Via Jon Heyman: The Yankees have spoken to Stephen Drew and agent Scott Boras recently, but they are “tapped out” financially and can not hand out another sizable contract. I don’t buy that they can’t take on more money for a second, so this sounds like posturing more than anything.
The need on the infield is obvious, especially in the wake of Brendan Ryan’s back injury. Both Dean Anna and Yangervis Solarte have no MLB experience but at least one of them will be on the Opening Day roster at this point. We’ve discussed Drew ad nauseum here and nothing has changed, really. He would help the Yankees quite a bit, especially if he’s willing to accept a one-year deal and play another position (presumably third). · (72) ·
Exactly one week from today, the Yankees will open the 2014 regular season against the Astros in Houston. Between that series and the second series against the Blue Jays in Toronto, the scheduling gods did the Yankees a favor. They’ll have the opportunity to beat up on the Astros and the back of Toronto’s rotation before coming home for some games against division rivals. A fast start to the season sure would be nice. Here are some thoughts as Spring Training winds down.
1. Jacoby Ellsbury (calf) is scheduled to play in a minor league game today and if that goes well, he could return to regular Grapefruit League action as soon as tomorrow. Hopefully everything goes well, but if he does have to start the season on the DL, what happens to the lineup? Brett Gardner plays center and bats leadoff while Alfonso Soriano moves to left field. That part is obvious. What about DH though? I think the Yankees would just rotate Ichiro Suzuki and Eduardo Nunez into the lineup for the time being, but with Ellsbury out, the best lineup probably has both Brian McCann and Frankie Cervelli in it. They could carry a third catcher like Austin Romine and get Cervelli’s bat in the lineup everyday. I can’t believe I just said that, but hey, he’s tearing the cover off the ball this spring. I doubt this will happen because carrying a third catcher makes the roster even more inflexible, but if Ellsbury is sidelined, the best solution may be getting both McCann and Cervelli into the lineup at the same time.
2. Joe Girardi is expected to announced the fifth starter today and I would be surprised if it isn’t Michael Pineda. Both he and David Phelps have pitched well in camp, but this decision should be about more than that. Even after the shoulder surgery, I think Pineda’s potential to have a real impact has been obvious this spring, especially as his fastball velocity has crept up. His slider is just vicious and he has better control too. I don’t intend for this to come off as a knock, but Phelps has developed a largely undeserved reputation for being a strike-thrower in his short big league career. His walk rate (3.53 BB/9 and 9.2 BB%) these last two years has been worse than the AL average (3.04 BB/9 and 7.9 BB%), so his stellar minor league walk rates have not carried over to MLB just yet. Pineda has better pure stuff and better control at this point, and I also think there’s a sense of “okay, it’s time to get something out of this trade” at play. If the Yankees feel they haven’t seen enough out of Pineda to stick him in the rotation right now, I’m not sure what more they want to see.
3. My current “gut feel” bullpen projection is the same as the last one: David Robertson, Shawn Kelley, Matt Thornton, Phelps, Adam Warren, Dellin Betances, and Matt Daley. I think the only other serious candidates for that last spot right now are Vidal Nuno, Chris Leroux, and Fred Lewis. I think they’d open a 40-man roster spot for Daley — they obviously like him after rehabbing him from a shoulder injury he suffered with another team for nearly two years, re-signing him twice along the way — but not Leroux or Lewis just yet. They probably want to see both carry their spring success over into the regular season first. Nuno seems more likely to open the year as the sixth starter in Triple-A than as the second lefty/third swingman in the bullpen. Daley fits best for the time being. As for you gets the 40-man roster axe … Ramon Flores? I have no idea unless there’s an Ichiro Suzuki trade. No obvious candidate.
4. My current “gut feel” bench projection: Cervelli, Nunez, Ichiro, and Dean Anna. The first three are obvious, but I think Anna gets the nod over Yangervis Solarte simply because he’s already on the 40-man. There’s no sense in cutting a player to carry a utility guy who is going to wind up in the Triple-A when Brendan Ryan returns, which could be within the first week or two of the season. Backs are tricky and Ryan could miss much longer, but right now all signs point to it being a short-term thing. Whoever gets that last bench spot will be a temporary solution, not a long-term fixture on the roster. No need to juggle the 40-man for that. Anna was acquired for this exact role, to be the up-and-down 25th man. Let Solarte show his hot spring is something more than just a hot spring in Triple-A before carrying him on the big league roster.
5. In case you missed it last night, Chad Jennings reported that right-hander and 2012 first rounder Ty Hensley will not start the season on time due to a hernia. VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman said he is expected to resume throwing in 3-4 weeks but, given Newman’s track record with the stuff, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s longer. Between the time off and going through what amounts to Spring Training, there’s a chance Hensley will not get into a regular season minor league game until June. He barely pitched after signing in 2012 (12 innings) and then missed all of 2013 due to hip(s) surgery, so add in this new hernia issue and Hensley is going to end up going close to two full years between regularly pitching in competitive games as part of a rotation. That’s an awful lot of lost development time. Hensley once said he wanted to be in the big leagues by his 21st birthday, but instead he might not even have 100 career innings under his belt when he turns the big 2-1 in late-July. Yuck. At least they aren’t arm injuries, I guess.
The Yankees were off on Monday and it was a full day off with no workouts scheduled at big league camp. It has been raining in Tampa for a good part of the day anyway, so even if they were scheduled to play, they likely would have been rained out. Here’s a recap of what did happen in camp today.
- Ivan Nova went eight scoreless innings in an intrasquad minor league game before the rain, allowing four hits and one walk while striking out ten. He threw 91 pitches. Frankie Cervelli caught Nova and homered. [Chad Jennings]
- The upcoming rotation: TBA (Tuesday), Chris Leroux (Wednesday), CC Sabathia (Thursday), Hiroki Kuroda (Friday), and either Nova or Masahiro Tanaka (Saturday, final spring game). David Phelps is lined up for tomorrow, for what it’s worth. Whoever doesn’t start Saturday’s game will likely pitch in a minor league game. Sabathia, Kuroda, and Nova will start the first three games of the regular season based on how they line up. [Jennings]
- More from Jennings: The fifth starter decision has been made and will likely be announced tomorrow, after Girardi talks to the players. I’m pretty sure Phelps is not listed as tomorrow’s starter because he’s about to be moved into the bullpen, but we’ll see. The bullpen and bench decisions have not been made and those situations may not be resolved until the very end of camp.
- Jacoby Ellsbury (calf) will DH in a minor league game tomorrow and get six or seven at-bats. If that goes well, he could return to regular Grapefruit League play on Wednesday. [Wally Matthews]
- Tyler Austin (wrist) hit in a simulated game and could play in a minor league game tomorrow. He’s been working out at third and right field. Greg Bird (back) and Ty Hensley (hernia) will not start the season on time. Hensley is 3-4 weeks from throwing, so he might be out until midseason. It begins. Ronnie Mustelier has a hamstring injury and has not played at all this spring. [Jennings]
- Donnie Collins has some more notes from minor league camp. Looks like Bruce Billings will get the ball on Opening Day for Triple-A Scranton, if you care about such things.
This is your open thread for the night. MLB Network will re-air two games tonight plus both the Nets and (hockey) Rangers are playing. Talk about whatever you like here.
Via Jon Heyman: The Yankees are willing to eat some money in an Ichiro Suzuki trade in order to receive a decent prospect in return. He is owed $6.5M this season and is slated to be an extra outfielder who specializes in pinch-running and playing late-inning defense.
The Yankees have been shopping Ichiro for months and it wasn’t all that long ago we heard there was “nothing doing” regarding trade interest. They’ve been playing him in center field recently, presumably in an effort to boost his trade value. I dunno, I just can’t see a team getting involved without a sudden rash of outfield injuries, especially not if the Yankees are asking for an actual prospect. · (42) ·
I’ve been watching baseball pretty much my entire life, but I think the first season I can actually remember was 1992. Before that I just watched baseball. The 1992 season when I really started following the game on a day-to-day basis, if that makes sense. That’s when I started paying attention to statistics (wins and RBI, baby) and understood the pitching rotation, things like that. I certainly remember watching a ton of baseball before 1992, but that was the year it went from an interest to an obsession.
One of the things I remember most about that 1992 season was thinking the Yankees had a gem of a young shortstop in Andy Stankiewicz. He carried like a .310 batting average into July and it bothered me whenever he sat for Randy Velarde. I remember being bummed when Stankiewicz didn’t win the Rookie of the Year award, even. I didn’t understand what it meant that he was a 27-year-old rookie. The Yankees were bad and he was a new face, a symbol of hope going forward.
Stankiewicz obviously was far from the shortstop of the future. He didn’t even make the team in 1993, and by 1994 he was playing for the Astros. Guys like Spike Owen and Mike Gallego came and went at shortstop, then in 1995 the Yankees had whatever was left of Tony Fernandez’s career. Similar to how Kenny Rogers was an awesome pickup because he once threw a perfect game, I remember being glad the Yankees signed Fernandez because I had heard his name in an All-Star Game or two along the way.
* * *
The 1995 ALDS loss to the Mariners was devastating to a teenaged Mike Axisa. It was one thing to root for a bad 1992 team or a good but not good enough 1993 team — the 1994 strike sucked, but, looking back on it, I wasn’t as upset as I probably should have been — but rooting for that 1995 squad was something different. I thought the season was over after a long losing streak in August, but the club reeled me back in with that insane finish (26-7!) to win the wildcard spot.
I can’t really explain how I felt watching Edgar Martinez’s double roll to the wall in Game Five, but I remember it. Helpless, I guess. Watching that ball roll and knowing the Yankees’ season was about to end is something I’m never going to forget. The 1995 Yankees were the first postseason team of my lifetime and that series, that double, was the first time baseball ripped my heart out. I was crushed. I didn’t know baseball could make me feel like that.
The relay throw on Edgar’s double was the last play Tony Fernandez ever made for the Yankees. He dove for a ball in Spring Training the following year and shattered his elbow, paving the way for Derek Jeter to become the everyday shortstop. I knew nothing of prospects at the time and I remembered Jeter from his cup of coffee the year before, but nothing more. I expected the Yankees to go out and make a trade, not go with the kid. That was crazy to me.
Unlike Stankiewicz, I didn’t get that “shortstop of the future” vibe from Jeter, at least not right away. He hit the homer on Opening Day and had a nice two weeks to start 1996, but Jeter was pretty mediocre from mid-April through the end of May (proof!), and it was kind of a blah first impression. He tore the cover off the ball from June through the end of the season and that’s when it hit me and I think a bunch of other people that hey, this kid was pretty good. The Yankees might have something here.
With Jeter’s help, the Yankees went on to win the World Series that October and to this day, that is my favorite sports memory and favorite Yankees team. I think everyone feels the same way about the first championship team they witness, regardless of sport. It’s a great feeling, that first title. And, to be honest, I don’t think the 1996 World Series would be nearly as memorable for me had Edgar Martinez not ripped my heart out the year before. As much as it sucked, Fernandez’s no-chance relay throw and the heartbreak of 1995 made 1996 that much sweeter.
* * *
Jeter was outstanding throughout the late 1990s and 2000s, though he was never my favorite player. I’ve always gravitated towards pitchers for whatever reason, so I enjoyed watching Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte more than Jeter. David Wells was a fave too. I was pretty upset when they traded him for Roger Clemens. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t dislike Jeter, but he was never my favorite player the way he is for so many others. That doesn’t make me weird or anything. It’s just my opinion.
For a big chunk of his career, I think I took Jeter for granted. I knew I was watching a great player, but it wasn’t until … I dunno … 2002? that it dawned on me I was watching a historically great player. Maybe it was because he came up at the same time as Alex Rodriguez and Nomar Garciaparra in an age of super shortstops. I hadn’t suffered through enough Stankiewiczes and Gallegos to grasp how special Jeter was. There was not enough of a scar to make me fully appreciate his greatness, no Edgar Martinez double of shortstops to better put things into perspective.
Year after year, Jeter put up great seasons and the Yankees won, but not like they won when he first came up. The roster had turned over as it tends to do, but Jeter was the mainstay. Pettitte only pitched once every five days. Rivera only pitched when the game was close in the ninth inning. Jeter played everyday, batted in every first inning. There was comfort in that. The Yankees had changed over the years but they were still Derek Jeter’s Yankees. To borrow a phrase, he was the straw that stirred the drink.
Jeter has been a constant for so long, putting up the same great numbers every year and playing every day. Looking back, it’s really remarkable he stayed so healthy for as long as he did. His only significant injury from 1996-2010 was a fluke play, when he slid into Ken Huckaby at third base in 2003. Other than that, he was out there every game. These last four years have been rockier though, both with injuries and poor performance. Seeing Jeter battle baseball mortality has been … weird. Not sure how else to describe it.
I wasn’t terribly surprised when Jeter announced his plan to retire a few weeks ago. The announcement itself was surprising, but the idea that he would soon walk away was not exactly unexpected. At age 39 and after what he called a “nightmare” injury-plagued season in 2013, retirement had to cross his mind. How could it not? This is a guy who has accomplished everything imaginable in baseball and the game wasn’t coming as easily as it once did.
In a weird way, I think last season helped me prepare for life with Jeter. The same was true with Mariano Rivera when he got hurt in 2012. He was not around on a daily basis anymore, which was a new experience. This year, not seeing Rivera come out of the bullpen will be different but not unfamiliar. That same will be true at shortstop next season. Last year did a good job of showing everyone how the Yankees will look without Jeter.
We watched Don Mattingly walk away back in the day, and more recently we’ve watched guys like Bernie Williams and Jorge Posada and Pettitte (twice) and Rivera retire. All were great and beloved but none were as great and beloved as Jeter. Only Rivera is close. Jeter is on another level in every way, both on the field and off the field. It’s possible if not likely he will be the greatest Yankee of my lifetime, which is amazing to sit back and think about. You and I may never see another player of this caliber in pinstripes again. It’s cliche, but you know we’ll all be sitting around as grumpy old people in 50 years saying “yeah he’s good, but he’s no Jeter.”
I have absolutely no idea what to expect out of the Captain in his final season. I thought 2008 was a sign he was slipping, then he was an MVP candidate in 2009. I thought he was done after 2010-11, then he rebounded to hit like his old self in 2012. What happens after all the leg injuries? Who knows. He’s an important part of the team and the Yankees need him to produce, but at his age and after what amount to a year away from the game, he’s a real question mark. Maybe his body will be refreshed following the year off. Maybe his bat speed is beyond the point of return. We’ll find out soon enough.
All I know is that I plan to make an extra effort to sit back and appreciate Jeter this year, something I did not do enough over the years. Appreciate him for the player he’s been, for the leader and ambassador he is and has been, and for being the final tie to that 1996 club. Jeter is last remnant of this remarkable stretch in franchise history; the Yankees didn’t feel the same without him in 2013 and once he retires after the season, they won’t ever feel the same to me again.
As expected, Joe Girardi announced CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, and Ivan Nova will start the team’s first three games of the regular season. Well, he didn’t really come out and announce it, but the rotation for the rest of the week indicates that will be the case. This lines up Kuroda for the home opener. Masahiro Tanaka figures to slide in as the number four starter with either Michael Pineda or David Phelps as the five. Obligatory reminder that the rotation order on Opening Day means nothing. · (30) ·
When Spring Training started, the Yankees had about six players in serious consideration for the final bench spot. The number of bench candidates has whittled down over the weeks and, thanks to the pinched nerve in Brendan Ryan‘s back, another bench spot has opened. Joe Girardi has indicated they will take two of Eduardo Nunez, Dean Anna, and Yangervis Solarte north when the team breaks camp in a week.
Nunez seems like a lock for one of those two bench spots even though he has been the same guy he’s always been this spring, meaning lots of contact, lots of speed, but also lots of defensive adventures. Yet, because he’s the incumbent, Nunez appears to have a roster spot in the bag, especially in the wake of Ryan’s injury. That leaves one spot for Anna or Solarte. Is one a better fit for the roster than the other? Let’s look at what they have to offer.
The Case for Dean Anna
Acquired in a minor offseason trade with the Padres, the 27-year-old Anna provides four things, specifically: patience, contact skills, solid defense, and some versatility. He has always been a high-walk (12.6% in Double-A and Triple-A), low-strikeout (12.0%) hitter from the left side of the plate, though his power and speed are non-factors. Anna has a ton of experience at second base and shortstop, plus some at third and the two corner outfield spots. He’s not a Gold Glover but he’s not Nunez either. Adequate all around the infield, which is valuable.
Carrying Anna would give the team another lefty bat off the bench in addition to Ichiro Suzuki — considering they both make a bunch of contact, Anna’s probably the greater offensive threat because he’ll take a walk and not hack at everything — but this isn’t a lineup that will require a bunch of pinch-hitters. The Yankees will live and die with the starting position players. Anna’s glove is more reliable that Nunez’s, which would be valuable whenever Derek Jeter gets a day off from playing the field. That figures to happen fairly regularly, at least early in the season.
The Case for Yangervis Solarte
The only reason the Solarte is in the conversation for a bench spot right now is his Spring Training performance. He’s gone 16-for-35 (.457) with two homers in camp, the kind of numbers that get a non-roster player noticed. Solarte, 26, has also spent a bunch of time at the three non-first base infield positions as well as left field this spring, though he’s spent most of his minor league career at second, third, and left. Only 30 games at short in parts of eight seasons, 20 of which came in 2013.
Solarte hit .282/.332/.404 in over 1,100 Triple-A plate appearances the last two seasons, which were spent in the hitter friendly Pacific Coast League. Nothing about his 91 wRC+ from 2012-13 suggests he can be an asset at the plate in the show, though it’s always possible something has clicked this spring and he’s a new hitter. Since he is another low power, little speed, adequate defense guy, the only things Solarte has on Anna are his versatility (more experience in third and left, less at short) and his ability to switch-hit. Having a switch-hitter on the bench is always nice for matchup purposes, but again, Girardi doesn’t figure to use many pinch-hitters this summer.
* * *
Brian Cashman said “all the answers are here in camp” the other day when asked about going outside the organization to replace Ryan, and unless they’re going to pony up for Stephen Drew, there aren’t many available options anyway. The recently designated for assignment Juan Francisco could make some sense as a corner fielder with (huge) left-handed power, though he’s a butcher in the field who won’t walk and will strike out a ton. He’s a lefty Mark Reynolds without the plate discipline, basically. As the last man on the bench, maybe he makes more sense that Anna or Solarte.
The Yankees have a 40-man roster crunch at the moment, which could give Anna (on the 40-man) a leg up over Solarte (not on the 40-man). Adding Solarte to the roster will cost the team another player, unless Ryan’s back injury is so bad that he’s a 60-day DL candidate. Anna is the simpler move and since he a) can play short no questions asked, and b) seems like a safer bet offensively because of his contact/discipline approach, he might be the best fit for the bench. Solarte is hitting the ball far better right now and is a switch-hitter with a bit more versatility, so it’s not like he has nothing to offer. Either way, whoever wins the job will have a big opportunity early in the season.
Spring Training Record: 15-10-2 (115 RS, 88 RA)
Spring Training Games This Week: Mon. OFF, vs. Phillies (Tues. on YES, MLBN), @ Blue Jays (Weds.), Pirates (Thurs. on YES, MLBN), vs. Marlins (Fri.), vs. Marlins (Sat. on YES), Sun. OFF
Top stories from last week:
- Injury Updates: Jacoby Ellsbury (calf) is day-to-day after a precautionary MRI came back negative. Derek Jeter is fine after fouling some pitches off his surgically repaired ankle. Brendan Ryan (back) has a pinched nerve and is likely to start the season on the DL. Andrew Bailey (shoulder) is throwing from flat ground as he works his way back from surgery. Tyler Austin (wrist) has resumed taking batting practice on the field. Scott Sizemore (quad) and Russ Canzler (hip, back) have both returned to game action.
- Righty Jose Ramirez is moving to the bullpen full-time. Jorge Mateo was ranked as one of Baseball America’s top summer league prospects.
- Pro scouting director Will Kuntz left the Yankees for a position with Major League Soccer. Long-time baseball operations staffer Steve Martone will replace him.
Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the interactive Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.
Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?
Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?
The Blue Jays snapped the Yankees’ seven-game winning streak with a 3-1 win on Sunday. Michael Pineda had his worst outing of the spring, allowing three runs on six hits and a hit batsman in six innings. He struck out two and walked no one, getting a dozen outs on the ground compared to only two in the air. Jorge Castillo says he threw 57 of 80 pitches for strikes. Pineda was mostly 88-91 mph on the YES gun with a few 92s and 93s mixed in. Not the best outing, but he held his own against Toronto’s mostly A-lineup.
The Yankees scored their only run on a Derek Jeter double play ball. He went 0-for-3 and it sure would be comforting if he started hitting soon. Brett Gardner and Carlos Beltran both went 2-for-3, Brian McCann and Alfonso Soriano both went 1-for-3, and Brian Roberts and Mark Teixeira went a combined 0-for-7. Grapefruit League MVP Yangervis Solarte struck out with the tying run on base to end the game. Dellin Betances further locked up a bullpen job by inheriting a bases loaded, one out jam, and escaping with a strikeout (Jose Bautista) and fly out (Edwin Encarnacion). Here’s the box score, here are the video highlights, and here’s the rest from Tampa.
- Jacoby Ellsbury (calf) will play in a minor league game on Tuesday. If he plays in a regular Grapefruit League at some point, the Yankees won’t be able to backdate a potential DL stint. Minor league games it is. Brendan Ryan (back) is feeling a little better but won’t play at all this week. [Wally Matthews, Castillo]
- Beltran is hosting an event to encourage and motivate the team’s minor leaguers, and today he was recruiting teammates to participate. He recently hosted a catered event for Latino players in the organization, with guest speakers and a band. Pretty neat. [Castillo, Chad Jennings]
- Donnie Collins has some notes from minor league camp, if you’re interested. Manny Banuelos hit 95 mph for the first time since Tommy John surgery in today’s three-inning outing.
- The Yankees do not have a game on Monday, but Ivan Nova will pitch in a minor league game. Not sure if any other workouts are planned.
Here is your open thread for the night. This afternoon’s game will be replayed on YES at 10:30pm ET, and MLB Network will re-air a different game later tonight. The Devils, Knicks, and Nets are all playing as well. Talk about anything and everything right here.
During a recent interview (video link), Brian Cashman confirmed the Yankees are moving Jose Ramirez to the bullpen full-time. “Jose Ramirez is a power right-hander that’s been a starter throughout his minor league career, but because of injuries we’re going to stick him in the bullpen,” said the GM. “He has a chance to move very fast.”
Ramirez, 24, has not pitched this spring due to a lingering oblique injury. He has thrown 100+ innings only twice in his career (2010-11) because of elbow, shoulder, lat, and oblique problems. Ramirez pitched to a 3.67 ERA (4.62 FIP) with a 78/36 K/BB in 73.2 innings between Double-A and Triple-A last season. I think his mid-90s fastball/changeup/slider combo could be devastating in relief, and I’m glad to see they’ve pulled the plug on him as a starter due to the continued injuries. I ranked Ramirez as the team’s 12th best prospect last month and we could see him at some point this summer, health permitting. · (31) ·