It has been four pretty chaotic days since Alex Rodriguez‘s record 162-game suspension was announced. Alex is suing pretty much everyone and doing his best to burn every last bridge. It’s exhausting to follow, really.
Aside from a generic statement issued following the announcement of the suspension, the Yankees have not publicly discussed the matter. At least not until Wednesday. At the quarterly owners’ meetings in Arizona, Hal Steinbrenner commented on A-Rod and his status with the team following the suspension. As you might expect, he didn’t say anything too juicy. From Ken Davidoff:
“He’s a great player,” Steinbrenner said in the Yankees’ managing general partner’s first public comments since independent arbitrator Fredric Horowitz reduced Rodriguez’s suspension from 211 games to 162 games. “I have not thought about 2015, nor am I going to right now. My focus has to be right now. But when he’s on and when he’s healthy, he’s obviously an asset. We’ll see what happens.”
“Those of you that know me, I’m pretty objective in my thinking. This is business. I’m just focusing on the team, a player. Is the player an asset to the club or not? That’s about as far as I look. I don’t get personal … When Alex Rodriguez is healthy and himself, I think most objective baseball people would say he could be an asset to a club.”
Hal didn’t exactly say they would welcome A-Rod back following the suspension but he didn’t completely take it off the table either. I don’t expect them to bring Rodriguez back in 2015 — I do think they’ll release him at some point, but what do I know — but there’s no reason for Steinbrenner to come out and announce their plans now. Especially not with lawsuits pending and all that. There’s nothing to gain.
One thing Hal did acknowledge was talking to MLB about a way to keep A-Rod away from the team during the Spring Training, or at least the intent to the talk to MLB. “We haven’t even talked about it,” he said. “Cross that bridge when we come to it kind of thing. We’re going to reach out to [Major League Baseball], get their advice obviously, but haven’t even addressed it.”
The whole Spring Training thing is fascinating to me. I want to see how they’ll keep him away or how the team will treat him during camp if there’s no way to stop him from showing up in Tampa. Either way, I don’t think it’ll be easy or pretty. None of this has been.
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) ·