Weekend Open Thread

Five weeks from today, pitchers and catchers are due to report to Tampa for Spring Training. That’s the best non-news day of the year. Nothing really happens that day, no real workouts or anything, but it marks the start of a new season and I can’t wait. A fun Mike Mussina video is above and the weekend links are below:

  • The Blue Jays are planning to install natural grass in Rogers Centre by 2018, and John Lott wrote about all the challenges of trying to grow grass indoors. There are a ton of logistical issues — they have to change the roof panels and rip up the concrete under the field to install irrigation and drainage — and consultants haven’t even determined the best species of grass for the job yet. Other than that, everything’s going just swell.
  • The Yankees acquired Chris Martin from the Rockies in a minor trade earlier this week, and it turns out he has one heck of a back story. As Scott Miller explained in an article last April, Martin blew out his shoulder in college and quit going to school and playing baseball. He worked at Lowe’s, UPS and an appliance store before a friend convinced him to try out for an independent team, which eventually got him signed.
  • Anthony Castrovince wrote about the non-stop tragedies veteran umpire John Hirschbeck has faced. Hirschbeck lost two sons to a rare disease and also dealt with two bouts of cancer himself, among other things. It’s a real heartbreaking story. No fans like umpires, but they’re people too and Hirschbeck has been through an awful lot.
  • Jeff Zimmerman argues that baseball needs to expand and relatively soon to avoid falling into a third Dead Ball era. He doesn’t want the league to add two teams though, he wants the league to add six teams — not all at once, of course, two at a time over a period of several years — to increase offense and add excitement.
  • And finally, Erik Malinowski wrote about the incredible story of the Dirty Dozen Rowing Club. Long story short — I’m not joking, it’s a very long read — a bunch of rugby players from the Bay Area decided to get into rowing with the goal of qualifying in the 1984 Olympics even though they only had two years to prepare.

Friday: This is your open thread for the night. The Nets, Rangers, Islanders, and Devils are all in action, and there’s the usual slate of college basketball as well. Use this thread to talk about anything on your mind. Have at it.

Saturday: Use this as your open thread again. The Nets and Islanders are both playing, and there’s college basketball on as well. Talk about whatever.

Sunday: For one last time, use this as your open thread. The Seahawks and Packers are playing right now (on FOX) and later tonight the Patriots and Colts will be in action (6:40pm ET on CBS). The winners of each game advance to the Super Bowl. Go nuts.

Minor League Notes: Hernandez, Coaching Staffs

Duncan is heading back to Staten Island. (AP)
Duncan is heading back to Staten Island. (AP)

Got some minor league notes to pass along, including an interesting (because of his story, not prospect potential) signing and the coaching staffs for the lower level affiliates.

Yankees Sign OF Robert Hernandez

According to Matt Eddy, the Yankees have signed outfielder Robert Hernandez to a minor league contract. He hit .264/.350/.358 with three doubles during a 20-game stint in winter ball in his native Venezuela this offseason. Hernandez is notable because he used to be a pitcher — he converted some time ago and is not trying to make it as a position player. Here’s more from Eddy:

… he worked as a pitcher in the Cubs system from 2006 through 2009, making it as far as low Class A Peoria as a starter, but he hasn’t played affiliated ball in any of the past five seasons. The obvious parallel for Hernandez is Diamondbacks outfielder David Peralta, who flamed out as a Cardinals pitcher, took three years off, toiled as an outfielder for two and half years in independent ball, then got noticed by Arizona scouts in 2013. Now he’s a big leaguer coming off a successful rookie campaign in 2014.

Hernandez played with a few current Yankees’ farmhands in winter ball, including UTIL Jose Pirela, so maybe the team liked what they saw as they were tracking their own players. He hasn’t played at all since 2009 — not in the minors, not in independent ball, not overseas, nothing — so obviously he’s an extreme long shot to make it. Either way, this is next level deep scouting. Hopefully Hernandez does well. It’ll be fun.

More Coaching Staffs Announced

Triple-A Scranton and Double-A Trenton announced their coaching staffs not too long ago, and the rest of the minor league affiliates followed suit these last few days. Here are the coaching staffs set to lead the lower levels this coming season.

A+ Tampa A- Charleston SS Staten Island Rk Pulaski
Manager Dave Bialas Luis Dorante Pat Osborne Tony Franklin
Hitting Coach Tom Slater Greg Colbrunn Ty Hawkins Edwar Gonzalez
Pitching Coach Tommy Phelps Tim Norton Butch Henry Justin Pope
Defensive Coach J.D. Closser Travis Chapman Eric Duncan Hector Rabago
Trainer Michael Becker Jimmy Downam ? Josh DiLoreto
Strength Coach Joe Siara Anthony Velazquez ? James Gonzalez

So, first things first, yes, Franklin will indeed be the manager for the team’s new rookie ball affiliate, the Pulaski Yankees. We recently heard he will serve as a “roving instructor” and travel to the various affiliates this summer to help out, but Matt Kardos confirmed Franklin will do the roving thing in the first half of the season before joining Pulaski when their season begins in late-June. Alrighty then.

Anyway, the most notable name among the coaching staffs is Eric Duncan, who was New York’s first round pick in the 2003 draft. He spent a few years in the system — the Yankees really rushed him up the ladder in an effort to boost his trade value (he was in Double-A four months after turning 20) — but eventually flamed out and retired after the 2012 season. Duncan spent the last three years getting his degree and is now getting into coaching. Neat.

Norton, Gonzalez, Pope, and Rabago are all recently retired Yankees’ farmhands. Norton had a ton of arm problems during his career. He flat out dominated with Double-A Trenton in 2011 (1.55 ERA and 2.42 FIP) was on the verge of a call-up to MLB when he hurt his shoulder again. That led to the team signing Cory Wade off the scrap heap — they had to replace the depth. Norton was the pitching coach in Staten Island last year.

Dorante is returning as manager of the River Dogs while Osborne is moving up from one of the rookie Gulf Coast League squads. Bialas just joined the organization and has been managing in the minors for over 30 years. He’s part of new farm system head Gary Denbo’s initiative to have veteran managers lead young players at the lower levels. Colbrunn is returning to Charleston after spending the 2013-14 season as the Red Sox’s hitting coach. He lives in Charleston and left the Sox because he wanted to be closer to his family. Colbrunn was with the River Dogs as either hitting coach or manager from 2007-12.

RHP Andy Beresford Retires

Beresford, the club’s 19th round pick out of UNLV in 2013, has decided to retire according to a message he posted on Instagram. The 24-year-old reliever had a 2.67 ERA with 54 strikeouts and 19 walks in 91 career innings, most with Low-A Charleston this past season. Beresford was suspended 50 games last August after testing positive for amphetamines.

Alex Rodriguez wants to win the third base job, and that’s not a bad thing

(Scott Halleran/Getty)
(Scott Halleran/Getty)

Well, it appears the days of contrived Alex Rodriguez controversies have returned. With Spring Training now only five weeks away, word has gotten out that A-Rod is planning to win the third base job in camp. Actually, according to some reports, Alex considers the third base job his and it’s Chase Headley who has to win it away from him camp.

At least that’s what someone close to Rodriguez has said. From Steven Marcus:

“Alex’s mind is that job’s not Headley’s, it’s Alex’s to lose,” the source said. “That’s what he thinks. Alex is going into training camp thinking that he is the starting third baseman, that if there’s a competition, Headley’s got to win it from him. It doesn’t matter about the money, what they signed Headley for. This guy [Rodriguez] can play.”

Meanwhile, a presumably different person close to A-Rod wasn’t as firm, instead saying Alex is simply preparing to play, not take away anyone’s job. From Kevin Kernan:

“Alex is looking at this season as a fresh start,” one friend said. “He’s prepared to do the best he can in his role as a DH, but he is also preparing to play third base, knowing there will be times that Headley needs a break.

“He knows that Joe Girardi is a manager who likes to have options and wants to keep all his players fresh, so he knows he will get some time at third, and he feels being used in that way is good for the team overall. Everyone can get a break.

Believe who you want. I really don’t care. The most important thing is that A-Rod is preparing to play and be a factor this coming season, including at third base in some capacity.

This, of course, is a good thing. Make no mistake, the Yankees want no part of Alex and wish he’d just go away, but if they are stuck with him, they want a motivated A-Rod, not an apathetic A-Rod. They want a player with ambition who wants to prove everyone wrong. They don’t want someone who’s going to half-ass it.

The Yankees have gone to great lengths to marginalize Rodriguez this winter, most notably by signing Headley but also by signing Stephen Drew to increase infield depth. Drew’s an able body who can play third in an emergency. They aren’t counting on A-Rod to be that emergency guy at the hot corner.

If Alex is going to play any sort of regular role for the 2015 Yankees, he’s going to have to earn it, and that begins in Spring Training. A-Rod has been posting photos of himself working out on Instagram — which makes him no different than, like, 50% of all athletes — and I have zero doubt he will come to camp in great shape. That’s just who he is. Showing up is only step one, however.

There’s nothing A-Rod can do at this point to fix his image or change the way people think about him. His image his beyond repair. And the Yankees have made it clear there is no third base competition. The job is Headley’s. A-Rod says … or, rather, people close to A-Rod say he wants to play a big role and that’s great. He’s motivated and he wants to contribute. That can only be good for the Yankees.

Martino: Yankees avoid arbitration with Nathan Eovaldi and David Carpenter

Eovaldi. (Eliot J. Schechter/Getty)
Eovaldi. (Eliot J. Schechter/Getty)

Saturday, 4:33pm: The Yankees have also announced the Eovaldi deal, so that’s done too.

Friday, 7:08pm: The Yankees have announced Carpenter’s one-year, non-guaranteed contract. (Non-guaranteed contracts are standard for players in their pre-arbitration and arbitration years.) The team didn’t announce the Eovaldi deal, however. Could still be dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s.

6:47pm: Carpenter will actually make $1.275M this coming season, according to Bryan Hoch. Not a huge difference, but you know, accuracy and stuff.

6:22pm: The Yankees have avoided arbitration with both Nathan Eovaldi and David Carpenter, reports Andy Martino. Eovaldi gets $3.3M and Carpenter gets $1.3M, both on one-year contracts for 2015. MLBTR projected them to receive $3.1M and $1.1M, respectively.

Eovaldi, 24, came to New York in a five-player trade with the Marlins a few weeks ago. He was arbitration-eligible for the first time and will not qualify for free agency until after the 2017 season. Eovaldi took a career 4.07 ERA (3.70 FIP) in 460 innings into his first year of arbitration eligibility.

The 29-year-old Carpenter came over from the Braves in the Manny Banuelos trade last month. Like Eovaldi, he was arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter and won’t become a free agent until after 2017. Carpenter has a 3.62 ERA (3.42 FIP) in 186.2 career innings as a middle reliever.

With Eovaldi and Carpenter now locked up, the Yankees have signed all of their arbitration-eligible players. The team had previously agreed to deals with Ivan Nova ($3.3M), Michael Pineda ($2.1M), and Esmil Rogers ($1.48M). Today was the deadline for the two sides to exchange salary figures, but it didn’t get that far. The Yankees have a history of signing their players before filing figures.

Yankees, Michael Pineda avoid arbitration with one-year, $2.1M deal

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

7:06pm: The Yankees have announced the one-year contract. It’s non-guaranteed, which is standard for pre-arbitration and arbitration-eligible players.

4:44pm: According to Chad Jennings, the Yankees and Michael Pineda have agreed to a one-year contract worth $2.1M, avoiding arbitration. That exactly matched MLBTR’s projection. Nathan Eovaldi (projected $3.1M) and David Carpenter ($1.1M) are the team’s only unsigned arbitration-eligible players.

Pineda, 25, has only made 13 starts during his three years with the Yankees, all last season, but he accrued a bunch of service time while on the disabled list from 2012-13. This was Pineda’s first arbitration year. He isn’t scheduled to qualify for free agency until after the 2017 season.

In those 13 starts last year, Pineda had a 1.89 ERA (2.71 FIP) in 76.1 innings. Shoulder trouble sidelined him for a big chunk of the season, but he was dominant when healthy. The Yankees and all their fans want to see more of that Big Mike going forward. He was awesome.

In addition to Pineda, the Yankees have already signed Ivan Nova ($3.3M) and Esmil Rogers ($1.48M) as well. Today is the deadline for teams and eligible players to exchange salary figures, but the Yankees have historically signed all of their guys before then. Eovaldi and Carpenter will likely get have deals in place today too.

RAB Live Chat

Yankees officially sign Stephen Drew, designate Eury Perez for assignment

Oh Eury. (Jim Rogash/Getty)
Oh Eury. (Jim Rogash/Getty)

After ten days of waiting, the Yankees have officially signed Stephen Drew to a one-year contract, the team announced. He will reportedly earn $5M with $1.5M in incentives based on plate appearances. As expected, Eury Perez was designated for assignment to clear a 40-man roster spot.

Perez, 24, was claimed off waivers from the Nationals in September. He went 2-for-10 with a stolen base and three strikeouts for New York late last season and actually started two games in center field in the final series against the Red Sox, after the Yankees were eliminated from postseason and Jacoby Ellsbury was nursing an ankle injury.

At best, Perez was fourth on the center field depth chart behind Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, and Chris Young. He’s a classic speed and defense type who figured to serve as the up-and-down extra outfielder in 2015. Ramon Flores or even Jose Pirela is in line to be that guy now.