The Summer of A-Rod: Looking At Upcoming Milestones [2015 Season Preview]

As Yankees fans, we’ve been fortunate to see a lot of historic moments over the years. Derek Jeter seemed to pass someone on some all-time list every other game last season. Mariano Rivera rewrote the record book for closers and others like Roger Clemens and Ichiro Suzuki had historic moments while passing through the Bronx.

The 2015 season is shaping up to be a good but not great milestone season for the Yankees. Some players will hit a few nice round numbers but we’re not going to see anything like we did with Jeter and Mariano the last few seasons. Well, that’s not true. The Yankees do have one all-time great close to reaching not one, but three historic milestones. The problem is everyone hates the guy.

As we get closer to wrapping up our season preview series, let’s look at some notable upcoming milestones. We’re only going to focus on the major, somewhat historical milestones though. No one really cares Andrew Miller is ten strikeouts away from 500 for his career, right? Right. Let’s get to it.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Summer of A-Rod

3,000th hit: 61 away
2,000th RBI: 31 away
660th home run: six away

Now that his suspension is over, Alex Rodriguez is able to continue his pursuit of some seriously historic milestones. With good health, he can become the 29th player in history with 3,000 hits and only the fourth ever with 2,000 RBI this season. He can also tie Willie Mays for fourth place on the all-time homer list, triggering the first of his five $6M bonuses. Needless to say, the health part is far from guaranteed. Alex wasn’t particularly durable in the years immediately prior to the suspension, remember.

Here’s the coolest part: A-Rod could reach all three milestones on the same swing. It’s extremely unlikely to happen, but the math suggests it’s possible. One swing … bam. He gets his 3,000th hit, 2,000th RBI, and 660th homer all at once. It would be amazing. Jeter and Wade Boggs are the only players to go deep for their 3,000th hit, which is kinda funny since neither was a home run hitter, and it’s been almost a half-century since a player reached the 2,000th RBI plateau. Hank Aaron was the last to do it in 1972. (Babe Ruth and Cap Anson are the other members of the 2,000 RBI club.)

Should A-Rod reach the three milestones at some point this year, all on one swing or otherwise, I don’t think they’ll come with the usual celebration from fans and the Yankees. Announcers will mention it and writers will write about it, but I don’t think we’ll sit through some kind of massive chase like when Jeter was going after his 3,000th hit. That got non-stop, wall-to-wall coverage. That’s fine. Alex made his own bed and he has to sleep in it. I’m still rooting like hell for him though.

CC Sabathia

3,000th inning: 178.2 away
2,500th strikeout: 63 away

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Once upon a time, we would laugh at the idea of Sabathia throwing “only” 178.2 innings in a season. This is a guy who averaged 215 innings a year from 2001-11, which is bonkers. But, between last year’s knee surgery and his natural age-related decline, getting to 178.2 innings is hardly a guarantee for Sabathia. Should he get there, he’d be the 135th pitcher in history to reach 3,000 innings and only the 32nd lefty to do so.

Getting to 2,500 strikeouts is a much bigger deal, historically. Sixty-three more punch outs would move Sabathia into 31st place all-time and make him only the ninth lefty in history with 2,500 strikeouts. That’s not a “stop the game so his teammates can run on the field to congratulate him” type of milestone, but it’s still pretty cool. That kind of longevity and effectiveness is quite an accomplishment.

Carlos Beltran & Mark Teixeira

400th home run: Beltran is 27 away, Teixeira is 37 away

Both of these seem pretty unlikely, though I suppose they aren’t completely impossible. Four hundred dingers is a nice round number and one heck of an accomplishment, but remember, these two are switch-hitters. Only three switch-hitters in history have hit 400+ dingers: Mickey Mantle (536), Eddie Murray (504), and Chipper Jones (468). Beltran is fourth all-time in homers by a switch-hitter and Teixeira is sixth. (Lance Berkman is fifth with 366.) If they don’t get to 400 this year, hopefully both do it before their contracts expire following next season.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Joe Girardi

1,272nd game managed with Yankees: 138 away
1,340th game managed overall: 44 away

When the Yankees play the Orioles at home on September 9th, Girardi will manage his 1,272nd game with the Yankees, jumping over Ralph Houk and into fifth place on the team’s all-time games managed list. Fifth place! It feels like Girardi was just hired yesterday, doesn’t it? My goodness. He has a long way to go before moving into fourth place — Miller Huggins managed 1,796 games in pinstripes — so after Girardi passes Houk, he’ll sit in fifth place for a few years.

If you’re wondering about wins, Girardi has managed 648 of those with the Yankees, the fifth most in franchise history. Huggins is fourth with 1,067 wins. So yeah, it’ll be a while before Girardi moves up a spot on that list. The Yankees have missed the postseason the last two years and could very well miss the playoffs again this year, though I don’t think Girardi is in danger of being fired. Hal Steinbrenner seems to like him very much and that’s the guy you want in your corner. Besides, I don’t see any reason why Girardi should be on the hot seat. If anything he’s helped prop the team up higher than their true talent level the last two years.

Anyway, Girardi will manage his 1,340th career game overall on May 24th, at home against the Rangers, which will move him into the top 100 on the all-time games managed list. Baseball-Reference says 686 men have managed at least one game in the show — I would have guessed more, though that doesn’t include bench coaches who took over in a particular game after the manager was ejected — and Girardi is close to joining the top 100 in games managed just a few months after his 50th birthday. That’s impressive. Joe’s still got a lot of managing left ahead of him.

Spring Training Game Thread: Tanaka’s Last Tune-Up

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Six days from now, Masahiro Tanaka will open the 2015 season for the Yankees at home against the Blue Jays after being named the Opening Day starter last week. This afternoon will be his final tune-up of the spring, and really it’s more about Tanaka getting his pitch count up than anything. His stuff and command have looked fine. Tanaka just needs to stretch it out up over 80 pitches this afternoon.

Today’s reason to watch: Tanaka! I’m not sure why anyone would need any more reason than that, but, if you do, prospects Rob Refsnyder, Greg Bird, and Eric Jagielo will play today as well.

The Yankees are in Fort Myers this afternoon to play the Twins, and not many regulars made the two-hour bus trip south even after yesterday’s off-day. The last thing they need is someone developing back spasms after spending four hours on a bus a week before the season. Here is the Twins’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. 3B Brendan Ryan
  3. CF Chris Young
  4. 1B Garrett Jones
  5. C Austin Romine
  6. 2B Rob Refsnyder
  7. RF Ramon Flores
  8. SS Nick Noonan
  9. DH Eric Jagielo

Available Position Players: C Eddy Rodriguez, 1B Greg Bird, LF Taylor Dugas, and CF Mason Williams will be the second string off the bench. Jagielo is also slated to move from DH to third base. 1B/C Francisco Arcia, IF Dan Fiorito, OF Mark Payton, and UTIL Collin Slaybaugh are the extra players.

Available Pitchers: RHP Chris Martin, RHP Danny Burawa, RHP Branden Pinder, RHP Cesar Vargas, and RHP Nick Goody are all scheduled to pitch. RHP Kyle Haynes, RHP Chris Smith, and RHP Alex Smith are the extra arms.

The weather this spring has been pretty great and it continues today. It’s nice and sunny with temperatures in the low-80s in Fort Myers this afternoon. Today’s game will begin just after 1:05pm ET and you can watch live on both MLB Network and MLB.tv. Neither will be blacked out in the Yankees’ home market. Also, if you happen to live in the Twins’ market, you can watch on FOX Sports North. Enjoy the game.

With four candidates left in camp, Shreve and Whitley are good bets for last two bullpen spots

Chase and Chasen. (Presswire)
Chase and Chasen. (Presswire)

The Yankees open the 2015 regular season in just six days now. And, at this very moment, it’s still not clear who will fill the last two bullpen spots. We know Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances will work the late innings — assuming Betances straightens himself out — and Justin Wilson and David Carpenter will get the middle innings. Esmil Rogers will be in the bullpen in some capacity too, like it or not.

Those last two spots are still unaccounted for. In fact, the Yankees haven’t even dropped any hints about which way they may be leaning. Another long man? Two more short relievers with Rogers being the long man? A third lefty? Nothing. The only hints we’ve gotten have come via roster cuts — players optioned or reassigned to minor league camp are out of the running for the Opening Day roster. I mean, yeah, one of those players could always make the roster, but that’s a rarity. Guys are sent out because they’re no longer considered MLB options.

By my count, the Yankees have 36 players remaining in big league camp, 17 of whom are pitchers. Three of those 17 are injured — Vicente Campos (Tommy John surgery), Chris Capuano (quad), Ivan Nova (Tommy John surgery) — so it’s really 14 healthy pitchers. Ten of those 14 are locks for the Opening Day roster (the five relievers I mentioned earlier and the five starters), meaning the last two bullpen spots are down to a four-man race. And when you look at them individually, it’s easy to see who the two favorites are.

RHP Andrew Bailey

Bailey, 30, has throw four one-inning appearances this spring as he works his way back from a torn shoulder capsule, and he’s had at least two days off between each of those appearances. He hasn’t even worked with one day of rest between appearances, nevermind back-to-back days, which most relievers both in Yankees camp and around the league have already done at this point of spring. After spending nearly 20 months rehabbing from major shoulder surgery, four innings plus whatever Bailey throws this week doesn’t figure to be enough to land him on the Opening Day roster. Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi have continually downplayed Bailey’s chances of making the team and it makes total sense. He’s simply not ready yet.

RHP Chris Martin

Martin’s spring has been better than his 5.63 ERA would lead you to believe. He’s made nine appearances and five of the six runs he’s allowed have come in two of them, plus he has 13 strikeouts and one walk in eight innings. More importantly, the 28-year-old Martin’s stuff has looked good — hittable, but good — which might be enough to convince the Yankees they could hide him as the seventh reliever for a few weeks until Capuano returns or a Triple-A reliever forces the issue.

LHP Chasen Shreve

Not counting the guys who were competing for a rotation spot, the 24-year-old Shreve leads all relievers in camp with 10.1 innings pitched. The Yankees have given him plenty of exposure against righties — 29 of 43 batters faced have been righties — and he’s held his own, with seven strikeouts and one walk in 7.2 innings against hitters of the opposite hand. The overall Grapefruit League numbers are not good (5.23 ERA), but I don’t think the club will ding Shreve too hard given how much they’ve pushed him against righties. The Yankees are not a team that tends to dwell on spring performance. The way they’ve used him makes it seem like they want him to make the roster, or at least considered him a serious Opening Day roster candidate at one point. They might like Shreve’s split-changeup hybrid enough to carry him on the roster to open the regular season.

RHP Chase Whitley

Whitley was a fifth starter candidate but not really. He did get stretched out but only made one start, and he never did throw more than three innings in an appearance. Whitley has helped himself with a strong spring (0.79 ERA), which is better than getting hit around, especially since the Yankees know him from his time with the team last year. It’s hard to say no to a guy who was with you last year and has pitched well in camp, know what I mean? For example, in one hand the Yankees have Martin, who is new to the organization and requires you to squint your eyes to see the positive in his spring performance. In the other is Whitley, who’s three years younger than Martin, has been in the organization for years, and has pitched well in recent weeks. Seems like an obvious call to me.

* * *

The process of elimination leads me to believe Whitley and Shreve are likely to get those last two bullpen spots. Bailey simply isn’t physically ready for the big leagues yet. He hasn’t shown he can handle the workload. Whitley has pitched well and is an incumbent, and Shreve has been used in a way that suggests he is ahead of Martin on the depth chart. The signs point to Shreve and Whitley.

Of course, the bullpen is a very fluid part of the roster, and the Yankees have built enough depth that making the team on Opening Day isn’t a guarantee Shreve and Whitley won’t be in Triple-A come, say, April 20th, two weeks after Opening Day. Winning a roster spot is one thing. Keeping it is another. The Yankees have the ability to swap out relievers as needed and I expect that happen. Being on the Opening Day roster just means Shreve and Whitley (or whoever) will get the first shot at sticking all year.

TiqIQ: Best 2015 Yankees ticket deals are not necessarily on the secondary market

Yankees tickets1After saying goodbye to legendary closer Mariano Rivera in 2013 and “The Captain” Derek Jeter last year, the 2015 Yankees are hoping to contend with a combination of next generation anchors like Dellin Betances, Masahiro Tanaka, and Didi Gregorius as well as a cast of veterans like Carlos Beltran and Mark Teixeira. Based on prices in the secondary market, fans are looking forward to the next chapter in Yankees history. The current average price for tickets across the 2015 season is $130 on the secondary market, 21% higher than last year’s average.

Like years past, the most expensive games are against familiar teams such as the Boston Red Sox and New York Mets. Over the past 15 years, the secondary market has been the go-to source for fans looking to get the best deal. While that’s still the case for some events, fans looking to get the best deal on tickets will be better off going directly to Yankees.com.

In April and May, for 18 of the 22 home games, Yankees.com has the lowest prices in at least one seating level compared to the secondary market. For that same period, there’s a cheaper 300-level option from the team for 68% of the games. That’s the case for 100 level seats for 45% of the games. For the first Yankees-Red Sox game on April 11th, you can find a 100-level tickets on Yankees.com for $110, which is well below the $144 that they will cost on the secondary market. There are even a limited amount 100-level Opening Day seats against Toronto that are available for $77 less than by going directly to the team’s websites. In the 300-level you can find primary tickets for $80 compared to $179 on the secondary market.

Here are three other notable games where going directly to the box office will be your best bet:

April 24 vs. Mets

100-level tickets available at $225 on Yankees.com compared to $339 on the secondary market. 400-level seats for $22 directly from the team compared to $48 on the secondary market.

April 25 vs. Mets

100-level tickets available for $80 on Yankees.com compared to $121 on the secondary market.

200-level tickets from the team for $155 compared to $220 on the secondary market.

April 29 vs. Tampa Bay

100-level tickets available for $225 compared to $277 on the secondary market.

In addition to pricing more efficiently this year, there are also a host of promotional nights like MasterCard $5 nights, of which there are four over the first month of the season. You can see those all here and see the grid below which we put together to help Yankees fans make sure they’re getting the best deals to get out to Yankees Stadium.

(click for larger)
(click for larger)

Monday Night Open Thread

Opening Day is just one week away, folks. The Yankees open the 2015 season regular next Monday afternoon at home against the Blue Jays, which is so close and yet so far at the same time. Anyway, the Yankees had an off-day today, their last one of the Grapefruit League season, so there are no camp notes to pass along. Nothing happened at the complex. Instead, check out this Dan Barbarisi article on Jacob Lindgren‘s rap skills and banana suit. And his pitching, too.

This is your open thread for the night. MLB Network is showing the Twins and Red Sox live tonight, if you’re interested, but none of the local hockey or basketball teams are playing. Weird. Talk about whatever here.

Domingo German needs Tommy John surgery, apparently

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

According to a post on his Instagram account (journalism!), right-handed pitching prospect Domingo German needs Tommy John surgery. He was in New York recently to get checked out. It’s unclear if he’s already had the procedure or will have it soon. The Yankees have not confirmed anything.

German, 22, was acquired from the Marlins in the Martin Prado/Nathan Eovaldi trade in December. I ranked him as the club’s 11th best prospect last month. German is on the 40-man roster and was in big league camp, though he only pitched in one Grapefruit League game (March 17th). It’s not unusual for a young prospect yet to pitch above Low-A to see limited action in big league camp though.

While with the Marlins last year, German threw 123.1 innings after throwing only 67 innings in 2014. The huge innings jump could be to blame for his elbow woes, though it’s impossible to know how many innings German threw in Instructional League in the first half of 2013 before joining Miami’s rookie ball affiliate when the season started in late-June.

German had a 2.48 ERA (3.26 FIP) with good strikeout (22.4%) and walk (5.0%) rates in those 123.1 innings last year, all in Low Class-A. He was the Marlins’ lone representative in the 2014 Futures Game. German was slated to open the 2015 season in the High-A Tampa rotation.

Minor league option rules are complicated, so I don’t know if German will qualify for the fourth option when the time comes. He was just added to the 40-man roster this offseason, so that’s a long ways away. See you in 2016, Domingo.

A trip through the MLBTR archives: March 2008

Harden. (Jeff Chiu/AP)
Harden. (Jeff Chiu/AP)

Okay, I’m really bad at this. I promised to post these monthly looks back through the MLB Trade Rumors archives early in each month, preferably during the first week, yet I completely forgot about March. Never did it. Time to correct that now. Better late than never, right?

As a reminder, I’m not here to make fun of Tim and everyone else at MLBTR. They’re all great. I’m just having a little fun by looking back at rumors that didn’t come to fruition (as well as those that did!) with the benefit of hindsight. We’re going seven years back in time, so now it’s time to dive into the March 2008 archives. March isn’t a great month for trade and free agent rumors, so most of the Yankees-related nuggets were speculation. Away we go…

March 2nd:

Tyler Kepner of The New York Times explores the relative surprise that Robinson Canó has been considering his draft position and reputation as a prospect, and details how frequently the Yankees almost dealt him before he made the big club.  Canó was nearly dealt for Alex Rodriguez, Carlos Beltrán, and Randy Johnson in different instances. 

It seems like there’s a “he was almost traded as a prospect” story for every great player. Mariano Rivera was almost traded for Felix Fermin. Rivera and Jorge Posada were almost traded for David Wells. Andy Pettitte? He was in more trade rumors than I could possibly remember in the 1990s. Prospects get mentioned in trade rumors. That’s part of baseball. Every so often one of those prospects develops into a great big leaguer, like Rivera or Posada or Cano.

Robbie was not a highly touted prospect — he never once made a Baseball America top 100 list — because he wasn’t a great athlete, didn’t have much power, and earned a reputation for being lazy. Not a silly “he jogs to first on ground balls” kind of lazy reputation either. Cano had conditioning issues and didn’t put in any extra work while in the minors. He did a complete 180 in 2005 or so, becoming a fitness machine and a workaholic, reportedly because A-Rod got on his case a bit.

Anyway, trading Cano seems ridiculous given what he turned into, but back from 2002-04, I don’t think any of us would have thought twice about it. He was a good prospect with flaws, not a great prospect, and someone who eventually hit on the best case scenario because he matured as a person. That doesn’t mean teams should hang on to every prospect just in case, of course. It just makes me wonder about someone like, say, Mason Williams, who clearly doesn’t lack the physical gifts to be an impact player, just the maturity.

March 6th:

He says Paul Konerko “remains quietly available,” and expresses the opinion that the Mets or Yankees could both use him.  Rosenthal believes Chicago’s biggest need is starting pitching.

Just to make it clear, this was not an actual rumor, it was Ken Rosenthal speculating. Konerko, who had just turned 31, hit .259/.351/.490 (116 OPS+) with 31 home runs in 2007, which is good but down from the .291/.372/.540 (132 OPS+) with 39 homers he averaged from 2004-06. He then hit .240/.344/.438 (103 OPS+) with 22 homers in 2008, the third year of his five-year, $60M contract.

Had the Yankees traded for Konerko prior to the 2008 season and he did something like that, we all would have hated him. The “he can’t handle New York” stories would have been everywhere. Konerko presumably would have split time at first base and DH with Jason Giambi in 2008 before taking over as the regular first baseman in 2009, which potentially means no Mark Teixeira. That sure would have changed a lot, eh?

Of course, Konerko shook off that down 2008 season to hit .277/.353/.489 (114 OPS+) with 28 homers in 2009 and then a monster .312/.393/.584 (160 OPS+) with 39 dingers in 2010, the final year of his contract. Assuming all of that had happened in New York — a big assumption, I know — I wonder what kind of contract offer the Yankees would have made him after 2010. Konerko eventually sign a three-year, $37.5M deal to return to the White Sox in real life, though for some reason I think he would have ended up with more from the Yankees.

March 8th:

The Yankees are eyeing southpaw relievers Damaso Marte and Brian Fuentes, who’ve seemingly been on their radar for months.  Fuentes makes $5.05MM this year, Marte makes $2MM this year with a $6MM club option for ’09.

Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post has an update to Cafardo’s Yankees/Fuentes item.  Renck says that while the Yanks have scouted Fuentes, Rockies’ GM Dan O’Dowd says there’s “zero chance” of a trade at this time.  I imagine he wants to see a healthy Luis Vizcaino before considering it.

The Yankees went about ten years without a reliable lefty reliever after Mike Stanton was allowed to leave as a free agent, and I feel like Marte and Fuentes were the two names they were most connected to during that time. They eventually did get Marte — World Series hero Damaso Marte to you! — in 2008, though Fuentes remained nothing more than rumor fodder.

The nugget about Vizcaino was interesting. He had an okay year in New York in 2007 (4.30 ERA and 4.42 FIP) and turned that into a two-year, $7.5M contract with Colorado after the season. Best of all? The Yankees got a draft pick out of it! Vizcaino was a Type-B free agent under the old system and he rejected arbitration, giving the Yankees the 44th overall pick in the 2008 draft. (The Rockies didn’t have to give up a pick since he was a Type-B, not a Type-A). That pick didn’t work out (Jeremy Bleich), but still, it was neat. Those were the good ol’ days, when a decent middle reliever got you a supplemental first round pick.

March 16th:

Hounded by the Yankees-centric media, however, the soon-to-be free agent surely launched a jolt of pain through Yankees Nation when he was asked if he likes New York.

His response?  “It’s all right,” he said.

Sabathia continued to maintain with reporters that “in a perfect world,” he would want to stay with Cleveland.  After all, “I’ve been here since I was 17.”

This was the first time CC Sabathia and the Yankees were mentioned in the same rumor. Johan Santana had been traded to the Mets just a few weeks earlier and everyone shifted focus to Sabathia, an impending free agent. The Yankees later admitted that was their plan too — they passed on Johan so they could sign Sabathia after the season, an incredible gamble that paid off handsomely. I know CC ain’t all that good now, but man, he was a beast from 2009-12.

Also, the one thing I remember most about the Yankees’ pursuit of Sabathia as a free agent was how everyone tried to come up with reasons why he wouldn’t want to come to New York. He’s from the West Coast, he liked hitting in the NL, that sort of stuff. In this MLBTR blurb, Sabathia gave the answer he was supposed to give — what’s he supposed to say, “I can’t wait to leave the Indians” when he’s still with the Indians? — but it was spun into “Sabathia doesn’t want to be a Yankee” stories. Ah, the internet.

March 19th:

According to a source of Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, “the Yankees have apparently expressed interest in Rich Harden.”  Slusser believes the A’s would demand full price for Harden, perhaps asking for Ian Kennedy and young pitchers.

Man, Rich Harden was a boss back in the day. He had “best stuff in MLB” type of stuff. Mid-90s fastball, Tanaka-esque splitter, filthy slider … he was absurd. I’m trying to think of a modern day equivalent and I’m coming up empty. Andrew Cashner maybe?

Anyway, Harden was only 26 in March 2008 and his injury problems were just starting to set in. He made only nine starts in 2006 due to an elbow sprain and seven appearances (four starts) in 2007 due to a shoulder sprain. That said, he went into the 2008 season with a career 3.60 ERA (3.55 FIP) in 464.2 innings — that worked out to a 124 ERA+ back then (I miss offense) — and had insane stuff, so everyone was projecting ace-caliber production should he stay healthy.

The Yankees never did trade for Harden and he sure pitched like an ace in 2008 — 2.07 ERA (2.95 FIP) with 181 strikeouts in 148 innings. That’s a 210 ERA+ (!) and 30.4 K%. Ridiculous. The Athletics traded him to the Cubs in July 2008 for four players, most notably a middling catcher prospect named Josh Donaldson, and Harden threw only 315.2 more big league innings in his career after 2008. He had all sorts of shoulder trouble and eventually tore his capsule. Shame.

I remember being all in Harden during the 2006-08-ish period. I loved his stuff. Loved loved loved it. I’m much more apprehensive nowadays when it comes to pitches with injury concerns, especially arm injuries, even if they haven’t had surgery. That doesn’t mean I would avoid them at all costs, but the rumor says the A’s wanted “full price” for Harden, and while I was definitely open to that back then, it would be an easy no for me these days.