Open Thread: March 5th Camp Notes

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees picked up their first win of the spring this afternoon, beating the Pirates 2-1 in an untelevised game. Tyler Austin‘s solo homer broke the 1-1 tie in the eighth. Jacoby Ellsbury and John Ryan Murphy both went hitless in three at-bats while Brett Gardner went 0-for-1 with two walks. Chris Young had one hit (double) and both Garrett Jones and Rob Refsnyder had two hits apiece, including a double.

Esmil Rogers got the start and allowed one hit in two scoreless innings. Chase Whitley followed with two scoreless innings of his own. Righty relief prospect Nick Rumbelow struck out the side in his inning, and otherwise a bunch of call-ups from minor league camp saw action on the mound. Here’s the box score — no highlights because there was no broadcast! — and here are the day’s notes from Tampa:

This is your open thread for the night. MLB Network is showing the Red Sox and Twins tonight (live!), plus the Islanders are playing and there’s some college hoops on as well. Talk about anything other than religion and politics here. Go nuts.

Brian Cashman on next Yankees captain: “Captaincy should be retired with No. 2″

(AP)
(AP)

With Derek Jeter now retired, the Yankees are without a captain for the first time since 2003. And since Robinson Cano bolted for the Mariners last year, there is no obvious captain candidate on the roster either. That’s alright. The Yankees have gone years between captains before and they’ll do it again.

If it was up to Brian Cashman though, there would be no next captain. During a radio interview on Thursday he said he believes the team’s captaincy should be retired alongside Jeter. From Bill Price:

“As far as I’m concerned, and I’m not to decision maker on this, that captaincy should be retired with No. 2,” Cashman said. “I wouldn’t give up another captain’s title to anyone else.”

“Leadership comes in a lot of forms, it would be a hard one to anoint someone captain,” Cashman continued, “regardless of how great they might be.”

That … seems a little excessive. But, then again, the majority of the Jeter lovefest has been over the top, so this fits right in. Jeter was undeniably a tremendous player and leader, but at some point another tremendous player and leader will come along, and he will be deserving of the captaincy. I man, geez. Retire the concept of Yankees’ captaincy?

Anyway, captaincy isn’t up to Cashman, that’s an ownership call. The Yankees went seven and a half years without a captain between Don Mattingly and Jeter — not to mention 37 years between Lou Gehrig and Thurman Munson — and it looks like it’ll be several years before another captain emerges. I’m cool with that. Captains should be all-time greats, like Jeter. The captaincy shouldn’t cease to exist because of him though. Sheesh.

Jimmy Rollins contradicts himself about willingness to join Yankees

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Heading into the offseason, the Yankees had the daunting task of finding a new starting shortstop, something they hadn’t had to do in two decades. The free agent market had some possible solutions — none of them great — and the same was true of the trade market. Eventually Brian Cashman parted with Shane Greene to get Didi Gregorius.

But, weeks before the Gregorius trade, the Yankees placed a call into the rebuilding Phillies about veteran shortstop Jimmy Rollins. That made sense. Even at age 36, Rollins had a good year in 2013, hitting .243/.323/.394 (102 wRC+) with 17 homers, 28 steals, and his typically solid defense. Plus he only has one year and $11M left on his contract, so Rollins was a perfect one-year stopgap candidate in my opinion.

The Yankees reportedly moved on from Rollins because the asking price was simply too high, which isn’t surprising giving GM Ruben Amaro Jr.’s track record. He always seems to ask for the moon and other clubs have complained about his negotiating style. That pushed New York towards Gregorius. Who knows who else they tried to acquire between Rollins and Didi.

Rollins was eventually traded to the Dodgers for two good but not great pitching prospects (righty Zach Eflin and lefty Tom Windle), and during his first conference call with reporters after the trade, he told Mark Saxon he would have only waived his ten-and-five no-trade protection to go to the Dodgers, Yankees, and Mets. But, earlier this week, Rollins told Jon Heyman was not willing to come to the Bronx. From Heyman:

As for the Yankees, the timing wasn’t right as far as Rollins was concerned.

“I wasn’t going to go after (Derek) Jeter,” Rollins, who made his debut in a Dodgers uniform Wednesday here against the White Sox, said. “If I was 26, Ok. But I’m 36. There was not enough time.”

People are allowed to change their mind. Rollins could have been open to coming to the Yankees at the outset of the offseason before deciding against it when he had more time to think things out. But then again, he made both comments after everything played out and he was traded to the Dodgers. Something doesn’t add up!

Anyway, none of this really matters because the Yankees got their shortstop in Gregorius and I greatly prefer trading for the younger, potential long-term shortstop than plugging the hole for a year with Rollins. If the Yankees couldn’t come up with a young shortstop though, Rollins was at the very top of my stopgap list. I’d have taken him over Stephen Drew, Asdrubal Cabrera, whoever. Too bad he didn’t want to come to the Yankees. Or maybe he did. Who knows?

Chase Headley and the Simple Goal of Being Dependable [2015 Season Preview]

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees went into the offseason with two third basemen and left with a completely different one. Alex Rodriguez‘s suspension ended and yeah, technically he’s still a third baseman, plus they had Martin Prado in tow as well. The team clearly (and rightfully) has little faith in A-Rod‘s ability to actually play the hot corner because he’s pushing 40, has two surgically repaired hips, and hasn’t played a whole lot the last two years.

So the Yankees proceeded as if Rodriguez was not a third base candidate this winter, though eventually they traded Prado to the Marlins for Nathan Eovaldi. Before they did that though, the club re-signed Chase Headley to a four-year contract worth $52M. Trading Prado probably wasn’t going to happen without Headley back in the fold first. New York wanted Headley back so much they caved into his four-year demand as well.

After coming over from the Padres last year, the 30-year-old Headley hit .262/.371/.398 (121 wRC+) with six homers in 58 games and seemed to be in the middle of everything. He also played standout defense at the hot corner and that’s his true calling card, not his bat. Overall, Headley put up a .243/.328/.372 (103 wRC+) batting line between San Diego and New York in 2014. What purpose does he serve in 2015? Let’s look.

Yankees Need: Dependable Offense

Thanks to Yangervis Solarte in the first half and Headley in the second half, the Yankees got a .254/.329/.404 (107 wRC+) batting line out their third basemen last year, which is pretty solid. It’s nothing that will carry a lineup, but that’s workable. My guess is the Yankees would be happy with similar overall production from Headley this year.

But, most importantly, the Yankees need Headley to be dependable near the middle of the lineup because all their big name middle of the order guys come with questions. Carlos Beltran is old and coming off elbow surgery. Mark Teixeira has been trending downward for years. Brian McCann was dreadful during his first year in New York. A-Rod? Good grief. The Yankees need Headley to be a mainstay and someone they can count on to produce from Opening Day through Game 162, no questions asked.

Headley Can: Offer Reasons To Expect More Than 2014

Let’s get this out of the way: 2012 Headley, the guy who put up a .286/.376/.498 (145 wRC+) batting line with 31 homers, is not coming back. It would be awesome if he did, but that very likely was Headley’s career year, and that’s okay. His 2013 season — .250/.347/.400 (114 wRC+) with 13 homers — was pretty good between a great 2012 and an average 2014.

Headley is still relatively young, certainly not at an age when you’d expect his bat to decline precipitously, and he’s moving into a much more favorable home ballpark. Going from Petco Park to Yankee Stadium should, if nothing else, boost his power numbers. They moved the Petco walls in recently but there’s nothing they can do about the marine layer that knocks the ball down at night. That’s the real problem.

When the Yankees acquired Headley last year, Brian Cashman said the team’s internal metrics measured an uptick in his “hit velo,” and we’re just going to have to take Cashman’s at his word. There’s no publicly available “hit velo” data aside from the stuff at Hit Tracker, which shows Headley’s six homers with the Yankees averaged 105.3 mph off the bat after his seven with the Padres averaged 105.6 mph. That’s only homers though, not all hits. Either way, the team has something telling them Headley is hitting the ball with more authority now.

Headley has always drawn a fair amount of walks and while he is a switch-hitter, he is very shiftable as a left-handed hitter (2012-14 spray charts). That’s taken a bite out of his batting average in recent years and you can be sure teams won’t stop shifting against him. But, between the walks and more favorable ballpark (don’t discount the mental “thank goodness I’m out of Petco!” factor), there’s reason to believe Headley can improve on last year’s 103 wRC+ and get him back to something close to his 114 wRC+ from two years ago.

Yankees Need: Sturdy Defense At Third Base

This offseason the Yankees set out to improve their infield defense. It was clearly a priority. Headley came over at midseason last year and was a breath of fresh air compared what the team had been running out there in recent years, the hobbled A-Rods and Solartes and Youkilises of the world. If the Yankees are going to contend this year, strong infield defense is a necessity, not a luxury.

Headley Can: Play Sturdy Defense In His Sleep

Defense is Headley’s specialty. He’s a gloveman before a hitter, and we saw that firsthand in the second half year season. I do think it’s important to note the defensive stats — all of ’em, UZR, DRS, Total Zone, the whole nine — all love Headley, but last year they loved him more than ever. They had him saving something like 20+ runs in the field after having him in the 5-10 runs saved range from 2011-13. Defense is like offense, players can have a career year in the field. Headley’s a very good fielder. He’s probably not going to be as outrageously good as he was last year again though.

Yankees Need: Headley To Stay Healthy

Moreso than any other position, the Yankees don’t have a viable backup plan at third base should Headley miss an extended period of time. It’s hard to think A-Rod will be able to play the hot corner regularly, and the other options are Brendan Ryan, Jose Pirela, Cole Figueroa, and Jonathan Galvez. That’s … not very promising. Maybe A-Rod will show he can play the field regularly and exceed expectations. But unless that happens, Headley will be extremely difficult to replace if he gets hurt.

Headley Can: Stay Healthy, Hopefully

Headley’s injury history isn’t all that gruesome. He’s been on the DL three times in his career: once because he broke his pinkie sliding into a base (missed 44 days), another time because he broke the tip of his thumb sliding into a base (26 days), and another time with a calf strain (15 days). Unless Headley is a such a chronically bad slider that his fingers are always in jeopardy, there’s nothing recurring there to worry about.

Headley’s back, on the other hand, is another matter. He’s had on and off back trouble over the years but has never missed more than a handful of games at a time. In fact, he has missed 18 days total in his career due to back trouble, including four last summer. Of course, Headley did need an epidural last year — Cashman noted the “hit velo” spike came after the injection — and that’s worrisome. But, to date, the back has been nothing more than a minor nuisance. Hopefully it stays that way going forward. Aside from that, Headley has no lingering physical issues to worry about.

Yankees Need: Some Leadership

I don’t want to harp on this too much but it is worth noting. The Yankees not only waved goodbye to Derek Jeter this offseason, they replaced him with the very young Didi Gregorius. There’s a leadership void in the clubhouse and on the left side of the infield. Headley, as a relatively big free agent signing, will be counted on to fill some of that void.

Headley Can: Provide Some Leadership, Maybe, Possibly

Headley looks like a leader type, right? That’s good enough for me. By all accounts he fit in well in the clubhouse after the trade last season and I’m sure he’ll be able to help Gregorius with positioning and stuff. That seems leadership-y.

Out of options market could provide Yankees with some temporary rotation depth

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

In about a month, teams will scramble to finalize their Opening Day rosters and decide their final roster spots. Many players who just miss the cut will to go Triple-A and wait for a call-up. Sometimes the team doesn’t have that luxury though because the player is out of minor league options, meaning he can’t go to Triple-A without passing through waivers.

The Yankees have two out of options players in camp this spring: righty Esmil Rogers and catcher Austin Romine. Rogers seems like a lock for the Opening Day roster even if he’s nothing more than a long man, but Romine’s spot is much more uncertain. All signs point to John Ryan Murphy being Brian McCann‘s backup right now. If Romine doesn’t make the team, he’ll either go on waivers or be traded in a minor deal. That’s usually what happens with out of options players who don’t make the team.

On the other side of the coin, there are out of options players around the league who could interest the Yankees, especially given the injury concerns in their rotation. Any pickups don’t need to be long-term solutions, just temporary stopgaps until Ivan Nova gets healthy or a better option comes along. Earlier this week Joel Sherman ran down some of the potentially available out of options pitchers:

Others to keep an eye on are the Cubs’ Felix Doubront and Jacob Turner, Arizona’s Randall Delgado, Pittsburgh’s Stolmy Pimentel, Oakland’s Jesse Chavez, Miami’s Brad Hand and Toronto’s Kyle Drabek.

Pimentel and Chavez are both considered very likely to crack their respective team’s Opening Day roster, so it would be a surprise if either becomes available. Hand is less certain to make the Marlins but should be able to make the team as a long reliever. Drabek has lost all his prospect luster and hasn’t been the same since undergoing his second Tommy John surgery two years ago. Besides, the Blue Jays sure as hell aren’t making a trade with the Yankees. That leaves three others, so let’s quickly break them down.

RHP Randall Delgado

IP ERA FIP K% BB% GB% HR/FB%
2014 77.2 4.87 3.39 25.4% 10.3% 35.2% 6.5%
Career as SP 257.1 4.23 4.65 16.1% 7.9% 44.0% 13.0%
Career as RP 64.1 4.48 3.18 30.7% 10.2% 34.4% 8.7%

Delgado, who just turned 25 last month, went to Arizona in the Justin Upton trade and has flashed some skills, but he’s mostly teetered on replacement level-dom since. He made only four starts last season — 61.1 of those 64.1 career relief innings came in 2014 — and clearly has had more success in the bullpen (despite the ERA). His strikeout rate nearly doubled out of the bullpen, more than compensating for the uptick in walk rate and step down in ground ball rate.

PitchFX says Delgado has been a four-pitch pitcher most of his career, sitting in the 93-94 mph range with his four-seamer (even as a starter), a tick below that with his sinker, and also mixing in changeups and curveballs. He is a former top prospect — Baseball America (subs. req’d) called him an “eventual No. 3 starter with a ceiling of a No. 2″ prior to 2012, the last time he was prospect-eligible — and he’s still young, though he hasn’t given anyone a reason to think he can succeed as a big league starter these last two years.

The Diamondbacks have just an awful catching situation — the only catchers on their 40-man roster are minor league journeyman Tuffy Gosewich and Rule 5 Draft pick Oscar Hernandez — so maybe there’s a Romine-for-Delgado trade to be made at the end of camp. I’m just not sure that would help the rotation situation if someone does get hurt. Delgado could be interesting as a reliever though.

Doubront. (Presswire)
Doubront. (Presswire)

LHP Felix Doubront

IP ERA FIP K% BB% GB% HR/FB%
2014 79.2 5.54 5.13 14.0% 9.1% 38.0% 11.2%
Career as SP 402.2 4.45 4.24 20.0% 9.9% 43.5% 11.1%
Career as RP 35.5 8.58 5.01 19.1% 10.4% 42.9% 14.0%

The Cubs have a strong rotation front three in Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, and Jason Hammel. Then they have a small army of pitchers for the fourth and fifth spots, including Doubront, Turner, Kyle Hendricks, Tsuyoshi Wada, Edwin Jackson, and Travis Wood. Hendricks and Wada were pretty good last year, Wood the year before that, and Jackson is owed a ton of money. There’s reasons to keep them around.

We’re all familiar with Doubront from his time with the Red Sox. He was actually pretty good in 2013, posting a 4.32 ERA (3.78 FIP) in 162.1 innings, but he stunk last year and was shipped to the Cubbies for a light hitting Single-A infield prospect. Doubront did miss time with shoulder problems last year — three weeks with inflammation in Spring Training and a month with a strain in late-May — and that’s notable because look at his velocity since becoming a full-time big leaguer in 2012 (via Brooks Baseball):

Brooksbaseball-Chart

Doubront’s velocity is disappearing and that’s not good. His four-seamer — he uses it more than 40% of the time and his sinker roughly 15% of the time — averaged 93.6 mph in 2012, 91.4 mph in 2013, and 90.7 mph in 2014. He’s a young guy (turned 27 in October) who’s had some shoulder problems and has lost three full miles an hour off his fastball in two years. That, ladies and gents, is a red flag.

I’m guessing at least some of you are saying to yourselves “but he could be healthy this spring and get some of that velocity back.” It’s okay, I did that too. And I think the only reason that crossed our minds is because Doubront was once a Red Sox. If he had been with, say, the Mariners or Twins the last few years, we’d probably be moving on already. Doubront was okay in his two healthy years from 2012-13 and the Yankees might have some use for an okay pitcher. But right now we don’t have much evidence this version of Doubront can even be okay.

RHP Jacob Turner

IP ERA FIP K% BB% GB% HR/FB%
2014 113.0 6.13 4.16 14.2% 6.6% 49.1% 10.3%
Career as SP 278.2 4.97 4.63 14.5% 8.5% 46.1% 11.4%
Career as RP 20.0 4.95 2.08 17.4% 3.5% 55.2% 0.0%

Like Doubront, Turner is in that group of pitchers competing for one of Chicago’s final two rotation spots. He’s a former top prospect — Baseball America ranked him one of the 26 best prospects in the game each year from 2010-12 — who never had gaudy minor league stats. His 3.12 ERA (3.62 FIP) in the minors from 2010-12 came with only 285 strikeouts in 361 innings (7.11 K/9 and 19.1 K%).

Turner. (Presswire)
Turner. (Presswire)

At his prospect peak, Turner was all potential thanks to a big fastball and hammer breaking ball, but it hasn’t translated like everyone hoped. Turner hasn’t missed bats in the big leagues — even his shiny 3.74 ERA in 118 innings in 2013 came with a 4.43 FIP and a 1.43 K/BB ratio — but his stuff has held firm. He still sits in the mid-90s and uses his slider, curveball, and changeup regularly. That just hasn’t produced results.

Turner doesn’t turn 24 until late-May and he’s listed at 6-foot-5 and 215 lbs., so he’s both very young and huge, which the Yankees like. He’s also healthy, unlike Doubront. Pitching coach Larry Rothschild has a history of helping pitchers improve strikeout rates, so maybe he could help Turner. Then again, the Marlins are really good at developing young players, and they couldn’t get Turner figured out before dumping him last summer.

* * *

Despite his wholly underwhelming big league career to date, I think I like Turner the most between him, Doubront, and Delgado because he’s the youngest, the healthiest, and has the best natural tools. I also wouldn’t give up much of anything to get him in a trade. If the Yankees can get him off waivers, great. But that’s about it.

As usual, it doesn’t appear the out of options market has much help to offer. There’s a reason these guys are freely available each year at the end of camp. If all hell breaks loose and the Yankees become desperate for rotation help later this month, they won’t have many avenues to add players. These three are the best of the out of options market.

Open Thread: March 4th Camp Notes

The Yankees threatened in the ninth, but, unlikely Tuesday, there was no miracle comeback Wednesday afternoon. The team dropped their first home Grapefruit League game 3-1 to the Phillies. Gary Sanchez plated the only run with a sacrifice fly and Nick Noonan struck out looking to end the game with the tying run on base. Mason Williams doubled and Alex Rodriguez went 1-for-2 with a walk. Here’s more on his day.

Nathan Eovaldi made it really easy to see why everyone loves his arm. Throws hard, broke off some nasty sliders and at least one nasty splitter (GIF). He allowed a run on two hits in two innings and Erik Boland spoke to a scout who had Eovaldi up to 98 mph. Andrew Miller struck out two in an inning in his spring debut while Danny Burawa, Wilking Rodriguez, and Tyler Webb all struck out one in their perfect innings of work. Here’s the box score, here’s the rest of the video highlights, and here’s everything else that happened in Tampa today:

Here is your open thread for the evening. This afternoon’s game will not be rebroadcast anywhere but MLB Network is replaying the White Sox and Dodgers later tonight, if you’re really desperate for baseball. The Rangers, Knicks, and Nets are also playing, and there’s some college basketball on as well. Have at it.

A-Rod makes Spring Training debut, goes 1-for-2 in first game since 2013

After nearly 18 months since his last game action, Alex Rodriguez returned to the field and made his Spring Training debut this afternoon. He started at DH and batted second, and went 1-for-2 with a single to left, a ground out to short, and a walk in the Yankees’ first home Grapefruit League game. Video of his afternoon is above.

“Yeah, (I was) a little nervous. It’s been a long time since I put on the pinstripes,” said A-Rod to Dan Barbarisi after the game. Joe Girardi was pleased, telling Bryan Hoch that “for this time of spring, they’re pretty good at-bats.” Girardi confirmed Alex will not play in tomorrow’s game. I’m sure he’ll be back in the lineup Friday.

A-Rod’s day got off to an ominous start as he swung through a pair of 91 mph Kevin Slowey sinkers in his first at-bat before hitting that soft line drive single. His third plate appearance was the best even though he didn’t do much besides take some borderline pitches. If nothing else, at least now we know Alex hasn’t gone blind.

From what I could tell, A-Rod’s reception was mostly cheers with some boos mixed in. That has been the case at Yankee Stadium for a few years now and I’m sure it’ll continue. He’ll be booed unmercifully on the road though. Anyway, the first day doesn’t tell us much. A-Rod’s going to need a few weeks to get his timing back, and today was just day one.