Learning From The Rangers

Nap-o-li. Mon-ter-o. (Doug Pensinger/AP)

A couple hours from now, the Texas Rangers will make the first attempt in franchise history to win the World Series. They’re one win away from title, one year after beating the Yankees in the ALCS to send the team to their first ever Fall Classic. With young players all over the roster and a smart, progressive front office, the Rangers are quickly emerging as one of baseball’s powerhouses. The Yankees have been one of those powerhouses for more than a decade now, but that doesn’t mean they can’t take a look at the Texas squad and learn a few things. Here are four ways the Yankees can mimic the Rangers, each with the possibility of having a big impact.

Don’t Take The Catching Depth For Granted

Yesterday we heard that the Pirates are prioritizing a catcher this offseason, leading to speculation about the Yankees being a possible trade match. With Russell Martin entrenched behind the plate for at least another year and Frankie Cervelli, Jesus Montero, and Austin Romine all that Triple-A or above, the Yankees have the luxury of depth at a position where most teams have none.

Three seasons ago, the Rangers were the team with that catching depth. They had Gerald Laird at the big league level, plus Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Taylor Teagarden, and Max Ramirez all on the cusp of the show. Laird was traded that offseason for no one in particular (Guillermo Moscoso and a Single-A pitcher that still hasn’t made it out of Single-A) as Texas dealt from what they felt was a position of strength, but less than two years later, that depth was gone. Ramirez couldn’t catch, Salty couldn’t stay healthy, and Teagarden couldn’t hit. They ended up trading for Bengie Molina at least year’s deadline before signing Yorvit Torrealba to a two-year deal this past winter.

Catchers, probably more than any other position, can experience growing pains early in their career. It’s not just hitting and standing in the right spot or throwing to the right base, it’s learning a pitching staff and dealing with nagging injuries. Matt Wieters has all the talent in the world and he’s struggled with it. Catching depth has a way of disappearing quickly, so the Yankees shouldn’t take what they have in Martin, Montero, Cervelli, and Romine for granted. That’s not to say they can’t or shouldn’t trade any of them, but they can’t just trade one of them for the sake of making a trade. A deal would have to bring real improvement to the MLB roster, not prospects.

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Prospect Profile: Tyler Austin

(Kevin Pataky/MiLB.com)

Tyler Austin | 1B, 3B

A Georgia kid, Christopher Tyler Austin attended Heritage High School in Conyers, about a half-hour outside Atlanta. He was a fixture at showcase events and in various travel leagues, and was a high-end recruit for Kennesaw State. Baseball America (subs. req’d) ranked him as the 24th best prospect in the state prior to the 2010 draft, but noted that he could come off the board as early as the fourth round. The Yankees were patient and able to nab Austin with their 13th round pick, the 415th overall selection. He signed for $130k close to the signing deadline, over-slot but actually a bit of a bargain.

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Yanks prepared to offer Sabathia a six-year extension

(Nick Laham/Getty Images)

CC Sabathia has every reason to void the remaining four years and $92 million on his contract. While that’s the most money any player will have ever left on the table, there is a 100 percent chance he’ll exceed that total, in both years and dollars, on the open market. But that won’t stop the Yankees from trying to prevent his impending free agency.

According to a New York Post report, the Yankees are currently preparing an offer, or a series of offers, intended to retain Sabathia before his opt-out date arrives. Their idea consists of a five- or six-year deal with a raise over Sabathia’s current $23 million annual salary. That sounds like a reasonable offer, and there’s definitely a chance Sabathia could accept.

Chances are the six-year offer is the only one that gets it done. Six years at $24 million per season totals $144 million, which exceeds the offer the Yankees made for Cliff Lee last offseason. That’s fair, given how much Sabathia has contributed to the Yankees in the last three years. They can even bump that up to $145 million, thereby exceeding Lee’s record $24 million annual salary. A five-year deal would certainly have to come in at around $125 million, and would include at least one option.

The Yankees stand to learn plenty with such lucrative offers. If Sabathia accepts, then he was true to his word about enjoying New York and his declarations of, “I’m not going anywhere.” If he declines a six-year deal worth $140 to $145 million, then the Yankees have to question Sabathia’s intentions. Again, $145 million over six years would give Sabathia the highest average annual value of any pitcher contract in history, to go along with his highest gross total of $161 million. Should he decline such an offer, he’s signaling that he would consider an offer from another team that, in all likelihood, wouldn’t constitute much more than a marginal increase over the Yankees’ offer.

Even so, a six-year offer to a 31-year-old pitcher might seem like a lot. But consider that 1) the Yankees made a six-year offer to Lee last off-season, 2) there is no pitcher on the market who matches Sabathia’s abilities, and 3) Sabathia’s importance to the team’s success the past three seasons. For instance, he has averaged 34 starts and 235 innings per season with the Yankees. In the three years before Sabathia arrived the Yankees had six pitchers reach 200 innings, but none eclipsed 218 in any season. Also, none had an ERA within 15 points of Sabathia’s average 3.18 ERA. That is, he’s been a consistently top-notch workhorse. That’s the type of pitcher the Yankees can pay a premium for.

Without Sabathia in 2012, the Yankees would be in quite a bind. They’d absolutely have to go after C.J. Wilson, and Wilson simply isn’t as good as Sabathia. Even when you factor in the contract Wilson would require, Sabathia seems like the better value. The Yankees recognize this, and will prepare an offer that appears difficult to refuse. If you truly liked pitching somewhere and they offered you a six-year deal that paid you more per year than any pitcher in history, wouldn’t you take it?

Eiland joins Royals, talks about leave of absence

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

As the Cubs and Red Sox were busy introducing their new President of Baseball Ops and GM on Monday, respectively, the Royals very quietly announced that they had hired Dave Eiland to be their pitching coach. Eiland, of course, filled that same role with the Yankees from 2008-2010, getting the job because he was familiar with the team’s young pitchers (Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, and Ian Kennedy) after serving as their pitching coach in the minors.

During his final season in New York, Eiland took a month long and still unexplained leave of absence from the team, forcing bullpen coach Mike Harkey into pitching coach duties for the month of June. Although we still don’t know why he had to leave the team, Bob Dutton of The KC Star spoke to Eiland about the absence after the Royals announced his hiring…

Eiland took a 25-day leave of absence for personal reasons stemming from family issues in June 2010 from his job as the Yankees’ pitching coach. He was fired after the season and joined the Rays as a special assistant to general manager Andrew Friedman.

“It was something that if it happened in the off-season,” Eiland said, “nobody would have known anything about it. It was something I had to take care of. I came home, got everything where it needed to be and moved on.

“All is well, and I couldn’t be happier from a personal or professional standpoint. As I told Ned (on Monday), I wish spring training was starting tomorrow.”

When the Yankees decided to fire Eiland (technically they didn’t fire him, his contract expired and they decided not to renew it) after last season, Brian Cashman would not go into detail about the decision other than to say it was made for “private and personal” reasons. “He knows why [he was let go]”, said Cashman. “He was given conditions that needed to be followed. So he knows why.” Eiland spent last season with the Rays, scouting amateur pitchers prior to the draft.

Like A.J. Burnett‘s black eye, Eiland’s leave of absence is one of the Yankees’ great unsolved mysteries. It was blamed for Burnett’s disastrous June last season (11.35 ERA and a 2.26 WHIP in five starts), but after his awful performance carried over into 2011, I think it’s safe to say the only person that deserves blame for that is A.J. himself. Eiland may be a public figure, but frankly his personal life is none of our business. We’re curious and we can’t help but wonder about the juicy details, but as if often the case with these kinds of things, the reason is something a) not all that juicy, or b) better left unsaid.

MLB Network will broadcast 2011 Taiwan All-Star Series

The MLB Network announced today that it will broadcast the five-game Taiwan All-Star Series from November 1-6. The schedule is right here; four of the five games start at 9pm ET. Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano are headlining the MLB Team now that Miguel Cabrera has withdrawn due to a sore shoulder. They’ll be teammates with former Yankees Phil Coke, Jose Veras, Mark Melancon, and (hah) LaTroy Hawkins, among others. Old buddy Chien-Ming Wang will start one game for the Chinese Taipei squad. Hooray for baseball in November.

Open Thread: Goal Posts

(via the Yankees on Twitter)

One way or the other, the baseball portion of Yankee Stadium‘s schedule would have been over by today. The AL park schedule of the World Series is over, but of course the Yankees were ousted in the ALDS. The Stadium is now going into college football mode, with Rutgers and Army scheduled to play in Bronx on November 12th. You can get your tickets right here. The goal posts went up today, so they’ve got about two weeks to paint the lines and install additional on-field seating, plus whatever else there is to do. I haven’t been to a non-baseball event at Yankee Stadium yet, but everything I’ve heard is that they’re amazing, whether it’s college football or a concert or a boxing match. One day I’ll make it there for one. One day.

Anyways, here is your open thread for his fine evening. No World Series game tonight, the Rangers and Cardinals need to rest after making the 650 mile flight from Dallas to St. Louis. Both the Devils and Islanders are playing though, and that’s better than nothing. Use this thread to talk about anything your heart desires, go bananas.

(photo link)

Cashman, Hal met in New York; still no deal

Via Joel Sherman and David Waldstein, Brian Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner met in New York yesterday, though they talked mostly about baseball and the team’s baseball operations. That’s a pretty good indication that the two sides expect a new contract for the GM to be reached with ease. Cashman’s contract expires next Monday, so we should hear something very soon. I figure it’ll be another three-year deal, Cashman’s fourth in a row.