Got six questions for you this week, the first week of the offseason. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us anything at anytime, mailbag comments or otherwise.
Terri asks: What do you think the chances are for Derek Jeter to go into the Hall of Fame as a unanimous choice?
Very small, but better than they would be in 2015 because there will be some turnover in the voting body before Jeter is eligible for induction in five years. Greg Maddux, whose Hall of Fame case was unimpeachable, did not appear on 20 (!) of the 575 ballots this year. Jeter may get a higher percentage of the vote — Tom Seaver still holds the record after appearing on 98.8% of the ballots — than Maddux because he won more titles and was simply more popular, but I’ll continue to bet against a player getting in unanimously until it actually happens. Too many older voters still send in blank ballots in an attempt to make some kind of statement. It’s silly, but that’s life. Don’t worry, Jeter will still get in on the first ballot.
Dan asks: Would it hurt the Yankees brand if Alex Rodriguez, given what we know about his connections with PEDs, broke Babe Ruth’s home run record? Also, is it financially responsible to allow A-Rod to reach the $6 million bonuses from the incentive clauses in his contract that was signed under the pretenses of marketing these achievements from a then “clean” athlete?
On the contrary, I think it will help the team’s #brand. They’re going to make a ton of money if Alex Rodriguez manages to get close to
Babe Ruth’s Barry Bonds’ homerun record. People are still going to pay oodles of money to see history and boo the everloving crap out of him. Yeah, the bonuses were signed under the pretense that A-Rod was clean, but CC Sabathia‘s contract was signed under the pretense he would be a 200+ inning workhorse. It didn’t work out, that’s the risk you take when entering into a contract with a player. If the Yankees try to get out of those bonuses, A-Rod and the union will file a grievance and probably win given the contract language. They’re not going to let the team weasel out of that money. It’s a precedent the MLBPA won’t allow to be set.
Daniel asks: Given the new regime entering the MLB offices, how important is it for the Yankees’ financial freedom that this year’s playoff picture includes lower budget teams like Royals, Pirates, and Athletics? Obviously spending money doesn’t win you championships per se but more often than not it puts you in contention and the Wild Card has proven that’s all you need. Will these lower budget teams getting a chance have an impact on the CBA? Will it prevent MLB from considering a salary cap?
A salary cap won’t happen because the union won’t allow it to happen. The luxury tax system is a compromise. Baseball is way too strong financially right now to start putting limits on payroll. The owners would love one, sure, but the MLBPA will fight this tooth and nail. I think they would strike before accepting a salary cap and no one wants a work stoppage. The game is too healthy. Maybe seeing those smaller payroll teams get into the postseason both this year and the last few years (Rays!) will help keep the salary cap conversation at bay, but I don’t think it will have a big impact. The biggest argument against a salary cap is the league’s revenue.
Jack asks: CC’s days of going 200+ innings per year are over. The knee can’t take the pounding, especially over the course of a season. On the other hand, if he is only needed for say 100 innings a year he might be able to play out his contract. What do you think of putting him in the bullpen? It’ll be less strain on the arm (and knee) and will allow him to air it out for each of the one or two innings he pitches, so instead of maxing at say 90 mph he can get back to say maybe 93/94?
I think it’s worth it to find if Sabathia can still start first. He’ll almost certainly never be an ace again, but maybe he can be what Hiroki Kuroda was this year following knee surgery, even if it’s only for one year. If Sabathia can’t start, either physically or because his performance is terrible, then stick him in the bullpen and see what happens. I don’t think they’re at that point yet. Give him a chance to start following surgery and see where he’s at. We all just might be pleasantly surprised.
Dustin asks: How playable do you think Jose Pirela is at SS? Could the Yanks save a little cash and maybe even slightly upgrade offensively and in terms of defensive flexibility by bringing Pirela off the bench as a super utility guy? That’s assuming they have a rock-solid everyday SS like Hardy.
The Yankees moved Pirela off shortstop permanently following the 2011 season — he’s played only eight games at the position since, all this year with Triple-A Scranton. He’s been a second baseman and left fielder more than anything these last few years, though he’s seen time pretty much everywhere other than pitcher or catcher. Pirela could probably play shortstop the way Yangervis Solarte did earlier this year, a spot start here or there but not everyday. If the Yankees signed J.J. Hardy or whoever and he got hurt, they’d have to play Brendan Ryan at short everyday, not Pirela. He can hit though, and there’s a decent chance he’ll force the team’s hand in Spring Training the way Solarte did this year. His versatility and right-handed bat would be nice to have on the bench.
JPK asks: Using just players that came through the Yankee system, who are no longer Yankees, and were active in MLB this past season, make your best starting lineup…. Mine is Jackson CF, Melky RF, Cano 2B, Soriano DH, Montero 1B, Navarro C, Nunez 3B, R Pena SS, A. Almonte LF… Did I miss anyone?
I’ll do you one better. Here’s an entire roster of former Yankees’ farmhands who played in MLB this season.
|Dioner Navarro||1B Jesus Montero||LF Melky Cabrera||RH Phil Hughes||RH John Axford|
|2B Robinson Cano||CF Austin Jackson||RH Ian Kennedy||RH J. Chamberlain|
|DH||SS Ramiro Pena||RF Jose Tabata||RH Zach McAllister||RH Tyler Clippard|
|Alfonso Soriano||3B E. Nunez||LH Vidal Nuno||LH Mike Dunn|
|LH Jose Quintana||RH D. Farquhar|
|Bench||RH George Kontos|
|C Eric Fryer||IF Dean Anna||RH Mark Melancon|
|UTIL J. Paredes||OF Abe Almonte|
The roster would look quite a bit better if I could include players the Yankees drafted but did not sign, specifically Gerrit Cole, Doug Fister, Drew Storen, and Chris Davis. The notable omissions are all pitchers: Hector Noesi, Tommy Kahnle, Phil Coke, and Randy Choate. The Yankees have produced a bunch of decent arms recently but not many bats — Fryer and Anna are really stretching the definition of “coming up through the system.” My lineup one through nine would be similar to JPK’s:
- Rakin’ Ramiro
The pitchers are listed alphabetically but my rotation would be Quintana followed in order by Hughes and Kennedy, with Nuno and McAllister in whatever order in the fourth and fifth spots. Pick ‘em out of a hat. Melancon would close with Clippard and Farquhar setting him up. I don’t really have a long man but whatever. Just spit-balling it, that roster would win what, maybe 70-75 games? It would rely (heavily) on the pitching and Cano driving in Jackson and Melky. That’s pretty much it. Maybe some trademark Yankees Magic™ would get them to 81 wins.
Here is your open thread for the night, folks. The Tigers and Orioles are playing Game One of their ALDS right now (on TBS) and later tonight the Royals and Angels will play Game One of their ALDS (9:30pm ET on TBS, Weaver vs. Vargas). Somehow we’ve reached the point where the Tigers are the AL postseason team I dislike the most. I guess I’m going soft. Anyway, there’s also the Thursday football game as well (Packers vs. Vikings). Talk about any of those games or whatever else is on your minds right here.
Hal Steinbrenner appeared on Michael Kay’s radio show yesterday and, among other things, he apologized to Yankees fans for the team’s second straight postseason-less year. “I apologize. We did not do the job this year. We know what you expect of us, and we expect the same thing of ourselves, and we certainly did what we thought we could do in the offseason to field a pretty good team come April 1st, but it didn’t work out,” he said. The full interview is above, but if you don’t want to sit through all 20 minutes of it, here’s the Cliff’s Notes version:
- On incorporating young players going forward: “There’s no doubt, young players, player development, that’s going to play a big part, because you’re correct, it’s hard to just play in the free agent market and bring a bunch of veterans on board because you’ve got a lot of parity in the league now … We’ve had our struggles in player development and the minor leagues.”
- On the upcoming offseason: “I’ve been a little trade averse as far as getting rid of younger kids as you saw last year, but we’re going to have to analyze. We know we need a shortstop, of course. I think with (Ivan) Nova coming back probably not until May, I think we need a starting pitcher. And then we’re going to have to go from there. As we do, every offseason, we’re going to look at everybody.”
- On the $189M luxury tax threshold: “The decision to go over 189 was for one player and that was (Masahiro) Tanaka, and I have no regrets about that because he’s going to be everything that we saw in the first three months of the season. He’s going to be great.” Steinbrenner indicated the team will try to get under the luxury tax threshold again sometime in the future. The Collective Bargaining Agreement expires following the 2016 season and the threshold will probably go up then.
- On the coaching staff: “The hitting coach is responsible for the hitters, the pitching coach is responsible for the pitchers, and we’ve got an infield coach responsible for defense and fielding. That comes with any position in life. You are liable for what goes on. We have not made any decisions yet as to what we’re going to do with any of the coaches. That will be the first step to look at the manager and the coaches as we do every single year.”
- On making decisions and changes: “I don’t have an answer to that because I don’t make rash decisions. I want to talk to all my people, including having long discussions with (Brian Cashman) and his people and really get into, could anything have been different or did these guys just have a down year, these three or four guys? But, rest assured, we’re going to get to the bottom of it. And if I do deem that somebody is liable, or if I do deem that somebody is responsible, that things could have been better, I will act.”
- On Alex Rodriguez and the possibility of releasing him: “I’m not a lawyer, so (I’m won’t) get into what can be done to a contract or not. But like I said, when he’s healthy, he’s an asset. We need those kind of assets. We need the hitting … If he’s healthy, he’s going to be an asset to the team, and I would never not want that.”
- Steinbrenner also said they are planning extensive interviews to replace VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman, who is retiring this winter. Newman has run the farm system for more than a decade now.
Since we’re on subject, also make sure check out Joel Sherman’s recent sit down with Hal as well. He discussed some of the same stuff as in the radio interview plus some other topics as well.
Baseball America continuing breaking down the top 20 prospects in each minor league today with the Low-A South Atlantic League. The list is free but the scouting reports are not. Nationals RHP Lucas Giolito, Phillies SS J.P. Crawford, and Nationals RHP Reynaldo Lopez claim the top three spots. Three Yankees’ prospects made the list: RHP Luis Severino (No. 4), OF Aaron Judge (No. 8), and LHP Ian Clarkin (No. 15).
“In Severino’s case, he throws a 95-97 mph fastball that he locates to both sides of the plate with excellent life. His changeup is not always consistent, but it was average at least most of the time. His slider varied between well below-average to average depending on the outing,” said the scouting report, which also notes Severino is very quick to the plate and “nearly impossible” to run on. He is clearly the top pitching prospect in the organization after posting a 2.46 ERA (2.40 FIP) in 113.1 innings at three levels this summer.
The write-up notes Judge is a complete hitter more than a brute masher, and he is viewed as a “capable defensive right fielder with a strong arm.” Clarkin “doesn’t necessarily have an above-average pitch, but he throws a solid-average three-pitch mix consisting of a fastball, curveball and changeup,” according to scouting report, which also called Clarkin one of the “safer bets” among league pitching prospects. “He already shows a feel for keeping hitters off-balance by pitching backwards at times.”
You could make the case Severino, Judge, and Clarkin are three of the organization’s top four prospects right now, along with C Gary Sanchez. The Yankees have Severino on the fast track and I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw him in the big leagues in 2015. The next list of interest to Yankees’ fans is the High-A Florida State League, which will be released next week. Judge is a lock for that list and 3B Eric Jagielo, 1B Greg Bird, and OF Jake Cave are good bets to appear as well. Severino didn’t throw enough innings with High-A Tampa to qualify.
According to his agent, Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas has been declared a free agent by MLB. He already established residency in Haiti and has been unblocked by the Office of Foreign Assets Control, so this was the final step in the process. Tomas is free to sign with any team and he reportedly already has a $75M offer in hand.
Tomas, 23, held a showcase for scouts a week ago and is currently visiting teams for private workouts. It’s unclear if the Yankees have invited him for a private workout — they did have Aledmys Diaz and Rusney Castillo come to Tampa for firsthand looks earlier this year, for what it’s worth — and their level of interest is unknown at this point. Tomas is said to be a middle of the order right-handed hitter with power, and, if true, I think the Yankees should be all over him. · (221) ·
For the last two decades, the Yankees had the luxury of knowing Derek Jeter would be their starting shortstop. It’s a tough position to fill and he was excellent. Jeter had an insane peak year in 1999 but his greatness was always built around his durability and consistency, the write it in pen year-after-year production. He didn’t have that crazy 7+ WAR per year for five years peak, but he was a 4+ WAR player for like 15 straight years. Every year, he produced.
The Yankees have to replace Jeter at shortstop this offseason and — let’s be honest here — replacing his 2014 production won’t be difficult. Out of 146 qualified batters he ranked 124th in OBP (.305), 145th in SLG (.313), and 140th in wRC+ (73). He was bad even by shortstop standards (league average at the position was an 87 wRC+). Add in the poor defense and Jeter’s on-field contribution was basically replacement level this year.
Replacing the 2014 version of Jeter on the field doesn’t figure to be particularly difficult. They’re not going to be able to replace him in the clubhouse — I don’t think the lost leadership will be a big issue but it’s not negligible either — and they definitely won’t be able to replace his marketability and drawing power. That’s impossible. All they can do is upgrade on the field at shortstop, which will be both relatively easy given Jeter’s performance and difficult at the same time.
The timing worked out well and Jeter’s retirement coincides with a free agent class heavy on quality shortstops. That’s good! The Yankees will have their pick of the litter, assuming they’re willing to pay the price. I don’t know if playing for the Yankees is as much of a draw as it once was (money still talks) and I’m sure some are put off by the idea of replacing Jeter and having to try to live up to an impossible standard.
We’ll inevitably take many, many looks at the various free agent shortstops this winter, but for now here’s a quick look at the group:
- Asdrubal Cabrera: Average-ish hitter, bad overall defender but with a knack for highlight plays, generally healthy, won’t cost a draft pick.
- Stephen Drew: Awful at the plate this year, pretty good last year, very good defender, injuries have been an issue, won’t cost a draft pick.
- J.J. Hardy: Average-ish hitter whose power disappeared in 2014, very good defender, lingering back issues, will cost a draft pick.
- Jed Lowrie: Above-average hitter from 2012-13, less than that in 2014, okay defender at best, healthier in recent years, might cost a draft pick.
- Hanley Ramirez: Legitimate middle of the order masher, terrible defense, lots of injuries in recent years, will cost a draft pick.
Every so often a free agent comes along who fits a team perfectly. CC Sabathia fit the 2009 Yankees perfectly. Brian McCann fit the 2014 Yankees perfectly. Nelson Cruz fits the 2015 Mariners perfectly. None of these shortstops fit the 2015 (and beyond) Yankees perfectly though, and that’s the case with most free agents. They’re all good to great players with their own sets of pluses and minuses.
Any of these guys would represent an on-field upgrade over 2014 Jeter but the Yankees must determine who is the best fit. Do you want to go long-term with Hanley knowing he’ll possibly be a 120 games a year third baseman as soon as 2016? Is Hardy’s power and defense worth that risky back? Back problems never really do away, you know. They just get more manageable. The Yankees have enough dead weight on the payroll as it is and the free agent shortstop class looks like a minefield of potential bad contracts.
There are always trades to consider — Jimmy Rollins, anyone? — but if no appealing long-term shortstop solutions exist, isn’t the best move finding a short-term stopgap and trying to figure it out again next winter? Drew, for example, is destined for a small one-year contract. There’s at least a chance he will hit next year following a normal offseason — “I haven’t had a regular Spring Training in three years. I had the ankle, the concussion and then all the stuff this past year. I haven’t had a normal routine in a while. I had to play the cards I got dealt and make the best of it. This offseason, I can take a step back and prepare for next season the right way. I’m healthy and looking forward to it,” he said to George King — which is more than you can say for Brendan Ryan.
I wouldn’t blame the Yankees at all if they walked away from Drew given how terrible he looked this year, both in pinstripes and with the Red Sox. His 44 wRC+ in 300 plate appearances happened. It can’t be ignored. But, if the Yankees don’t want to spend big on a shortstop, he’s probably the best one-year stopgap they’ll find. And that’s kinda scary. This isn’t like finding a left fielder or a DH for a year. Quality shortstops are rare and teams tend to jump on them given the chance. Ryan’s two-year contract (plus a player option!) looks silly but that’s what it takes to get someone to play the position competently.
The Yankees will not be able to replace Derek Jeter the person this winter but they have to replace Derek Jeter the shortstop and that shouldn’t be tough given the year he had. The question is how do they want to replace him? There are cases to be made for going long-term for one of the big name free agents — Hanley sure would look great hitting third behind Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner, wouldn’t he? — or going short-term until a better fit comes along. Until they can pry one of the Cubs’ young shortstops loose, for example. Either way, the Yankees will upgrade at short this winter. It’s just a question of how.
As I’m sure you’ve heard, Derek Jeter launched a new website today called The Players’ Tribune. It’s basically a place for athletes to write their own stories in their own words branded as an “innovative multimedia digital company where world-class athletes will share their unfiltered, honest and unique perspectives, bringing fans closer to the games they love.” I’m not sure how many players will write at midseason, but I guess we’ll find out. Chad Jennings has the press release, if you’re interested.
Here is your open thread for the night. The Pirates and Giants (Volquez vs. Bumgarner) are playing the NL Wildcard Game (8pm ET on ESPN) and we can only hope it will be as good as the AL game last night. That was something else. You folks know how these open threads work by now, so have at it.
For the 12th consecutive season, the Yankees led the American League in attendance in 2014, according to Maury Brown. The Yankees drew 3,401,624 fans this summer, third most in baseball behind the Dodgers (3,782,337) and Cardinals (3,540,649). The Giants (3,368,697) and Angels (3,095,935) were the only other teams to draw 3M+ fans. The Indians (1,437,393) had MLB’s worst attendance.
The Yankees averaged 41,995 fans per game this season, up from 40,489 last year but down from 43,733 from 2012. Brown says total MLB attendance has dropped 1.5% since 2012 and the Yankees are a bit higher than that (3.9%). They averaged 45,839 fans per game during the first three years of the new Yankee Stadium and 42,072 in the three years since. With no Mariano Rivera or Derek Jeter farewell tour to prop up attendance, the Yankees could take a big hit next year if the team’s on-field performance doesn’t improve dramatically. · (122) ·
3:44pm: Jagielo had to undergo surgery to repair the fracture, he announced on Instagram. (The picture isn’t gross.) Everything went well.
1:01pm: Third base prospect Eric Jagielo is out 4-6 weeks with a broken bone in his face, VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman confirmed to Josh Norris. Jagielo took a fastball to the face during an Instructional League game over the weekend. He will be replaced on the Arizona Fall League roster, according to Newman.
Jagielo, 22, was the Yankees’ first round pick in the 2013 draft. He hit .259/.354/.460 (132 wRC+) with 16 homers in 85 games around an oblique injury with High-A Tampa this year. The broken bone stinks but that seems like the best case scenario whenever you talk about a pitch up around the head. Jagielo could have suffered a concussion or serious eye damage. All things considered, this is good news. Heal up and get ready for 2015. · (43) ·
MLB announced it will test pace of game rule changes in the Arizona Fall League this year. The list of changes is right here. Here’s the short version: batters must keep one foot in the batter’s box at all times (unless there’s a wild pitch, passed ball, foul ball, etc.), intentional walks are automatic (manager signals, batter goes to first with no pitches thrown), pitcher-catcher conferences are limited, and a game clock will be installed. Pitchers will have 12 seconds between pitches with the bases empty and 20 seconds with men on base.
There’s no doubt baseball has a pace of game problem and these days people have short attention spans with plenty of ways to distract themselves. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve looked down at my phone between pitches at a game, or at my computer while watching at home. MLB isn’t going to shorten up commercial breaks, so this is the next best thing. I do think the pace of play would be less of an issue if offense hadn’t disappeared — it’s one thing to watch a high-scoring game last three and a half hours, it’s another to watch three total runs score and batters ground into the shift for three and a half hours. We’ll see. The AzFL begins play next week. · (58) ·