Hal Steinbrenner on possibly selling the Yankees: “What the hell for?”

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

This doesn’t surprise me. While talking to Wally Matthews, Hal Steinbrenner confirmed the family has no plans to sell the Yankees. “It’s our way of keeping our dad’s legacy alive,” he said. “People that know us know we didn’t have the biggest house on the street … We don’t have the lifestyle that would even necessitate us to even think about doing something like that. What the hell for?”

Not only did Hal say there are no plans to sell the team, he said there is a long-term plan in the works to hand the Yankees over to the next generation of Steinbrenners, namely his daughter Katherine, Hank’s children (George and Julia), Jessica Steinbrenner Malloy’s son (Robert Malloy), and Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal’s son (Stephen Swindal Jr.). They all want to get involved.

“This is a family business and we’re all involved. We all love being a part of this. We all know our dad wanted us to be a part of us, and we all know he’s watching down on us and happy that we’re all a part of it. Believe it or not, to us, that’s a big deal. The idea is, let’s keep it going,” said Hal. “We got a lot of grandkids, and they’re very interested. The idea is, it’s time to let the young elephants in the tent, in George’s words. So it’s begun.”

Forbes valued the Yankees at $3.2 billion at this time last year, though that doesn’t mean the Steinbrenners would ask for $3.2 billion for the team in a sale. It’s more complicated than that. The Dodgers sold for $2 billion a few years ago, but included in the sale was the land around Dodger Stadium and also the potential for a massive television contract, which was signed shortly after the team’s sale. The Yankees can’t sell any land and they have their own network already. The Dodgers sale isn’t a great reference point.

Anyway, I’m not surprised Hal says the team will stay in the family. Owning the Yankees is mighty lucrative, even with the club mired in quasi-contention and both attendance and ratings trending down. And once they get under the luxury tax threshold in a year or two — Hal reiterated to Matthews that that’s the plan — they stand to rake in even more money.

Revisiting the MLBTR Archives: March 2011

Liriano's reaction to the trade offer you're about to read. (Mike Stobe/Getty)
Liriano’s reaction to the trade offer you’re about to read. (Mike Stobe/Getty)

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Grapefruit League play has begun and the weather is warming up. Baseball is upon us. Also upon us: another edition of our MLBTR Archives series. All we do is go back five years and look through all the Yankees rumors culled together by MLB Trade Rumors, because few things in baseball are as silly as rumors in hindsight.

We’re now into March 2011, so the offseason is over and Spring Training has begun. The Yankees lost out on Cliff Lee, re-signed both Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, panic signed Rafael Soriano, watched Andy Pettitte retire, and brought in a bunch of scrap heap veterans to fill out their rotation. Fans weren’t feeling all that great about the club, especially since the Red Sox had a huge offseason (Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, etc.) and never make mistakes. To the archives.

March 1st, 2011: Twins Notes: Liriano, Yankees, Cuddyer

The Twins turned down a Yankee offer of Ivan Nova and Ramiro Pena for Francisco Liriano earlier this winter, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com.  The Twins, however, are interested in left-handed pitching prospect Manuel Banuelos and want him included in any package from New York.  Rosenthal thinks the two teams will revisit negotiations before Opening Day, but notes the two sides haven’t talked “in at least a month.”  Minnesota assistant GM Rob Antony said last week that the Liriano trade speculation was nothing but rumors.  

Nova and Rakin’ Ramiro for Liriano. What an offer. Keep in mind Liriano was 26 at the time and three years away from free agency. He was coming off a season with a 3.62 ERA (2.66 FIP) in 191.2 innings. Nova, 24 at the time, had all six years of team control left and pitched to a 4.50 ERA (4.36 FIP) during his 42-inning cameo in 2010. Pena was Pena.

This was not a serious offer. This was a “hey maybe the Twins really like Nova and/or hate Liriano” offer. Minnesota had every right to push for Banuelos. It was fair to consider Liriano a top 15 pitcher at the time. Of course, he then had a 5.09 ERA (4.54 FIP) in 134.1 innings in 2011, so yeah. Still though, Nova and Pena for Liriano? Hey, you’re never going to get Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano if you don’t ask.

March 1st, 2011: East Notes: Joba, Wieters, O’s, Damon, Durbin

Johnny Damon tells Ken Davidoff of Newsday that his free agent discussions with the Yankees this past winter involved a scenario that would have seen Damon make three starts per week for New York.  Damon turned the deal down since the lack of playing time would have hurt his quest for 3000 hits.  

The outfield at the time was Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson, and Nick Swisher, with Andruw Jones as the fourth outfielder. Jorge Posada was set to take over as the full-time DH. Even without Andruw, where would Damon have fit? This was a rumor that didn’t make sense. It would have been a nostalgia based signing, not a “he fills a need and fits the roster” signing. The Yankees didn’t need a lefty bat.

March 2nd, 2011: Mark Teixeira Drops Scott Boras

Mark Teixeira dropped agent Scott Boras, according to MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch. The first baseman, who is under contract through 2016, says he wants to focus on helping the Yankees win, not signing his next mega-deal.

I forgot about this. It was five years ago and at the time it felt like Teixeira’s contract was never going to end, so this seemed inconsequential. Well, Teixeira is now coming up on free agency, so his agent is kinda important. The internet tells me he is currently represented by Casey Close, so Teixeira’s in good hands. Hard to believe we’re already talking about his impending free agency. Time flies, man.

March 2nd, 2011: Quick Hits: Hall, Young, Feliz, Burnett, Buck

Earlier today, Yankees GM Brian Cashman told versatile Astros veteran Bill Hall that the club was “this close” to signing him, tweets Jack Curry of the YES Network.

Ah yes, Bill Hall, one of those guys who was overrated because he was versatile. Hall was 31 at the time and he had just hit .246/.316/.456 (104 wRC+) in 382 plate appearances with the Red Sox. That was, by far, his best season since his out of nowhere 35 homer campaign with the 2006 Brewers. The Astros gave Hall a one-year deal worth $3.25M, people complained the Yankees missed out, then he hit .211/.261/.314 (57 wRC+) in 199 plate appearances in 2011. Hall played his final MLB game in June 2012.

March 3rd, 2011: Red Sox Notes: Ortiz, Gonzalez, Papelbon

Ortiz told Joe McDonald of ESPNBoston.com that that he would at least consider playing for the Yankees. “Well, if I don’t get signed here, I would play somewhere,” Ortiz said. “You know what I’m saying? I’m not saying I would play for the Yankees, but I if I don’t have a job, I gotta go somewhere else. As long as I play, right?”

Oh, how very nice of David Ortiz to say he would be willing to consider gracing the Yankees with his presence. Of course, Ortiz was entering his contract year in 2011, so he was angling for a new deal. It only made sense to use the Yankees as leverage, especially they were legit World Series contenders and the Red Sox missed the postseason in 2010.

March 4th, 2011: Quick Hits: Richard, Crawford, Feliz, Castro

Vernon Wells would have accepted a trade to the Yankees, not just to the Rangers or Angels, according to Heyman (on Twitter).

Phew, bullet dodged. Wait … dammit!

March 4th, 2011: New York Notes: Izzy, Crawford, Perez, Montero

Jesus Montero appears to have an excellent chance of winning the Yankees’ backup catcher job, since Francisco Cervelli will miss at least four weeks with a broken foot. Yankees GM Brian Cashman says he has no interest in delaying Montero’s arbitration clock by holding him back for the first few months of the season (Twitter link).

Montero in 2010: .289/.353/.517 (133 wRC+) with 21 homers in 504 plate appearances as a 20-year-old in Triple-A. Baseball America considered him a super-elite prospect …

montero

… and Cervelli’s foot injury opened the door for Montero to make the roster. It was exciting! Then Montero hit .250/.286/.300 with no homers in 42 Grapefruit League plate appearances and looked rough behind the plate. The Yankees sent him to Triple-A Scranton and went with Gustavo Molina as their backup catcher. Gus went 1-for-6 in three games while Cervelli was out. Montero hit .288/.348/.467 (121 wRC+) with 18 homers in his second go-round at Triple-A, mashed during his September cameo, then was traded for Michael Pineda in the offseason.

Spring Training 2011 was peak Montero hype. His stock was at an all-time high and everyone was convinced he was ready to rake at the MLB level. Yes, his defense was not good, but no one seemed to care. Alas, it was not meant to be. Peak Montero sure was an exciting prospect though.

March 5th, 2011: New York Notes: Mets, Piazza, Yankees, Aceves

Yankees GM Brian Cashman told Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe that he doesn’t believe he’ll be able to acquire a starter before the Opening Day, and perhaps not until June. “Normally anything of quality doesn’t become available until after the June draft,” said Cashman. “That’s why you try and get as much as you can get accomplished in the winter. I know New York doesn’t handle patience very well. But I’m from Kentucky, so it’s a little easier for me to deal with.”

The 2011 season was a slow year for starter trades. The only starters traded that season were Rodrigo Lopez, Edwin Jackson, Tommy Hunter, and Erik Bedard. The entire 2010-11 offseason and 2011 season was a really down time for starting pitcher transactions. Lee was by far the best free agent starter and no one of consequence was traded during the season. It’s pretty amazing the Yankees were able to cobble together a division winning rotation in 2011. Things looked mighty shaky behind CC Sabathia.

March 9th, 2011: Cashman: Never Made Offer To Chapman

WEDNESDAY, 9:45am: The Yankees “never made an offer” to Chapman, GM Brian Cashman tells ESPN’s Buster Olney (Twitter link).

TUESDAY, 10:01pm: The Yankees really liked Aroldis Chapman. A Florida lawsuit against the left-hander’s representatives claims that the Yankees made an “offer to Chapman valued at more than $54MM,” according to Melissa Segura of SI.com (on Twitter, hat tip to River Ave. Blues).

Chapman signed with the Reds in January 2010 and the Yankees reportedly wined and dined him during the 2009-10 offseason. They supposedly brought him to Yankee Stadium for a 2009 World Series game to show him what it was all about. “Never made an offer” is all semantics though. It doesn’t mean they didn’t talk money or terms. It just means they didn’t put a piece of paper in front of him to sign. Five years later, the Yankees finally got their man.

March 9th, 2011: AL East Links: Yankees, Anderson, Slowey

Mariano Rivera told Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork that Manny Banuelos is the greatest pitching prospect he has ever seen. “I like everything about him,” Rivera said. Cashman says the left-hander, who turns 20 this weekend, will not start the year higher than Double-A.

I’m glad we’ve moved on from the “best pitching prospect I’ve ever seen” and “he’s the next Roger Clemens” stuff. Nowadays all we hear about pitching prospects is that they’re composed or have impressive command. Normal compliments. Not crazy stuff that sets unfair expectations. Banuelos was pretty awesome back then, but the best pitching prospect he’d ever seen? Sheesh.

March 10th, 2011: A’s, Yanks Agree To Terms With International FAs

The Yankees have agreed to terms with Dominican right-handed pitcher Juan Carlos Paniagua, 20, for $1.1MM, according to Badler. Paniagua, who had previously been suspended by Major League Baseball for one year for age and identity fraud, is 6-foot-1, 170 pounds, Badler writes. His fastball sits in the mid-90s and can touch 98 mph, while scouts are mixed on his secondary pitches. The signing of a previously suspended player for fraud is not unprecedented in MLB nor for the Yankees, for the matter, as Badler notes. Carlos Martinez of the Cardinals and Jose Rafael DePaula of the Bombers are two such examples.

Paniagua has an eventful backstory. He played in the Diamondbacks’ system from 2009-10 before his deal was voided because of identity fraud. The Yankees signed him in 2011, though his deal with New York never became official. MLB found he presented the Yankees with falsified documents, so the contract was voided. The Cubs gave Paniagua a $1.5M bonus in 2012 and he’s been pretty terrible since. He has a 4.41 ERA with 109 walks in 208 minor league relief innings. Lot of hassle for a middling prospect.

March 12th, 2011: Yankees, Nationals Scouting Carlos Silva

The Cubs have been watching Carlos Silva‘s spring starts closely as they decide whether he deserves a spot in their starting rotation, but Chicago hasn’t been the only team following Silva’s progress. According to Bruce Levine of ESPNChicago, the Yankees and Nationals are among the clubs scouting the right-hander.

Silva had a 4.22 ERA (3.75 FIP) in 113 innings for the Cubs in 2010 and never pitched in the big leagues again. Chicago released him at the end of camp and the Yankees quickly signed him to a minor league contract in April. He had a 3.00 ERA in seven minor league starts before coming down with shoulder problems. The team released Silva shortly thereafter and he never pitched again. He was only 32 that season too. Silva went from effective in 2010 to being done by the middle of 2011. Baseball is cruel.

March 13th, 2011: Royals Acquire Robert Fish

The Royals have claimed lefty Robert Fish from the Yankees on outright waivers, according to a team press release. In order to make room for Fish on their 40-man roster, Kansas City has moved right-hander Henry Barrera to the 60-day disabled list.

March 13th, 2011: Quick Hits: Looper, Turpen, Moyer, CBA, Nationals

One of the Yankees‘ Sunday roster moves involved returning Rule 5 pick Daniel Turpen to the Red Sox, as Chad Jennings of the Journal News notes.

March 14th, 2011: Padres Return George Kontos To Yankees

The Padres announced that they returned Rule 5 draft pick George Kontos to the Yankees. 

Might as well lump all the Rule 5 Draft guys together. The Yankees selected Fish and Turpen in the Rule 5 Draft that offseason and neither made it through Spring Training. They combined to allow nine runs in 8.1 innings in camp. Neither reached the big leagues and they’re both out of baseball now. Turpen at least spent a few years in Triple-A.

Kontos was coming off Tommy John surgery in 2010 so it was no surprise he didn’t stick with the Padres in camp. He had a 2.62 ERA (3.89 FIP) in 89.1 innings for Triple-A Scranton in 2011, made his MLB debut in September, then was traded for Chris Stewart at the end of Spring Training 2012. Moral of the story: most Rule 5 Draft picks are duds, especially pitchers.

March 15th, 2011: Release Candidate: Sergio Mitre

Some scouts are “convinced the Yankees are going to release Sergio Mitre,” reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post.  The club has two open rotation spots and one long relief job, which could go to Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon, and Ivan Nova in some combination.

Mitre in 2010: 3.33 ERA (4.69 FIP) in 54 innings across three starts and 24 relief appearances. That’s … not terrible by swingman standards? The Yankees were thin on starting pitching and releasing a possible starter, even if he was only No. 7 or 8 on the depth chart, seemed a little weird. Then again, it was Mitre. No one expected him to be good.

March 15th, 2011: AL East Notes: Martinez, Crawford, Sanchez

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports hears that Yankees right-hander Romulo Sanchez has been impressing scouts (Twitter link). The out-of-options 26-year-old could fit on a team looking for relief help, according to Rosenthal.

Romulo! I totally forgot about him. The Yankees got him a minor trade in May 2009 — they sent current Korea Baseball Organization stud Eric Hacker to the Pirates — and Sanchez had a 4.31 ERA in 64.2 innings for Triple-A Scranton in 2009, then a 4.31 ERA in 104.1 innings for the RailRiders in 2010. Romulo came up in September and allowed one hit in 4.1 scoreless innings. The Yankees cut him loose at the very end of Spring Training in 2011 so he could sign with a team in Japan. Romulo was still active last season; he allowed two runs in nine innings with a team in Mexico.

March 16th, 2011: Felix Hernandez’s No-Trade Clause

Mariners ace Felix Hernandez can block trades to ten teams, and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports learned eight of them: the Yankees, Mets, Red Sox, Cubs, Angels, Dodgers, Rangers, and Phillies.  Morosi adds:

Felix had just signed a five-year extension prior to the 2010 season, so there was no logical reason for the Mariners to consider trading him. He was only 24 (!) at the time and the return would have had to have been massive. Unrealistically massive. Anyway, notice Hernandez had nothing but big market clubs on his no-trade list. That’s because those are the teams that would be most willing and able to compensate him for waiving his no trade clause. Felix could have demanded a big extension in exchange for approving a trade to New York. It’s all about leverage. He didn’t necessarily not want to go to those teams.

March 16th, 2011: Yankees Watched Millwood Pitch

7:53pm: The Yankees were the only team to watch Millwood today, according to Sherman (Twitter links). The Yankees clocked his fastball at 85 mph and say they’ll only offer a minor league deal. However, Millwood still wants a Major League contract.

PitchFX says Millwood’s average fastball was 88.9 mph in 2011. The Yankees did get him to take a minor league deal later in March, and Millwood eventually exercised an opt-out clause in May. Inconsequential move.

March 21st, 2011: Yankees Have Some Interest In Oliver Perez

Here’s one for the back pages and talk show hosts. The Yankees have discussed Oliver Perez as a potential cheap addition, according to Jon Heyman of SI.com (on Twitter). However, GM Brian Cashman doesn’t seem enthused about the 29-year-old left-hander.

Oh lordy. Perez was entering the final season of his three-year, $27M contract, but he was so bad (6.81 ERA and 6.64 FIP from 2009-10) the Mets released him in Spring Training. They released him that day, actually. March 21st. The Yankees could have signed him for the league minimum and carried him as a depth arm given the state of their rotation. They never did. Perez hooked on with the Nationals, spent 2011 in Double-A (4.04 ERA in 75.2 innings), then resurfaced with the Mariners as a reliever in 2012. He’s been quite effective since. But back then? Yeah, no one wanted him. The Yankees needed arms but they weren’t that desperate.

March 23rd, 2011: New York Notes: Posada, Cano, Mets

Jorge Posada told Kevin Kernan of the New York Post that he hopes to re-sign with the Yankees after the season, when he hits free agency. If the Yankees don’t want him back, he would consider playing elsewhere, even though he doesn’t want to sign with another team. “I would [leave], if it’s the right situation,” he said. “It’s got to be the right situation.”

The David Ortiz situation applies here: Posada’s contract was up after the season and he was angling for a new deal. Unlike Ortiz, Posada did not produce in 2011, so finding a new job was tough. He announced his retirement following the season. I miss Jorge. He’s on my very short list of all-time favorite Yankees. Switch-hitting catchers with power and patience are my jam.

March 23rd, 2011: Minor Deals: Raynor, Ortegano, McCulloch

The Braves lost a second player on waivers today, when the Yankees claimed left-hander Jose Ortegano. The Yankees optioned the 23-year-old to Triple-A, according to Marc Carig of the Star-Ledger (on Twitter). In 131 minor league innings spent mostly at Triple-A last year, Ortegano posted a 5.98 ERA with 6.8 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 as a starter.

Ortegano was kinda sorta a prospect even though he had a 5.98 ERA in 131 innings at Double-A and Triple-A with the Braves in 2010. The Yankees claimed him off waivers in March and he almost immediately got hurt. Ortegano never pitched again. That 2010 season was his last in any league around the world. Rough. He’s still only 28 too.

March 24th, 2011: Yankees Notes: Colon, Garcia, Molina, Pitching

Brian Cashman tells Chad Jennings of the LoHud blog that he’s received a few calls from other general managers in regards to the extra pitchers in New York’s camp.  “It’s been very quiet for the most part….Everybody’s just picking the phone up and checking in with each other, myself included,” Cashman said.

It was funny to hear the Yankees had “extra” pitchers in Spring Training that year because the exact opposite felt true. How were they going to get 162 starts out of those guys? Bartolo Colon was throwing well but Freddy Garcia got hammered in camp (4.91 ERA) and inspired zero confidence. The Yankees also had Mitre, Sanchez, and Steve Garrison in camp as extra arms, and they later added Silva and Millwood. Somehow it all worked.

March 25th, 2011: Brewers Acquire Sergio Mitre

The Brewers have acquired Sergio Mitre from the Yankees for Chris Dickerson. The move provides the Brewers with the pitching depth they coveted and opens up a spot in the Yankees bullpen, possibly for Freddy Garcia or Bartolo Colon.

I was a Dickerson fan and I wish the Yankees would have given him an opportunity over some of the fifth outfield dreck they cycled through from 2011-12. Guys like Greg Golson, Dewayne Wise, and Melky Mesa. Dickerson could hit righties a bit, he could run, and he could play defense. Alas, it never worked out. He landed with the Orioles in 2013 and has been bouncing around from team to team since.

March 26th, 2011: Quick Hits: Rangers, Astros, Reyes, Burrell, Belt

As Danny Knobler of CBS Sports reminds us, chances are that back-of-the-rotation won’t be the one the Yankees finish the season with.

The rotation to open the 2011 season was, in order, CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova, and Freddy Garcia. The Yankees used off-days to push Garcia’s first start back as much as possible. (He didn’t start until Game 13.) By the end of the season, the rotation was Sabathia, Burnett, Nova, Garcia, and Colon. Hughes had a back issues and wound up in the bullpen down the stretch. So technically, yeah, the back-of-the-rotation the Yankees started the season with was not the one they finished with, but it was close enough. Somehow Sabathia, Burnett, Nova, Garcia, Colon, and Hughes accounted for 157 of 162 starts. What a time to be alive. (Hector Noesi and Brian Gordon made two spot starts each and Dellin Betances started the meaningless Game 162.)

March 27th, 2011: Astros Return Lance Pendleton To Yankees

The Astros have returned Rule 5 pick Lance Pendleton to the Yankees, tweets Astros’ director of social media Alyson Footer. Pendleton cleared waivers and will be assigned to New York’s minor league camp (Twitter link).

Pants Lendleton! He actually ended up pitching for the Yankees a little bit in 2011 — he allowed 14 runs in 18.2 mop-up innings at midseason — before they dropped him from the 40-man roster in September. The Astros claimed him, he allowed nine runs in 4.2 innings, and he never pitched in the big leagues again. Pendleton had a 5.02 ERA in 129 Triple-A innings with the Rays in 2012, his final season as a player. These MLBTR posts bring back the ghosts of DotF past, eh?

Carlos Beltran’s Swan Song? [2016 Season Preview]

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Carlos Beltran‘s first two seasons in pinstripes have been up and down. He was hurt and ineffective in 2014, as a bone spur in his elbow and some other maladies hindered him all season, resulting in a .233/.301/.402 (96 wRC+) batting line with 15 homers in 109 games. Add in his terrible right field defense and Beltran was a net negative for the Yankees the season before last.

Last season started off very poorly — Beltran hit .162/.216/.265 (22 wRC+) in April, yikes! — but Beltran rebounded in May and was the team’s best hitter the final five months of the season. He was pretty much the only regular who didn’t fall off a cliff in the second half. Beltran finished the season with a .276/.337/.471 (119 wRC+) batting line and 19 homers in 133 games. Much better than 2014. Much, much better.

Beltran is now entering the third and final season of his three-year, $45M contract. He will turn 39 shortly after Opening Day and he’s already hinted at 2016 being his last as a player. Beltran backtracked recently — “I guess it’s part of a baseball career where you might play 18-19 years and people are expecting you to retire, so (we’ll see) what happens,” he said to reporters after reporting to camp — but he is at the point of his career where retirement will be a hot topic.

Either way, retirement after the season or not, Beltran will indeed be in New York’s lineup in 2016. He’ll be in the middle of the lineup and he’ll spend most of his time in right field because Alex Rodriguez is the team’s primary DH. It’s not ideal — Beltran is barely mobile in the outfield, his best position is the batter’s box — but it is what it is. The Yankees intend to give all their regulars more rest this year and that no doubt means Beltran too.

Despite the ugliness of last year’s finish, the Yankees do indeed have a good offense — FanGraphs projects them to score 4.41 runs per game in 2016, ninth most in MLB — and Beltran is a big part of it. He is the team’s most well-rounded hitter in that he has the ability to hit for average, get on base, and hit for power. Other players on the roster can do two of three. Maybe even only one of three. Beltran can do all three.

Once upon a time defense was a big part of Beltran’s game, but no more. He was regularly lifted for a defensive replacement last year and I’m certain the same will be true this year. Beltran’s on-field value to the Yankees stems from his bat and his bat only, so he is facing three big questions in 2016.

Can he avoid another early season slump?

Like I said, the start to last season was very ugly. Beltran was also coming off surgery to remove a bone spur from his elbow, so he had an excuse, and the Yankees were eventually rewarded for their patience. I know there were no shortage of folks who thought Carlos was done. Like done done. I was one of them.

There is no such excuse this season. In fact, Beltran recently told Brendan Kuty he spent the offseason working on his agility, so he’s 100% physically. That means any slump to start the season will not only hurt the Yankees offensively, but also create questions about whether he has anything left in the tank. The AL East figures to be crazy tight this year. Another slow start and the calls for Aaron Hicks (or one of the team’s many other 40-man roster outfielders) will be loud.

Can he stave off Father Time another year?

Here is the complete list of 39-year-old outfielders who qualified for the batting title and were above league average offensively over the last 30 years: Barry Bonds, Dave Winfield, Steve Finley, and Luis Gonzalez. That’s it. Heck, only nine 39-year-old outfielders have even qualified for the batting title during that time. Players this age typically don’t spend their days running around the outfield. The fatigue factor compounds the general “he’s old” concerns.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Beltran has been a great player his entire career and great players age differently than everyone else. That’s why Bonds and Winfield were so productive late in their career. Beltran is not looking to bounce back like he was a year ago. He’s coming off a strong season and the hope is it will carry over to 2016. Let’s face it, Beltran’s at the point of his career where his production is far more likely to go down than up. As long as it goes down only slightly, the Yankees will be in good shape.

For what it’s worth, the various projection systems all peg Beltran to be an above-average hitter 2016, albeit not quite as good as 2015. That seems like the standard great old player projection. Good but not as good as last year. Beltran is not a supplemental player for the Yankees. He’s a lineup anchor and someone they will count on to generate runs regardless of whether he hits third or sixth. As a switch-hitter who does just about everything from both sides of the plate, his importance to the lineup and the team’s offensive balance are obvious.

Can he thrive with extra rest?

In an effort to keep their veteran players fresh and productive, the Yankees plan to rest everyone more often this season, which means more time at DH and more time on the bench for Beltran. He started 120 games in the outfield last season. The target number this year may be 100 games for all we know. The problem? Beltran doesn’t like to DH.

“It doesn’t really excite me, being an everyday DH,” said Beltran last month before reporting to Spring Training. “For me, because my whole career I’ve been in the outfield. One day, two days … I’d do it. But I would love to be in the outfield. That’s something I enjoy.”

By now we know being a DH is not easy. We’ve seen players like Beltran, guys who have been playing the field every day their entire career, struggle to adjust to all the downtime between at-bats. More days on the bench poses a similar challenge; how do you stay sharp and maintain your rhythm with more time off? You may feel better physically, but what if your swing is off?

The Yankees are going to rest Beltran more often and he’ll have to face the challenge of adjusting to life with a little less playing time. No player wants to spend more time at DH and more time on the bench — my guess is Beltran will start something like three out of every five games in the outfield — but that’s something the Yankees will do because they want to keep guys productive all season.

Beltran’s a smart player and I don’t think he’ll have a problem adjusting. He’s also a team player who understands he’s not young anymore. The extra rest will help him. And hey, who knows. Beltran may find playing three or four times a week instead of every single day allows him to extend his playing career. This season might not be his swan song after all.

Thoughts following the first Grapefruit League game

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees played and won their first Grapefruit League game of 2016 yesterday, erasing a 7-0 deficit before rallying for the walk-off win on a dropped fly ball. If YES was ever going to put a Spring Training game on Yankee Classics, this would be the one. It was the best game none of us will remember. Anyway, I have some thoughts on the yesterday’s game, plus some other stuff.

1. Luis Severino from the windup yesterday: six balls, ten strikes. Severino from the stretch: 12 balls, nine strikes. His location was noticeably poor from the stretch — he was missing his spots by quite a bit, they weren’t pitches just off the edge of the plate — and the grand slam he gave up was one of those “well here’s a fastball down the middle because that’s the only way I can throw a strike right now” pitches. Severino’s walk rate from the stretch (9.2%) was not substantially higher than his walk rate from the windup (8.2%) last year, so this isn’t something that is carrying over from last season. It was just an issue yesterday. It happens. Severino said he’ll work on pitching from the stretch going forward — “I have to worry about it, because I have to work. I have to locate down and work on my pitches,” he said to Chad Jennings — and that’s all there is to it at this point. This was only the first spring game, after all. If Severino still can’t locate from the stretch come the first week of April, it’ll be a much bigger issue. I ain’t worried. Too bad the five runs in 1.2 innings all but ensures his ERA will be ugly all spring. Tough to knock that down in a month.

2. As pointed out by our Sung-Min Kim on Twitter, it appears Aaron Judge has added a leg kick this year. Here’s a side-by-side comparison of 2015 Judge and 2016 Judge, with the 2016 model on the right:

Aaron Judge 2015 vs 2016

No, Judge didn’t grow a few inches over the winter. The outfield camera is zoomed in a bit more this year. Anyway, leg kicks are timing mechanisms, and this could definitely be something designed to help Judge stay back better on offspeed pitches away, the pitches he struggled against last season. Judge used the leg kick all day yesterday, for every pitch of every at-bat, so this is a thing now. Let’s see if it lasts all Spring Training or if he abandons it at some point because he’s not comfortable. Judge is heading back to Triple-A anyway, so it’ll give him a chance to continue to work on the leg kick. Intrigue!

Update: Commenter bernbabybern noticed it appears Judge is standing a little closer to the plate as well. The scouting reports say Judge is quite good at handling the inside pitch despite his long arms, so moving him a little closer could help get those outside pitches without sacrificing much of his ability to turn on stuff inside.

3. We got the entire Jorge Mateo experience yesterday afternoon, eh? That ninth inning triple was something else. (Here’s the unembeddable video.) First of all, the pitch was clobbered. Mateo nearly hit it out of the park and it probably would have cleared the wall had the wind not been swirling. The speed? Oh man that speed. Mateo tripled on a ball to left field despite jogging to first base because he thought it was a homer. He didn’t start running — like really running — until he rounded first. And he still tripled. To left field. Crazy. Such an exciting play. On the other hand, Mateo struck out on three pitches in his first at-bat, swinging and missing twice, including on a pitch a foot off the plate for strike three. The loud tools were on full display, as was the general lack of refinement to his game. Mateo is only 20 years old. Of course parts of his game are still raw. But gosh, so much talent. The kid is special.

4. This is like the fourth straight Spring Training in which Austin Romine is trying to win a big league job, and since he’s out of minor league options and can elect free agency if outrighted, it figures to be his last opportunity with the Yankees. He went 2-for-3 yesterday and hit two balls on the nose — one was right at the third baseman for an out — so at least he’s off to a nice start. Romine needs all the help he can get to win the backup catcher’s job — “Hit. I need to hit consistently. That’s plain and simple,” said Romine to Jennings when asked what he needs to do this spring — and realistically, his very best still might not be enough to land an Opening Day roster spot. If nothing else, Romine wants to have a strong camp so other teams around the league take notice in case things don’t work out with the Yankees. Sending Gary Sanchez down to Triple-A for five weeks to delay his free agency is such a painfully obvious move that I’m pretty sure the Yankees will do it. How could they not? That means Romine’s primary competition for a roster spot this spring is not Sanchez. It’s Carlos Corporan.

4. Last offseason the Yankees shipped Shawn Kelley to the Padres for righty reliever Johnny Barbato, who had a 3.19 ERA (3.45 FIP) with a 24.8% strikeout rate and 9.2% walk rate in 67.2 innings at Double-A and Triple-A in 2015. The Yankees added him to the 40-man roster in November to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft, so he’s in his first big league camp this year. Here’s the first pitch he threw in yesterday’s game:

Johnny Barbato curveball

That’s a nice looking curveball. He got some swings and misses on similar benders yesterday too. The curve has always been Barbato’s calling card, dating all the way back to when he was a high schooler in Miami prior to the 2010 draft. He also has a low-to-mid-90s heater and showed a little 88-90 mph cutter/slider thing yesterday. Barbato’s on the 40-man roster now and he’ll inevitably be part of the bullpen shuttle this summer. He struck out two in 1.1 innings yesterday, so it was a nice first impression for a kid who, at the very least, wants to make sure the big league staff remembers his name when Spring Training ends.

6. Non-Spring Training thought: Salvador Perez’s new contract extension is pretty interesting. Under the terms of his previous deal, he was owed $2M this year with dirt cheap club options for 2017 ($3.75M), 2018 ($5M), and 2019 ($6M). The new extension guarantees the three option years, gives him a raise in 2018 and 2019, and will pay him $13M in both 2020 and 2021. It’s essentially a five-year contract with $36M in new money. The Royals didn’t have to do this. They already controlled Perez through 2019 and could have easily told him to honor the original contract. Instead, the team reworked the deal because Perez is a core player and they want to keep him happy. I wonder if other grossly underpaid players who agreed to extensions earlier in their careers will follow suit and push for new deals now. Jose Altuve (owed $20.5M through 2019), Paul Goldschmidt ($40.35M through 2019), and Chris Sale ($47.15M through 2019) jump to mind. The MLBPA is probably happy Perez got the Royals to rework his very below-market extension. I imagine some owners are not too thrilled with the Royals for setting this precedent though. (The only young Yankee signed to cheap long-term deal is Starlin Castro. He’s owed $37M through 2019 with a club option for 2020.)

Open Thread: March 2nd Camp Notes

The Yankees won their first game of 2016 this afternoon, walking off with a 10-9 win over the Tigers in the Grapefruit League opener. It was one of the most entertaining spring games ever. I’m not joking. The Yankees were losing 7-0 at one point, battled back to take an 8-7 lead, fell behind 9-8 in the ninth, when rallied for the walk-off win. The winning run scored when the left fielder lost a pop-up in the sun. Love this team. Still got that Fighting Spirit.

Luis Severino had a great first inning and a terrible second inning. He allowed five runs on two hits, two walks, and a hit batsman in 1.2 innings overall. Yuck. His spring ERA will never recover. Starlin Castro and Austin Romine each had a pair of hits while Brian McCann doubled and Mark Teixeira walked. Jorge Mateo clubbed a triple in the ninth to set up the game-winning rally. It looked gone off the bat. (Also, Mateo’s a helmet loser like Eduardo Nunez.) Aaron Judge went 0-for-2 with a strikeout and Dustin Fowler singled. Fowler had the walk-off pop-up and Tyler Wade chugged all the way from first to score. Here’s the box score, here are the video highlights, and here are the day’s notes:

  • As usual, Chad Jennings has the day’s workout groups. Bryan Mitchell and James Kaprielian threw bullpens while Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda faced hitters in live batting practice, among others. Good to see Tanaka facing hitters already. Looks like he’s on track to be ready for Opening Day following elbow surgery. The big three relievers will each throw at least one more live batting practice session before appearing in a game. [Brendan Kuty]
  • Aroldis Chapman told reporters he no longer owns any guns and admitted his impending free agency was a factor in accepting the 30-game suspension. It could have been longer had he not cooperated. Chapman will stay behind in Florida at the end of Spring Training and the team will map out a plan to make sure he’s game ready the day his suspension ends. [Mark Didtler]
  • To the surprise of no one, Brian Cashman confirmed Andrew Miller will “absolutely” close during Chapman’s suspension. Dellin Betances will set him up. Obvious plan is obvious. Joe Girardi also admitted Chasen Shreve has a leg up on one of the open bullpen spots. [Bryan Hoch, Jennings]
  • Brett Gardner (wrist) hit in the cage and felt fine. The plan is to keep him out of spring games until March 14th. Shreve (back) will not pitch in tomorrow’s game as scheduled. He’ll throw live batting practice instead. Shreve was hit by a line drive during live batting practice earlier this week. [Hoch, Kuty, Meredith Marakovits]
  • Ivan Nova will start tomorrow afternoon’s game against the Phillies. Pretty much all the regular position players who did not play today will play tomorrow. That game will not be broadcast anywhere. No television, no MLB.tv. Lame.

This is tonight’s open thread. This afternoon’s game will re-air on YES at 7pm ET if you missed it earlier, or simply want to watch it again. MLB Network will show the Indians and Reds on tape delay at 9pm ET, if you’re interested. None of the local hockey and basketball teams are in action tonight, but there is a ton of college basketball on schedule. Talk about all of that here.

Mark Teixeira’s Contract Year [2016 Season Preview]

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

It’s hard to believe Mark Teixeira is already entering the final season of his eight-year, $180M contract. It feels like just yesterday he was poised to sign with the Red Sox before the Yankees swooped in to sign him at the last moment. That was, hands down, one of the most exciting days in RAB history. That Teixeira immediately led the Yankees to the 2009 World Series title was icing on the cake.

Teixeira, now 35 and turning 36 shortly after Opening Day, has had a mostly successful stint in pinstripes, no doubt with some injuries mixed in. He’s appeared in only 372 of 648 possible games over the last four seasons, and the Yankees have missed Teixeira dearly whenever he’s been out of the lineup. Greg Bird last year was the only adequate fill-in they’ve had. Others like Lyle Overbay and Kelly Johnson were just … no.

It appeared the injuries were taking their toll on Teixeira back in 2014, when he hit a career worst .216/.313/.398 (101 wRC+) with 22 homers in 123 games. His second half in particular was gruesome (63 wRC+). Wrist surgery sabotaged Teixeira’s 2013 season, so a year ago at this time we were hoping the poor 2014 was simply Teixeira struggling to get back to 100% after surgery. The further away he got from the procedure, the more effective he’d be, right?

Right. Teixeira hit .255/.357/.548 (143 wRC+) with 31 homers in only 111 games last season before fouling a pitch off his shin and suffering a small fracture. It was his best offensive season as a Yankee by wRC+ — he had a 142 wRC+ in 2009 — and he was the club’s best all-around player by no small margin. You could easily argue Teixeira was the team’s best hitter and best defensive player in 2015. He was that good before getting hurt.

Whereas last season Teixeira was viewed as a bounceback candidate, he comes into this season as a no doubt middle of the order presence who also saves runs with his glove. Teixeira reestablished himself as a core player in 2015, which means a lot will be expected of him in 2016, namely …

Stay Healthy

As I said earlier, injuries have been a problem for Teixeira the last few years. He hasn’t played more than 125 games since 2011. A few weeks ago losing Teixeira would have sucked but been survivable because Bird was going to be waiting in Triple-A. That is no longer the case. Bird will miss the season following shoulder surgery. The safety net is gone. If Teixeira goes down, we’re going to see an awful lot of Dustin Ackley and Chris Parmelee. Yeesh.

I suppose the good news is Teixeira has not dealt with any chronic injuries the last few years. Yes, the wrist surgery was very serious and possible flare-ups will be on ongoing concern, but it hasn’t given him trouble since. Last year he fouled a ball off a shin. It happens. Two years ago he pulled a hamstring running after a pop-up in foul territory. Back in 2012 he pulled his calf trying to beat out a double play, then rushed back and re-aggravated it. These are all dumb, mutually exclusive injuries.

Had Teixeira been dealing with a nagging injury over the last few seasons, say something along the lines of Albert Pujols’ plantar fasciitis or Matt Kemp’s arthritic hips, then I’d be much more concerned about his ability to stay healthy. He’s suffered a bunch of random injuries. Hopefully the extra rest the Yankees say they plan to give all their veterans allows Teixeira to avoid those sort of physical issues in 2016.

Get On Base & Mash Taters

Does anyone still care Teixeira is a dead pull hitter from the left side who is prone to losing hits to the infield shift? That’s so 2012. Last season Teixeira showed he can be very productive despite those shifts because he puts the ball in the air and he makes loud contact. His 35.3% hard contact rate ranked 36th out of the 211 players who batted at least 400 times in 2015, better than Jose Bautista’s and Justin Upton’s and Buster Posey’s and many, many more.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

At this point of his career Teixeira is not going to hit for a high average. That’s just not who he is. He’s an old school masher who walks and hits the ball out of the park. Teixeira has consistently walked in 11%+ of his plate appearances over the years and when he puts the ball in the air as a left-handed hitter, roughly one in five batted balls have left the yard the last few seasons. (It’s closer to 15% as a righty hitter, which is still pretty darn good.) Those are Teixeira’s two best and most important offensive skills*. Walking and hitting the ball in the air with authority.

The Yankees have a very straightforward offensive strategy: Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner get on base and run a little, then Teixeira and some others (Alex Rodriguez, Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann) drive them in. That’s it. Nice and simple. When the Yankees do that, they’re dominant. Teixeira figures to hit cleanup again, meaning his job is to drive runs in and get on base for the power hitters behind him. That’s all. That’s what the Yankees need from him at the plate. Take those walks and grip it and rip it. No need to overthink this.

* Teixeira doesn’t get enough credit for being a low strikeout hitter. His 18.4% strikeout rate last year was below the 20.4% league average and tenth lowest among the 41 players to go deep at least 25 times.

Force The Yankees To Make A Tough Decision

Last week Teixeira told reporters he wants to play until he’s 40 and he would love to remain with the Yankees beyond this season. That’s nice to hear. Up until a few weeks ago, it was difficult to see how that would happen. Bird was ready to step in and take over as the long-term solution at first base. Replacing the guy in his mid-to-late-30s with the guy in his early-20s is a no-brainer move.

Bird’s shoulder surgery has cast some doubt on his ability to step in at first base in 2017. Even if his rehab goes well, he may need some time in Triple-A to shake off the rust and get back to where he was last season. We’ll have a much better idea of Bird’s status come the end of the 2016 season, but for now, we’re in wait and see mode. Shoulder surgery is serious stuff. The rehab could take longer than expected.

Teixeira will be a free agent after this season and the Yankees want to have to make a difficult decision come October. Do they give Teixeira the qualifying offer? Do they considering bringing him back as Bird insurance? If Teixeira’s performance suffers at all this season, say he repeats his 2014 showing, these questions will be easy to answer. No to the qualifying offer and no to bringing him back, then find someone else to play first if Bird can’t do it.

But, if Teixeira repeats his 2015 performance, or even produces at 80% of that rate, then what? Those qualifying offer and re-sign him questions become difficult to answer. I suspect we’re going to see more players accept the qualifying offer in future seasons given what happened to Dexter Fowler and Ian Desmond this winter. Teams shy away from players Teixeira’s age, so even if he has a big year, he might be worried about getting hung out to dry on the open market.

There’s no need to worry about any of this right now with a full season yet to come. The Yankees for sure want Teixeira to play well enough that they have to at least consider the qualifying offer and re-signing him in a few months. If that happens, the 2016 Yankees will have received from a very awesome contract season from someone who has been a very awesome Yankee.

Spring Training Game Thread: Baseball is Back

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Yankees baseball returns today. It’s only Spring Training but I don’t care. Grapefruit League games are fun in their own way. Time to put the baseball-less winter behind us and watch an actual game. I hope someone hits a homer. I hope someone makes a silly base-running mistake. I hope someone makes a web gem. I want to see it all.

Since this is only the first spring game, don’t expect to see the big league regulars too much today. The pitchers aren’t stretched out and the position players will only get two, maybe three at-bats. Two of the Yankees’ top three and three of their top nine prospects (according to me) are scheduled to play this afternoon, so that will be fun. That’s the best part of Spring Training games, seeing prospects you rarely get to see otherwise.

The Tigers made the 45-minute bus ride down from Lakeland for this afternoon’s game at George M. Steinbrenner Field. As you can imagine, they sent only the bare minimum four big league regulars on the road trip this early in Spring Training. Here is Detroit’s lineup and here is the first Yankees lineup of the year:

  1. SS Didi Gregorius
  2. 2B Starlin Castro
  3. C Brian McCann
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. CF Aaron Hicks
  6. DH Dustin Ackley
  7. RF Aaron Judge
  8. LF Ben Gamel
  9. 3B Donovan Solano
    RHP Luis Severino

Available Pitchers: RHP Nick Rumbelow, RHP Tyler Cloyd, LHP Tyler Olson, RHP Mark Montgomery, RHP Johnny Barbato, and RHP Nick Goody are all scheduled to pitch following Severino. LHP James Pazos, RHP Kirby Yates, and RHP Vinnie Pestano are the extra arms in the bullpen.

Available Position Players: C Austin Romine, 1B Chris Parmelee, 2B Ronald Torreyes, SS Jorge Mateo, 3B Deibinson Romero, LF Lane Adams, CF Dustin Fowler, RF Cesar Puello, and DH Kyle Higashioka will come off the bench to replace the starters. C Francisco Diaz, C Santiago Nessy, C Gary Sanchez, C Sebastian Valle, IF Jonathan Diaz, IF Rob Refsnyder, and OF Slade Heathcott are also available if needed.

It is a bit cloudy in Tampa with temperatures in the mid-70s, so it’s not great baseball weather, but it’s good enough for me. This afternoon’s game will be broadcast live on YES locally and MLB Network nationally, as well as on MLB.tv. There are no MLB.tv blackouts in Spring Training, which is always nice. Enjoy the game, folks. Baseball’s back.