The Yankees spent an awful lot of money this winter to improve an offense that was their worst in two decades last year. They committed nearly $300M to a new leadoff man and two middle of the order bats, not to mention some complementary pieces for the bottom third of the lineup. A full season of Alfonso Soriano should help as well. They were pricey moves but also very necessary moves.
“I think we have a collection of very good hitters this year,” said Joe Girardi to Mark Feinsand last week. “I think our lineup is much deeper than it was last year from top to bottom. There’s more balance with some of the switch-hitters … I think there’s much more balance in our lineup. But as far as having that one guy that maybe you center the lineup around, I would say no.”
That last part about “having that one guy” to build a lineup around refers to the departed Robinson Cano. Girardi could fill out his lineup any number of ways this year but the team does lack an offensive centerpiece. That’s okay though. They lost one superstar but did upgrade at several other positions, so the overall result should be an improved lineup. They were never going to be able to replace Cano anyway. He’s the best second baseman in the game and that means he is irreplaceable by definition.
“Yeah, I think the great thing is, look at our lineup. We’re back to being the Yankees again,” said Mark Teixeira to Bryan Hoch yesterday. “Last year, we weren’t the Yankees. We had so many injuries and we had so many guys that should have been in there to be lots of anchors. That’s back. There’s not one guy that has to carry this team, but absolutely I expect to hit in the middle of the order, hit 30 homeruns and drive in 100 runs. That’s going to take pressure off everybody and help us win games.”
Teixeira, who will turn 34 shortly after Opening Day, is currently working his way back from right wrist surgery and will help further improve the offense. Lyle Overbay did an admirable job filling at first base last season but he’s no Teixeira and the Yankees will be better off at the position this year. No, we don’t know what to expect from Teixeira given the nature of his injury, but it shouldn’t be tough to improve upon the .229/.292/.397 (78 OPS+) the team got from the position last summer.
Now, even though the Yankees added some free agents and are getting some players back from injury, their lineup still isn’t as deep as it was as recently as two years ago. Kelly Johnson is a solid player but nothing more while Brian Roberts hasn’t been even an average hitter in three seasons. Derek Jeter is pushing 40 and coming off major leg injuries, so he is even more of an unknown than Teixeira. The bottom third of the lineup will be better than last season but still not very good.
Teixeira’s rebound is important simply to lengthen the lineup and give the team six above-average hitters rather than five. He’ll also be counted on to add some power to a team that still doesn’t have all that much and create matchup headaches by being a switch-hitter. Soriano, Carlos Beltran, and Brian McCann are expected to anchor the middle of the order, but adding even 2012 Teixeira level production (24 HR and 115 OPS+) could be the difference between a league average attack and an above-average one.
“I’d be lying if there wasn’t [lingering doubt about the wrist],” added Teixeira. “I said it this winter, everyone can go out after major surgery and go, ‘I’m fine, I’m going to be good as ever,’ but you don’t really know that until you go out there. For me, it’s just kind of two steps: make sure I’m healthy and that means taking full swings at a 95 mph fastball in a Spring Training game. And we have six weeks to figure that out. If that’s the case and I’m healthy and I can do that for a week straight, then it’s all about production.”
This will be Teixeira’s sixth year in pinstripes and he has gradually declined from offensive centerpiece to complementary player. He was still a really good hitter in his last healthy season — I think Teixeira’s decline is generally overstated, and I’m guilty of that — just not the hitter he was during his first year in New York. His importance to the lineup and the Yankees in general is easy to overlook, but he was missed last summer and that will again be the case if he and his surgically repaired wrist doesn’t rebound well this summer.
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. · (63) ·
2013 Season: 85-77 (637 RS, 671 RA, 77-85 pythag. record), didn’t qualify for playoffs
Top stories from last week:
- In a surprising announcement, Derek Jeter said he intends to retire following the 2014 season. “Last year was a tough one for me,” he said in a statement. “As I suffered through a bunch of injuries, I realized that some things that always came easily to me and were always fun had started to become a struggle. The one thing I always said to myself was that when baseball started to feel more like a job, it would become time to move forward.”
- Spring Training officially opened as pitchers and catchers reported to Tampa on Friday. Joe Girardi discussed a number of topics in his opening press conference, and so far Masahiro Tanaka has acclimated himself well. CC Sabathia is down to 275 lbs. and Mark Teixeira is slowly working his way back from wrist surgery.
- The Yankees remain uninterested in Stephen Drew but they reportedly inquired about Ervin Santana recently. Bench option Emilio Bonifacio signed a minor league deal with the Cubs.
- The Yankees signed both Dean Anna ($500k) and Vidal Nuno ($504k) to one-year contracts for the 2014 season.
Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the interactive Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.
Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?
Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?
The first weekend of Spring Training is complete, though position players have not yet officially reported and the first full squad workout is still a few days away. Here’s a recap of the day in Tampa.
- Chad Jennings has the day’s bullpen and batting practice groups. Manny Banuelos plus a bunch of relievers were on the mound, including David Robertson, Shawn Kelley, and Matt Thornton. The pitchers will starting throwing live batting practice tomorrow.
- Mark Teixeira said his Spring Training plan is mapped out and he’s expecting to get 50+ at-bats, which is a normal amount. He is taking roughly 50 swings from each side of the plate right now and he feels a bit better from the right side. Tex also said he grew an inch this winter (!?) and hopes to play another five years. [Bryan Hoch, Sweeny Murti, Jorge Castillo, Dan Barbarisi]
- Apparently Peter O’Brien was the star of batting practice yesterday, hitting balls over the batter’s eye and off the scoreboard in left. “What puts his swing at a different level is the ease of it,’’ said hitting coach Kevin Long. [George King]
- Hoch has the list of guest instructors, which includes both Jorge Posada and Hideki Matsui. Ronald Blum says Andy Pettitte will be in camp as an instructor as well.
Here is your open thread for the night. The NBA All-Star Game is on, ditto the Olympics. Talk about those games, Spring Training, or anything else right here. Enjoy.
Via Joel Sherman: The Yankees have signed infielder Dean Anna and left-hander Vidal Nuno to one-year contracts for 2014. While in MLB, Anna will earn the $500,000 league minimum while Nuno will earn $504,500. Both guys still have all six years of team control remaining and can not become free agents until after the 2019 season at the earliest. I’m sure we’ll see both Anna and Nuno with the big league team at some point this summer, maybe even on the Opening Day roster. · (22) ·
Ten years ago today, the Yankees acquired Alex Rodriguez and $67M from the Rangers for Alfonso Soriano and Joaquin Arias. New York landed the best player in baseball at age 28 on what amounts to a seven-year, $112M contract. Things with A-Rod are terrible now, but he was a monster from 2004-07 before using his opt-out clause. It was one of the best trades in history.
Joel Sherman has a look inside how the trade went down, including the failed deal with the Red Sox. It’s similar to ESPN’s 30 for 30 video but it includes some more big picture and long-term information. For example, Rangers owner Tom Hicks hoped signing A-Rod would lead to developers gobbling up the 270 acres he owned around The Ballpark in Arlington. Texas also came close to flipping Soriano for Jose Reyes after the trade, and the opt-out was designed to help Rodriguez finish his career with the Mets, his favorite team growing up. Check it out, there’s some pretty interesting stuff in the article. · (24) ·
With all the pomp and circumstance surrounding pitchers and catchers reporting now in the rear-view mirror, the Yankees held their first official workout today. Here is a recap of the day’s news from Tampa:
- Chad Jennings has the day’s bullpen and and batting practice groups. CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Masahiro Tanaka, and Ivan Nova were among those to throw off a mound with various coaches and front office staff watching. Tanaka and Kuroda are catch partners and appear to have struck up a friendship already. Neato. [Meredith Marakovits, Dan Barbarisi]
- Joe Girardi and the rest of the staff are very pleased with how Tanaka how adjusted so far and were impressed with his bullpen session. Tanaka said he was surprised by how much running they do, however. “The four laps we did at the end were pretty hard,” he joked. [Bob Nightengale, Marakovits, Bryan Hoch]
- Manny Banuelos‘ elbow feels great and he expects to make his MLB debut at some point this year. He was touching 94 mph during simulated games late last year. ”It’s been a long time and I’m happy to be back,” he said. Banuelos will throw live batting practice on Wednesday. [Hoch, Marakovits, Jennings]
- Nova said he views Sabathia, Kuroda, and Tanaka as the only rotation locks and will treat this spring as if he’s competing for a job. “I’m still in a competition. Nothing is sure … I’m one of the young guys. I’ve got to be doing the best out there in the competition,” he said. [Hoch, Jennings]
- Mark Teixeira went through some infield drills with first base coach Mick Kelleher and then did some work in the batting cage with hitting coach Kevin Long. He’s working his way back from season-ending wrist surgery. [Wally Matthews]
- J.R. Murphy is going by John Ryan Murphy now. Apparently he had always gone by John Ryan, but people started calling him J.R. after he was drafted and he never bothered to correct anyone. [Sweeny Murti]
- Right-hander Yoshinori Tateyama is not yet in camp because of a visa issue. He is a long shot to make the bullpen anyway. [Jennings]
- And finally, there have been a number of upgrades made at George M. Steinbrenner Field. A new high-definition video board has been installed in left field and there’s a new scoreboard as well. [Hoch]
Here is tonight’s open thread. The NBA All-Star Skills Competition is on, as are the Olympics. You folks know how this stuff works by now, so have at it.
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. · (14) ·
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. · (69) ·
Happy pitchers and catchers day, everyone. Oh, and Happy Valentine’s Day as well. But who cares about that. The Yankees officially opened Spring Training this morning and it sounds as though everyone other than Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman reported on time. Their flights from New York were delayed by the weather and they got in later this afternoon. We had a recap of Girardi’s press conference earlier, now here is the first day’s worth of camp notes.
- The first official workout is tomorrow, but Brian McCann, Frankie Cervelli, and Austin Romine spent time with Kevin Long in the batting cage today while Michael Pineda threw a bullpen session. Adam Warren and David Phelps have been in town for weeks and are already facing hitters. [Chad Jennings]
- CC Sabathia told reporters he is at 275 lbs., down from 315 lbs. a few years ago and his lowest weight since he was with the Indians. He believes he lost too much weight too quickly last year, costing him power and stamina, so that was his focus this winter. Sabathia also blamed himself for missing the postseason a year ago. He was bad, but that’s a bit much. [Richard Justice & Bob Nightengale]
- Masahiro Tanaka met with the media and said he’s willing to make whatever adjustments are needed as he transitions to MLB. He has spoken to Hiroki Kuroda about the differences in leagues as well. David Robertson, meanwhile, said he is focused on being more efficient in 2014. [Dan Barbarisi]
- McCann said the team wasted no time helping him get acclimated with the pitching staff and opposing hitters. “I got an iPad in the mail two days later with everybody’s two good games, two bad games, all the hitters in the AL East,” he said. “As soon as we signed Tanaka, I got all his starts, so I’ve seen it. Now I want to get to know everybody and what their mindset is.” [Bryan Hoch]
- The Yankees are “quietly encouraged and excited” by what they’ve seen from Pineda so far. He is in better shape than he had been in the past and his velocity has shown signs of increasing. [Buster Olney & Andrew Marchand]
- If you care about such things, Mariano Rivera‘s old locker went to Tanaka. “I was like, ‘I’m not really sure if I should be here,’” he said when he found out. Alex Rodriguez‘s old locker remains vacant though Carlos Beltran took over the adjacent locker. Jacoby Ellsbury got Kevin Youkilis‘ old spot. [AP]
- Here is the full list of number assignments [Hoch]. Some notables: Brian Roberts will wear 14, Scott Sizemore 24, Kelly Johnson 33, and Matt Thornton 48. They gave out Robinson Cano‘s number right away, huh? Cold.
- Position players are scheduled to report next Wednesday and Derek Jeter will hold a press conference to discuss his impending retirement at 11:30am ET that day. He said “everything’s good” with his surgically repaired ankle. [Dan Martin]
Here is your open thread for the night. The NBA (All-Star) and NHL (Olympics) are both on breaks, so the only sports tonight are college basketball and the Olympics. Talk about whatever here. Have at it.