Fan Confidence Poll: December 19th, 2016

2016 Season Record: 84-78 (680 RS, 702 RA, 79-83 pythag. record), 5.0 GB of postseason spot

Top stories from last week:

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 Features tab in 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?
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Anticipating the Adjustment

(Rich Gagnon/Getty)
(Rich Gagnon/Getty)

The world knows who Gary Sanchez is…and not just the baseball world. After his magnificent arrival in August, even the BBC got in on the action, profiling Sanchez’s sudden dominance at the plate. His profile, already large in Yankee and prospect circles at he beginning of 2016, looms even more so now that he placed second in the AL Rookie of the Year voting behind Detroit’s Michael Fulmer. AL pitchers are sure to have taken notice and will be determined to make 2017 a sophomore slump for Sanchez.

Regardless of how you do in your first real taste of the Majors, making adjustments is a part of making sure you go back for a second (and third, fourth, fifth…) bite; pitchers and coaches will always be looking to exploit weaknesses–real or perceived–and it’s up to young hitters to beat them to the punch in that regard. With that in mind, let’s take a look at what pitchers may do to adjust to Sanchez in his first full season as a big leaguer.

Below is a strike zone plot, courtesy of Brooks Baseball, detailing Sanchez’s ISO against pitches in various parts of the zone.

sancheziso

From that chart, it looks like when pitchers tried to tempt Sanchez with pitches on the outer half, he made them pay. Granted, pretty much every spot looks good; even the blue spots in the zone on the inner half have ISOs of .333; .200; and .429. Perhaps this means pitchers will be more reluctant to go outside against Sanchez, seeing that he has the ability to not only hit those pitches, but do so with authority. If they do go away, though, they need to do so out of the zone.

sanchezwhiffswing

Those are Sanchez’s whiff/swing numbers in various parts of the zone and it’s clear to see where there’s an issue: low and away. That’s where pitchers got Sanchez to swing and miss at high clips in 2016 and you can be sure they’re going to try to do that again; low and away is a winning spot for pitchers, regardless of the batter.

2016 showed us that Sanchez is capable of brilliance in a small stretch. Now, he’ll need to prove his steadiness over the course of an entire season. Given his pedigree–and what he did last season–there’s little reason to doubt him at this point. Baseball does happen, though, and ultimately we won’t know until, well, we know. So long as Sanchez makes his adjustments, he’ll be fine.

Weekend Open Thread

Some news: we’re looking for a comment moderator and possibly a new writer(s). And yes, we will pay. You’re not going to get rich — at least not until I get rich! — but you won’t write for free either. If you’re interested, send writing samples (game recaps, analytical stuff, whatever) and anything else you think will help your case to riveraveblues (at) gmail (dot) com. Needless to say, knowledge of the Yankees and general baseball rules are a must. Serious inquires only. Thanks.

Here is the open thread for the weekend. Talk about the offseason or whatever else right here. Just no politics or religion please. Thanks.

Mailbag: Tanaka, Betances, Otani, A-Rod, Gardner, Top Ten

I’ve only got nine questions in the mailbag this week, mostly because I didn’t have time to answer any others. As always, RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com is the place to send us questions.

Who you gonna call? (Rich Schultz/Getty)
Who you gonna call? Ta-naka! (Rich Schultz/Getty)

Many asked: If the Yankees can’t extend Masahiro Tanaka, why not trade him instead?

It seems my Tanaka extension post had a lot of folks thinking the same thing. I’m going to start with this: I think the chances of the Yankees actually trading Tanaka this offseason are zero. They’re not going to commit $86M to a closer only to turn around and trade their ace a few weeks later, even if it would be the smart thing to do long-term. Not happening.

Trading Tanaka at the 2017 trade deadline is a different story. For that to happen, two conditions must be met:

  1. The Yankees are out of the race and willing to sell again.
  2. The Yankees are convinced Tanaka will use his opt-out clause.

If that happens, then yes, the Yankees should absolutely trade him at the deadline. Perhaps they could swing a trade/re-sign a la Aroldis Chapman. Trade Tanaka for prospects at the deadline, then re-sign him a free agent. Boom! It does take two to tango, of course. Maybe it would work. Who knows?

Anyway, keep in mind the free agent compensation rules have changed. Since the Yankees are going to pay luxury tax in 2017, they’d get a compensation draft pick after the fourth round for Tanaka should he reject the qualifying offer and leave as a free agent. You can’t let this guy walk for a pick that late, especially if you’re out of the race at midseason. It would be negligent.

Should the Yankees trade Tanaka this offseason? Yeah, I think you could argue they should. The opt-out is looming and his value might never be higher than it is right now. Also, the free agent class stinks. Tanaka and Jose Quintana would be by far the available pitchers on the trade market, and there are no shortage of teams that need aces, so the Yankees should be able to get a nice haul even with the opt-out.

My guess is the Yankees start the 2017 season with Tanaka, see where they sit come July, then make a decision about his future. My preference would be an extension along the lines of the one I laid out earlier this week, but if the Yankees are only fringe contenders and they receive indications a contract that size isn’t doable, a trade is pretty much the only alternative.

Keith asks: Do you think keeping Tanaka on the team increases the Yankees’ chances of landing Otani? Is this potentially a reason not to trade Tanaka given that the Yankees won’t have a financial advantage over many teams in the league as they usually would?

It’s possible, sure. Thing is, we have no idea what kind of relationship Tanaka and Shohei Otani have. Yeah, they’ve played catch this offseason, but they might only be workout buddies. Based on everything we heard in 2014, Tanaka and Hiroki Kuroda weren’t all that close. Just because two guys come from Japan doesn’t mean they’re guaranteed to be best buds, you know?

I doubt having Tanaka on the roster would hurt the Yankees’ chances of signing Otani. The Yankees have to proceed with these two guys independent of each other though. The potential to woo Otani can’t be a factor in the decision to re-sign Tanaka next offseason, should he opt out. There are too many other more important factors in play. Ultimately, Otani is going to make the best decision for him and his family, and maybe that leads him to the Yankees.

Fernando asks: Rule 5 eligibility rules are confusing. Why is a guy like Ty Hensley taken in the Triple A Phase when a younger player like Luis Torrens is available in the Major League Phase?

The Rule 5 Draft is confusing. The most straightforward part is the eligibility rules. Players who signed their first pro contract at 18 or younger at least five years ago, and players who signed their first pro contract at 19 or older at least four years ago are Rule 5 Draft eligible each year. It’s possible to be eligible for the MLB phase of the Rule 5 Draft and not the Triple-A phase, but not vice versa.

There are multiple rosters in the offseason. In addition to the 40-man roster, there’s also the Triple-A reserve roster, which is 38 players deep. Players on the 40-man roster are protected from the Rule 5 Draft, period. Players on the Triple-A reserve roster are eligible for the Major League phase of Rule 5 Draft but not the Triple-A phase. There used to be a Double-A phase as well, but MLB got rid of that this year. Players on the 37-man Double-A reserve roster were eligible for the MLB and Triple-A phases of the Rule 5 Draft, but not the Double-A phase. Got that?

So, in the nutshell, the best players are on the 40-man roster and protected from the Rule 5 Draft. The next tier of players are then put on the Triple-A reserve roster to be protected from the Triple-A phase. Hensley was eligible for the MLB phase of the Rule 5 Draft this year, but wasn’t selected. He was also left off the Triple-A reserve roster in favor of healthy players, and that’s when the Rays grabbed him. There are no roster rules to satisfy with the Triple-A phase. Hensley is Tampa’s to keep now.

The Yankees have a very deep farm system, so when time came to put together their 38-player Triple-A reserve roster, Hensley was left out. It was a no-brainer. I’m not sure he would have made the Double-A reserve roster either. The kid has thrown a little more than 40 innings in five years and is currently rehabbing from his second Tommy John surgery. His status as a former first rounder is moot at this point. The Yankees had better and healthier players to protect, so Hensley was left exposed.

Former A's catcher Josh Donaldson. (Christian Petersen/Getty)
Former A’s catcher Josh Donaldson. (Christian Petersen/Getty)

Peter asks: Thinking about Yankees’ take from the Chapman and Miller trades, how have the A’s pieces from the Donaldson trade worked out?  Are there any legit parallels to draw regarding the assumption of the trade pieces both teams got in return for the star players?

These trades aren’t comparable at all. The only similarity is that each one involved a star being traded for four players. The Yankees were universally praised for their trades, in which they gave up a half-year of a great reliever (Chapman) and two and a half years of a great reliever (Andrew Miller). The Athletics were widely panned at the time of the Josh Donaldson trade. They traded four years of him for this:

  • Three years of Brett Lawrie: Hit .260/.299/.407 (97 wRC+) with +0.7 fWAR and +1.9 bWAR in his lone season with the A’s before being traded to the White Sox for two mid-range prospects.
  • Six years of Kendall Graveman: Has a 4.08 ERA (4.43 FIP) with +2.0 fWAR and +4.6 bWAR in two seasons with the Athletics.
  • Six years of Sean Nolin: Had a 5.28 ERA (5.13 FIP) in six starts and 29 innings with the A’s in 2015. Got hurt and hasn’t pitched since. The Brewers claimed him off waivers earlier this year.
  • Six years of Franklin Barreto: Oakland’s top prospect and currently the 43rd best prospect in baseball, per MLB.com.

The A’s need Barreto to work out for this trade to have a chance to be something less than a total disaster. Graveman is serviceable, and that’s about it. Until Barreto arrives, Graveman is all Oakland has to show for the Donaldson trade. And again, he was star with four years of control remaining. Four!

The Yankees might get absolutely nothing for Chapman and Miller. All the prospects could flame out. It’s entirely possible, in which case the franchise would be set back years. But at least the Yankees went for the best talent available. Had the A’s opened the bidding for Donaldson to all teams, they’d have beaten that offer. Instead, they went quantity over quality, and focused on a new third baseman and two young and cheap arms. Blah.

Joe asks: With the current market for back end bullpen arms going crazy wouldn’t it make sense to trade Betances now for some very valuable rebuilding pieces? By the time the yankees are really ready to compete again Betances will be a free agent and possibly more expensive than chapman is now.

I was open to trading Dellin Betances even before the Yankees signed Chapman. The bullpen market is insane right now. Why wouldn’t you make Betances available? It doesn’t cost anything to listen. I think the Yankees are going to do exactly what they did last year. Go into the season with what they feel is a very strong bullpen, see what happens through the first 100 or so games, then sell if necessary. Chapman has a no-trade clause, but Betances and Tyler Clippard don’t. They could be hot commodities come the deadline, especially Dellin.

Chase asks: Can you explain how arod counts towards the luxury tax, but Allen Craig from Boston does not since he was out-righted?

Craig (and Rusney Castillo, for that matter) are still in the Red Sox organization but not on the 40-man roster. They were outrighted off the 40-man at some point in the last few months. Only players on the 40-man count against the luxury tax, ditto former 40-man players who have been released from their contracts, like Alex Rodriguez.

The Yankees could have tried to outright A-Rod off the 40-man roster to rid themselves of his luxury tax hit, but there are two problems with that. One, he has enough service time to refuse the assignment (Craig and Castillo didn’t) and there was no way he’d agree to spend the next year and a half in the minors. And two, had A-Rod agreed to the outright before being released, thus removing his tax hit, I’m certain MLB would have considered that luxury tax circumvention and put an end to it.

Lou asks: Is there a risk in keeping Gardner in 2018 if Judge and Frazier are full time contributors in RF and LF and Hicks is the 4th OFer. 13 million is a lot for a 5th outfielder. With the constant need to hold on to 40 man ready prospects isn’t retaining Gardner closer and closer to contract expiration very risky business?

Not really. The Yankees had no problem reducing Brian McCann‘s and Mark Teixeira‘s (and Alex Rodriguez’s) playing time this past season when it came time to put young guys in the lineup. I don’t think they’d hesitate to do the same with Brett Gardner, regardless of his salary. Same with Chase Headley for that matter. The 2018 season is the last guaranteed year on Gardner’s (and Headley’s) contract, so it’s not like they’d be sitting a dude signed long-term. I’d worry more about this if the Yankees didn’t show a willingness to sit well-paid veterans in favor of younger players this summer.

Vincenzo asks: With the Yankees still looking for middle relief help, why didn’t the Yankees target Koji Uehara? 

The Yankees did check in with Uehara earlier this offseason. Considering the guy will soon turn 42 and just signed with the defending World Series champs — and a team that looks poised to contend again in 2017 — I’m going to venture a guess that signing with a winning team was a top priority for Uehara this offseason. The Yankees are in the middle of a youth movement and even the most optimistic of folks will admit they’re not no-doubt contenders right now. Uehara has had trouble staying healthy and he’s become really homer prone the last few years. A one-year deal would have been more than fine, but I’m not going to lose sleep over this one.

(Rob Carr/Getty)
(Rob Carr/Getty)

Anthony asks: Who do you think the top 10 players in the game right now? Thanks.

This is always a fun question and worth revisiting every offseason. I’m going to answer this two ways. First, here are my top ten players for the 2017 season only:

  1. Mike Trout
  2. Kris Bryant
  3. Manny Machado
  4. Nolan Arenado
  5. Josh Donaldson
  6. Bryce Harper
  7. Clayton Kershaw
  8. Francisco Lindor
  9. Corey Seager
  10. Jose Altuve

The next five would come from a group that includes Paul Goldschmidt, Mookie Betts, Robinson Cano, Max Scherzer, Chris Sale, Miguel Cabrera, Madison Bumgarner, and Corey Kluber.

Trout is on a level all by himself. You could stick the next six names in a hat and pick them out in any order, and it would defensible, I think. Those are my ten best players for the 2017 season. Now here are my ten best players for 2017-21. These are the ten guys I’d want for the next five years:

  1. Mike Trout
  2. Bryce Harper
  3. Francisco Lindor
  4. Kris Bryant
  5. Nolan Arenado
  6. Corey Seager
  7. Manny Machado
  8. Mookie Betts
  9. Christian Yelich
  10. Carlos Correa

I have a hard time putting a pitcher in my top ten for the next five years because they’re so damn fragile. Kershaw and Noah Syndergaard are my top two pitchers for the next five years. Bumgarner would probably be third. I’m not betting on any of them staying healthy though.

As for the Yankees, Gary Sanchez would be my top catcher for the next five seasons, rather easily too. Buster Posey is about to turn 30, and give me Sanchez from ages 24-28 over Posey from ages 30-34. Sanchez would probably crack my top 25 players for 2017-21 list. Maybe top 20. Or am I being too much of a raging homer here?

Thursday Night Open Thread

A potential bullpen target came off the board earlier today. Ex-Yankee Mike Dunn inked a three-year deal with the Rockies that will pay him $19M. Wild. The Yankees were connected to Dunn earlier this winter as part of their search for a middle innings southpaw. The bullpen market is straight up bonkers these days. I wonder if we’ll see a market correction after some of these deals inevitably go bad?

Well, anyway, this is tonight’s open thread. The Rams and Seahawks are the Thursday night NFL game, plus all the local hockey and basketball teams are in action except the Nets. You’ve also got a whole bunch of college hoops as well. Talk about those games, the bullpen market, or anything else here.

Yankees re-sign Donovan Solano, add two others on minor league contracts

Solano. (Presswire)
Solano. (Presswire)

According to Matt Eddy, the Yankees have signed three players to minor league contracts within the last few days. The players: infielder Donovan Solano, left-hander Jason Gurka, and catcher Kellin Deglan. The team signed Ruben Tejada to a minor league deal a few days ago as well.

Solano, 29 this weekend, spent almost the entire 2016 season with Triple-A Scranton. He hit .319/.349/.436 (124 wRC+) with seven homers in 131 games with the RailRiders, and led the International League with 163 hits. The Yankees called Solano up at the very end of the regular season, when Starlin Castro‘s hamstring was barking. He went 5-for-22 (.227) with the big league team and did hit a home run.

I’m a bit surprised Solano returned to the Yankees considering their big league infield is basically full. A Chase Headley trade is possible, sure, though it seems unlikely at this point. Solano figures to compete for a bench job in Spring Training again, like last year. This time he’ll be up against Tejada, Ronald Torreyes, and possibly Rob Refsnyder as well.

Gurka, 29 in January, has a little big league time with the Rockies over the last two seasons. He’s managed to allow 18 runs on 32 hits and four walks in 17.1 innings with Colorado in his various MLB stints. That works out to a 9.35 ERA (3.72 FIP). This past season Gurka had a 1.69 ERA (3.63 FIP) with 32.6% strikeouts and 6.3% walks in 21.1 Triple-A innings before being released in August.

Gurka. (Presswire)
Gurka. (Presswire)

The Yankees likely see Gurka as Triple-A depth, not a legitimate Opening Day roster candidate. Jacob Lindgren (non-tendered), James Pazos (traded), Tyler Webb (Rule 5 Draft), and Caleb Smith (Rule 5 Draft) are all gone, so the team needs a southpaw to stash in Triple-A. Gurka is a classic left-on-left guy with a fastball right around 90 mph and a big loopy breaking ball.

Deglan, 24, was the 22nd overall pick in the 2010 draft by the Rangers. His bat hasn’t developed as hoped — he hit .194/.256/.332 (68 wRC+) with nine homers in 294 Double-A plate appearances this past season — but he has a reputation for being a good defender. Deglan figures to be in the Triple-A/Double-A catching picture this year. Basically, wherever the Yankees need a catcher, he’ll go.

The Yankees have not yet confirmed the signings, but that’s not a surprise. They usually don’t announce their minor league deals until late in the offseason. Not until right before Spring Training, basically. It’s safe to assume Solano and Gurka will be in Spring Training as non-roster players. Deglan might be as well, only because teams need a ton of extra catchers around to catch all those bullpen sessions.

Revisiting the MLBTR Archives: December 2011

Gio. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)
Gio. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)

December is a wonderful month for baseball rumors. It’s also a terrible month for baseball rumors. The first half of December is usually insane, thanks largely to the annual Winter Meetings. Then, around the holidays, things die down completely and it’s total silence for, like, two weeks. So it’s a big rush of rumors and then … nothing.

Our MLBTR Archive series now takes us to December 2011. The Yankees signed CC Sabathia to an extension back in October, before he could use his opt-out, but they still needed to add pitching. They managed to win 97 games with a rotation held together by Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia in 2011, and no one wanted to bank on them doing it again in 2012. Let’s dive into the December 2011 rumors.

December 1st, 2011: AL East Notes: Valentine, Wilson, Howell, Johnson

The Yankees turned down a request by C.J. Wilson‘s agent for a visit to Yankee Stadium, reports ESPN New York’s Andrew Marchand.  That’s not a good sign for Wilson’s chances of signing with the Bombers, which Marchand believes are “less than five percent.”

At the time, I thought Wilson was a really nice fit for the Yankees. Lefties who can miss bats and get ground balls tend to mix well with Yankee Stadium. There were some silly off-the-field concerns with Wilson — he was pretty active on social media and folks thought that wouldn’t go over well in New York — but mostly the Yankees didn’t want to commit huge dollars to another pitcher after extending Sabathia. Declining a visit to the ballpark though? Geez. I guess the Yankees didn’t want Wilson and his agent to use them to drive up their price.

December 2nd, 2011: Heyman On Braves, Wilson, Reyes, Astros, Minaya

The Yankees have looked at free agent left-hander Mike Gonzalez.

There was a time, between Mike Stanton and Boone Logan, in which the Yankees were completely unable to find a reliable lefty reliever. Whenever a southpaw popped up around the league and had a modicum of success, he was instantly connected to the Yankees in trade talks. Damaso Marte? Gotta have him. Scott Downs? Get him too. Brian Fuentes? Eddie Guardado? B.J. Ryan? Bring ’em all to me.

Mike Gonzalez was that guy for me. He was phenomenal for the Pirates from 2004-06 (2.08 ERA and 2.58 FIP) before landing in Atlanta in 2007 (1.59 ERA and 3.12 FIP). Gonzalez had some ups and downs from 2008-11, and by time free agency rolled around following the 2011 season, he was coming off a year with a 4.39 ERA (4.11 FIP). The Brewers signed him that offseason, he pitched to a 4.68 ERA (4.87 FIP) in 2012, and that was it. Never pitched in MLB again. Gonzalez was my white whale for a few years. I wanted him in pinstripes so bad. Alas.

December 3rd, 2011: Six Teams Pursuing Luis Ayala

There are six teams in on free agent reliever Luis Ayala, tweets Jim Bowden of ESPN XM radio, including the Mets, Yankees, Rays, Blue Jays, Angels and Red Sox.

The Yankees did a nice job finding Ayala during the 2010-11 offseason. The former Expos setup man had missed a few years with injury, and he was trying to get himself noticed in winter ball that offseason, which is when the Yankees saw him. They gave Ayala a minor league deal and he rewarded them with a 2.09 ERA (4.19 FIP) in 56 middle relief innings. Not too shabby, eh?

After that 2011 season, I remember saying the Yankees should let Ayala walk because he was 34 with a history of arm problems, and I prefer to let guys like that go a year too early rather than a year too late. It was a year too early. The Orioles signed Ayala to a one-year contract and he threw 75 innings of 2.64 ERA (3.67 FIP) ball in 2012. Womp womp. Middle relief wasn’t the problem with the 2012 Yankees anyway.

Ayala broke down following his first season with the Orioles and hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2013. He is still active though, believe it or not. He had a 3.56 ERA in 43 innings for a pair of Mexican League teams in 2016.

December 5th, 2011: White Sox Have Big Demands For Danks, Floyd

The White Sox are asking for big returns for starters John Danks and Gavin Floyd, tweets Joel Sherman of the New York Post.  The Yankees like Danks, tweets SI’s Jon Heyman, but they’re unwilling to meet Chicago’s request of top prospects Manny Banuelos and Jesus Montero.  In fact, Heyman says the Yankees wouldn’t trade either for Danks.

At the time, Danks was only one year from free agency, so trading Banuelos or Montero for him would have been nuts. He was good (3.77 ERA and 3.89 FIP from 2008-11) but you can’t trade one of the best prospects in baseball (at the time) for one year of a guy like Danks. The White Sox didn’t trade Danks and instead signed him to a five-year extension worth $65M later in December.

Danks pre-extension: 4.03 ERA (112 ERA+) and 4.14 FIP in 917.2 innings
Danks since extension: 4.92 ERA (81 ERA+) and 4.83 FIP in 585.2 innings

He blew out his shoulder capsule nine starts into the 2012 season, year one of that five-year contract, and hasn’t been the same since. Pitchers, man.

December 6th, 2011: AL West Rumors: Bailey, Jackson, Gonzalez, Rangers

The Athletics are looking for young, high-upside outfielders in any Gio Gonzalez trade, tweets Joel Sherman of the New York Post. The Yankees may have to consider a three-team deal if they want to acquire the lefty, since they don’t have any outfielders in the high minors that fit that bill.

The Yankees had some high upside outfield prospects at the time — Mason Williams, Ravel Santana, and Slade Heathcott were all among their top ten prospects at the time, according to Baseball America — but they were all in the very low minors. Not the kind of guys who could headline a package for a good young pitcher like Gio.

Of course, the A’s wound up getting no outfielders in the Gonzalez trade later that offseason. They received a catcher (Derek Norris) and three pitchers (A.J. Cole, Tommy Milone, Brad Peacock) from the Nationals, so maybe the Yankees didn’t need outfielders to get it done. Seems like the Athletics determined they weren’t going to get the outfielders they wanted, so they took what they considered the best possible package. And as is often the case with the A’s nowadays, that package was more quantity than quality.

December 6th, 2011: Nationals Center Field Rumors

The Yankees shot down the Nationals’ attempts to trade for Brett Gardner, according to Pete Kerzel of MASNSports.com.

The Nats were just starting to rise to prominence at that time. They went 69-93 in 2010 but had some good young players. Then, in 2011, they made the jump to 80-81. It looked like they were ready to take another step forward in 2012 — and they did, they went 98-64 that year — but they needed a new center fielder. Rick Ankiel was their primary center fielder in 2011 and he stunk. Great story, below-average player.

Gardner, who was only 27 at the time and three years from free agency, hit .259/.345/.369 (97 wRC+) in 2011 while playing his usually strong defense. It’s not a shock the Nationals walked him. The Yankees wouldn’t budge and Washington never did acquire a center fielder that offseason. They started the 2012 season with Ankiel in center field before deciding to make a change in April, when they called up a young prospect named Bryce Harper. Worked out well, I’d say.

December 7th, 2011: Cashman: “I Think It’s Going To Be Hard To Add”

Yankees GM Brian Cashman told Jack Curry of the YES Network that he’s not optimistic about making a trade or signing a free agent (Twitter link). Said Cashman, “I think its going to be hard to add.”

Didn’t Cashman say pretty much the same thing at the Winter Meetings last week? Well, no, not exactly now that I look back through the archives, but close enough. From Wednesday’s Winter Meeting open thread:

11:00am: Cashman reiterated he doesn’t expect to land a starter at the Winter Meetings. “I don’t anticipate it. It’s a tough market and the price tags are extremely high. We could play on a lot of things because we have a lot of prospects people desire and we desire them, too. I would say it’s less likely for us to acquire a starter,” said the GM. [King]

Close enough. Every offseason Cashman seems to say he doesn’t expect to do something. He said it last offseason. It’s just one of those things GMs say. The Yankees did end up doing something during the 2011-12 offseason, but not until later in the winter. This was the Michael Pineda trade/Hiroki Kuroda signing offseason.

December 7th, 2011: Yankees Willing To Assume $8MM In Burnett Trade

The Yankees will listen to offers for starter A.J. Burnett, reports George A. King III of the New York Post, and they’re willing to assume $8MM of the $33MM owed to him for 2012-13. 

The Yankees wound up eating $20M of the $33M left on Burnett’s contract. Eating only $8M of that contract was a pipe dream given how poorly Burnett pitched from 2010-11. Still, saving $13M is better than nothing. If not for the 2009 World Series, the Burnett signing would have gone done as one of the team’s worst in recent history. No doubt about it. Flags fly forever though.

December 8th, 2011: Overnight Links: Wise, Gonzalez, Fielder, Rule 5

The Yankees are discussing a minor league deal with outfielder Dewayne Wise, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter).

The Yankees did eventually sign Wise to a minor league deal. He started the year in Triple-A Scranton, and, not so fun fact: he was the guy the team called up when Mariano Rivera blew out his ACL on the Kauffman Stadium warning track. The Yankees were carrying eight relievers at the time and Nick Swisher was banged up, which is why they called up Wise and not another arm.

Anyway, the thing I remember most about Wise’s tenure with the Yankees was his non-catch in the stands along the left field foul line:

Ah yes, the good ol’ pre-instant replay days, when umpires could be lazy as hell and teams had no recourse. At least now there’s some more accountability.

Wise went 16-for-31 (.262) with three homers in only 63 plate appearances with the Yankees in 2012. He got called up when Rivera got hurt and released when the Yankees traded for Ichiro Suzuki. His short stint in pinstripes was bookended by two future Hall of Famers.

December 8th, 2011: Angels Want Pujols And Wilson

ESPN’s Buster Olney says that the Yankees are not the mystery team that’s trying to set up a Pujols deal (Twitter link). That makes sense, given that Mark Teixeira has a full no-trade clause in his contract.

There was a “the Yankees are the mystery team on Albert Pujols!” conspiracy theory going around five years that never really made sense. The Yankees did have an opening at DH, so they could have stuck Pujols there, but why would you spend so much on a DH? Especially when there was a very good chance Alex Rodriguez — or even Teixeira — would need to finish his contract at DH? The Yankees signing Pujols was a fun idea that never made a lick of sense.

By the way, checked out that MLBTR headline. “Angels Want Pujols And Wilson.” Well, they got them. The Halos have paid those two a combined $175M over the last five years for +17.4 fWAR and +19.9 bWAR. They still owe Pujols another $140M over the next five years too. Goodness.

December 8th, 2011: 2011 Rule 5 Draft Results

5. Royals take Cesar Cabral from Red Sox; traded to Yankees for cash.
29. Yankees take Brad Meyers from Nationals.

The Yankees haven’t made a Rule 5 Draft pick since taking Meyers from the Nats. He hurt his shoulder during an offseason workout soon after the Rule 5 Draft and didn’t pitch at all in 2012. The Yankees eventually returned him to Washington. Meyers spent the 2013-14 seasons with the Nationals and an an independent league. He hasn’t pitched at all since 2014.

Cabral, on the other hand, very nearly made the Yankees out of Spring Training in 2012. He broke his elbow at the end of March though, and missed the entire season. That opened the door for Clay Rapada to make the Opening Day roster. The Yankees kept Cabral on the 40-man roster during the 2012-13 offseason, rehabbed him, and once he got healthy, they were able to outright him to Triple-A and keep him in the organization. The Red Sox, his original team, didn’t take him back.

As a September call-up in 2013, Cabral struck out six of the nine left-handed batters he faced, and seemed to be putting himself in position for a 2014 bullpen job. It never came together. The Yankees released Cabral after his infamous three hit batsmen appearance against the Rays in April 2014. Cabral did get back to the show with the Orioles in 2015, and he spent the entire 2016 season in their farm system. He’s still only 27, and since he’s left-handed, I’m guessing he’ll be able to hang around for a few more years.

December 8th, 2011: AL East Notes: Eyre, Jeroloman, Golson, Miller, Rays

The Yankees are close to signing former Indians prospect Adam Miller to a minor league deal, tweets Sherman. Miller ranked among Baseball America’s top 100 prospects for five straight years from 2005 to 2009.

I was irrationally excited about the Miller signing. He was once a top pitching prospect — Miller topped out at No. 16 on Baseball America’s top 100 list in 2004 — whose career was derailed by injuries. Not shoulder or elbow injuries though. Miller had all sorts of ligament and tendon problems in his right middle finger that required surgery and other treatment. His finger now hooks at the end because he can’t fully extend it:

(Photo via TheClevelandFan.com)
(Photo via TheClevelandFan.com)

Miller was unable to grip the ball properly with the hook and he lost the hellacious breaking ball that once made him one of the game’s top pitching prospects. He had a 4.96 ERA (4.15 FIP) in 49 innings between Double-A and Triple-A with the Yankees in 2012. Miller was still active as recently as 2015, though it doesn’t appear he pitched anywhere this past season. Sucks. Poor guy spent all those years as a top prospect and was never called up to the big leagues. He didn’t get that affordable health care for life.

December 9th, 2011: Yankees Haven’t Made Offer To Hiroki Kuroda

9:59am: While no offer has been made, the Yankees indeed “like Kuroda very much,” according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network (Twitter link). 

8:13am: The Yankees have offered Hiroki Kuroda a one-year contract worth approximately $12MM in U.S. dollars, reports Japanese news outlet Sponichi (passed on by Mike Axisa of River Ave Blues).

This was the first time we heard the Yankees connected to Kuroda that offseason. I was a huge fan and wrote a bunch about trying to get him in the previous months. I was hoping the Yankees could swing a trade to get him at the 2011 trade deadline, but alas, Kuroda said he was unwilling to waive his no-trade clause and leave his family.

Anyway, the Yankees shot down that Sponichi report — I rarely pass along those overseas reports I have to run through Google Translate now because I got burned by this Kuroda rumor — but did eventually sign Kuroda later in the offseason. He got $10M, not $12M. That one worked out well, I’d say.

December 9th, 2011: Minor Moves: Bianchi, Threets, Gallagher, Atilano

The Yankees have designated Colin Curtis for assignment, tweets MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch.  The move creates space on New York’s 40-man roster for Freddy Garcia, whose signing was made official today.  Curtis, a fourth-round draft pick in 2006, has 64 Major League plate appearances to his name.

Colin Curtis! He was part of New York’s great 2006 draft class, which produced ten big leaguers, including seven with staying power: Ian Kennedy (first round), Joba Chamberlain (supplemental first), Zach McAllister (third), Colin Curtis (fourth), George Kontos (fifth), Dellin Betances (eighth), Mark Melancon (ninth), Daniel McCutchen (13th), David Robertson (17th), and Kevin Russo (20th). Nearly +60 bWAR worth of players right here.

Anyway, Curtis had a few stints with the Yankees in 2010. He hit his only career home run as a replacement for Brett Gardner, who was ejected in the middle of an at-bat for arguing balls and strikes. Curtis came off the bench and socked a dinger.

About a week later Curtis had a hand in that insane comeback against the Dodgers, when the Yankees broke Jonathan Broxton. This game. Curtis actually drove in the game-tying run with a ground ball. A shoulder injury sidelined him during the entire 2011 season, so he was never called up that year. Curtis split 2012 between Triple-A Scranton and an independent league, and he hasn’t played since.

December 10th, 2011: Yankees Win Rights To Hiroyuki Nakajima

11:34am: The Yankees won the bid for about $2MM, tweets Jon Heyman.  Noting Nakajima’s preference to play for a West Coast team, Rosenthal wonders if he’ll be willing to be a utility player for the Yankees.

Oh man, I forgot about Hiroyuki Nakajima. He was 29 at the time and coming off a season in which he hit .297/.354/.433 with 16 home runs and 21 steals for the Seibu Lions. It was a surprise when the Yankees won his negotiating rights with a $2M bid. Most expected him to fetch more.

Contract talks did not go well. The Yankees saw Nakajima as a utility infielder and wanted to pay him accordingly. Also, they wanted six full years of control through pre-arbitration and arbitration, like most players. Nakajima’s camp balked and there was some talk of a sign-and-trade, but that never happened. He returned to Seibu for another year, hit .311/.382/.451 in 2012, then signed a two-year deal worth $6.5M with the Athletics as a true free agent during the 2012-13 offseason.

In his two seasons with the A’s, Nakajima never made it out of Triple-A, and hit .267/.326/.356 in 175 minor league games during that two-year deal. Seems the Yankees were right about him being nothing more than a utility guy. Nakajima returned to Japan after his contract with the A’s expired. He hit .290/.346/.439 with eight homers for the Orix Buffaloes in 2016.

I remember folks saying the contentious negotiations with Nakajima would hurt the Yankees in the future because no Japanese player would want to sign with them. L-O-L. As if this was the first contract negotiation to turn ugly. They’re the Yankees. No agent in their right mind would allow their client to rule the Yankees out as a potential landing spot because the club’s pockets are so deep.

December 14th, 2011: Bidding Period For Yu Darvish Ends

The Yankees’ bid is modest, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (on Twitter). Indications are the winning bid is “sky high.”

Eventually word got out the Yankees bid somewhere close to $20M. The Rangers bid $51.7M, which reportedly blew everyone else out of the water. They had the high bid by a mile. The Yankees supposedly had some concerns about Darvish and New York, which I thought was kinda silly. The guy was a rock star in Japan. He was used to the attention. And, of course, he’s shown he can thoroughly dominate MLB hitters these last few years. Me thinks the Yankees would like a do over on Darvish. Their evaluation was off the mark.

December 22nd, 2011: Indians, Others Have Inquired On Nick Swisher

The Indians are one of several clubs that has called the Yankees about Nick Swisher, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Cleveland GM Chris Antonetti, a finalist for free agent Carlos Beltran, is also considering trades to improve his club’s offense. 

The Yankees never did trade Swisher that offseason and it wouldn’t have made sense anyway. The Yankees were still a legitimate contender at the time and he was one of their most productive players. It’s not like the team had a young right fielder waiting in the wings.

The Swisher acquisition goes down as one of the best moves of the Cashman era. Here’s the timeline:

  • November 13th, 2008: Yankees acquire Swisher and Kanekoa Texeira from the White Sox for Wilson Betemit, Jeff Marquez, and Jhonny Nunez.
  • 2009-12: Swisher hits .268/.367/.483 (128 wRC+) and averages 26 homers and 150 games played per season. The Yankees paid him $31.6M for +14.6 fWAR and +11.5 bWAR.
  • 2013: Swisher declined the qualifying offer and the Yankees used the compensation draft pick to select Aaron Judge.

All transactions should work out that well.

December 23rd, 2011: AL East Links: Red Sox, Blue Jays, Jones Beltran

The Yankees considered pursuing Carlos Beltran earlier this offseason according to Bob Klapisch of The Bergen Record (on Twitter), but ultimately decided against it because of his balky knees.

The Yankees during the 2011-12 offseason: We can’t sign Beltran because his knees are too risky.

The Yankees during the 2013-14 offseason: Okay fine here’s a three-year contract.

The Beltran signing worked out about as well as the Yankees could have hoped considering his knees were still a concern and he was about to turn 37. Too bad they only played one postseason game during his three years in pinstripes, though that’s not Beltran’s fault.

December 28th, 2011: Yankees To Sign Hideki Okajima

The Yankees agreed to a minor league deal with reliever Hideki Okajima, tweets David Waldstein of the New York Times.  Earlier, Sports Hochi in Japan reported talks between the two parties were in the final stages and a deal could be reached shortly after the new year (as translated by NPB Tracker’s Patrick Newman).

The token ex-Red Sox signing of the offseason. Okajima never actually played with the Yankees though. He failed his physical in Spring Training and was released. Okajima spent the 2012 season in Japan, tried one last time to make MLB work with the Athletics in 2013, then returned to Japan for the 2014-15 seasons. He’s retired now.

December 28th, 2011: Yankees Notes: A-Rod, Nakajima, Chavez, Andruw

Third baseman Alex Rodriguez recently traveled to Germany for an experimental therapy called Orthokine on his right knee, reported Mike Puma of the New York Post.  Orthokine is similar to Platelet Rich Plasma therapy, which reliever Takashi Saito had done several years ago.  The procedure, which was recommended by Kobe Bryant, came with the blessing of the Yankees and the commissioner’s office.  Puma explains, “Orthokine involves taking blood from the patient’s arm and spinning it in a centrifuge, a machine used in laboratories to spin objects around a fixed axis. The serum is then injected into the affected area.”  Yankees GM Brian Cashman told reporters the procedure was done on Rodriguez’s left shoulder as well.  For more on the topic, check out this article from Teri Thompson and Christian Red of the New York Daily News.

Oh man, A-Rod‘s experimental knee procedure was a Very Big Deal at the time, even though the Yankees and MLB both approved the treatment. A-Rod haters were convinced he was doing something against the rules. They said it was some kind of German super-PED. The internet tells me the difference between PRP and Orthokine involves the cells being isolated. PRP isolates red blood cells. Orthokine isolates white blood cells to produce a natural anti-inflammatory. The Yankees and MLB gave Rodriguez the okay, but it didn’t matter, there were many folks convinced it was somehow illegal.

December 30th, 2011: Olney’s Latest: Yankees, Ethier, Angels, Blue Jays

The Yankees have “quietly checked around” on possible right field alternatives to Nick Swisher as they prepare for his possible free agent departure after next season.

I was a big Nate Schierholtz guy. He was my idea for a long-term right fielder post-Swisher. Schierholtz hit .278/.326/.430 (112 wRC+) with nine homers in 362 plate appearances with the Giants in 2011, but there was some bad blood between him and the team over playing time, so they put him on the trade block. He was only 27 at the time and had three years of control left, so I figured he could help the Yankees as a part-time outfielder/part-time DH in 2012 before taking over in right field in 2013. Didn’t happen. Schierholtz bounce around a bit, hit 21 homers with a 109 wRC+ for the 2013 Cubs, and has spent time in Japan too. The Tigers stashed him in Triple-A all of this past season.

December 30th, 2011: Yankees Agree To Sign Andruw Jones

The Yankees and Andruw Jones have agreed to a one-year deal with a $2MM base salary and $1.4MM in incentives, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (Twitter links). The deal is pending a physical. The Yankees have a full 40-man roster and will need to clear a spot once the signing becomes official.

Jones was awesome for the Yankees in 2011, hitting .247/.356/.495 (132 wRC+) with 13 homers in 222 plate appearances. That includes a .286/.384/.540 (152 wRC+) batting line against lefties. For some reason, I’ll always remember Andruw drawing a 14-pitch walk with one out to start the Yankees’ go-ahead rally in the seventh inning of this game, Jesus Montero’s debut:

Andruw’s second season in pinstripes didn’t go nearly as well as the first. He hit .197/.294/.408 (89 wRC+) overall and .202/.294/.411 (88 wRC+) against lefties. Jones never played in MLB after that 2012 season. He went to Japan for a few years and will make his first appearance on the Hall of Fame ballot next year. I’m pretty sure I’d vote for him. Andruw was arguably the greatest defensive outfielder in history, and he hit over 400 homers. Borderline for sure considering he was done as an everyday player at 30, but I think I’d vote for him.