After auditing their unproductive player development system, the Yankees implemented some procedural changes earlier this offseason but did not make any significant personnel changes to their minor league staff. Long-time VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman was one of those expected to come under fire if changes were made. Anthony McCarron spoke to Newman and got some details about those procedural changes. Here’s the skinny:
- A new building has been added to the minor league complex in Tampa. It houses meeting rooms and a cafeteria, which I assume will help players with nutrition. A dormitory for prospects is currently being discussed and may be added as well.
- The four diamonds at the minor league complex are all being refurbished. “These fields have been here since Johnny Bench was an 18-year-old,” said Newman, referring back to when the Reds owned the complex.
- The Yankees have added a statistical analyst to work exclusively with the player development staff. Newman called that person a “PhD in advanced math and statistics” and said they have “some bright dudes here … (the system) is going to go back up, odds are.”
- Among the other staff additions are former Cubs manager Mike Quade, who will serve as an outfield/base-running coordinator, something Newman says they haven’t had “in a while.” Ex-minor league coach Jody Reed has rejoined the organization and will handle individual development plans for prospects.
- And finally, after fielding two teams in the Rookie Gulf Coast League last summer, the Yankees will again field two teams in the league in 2014. Nothing but good can come from that.
We’re only six days away from pitchers and catchers reporting to Tampa for the start of Spring Training. Here are some injury updates in the meantime, courtesy of Kevin Kernan, Andrew Marchand, Wally Matthews, Matt Ehalt, and the Associated Press.
- So far, so good for Derek Jeter (leg). He just completed his third week of baseball activities and everything is holding up well. “I feel good,” he said. “I’ve been working hard, and I’ve had a complete offseason to work out and strengthen everything … It’s been fun, but it’s been difficult because you’re starting over from scratch.”
- Mark Teixeira (wrist) has started taking batting practice against live pitching. He has gradually worked his way back from surgery, first by taking dry swings and then by hitting off a tee and soft toss. “There’s plenty of guys that come back from injuries come back way too fast and get reinjured,” he said. “That’s not in my plans this year.”
- Scott Sizemore (knee) feels good as he works his way back from his second torn left ACL in the last two years. “I’m feeling pretty good, getting back on the field feels great and I haven’t had any issues with the knee,” he said. “Obviously, two serious knee injuries, doubts crept into my mind if I was ever going to be able to play again. Nothing’s given.”
- Manny Banuelos (elbow) is completely rehabbed from Tommy John surgery and on a normal throwing program right now. “[The elbow] feels normal, just like before surgery. I feel ready to go,” he said.
Via Adam Rubin: Stephen Drew and agent Scott Boras are currently seeking a multi-year contract that includes an opt-out clause after the first season. The Mets are not willing to do a deal like that and it’s unclear if the Red Sox, his only other apparent suitor at this point, would be open to the opt-out.
The Yankees have not been pursuing Drew in recent weeks but their infield is a mess and he is by far the best available infielder. He’s a really good fit, especially since Boras has already said he’s open to playing positions other than shortstop. Since the Bombers would only have to give up their second rounder to sign Drew, they could conceivably wind up with a better draft pick next year if he has a strong Yankee Stadium-aided season and opts out. I dunno, this seems like one of those moves that won’t happen because it makes too much sense. · (143) ·
MLB and MLBPA wanted the judge to toss out A-Rod’s suit against them. It appears they’ll get their wish. Today was the deadline for A-Rod and company to respond, and they have voluntarily dismissed the case according to Newsday’s Jim Baumbach. A-Rod also withdrew his October lawsuit against Bud Selig, which alleged a witch hunt.
This seems very odd, given A-Rod’s insistence that he would continue to fight. RAB alum Moshe Mandel notes that A-Rod could re-file or combine the suits, but that’s not certain.
Update: A-Rod’s lawyer, Joe Tacopina, confirms that A-Rod will accept his suspension without further argument. He also will not attend Spring Training. · (85) ·
Via Matt Eddy: The Yankees have signed right-hander Cole Kimball to a minor league contract. I assume he received an invitation to Spring Training as well, meaning there will now be 27 non-roster players in camp this year.
Kimball, 28, is a local guy who was born in Brooklyn and raised in Hackettstown. He picked up eleven innings of big league experience with the Nationals in early 2011, but he had rotator cuff surgery that July and has only thrown 49 innings since. Last season he had an 8.06 ERA and 4.91 FIP in 25.2 relief innings for Washington’s Triple-A affiliate, striking out 25 and walking 14.
“Before he got hurt, Kimball attacked hitters with a heavy 93-97 mph fastball, a swing-and-miss splitter in the mid-80s and a power curveball in the low 80s. He can throw the curve for strikes or bury it as a chase pitch,” wrote Baseball America (subs. req’d) in their 2012 Prospect Handbook. The Yankees are clearly hoping Kimball gets back to his pre-surgery form as he gets further away from the procedure. · (20) ·
Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka will be introduced at a 1pm ET press conference at Yankee Stadium next Tuesday, the Yankees announced. It will be broadcast live on YES. Tanaka recently secured his visa (thanks to Senator Schumer) and the team wanted to hold a press conference in New York before everyone went down to Tampa for the start of Spring Training late next week.
In other news, Joel Sherman reports that Tanaka’s contract stipulates that he can not be sent to the minors without his permission. It’s not really a big deal but obviously we should all hope the Yankees don’t even have to think about sending Tanaka to the minors at some point. They’ve basically given him all the rights of a player with 6+ years of service time, which is the norm these days. Japanese veterans are treated as Major League veterans as a courtesy even though they are technically rookies. · (47) ·
Got five questions this week, basically half of the last few mailbags. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us anything and everything.
Jamie asks: Rather than the six-man rotation idea that always gets floated but never implemented, would the Yankees be best served limiting CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda‘s workloads to 6-7 IP per start max and giving them a middle relief caddy like David Phelps?
Yes, I think so. Sabathia and Kuroda have averaged 6.93 and 6.48 innings per start with the Yankees, respectively, which is rather high. The Yankees have talked about reducing the workload on both guys recently and the easiest way to do that might be to treat them as six inning starters rather than seven inning starters. Phelps and Adam Warren would be obvious caddy candidates since they could throw two or three innings at a time out of the bullpen as middle/setup relievers rather than true long men. Sorta like mini-1996 Mariano Riveras. They could be kept on a somewhat regular schedule to make life a little easier as well.
The caddy system sounds great in theory but it would be tough to pull off if the other five relievers are regular one-inning guys. The Yankees would also need another veteran starter so they could stash Phelps and Warren in the bullpen full-time, and it doesn’t seem like they’re eager to add one. I really like the idea of having middle relievers who are used for multiple innings at a time, but no one ever does it though. The 2009 version of Al Aceves is a rarity these days.
Bill asks: Why has there been so little speculation about moving Derek Jeter to third base? It seems like the perfect answer to the third base problem and gets Ryan to short stop where his defensive skills would shine.
The snarky answer is that Jeter is Jeter and he’ll play shortstop for the Yankees until he says he doesn’t want to do it anymore, but I do think there are legitimate reasons for not making the move right now. He is coming back from some rather serious leg injuries and just starting taking ground balls on the dirt this week, so he is not particularly close to being in game shape right now. Jeter has never played a position other than shortstop in 22 professional seasons and third base would be an entirely new experience because the ball gets on you so quick at the hot corner. There would be a learning curve, perhaps a steep one, and asking him to change positions as he works his way back from major leg injuries might be too much for a 39-year-old. If he was perfectly healthy and able to start working out at third early in the offseason, it would make sense. Asking Jeter to go through a crash course at a different position following those injuries probably isn’t realistic.
Pedro asks: What do you think about Oliver Perez?
Time for the Pitcher A vs. Pitcher B game. Everyone loves this, right? Good. Here we go:
|IP||ERA||FIP||K%||BB%||GB%||HR/FB||RHB wOBA||LHB wOBA|
You’re smart, you know one of those guys is Perez. He’s Pitcher A. But what about Pitcher B? He is Perez’s former Mariners teammate and current Yankees setup man Shawn Kelley. Perez and Kelley had almost identical seasons in 2013 — kinda freaky, no? — with the only differences being handedness and ballpark-effected homerun rates (which is why Kelley had a higher ERA and FIP). Could the Yankees use a left-handed version of Kelley? Sure. It wouldn’t hurt given the current state of the bullpen. I don’t know what an appropriate contract would be though. Scott Downs got a one-year deal worth $4M and I’m not sure I’d go any higher than that for Perez.
Mark asks: Do you have an overlay of the new Stadium on top of the old Stadium to see the subtle differences? Also, I know the minor league stadium in Tampa has the same dimensions as Yankee Stadium, but do the AA and AAA ballparks have them too? Wouldn’t it just make sense?
As you know, the biggest difference is in straight-away right field, where the new wall is as much as nine feet closer than the old one at some points. George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa has the same dimensions as the old Stadium, not the new one. It hasn’t been modified since the new park went up. The various minor league affiliate ballparks all have their own unique dimensions:
|Double-A||Arm & Hammer Park||330||?||407||?||330|
|High-A||George M. Steinbrenner Field||318||399||408||385||314|
|Low-A||Joseph P. Riley Jr. Park||305||356||398||366||337|
|Short Season||Richmond County Bank Ballpark||320||?||390||?||318|
I wrote about the four full season ballparks back in June 2011. They’re all slight pitcher’s parks overall except for GMS Field in Tampa, which is neutral compared to the rest of the Florida State League. All of those parks suppress homeruns though, extremely so in some cases. Arm & Hammer Park is right on the Delaware River and the wind makes it very tough to hit the ball out of the park to right field.
The Yankees don’t actually own any of the minor league parks — they operate GMS Field but it is owned by the Tampa Sports Authority — so modifying the dimensions to match the new Yankee Stadium isn’t a simple *snaps fingers* “okay let’s do this” thing. The Triple-A, Double-A, and Low-A ballparks were all built long before those franchises became affiliated with the Yankees. It would be neat if every minor league park matched the big league park’s dimensions, but it’s not realistic or even essential as far as I’m concerned.
David asks: Which Yankees have no-trade clauses in their deal? Am I right that it’s more than any other team? How big a problem do you think this obviously less than ideal practice is?
Here’s the full list of Yankees with some kind of no-trade clause:
- Five-and-Ten Rights: Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Sabathia, Mark Teixeira
- Full No-Trade Clauses In Contracts: Carlos Beltran, Kuroda, Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, Alfonso Soriano, Masahiro Tanaka
I haven’t seen anything about Kuroda having a no-trade clause in his current contract, but he had one in his last two deals and I assume he has one again. That’s ten 40-man roster players and nine who are expected to be on the Opening Day roster who can’t be traded without their permissions. That’s a lot. The Yankees are pretty liberal with no-trade clauses and I wonder how often that has given them an advantage in free agent talks when the offers are similar financially. Some other teams completely refuse to give out no-trade clauses.
Obviously no-trade clauses hinder flexibility and it would be awesome if no player had one, but the Yankees are in a different situation than most teams. They always try to contend and add big name players, not trade them away. How bad would things have to get for them to even consider dealing Ellsbury or Tanaka, for example? It’s not like some team is going to offer a cheap, young superstar for either of those guys, so the no-trade clause rarely comes into play anyway.
Eleven years ago today, the Evil Empire was born. The Yankees officially signed Jose Contreras on this date in 2003, prompting Red Sox president Larry Lucchino to say “the Evil Empire extends its tentacles even into Latin America.” Contreras didn’t work out for the Yankees and, frankly, the Red Sox have had quite a bit more success than their division rivals since his signing, but I’ve always enjoyed the Evil Empire moniker. The Yankees are baseball’s villains and it’s all in good fun at this point. Someone has to do it, might as well be my favorite team.
Here is your nightly open thread. The Rangers, Islanders, and Nets are all playing, plus the Olympics started today, so talk about those games or anything else. You know how this works by now, so have at it.
There are very few quality Contreras highlight videos out there, even fewer of him with the Yankees. I think that video is from one of the MLB All-Stars vs. Japan All-Stars exhibitions they used to play after each season. Yeah, “All-Stars” was loosely defined.
Of the $483 million the Yankees spent this winter, just $22 million went to the infield – just 4.5 percent of the total. More than half of that $22 million went to a player who might not physically be able to hold down a position all year. The situation looks bleak indeed.
How bleak? Last year the Yankees ranked 26th in the league in infield OPS+ — and that was with Robinson Cano, who ranked 10th in the majors in OPS+. Even adding Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter won’t offset the loss of Cano. The downgrade at second base is just too severe. If Brian Roberts gets hurt, the downgrade tumbles further.
From there the Yankees turn to Dean Anna, Eduardo Nunez, Corban Joseph, and Jose Pirela. Maybe one of them steps in and performs like an average 2B or 3B. But of them only Nunez is battle tested, and he hasn’t shined much when given opportunities. It has become pretty clear that the Yankees have moved on from Nunez as a primary option.
What the Yankees have in the infield is a pile of potentially decent players. Maybe Jeter comes back and hits enough to compensate for his defense. Maybe a finally healthy Teixeira can bolster the crew. Would you take either of those bets, let alone both of them?
At this point there is little the Yankees can do. Maybe they’ve talked trades and think they have a potential match that will materialize later. It’s not as though they’ll find any solutions on the free agent market. They could sure use Stephen Drew, but have said that they will not sign him.
Will the Yankees really go into the season, having spent a half billion in the off-season, with an infield as uncertain as the current one? Right now it seems that way. With not much time left, and few players who can actually help, it appears they’ll try the smorgasbord method.
Unless they know something we don’t…