Former Yankees right-hander Johnny Kucks passed away at age 80 last week, according to the AP. The Hoboken native spent the 1955-1959 seasons in pinstripes and is best remembered for throwing a three-hit shutout against the Brooklyn Dodgers in Game Seven of the 1956 World Series, when he was only 23. Kucks was traded to the Kansas City Athletics in 1959 and went 54-56 with a 4.10 ERA (93 ERA+) in parts of six big league seasons. Condolences to his family and friends. · (7) ·
Friday: Happy Friday everyone. Here is your open thread for the night. The Islanders and the Nets are the only local teams in action, so it’s a great night to get the heck out of the house. Talk about whatever here. Enjoy.
Saturday: I think I’m just going to start recycling these each weekend rather than creating a new post every night. Save bandwidth, or something. Anyway, the Arizona Fall League Rising Stars Showcase is on tonight (8pm ET on MLB Network), which is basically the All-Star Game. Rather than pick the best statistical performers, they take the best prospects. 3B/C Peter O’Brien is in the starting lineup for the East team and OF Mason Williams is on the roster as well. Full rosters are right here. The three hockey locals are in action and I’m sure there’s college football on somewhere. Talk about any and all of it right here.
Sunday: Only a few more hours left in the weekend, you guys. The Colts and Texans are the late NFL game plus the Knicks, Nets, and Devils are all playing as well. Enjoy the rest of the night.
First, some notes:
- MLB is testing their expanded replay system in the Arizona Fall League next week, the league announced. This includes the manager’s challenges and all that. All of the necessary cameras have been installed (I assume) and the games will be televised live next week, from Tuesday to Saturday.
- Congrats to the Double-A Trenton Thunder for winning three minor league awards. In addition to being named Team of the Year, they also received awards for Promotion of the Year and Mascot Clip of the Year. The latter two relate to the retirement party for Chase, the team’s long-time bat dog. He passed away a few days later following a bout with cancer.
Second, the updates:
Arizona Fall League
- OF Tyler Austin: 4 G, 4-12, 2 R, 1 3B, 3 RBI, 2 BB, 1 K, 1 HBP (.333/.438/.500) – left the desert two weeks ago when the bone bruise in his right wrist flared up
- UTIL Addison Maruszak: 3 G, 2-11, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K (.182/.250/.273) — replaced Austin on the roster
- 3B/C Peter O’Brien: 11 G, 9-44, 5 R, 1 2B, 4 HR, 8 RBI, 2 BB, 15 K (.205/.239/.500) — fun slash line
- OF Mason Williams: 14 G, 16-59, 6 R, 4 2B, 3 RBI, 5 BB, 9 K, 3 SB, 1 CS (.271/.328/.339)
- RHP Brett Gerritse: 6 G, 7.2 IP, 8 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 7 BB, 9 K, 1 HR, 1 HB, 1 WP (9.39 ERA, 1.96 WHIP)
- LHP Fred Lewis: 7 G, 7 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 5 BB, 7 K, 1 WP (0.00 ERA, 1.57 WHIP)
- LHP Vidal Nuno: 4 G, 4 GS, 15.2 IP, 16 H, 8 R, 6 ER, 2 BB, 14 K, 1 HR (3.45 ERA, 1.15 WHIP) – it’s early, but you have to think he’ll have a decent chance to win a job (either starter or reliever) in Spring Training next year
- LHP James Pazos: 7 G, 6.1 IP, 9 H, 5 R, 2 ER, 5 BB, 8 K, 2 WP (2.84 ERA, 2.21 WHIP)
For the first time since August 2012, Masahiro Tanaka took a loss on Saturday. The Rakuten Golden Eagles ace allowed four runs on 12 hits and one walk while striking out seven against the Yomiuri Giants in the biggest game of his career — it forced a Game Seven in the Japan Series. Tanaka threw 160 pitches in his fourth complete game in five postseason starts. Those workloads are fairly common in Japan, where they pitch once a week rather than once every five days. His 30-start unbeaten streak came to an end and is the longest in the professional baseball history (by six!).
Update: Tanaka came out of the bullpen and threw 15 pitches to get the save in Game Seven on Sunday. It’s considered an honor for the team’s best pitcher to record the final out of the series in Japan, which is why he was used on zero days’ rest.
The Golden Eagles are expected to post Tanaka after the postseason and the Yankees “are going to be serious players” for the right-hander, who turned 25 on Friday. Jeff Passan posted an update on Tanaka and the reportedly forthcoming revisions to the posting system, so let’s round it up:
- With teams having few places to spend money, Tanaka is expected to be the most expensive international import in baseball history. Several executives said they expect the posting fee, which won’t count towards the luxury tax, the be in the $75-100M range. The $51.7M posting fee the Rangers paid for the right to negotiate with Yu Darvish is the current record.
- Tanaka doesn’t have an agent right now. He’s been focused on the playoffs and isn’t sorting through candidates. The timetable for picking a representative is unclear but it’s been speculated he has an agreement with an agent already in place. Obviously he needs to get that figured out before being posted.
- Progress regarding the posting system changes has been slow because MLB wants to figure out a way to keep down posting fees. Haggling will delay the agreement, which means Tanaka may not be posted anytime soon even though the postseason is a few days from ending.
- One proposal suggested the winning team would not have to pay the full amount of their bid. Instead, they would find a point midway between the high bid and second highest bid and instead pay that. The Rangers outbid everyone by roughly $20M for Darvish and clubs want some protection in case something like that happens again.
Via Jon Heyman: The Yankees will not make Phil Hughes a qualifying offer before Monday’s deadline and they are still undecided about Curtis Granderson. Our poll this week shows fans are very much in favor of making the offer to Granderson but not Hughes. Heyman also confirms Robinson Cano and Hiroki Kuroda will receive the tender while Joba Chamberlain, Boone Logan, and every other one of the team’s free agents will not. None of that is surprising.
Hughes, 27, simply pitched his way out of both a qualifying offer and a monster multi-year contract. I don’t know what kind of deal he’ll get this winter, but at his age, I expect it to be something short so he can rebuild value and go back out on the open market before his 30th birthday. Granderson seems like an obvious qualifying offer candidate given the lack of power in baseball right now, but apparently the team is afraid of him accepting and throwing a wrench into the all-important plan to get under the $189M luxury tax threshold. Sucks. · (62) ·
Saturday: Sherman has the gory math details if you’re interested. I’ve given up caring about whether they saved money against the luxury tax threshold. It is it what it is. Ronald Blum says the contract includes the same bonus package as Jeter’s previous deal, and unlike the player option stuff, the Collective Bargaining Agreement makes it very clear bonuses count towards the luxury tax if triggered. Jeter can earn a maximum of $7M in awards-based bonuses and the Yankees have to be prepared for that. For all intents and purposes, his “tax hit” for next season is $19.81M.
Friday: To no one’s surprise, Derek Jeter will return to the Yankees next season. Just not the way we all expected. Rather than exercise his $9.5M player option, Jeter has signed a new one-year contract worth $12M, the team announced. Both Joel Sherman and Andrew Marchand report the deal was brokered one-on-one with Hal Steinbrenner as a way to avoid a repeat of their contentious negotiations from three years ago.
According to Sherman and Ken Rosenthal, the Yankees will save approximately $1.19M against the luxury tax with the new contract. The player option was treated as a guaranteed year when the original contract was signed, so Jeter’s original deal was a four-year, $56M pact with a $14M average annual value. The new deal is valued at $12.81M for some complicated reason. There has not yet been any confirmation from Brian Cashman or someone else with the team regarding the luxury tax stuff, however.
Jeter, 39, played in only 17 games this past season due to four (!) leg injury related DL trips. He hit a weak .190/.288/.254 (48 wRC+) in those 17 games and was barely mobile at shortstop, which wasn’t terribly surprising given all the leg problems. Obviously the Yankees expect Jeter to rebound both at the plate and in the field next season, otherwise they wouldn’t have guaranteed him the $12M. The Cap’n hit .316/.362/.429 (117 wRC+) with a league-leading 216 hits as recently as 2012.
Even with Jeter re-signed, the Yankees still need to address the left side of their infield because of the uncertainty surrounding Alex Rodriguez. Even if A-Rod is not suspended, the team can’t count on him or Jeter to play the field everyday. They love Eduardo Nunez and Jayson Nix is a fine utility man, but New York should look into acquiring a better infielder to fill in at short and third on a fairly regular basis. Banking on two guys closing in on 40 with a recent history of leg injuries to stay healthy is an unwise move.
Via Jon Heyman: The Yankees are discussing free agents Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, and Matt Garza as they look for ways to improve their team this offseason. They’ve also been connected to Stephen Drew, Paul Maholm, Shin-Soo Choo, and Masahiro Tanaka in recent weeks. Free agents can start signing with new teams on Tuesday (Tanaka has to be posted).
Ellsbury, 30, hit .298/.355/.426 (113 wRC+) with a league leading (and ridiculous) 52 steals in 56 attempts this summer. He dealt with a compression fracture in his foot in September and played through a hand injury in the postseason. Ken Rosenthal says he’ll have an MRI in the coming days. McCann hit .256/.336/.461 (122 wRC+) with 20 homers in 2013 and showed no ill effects from offseason shoulder surgery. He turns 30 in February. The 29-year-old Garza had a 3.82 ERA and 3.88 FIP in 155.1 innings split between the Cubs and Rangers this year. He missed the start of this season with a lat strain and the end of last season with an elbow fracture.
Ellsbury and Garza both have plenty of experience in brutal AL East races and McCann is an elite player at a position of great need. The appeal is obvious. The Yankees already have two no power outfielders on the roster and I’m not sure what they’d do with a third, especially since Ellsbury is likely to require a nine-figure contract and forfeiture of a first round pick. McCann is worth the draft pick and simply makes a ton of sense. Garza will not require giving up a pick since he was traded midseason. The team could be considering him an alternative to Tanaka more than Plan A, so to speak. · (49) ·
Only four questions week and they kinda suck. Nah, just kidding. I say they’re good every week, so I wanted to see if anyone is actually pays attention. Remember, the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar is the best way to send us anything throughout the week.
Keith asks: Since there is lots of discussion this offseason about the Yankees’ minor leagues and their development of prospects, I’ve been kind of obsessed with the what ifs. One that particularly sticks out is Mike Trout. It’s been widely reported that the Yankees scouts were on him and of course the Angels ended up drafting Trout with the Yankees compensation pick. If the Yankees don’t sign Mark Teixeira and instead draft Mike Trout, would he even be in the Majors yet? Would they have found a way to screw up his development too?
First things first: if the Yankees did not sign Teixeira, their first round pick would have gone to the Brewers for CC Sabathia. If they did not sign Teixeira and Sabathia, it would have gone to the Blue Jays for A.J. Burnett. They would have had to pass on all three to keep their first rounder, and even then the Angels still would have had a pick (the compensation pick for Francisco Rodriguez) before the Yankees. Ken Rosenthal said the Halos had Trout second on their behind only Stephen Strasburg, so I assume they would have still taken him before New York had a chance at him.
Anyway, just for the sake of argument, let’s assume the Yankees somehow landed Trout in the draft that year. I think that in some cases, with historically great players and generational talents like Trout, the development part almost doesn’t matter. They’re going to succeed no matter what because there isn’t even that much developing that needs to be done, the raw talent is enough. Alex Rodriguez was like that. Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr., Rickey Henderson … players like that. They’re so good and physically gifted that the only thing that can stop them (other than injury) is a lack of effort and work ethic on their part. I truly believe that. Trout was so good that not even the Yankees could have screwed him up. He would have been in the show right now and still been a star.
Kevin asks: Obviously they’ll try starting first but any chance Michael Pineda‘s future with the team is ultimately in the bullpen? It wouldn’t put the stress of 170+ innings on his arm and that way they could possibly get some return on the investment.
Oh it’s definitely possible his future lies in the bullpen. He kept running into a wall around the 70-ish pitch mark during his minor league starts this year, and after such a major shoulder surgery, there’s a chance he may not be able to hold up for 100+ pitches anymore. I’m not sold on the idea that relieving on an unpredictable schedule is less stressful than having a routine and starting every five days, but a move to the bullpen is the next logical step if the starting thing proves to be too much for Pineda.
Ryan asks: What are your thoughts on Roy Halladay? Even though he is older and had the injury, I think the Yankees should sign him. Still has the stuff and experience, similarly to David Cone when they signed him.
I strongly disagree there. He doesn’t have the stuff. He might as he gets further away from the shoulder surgery in May, but Halladay was a shell of his former self late in the season. It wasn’t even Jamie Moyer stuff. No life on his fastball, loopy breaking balls, no command … it was ugly. He looked no part of a big league pitcher. Watching him pitch like that in September made it hard to believe he was the best pitcher in the world as recently as 2011.
The Yankees can’t help themselves when it comes to once-great big name players, so I do expect them to kick the tires on Halladay this winter. He has AL East experience obviously, though I’m not sure that matters much at this point. He’s not the same guy. He hasn’t been the same guy for two years now. There is no way I would guarantee Halladay anything — minor league contract or no contract, that’s it — based on that look in September, there’s no chance whatsoever I would guarantee him a rotation spot. Absolutely zero. If he wants to take a minor league deal and earn his way onto the roster, great. If not, oh well.
Ben asks: It’s pretty staggering to think about all the pitching St. Louis has right now: Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn, Michael Wacha, Joe Kelly, Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez, even Jaime Garcia. It’s fair to say they’d benefit from trading one or two of those guys. If you were the Yankees GM, what would you think a fair package would be to trade for Lynn or Kelly? Would we possibly have the pieces to trade for Martinez or Rosenthal?
Definite no on Martinez and Rosenthal. As for Lynn or Kelly, I have to think a shortstop would be atop the Cardinals wishlist. It’s hard to believe they did so well this season with a total zero at short in Pete Kozma. The Yankees don’t have a shortstop to give up unless St. Louis is particularly high on Eduardo Nunez, which I doubt they are. Jon Jay had a better year than I realized, so Brett Gardner doesn’t make much sense for them either. I’d have no trouble getting behind a Gardner for Lynn or (especially) Kelly trade, but that doesn’t seem realistic at all. I’m not sure there’s much of a fit here otherwise. The Cardinals are pretty stacked everywhere except short.
Well, this is it. The first official open thread of the offseason. Got another hundred or so of these to go before pitchers and catchers report in mid-February. I haven’t the slightest idea what the Yankees will look like by then.
Anyway, here is tonight’s open thread. The Bengals and Dolphins are the Thursday NFL game, plus the Rangers and Knicks are playing as well. Talk about any of that and more right here. Go nuts.