Via Jesse Sanchez: The White Sox have agreed to sign Cuban slugger Jose Abreu to a six-year contract worth $68M. The deal is still pending a physical and is (by far) the largest contract ever give to an international free agent, topping the $42M deal the Dodgers gave Yasiel Puig last summer. The White Sox have a pretty good history with Cuban-born players, most notably Jose Contreras, Alexei Ramirez, and Dayan Viciedo.
The Yankees were reportedly among the teams scouting the 26-year-old Abreu, who held some showcase events at their complex in the Dominican Republic last month. I never thought the Bombers were serious about signing him, especially at a price like that. With their payroll coming down and so many other holes on the roster to fill, signing another first base/DH type to a huge contract doesn’t make much sense. If they make a big international splash this winter, I suspect it’ll be for Masahiro Tanaka. · (43) ·
Thursday: Jim Baumbach says the federal judge presiding over the lawsuit agreed to push the conference back two weeks to November 7th. Remember, this is not the appeal hearing of A-Rod’s 211-game suspension, this concerns his lawsuit against MLB. Two different matters.
Saturday: Via Ken Davidoff: Proceedings for Alex Rodriguez’s lawsuit against MLB will begin with a conference on October 24th. This is not the ongoing appeal hearing for the 211-game suspension, this concerns the lawsuit A-Rod filed claiming the league is conducting a “witch hunt” and is trying to get him out of the game. Rodriguez also filed a malpractice suit against Yankees team doctor Christopher Ahmad over the handling of his left hip injury last fall. He’s going out with guns blazin’, eh? · (23) ·
I mentioned the other day that FOX will air a special 90-minute Mariano Rivera feature this coming Sunday (encore on Tuesday), which will take a look into his life off the field both back home in Panama and with his family. All sorts of stuff we never get to see, really. The trailer was released today (or at least I found it today), so you can watch it via the embedded video above. Make sure you set your DVRs if you haven’t already.
Once you’re done watching that, use this as your open thread for the evening. The Red Sox and Tigers will play Game 5 of the ALCS at 8pm ET on TBS (Anibal Sanchez vs. Jon Lester), plus the Seahawks and Cardinals are playing in the Thursday Night Football Game. The Islanders, Devils, Knicks (preseason), and Nets (preseason) are all playing as well. Lots to talk about tonight. Have at it.
The Yankees have started the process of adding bullpen depth for next season. The team has re-signed right-hander David Herndon to a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training, according to his agent Joshua Kusnick. He will be Rule 5 Draft eligible in December, but if he goes unclaimed, he’ll come to camp with a chance to win a bullpen spot.
Herndon, 28, blew out his elbow early in the 2012 season with the Phillies and needed Tommy John surgery. Philadelphia removed him from the 40-man roster over the winter and, after a brief detour through Toronto, he was claimed off waivers by the Yankees. New York then removed Herndon from their 40-man roster and gave him a new minor league contract after he cleared waivers and elected free agency.
After returning from his elbow reconstruction in late-June, Herndon pitched to a 2.78 ERA (~2.20 FIP) with a good strikeout rate (9.1 K/9 and 22.5 K%) and a good walk rate (2.5 BB/9 and 6.3 BB%) in 35.2 innings across 21 minor league appearances. He steadily climbed the ladder during what amounted to a rehab assignment, topping out at Triple-A Scranton.
Back in July, Ken Rosenthal heard from a scout that Herndon had been running his fastball up 94 mph during his minor league outings. He was primarily a low-90s sinker/low-80s slider reliever while with the Phillies, but he did touch 94 on occasion. If nothing else, his stuff has come back. During his three seasons in Philadelphia, Herndon was more of a ground ball guy (55.3%) than a strikeout guy (5.9 K/9 and 15.0 K%).
There’s nothing exciting about signing a reclamation project like Herndon, but the Yankees have a big 40-man roster crunch and need to acquire as many quality players on minor league deals as possible to build depth, something they lacked in 2013. The bullpen is usually the easiest place to do this, at least in terms of sheer numbers, plus it’s a good way to save some cash as the club looks to get under the $189M luxury tax threshold. The Yankees watched Herndon rehab and pitch in their system this year, they had to like something they saw to bring him back.
In a piece that is free for all to read, Baseball America broke down this summer’s draft using a variety of categories. The Yankees ranked third in the “Best Draft” category, trailing only the Pirates and Diamondbacks. Pittsburgh had two of the top 14 selections. New York, of course, had three of the top 33 selections, so having a strong draft was pretty much guaranteed.
OF Aaron Judge, the middle of those three first rounders, is said to be the fifth best power hitter in the entire draft class by Baseball America. That’s his calling card, he’s a huge dude who can hit the ball a mile from the right side of the plate. That’s a skill that is very hard to come by these days. 2B Gosuke Katoh had the third best pro debut among high school draftees according to the publication. Those three first round picks are going to make or break the team’s draft haul. In this new spending restricted system where talent goes pretty linearly, those top picks are crucial. · (97) ·
The 2013 season is over and now it’s time to review all aspects of the year that was, continuing today with a young-ish player who finally got a big break before suffering a big break.
The Yankees made little effort to solidify the catcher position this winter. They were seemingly caught off-guard when Russell Martin took a two-year contract worth $17M from the Pirates in November — Martin was reportedly open to returning to New York on a one-year contract — taking the best all-around catcher in a weak free agent class off the market. Rather they overextend themselves for an imperfect solution (A.J. Pierzynski?), the Yankees decided no solution was best.
Spring Training started with what was supposedly a three-man competition for the two roster spots, but that was never really the case. The Bombers have a knack for holding fake competitions. Austin Romine was always a long shot for the Opening Day roster while, barring injury, Chris Stewart and Frankie Cervelli were the favorites. A career backup catcher and a guy who was sent to Triple-A to make room for the career backup catcher last year.
None of the team’s in-house catching options stood out offensively in camp — seriously, all one of these guys had to do to win the starting job was swing the bat decently during Grapefruit League play, but no one did it — but Cervelli showed off some seriously improved throwing mechanics, gunning down seven of 14 attempted base-stealers. That was enough to win him the starting catching job on Opening Day. This was how the Yankees sorted out their catching situation coming into a year in which ownership repeatedly called he team “championship-caliber.”
Anyway, Cervelli made the Yankees look very smart for a few weeks. He was one of the team’s best hitters out of the gate, picking up a single and a walk on Opening Day before hitting a homer two games later. During a two-week stretch in the middle of April, Frankie went 10-for-28 (.357) with three doubles, a homer, five walks, and four strikeouts. Cervelli started 16 of the team’s first 22 games and hit .269/.377/.500 (143 wRC+) with three homers in 61 plate appearances, plus he threw out two of four attempted base-stealers. For the first time in his career, he looked like a starting big league catcher.
Then, in the very first inning of the team’s April 26th game against the Blue Jays, Rajai Davis foul tipped a pitch off Cervelli’s unprotected right hand. It was a direct hit, right on the knuckles:
After being looked at by the trainer and trying to talk his way into remaining in the game, Frankie was lifted and sent for tests. X-rays showed a fracture in his hand that required surgery, which was expected to send him to the DL for a minimum of six weeks. Not only had the Yankees lost one of their most productive early-season players at a crucial position, but Cervelli’s big chance to show what he could as a regular catcher was kaput.
Those six weeks turned into at least two months when the Yankees slid Cervelli over to the 60-day DL to clear a roster spot a few days after the injury. He continued his rehab over the next several weeks at the team’s complex in Tampa and progressed to the point where he was swinging a bat and taking batting practice pretty much everyday, which meant an official minor league rehab assignment wasn’t too far away.
Unfortunately, since he’s a Yankee, Cervelli suffered a setback in early-July. It was a stress reaction in his right elbow — the precursor to a stress fracture, so they caught it early — which apparently happened when he changed his throwing motion to compensate for the hand injury. I’m not exactly sure how that happens, but it sounds plausible. Either way, it happened and Cervelli’s #obligatorysetback effectively ended his season. In the unlikely event he got healthy enough to rejoin the team, it wouldn’t have happened until late-September.
On top of all of that, the injury and the setback and losing his chance at a starting catching job, Cervelli was one of 12 players suspended 50 games in early-August for his ties to the South Florida performance-enhancing drug hub Biogenesis. Frankie did not appeal the ban and was officially done for the rest of the year. He suffered both a season-ended injury and a season-ending suspension. Rough. To his credit, Frankie faced the music and admitted he used a banned substance after breaking his foot in Spring Training a few years ago.
All told, Cervelli played in just 17 games this year before the injuries and suspension ended his season. He never got a chance to show if his hot start was something sustainable or if he could even play at an acceptable level as a starting backstop. The Yankees never got a chance to see that either, meaning right now they don’t know if he in the middle of a breakout age 27 season or if he was a small sample size fluke. Given the half-assed catching situation, the team had an opportunity to learn something about Cervelli, about whether he deserved to be in their plans going forward. Instead, he remains an unknown.
Via Mark Feinsand: The Yankees have agreed to terms on a new contract with pitching coach Larry Rothschild. We first heard a new deal was in the works last week and an official announcement is expected shortly. Terms of the contract are unknown, but Rothschild signed a three-year deal when he first joined the team. There is “nothing to report” about the status of the rest of the coaching staff, according to Brian Cashman. The coaches’ contracts all expire on October 31st. · (12) ·
Ten years. Ten friggin’ years ago today, Aaron Boone had the moment of a lifetime and sent the Yankees to the World Series (for the sixth time in eight years) with a walk-off homer in Game Seven of the ALCS against the Red Sox. The other day I said I remember pretty much nothing about the 1999 World Series, but this game is the exact opposite. It’s one of my most vivid memories as a fan. I remember where I was, who I was with, where everyone was sitting in the room, what everyone was drinking … all of that like it happened just yesterday. It was one of those moments you never forget.
I figure we’ve all seen the Boone homer a million times by now, so for the sake of variety, there’s the video of the game-tying three-run rally in the eighth inning instead. The video archive for the entire game is right here, so if you want to see Jason Giambi‘s two homers off Pedro Martinez or Mike Mussina’s first career relief appearance or Mariano Rivera‘s three innings of work or, of course, Boone’s homer, it’s all right there. Enjoy.
Once you’re done with that, use this as your open thread for the evening. The Cardinals are looking to advance to the World Series with a win over the Dodgers in NLCS Game Five, which is on TBS right now (Joe Kelly vs. Zack Greinke). At 8pm ET, the Red Sox and Tigers will play Game Four of the ALCS on FOX (Jake Peavy vs. Doug Fister). The Rangers are also playing. Talk about all of that and more right here.
The 2013 season is over and now it’s time to review all aspects of the year that was, continuing today with a player whose season was sabotaged by fluky injuries.
As the Yankees went through last offseason with nary an offensive upgrade, there were two things Yankees fans could count on in 2013. We all knew with damn near certainty that Robinson Cano would be an elite all-around player with high-end production at the plate. It was pretty much a given and Cano delivered.
We also knew Curtis Granderson would hit a ton of dingers and be the team’s primary power source. Ever since revamping his swing with hitting coach Kevin Long in August 2010, Granderson has been one of baseball’s preeminent homer hitters, going deep 40+ times in both 2011 and 2012. Maybe he wouldn’t do that again in 2013 — that’s an frickin’ ton of homers, I have a hard time expecting almost anyone to do that in a given year — but 30+ homers seemed like a lock.
Instead, Granderson’s season was derailed before it even got a chance to start. Five pitches into his very first plate appearance of Spring Training, he took a J.A. Happ fastball to the right forearm and suffered a fracture. The injury was expected to sideline him for three months, so in a sense the Yankees were lucky it happened so early in camp. The first half of that three-month recovery time took place before Opening Day.
On May 14th, after three months on the sidelines and a week’s worth of minor league rehab games, Granderson finally made his season debut for the Yankees. He took an 0-for-4 in the first game but had a hit the next day and three hits the day after that. A few days after that he had three more hits, including a double and a homer. Curtis missed all of Spring Training and it made sense that he would start a little slow, but he was starting to show signs of life and the Yankees desperately needed offense.
Then, just ten days after returning from the DL, Granderson took a Cesar Ramos fastball to his left hand. He stayed in the game to run the bases but was eventually lifted and sent for tests. The result: a fractured pinky and hand and a six-to-eight week recovery timeframe. He didn’t need surgery, but just like that, Curtis was back on the DL and the Yankees were woefully short on power.
That six-to-eight week recovery time turned into ten weeks for no apparent reason — Granderson was just slow to heal, I suppose. He didn’t return to the team until August 2nd, and in his second game back he hit a two-run homer at spacious Petco Park in San Diego. By then the Yankees were well out of the AL East race and only on the fringes of the wild-card race.
In his first month off the DL, Granderson hit .278/.394/.444 (132 wRC+) with three homers in 109 plate appearances. He wasn’t hitting for the kind of power we’re used to seeing, but he was certainty having an impact at the plate. In his second month off the DL, Curtis hit .177/.233/.375 (60 wRC+) with three homers in 105 plate appearances. Suddenly he wasn’t having an impact. Not coincidentally, the Yankees faded right out of the postseason picture.
Overall, Granderson hit .229/.317/.407 (97 wRC+) with seven homers and eight stolen bases (in ten attempts) in 245 plate appearances around the injuries this year. His power production took a big step back from last season, but there’s really no way to tell if he was still suffering the lingering effects of the injuries — hand/wrist injuries are notorious for hurting a player’s performance even after he’s been cleared medically — or if this was a sign of age-related decline or if he just had 245 substandard plate appearances. Could be all or that or none of that. Who knows?
The Yankees had planned to shift Curtis to left field and install Brett Gardner as their regular center fielder before the season started — they never committed to it and called it an experiment in Spring Training, but it was pretty obvious a change was being made — a plan they implemented when Granderson came off the DL (the first time). He bounced between left field, right field, and DH before Gardner’s oblique injury forced him back into center. I thought Granderson actually look pretty good defensively in the corners. Maybe not above-average, but pretty solid. That was a plus.
“There’s no getting around [it], missing 100 games the year you’re becoming a free agent isn’t great,” said Matt Brown, Granderson’s agent, earlier this month. The 2013 season was disastrous for Granderson due to two unpredictable fluke injuries and the shift to a less valuable defensive position. Maybe the Yankees will be able to bring Curtis back on a one-year pillow contract — his “first choice” is to return to New York, reportedly — but I suspect he’ll wind up with a multi-year contract elsewhere. The Yankees were power-starved this summer and losing Granderson for so much time was a huge reason why. He brings a power element to the team that is damn near impossible to replace these days.