The 2013 season is over and now it’s time to review all aspects of the year that was, continuing today with the best position player acquired by any team at the trade deadline.
Coming into the season, I think we all knew the Yankees were not going to hit for the same kind of power they have in the past. This was even before Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira got hurt in Spring Training. You don’t replace Nick Swisher, Russell Martin, and Alex Rodriguez with Ichiro Suzuki, Chris Stewart, and Kevin Youkilis and not expect to hit fewer homeruns. Not realistically, anyway.
Once Granderson and Teixeira (and Youkilis) got hurt, the lack of power was alarming. At one point Yankees went nine straight games without a homer, their longest such streak since going ten straight in 1984. They went four straight home games without a dinger for the first time in new Yankee Stadium history and just the third time this century. The Yankees hit 18 homers in June and just ten (!) in July, the first time they hit 18 or fewer homers during a calender month since April 1989 (min. 20 games). They managed to do it in back-to-back months. Their 78th game of the season was their 31st homer-less game, matching 2012′s total. It was bad.
Aside from the lack of power in general, the biggest problem specifically was the complete lack of thump from the right side of the plate. From June 25th through July 28th, a span of 477 plate appearances, the Yankees did not get a single homer from a right-handed batter. Not one. Literally zero in 28 team games and more than a calendar month. That’s just unfathomable. Triple check the numbers kind of unbelievable. And yet, it’s true. The Yankees didn’t have the ability to close the gap or extend the lead quickly with one swing of the bat and it cost them games all summer long.
On July 26th, after about a week’s worth of rumors, team ownership pulled the trigger on a trade with the Cubs that brought Alfonso Soriano back to New York in exchange for minor leaguer right-hander Corey Black. Brian Cashman said he preferred to wait rather than trade a good but not great pitching prospect for a good but not great corner outfielder, but ownership wanted Soriano and what ownership wants, ownership gets. The Cubs ate $17.7M of the $24.5M or so left on Soriano’s contract to facilitate the deal.
Just like that, the Yankees had a legitimate right-handed power source. Soriano whacked ten homers in his final 21 games with the Cubs and that carried right over into pinstripes. He went deep in his third game back with the team and 12 times in his first 32 games with New York. During a four-game rampage from August 13th through the 16th, Soriano went 13-for-18 (.722) with five homers and 18 runs driven in. That tied the all-time record for runs driven in during a four-game span in baseball history. Here’s where Soriano ranked in MLB following the trade (min. 200 plate appearances for the rate stats):
For the cost of a good minor league arm and $6.8M in salary obligation, the Yankees acquired a top 40 position player for the remainder of the regular season. Maybe top 30 or so depending on your opinion of fWAR and all that stuff. Despite not arriving until the trade deadline, Soriano finished second on the Yankees in homers (first among righties), third in runs driven in, and sixth in total bases (115). As an added bonus, New York finally had a player who could flip a bat, pimp a homer, and a put on a nice show:
Soriano was exactly what the Yankees needed: a legitimate middle of the order hitter who could hit the ball out of the park from the right side of the plate. His defense in left field was surprisingly solid as well, especially when ranging to his right towards the foul line. I thought he struggled a little bit on balls hit to his left and into the gap, but overall he was good defender. Certainly not below-average, which is what I had expected given his reputation with the Cubbies.
Unfortunately, Soriano’s heroics weren’t enough to get the Yankees into the postseason. He was the only player they acquired at the trade deadline, which meant many other holes (catcher, shortstop, rotation) were left unaddressed, and that led to the club falling short of a wild-card spot. Soriano did his part though. He was more than just the team’s best non-Robinson Cano hitter after the trade — he was one of the very best hitters in baseball and the team’s best trade deadline pickup since David Justice back in 2000.
The Yankees are reportedly “going to be serious players” for Japanese-born right-hander Masahiro Tanaka this offseason, but he might not be the only Asian pitcher on their radar. Jee-Ho Yoo reports New York has interest in South Korean righty Suk-Min Yoon, who will be a true free agent this winter. Scott Boras told George King he plans to discuss the right-hander/his client with Brian Cashman this coming week.
Yoon, 27, is currently going through the status check process required to be eligible to sign with a Major League club. His team, the Kia Tigers of the Korea Baseball Organization, declined his requests to be made available to big league teams via the posting process after both the 2011 and 2012 seasons. The Twins are among the other clubs that are said to have interest in the righty.
In 87.2 innings spread across 30 appearances this year, Yoon had a 4.00 ERA with 76 strikeouts (7.8 K/9 and 20.4 K%) and 28 walks (2.87 BB/9 and 7.5 BB%). He has had on and off shoulder problems over the years, including an issue that limited him to relief work this season. Yoon was named the league MVP in 2011 (2.45 ERA in 172.1 innings) and he has a ton of international experience, both in the Olympics and World Baseball Classic.
“He’s a 91-92 guy. He’s a good pitcher … not an overpowering arm,” said Boras to King. Baseball America and Jeff Passan says he backs up the low-90s fastball with a hard slider and “what one scout deemed an above-average changeup.” Yoon is listed at 6-foot-0 and 187 lbs., and he’s been the second best pitcher in South Korea behind current Dodgers lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu the last half-decade or so. There’s plenty of video on YouTube.
Everything I know about Yoon is in this post, so I don’t know if he’s worth a Wei-Yin Chen contract (three years, $11.1M) or a Ryu contract (six years, $36M). The history of shoulder problems scares me and given how much higher the level of competition is in MLB compared to KBO, I wonder if he’s a long-term reliever over here. There’s nothing wrong with that, relievers are people too, but you know Boras is going to be pushing him as a starter and asking for big bucks.
2013 Season: 85-77 (637 RS, 671 RA, 77-85 pythag. record), didn’t qualify for playoffs
Top stories from last week:
- The Yankees are “devising a plan” that would allow them to drop $300M or so on players this winter while staying under the $189M luxury tax threshold next season. There is expected to be mutual interest between New York and Carlos Beltran. In the meantime, the Yankees re-signed David Herndon to a minor league deal.
- Pitching coach Larry Rothschild has agreed to a new contract and an official announcement is expected shortly.. There has not been an update on the rest of the coaching staff, however. Their contracts expire on October 31st.
- J.R. Murphy cracked Baseball America’s list of the top prospects in the Double-A Eastern League. The Yankees may be “on the verge” of making changes to their scouting and player development departments. Baseball America ranked the team’s 2013 draft haul the third best in baseball.
- The appeal of Alex Rodriguez‘s record 211-game suspension will resume in November. Meanwhile, legal proceedings for his lawsuit against MLB will begin on November 7th.
- Cuban slugger Jose Abreu signed a six-year, $68M contract with the White Sox.
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?
I was talking to a friend about all the awesome pitching we’ve seen in the playoffs this year, and eventually that led to a conversation about the best pitched postseason games in history and blah blah blah. By Game Score (98), Roger Clemens’ 15-strikeout, one-hit shutout of the Mariners in the Game Four of the 2000 ALCS is the best start in postseason history. Better than Don Larsen’s perfect game, better than Roy Halladay’s no-hitter, better than Bob Gibson’s 17-strikeout game. That blows my mind. I remember watching that game and thinking holy crap, but I didn’t realize just how historic that was. The video’s above.
Here is your open thread for the evening. There is no baseball until the World Series starts on Wednesday, which kinda sucks. I guess consider this preparation for the offseason. The late NFL game is the Broncos and the Colts, and that’s it for the night in sports. Talk about that game or anything else right here. Enjoy.
Sorry for the lack of minor league updates, it’s been a busy last few weeks. First, let’s get caught up some notes:
- According to Tyler Emerick, 3B/C Peter O’Brien won the inaugural Bowman Hitting Challenge out in Arizona two weeks ago. As you can see in the video above, it’s basically a glorified homerun derby where the players get points for hitting certain targets. Pretty cool. I wonder how long before MLB adopts something like that to spruce up the Homerun Derby.
- Meanwhile, Josh Norris posted some video of O’Brien taking batting practice and hitting a homerun out in the Arizona Fall League yesterday. The kid’s got power. That’s never been the question.
- MLB reached an agreement with the union and the various winter leagues on guidelines for 40-man roster players wanting to play winter ball, according to Jeff Passan. Teams are concerned about workloads and that stuff, the union wants the players to have the freedom to play, and the winter leagues want the star power of MLB guys. Click the link for all the restrictions and what not.
Now, on to the fall and winter ball action. The seasons are still young, so not much has happened yet:
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)
- 3B/C Peter O’Brien: 6 G, 4-24, 3 R, 3 HR, 5 RBI, 2 BB, 11 K (.167/.231/.542) – high contact-to-damage ratio /Showalter’d
- OF Mason Williams: 7 G, 7-31, 3 R, 3 2B, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 5 K, 1 SB, 1 CS (.226/.250/.323)
- RHP Brett Gerritse: 3 G, 4.1 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, 1 WP (8.31 ERA, 1.62 WHIP) — just about all of that damage came in his first appearance
- LHP Fred Lewis: 4 G, 4.1 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 7 K, 1 WP (0.00 ERA, 2.08 WHIP) — holy strand rate
- LHP Vidal Nuno: 2 G, 2 GS, 6.2 IP, 12 H, 8 R, 6 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 1 HR (8.10 ERA, 1.80 WHIP) — obviously we have a long way to go before we get there, but you have to think a big league roster spot will be his for the taking in Spring Training, either in the rotation or the bullpen
Via Nick Cafardo: The Yankees appear to be “on the verge” of making changes to their scouting and player development departments. The team has been reviewing their farm system operations these last few weeks, starting with a staff meeting held by Hal Steinbrenner in August. “It’s something we’re going to be looking at. I have no problem dealing with reality,” said Brian Cashman when asked about the team’s lack of near MLB ready prospects last month.
There’s no word on what changes may be coming, but VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman and amateur scouting director Damon Oppenheimer are reportedly the most likely to get the axe. I would think Pat Roessler, the team’s director of player development since 2005, is on the chopping block as well. The barrage of unproductive high draft picks and stalled out top prospects has left the team in a dire situation at a time when payroll is coming down and free agent spending is going up around the league. The Yankees can’t sit around and act like this is acceptable any longer. · (126) ·
Earlier this week, Baseball America ranked the Yankees’ 2013 draft haul the third best in baseball behind only the Pirates and Diamondbacks. They followed up with an individual draft report card on Friday (subs. req’d), which breaks down the team’s draft into a variety of categories. 3B Eric Jagielo (first round) was ranked the “Best Pure Hitter” while LHP Ian Clarkin (1s) was said to have the “Best Secondary Pitch,” for example. I thought there were two interesting pieces of information in the report card. One, OF Aaron Judge (1s) is apparently going to play winter ball in the Dominican Republic. He isn’t listed on any rosters at the moment, however. A quad injury preventing him from appearing in a game after signing. Two, LHP Caleb Smith (14) has “a potentially plus changeup and fastball up to 94,” making him a really interesting bullpen candidate down the road. He had a great pro debut (1.93 ERA and 2.03 FIP in 51.1 innings) and ended the year with a spot start for Double-A Trenton. I wonder how fast of a track Smith will be on. · (12) ·
Happy Saturday, everyone. If you live in New York or the surrounding area, hopefully you’ve managed to avoid the massive Time Warner outage. That’s still going on right? Anyway, the Red Sox will look to advance to their third World Series in ten years with a win over the Tigers in ALCS Game Six, which will air a little after 8pm ET and can be seen on FOX (Clay Buchholz vs. Max Scherzer). All three hockey locals are playing and I’m sure there’s college football on someplace as well. You folks know these things work by now, so have at it.
Depending on how you work the math and whether Alex Rodriguez gets suspended for part or all of next season, the Yankees will have something like $65-90M to work with under that $189M luxury tax threshold this offseason. Derek Jeter‘s player option and various arbitration raises will change things as well. Either way, the Bombers are going to have some money to spend this offseason, and Andrew Marchand reports a massive shopping spree may in the works. To the block text:
[The] front office is devising a plan that could have the team going on a $300 million shopping spree, sources have told ESPNNewYork.com.
The Yankees will begin their organization meetings Monday where they will settle on a strategy that they believe can cut payroll to $189 million while spending big on free agents.
The Yankees’ initial main targets are expected to include their own Robinson Cano, Japanese starter Masahiro Tanaka, Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCann and St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Carlos Beltran, according to sources.
The Yankees think they can add at least two top free agents this winter and remain under team owner Hal Steinbrenner’s goal of reducing total salaries to less than $189 million. Steinbrenner has said he would like to reduce the team’s luxury tax and revenue sharing numbers so that he can reinvest the money instead of paying out to smaller markets.
Just spitballing some average annual values/luxury tax hits, I think those four will wind up around $23M (Cano), $15M (McCann), $14M (Beltran), and $12M (Tanaka) next year. I think those are in the ballpark. The market is kinda crazy though — teams have a lot of money to spend and nowhere to spend it, so free agents are making huge bucks — meaning all four guys could wind up with more. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that’s what they get.
In that case, those four will combine for $64M next year, taking a huge bite out of that $65-90M pool of leftover cash. There is no doubt in my mind adding Tanaka, Beltran, and McCann to Cano and everyone else under contract/team control improves the team, but the Yankees would still have a lot of holes to fill. They’d need another starting pitcher (unless you’re particularly high on Vidal Nuno, Michael Pineda, and/or Adam Warren), a left-side-of-the-infielder, a DH, at least one and preferably two (ideally three) relievers, and a bench. On top of all of that, the team would need to set some cash aside for midseason additions, both call-ups and help at the trade deadline. They can’t have a $188.9M payroll on Opening Day. It won’t work.
If the Yankees do go on a huge spending spree this winter, I have very little doubt it would be about improving attendance and ratings as much as it would improving the team’s chances of contention. Given their 2013 Pythag. record (79-83) and the players they’re presumably losing this winter (Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera, specifically), the Yankees need to add about 20 wins worth of talent to the roster this offseason even after re-signing Cano. Beltran, McCann, and Tanaka won’t add that themselves — I’d be happy if they got 12 wins out of the trio next year — so the team either needs to blow past the $189M threshold to contend or hope guys like Jeter, CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, Mark Teixeira, David Phelps, and Alfonso Soriano improve their performance in 2014.
Handing out $300M worth of contracts this winter would absolutely qualify as a huge splash and almost certainly improve the team, but it’s probably not enough to get the Yankees back in the postseason if the money goes to those four players and those four players alone. The Bombers are not one, two, or even four players away right now. They need a lot of help.
Happy Friday everyone. Here is your open thread for the evening. The Cardinals are playing the Dodgers and hoping to advance to the World Series yet again at 8pm ET on TBS (Michael Wacha vs. Clayton Kershaw), but there are no local sports tonight at all. Nothing professional, anyway. The NLCS it is. Talk about the game or whatever else here. Go bonkers.