The Alex Rodriguez Problem

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

What a difference a year makes, huh? Last season Alex Rodriguez was coming back from his 162-game Biogenesis suspension and no one knew what to expect. How would a soon-to-be 40-year-old with two surgically repaired hips perform after missing a full season (close to two full seasons, really)? Quite well, it turns out.

A-Rod hit .250/.356/.486 (129 wRC+) overall with 33 homers in 2015, which was truly best case scenario stuff. I think each and every one of us would have happily signed up for that before the season. Rodriguez did slump in the second half like most Yankees, but, overall, he was a middle of the order force and a big reason why the team managed to qualify for the postseason.

This season has been a much different story. Rather than come to Spring Training as a complete unknown, Rodriguez came to camp with the Yankees counting on him to provide power and a steadying middle of the order presence. It hasn’t happened. A-Rod owns a .204/.252/.356 (56 wRC+) batting line with nine homers in 234 plate appearances around injuries and benchings.

The Yankees have not so gradually started scaling back A-Rod’s playing time. For a few weeks they benched him against righties, and these days they bench him against pretty much everyone, so much so that Gary Sanchez is expected to be called up today to DH against lefty Steven Matz. Alex can’t play the field at all, and now if he’s not trusted enough to start against lefties, what purpose does he serve? None. He serves no purpose.

It’s no surprise then there’s been talk the Yankees may release A-Rod at some point in the second half. The team denies it because what else are they supposed to do? “I know it’s been tough on him. But he’s been a pro and working his tail off,” said Brian Cashman to reporters earlier this week. Now that Carlos Beltran is gone and the Yankees are in sell mode, chatter about cutting Alex is only going to grow louder. What’s the right thing to do?

The Case for Cutting A-Rod

This is the easy one so we might as well start here. The case for cutting A-Rod comes down to two things: his lack of production and his lack of flexibility. He’s hitting .198/.276/.367 (71 wRC+) in 446 plate appearances since August 1st of last year, so this isn’t a small sample. For a DH, those numbers are putrid. There’s a minimum acceptable standard on offense and Alex ain’t meeting it, especially relative to position.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Defensively … well there’s not much to talk about. A-Rod hasn’t played even one out in the field since last May, and although he’s been working out at first base lately, there’s no indication the Yankees will actually use him there. Rodriguez almost got into a game at third base in San Diego a few weeks ago, though that was an emergency situation in the late innings. It didn’t happen. The game ended before he could return to the hot corner.

A DH who can’t hit or play the field in something more than an emergency is useless. It’s a dead roster spot. Cutting A-Rod frees up a roster spot and playing time for one of the many kids the Yankees have in Triple-A. We’re not talking about Shelley Duncan types here. Sanchez figures to be the catcher of the future. Aaron Judge figures to be the right fielder of the future and Tyler Austin is looking to carve out a role as well. Moving on from A-Rod creates an opportunity for players who will part of what we hope is the next great Yankees team.

The Case for Keeping A-Rod

This is a much tougher argument to make, and honestly, I’m not sure I can do it. I’m going to try though. Here are three reasons it may be wise for the Yankees to hang on to Rodriguez in the second half.

1. A-Rod could always get hot. The Yankees traded Beltran, by far their best hitter, at the deadline in one of their “seller” trades. Their best hitter is now, uh, Didi Gregorius? Maybe Brian McCann? That’s not so great. Despite his down year, A-Rod is still insanely talented, and with Beltran gone, the DH spot is wide open. Alex still has the ability to get hot and carry a team for a few weeks, and the Yankees are going to need someone to create runs. I’m not sure Rodriguez can bounce back at this point, but I’ve bet against him before and he’s made me look silly pretty much every time.

2. He’s closing in on 700 homers. Right now A-Rod is sitting on 696 career homers, meaning he’s only four away from becoming only the fourth member of the 700 home run club. That is pretty incredible. It’s historic. It really is. We may never see another player reach 700 homers in our lifetime. It’s also very marketable. I don’t know the numbers, but I’m willing to bet attendance and ratings are down this season, and A-Rod’s pursuit of 700 homers could help the Yankees sell some tickets and improve ratings down the stretch. They would actually have to play him regularly for the chase to be interesting, of course.

3. He can be a mentor to the team’s young players. A-Rod has long had a reputation for being a leader in the clubhouse and a great mentor to young players. He’s a preparation and workout freak, and he makes sure the young guys put in the work that is necessary to excel at the MLB level. “I’m a teacher at heart,” he told Joe Lemire yesterday.

Alex is one of the most talented players in baseball history, and seeing someone that talented do that much prep work really drives home the point of just how hard it is to be a good big league ballplayer. Coasting on talent isn’t an option. The Yankees have a lot of young players on the cusp of the show and, with Beltran gone, A-Rod is someone who can take them under his wing and show them the ropes. He may not hit anymore, but Alex’s leadership has value that can’t be quantified.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Is the 700th home run pursuit and leadership enough to keep A-Rod on the roster? It may not seem so to you and me, but the Yankees could feel otherwise. They know much more about his intangible value as a marquee player and mentor than we ever will. All we see is the on-field performance, which this year means a total lack of production. Like I said, a DH who can’t hit or play the field occasionally is not worth a roster spot.

My guess is yes, the Yankees have indeed kicked around the idea of releasing A-Rod, but they’re not ready to commit to that just yet. Rosters expand four weeks from tomorrow, and I think the team will ride it out with Alex until September 1st, when it’ll be more easy to carry the wasted roster spot. If he smashes his 700th home run between now and then and mentors some young players, great. They’ll reassess his place on the roster in the offseason.

Make no mistake though, if A-Rod were Joe Schmo and not a guy with a huge contract approaching a historic milestone, he’d be long gone by now. Teams usually don’t stand for this type of production, or lack thereof. A-Rod’s still on the roster because of what he’s done in the past and the money still owed to him through next year, and that’s generally not a good reason to keep a player around. Not when there are young players in Triple-A ready for an opportunity.

Yankees listless all around in a 7-1 loss to the Mets

(Getty)

I think we’re gonna have many more games like this the last few months. Pretty unspectacular, etc. The Yankee offense had almost nothing going on against Jacob deGrom and, well, the Mets bats scored seven, which was more than enough. The Yankees are bad and boring (for now) and this is this kind of game you get once in awhile.

The Mets Scoring Sequences

This game can be summarized by describing how the Mets scored. First, they jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom third. After retiring the first eight hitters, Masahiro Tanaka gave up a single to … Jacob deGrom. Against the next hitter, Alejandro De Aza, Tanaka threw a 91-mph sinker that found the meat of the barrel and landed in the right field seats. It was one of those “well, that happened” moments. De Aza is not a guy known for his power but then again, he did (somehow) hit for a 1.031 OPS in the month of July.

The Mets added another in the fifth. Travis d’Arnaud, leading off the inning, hit a Tanaka slider into the left field seats for a 3-0 lead. It was a hanger of a pitch and d’Arnaud reached out to make a solid contact. They tacked on four more runs in the seventh to make this game pretty much out of reach.

Wilmer Flores singled and reached second on Brett Gardner‘s throwing error to left to start the inning. Michael Conforto followed it up with an RBI double to left to make it 4-0. Two batters later, Matt Reynolds hit a soft fly ball RBI single to drive Conforto in. Tanaka surrendered another base hit to deGrom before being lifted for Richard Bleier.

Bleier, he of the 3.86 K/9 in the Triple-A, was tasked to face pinch-hitting Yoenis Cespedes. Cespedes hit a pretty hard grounder towards the left of Starlin Castro. Castro couldn’t handle it and throw to first base in time to get Yoenis as another run scored for a 6-0 Mets lead. Neil Walker followed it up with an RBI double to score another for Metropolitans. Yawn. By the end of the inning, all seven runs that Mets scored were charged to Tanaka.

At least for the first eight batters, it seemed like Tanaka was going to be on a roll along with deGrom. However, bad pitches here and there snowballed into a mediocre 7 ER-outing.

Didi Bomb!

The Yankees were kept scoreless up to the very last inning. As it turned top of ninth, many on Twitter were quick to point out that Yankees have never ben shut out in Citi Field, as if that streak was going to break tonight. Didi Gregorius said “not so fast!” On the second pitch of the inning, Gregorius took a slow curve from Jon Niese into the right field seats to erase the shutout. 7-1 Mets. Well, that’s something, right?

As you know, Didi has been one of the very few bright spots of the team this year. After tonight, he’s hitting for a .290/.318/.453 line for season, good for a 104 wRC+. He’s slugging higher than Bryce Harper, Albert Pujols, Hanley Ramirez and Eric Hosmer this season. That short porch probably helped but still, how about that?

At least you didn’t get the golden sombrero. (Getty)

Leftovers

The first two guys of the lineup — Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury — were held to 1-for-8 tonight (Gardner struck out three times). They went 4-for-10 last night with 2 RBI’s, playing a big part of the Yanks’ exciting win. I feel like they both have been underperforming this year and that kind of translates to how the offense has done in general this year.

Box score, highlights, WPA and standings

Here’s tonight’s box score, video highlights, WPA and updated standings.


Source: FanGraphs


The Yankees are back in Bronx tomorrow for the second half of the Subway Series. Chad Green will face Steven Matz in the battle of young starters.

DotF: Frazier and Heller debut, Judge returns in AAA loss

Here are all the damn notes:

  • J.J. Cooper at Baseball America updated their midseason top 100 prospects list. The rankings did not change. They just updated the list to reflect the trade deadline activity. The Yankees and Brewers lead the way with seven top 100 prospects each.
  • In a separate piece, Cooper ranked the top 50 prospects traded from June 30th to August 1st. The Yankees added the No. 2 (Clint Frazier) and No. 3 (Gleyber Torres) prospects. Three of the top seven, six of the top 25, and ten of the top 50 (!) all came to the Yankees in various trades.
  • Josh Norris spoke to RHP James Kaprielian, who is currently working his way back from a flexor strain. Kaprielian won’t pitch in games in the regular season, but it’s possible he will be ready to go in time for Instructional League and/or the Arizona Fall League.
  • RHP Domingo Acevedo was placed on the High-A Tampa DL with a back injury, reports Erik Boland. Sucks. At least it’s not his arm. Matt Kardos says Acevedo received a cortisone shot and will be shut down a few days. Double-A Trenton manager Bobby Mitchell told Kardos that Acevedo was due to join the Thunder soon.
  • The Yankees are sending minor league pitching coordinator Danny Borrell to Low-A Charleston specifically to work with RHP Dillon Tate, reports Brendan Kuty. Turns out farm system head Gary Denbo coached Tate with Team USA in 2014, so there is some familiarity there.
  • Tate and RHP Erik Swanson, who also came over in the Carlos Beltran trade, are scheduled to make their debuts with Low-A Charleston on Friday, the River Dogs announced. Tate and Swanson made their final starts with the Rangers last Thursday and Friday, respectively.

Also, it’s been a while since I last updated the standings, so let’s do that now. The eight domestic affiliates came into today with a combined 322-251 (.562) record, which is pretty awesome.

Triple-A Scranton (2-1 loss to Lehigh Valley) they’re 67-43 and one game back in the North Division … they have a five-game lead on a postseason spot

  • CF Jake Cave: 0-4, 1 K
  • LF Clint Frazier: 0-4, 3 K — first game since the trade … bust!
  • RF Aaron Judge: 1-3, 1 2B — got picked off second … played six innings as scheduled in his first game back from the knee injury
  • C Gary Sanchez: 0-3, 1 BB, 1 K
  • 1B Tyler Austin: 0-3, 1 K
  • 3B Cito Culver: 1-3 — this isn’t his Triple-A debut … he played eight games here last season
  • LHP Jordan Montgomery: 6.2 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 9/2 GB/FB — 65 of 102 pitches were strikes (64%) … nice Triple-A debut for the team’s 2014 fourth rounder
  • LHP Tyler Webb: 0.2 IP, zeroes, 2 K — nine pitches, six strikes
  • RHP Ben Heller: 0.2 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 1/0 GB/FB — six pitches, five strikes … first game since coming over in the Andrew Miller trade with Frazier

[Read more…]

Game 106: Ace vs. Co-Ace

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees took game one of the Subway Series last night in thrilling come-from-behind fashion. It was one of the most exciting games of the season, I’d say, and not just because I got to give all the Mets fans in my family a hard time today.

Game two tonight features a premium pitching match: Masahiro Tanaka vs. Jacob deGrom. Ace vs. ace. Or, really, ace vs. co-ace. That Noah Syndergaard guy is pretty darn good. It’s always fun when each team’s best starters meet. Hopefully tonight’s game is as exciting as last night’s. Here is the Mets’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  3. 1B Mark Teixeira
  4. C Brian McCann
  5. SS Didi Gregorius
  6. 2B Starlin Castro
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. RF Aaron Hicks
  9. RHP Masahiro Tanaka

The weather has been pretty nice in New York today. A little cloudy but cool and breezy. Almost autumnal. Tonight’s game, the second of two at Citi Field, will begin at 7:10pm ET and you can watch on both YES and WPIX. Enjoy the game.

Rotation Update: Chad Green will start tomorrow in place of the since traded Ivan Nova, Joe Girardi announced. Sounds like Green will inherit Nova’s rotation spot permanent, so this isn’t a one-time spot start.

Sherman: Yankees expected to call up Gary Sanchez on Wednesday

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

According to Joel Sherman, the Yankees are expected to promote top catching prospect Gary Sanchez in time for Wednesday’s home game against the Mets. The plan is to have him in the lineup against lefty Steven Matz, presumably at DH. The team has not yet confirmed anything.

Sanchez, 23, is hitting .285/.340/.473 (134 wRC+) with ten homers in 70 Triple-A games around a thumb injury this season. The Yankees have done this with Sanchez once before this season. He was called up in May to DH against Chris Sale and Jose Quintana, though he had to be sent down a day early because the Yankees needed a fresh bullpen arm. Sanchez went 0-for-4 against Sale.

The larger issue here is Alex Rodriguez, who is supposedly the team’s platoon DH against lefties. If the Yankees are calling up Sanchez to get at-bats at DH against southpaws, where does that leave A-Rod? There’s been talk the Yankees may release Alex, but my guess is they ride out the rest of August with what amounts to a 24-man roster before rosters expand in September. We’ll see.

Anyway, this certainly looks like it may be a short-term call-up for Sanchez. Short-term as in one game. After facing Matz tomorrow, the Yankees are scheduled to see five right-handed starters. Based on the way the pitching schedule shapes up right now, the Yankees will see only two lefty starters in their next eleven games. That’s always subject to change, of course.

Guest Post: Austin Romine’s transition from top prospect to trusty backup

The following is a guest post from Steven Simineri, whose work can be found at Double G Sports, among other places. He’s previously written guest posts on Chris Capuano, Ike Davis, and the bullpen.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Andrew Romine is a 30-year old light-hitting middle infielder for the Detroit Tigers. The switch-hitting Romine is hitting a paltry .230 in 74 at-bats this season and has only hit five homers since making his debut in 2010 for the Angels. However, to his younger brother Austin, Andrew is more than just a middling backup infielder.

“He was my hero for a while, forever, still is,” said the younger Romine, who has resurrected his career this season with the Yankees. “I owe him a lot, especially the last couple of off-seasons, getting my career back on the map. He’s really just been the guy for me to just listen to him and he’s got my work ethic back going hard and he’s one of the big reasons why I’m having success in the game right now.”

The Romine brothers are both trying to stick in the family business – their father, Kevin, played in the majors from 1985-91, a reserve outfielder for the Red Sox who hit .251 in 331 big league games. Just fourteen families have sent a father and two sons to the major leagues, including noteworthy baseball families such as the Stottlemyres, Boones and the Alomars.

The Yankees took Austin in the second round of the 2007 draft, 94th overall and 84 places before his big brother was picked by Anaheim in the fifth round. He was handed a million dollar signing bonus out of high school and back in the winter of 2010, Baseball America ranked Austin as the Yankees’ sixth-best prospect. But he could never find the major league consistency to stick and blew chances in Spring Training to seize the backup catcher role. He has also battled various injuries, notably two bulging disks in his back in 2012 and a concussion suffered in September of 2013.

Romine had just 13 plate appearances in 2014 for New York and was cut two days before Opening Day last year, losing his spot to then-Yankee John Ryan Murphy. He was designated for assignment and slipped through waivers unclaimed. His days in pinstripes looked to be numbered. But he spent the next five months at Triple-A Scranton and made the most of his time there, when he really seemed to have no future in the organization.

“Well when they pull you in the office and they tell you that you’re not hitting and you need to hit, you need to show that you can handle hitting at the big league level, it kinds of puts something on your shoulder, not necessarily in a negative way, in a positive way — I wanted to show them that I can hit, I wanted to show them that I can do it, that I’m still a catcher that people want,” said Romine. “So I mean I went down there with the right mindset, I had gone down there before, years before angry, upset with myself and really taking it in a bad direction. But last year I went down and I wanted to prove that I can hit, not only to the Yankees but to everybody else in baseball so I went down there with a positive mindset and I know what I wanted to do and I put in a lot of work and it came out good.”

Romine was a key part in the RailRiders’ run to the International League North Division championship. He hit .260 with seven home runs, 49 RBIs in 92 games and was named to the midseason All-Star team. Romine received a promotion to the big club when rosters expanded in September but he played in just one game with the Yankees. Out of options, Romine came to Spring Training as a backup catcher candidate along with top prospect Gary Sanchez and veteran Carlos Corporan.

“I mean to tell you the truth, I figured it was going to be my last look,” Romine admits. “I kind of been passed over and put down on the list a little bit but every time you get in the lineup there’s a chance to show something, there’s a chance to prove something and that’s how I took it. I was relaxed and been there, like you said it’s my tenth time going around so I’ve been in this situation before, knew what to expect, just really relaxed and let what I can do take over.”

No one seemed to think Romine would actually win the job after Sanchez’s monster 2015 season and standout performance in the Arizona Fall League, but he said that he had finally slowed the game down and felt more comfortable than he’s ever been. Sanchez struggled, Corporan hit just .167 and Romine hit a respectable .289 in 38 at-bats. He won the job.

“I had an opportunity to win a job again even in a rough spot,” said Romine, who is now in his tenth season in the Yankee organization. “I had Gary, I had Corporan, I had a lot of catchers that might have been in front of me in camp and I just went in with the mindset that there’s always a chance and I had to hit to be noticed and that’s what I’m trying to do, I’m trying to hit.”

Romine is trying to hit and he’s done just that. The 27-year-old is slashing .259/.276/.422 in limited time as Brian McCann’s backup. He has hit three homers and he’s batting .455 (10-22) with three doubles, 2 homers and 12 RBIs with runners in scoring position, the third highest average in the majors. In 169 major-league at-bats before this season, he had a .201/.244/.278 slash line with one home run and 11 RBIs.

Long considered the best defensive catcher in the Yankees’ system, Romine has also seemed to work well with the pitching staff, so much so that he may find himself becoming a personal catcher for Masahiro Tanaka, who is 5-0 with a 1.79 ERA in seven starts with Romine behind the plate.

Last Monday, Romine hit his first career go-ahead RBI in 8th inning or later off of Dallas Keuchel and he has performed better than anyone could have reasonably hoped. Backup catchers have remarkable staying power in the major leagues and Romine is making good on what was his last best chance to make it as a Yankee.

“There’s not very many chances in this game so to be passed over the year before for the job and to be able to get another chance to win it back and come back to New York is huge,” Romine said. “And I told myself I was going to take advantage of every opportunity that I got and that’s all I’m really trying to do.”

Yankees land seven players on MLB.com’s midseason top 100 prospects list

Frazier. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty)
Frazier. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty)

Last week the crew at MLB.com rolled out their midseason top 100 prospects list as well as their updated individual team top 30 lists. I intentionally waited to post this stuff because I had a feeling the Yankees were going to make some noise at the trade deadline, and sure enough, they did. Five trades total, including four that qualify as “sellers” trades.

Astros IF Alex Bregman sits in the top spot of the midseason top 100 — we saw him make his MLB debut in Houston last week — and is followed by Red Sox 2B Yoan Moncada and Phillies SS J.P. Crawford in the top three. The Yankees have seven players on the top 100. Three the seven were acquired within the last week. Here’s the list:

22. OF Clint Frazier (acquired in Andrew Miller trade)
24. SS Gleyber Torres (acquired in Aroldis Chapman trade)
25. 2B/SS Jorge Mateo
30. OF Aaron Judge
37. C Gary Sanchez
62. OF Blake Rutherford
93. LHP Justus Sheffield (acquired in Andrew Miller trade)

So that’s some list, huh? Three top 25 prospects, four top 30 prospects, and five top 40 prospects. Three of those five are in Triple-A too. That’s is pretty damn awesome. You can see MLB.com’s updated top 30 Yankees prospects right here. The scouting reports and everything are all free. I’m not going to regurgitate everything here. Here are some thoughts instead.

1. Andujar climbed quite a bit. Prior to the season MLB.com ranked 3B Miguel Andujar as the 15th best prospect in the system. Now he ranks eighth. That doesn’t sound like a huge jump, but four of the guys ahead of him in the midseason update weren’t in the organization prior to the season. His jump was really more like 15th to fourth when you ignore the new additions. Andujar’s breakout this season has been really impressive and it feels like a long time coming even though he’s still only 21. He’s six months younger than Frazier. These international signees get old quick, if you know what I mean. Prospect fatigue sets in early.

2. Adams climbed too. RHP Chance Adams has been a both a statistical and scouting marvel this season, as he’s made the transition from reliever to starter rather easily. He was 21st on the preseason list and is 14th now, ninth when you ignore all the recent additions. “While Adams has a deep enough repertoire to start, he’s not a big guy and it remains to be seen how his health and stuff would hold up with a significantly bigger workload,” said the write-up, and I think his size is important. Adams is listed at 6-foot-0 and the concern with short-ish pitchers is always the ability to drive the fastball downhill and avoid fly balls and homers. His 43.8% grounder rate and 10.8 HR/FB% aren’t exactly good signs. That said, Adams looks like a really safe bet to be at least a big league reliever long-term. What a scouting and player development story he is so far.

3. Green makes the leap. RHP Chad Green was not included in MLB.com’s preseason list. He now ranks 22nd, or 16th when you ignore the new guys. That’s a pretty significant jump. “Green’s fastball already was his best pitch when he worked at 90-94 mph with some occasional life. Now he’s sitting at 93-95 mph and touching 97,” says the scouting report. What is it with the Yankees getting their pitching prospects to add velocity? Green and a bunch of others have done it, including Adams and RHP James Kaprielian. There have been others as well. I’ve been impressed with Green’s arm despite his meh big league results to date. He was the second piece in the Justin Wilson trade, and, at least according to MLB.com, he’s jumped over RHP Luis Cessa to become the top piece.

4. Enns makes it. Finally some love for LHP Dietrich Enns, who has had tremendous results since returning from Tommy John surgery last year: 1.37 ERA (2.88 FIP) in 170.1 total innings. The scouting report isn’t as exciting as the numbers — “Enns’ lone plus pitch is his changeup, a low-80s offering that dives at the plate,” said the write-up, which also says he has an 87-92 mph fastball, a low-80s slider, and a slow curve — but he’s making people take notice, and that’s pretty cool. This guy was a 19th round pick and an organizational arm before having his elbow rebuild. Now he’s a prospect, albeit a fringe one who might not be more than a swingman at the MLB level. That’s still a really great outcome given his draft slot.

5. No Solak? I was surprised to see 2B Nick Solak absent from the top 30. I had him 13th on my post-draft top 30 before all the trades, so either I’m really high on him or MLB.com is really low. Probably the former. Solak has bat control and plate discipline, plus he can handle a middle infield position, and that seems really valuable to me. He’s the most notable omission in my book. Even with the new additions, I consider Solak organizational top 30 material rather easily.

6. No Austin either? 1B/OF Tyler Austin didn’t make the top 30 either — he also didn’t make my post-draft list, for what it’s worth — and that surprised me. I guess not everyone is sold on his big bounceback year yet. Brian Cashman did mention Austin by name as a possible call-up candidate yesterday and we’re going to find out pretty soon how the Yankees value him. Austin is going to be a minor league free agent after the season, so either the team will add him to the 40-man roster and keep him, or likely lose him to another club that offers a greater opportunity.