Via NYDN: Alex Rodriguez could ask a judge for an injunction if he feels arbitrator Frederic Horowitz hands down an unfair ruling. He is unlikely to get one, as Wendy Thurm explained in November, but it is something he could pursue as part of his scorch the Earth legal battle with MLB. “The papers are all ready. They are just waiting for the announcement,” said one of the Daily News’ sources.
Meanwhile, the Daily News says Rodriguez would likely accept a 65-game (or less) ban without a fight. The legal fees to combat a suspension of that size would be greater than the salary he stands to lose, they say. Ryan Braun received 65 games and both he and A-Rod were considered MLB’s top targets as part of this whole Biogenesis investigation. Horowitz could hand down his ruling any day now, and the sooner that happens, the better. Let’s get this show on the road already. · (67) ·
Three years ago, the Yankees gave veteran right-hander Luis Ayala an opportunity to bring his career back from the dead. He had not been an effective big leaguer in four years (or a big leaguer at all in two years) when they signed him to a minor league deal, but he impressed in winter ball and the team gave him a chance. Ayala wound up making the club and having a strong season in a middle relief role.
The Yankees now find themselves in a similar situation as three years ago. They need some bullpen arms and Ayala remains unsigned, looking for a job. The Tigers, Indians, Orioles, Red Sox, Rays, Dodgers, Giants, and Phillies have all expressed interest in him according to Tim Dierkes and Chris Cotillo, enough teams that he is holding out for a multi-year contract. I’m not sure if that will happen at age 35 (36 on Sunday), but it doesn’t hurt to ask. Does a reunion with Ayala make sense for the Yankees? Let’s look at what he has to offer.
- Since resurfacing with the Yankees three years ago, Ayala has remained effective and pitched to a 2.58 ERA and 3.85 FIP in 164 innings. He’s been outperforming his FIP pretty much his entire career. At this point we have to say it’s a skill, not a fluke.
- Ayala is a classic sinker/slider guy who gets grounders (51.4% since 2011) and limits walks (2.58 BB/9 and 6.8 BB% since 2011). His trademark sinker continues to sit right around 90 mph.
- He hasn’t had a platoon split these last three years. He’s held righties to a .311 wOBA (53.8% grounders) and lefties to a .318 wOBA (48.3% grounders) since 2011.
- Ayala has done it all out of the bullpen, so he has experience in a number of roles and is versatile. He closed earlier in his career, he’s been a setup man, a mop-up man, a middle reliever, you name it. Hooray flexibility.
- Ayala is a low strikeout pitcher (6.15 K/9 and 16.1% since 2011) and his strikeout rate is slowly trending in the wrong direction: 6.27 K/9 (16.7 K%) in 2011, 6.12 K/9 (15.9 K%) in 2012, and 6.00 K/9 (15.0 K%) in 2013.
- Although his overall platoon split is small, lefties have been giving Ayala a harder time in recent years. They tagged him for a .301 wOBA in 2011, a .322 wOBA in 2012, and a .346 wOBA in 2013. He might devolve into a pure righty specialist in 2014.
- Ayala is no stranger to the DL. He missed more than two months with an axiety disorder last year and he spend a month on the sidelines with a shoulder problem in 2011. Ayala also had shoulder (2003) and elbow (2005-2007) problems earlier in his career.
The Yankees and Ayala are already familiar with each other from their previous marriage, so both sides know what they’re getting into. The team knows what he is like in the clubhouse, knows his medical history, all that stuff. Ayala knows the coaching staff, a bunch of guys on the team, and the expectations that come with wearing pinstripes. I don’t think that stuff is a huge deal — especially when talking about a middle reliever on a short-term deal — but it’s not a negative.
When the Yankees let Ayala walk following the 2011 season, I was totally cool with it because he is exactly the kind of pitcher you want to cut ties with a year too early rather than a year too late. He’s since gone on to have two strong seasons with the Orioles and Braves, so his success in the Bronx was not a one-year fluke. The declining strikeout rate and decrease in effectiveness against lefties are red flags, no doubt about, but not big enough to scare me away from a one-year deal. Multiple years though? No thanks.
The 2014 Hall of Fame class was announced yesterday and three all-time greats were elected to Cooperstown: Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Frank Thomas. The Yankees tried to sign Maddux as a free agent back the 1992-93 offseason, but he took less money to go to the Braves. New York wound up signing Jimmy Key instead, then Key beat Maddux in the decisive Game Six of the 1996 World Series. That was fun. Here are some random thoughts.
1. Mike Mussina is the first Hall of Fame candidate I am really invested in. (Jorge Posada will be the next when he hits the ballot in three years.) I love Don Mattingly and Bernie Williams as much as anyone, but I never did think of them as Cooperstown-worthy. I do think Moose is deserving and I’m really hoping he gets inducted at some point, even if he will almost certainly wear an Orioles hat on his plaque. Needless to say, I was disappointing to see him appear on only 20.3% of the ballots yesterday. That’s a lot of ground to make up and the ballot isn’t going to unclog anytime soon — Maddux, Glavine, and Thomas will be replaced by first-timers Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and John Smoltz next year. It’s going to be a few years before Mussina even gets close to the 75% requirement.
2. While we’re on the subject of the Hall of Fame: how many future Hall of Famers are on the Yankees’ 40-man roster right now? Derek Jeter is a lock and I think Ichiro Suzuki is as well. Alex Rodriguez has all the requisite stats but he’ll never get in because of the performance-enhancing drug stuff. His admission in 2009 sealed his fate. Carlos Beltran has a very strong Hall of Fame case and these next three years could help push him over the top. CC Sabathia was on the Hall of Fame path for most of his career, but if last season is the new normal for him, he’ll probably end up on the outside looking in. Alfonso Soriano and Mark Teixeira are Hall of Very Good players at best. Aside from Jeter, Ichiro, Beltran, and Sabathia, the Yankee with the best Hall of Fame chances might be Brian McCann. He’s only 29 (30 next month), so if he takes advantage of the short right field porch these next five (possibly six) years and holds up physically for another year or two after that, he could wind up with around 300 homers and 45 fWAR. Those would be top five and top 15 marks, respectively, among catchers all-time. McCann has a ways to go but the Cooperstown foundation is in place.
3. Now that the Hall of Fame announcement has passed, the A-Rod ruling could be handed down at any moment. I suppose MLB may have asked arbitrator Frederic Horowitz to hold off until next week, after the new Hall of Famers do their interviews and all that, but he isn’t under any obligation to follow along. Still, I think the ruling will be announced Monday at the earliest. (Now watch it be this afternoon.) Whenever it comes, it will be good to finally get that out of the way, regardless of whether the suspension is overturned or upheld or reduced or whatever. I’m sicking of hearing about it and waiting around for it. I just want the Yankees to move forward with their offseason — it’s clear they’re waiting for the ruling before making more moves — and get this roster settled. Especially the infield. It worries the heck out of me.
4. The bullpen worries the heck out of me as well, but I am more confident in the team’s internal relief options than their infield options. By a lot. Unless the Yankees sign about three relievers these next few weeks, they’re going to have some bullpen competition in Spring Training and I’m curious to see how much of a chance right-hander Jose Ramirez will be given to win a job. He threw 9.1 innings in camp last year (three starts and one relief appearance) but he had not yet pitched above High Class-A. Ramirez chucked 42.1 innings in Double-A and another 31.1 innings at Triple-A last summer, so he has some upper level experience. The problem is that he’s been completely unable to stay healthy as a starter throughout his career — he’s had arm trouble in the past, and last year he missed time due to fatigue and an oblique problem — so much so that it might be time to stick him in the bullpen and let him air it out. Ramirez will turn 24 in two weeks and he’s got a really big fastball with a knockout changeup and a good slider. There’s a chance he can be an impact reliever as soon as this year if given the opportunity.
Today is the halfway point of Masahiro Tanaka‘s 30-day negotiating window. He has 15 days left to work out a contract before the 5pm ET deadline on January 24th, and the entire deal must be complete by that time. Tanaka needs to pass a physical and sign on the dotted line by then. There won’t be any of this “agree to a deal and three weeks later it’s official” nonsense. Only 15 days until he is on some team’s roster. Love the hard deadline.
Anyway, we know the Yankees have already contacted with Tanaka’s agent Casey Close, but there haven’t been any real updates since. That doesn’t mean talks have stalled or anything like that, just that no updates have leaked. The whole process has been very tight-lipped, it seems. I’m guessing that’s by design. Here are some Tanaka-related notes from around the league in what I suspect is the first of many update posts:
- Tanaka flew to the Los Angeles yesterday to begin face-to-face meetings with teams. He is slated to meet with the Yankees, Diamondbacks, Cubs, White Sox, Dodgers, and Angels this week and he will also be seen by a doctor to get the physical process going. [David Waldstein, Bill Plunkett & Jon Heyman]
- D’Backs GM Kevin Towers said Close “pretty much asked those clubs that are involved that just less is better and not to really say anything or divulge the process or what’s happening.” That explains the lack of updates. [Steve Gilbert]
- Dodgers GM Ned Colletti confirmed he has touched base with Tanaka’s camp but the two sides are in the “feeling out” stage. Negotiations with various clubs are “still in a very preliminary phase” and things might not heat up until next week. [Dylan Hernandez & Andy Martino]
- If you missed it earlier this week, here is our massive Scouting The Market post on Tanaka. Pretty much everything you need to know about the guy is in there.
Via Matt Eddy: The Yankees have signed right-hander Bruce Billings to a minor league contract. I’m not sure if he received an invitation to Spring Training. The 28-year-old had a 4.31 ERA (3.96 FIP) in 148.1 innings for the Athletics’ Triple-A affiliate last summer. He’s been at that level for four years now. Billings has four big league appearances to his credit, allowing ten runs in seven innings for the Rockies and A’s back in 2011. He’ll be counted on to soak up innings for Triple-A Scranton this summer.
The Yankees have also re-signed righty Yoshinori Tateyama to a minor league deal, according to Eddy. They acquired him from the Rangers for cash in the middle of last season. Tateyama, 38, had a 1.70 ERA (2.18 FIP) in 42.1 innings for Triple-A Scranton after the trade. He has 61 innings of big league experience, posting a 5.75 ERA (4.54 FIP) for Texas from 2011-12. Tateyama’s fun to watch because hes a sidearmer who throws a screwball. Here’s proof. I don’t think either he or Billings will have much of a chance to see time with the Yankees in 2014 unless something goes horribly, horribly wrong. They’re (deep) depth moves. · (11) ·
The Hall of Fame announcement circus is finally over and three very deserving players are heading to Cooperstown this July. I will now point out the Yankees beat Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine four times in their five combined starts during the 1996 and 1999 World Series (the one win is above) while holding Frank Thomas to his lowest OPS against any AL team, proving once again that the Yankees rule the baseball universe. In all seriousness though, congrats to the three of them. Glavine was great and both Maddux and Thomas were among the most dominant players in history.
Here is your open thread for the night. The Rangers and Nets are the only local teams playing. Talk about the Hall of Fame, those games, or whatever else right here. You folks know what to do, so have at it.
The BBWAA announced that Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Frank Thomas have been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Craig Biggio fell just short at 74.8 percent, which is only two votes shy.
Don Mattingly lives to appear on another ballot, collecting 8.2 percent of the vote. Mike Mussina, in his first year, got about 20 percent of the vote. It won’t get easier for these two, or any of the other guys on the ballot, next year when John Smoltz, Randy Johnson, and Pedro Martinez make their first appearances. · (92) ·
Luis Severino | RHP
Severino hails from Sabana Del Mar, a small fishing town along the north shore of the Dominican Republic. He was a little older than the typical Latin American prospect when he signed with the Yankees in December 2011, two months before his 18th birthday. Severino received a relatively modest $225k bonus.
The Yankees assigned Severino to the Dominican Summer League to start his pro career in 2012. He threw 64.1 innings across 14 starts that season, posting a 1.68 ERA (3.14 FIP) with 45 strikeouts (6.30 K/9 and 18.3 K%) and 17 walks (2.38 BB/9 and 6.9 BB%).
Severino came stateside last year and was very impressive, making six appearances with the team’s Rookie Level Gulf Coast League affiliate (1.37 ERA and 1.68 FIP) before being bumped up and making four starts with Low-A Charleston (4.08 ERA and 2.24 FIP). All told, Severino posted a 2.45 ERA (1.92 FIP) with 53 strikeouts (10.84 K/9 and 29.6 K%) and only ten walks (2.05 BB/9 and 5.6 BB%) in 44 innings in 2013. After the season, Baseball America ranked him as the 17th best prospect in the GCL.
Severino is a short-ish right-hander — he’s listed at only 6-foot-0 and 195 lbs. — with really big stuff. He unleashes 92-94 mph fastballs on the regular and will hump it up to 97-98 on his best days, though he is prone to getting radar gun happy and overthrowing. That is something that can improve with experience, at least in theory. Severino is really athletic and his arm action is loose, so the ball jumps out of his hand.
A mid-80s slider was Severino’s top secondary pitch when he signed, but he developed a low-to-mid-80s fading changeup after turning pro and it has since become his top offspeed offering. The slider is inconsistent but still shows promise. Severino throws strikes with his fastball and he generally locates his two offspeed pitches down in the zone, where they’re supposed to go. There is occasionally some arm recoil — not a huge red flag but not ideal either — in his otherwise smooth delivery. Like most teenage pitchers, Severino still needs to learn the finer points of his craft, like holding runners and fielding his position.
That video is from Spring Training last year and is the only video of Severino I can find. Again, there just isn’t many photos or video of the kid out there.
After his successful four-start cameo at the end of last season, Severino figures to return to Low-A Charleston to open 2014. He’ll turn 20 late next month and I expect him to remain with the River Dogs all year, even if he completely tears the South Atlantic League apart.
Severino is one of those cheaper, lower profile Latin American prospects the Yankees have a knack for digging up. I actually like him more than bigger name international signings like Rafael DePaula and Omar Luis because he throws strikes with his fastball, has already figured out a changeup, and has three pitches overall. Severino is just a kid with barely a hundred pro innings to his credit though. He has a lot of work and development ahead of him, but the raw tools are exciting and suggest he will be able to remain a starter long-term.
By almost any measure, the Yankees had their worst offensive season in more than two decades last year. They averaged only 4.01 runs per game, their lowest rate since scoring 3.72 runs per game way back in 1990. The team AVG (.242), OBP (.307), SLG (.376), and wRC+ (85) were all their lowest since that abysmal 1990 campaign as well, and the 144 homers were their fewest in a non-strike season since 1989. It was bad.
The scrub-laden lineup was necessitated by injury and offseason inactivity, and the result was a very un-Yankee-like offense that was impatient and didn’t really work the count. There were plenty of quick outs and quick innings for the other team. The Yankees drew a walk in only 7.7% of their plate appearances in 2013, their lowest rate since 1991 and only the second time they posted a sub-8.6% walk rate this century. Their average of 3.81 pitches per plate appearance was their lowest since 2004 and it showed. Here’s the position-by-position breakdown, using the guys who led the team in playing time at each position:
|Player||2013 BB%||2013 P/PA|
|C Chris Stewart||8.8%||3.78|
|1B Lyle Overbay||7.4%||3.80|
|2B Robinson Cano||9.5%||3.63|
|SS Eduardo Nunez||6.0%||3.60|
|3B Jayson Nix||7.9%||3.76|
|LF Vernon Wells||6.6%||3.42|
|CF Brett Gardner||8.5%||4.23|
|RF Ichiro Suzuki||4.7%||3.70|
|DH Travis Hafner||10.7%||4.11|
Fixing that lack of patience (and the offense in general) was a top priority this winter, and the Yankees wound up completely overhauling their offense. It wasn’t all by design — letting Cano walk probably wasn’t part of the plan — but it happened. Gardner is the only player from the 2013 Opening Day starting lineup who projects to be in the 2014 Opening Day starting lineup as well, and even he could wind up traded before the season begins. At a minimum, there will be eight new starters in the lineup when April rolls around. That’s some kind of turnover.
Two of the Yankees’ three big offseason additions have long been known as guys who will work the count (Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann) while the third (Jacoby Ellsbury) is closer to league average in that department. Kelly Johnson and Brian Roberts, two smaller pickups, are also strong count-workers. Getting Mark Teixeira back from his wrist injury will help the club’s overall on-base skills as well. Here’s another position-by-position breakdown, this time with the Yankees’ projected 2014 starters and their plate discpline stats over the last three seasons:
|Player||2011-13 BB%||2011-13 P/PA|
|C Brian McCann||9.9%||3.98|
|1B Mark Teixeira||10.9%||4.07|
|2B Brian Roberts||14.1%||4.04|
|SS Derek Jeter||7.0%||3.77|
|3B Kelly Johnson||9.8%||4.05|
|LF Brett Gardner||9.5%||4.20|
|CF Jacoby Ellsbury||7.0%||3.85|
|RF Carlos Beltran||9.6%||3.67 (wtf? weird)|
|DH Alfonso Soriano||6.1%||3.72|
Obviously the infield is still up in the air a bit, especially since the Alex Rodriguez ruling has not yet been handed down. In the unlikely event his suspension is completely overturned, A-Rod will further help correct the team’s plate discipline issue (10.6 BB% and 3.86 P/PA from 2011-13). He’s always been a deep count/high walks kinda guy, even during his decline.
The overall difference in pitches per plate appearance between the two starting lineups might seem pretty small — 0.13 P/PA is one pitch every eight plate appearances or so, maybe 4-5 extra pitches per game on average — but some of the individual differences are huge. That 2013 lineup had only two guys with a 3.90+ P/PA and three with a 3.80+ P/PA mark. The projected 2014 lineup boasts five and six, respectively. The number of those annoying ten-pitch, 1-2-3 innings should go down considerably.
The overall difference in walk rate is a bit larger, just about a full percentage point. The only total hacker — meaning someone who refuses to walk — in that projected 2014 lineup is Soriano. Having one guy like that is fine, especially when he has Soriano’s power. It’s a different look from the rest of the starting nine and he’s capable of ambushing a first pitch fastball if one comes his way. A one-ish percent increase in walk rate doesn’t sound like much — it’s one extra walk every three games, more or less — but every little bit helps. That walk could have a big impact in a given game.
The Yankees’ lineup heading into next year is still unsettled, especially on the infield. They could still add someone like Stephen Drew (despite Brian Cashman‘s recent comments) or Mark Reynolds, which would change things quite a bit. Most of the heavy lineup lifting is done though. McCann, Beltran, and Ellsbury are the big additions and they’ll change the team’s overall offensive profile. Roberts and Teixeira (both if healthy) will do the same, ditto Johnson. The Yankees gave away too many at-bats last season, but that figures to be less of a problem in 2014.
Via Ken Rosenthal: The $20M release fee for Masahiro Tanaka will be paid out in two installments — $13M in 2014 and $7M in 2015. Under the old system, the posting fee had to be paid out in one lump sum as soon as the player signed. The installment plan was added to the new system as a way to give smaller market clubs a better chance of landing the player, which … whatever. MLB continues to bend over backwards for the small markets. This doesn’t really impact the Yankees. · (41) ·