Just a quick heads up: MLB has (finally) announced the start times for each game this coming season except for the very first series of the year. The Yankees schedule and start times are right here. At least four of their first eight games are day games. Neat.
In other news, ESPN announced their Sunday Night Baseball broadcast schedule for the first half. The Yankees will only appear three times — April 13th vs. Red Sox, April 27th vs. Angels, July 13th at Orioles — which is way fewer than usual. I don’t consider that a bad thing. Sunday night games stink; give me day baseball during the weekend. The full Sunday Night schedule is right here. · (6) ·
Another day closer to Spring Training. The little countdown in our sidebar is now counting in just days, not months anymore. That’s cool. It’s kinda crazy to think about just how much work the Yankees still have to do between now and then, especially with the pitching staff. Masahiro Tanaka‘s signing deadline is less than nine full days away, but there’s still the bullpen left to address as well. The team could make a flurry of moves these next few weeks or they could do nothing at all. Neither would surprise me at this point.
Here is the open thread for the night. There’s nothing going on this evening — none of the local hockey and basketball clubs are playing — so you’re on your own for entertainment. You folks know how this works by now, right? Good. Go nuts.
According to Ramona Shelburne, the Dodgers and ace left-hander Clayton Kershaw have agreed to a seven-year contract extension worth $215M. The deal includes an opt-out clause after five years, when Kershaw will still only be 30. It is the richest pitching contract in history, $35M more than Justin Verlander’s deal. The extension could take the Dodgers out of the running for Masahiro Tanaka, but who knows at this point. I have a hard time betting against that team opening its wallet. · (179) ·
Via Steven Marcus: The Yankees are not planning to make any additions to the big league roster until the Masahiro Tanaka situation plays out. His signing deadline is 5pm ET next Friday, so only nine days away. “We are doing nothing until Tanaka resolves,” said a team official to Marcus.
From the looks of things, pretty much every team is waiting for Tanaka to sign before moving forward with their offseason, especially on the pitching side of things. Once Tanaka signs, guys like Ubaldo Jimenez, Matt Garza, and Ervin Santana will start to come off the board and things will heat back up. As Joe explained earlier, the Dodgers are preoccupied with Clayton Kershaw’s extension and now is the time for the Yankees to make a major push for Tanaka. Once that is done, bullpen and infield help become the top priority. · (51) ·
Just nine days remain in the Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes. Chances are we’ll know the winner even before that, since nine days is the deadline by which he must sign on the dotted line. He could come to an agreement within a week.
Speculation has run rampant, but we’ve had little in the way of actual reports about Tanaka. It seems as though his agent, Casey Close, has done a good job of preventing leaks from MLB teams. A few “reports out of Japan” have circulated, but since the original “reports out of Japan” indicated Tanaka wouldn’t be posted at all, it’s easy enough to dismiss those.
It does seem as though most media outlets agree that the Yankees and the Dodgers hold the best shots of signing Tanaka. Early in the process the Mariners looked like a good bet, and the Diamondbacks continue to linger. But right now, it would be a surprise to see him sign anywhere in between the two coasts.
At this moment the Yankees could be in an advantageous position. Ken Rosenthal reported this morning that the Dodgers attention is now on their own ace, Clayton Kershaw. With arbitration figures due on Friday, the Dodgers are eager to lock up Kershaw, likely to a record deal.
This situation could present the Yankees with an opportunity: make Tanaka an offer in mold of the one they made CC Sabathia in 2008. No, it shouldn’t be six years and $140 million, but it should certainly be a bold and aggressive offer, one Tanaka would have trouble rejecting. It shouldn’t be their best offer, either; as we saw with Sabahtia, there has to be at least a little upward flexibility.
Given that Tanaka has nine days to sign, regardless of an offer, he could simply defer a decision until after the Kershaw situation becomes clearer. But that shouldn’t stop the Yankees from stepping in and making an aggressive move while the opposition focuses elsewhere. Strike now.
The Yankees didn’t get much help from their farm system as the injuries mounted last season, but one of the few (only?) young players who stepped up to grab a job was right-hander Adam Warren. He made the Opening Day roster as the long man and, aside from one short stint in the minors that had more to with adding a fresh bullpen arm than his performance, he stayed with the team all season, pitching to a 3.39 ERA (4.32 FIP) in 77 innings.
Warren, 26, earned himself a spot in Spring Training‘s fifth starter competition with that performance. He’s all but guaranteed to be on the Opening Day roster given the state of the pitching staff, but his role is unknown. Warren might be a starter, might be a long reliever, or he might be shoe-horned into a short relief role. Joe Girardi used him in what amounts to a seventh inning setup role three times during a four-game series against the Orioles last September, when David Robertson, Boone Logan, and Shawn Kelley were nursing injuries. He retired seven of the nine men he faced.
The Yankees need bullpen help, particularly a late-inning arm to pair with Robertson and Kelley. Warren hasn’t been considered for that role and understandably so, but it’s possible his skillset would make him a great fit for a one inning, air-it-out bullpen role. First and foremost, he excels the first time he faces a hit …
|1st PA in G, as RP||32||223||2.16||.276||.341||.438||.779||.312||126|
|2nd PA in G, as RP||14||67||2.50||.279||.343||.475||.819||.356||118|
|3rd+ PA in G, as RP||2||7||0.00||.200||.429||.200||.629||.200||48|
… crap. There goes that idea.
Well, maybe not. We are talking about 74 plate appearances the second and third time through the lineup, which is nothing. I’m not sure there’s enough information here to tell us how Warren fares each time through the order. He was worse the first time around last year, yes, but is that a true measure of his ability? Probably not given the limited amount of data. It would be nice if we had more than 32 games — he also made two starts, which are not included in the table — worth of stats to look at it.
What we do know about Warren is that he throws five different pitches and used all five in relief last year. Prior to last season Baseball America (subs. req’d) said he “pitches off his four-seamer and mixes in a two-seamer at times, then goes to his curveball, slider and changeup,” which the PitchFX data backs up. With a big assist from Brooks Baseball, here is how Warren approached right-handed batters in 2013:
|Total Thrown||% Thrown||Whiff %||GB%||Opp. AVG||Opp. ISO|
It’s important to add context to those hitting stats. The .283 opponent’s average against fastballs seems high, but the league hit .284 against fastballs overall in 2013. Warren’s fastball was exactly league average, for all intents and purposes. The .192 opponent’s average against the slider was a bit better than the .229 league average.
Warren was primarily a fastball-slider guy against same-side hitters, and he held them to .231/.304/.322 (.281 wOBA) batting line overall. He didn’t thrown enough sinkers, curves, or changeups for the numbers in the table to tell us anything useful about the effectiveness of those pitches. It would be cool if his curveball was impossible to hit in the air, but I doubt that’s the case. Now here is how he approached lefties last year:
|Total Thrown||% Thrown||Whiff %||GB%||Opp. AVG||Opp. ISO|
Left-handed hitters destroyed Warren last summer. I mean .301/.370/.526 (.387 wOBA) destroyed him. Hopefully someone on the Yankees hits that well this year. Warren was mostly fastball-changeup against lefties and man did his heater get crushed. His changeup was very effective though — the .160 opponent’s average was way better than the .257 league average. A changeup that generates a miss once out of every five swings while getting a grounder on more than half the balls in the play is pretty damn awesome. There are some good looking changeups in here, for your viewing pleasure:
As a long reliever who faced hitters more than once, using five pitches was a necessity for Warren. Being limited to one or even two innings at a time would allow him to scrap his fourth and fifth offerings and go fastball-slider against righties and fastball-changeup against lefties. Pretty basic stuff. The thinking (hope, really) is the more he sticks to his very best offspeed pitches, the more his fastball would play up. It’s similar to what Kelley has done these last two years, emphasizing his slider and using his fastball as a show-me pitch. Warren isn’t an Al Aceves type, a guy with a full bag of tricks who can throw anything at any time. He needs to stick to his strengths, and that’s sliders against righties and changeups against lefties.
Warren earned the opportunity to compete for a starting job after his performance last year and if he impresses in camp, he absolutely should be given the chance to start. If that doesn’t work out though, he might be most valuable to the team as a traditional short reliever rather than a long man. Someone with a late-game responsibility while Vidal Nuno or David Huff or Bruce Billings or whoever handles long relief duty. Maybe those struggles against lefties continue and Warren is nothing more than a righty specialist, but if that’s the case, they could simply move him back into a lower leverage long relief role. It would be an easy move to back out of.
To answer the question in the title of this post: I don’t know. I don’t know if Warren is capable of stepping forward to become a solid if not an impact setup reliever. I want to believe he can but until he actually does it, we’re just guessing. His slider and changeup are good enough pitches against righties and lefties, respectively, to think he can pull it off if he uses them a bit more often and strategically. I am curious to see what Warren can do if he airs it out for one inning at a time. Considering the state of the bullpen, he just might get the chance to do some setup work in 2014.
Via Buster Olney: Grant Balfour failed his pre-signing physical with the Orioles last month due to concerns about his wrist and knee. I assume it’s the knee he had surgically repaired (torn meniscus) last February. It was initially reported that the deal fell through because something scary popped up in his shoulder, which is obviously a big deal for a pitcher.
The Yankees were said to have renewed interest in Balfour shortly after things fell apart with the Orioles. It has now been 24 days since that deal fell through and, aside from some rumors within the first two or three days, things around Balfour have been very quiet. Very few reports of interested teams, stuff like that. The medicals just might be pretty bad. I’d love to see the Yankees swoop in and get him cheap, but if the guy isn’t healthy, then the guy isn’t healthy and you have to look elsewhere. · (18) ·
We hit two round number benchmarks today. Ten days from now, Masahiro Tanaka will be signed with someone, and I’m guessing it won’t be the Rakuten Golden Eagles. One month from now, pitchers and catchers will report for work in Tampa. Yeah, I’m really stretching the definition of benchmark here, but this is the slow time of the baseball year and we need something to look forward to. Tanaka’s signing deadline and pitchers and catchers are as good as anything.
Anyway, this is your open thread for the night. All of the local hockey and basketball teams are playing except the Nets, so there’s lots to watch tonight. Talk the games, the Paul O’Neill chant, Tanaka, pitchers and catchers, whatever. Enjoy.
As expected, the Yankees’ five eligible players all filed for salary arbitration prior to today’s deadline. Those five players, with their projected 2014 salaries courtesy of Matt Swartz, are David Robertson ($5.5M), Brett Gardner ($4M), Ivan Nova ($2.8M), Shawn Kelley ($1.5M), and Frankie Cervelli ($1M). The players’ union expects Gardner’s salary to be “considerably higher” than projected.
Filing for arbitration is just a procedural move. Had these guys not filed today, the Yankees would have been able to pay them whatever they wanted this coming season, as long as it was at least 80% of last year’s salary. The two sides have to exchange figures by Friday, meaning the team says what they want to pay while the player says what he wants. Arbitration hearings will be held next month and the Yankees have not been to one since beating Chien-Ming Wang prior to the 2008 season. The two sides can work out a contract of any size right up to the hearing. · (17) ·
Unless the team changes course in the next few weeks, the Yankees are unlikely to add another infielder on a guaranteed Major League contract this offseason. They’ll attempt to replace the suspended Alex Rodriguez with a bunch of scrap heap pickups and hope one of them sticks at some point. I don’t like that approach but that’s what the team seems to be doing. So be it.
While signing a player to a big league contract may be off the table, the Yankees could still trade for a 40-man roster player. They have a 40-man logjam of their own and would be able to clear a spot (or two) in a deal. Jon Morosi reported yesterday that New York called the Padres about their infield depth in the not too distant past, perhaps right after they learned A-Rod‘s fate. San Diego has so many extra infielders that they had no room on the 40-man for Dean Anna earlier this winter, so they shipped him to the Yankees for a Single-A reliever.
Do any of the Padres’ extra infielders make sense for the Bombers? Surely at least one does, right? Let’s look at what they have to offer.
UTIL Logan Forsythe
Forsythe, who turns 27 today, is the reason for this post, really. Morosi mentioned he was the “most realistic target,” but I don’t know if that is him speculating or reporting the Yankees are targeting him. Either way, Forsythe definitely makes sense for a team in need of both second and third base help. He has extensive experience at both positions — his defense is okay at best, more likely below-average if he plays regularly — and he even started to mix in some corner outfield work last year as well.
Thanks to a year-long battle with plantar fasciitis that prevented him from playing at 100%, Forsythe hit only .214/.281/.332 (73 wRC+) with six homers and six steals in 243 plate appearances last season. Foot and knee problems have hampered him over the years. Forsythe did show a lot of promise during an extended stint as San Diego’s everyday second baseman in 2012, hitting .273/.343/.390 (110 wRC+) with six homers and eight steals in 350 plate appearances. His career numbers in Triple-A are off the charts: .314/.446/.540 (154 wRC+) with 11 homers and 11 steals in 325 plate appearances.
“Forsythe is a natural third baseman who’s below-average at second but is good enough to fill in there for a team without a clear in-house option, and his high contact rates give him offensive value even with his lack of power,” said Keith Law (subs. req’d) following that strong 2012 season. Forsythe is a) still in his pre-arbitration years, b) a right-handed hitter who has mashed lefties in the show (124 wRC+), c) capable of playing two positions of need, and d) a buy-low candidate because his stock is down following the disappointing year and injury. If the Yankees aren’t going to spend big on a third baseman, he makes an awful lot of sense as a low-profile trade target.
2B/3B Jedd Gyorko
Gyorko is probably the least available Padres infielder. The 25-year-old hit .249/.301/.444 (110 wRC+) with 23 homers in 525 plate appearances as a rookie last season while playing solid defense at second and third bases. Scouting reports and his minor league track record suggest the power is real and his walk rate will eventually come up. San Diego is going to build around Gyorko and they’re more likely to sign him long-term than trade him for help elsewhere. His age, right-handed pop, and defensive versatility would be perfect for the Yankees. Acquiring him just isn’t all that realistic, however.
3B Chase Headley
The Yankees have been trying to trade for Headley for years, but the team’s lack of viable trade chips has hurt their pursuit. He is entering his walk year and is projected to make $10M, which isn’t all that pricey for the Padres anymore thanks to their local television deal as well as the new national television contracts. Signing him to a long-term extension is probably off the table though.
Headley, 29, was an MVP candidate in 2012, hitting .286/.376/.498 (145 wRC+) with 31 homers and 17 steals to go along with excellent third base defense. He dropped down to .250/.347/.400 (113 wRC+) with 13 homers and eight steals last year after breaking a thumb sliding into a base in Spring Training and coming back sooner than expected. A broken finger sabotaged his 2011 season, but otherwise Headley has consistently been an above-average hitter with double-digit homers, double-digit steals, and strong defense since becoming a full-timer in 2008.
I’ve always been a big Headley fan and think he’d be a pretty damn close to a star if you get him out of Petco Park. A switch-hitter with power and patience (11.8% walk rate since 2011) who steals bases and plays the hell out of third base? I’ll take that player on my team everyday of the week. Trading for Headley would be an enormous boost for the 2014 Yankees but it doesn’t seem like the two clubs match up for a deal right now. They’ll have to wait and pony up nine figures in free agency next winter.
SS Ryan Jackson
The Yankees don’t have much need for the 25-year-old Jackson, who is an excellent defender but can’t hit a lick. They have the same player in the older and more expensive Brendan Ryan. The Padres would probably be much more open to moving Jackson than incumbent shortstop and stolen base machine Everth Cabrera despite his 50-game Biogenesis suspension. If the Yankees and Padres are going to get together for a trade involving an infielder, Forsythe is the most realistic target by far.