the later rounds, for example. Williams has underperformed, Bird has dealt with injury, and Austin has battled both. The talent is there, they just can’t get these guys over the developmental hump.

As an outsider, evaluating a farm system and a development system is close to impossible because so much of it happens away from cameras and reporters. All we see is the results and, let’s be real here, the results stink. They’ve stunk for a few years now. The Yankees are in the middle of this weird transitional period where payroll is coming down and the last remnants of the dynasty years are fading away, so support from homegrown young players is vital. They haven’t been getting it though, the results are obvious. In the five years since Brett Gardner and David Robertson came up, the team’s best homegrown player has been Ivan Nova (104 ERA+ in 504 innings), and that’s just not good enough.

“It’s really easy to say, ‘Get rid of this guy. Get rid of this guy. And get rid of that guy,’” said Steinbrenner. “But that doesn’t always solve the problem. Sometimes it’s procedural or process, the way scouts influence each other because they’re talking too much to each other — somebody has a preconception about a player they haven’t even seen yet because they’ve talked to two scouts about them and they go in to go see the player with those preconceptions. So those are the kind of things we’re working on, communication. We’re teaching the scouts. We’re going to teach them to look for different things, maybe things they haven’t looked at before.”

I was being a jerk and downplaying the value of procedural changes before but they are important. Something had to change and something did. We don’t know the scope or extent of those changes but something is being done behind the scenes unless Hal is lying. It’s possible these adjustments will fix everything, get the position players on track and stop the top pitchers from visiting Dr. Andrews once a year. But I think the track record of developmental failure is too long to only make procedural changes. New sets of eyes and new voices could help the club crack the player development riddle no one in the organization seems to be able to solve. The Yankees had a chance to make meaningful changes to their farm system these last few weeks, but they opted for the half-measure instead.

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Nov. 12th: Hal Steinbrenner told reporters the team will make no changes to the player development staff, so Newman will remain in his current role. They are making changes to their player development system that Hal called “procedural.” So nothing. They’re doing nothing, basically.

Oct. 26th: Via Mark Feinsand: Amateur scouting director Damon Oppenheimer will remain with the team in that role. He was rumored to be one of executives in danger of being replaced due to the team’s recent farm system failures. Oppenheimer has been the team’s scouting director since the 2005-2006 offseason and he’s been considered for a handful of GM jobs over the years.

Meanwhile, Feinsand says other changes are expected to be made in the baseball operations department. Long-time VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman was rumored to be on the hot seat alongside Oppenheimer, so he might be the one to take the fall for the unproductive farm system. The Yankees have been essentially auditing their player development staff in recent weeks and I’m glad to hear some changes are coming. Too much has gone wrong — top prospects keep stalling out and pretty much every pitching prospect worth a damn gets hurt — to maintain status quo.

Categories : Asides, Front Office
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