Update: Andrew Miller cleared to pitch through right wrist injury


Friday: The hand specialist has cleared Miller to pitch through the chip fracture in his right wrist, reports Jack Curry. The fracture will heal naturally and the only question is pain tolerance. I’m sure the Yankees will give him something to help with that. They dodged a big time bullet.

Thursday: Earlier this morning, Andrew Miller told reporters in Tampa he plans to pitch through his right wrist injury. “It’s my right hand, I don’t really need it,” he said to Erik Boland. Miller was hit by a line drive in yesterday’s game and suffered a chip fracture. He clarified the injury was to a bone at the base of his hand, not in his wrist.

The toughness is admirable, but Miller still has to see a specialist later today, and the specialist will determine whether the injury is actually playable. No, it’s not his throwing wrist, but he still needs to be able to catch the ball with his glove. It’s also possible he could do more damage if he gets hit again or falls on wet grass, something like that.

We’ll see what the specialist says. Hopefully this is indeed a playable injury and Miller will be ready for Opening Day, or shortly thereafter. The Yankees are already going to be without Aroldis Chapman for 30 games, and when you build you team from the ninth inning forward, losing two top relievers is bad news.

Mailbag: Bauer, Montero, Mitchell, Refsnyder, Swisher

I’ve got eleven questions in this week’s mailbag, and some of the answers are pretty long too. As always, you can email us questions at RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com.

Bauer. (Presswire)
Bauer. (Presswire)

Bryan asks: Trevor Bauer seems like the kind of pitcher Larry Rothschild could turn around. He’s young, throws mid-90s heat but has control problems. Since the Indians put him in the bullpen would he make sense in a trade for the Yankees as a starter? Something like Nova and Heathcott for Bauer seems reasonable.

Bryan, I’m sorry, but I have to slap a “your trade proposal sucks” on you. Ivan Nova and Slade Heathcott have negligible trade value. The Indians are not trading five years of Bauer — he somehow still has fewer than two full years of service time — for one year of six starter and six years of a sixth outfielder, even with all their outfield injuries. Bauer’s not great or anything, but nope. Not happening. The Yankees would do that in a heartbeat.

Now, that said, I could see the Yankees showing interest in Bauer because he is young (25), he is under team control for a while, and he does strike out a ton of batters. He’s settled into the 91-95 mph range with his fastball and he throws a little of everything. Two-seamers, four-seamers, cutters, sliders, curveballs, changeups, whatever. I see strikeouts on four-seamers, two-seamers, curveballs, and changeups in this video:

Bauer does walk a ton of guys — his 10.6% walk rate was the highest among all qualified starters last year — and the Yankees usually don’t go for that. One of the reasons they targeted guys like Michael Pineda and Nathan Eovaldi was their low walk rates. Also, Bauer has some unique training methods, and he’s butted heads with some coaches over the years. I’m not saying that’s a deal-breaker, just a factor to be considered.

The Indians were open to trading a starter all winter — they reportedly talked to the Yankees about a starter for outfielder trade — and Bauer is the obvious target now that he’s been squeezed out of the rotation. He absolutely fits the “talented young player who is (or may be) falling out of favor with his current team” mold, and those are the types of players the Yankees have been targeting in trades. I am intrigued. I wonder what it would cost.

Patrick asks: The Yanks get a lot of grief for their talent development, out of curiosity, I tried to put a starting team together the players that they drafted/signed and developed? While this team clearly doesn’t win any division, is it competitive at least?

Here is Patrick’s team. He said he stuck to players who spent the “majority” of their minor league time with the Yankees, so guys like Gerrit Cole and Yangervis Solarte don’t count.

C: Francisco Cervelli
1B: Greg Bird, Jesus Montero
2B: Robinson Cano
SS: Eduardo Nunez
3B: Jimmy Paredes (maybe John Ryan Murphy?)
LF: Brett Gardner
CF: Austin Jackson
RF: Melky Cabrera
SP: Ian Kennedy, Phil Hughes, David Phelps, Adam Warren, Luis Severino
RP: David Robertson, Dellin Betances, Mark Melancon, Zach McAllister, George Kontos, Tyler Clippard, Chase Whitley

Paredes actually spent more time in the minors with the Astros than the Yankees in terms of plate appearances, so he can’t be the third baseman. I’m willing to fudge a little and use him though. I won’t tell if you won’t.

You have to add Nova to the pitching staff somewhere — I’d put him in the rotation and Phelps in the bullpen — and also Mike Dunn too. Dunn has carved out a nice little career for himself as a lefty reliever since being included Javy Vazquez/Boone Logan trade. Arodys Vizcaino, who was also in that trade, spent most of his minor league career with the Braves.

Jose Quintana technically meets the criteria — he threw way more minor league innings with the Yankees (246) than he did with the Mets and White Sox combined (54) — so I guess we have to include him too. He’d be the staff ace. That said, the Yankees didn’t sign Quintana as an amateur. They picked him up after the Mets released him years ago. Letting him go was clearly a mistake. So it goes.

Aside from them, you have spare part players like Ramon Flores and Phil Coke lying around. That’s about it. Manny Banuelos keeps having elbow problems — he was recently shut down with more discomfort — so I’m not sure how you’d put him on the pitching staff. The left side of the infield is weak, but you’ve got a star in Cano, a legit big league outfield, a solid rotation, and a great bullpen. Not too shabby. That team wouldn’t be a pushover.

Jeremy asks: I think it’s pretty obvious that the Yankees “won” the Montero for Pineda deal since Jesus has only played badly when he’s been on the field. But given his prospect value at the time, is Pineda the best we could’ve gotten for Montero? I’m just curious who else you think we might’ve been able to get for Jesus.

It’s really tough to say. The Yankees offered Montero for Roy Halladay back in the day, and the Blue Jays said no, so he wasn’t going to fetch a true ace. Here’s a really quick look at the top pitchers age 25 and under in 2011, the season immediately prior to the Michael Pineda/Montero trade:

  • Clayton Kershaw (6.5 WAR): He had just won his first Cy Young. No chance at a trade.
  • Gio Gonzalez (4.3 WAR): Was traded to the Nationals that offseason. I think the A’s would have seriously considered a Montero-led package. Gio had four years of team control remaining.
  • Matt Harrison (4.0 WAR): Harrison finally had a breakout year in 2011 and helped the Rangers get to the World Series. Not sure Texas goes for Montero with Mike Napoli at catcher, Mitch Moreland at first, and Michael Young at DH.
  • Jeremy Hellickson (3.8 WAR): I can’t imagine the Rays would trade the reigning Rookie of the Year to a division rival.

After those four you have guys like Pineda, Jhoulys Chacin, Vance Worley, Jair Jurrjens, and Trevor Cahill, plus a bunch of others who were presumably off-limits (David Price, Felix Hernandez, Chris Sale, Jordan Zimmermann). Sees like Gio was the best case scenario.

Pineda was a really good haul for Montero. He had a fantastic rookie season — Pineda is still the only starter in history to post a 9.0+ K/9 and a sub-3.0 BB/9 as a rookie — and five years of team control remaining. Pineda got hurt and it sucks. That’s baseball. The Yankees still managed to come out ahead in the trade.

Mitchell. (Presswire)
Mitchell. (Presswire)

Many asked: Would it be crazy to make Bryan Mitchell the fifth starter?

(This question — these questions really, since a few people asked — was sent in before Mitchell broke this toe, but I’m going to answer it anyway because I think it’s a good one.)

I think it would be crazy. I like Mitchell a lot — there’s a reason I had him as the team’s No. 7 prospect coming into the season — but he still doesn’t have a changeup and his command still isn’t even average. That didn’t change in Spring Training. As good as he looked in camp, I am not at all convinced Mitchell is ready to outperform CC Sabathia and Nova as starting pitchers right now. Let him start in the bullpen and force the issue, the old school way.

Chris asks: Do you guys think the Yankees are screwing up another prospect with Refsnyder just like they did Joba? Of course they are not the same beast but it appears the development of both has been grossly mishandled. Hey Rob, come to spring training and fight for a job…oh yeah, that job isn’t second anymore it’s third…oh yeah and you have to hit the snot out of the ball too.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with asking a player to try another position when they’re blocked at the MLB level, and Rob Refsnyder is indeed blocked by Starlin Castro. The Red Sox moved Mookie Betts from second base to center field because of Dustin Pedroia. Manny Machado moved to third because of J.J. Hardy. Daniel Murphy moved to second because of David Wright. Chase Headley, who has been a great defensive third baseman throughout his career, used to play left field in deference to Kevin friggin’ Kouzmanoff. This stuff happens all the time.

At some point the onus falls on Refsnyder. The Yankees gave him a chance to make the team. Putting him at third base was about finding a way to get him on the roster, not screwing up his development. And yes, he had to hit in Spring Training. It’s common for young players to be asked to perform before giving them a job. I’m not saying Refsnyder wasn’t put in a difficult position. He was. But the Yankees asked Ronald Torreyes — who is a year and a half younger than Refsnyder, by the way — to do the same thing this spring and he did it, so he got the job.

Many asked: What about Nick Swisher?

I don’t see where he fits. Not only has he hit .204/.291/.326 (75 wRC+) the last two years, but where would the Yankees play Swisher? He’d have to be the backup first baseman and fifth outfielder — a fifth outfielder with two bad knees at that — which is Dustin Ackley‘s job. Ackley is seven years younger, able to play second base, and probably the better hitter at this point as well. I guess the Yankees could stash Swisher in Triple-A as first base depth instead of Chris Parmelee, but eh. Swisher was awesome for the Yankees from 2009-12. Brian Cashman knocked it out of the park with that trade. I don’t see any room for 35-year-old Nick Swisher on the 2016 Yankees though.

Josh asks: I saw your update that no news about Betances was good news about Betances, however I was wondering how his workload has been this spring and how it compared to last year? He got off to a slow start last year and some theorized that it was due to not having thrown enough innings during spring training. Did the Yankees run him out there more? Or is the mentality for late inning guys still in the Mo-Mold of six drive-by innings?

Here are Dellin Betances’ official Grapefruit League inning totals over the last three years:

2014: 12.1
2015: 8.1
2016: 6.0

That does not include minor league game appearances, and who knows what those numbers are. (Dellin threw an inning in a minor league game earlier this week.) Betances is probably going to throw one more inning this spring — I’m guessing it’ll be tonight, so then he has two days off before Opening Day — and finish the spring with eight innings when you count that one minor league game inning we know about.

So, anyway, that all means Dellin’s workload this spring was basically the same as last year. He’s getting the veteran treatment. Betances did change his offseason routine — he said he gave himself a few extra weeks to rest before throwing again — which may have helped him this spring. Whatever he’s been doing this year, it’s worked so far. No issues whatsoever with Betances this spring.

David asks: I had a question about streaming, the answer to which I cannot find anywhere. I know that the Yankees are supposed to be covered by MLB’s new in-market streaming deal with FOX, but I haven’t really seen any follow-up on that since November. Google is surprisingly unhelpful. Do we know for sure that this is happening? I’ve only been able to stream spring training games via MLB.tv, leading to my concern.

The in-market streaming is definitely happening, though it won’t work the way I thought it would. I thought it would be as simple as paying for the service, authenticating your credentials, then firing up MLB.tv. Apparently it won’t work that way. Maury Brown has some more details:

Those that have ditched their televisions in favor of going with just internet content will be in a lurch if they wish to take advantage of getting games in their local markets. Users will need get the games streamed through FOX Sports Go, or FOX distribution points online. Like the MLB All-Star Game, users will have to authenticate to show which FOX regional sports network is part of their TV carrier’s package. Games will not be streamed as part of MLB.TV Premium, which includes the league’s popular At Bat for mobile devices.

You will still need to subscribe to YES through your cable provider, though it doesn’t seem as though there will be any additional fees. (A few years ago the Yankees on YES in-market streaming package was an extra $50.) So you’ll subscribe to YES, sign into the FOX Sports Go app, then provide your cable provider details for authentication. I thought it would be built right into MLB.tv. Lame. Still better than nothing though. Hope that helps.

Trout. (Presswire)
Trout. (Presswire)

James asks: To my furthest knowledge teams are willing to play between 6-8 million a year per 1 win( going off war). So with that math: if mike trout were to hit free agency right now mathematically how much would he get?

These days it’s closer to $8M per WAR, but that’s the league average. Every team is different. One win is worth more to the Yankees given their spot on the playoff bubble than it is to, say, the Phillies. The Yankees might be willing to pay $12M for that one additional win. Anyway, assuming $8M per WAR and the fact Trout is only 24 and his worst big league season was +8 WAR, his true on-field value is north of $64M per year. It’s probably closer to $80M. I could see him easily getting $40M per season if he were a free agent right now, maybe even $45M, but baseball is not at the point where a player is going to make $60M+ per season. I truly despise $/WAR analysis though. I understand the concept and it is important, but it’s become such a lazy crutch. Wins have different values to different teams at different points in time.

Jonathan asks: I’m wondering if you, or any other Yankee fans are feeling a bit disenfranchised by the Yankees PR and moves this off season? From the stub hub elitist comments, to the Chapman trade (essentially taking advantage of the market value of a player due to a domestic violence case). However as a lifelong fan, it’s not like I can just stop being a fan. But I can’t say my morale with this team has me proud to be a fan. Just wondering if you, or any of the other die hards feel the same?

Oh yeah, I definitely feel the same way and I’m sure others do as well. I’ve made it clear I did not like the Aroldis Chapman trade because of the domestic violence incident. When someone allegedly chokes and pushes their girlfriend, and shoots a gun in their house, the reaction shouldn’t be “how can this benefit us?” The StubHub thing was so ridiculous it almost felt intentional. Maybe it was part of some big social experiment or something. The fan experience at Yankee Stadium is pretty lame — why are the concessions so bad? even the new stuff they added this year is all gimmicky — and then you’ve got Hal Steinbrenner talking about his desire to cut payroll every chance he gets. It’s hard to just stop being a fan, but man, the Yankees have been pretty terrible at fostering positive PR recently.

Sam asks: You brought up that Girardi has been the manager for 9 years now in your coach post, could you do a 25 man roster of the best players from those 9 years based on each player’s best season?

A 25-man roster is a bit excessive. I’m going to pass on that. I will put together a roster of the best seasons at each position during the Joe Girardi era, however. I’m going to list two teams. The first team will be off the top of my head to see how the ol’ memory is working. The second team will be listed by WAR, the boring way. Here are the teams:

Mike’s Memory Team WAR’s Team
C 2009 Jorge Posada 2015 Brian McCann (2.8)
1B 2009 Mark Teixeira  2009 Teixeira (5.3)
2B 2012 Robinson Cano  2012 Cano (8.4)
SS 2009 Derek Jeter  2009 Jeter (6.5)
3B 2009 Alex Rodriguez  2008 A-Rod (6.8)
LF 2011 Brett Gardner  2010 Gardner (7.3)
CF 2011 Curtis Granderson  2011 Granderson (5.7)
RF 2012 Nick Swisher  2012 Swisher (3.8)
DH 2009 Hideki Matsui  2015 A-Rod (3.1)
SP 2011 CC Sabathia
2009 CC Sabathia
2008 Mike Mussina
2011 Sabathia (7.5)
2009 Sabathia (6.2)
2012 Hiroki Kuroda (5.5)
RP 2008 Mariano Rivera
2014 Dellin Betances
2015 Dellin Betances
2008 Rivera (4.8)
2011 David Robertson (4.0)
2014 & 2015 Dellin (both 3.7)

Hey, I did pretty good! I was way off on catcher — 2009 Posada is fifth behind two McCann seasons and two Russell Martin seasons by WAR — and I made the mistake of not picking the only year A-Rod played a full healthy season at third base under Girardi. I had the wrong year on Gardner. I thought 2010 was his big breakout year, not 2011. And no, I don’t think Gardner was actually worth seven wins in 2011. WAR can be dumb like that.

I undersold Robertson’s stellar 2011 season. It’s easy to forget how insanely good he was that year. Mussina’s 2008 season is the fourth best season by a starting pitcher under Girardi at +5.2 WAR, so I’m essentially correct. WAR’s not precise enough to think there’s a significant difference between +5.2 WAR and +5.5 WAR, no disrespect to Kuroda. Also, the difference between 2015 A-Rod and 2009 Matsui is only +0.4 WAR, so not big deal there.

Some other seasons worth highlighting (in no particular order): 2015 Andrew Miller, 2009 Andy Pettitte, 2009 Johnny Damon, 2012 Rafael Soriano, 2009 Phil Hughes, and 2008 Joba Chamberlain. Am I missing anyone obvious?

Open Thread: March 31st Camp Notes

The Yankees played their final two Grapefruit League games of the spring today and they lost both of ’em. They fell 9-1 to the Cardinals at home. Michael Pineda allowed six runs on seven hits in five innings, including four homers. He fanned four. Aroldis Chapman struck out two in a scoreless inning. Aaron Hicks, Carlos Beltran, and Brian McCann each had a base hit. Here are the box score and video highlights for that game.

The Yankees lost 10-6 to the Tigers in the away game. Fill-in starter Chad Green allowed five runs (four earned) on six hits and two walks in 4.1 innings. He too allowed four dingers and struck out four. Austin Romine had himself a nice little day, going 3-for-3 with a homer. Starlin Castro also had two hits. Gary Sanchez and Jorge Mateo each had a base hit in their afternoon up from minor league camp. Here are the box score and video highlights for that game, and here’s the rest from Tampa:

  • There was a lot of news earlier today. To recap: Romine, Luis Cessa, and Johnny Barbato have all made the team. Bryan Mitchell (toe) will miss at least three months. Andrew Miller (wrist) plans to pitch through his injury. Masahiro Tanaka will start Opening Day and be followed by Pineda, Nathan Eovaldi, and Luis Severino.
  • The Yankees are still deciding between CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova for the fifth starter. The longer this drags on, the better it is for Nova, I think. Also, Cessa and Barbato won spots before Mitchell’s injury. Now the Yanks have to pick someone to replace Mitchell. [Bryan Hoch, Chad Jennings]
  • Following today’s game, Anthony Swarzak and Cesar Puello were reassigned to minor league camp, the Yankees announced. Kirby Yates is the only reliever in camp who has not yet been named to the Opening Day roster. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll get Mitchell’s spot. They could always call someone who has already been optioned to Triple-A back up.
  • The Yankees will play games at Marlins Park the next two days. Aroldis Chapman will pitch in one of those games and then travel to New York with the team. He’ll spend a day there to get the lay of land before returning to Tampa. Per the terms of his suspension, Chapman is not allowed to be at Yankee Stadium for Opening Day. [Jennings]
  • The Reds placed Rule 5 Draft pick Jake Cave on waivers today. If he clears, he’ll be offered back to the Yankees per the Rule 5 Draft rules. That surprised me. Seemed like there would be a way for Cincinnati to squeeze Cave onto the roster. [Trent Rosecrans]
  • Prior to today’s game, Barbato was presented with the James P. Dawson Award as the best rookie in camp. Congrats to him. Slade Heathcott won it last year, Tanaka the year before.

This is tonight’s open thread. This afternoon’s home game will be replayed on YES after the Nets game, so figure 10pm ET or so. The road game will be replayed on MLB Network at 6am ET. MLB Network is showing the Cubs and Mets live from Las Vegas later tonight, plus all the local hockey and basketball teams are in action except the Knicks. Talk about whatever here.

Yankees place 16th in Baseball Prospectus’ farm system rankings


I think prospect season is officially over now. Earlier this week, Baseball Prospectus released their annual farm system rankings, and I’m pretty sure this is the final rankings post of the spring. All the other publications have released their lists. This should be the last of it.

Anyway, the BP crew ranked the farm systems in tiers. The Dodgers, Braves, and Rockies occupy the top tier. The Yankees are in the fifth tier (out of eleven) alongside the Reds, Indians, and Athletics. New York ranks 16th overall. The entire article is free. You don’t need a subscription. Here is the Yankees’ blurb:

The Yankees’ forays into international waters have already improved their standing from a pure volume-of-potential standpoint, and significant steps forward by even a couple of their swollen teenaged ranks could have this system looking much more dangerous a year from now.

We’ve already started to see the impact of the 2014-15 international spending spree on the system. I had two prospects from the spree in my Preseason Top 30 Prospects List (Wilkerman Garcia, Hoy Jun Park) and next year others like Estevan Florial, Diego Castillo, Juan DeLeon, Nelson Gomez, Brayan Emery, and Miguel Flames figure to come stateside. They’re the future of the system.

Keep in mind both Greg Bird and Luis Severino lost their prospect status last season, so while they don’t count towards the team’s farm system ranking, they could towards the “they’re young players and really good and very important to the future of the franchise” ranking. That list doesn’t exist as far as I know, but it should.

Keith Law, Baseball America, and MiLB.com ranked the Yankees’ farm system 13th, 17th, and 17th, respectively, so Baseball Prospectus’ ranking slots right in perfectly. The consensus is the Yankees have a middle of the pack farm system that skews slightly below average. Sounds about right to me.

Girardi confirms Tanaka to start Opening Day; Romine and Cessa make roster


During this afternoon’s game broadcast on YES, Joe Girardi confirmed Masahiro Tanaka will indeed start Opening Day this coming Monday. He’s been lined up to start Opening Day all spring, so this isn’t a surprise. The Yankees dragged out the announcement for whatever reason. It will be Tanaka’s second straight Opening Day start.

The rotation behind Tanaka will be Michael Pineda, Nathan Eovaldi, and Luis Severino in that order, Girardi confirmed. The Yankees will pick between CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova for the fifth starter’s spot. Apparently that decision has not yet been made. Either that or the players have not been informed and the team is not ready to make the announcement.

Girardi also said both Luis Cessa and Austin Romine will make the Opening Day roster. The writing has been on the wall for Romine since Gary Sanchez was optioned to minor league camp last week. He’s had the inside track to be Brian McCann‘s backup for a while now. Romine has had a nice camp, and because he is out of options with a prior outright assignment, he could have elected free agent if he did not make the team.

Cessa, 23, came over from the Tigers this past offseason in the Justin Wilson trade. He allowed three runs on eight hits and two walks in ten innings this spring, and all three runs came in one of his five Grapefruit League outings. Cessa struck out ten. He’s a starter by trade and can give the team multiple innings. Interestingly, Girardi said Cessa made the team even before Bryan Mitchell went down with his broken toe.

In other roster news, Johnny Barbato told reporters in Tampa this morning he has been told he will make the team as well. The 23-year-old came over from the Padres in last year’s Shawn Kelley trade. He surrendered one run in 10.1 innings this spring, with 12 strikeouts and one one walk. Neither Barbato nor Cessa has pitched in the big leagues before, so the Yankees will have two true rookies in their Opening Day bullpen.

Earlier this week we learned Ronald Torreyes has indeed made the team as the backup infielder, beating out Pete Kozma. Here’s the roster at the moment:

McCann Ackley Beltran Tanaka Barbato Chapman (sus.)
Romine Castro Ellsbury Pineda Betances Bird (DL)
Gregorius Gardner Eovaldi Cessa Mitchell (DL)
DH (1) Headley Hicks Severino Shreve Williams (DL)
Rodriguez Teixeira CC or Nova CC or Nova
Torreyes Miller?

Andrew Miller is a question right now because he suffered a chip fracture yesterday when he took a line drive to the wrist. He intends to pitch through his wrist fracture, though we’ll see what happens later today, after he visits a specialist. It might not be a playable injury. Hopefully it is.

Mitchell’s injury created an open bullpen spot, which is that last ??? in the table under relievers. Kirby Yates and Anthony Swarzak are the only bullpeners still in big league camp and not on the Opening Day roster. Yates has out-pitched Swarzak this spring, so we’ll see if that’s enough to land him on the team. The Yankees could always bring someone back from minor league camp as well.

The Rest of the AL East [2016 Season Preview]

Over the last six seasons, each of the five AL East teams has won at least one division title. The Yankees (2011, 2012) are the only club with multiple division titles in the last six years. The days of the AL East being dominated by the Yankees and Red Sox are long gone. The other three teams are no longer pushovers.

For what it’s worth, the projections at FanGraphs have the five AL East teams all winning between 79-88 games in 2016, a gap of only nine wins. Baseball Prospectus has them all in the 75-87 win range. If nothing else, the objective computers think the five clubs are pretty close in terms of talent level. You’re welcome to disagree, of course.

Because knowing your enemy is just as important as knowing yourself, let’s take some time to preview the upcoming season for the four non-Yankees teams in the AL East. This is nothing too in-depth. It’s just enough to give you an idea what the Yankees are up against in 2016.

Is the Showalter honeymoon over? (Presswire)

Baltimore Orioles

Notable Additions: Mark Trumbo, Pedro Alvarez, Yovani Gallardo
Notable Losses: Wei-Yin Chen, Steve Pearce, Gerardo Parra

The Orioles went 81-81 last season, and they had to commit $207.8M to Chris Davis, Darren O’Day, and Matt Wieters this offseason just to keep their core intact. Also, Kevin Gausman is dealing with a shoulder issue and Miguel Gonzalez was released yesterday, so their rotation right now is:

  1. Chris Tillman
  2. Yovani Gallardo
  3. Ubaldo Jimenez
  4. ???
  5. ???

That seems less than ideal. O’Day and Zach Britton are a dynamite end-game tandem, but I’m not sure how manager Buck Showalter expects to get the ball to them. They’re counting on a big time bounceback from Tillman and consistency from Jimenez (lol), and for Gallardo to chew up innings better than he did last year. He completed six innings just twice in his final 16 starts of 2015.

The O’s are going to have to win a lot of 7-6 games to contend and they have the firepower to do so. Davis, Trumbo, Alvarez, Adam Jones, and Manny Machado are all legitimate 30 homer threats. Watch out for Jonathan Schoop too. He hit 15 homers in only 321 plate appearances last year. The Trumbo and Alvarez pickups don’t do anything to help the club’s OBP problem — the O’s were 26th in baseball with a .307 OBP in 2015 — so while they might hit 250 home runs this season, most of them will be solo shots.

Baltimore is the only AL East team that would really surprise me by winning the division. They’re going to hit a ton of homers, there’s no doubt about that, but they don’t get on base and the pitching staff is thin. I mean really, really thin. The O’s will be a headache to play this season. Over the course of 162 games though, I feel it’s only a matter of time until they fall behind the rest of the AL East.

A worthy foe. (Presswire)
A worthy foe. (Presswire)

Boston Red Sox

Notable Additions: David Price, Craig Kimbrel, Carson Smith, Chris Young
Notable Losses: Wade Miley

For the third or fourth year in a row, the Red Sox changed philosophies this offseason, deciding to spend big after former GM Ben Cherington spent a few years preaching restraint and flexibility. New baseball operations chief Dave Dombrowski is all about big names, has been for years, hence the Price signing and Kimbrel trade. Those moves were right in his wheelhouse.

Price gives the BoSox the ace they so clearly lacked, but I think the bullpen additions are going to help them more than Price. Kimbrel and Smith are replacing Alexei Ogando and Craig Breslow, who combined to allow 62 runs in 130.1 innings in 2015. Those two will join Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa in the late innings. (Smith’s dealing with a flexor injury and will miss the start of the regular season.)

Offensively, the Red Sox have sneaky big questions in five spots: catcher (Blake Swihart), first base (Hanley Ramirez), third base (Pablo Sandoval), left field (Rusney Castillo), and center field (Jackie Bradley Jr.). They’re already talking about sending Castillo to Triple-A and playing a Young/Brock Holt platoon in left, and apparently now Travis Shaw is the starting third baseman. Everyone seems to be assuming Hanley and Bradley will have above-average seasons because … I don’t know why. At least Hanley has his track record to fall back on.

The Red Sox get the benefit of the doubt more than any chronically underachieving team deserves. They have talent, that much is clear, but they’ve had talent the last two years too, and they still finished in last place. The Red Sox are going to be tough to play against because they’re always tough to play against. Bet on them at your own risk though. No club has done less with more the last two seasons.


Tampa Bay Rays

Notable Additions: Logan Morrison, Brad Miller, Hank Conger, Steve Pearce, Corey Dickerson
Notable Losses: Asdrubal Cabrera, John Jaso, Nate Karns, Jake McGee, James Loney

Only the White Sox scored fewer runs than the Rays among AL teams a year ago, so Tampa Bay set out to improve their offense by acquiring a bunch of guys who can be good if used in very specific ways. Dickerson is good as long as he never faces lefties and is your DH. Miller is good as long as he never faces lefties and the ball is never hit to him. That kinda thing. That’s what the Rays do. They find imperfect players and try to use them perfectly.

The Rays did sacrifice some defense for offense this winter. Morrison is unquestionably worse at first base than Loney. (Loney was told he won’t make the team yesterday.) Remember how shaky and goof prone Didi Gregorius was early last year? That’s Miller all the time. Asdrubal is no great shakes in the field, but he is sure-handed. Conger, meanwhile, is the worst throwing catcher in baseball. He went 1-for-43 throwing out base-stealers last year. That is not a typo. 1-for-43. o n e f o r f o r t y t h r e e

To their credit, the Rays ostensibly improved their weaknesses without sacrificing too much from their strengths. They still have a solid rotation even without Karns and their defense is not atrocious. The bullpen is a little up in the air because McGee is gone and Brad Boxberger will miss a few weeks following core muscle surgery, so that’s their big question right now. Manager Kevin Cash usually doesn’t let his non-Chris Archer starters go through the lineup a third time, and those middle innings are rather treacherous.

For Tampa Bay to contend this year, they’ll need Evan Longoria to get back to where he was earlier in his career, and I’m not sure how possible that is. He’s now 30 and his power is starting to vanish; he went from being a consistent .230+ ISO guy to a .150 ISO guy the last two seasons. That’s bad news for the Rays, especially since his six-year, $100M extension kicks in next year. The Rays will be in the hunt this year, but, as always, they’ll need a lot to go right to beat out division rivals with more resources.


Toronto Blue Jays

Notable Additions: Jesse Chavez, J.A. Happ, Drew Storen, Gavin Floyd
Notable Losses: David Price, Mark Buehrle, Mark Lowe, Liam Hendriks, Ben Revere

You’d think going to the postseason for the first time in two decades would be enough to keep the GM around, but apparently not. The Blue Jays named former Indians president Mark Shapiro their new president last year, replacing the retired Paul Beeston, and GM Alex Anthopoulos felt his authority would be undermined, so he rejected an extension offer and walked away over the winter. Crazy, huh?

The Blue Jays have never been huge spenders and Shapiro himself has a history of steering clear of big free agents, so the team never made much of an effort to keep Price. They instead opted to replace him (and Buehrle) with Happ, Chavez, and a full year of Marcus Stroman. It … might work? They only had Price for eleven starts in 2015, after all. Buehrle was close to toast by the end of the season too.

Toronto still has their powerhouse lineup — they scored 891 runs last season, 127 more than the second highest scoring team (Yankees!) and the most by any team since the 2009 Yankees (915) — and now they’ll have a full year of Troy Tulowitzki at shortstop. Even if he spends time on the DL, 100 games of Tulo and 62 games of a replacement level player is still one of the best shortstops in the game.

As I said this morning, I am of the belief the Blue Jays will outscore any pitching problems. The Yankees did that for years in the mid-2000s. I’m an offense first guy. I’ll always bet on the team with a juggernaut offense coming out ahead over the course of a 162-game season. The Blue Jays may not be quite as imposing as they were in the second half last season, but they’re still very good. Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion will be free agents next offseason, so this might be the club’s last chance to win with this core.

Spring Training Dual Game Thread: So Long, Tampa


The Yankees play their final games of the Grapefruit League season this afternoon, and you know, everything was going well until yesterday, when Andrew Miller took a line drive to the wrist and Bryan Mitchell managed to break his toe covering first. Just like that, the Yankees are down two of their seven projected Opening Day relievers. Miller says he plans to pitch through the injury, but we’ll see.

What are you going to do? That’s baseball. The goal today is to get through the split squad games healthy and make it to Miami for the upcoming exhibition games at Marlins Park without the bus bursting into flames. You know, those two games in Marlins Park will not be televised. How do two Major League teams play two games in a Major League ballpark with no cameras in the year 2016?

Ron Swanson

Anyway, the stupid Cardinals are in stupid Tampa to play half the Yankees this afternoon while the other half of the Yankees are in stupid Lakeland to play the stupid Tigers. Here is the Cardinals’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup for the home game:

  1. CF Aaron Hicks
  2. RF Carlos Beltran
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. 2B Dustin Ackley
  8. SS Ronald Torreyes
  9. LF Cesar Puello
    RHP Michael Pineda

Available Pitchers: LHP Aroldis Chapman, RHP Anthony Swarzak, and RHP Branden Pinder are all scheduled to pitch. LHP Matt Tracy, LHP James Reeves, and RHP Vinnie Pestano are also available.

Available Position Players: C Eddy Rodriguez, 1B Chris Gittens, 2B Donovan Solano, SS Jonathan Diaz, 3B Billy Fleming, LF Lane Adams, CF Ben Gamel, RF Mark Payton, and DH Carlos Corporan will replace the regulars off the bench. C Sebastian Valle, IF Vicente Conde, and OF Carlos Vidal are the extra players.

I imagine Joe Girardi is hanging back in Tampa to keep tabs on the all the regulars. Now here is the Tigers’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup for the road game:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. SS Didi Gregorius
  3. 2B Starlin Castro
  4. C Austin Romine
  5. 3B Pete Kozma
  6. RF Aaron Judge
  7. 1B Chris Parmelee
  8. LF Tyler Austin
  9. DH Trey Amburgey
    RHP Chad Green

Available Pitchers: LHP Tyler Webb, RHP Conor Mullee, LHP James Pazos, and RHP Diego Moreno are all going to pitch after Green. RHP Dillon McNamara and RHP Mark Montgomery are the extra arms.

Available Position Players: C Gary Sanchez, 2B Jose Rosario, SS Jorge Mateo, 3B Rob Refsnyder, and CF Dustin Fowler will be the second string. C Francisco Diaz, C Radley Haddad, IF Dan Fiorito, OF Jake Skole, and OF Juan Silva drew the short straws and had to make the trip even though they aren’t scheduled to play.

Both games today will begin a little after 1pm ET. The weather in Tampa is a little better than the weather in Lakeland — cloudy with temperatures in the mid-80s — but there’s no rain in the forecast in either city, and that’s all that matters. You can watch the home game on YES, MLB Network, and MLB.tv. You can watch the road game on FOX Sports Detroit if you live in the Tigers’ home market, otherwise your only option is MLB.tv. Enjoy the last Grapefruit League games of the year.