Monday Night Open Thread

Here is your open thread for the evening. The Knicks are playing right now, the Devils are playing later tonight, and there are a handful of college basketball games as well. That’s it. Talk about whatever you want right here.

Rosenthal: Yankees have inquired, but are not seriously pursuing Cole Hamels

(Scott Cunningham/Getty)
(Scott Cunningham/Getty)

According to Ken Rosenthal, the Yankees have inquired about Cole Hamels but are not seriously pursuing the Phillies’ ace left-hander. The Red Sox, Rangers, Padres, and Cardinals are in the mix for Hamels and Rosenthal hears Philadelphia is looking for the “perfect” trade. They want to hit a home run and I don’t blame then. The Yankees are not on the southpaw’s limited no-trade list, by the way.

Hamels, who turned 31 three weeks ago, is owed $94M over the next four seasons with a $24M vesting option for 2019 based on his workload and health. He’s not exactly cheap, but the contract terms are more favorable than the seven years and $180-something million it took to get Max Scherzer, and Hamels has been every bit as good as Scherzer the last three years. Here, look:

IP ERA FIP K% BB% GB% HR/FB% RHB wOBA LHB wOBA
Scherzer 622.1 3.24 2.94 28.6% 7.1% 36.5% 8.7% 0.254 0.314
Hamels 640.0 3.05 3.21 23.7% 6.2% 44.1% 9.8% 0.293 0.294

Scherzer strikes out more batters but Hamels makes up for it with a better ground ball rate and no platoon split whatsoever. If you want to nitpick who is better, be my guest. They’re both elite performers and bonafide workhorses. The Yankees need rotation help and Hamels would be a massive upgrade just as Scherzer would have been a massive upgrade.

The cost to get Scherzer was a draft pick and a huge contract. Hamels will cost multiple prospects but require half the financial commitment. The package to acquire high-end starters in a trade always seems to be less than expected — Jeff Samardzija this offseason, David Price at the deadline, Zack Greinke two years ago, etc. — but it always takes three or four young players. And, of course, those three guys were all much closer to free agency than Hamels at the time of their trades.

Nick Cafardo indicated the Phillies are prioritizing a catcher in any Hamels trade and the Yankees have two to realistically offer in John Ryan Murphy and Gary Sanchez. Would Murphy or Sanchez, Luis Severino, Rob Refsnyder, and an MLB ready reliever like Chasen Shreve or Branden Pinder work? I have no idea, I’m just spitballin’ here. That seems light to me though. I’d want more for Hamels.

A four-player package like that would take a big bite out of the depth the Yankees have built this offseason while adding a legitimate ace on a contract of favorable length. It would also dramatically improve their chances in a very wide open AL East this coming season, so it’s both a short and long-term move. Hamels, like Scherzer, is someone capable of changing the balance of power within a division. He’s that good.

The Yankees have said — repeatedly — they are unwilling to take on another massive contract this offseason and Rosenthal says their interest in Hamels was the result of due diligence, nothing more. I would never rule out the Yankees making a surprising/big move though. The Phillies could drop their demands and change things at a moment’s notice.

Ranking the 40-Man Roster: Nos. 32-40

Call me Esmil. (Presswire)
Call me Esmil. (Presswire)

Outside of some minor tinkering here and there, it appears the Yankees are done with their major offseason moves and are basically set heading into Spring Training. Pitchers and catchers report in a little less than five weeks now. Barring a surprise big move, there’s not much left on the agenda other than adding pitching depth. Someone like Johan Santana, maybe.

Anyway, with Spring Training on the horizon, we’re going to rank and analyze the roles of everyone on the 40-man roster these next two weeks. The rankings are based on the player’s importance to the 2015 Yankees as well as their importance to the team long-term, and we’ve lumped the players into ten easy to post tiers. Needless to say, these rankings are completely subjective (and more difficult than you think) and you’re going to disagree with them at some point. Something like this has no right answer.

The series starts today with the bottom of the list, Nos. 32-40. Tier ten. These are the spare part players. Up-and-down bullpen arms, bench players on one-year contracts, guys like that. The fringe players who will inevitably see time with the big league team this year but aren’t expected to play a major role, either in 2015 or down the line. Let’s get to it.

No. 40: Chris Martin

2015 Role: Up-and-down arm. The Yankees acquired Martin from the Rockies for cash last week because they felt he was a minor upgrade over Gonzalez Germen, who they felt was a minor upgrade over Preston Claiborne earlier this offseason. Martin will get a look in Spring Training and, if he impresses, he’ll put himself in position for a call-up later this year.

Long-Term Role: Really doesn’t have one. Martin is a big dude — he’s listed at 6-foot-8 and 215 lbs. — with a mid-90s fastball, a low-80s curve, and a history of missing bats in Triple-A (9.6 K/9 and 24.9 K% in 77 innings), so he could always have instant success and carve out a place in middle relief. If that happens, Martin could stick around all year and be part of the bullpen mix in 2016, but that’s the best case scenario.

No. 39: Chase Whitley

Whitley. (Presswire)
Whitley. (Presswire)

2015 Role: Another up-and-down arm, except Whitley at least has the ability to contribute as an emergency rotation option if necessary. He’s not strictly a bullpen arm like Martin. The Yankees more or less know what they have in Whitley and he’ll head to Triple-A Scranton when the season begins, biding his time until reinforcements are inevitably needed.

Long-Term Role: A spare arm until he runs out of minor league options or an upgrade comes along, whichever comes first. Whitley did not use an option last season — he was only sent down for ten days in late-August and it takes 20 days to burn an option — so he has all three remaining, meaning he can go up and down in 2015, 2016, and 2017. If he shows the ability to contribute as a spot starter, Whitley will stick around.

No. 38: Jose DePaula

2015 Role: Again, up-and-down arm. DePaula is a legitimate starter, not a pure reliever like Martin or a career reliever recently converted into a starter like Whitley, and he gets bonus points for being left-handed. The Yankees like DePaula enough that they gave him a big league contract as a minor league free agent this offseason even though he’s yet to reach MLB.

Long-Term Role: DePaula only has one minor league option remaining, which means his time in the organization might not extend beyond the 2015 season. A trip to Triple-A Scranton is in the cards to start the year, and if DePaula gets called up at some point, he’ll have to impress enough to stick around next year, even if it’s as nothing more than a long man. In a nutshell, DePaula has replaced Vidal Nuno on the 40-man roster. Similar pitchers, same sort of role.

No. 37: Austin Romine

2015 Role: Considering he is out of minor league options and can not go to Triple-A without first passing through waivers, there’s a good chance Romine will no longer be with the organization come Opening Day. Catchers are hard to find, so the Yankees figure to keep Romine through Spring Training in case Brian McCann or John Ryan Murphy gets hurt. His 2015 role is emergency extra catcher.

Long-Term Role: Nothing more than being the emergency catcher at this point. Romine’s career stalled out the last few seasons and being out of options means decision time has come. If the Yankees don’t need him to start the season as an injury replacement, Romine will probably be traded — in a small trade for a small return — to a catcher-needy team rather than go on waivers. It would be a surprise if he clears waivers and is able to go to Triple-A to back up Gary Sanchez.

No. 36: Chris Young

2015 Role: Fourth outfielder who will see most of his time against left-handed pitchers. Young might also replace Carlos Beltran for defense in the late innings of close games. He had a strong September cameo in pinstripes and returned to the team on a one-year, $2.5M contract with nearly $4M in incentives.

Long-Term Role: Young’s days as an everyday player are over, and since he’s on a one-year contract, the Yankees have no real ties to him. They can cut him loose if he doesn’t produce during the season or walk away if a better option comes along next offseason. And, of course, they’ll always have the option of re-signing Young if he excels in his part-time role this summer.

No. 35: Brendan Ryan

2015 Role: It appears Ryan will again be on the bench as New York’s extra infielder this coming season, though I suppose there’s a chance he could get pushed out by someone like Jose Pirela or Rob Refsnyder in Spring Training. There’s definite value in Ryan’s ability to play above-average defense at shortstop and that will keep him in the organization and on the roster, in my opinion.

Long-Term Role: Ryan is entering the second year of his two-year contract, though the deal includes a $2M club option and a $1M player option for 2016. (If the Yankees decline the club option, Ryan can still exercise the player option.) The Yankees don’t have any upper level shortstop prospects capable of replacing Ryan next year, so right now it looks like he has a decent chance to stick around as a bench player beyond the 2015 season.

No. 34: Stephen Drew

2015 Role: Everyday second baseman or close to it — Drew could sit against tough lefties or be pushed into a straight platoon role if, say, Refsnyder forces the issue in camp. I do expect him to at least start the season as the regular second baseman though. Drew will hit in the bottom third of the lineup and hopefully produce like he did in 2013, not 2014. His left-handed swing fits well in Yankee Stadium.

Long-Term Role: Drew doesn’t have a long-term spot with the team. He’s on a one-year contract worth $5M with some incentives, but Refsnyder is coming and the Yankees seem to be making a concerted effort to get younger. Bringing Drew back was about adding depth, not blocking Refsnyder. It’s always possible the Yankees will bring Drew back after the season if he plays well, but it’s hard to think he’ll be penciled in as a regular again. He’s a stopgap, plain and simple.

Hooray for a lefty throwing first baseman. (Presswire)
Hooray for a lefty throwing first baseman. (Presswire)

No. 33: Garrett Jones

2015 Role: Oft-used bench player who will provide backup at first base, right field, and DH, three positions where the Yankees have major injury risks in Mark Teixeira, Beltran, and Alex Rodriguez. I think the health concerns of those three guys give Jones a clear path to 400 or so plate appearances in 2015, which might be just enough to expose his weaknesses. That said, his left-handed power is a great fit for Yankee Stadium.

Long-Term Role: Jones, who came over from the Marlins in the five-player Martin Prado/Nathan Eovaldi trade a few weeks ago, will earn $5M in 2015 before becoming a free agent. Given his lefty pop and ability to positions where the Yankees need depth, the team could look to bring Jones back in 2016 if he contributes as hoped this summer. He fits the roster very well.

No. 32: Esmil Rogers

2015 Role: Swingman. Rogers has worked as both a starter and reliever in his career — including last season, when he made eight starts and 38 relief appearances between Triple-A/MLB and Yankees/Blue Jays — and he steps right into David Phelps‘ old role. He actual made three starts in winter ball this offseason and will presumably come to camp stretched out just so the team has options to cover for the risky rotation.

Long-Term Role: The Yankees somewhat surprisingly kept Rogers this offseason. He was a prime non-tender candidate, but they instead cut his salary the maximum allowed by the Collective Bargaining Agreement and kept him around as depth. Rogers will remain under team control as an arbitration-eligible player in 2016 as well and could definitely return to the team, especially if he fills that swingman role as well as Phelps did.

Coming Tuesday: Nos. 26-31. A collection of prospects who could help in limited roles in 2015.

Fan Confidence Poll: January 19th, 2015

2014 Record: 84-78 (633 RS, 664 RA, 77-85 pythag. record), did not qualify for postseason

Top stories from last week:

Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the interactive Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.

Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?

Heyman: Nats agree to seven-year deal with Max Scherzer

(Patrick Smith/Getty)
(Patrick Smith/Getty)

The Nationals have agreed to a seven-year contract with Max Scherzer, reports Jon Heyman. No word on the money, but I’m guessing it’ll be in the $175M neighborhood. Nats GM Mike Rizzo drafted Scherzer back when he was the Diamondbacks’ scouting director.

The Yankees had been connected to Scherzer all offseason because they’re connected to every big free agent every offseason. The team insisted all along they were not interested in another huge money long-term deal, however. By all accounts, New York did not make a last minute offer or anything like that.

With Scherzer on board, Washington has six above-average starters for five rotation spots. There are rumblings they will now look to trade impending free agent Jordan Zimmermann (or even Stephen Strasburg), who would be a great fit for the Yankees. So would literally anyone else on their staff.

James Shields remains unsigned and the Yankees have not been connected to him at all this winter despite his history of success in the AL East. I don’t expect them to pursue him either. The Yankees could add another low cost veteran (Johan Santana?) for depth and that’s probably it.

Weekend Open Thread

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

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

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

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

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

Minor League Notes: Hernandez, Coaching Staffs

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

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

Yankees Sign OF Robert Hernandez

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

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

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

More Coaching Staffs Announced

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

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

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

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

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

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

RHP Andy Beresford Retires

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