Archive for Hot Stove League

(Presswire)

(Presswire)

Outside of Matt Thornton and some minor league pickups, the Yankees didn’t do much to improve their bullpen this past offseason. David Robertson will take over as closer but the team did not replace Mariano Rivera in the sense that they lost an elite reliever and didn’t pick up anyone to take his spot. New York has a bunch of interesting young guys in camp and Joe Girardi always seems to cobble together a good bullpen out of nowhere, so it might not even be a problem.

The Yankees signed former All-Star closer Andrew Bailey to a minor league contract over the weekend, but that move is geared more towards 2015 than 2014. He is rehabbing from surgery to repair a torn shoulder capsule (and labrum!) and both Girardi and Brian Cashman confirmed that if he does pitch this year, it won’t be until late-August or September. According to Andy Martino, the Yankees have been monitoring two other relievers who are returning from injury and could provide more immediate help:

It turns out the Yanks sent a scout to a recent showcase for former Phillies closer Ryan Madson, according to a source — and while impressed by Madson’s arm after two years of rough recovery from Tommy John surgery, the team considered his asking price excessive.

The Yankees also continue to monitor another another former All-Star, Joel Hanrahan, who underwent Tommy John last year (the Mets have also watched him throw a bullpen session).  If Robertson is successful, a player like Hanrahan would probably serve as a setup man.

Madson is the rare Tommy John surgery failure story — he had the procedure two years ago and has not pitched since due to continued setbacks and complications. The 33-year-old has been working out for teams for a few weeks now and there have been no reports of his asking price, whatever it may be. After two lost years, I’ve been assuming he would have to take a minor league deal like Bailey. I guess he’s shooting for more since he’s in a better position to help a team right away.

Hanrahan, 32, not only had Tommy John surgery last May, he also had his flexor tendon repaired and bone chips removed from his elbow. They did all three procedures at once and while he is currently throwing off a mound, Hanrahan isn’t expected to be game ready until May or June. There’s a chance he will be ready sooner rather than later just because he’s a one-inning reliever and won’t have to get stretched back out like a starter.

Given his timetable and the nature of his injury, Hanrahan might be the best 2014 bullpen option among himself, Bailey, and Madson. We know Bailey won’t be able to help until late in the year, if at all. Madson hasn’t pitched in two years and since he’s already had so many setbacks with the elbow, I don’t think you can count on him to be healthy and productive until he’s actually on a big league mound being healthy and productive. All three guys were elite when they were last healthy, but Hanrahan’s injury is the least severe. (They’re all severe, obviously.)

The Yankees have been signing injured pitchers and waiting for them to get healthy for years. They did it with Jon Lieber (worked out) and Octavio Dotel (didn’t work out) back in the day and with David Aardsma (didn’t work out) more recently. Bailey is the latest example and if Madson’s demands remain excessive for a pitcher who hasn’t pitched in two years, Hanrahan could be the next. With nothing but scraps left on the free agent market and teams not really looking to trade relievers at the moment, he is their best option for potential high-end bullpen help in the near future.

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Via George King: The Yankees will not offer free agent Cuban infielder Aledmys Diaz a contract following his private workout on Friday. They aren’t planning to offer right-hander Odrisamer Despaigne a contract either, but he isn’t much of a prospect.

Diaz, 23, is said to be seeking upwards of $20M, according to King. He worked out for the club at their minor league complex in Tampa and I guess they weren’t all that impressed. The Yankees have reportedly been scouting Diaz for months, so they are familiar with him. There are questions about his long-term potential but it is surprising they won’t even make an offer.

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Friday: The Yankees did indeed have Diaz at the minor league complex early this morning for a workout, according to Jon Morosi. No word on whether Despaigne was there, but George King says he was scheduled to showcase himself for the team as well.

Thursday: Via Joe Strauss: The Yankees are one of seven teams “engaged in talks” with free agent Cuban infielder Aledmys Diaz. Jesse Sanchez says he is expected to work out for them today. “He is prepared to [sign] very quickly,” said agent Jaime Torres. “We know he’s going to be in the Major Leagues. It’s only a matter of time. His preference is shortstop, but he’s played second and third and I’m sure would be comfortable playing whatever position is necessary.”

Diaz, 23, is now eligible to sign after being suspended a year for falsifying age and identity information. Rather than make himself appear younger, he tried to pass himself off as older than his real age so he would not be subject to MLB’s international spending restrictions. Diaz can now sign for any amount and Torres said a decision could be reached as soon as Friday or Saturday. The Yankees certainly need infield help (both short and long-term) and they’ve been monitoring Diaz for months now, though they are said to be done signing big free agents. We’ll see.

In other news, Sanchez says the Yankees are also expected to work out Cuban right-hander Ordisamer Despaigne today as well. They scouted his showcases earlier this offseason. Ben Badler says Despaigne is “pretty fringy” and not much of a prospect, so there’s not a lot to see there. Diaz is a real prize of all the available Cuban players right now.

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(Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)

(Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)

When position players reported to Spring Training yesterday, the competition for the final bench spot officially got underway. We all know Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter will start if healthy, and earlier this week the Yankees and Joe Girardi declared Brian Roberts and Kelly Johnson the starters at second and third base, respectively. The competition is for the backup infield spot alongside Brendan Ryan.

Needless to say, an infield built around Roberts and Johnson doesn’t inspire much confidence. The Yankees are said to be done signing Major League free agents, but even if they were open to signing another player, there aren’t many available who fit what they need. Stephen Drew is pretty much the only option at this point and they don’t have interest in him. They did earlier this winter, however. From Joel Sherman:

Early in the offseason, the Yankees – with so many holes to fill – used a strategy of making many offers at one time, letting agents know that with each signing, they would re-assess and pull some bids. The Yankees actually made Drew an offer at that time, believed to be for two or three years, when the shortstop was still looking to do considerably better – four or five years.

And, as it happened, the Yankees spent more than they anticipated on players such as Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury and Masahiro Tanaka and, at some point, rescinded the offer for Drew. And once Tanaka was signed and the $189 million dream was crushed, Hal Steinbrenner put a clamp on going any further. That means they are not bending for Drew, a decision they believe is made a tad easier because they were worried about the condition of his ankles and hips anyway.

The Yankees basically put a bunch of offers out there and said first come, first serve. The first player to say yes got the contract. Maybe that’s how they wound up with Jacoby Ellsbury instead of Shin-Soo Choo, who they offered seven years and $140M. Same thing with Matt Thornton over Javier Lopez, who they also had interest in. I’m not sure if they could have used the same strategy with Masahiro Tanaka and Brian McCann though. Whatever.

Anyway, Sherman goes on to say Scott Boras’ current asking price for Drew is a two-year contract with an opt-out after the first year. So it’s basically a one-year contract unless he has a really bad year, in which case you’re stuck with him for 2015 as well. The Yankees have already forfeited three top draft picks, so signing Drew would only cost money and a second round pick, which might turn into a supplemental first rounder if he opts out and rejects a qualifying offer next winter.

The Yankees do not want to pay that money and surrender the pick for Drew right now, but in all likelihood they’re going to have to pay for infield help at some point this year. If they don’t give up money and a pick for Drew now, they’ll have to surrender prospects (and probably take on salary) to trade for someone at midseason. Roberts is a huge health risk and the chances of Johnson getting exposed as an everyday player are high enough that an in-season trade feels like an inevitability. Heck, they might have to make a trade even if they sign Drew.

“There are areas of concerns and we’re going to keep plugging away, but we’ve got to see how big of a concern they are,” said Hal Steinbrenner to Bryan Hoch yesterday. “They’re not problems yet because we haven’t even started playing. They’re areas of concern; I get it. Every team has them and every team works through them. We’re going to do the same thing. We got pretty good at it last year, I thought.”

Of course, the problem with standing pat and waiting for a midseason trade is that the Yankees will play a ton of games with a weak infield. Signing Drew or making a trade now improves the team on Opening Day, not on July 31st or whenever. Considering how tight the race for a postseason spot figures to be, the longer New York waits to get infield help, the tougher their road to October will be. The Yankees don’t want to pay for infield help now and that’s fine, as long as they understand they’ll have to pay for it later if they want to have the best possible chance to contend.

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The Orioles have finally made a move to improve their team. According to multiple reports, Baltimore has signed right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez to a fiour-year contract worth approximately $50M. They’ll also have to forfeit the 17th overall pick. The Yankees were never connected to Jimenez but he was often mentioned as a potential fifth starter candidate should be remain unsigned for another few weeks and his asking price drop even more. That was always a long shot though.

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Via Joel Sherman: The Yankees are done signing Major League free agents now that spring Training has begun. Brian Cashman is most concerned about the infield but they were unable to work out deals for Omar Infante and Logan Forsythe, and are apparently unwilling to meet Stephen Drew’s asking price.

While Drew is certainly the headliner here, the “done signing Major League free agents” thing applies to the bullpen as well. I’m much more confident in the team’s ability to create a good bullpen out of their in-house options than I am in their ability to cobble together a good infield, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like to see them add another veteran arm. The problem is none are available. Not good ones, anyway.

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According to multiple reports, utility man Emilio Bonifacio has signed a minor league contract with the Cubs. Jon Heyman says he turned down big league contract offers from other teams because he felt Chicago gave him the best opportunity. There were never any reports indicating the Yankees had interest in Bonifacio, but he did make some sense for that final option bench spot. Oh well.

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Via Andrew Marchand: The Yankees continue to have no interest in Stephen Drew even though they now know Derek Jeter will retire following the season. For what it’s worth, Buster Olney (subs. req’d) says several teams are concerned about the infielder’s medicals, specifically regarding his right ankle. He suffered a severe break and torn ligaments when he caught spike sliding into home plate back in 2011.

I’ve said I believe Drew is a good fit for the Yankees more times than I care to count by now, though I think the team may be waiting to see what happens with Cuban shortstop Aledmys Diaz before pursuing Drew. Diaz, as I explained in yesterday’s mailbag, is eligible to sign next Wednesday and the Yankees have been scouting him since last summer. If they spend big bucks on an infielder, they might prefer to spend it on the 23-year-old Diaz rather than the 30-year-old Drew. I dunno, we’ll see.

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(Jason Miller/Getty)

(Jason Miller/Getty)

Everyone likes a shiny new toy. The Yankees have plenty of them this spring, having spent hundreds of millions on seven new players. But here’s the thing about shiny new toys: no matter how many we have, we never mind having another.

The desire to sign Ubaldo Jimenez absolutely stems from the idea of acquiring another shiny new toy. Removing that aspect from the equation reveals reality. The Yankees don’t need to sign Jimenez.

At the same time, there are practical reasons why signing Jimenez could benefit the Yankees now and in the future.

The Pineda factor

If the Yankees signed Jimenez, they would bring five surefire starting pitchers to camp. It would terminate the fifth starter battle, effectively ending Michael Pineda‘s chances of breaking camp with the team.

By all appearances, Pineda is ready to win a rotation spot. Given his youth and potential to help in 2015 and beyond, he is the ideal fifth starter candidate. Why remove him from the race, then?

Consider that:

1) Pineda has never thrown more than 171 innings in a season, and that came two full years ago. He threw just 40 last year. Coming off major shoulder surgery, can the Yankees count on Pineda for even 120 innings this year?

2) Five starters might come into camp, but what are the chances all five are healthy and effective come June 1? They’ll need a sixth starter before long, whether that’s due to injury or even Ivan Nova pitching like he did in 2012. Pineda will have opportunities.

3) If the Yankees don’t need a sixth starter until, say mid-May, they might even eke out yet another year of control on Pineda. This is not a decisive factor by any means, but rather an added bonus.

The Yankees can manage Pineda’s workload much more closely in AAA, where the results won’t affect their playoff chances. They can pace him for 120 or 130 innings (if that’s their goal for him) and adjust when he’s needed in the majors.

In an ideal world, Michael Pineda breaks camp as the fifth starter and pitches like a No. 2 or No. 3 all season long. In reality, that’s not at all likely. Adding Jimenez would hold back Pineda, but it might make his transition back to the majors a bit easier.

Warren, Phelps, Nuno

Even if the Yankees don’t sign Jimenez, they have alternatives in case Pineda does indeed require more seasoning. Adam Warren, David Phelps, and Vidal Nuno all started games last year. Why not just use them?

None of them strikes me as a long-term starter on a first-division team. If needed to spot start four or five times during the season, they’re fine. But are they guys capable of taking the ball every five days while facing off against AL East offenses?

Consider also the bullpen situation. Both Phelps and Warren have shown success in the bullpen, and could strengthen a unit that has just lost the greatest closer of all time. There are plenty of bullpen spots up for grabs this spring. It’s doubtful any of the candidates fit the bill better than Phelps and Warren. Even if one of them does shine, there are four total spots up for grabs.

The man himself

It has become clear that Jimenez will not get an A.J. Burnett contract. Rumors swirled that he was willing to take three years and $39 million, but he might not get even that much. What seems more realistic is the Kyle Lohse special, three years and $33 million.

That price seems reasonable for a 30-year-old who just put up the best strikeout rate of his career. Jimenez started slowly, which was concerning after his nosedive in 2012. But he came back strongly and looked straight dominant in the second half. He might not be an ace, but in this situation he wouldn’t need to be one, nor would he get paid like one.

Three years seems a reasonable commitment. The Yankees will almost certainly need another starter next year, assuming Hiroki Kuroda retires. Jimenez could give the Yankees another decent starter while they clean up the mess on the farm.

Do the Yankees need to sign Ubaldo Jimenez? Absolutely not. That’s money they could spend elsewhere, namely the infield, even if they don’t spend it until mid-season. (Because it’s tough to spend money now when you can count the remaining infielder free agents on one hand.)

But if Jimenez falls into their laps for three years and $33 million?

Even ignoring the shiny new toy aspect, it’s something they’d have to consider.

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Via Darren Wolfson: The Yankees were one of several teams in inquire about Ervin Santana recently. Ken Rosenthal says the right-hander is finally progressing towards a deal, but Tim Dierkes hears talks still have a ways to go before anything is finalized.

Last month we heard the Yankees requested Santana’s medical records, but that was before they signed Masahiro Tanaka and it was said to only be due diligence. The 31-year-old pitched quite well last season (3.24 ERA and 3.93 FIP) but he’s very fly ball and homerun prone, making him a bad fit for Yankee Stadium. Santana would be an upgrade over the team’s internal fifth starter candidates, though I would be surprised if the team spent that kind of money on another starter at this point.

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