Via Ken Rosenthal: The Yankees have signed utility man Yangervis Solarte to a minor league contract. I assume he received an invitation to Spring Training since Rosenthal says he will compete against Eduardo Nunez, Dean Anna, Corban Joseph, and Scott Sizemore for a bench job in camp.
Solarte, 26, has hit .282/.323/.404 (~91 wRC+) with 23 homers in 1,145 plate appearances for the Rangers’ Triple-A affiliate these last two years. He’s been a super-sub thoughout his career and he played at least 20 games at second, third, short, and left field over the last two seasons. Solarte has never played in the big leagues and he’s likely at the very bottom of the infield depth chart. · (10) ·
Via Ken Rosenthal: The Yankees are unlikely to sign another infielder to a guaranteed Major League contract at this point. They’ve already added Brian Roberts and Kelly Johnson on big league deals but still need a third baseman in the wake of Alex Rodriguez’s suspension.
Brian Cashman has said the team will not sign Stephen Drew, but Rosenthal’s report also eliminates Mark Reynolds, Michael Young, and others from the mix. Guys like Eduardo Nunez, Dean Anna, Corban Joseph, and Scott Sizemore will compete for a bench job in camp with Roberts, Johnson, and Brendan Ryan locks for the Opening Day roster. I don’t love the idea of going into the season with question marks at both second and third, but outside of signing Drew, that’s pretty much unavoidable at this point. · (78) ·
I spend a fair amount of my summer at Yankee Stadium and get to meet a lot of personalities. From the folks over at Yankee Bar and Grill, to the Twitter folks who come hang out in 420a and of course the Bleacher Creatures.
A few years back I struck up a relationship with (Bald) Vinny Milano after some back and forth on Twitter. Eventually he welcomed myself and my wife into the “Creature Family” and introduced us to a lot of the regulars. One of those regulars was Udi Latarre, a creature of the highest regard.
Udi was a smile, a funny joke, a photobomb and a stiff drink every time. Udi was a man who wanted to work hard in the IT industry and watch the Yankees play. Udi was a sweetheart who always was happy to see a familiar face. I only spent a few years getting to know him, but he was genuine and great. Vinny sent along notice last night that Udi Latarre passed away earlier this week at home suddenly.
Yankee Stadium has lost some real personality since the move from the old place to the new. People have critized that the common fan has been priced out, that it’s too quiet and just not the same. But losing real people like Udi furthers that great people make up a venue as much as the fancy video screens, expensive food and high priced beers. A house needs a family to be a home, and Udi was a member of a family.
Please take a moment in your day to remember that sometimes it’s more than just watching a baseball game. It’s about the relationships that come from sitting next to the person next to you and making a snide remark about the other team. The guy who starts the funny chant. The guy who might have on a funny shirt about “the wave.” Remember people like Udi, they just wanted to enjoy the game, like you.
Thanks for being my friend for a little while. Take care Udi.
The Yankees have added to their infield depth. The Kens (Rosenthal and Davidoff) report the team has signed infielder Scott Sizemore to a minor league contract that I assume includes an invitation to Spring Training as well. He passed up two guaranteed Major League offers to sign with New York according to Joel Sherman.
Sizemore, 29, showed some promise with the Tigers and Athletics back in 2011, hitting .245/.342/.399 (109 wRC+) with 11 homers and a 12.4% walk rate in 429 plate appearances. He has played only two games these last two years after tearing and re-tearing his left ACL. Sizemore, who has primarily been a second and third baseman throughout his career, is expected to be ready in time for camp.
The Yankees need a third baseman in the wake of Alex Rodriguez‘s suspension and Sizemore is as good a candidate for the job as anyone currently in the organization. He would remain under team control as an arbitration-eligible player through 2016 and effectively replaces David Adams as a right-handed hitting second/third baseman who has shown promise with the bat. Could be a nice little signing if Sizemore gets healthy and shows his 2011 production was not a fluke.
The Yankees now know, for certain, that Alex Rodriguez will not be available to them this coming season. Arbitrator Fredric Horowitz officially reduced A-Rod‘s suspension from 211 games to 162 games yesterday, but make no mistake, it was a huge win for MLB. They wanted Alex out of the game for the year and that’s what they got. The Yankees now have an extra $25M or so to spend but they also need a new third baseman.
With the ruling now handed down, the team will likely begin looking for a third base replacement in earnest. Here’s the latest on the hot corner situation courtesy of Anthony McCarron, Andrew Marchand, and Dan Martin:
- The Yankees continue to mull a reunion with Mark Reynolds, but they are only offering a minor league contract at this time. Such an agreement has been dubbed “unlikely.”
- Michael Young is also being considered and the two sides have been talking. It is “too early to tell” if anything will come from it, however. The Yankees tried to acquire Young at the trade deadline.
- The Yankees remain uninterested in Stephen Drew for whatever reason. Brian Cashman said they won’t be signing him last week. Drew has never played a position other than shortstop as a pro.
- Cashman said the team does not view Brendan Ryan or Eduardo Nunez as third base options, thankfully. Kelly Johnson is an option but his experience at the position is limited (16 games, all last year).
Barring further court action, Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez will be suspended for the entire 2014 season for violating MLB’s Joint Drug Argument, arbitrator Fredric Horowitz has decided. Horowitz has upheld A-Rod‘s ban but has reduced MLB’s penalty from 211 games to 162 (plus any Yankee playoff games). Essentially, A-Rod was allowed to play out the 2013 part of his suspension while appealing, but the initial penalty has been upheld.
Rodriguez has issued a statement vowing to appeal the suspension in federal court, but his faces long odds as federal courts are reluctant to overturn arbitration rulings absent obvious factual issues, gross misconduct on the part of the arbitrator or if the award was based on corruption, fraud, or undue means. Even then, courts grant broad discretion to arbitration rulings, especially those that arise out of collective bargaining arrangements.
“The number of games sadly comes as no surprise, as the deck has been stacked against me from day one. This is one man’s decision, that was not put before a fair and impartial jury, does not involve me having failed a single drug test, is at odds with the facts and is inconsistent with the terms of the Joint Drug Agreement and the Basic Agreement, and relies on testimony and documents that would never have been allowed in any court in the United States because they are false and wholly unreliable. This injustice is MLB’s first step toward abolishing guaranteed contracts in the 2016 bargaining round, instituting lifetime bans for single violations of drug policy, and further insulating its corrupt investigative program from any variety defense by accused players, or any variety of objective review.
I have been clear that I did not use performance enhancing substances as alleged in the notice of discipline, or violate the Basic Agreement or the Joint Drug Agreement in any manner, and in order to prove it I will take this fight to federal court. I am confident that when a Federal Judge reviews the entirety of the record, the hearsay testimony of a criminal whose own records demonstrate that he dealt drugs to minors, and the lack of credible evidence put forth by MLB, that the judge will find that the panel blatantly disregarded the law and facts, and will overturn the suspension. No player should have to go through what I have been dealing with, and I am exhausting all options to ensure not only that I get justice, but that players’ contracts and rights are protected through the next round of bargaining, and that the MLB investigation and arbitration process cannot be used against others in the future the way it is currently being used to unjustly punish me.
I will continue to work hard to get back on the field and help the Yankees achieve the ultimate goal of winning another championship. I want to sincerely thank my family, all of my friends, and of course the fans and many of my fellow MLB players for the incredible support I received throughout this entire ordeal.”
For MLB, this suspension is largely unprecedented. The JDA allows for a 50-game ban for an initial failed test, but it also grants the commissioner power to suspend a player for “just cause.” Horowitz has apparently upheld a broad grant of power in this “just cause” provision, and ARod’s suspension becomes the largest in MLB history over PED use, suspected or otherwise.
For the Yankees, this leaves a gaping hole on the left side of the infield. Already filled with old or fringe players, the infield has no third base anchor, and the remaining free agent market is weak, to say the least. (Just say no to Michael Young.) The team will get to save $25 million of A-Rod’s salary, less a $3 million signing bonus, but I’d rather see a better team on the field than Plan 189 or more money in the Steinbrenner family’s pockets. The gap his bat leaves in the lineup is significant as well, and the team is, as currently constructed, worse without A-Rod than with him.
The Players’ Association, meanwhile, issued a statement as well: “The MLBPA strongly disagrees with the award issued today in the grievance of Alex Rodriguez, even despite the Arbitration Panel’s decision to reduce the duration of Mr. Rodriguez’s unprecedented 211-game suspension. We recognize that a final and binding decision has been reached, however, and we respect the collectively-bargained arbitration process which led to the decision. In accordance with the confidentiality provisions of the JDA, the Association will make no further comment regarding the decision.” They are, in effect, washing their hands of this mess and, it seems, ceding power to Bud Selig and the Commissioner’s Office. That’s a risky move.
Some fans who despised A-Rod will rejoice; others who loved him, warts and all, and loved watching him hit will not. It’s not a good day for baseball though as shady dealings and PED use remain in the headlines.
A ruling in Alex Rodriguez’s appeal hearing is imminent, according to Steven Marcus. It’s unclear if that means a matter of minutes or hours or another day or two. Who really knows at this point. Marcus adds that arbitrator Frederic Horowitz’s ruling appears to be favorable for MLB. I’m not exactly sure any of this is new information at this point, really. · (7) ·
There are less than two weeks left in Masahiro Tanaka‘s signing period, and if the Yankees manage to lure him to New York, an argument can be made they signed the two best free agent starters this winter. The team re-upped Hiroki Kuroda to a one-year, $16M contract weeks ago, but because he was re-signed and not brought in from another team, it doesn’t really feel like an addition. It’s weird.
A few days ago, Kuroda spoke to Sponichi Annex about all sorts of interesting and important topics. A reader (@iyasuN) was kind enough to send me a translation … like a real translation, not some Google translate gibberish. Kuroda discussed a whole bunch of stuff, so here’s a point-by-point rundown.
On playing in 2014
Kuroda said he seriously considered retirement this offseason and spoke to Hideki Matsui — he holds Matsui in very high regard among his peers (they’re the same age) — about walking away at Mariano Rivera‘s retirement ceremony in September. Matsui told Kuroda he retired because “he did everything he could and he was done.” Because he is healthy and doesn’t have any physical problems (like Matsui’s knees), Kuroda decided to return for another season. He is very much year-to-year at this point of his career, however.
On re-signing with the Yankees
Once he decided to pitch another season, Kuroda gave the Yankees “top priority” during the offseason. The Hiroshima Carp (his former team in Japan) did contact him over the winter but by then he had already decided to return to New York. If he does ever return to the Japan, it will be for Hiroshima and not another club.
On the Yankees and a contract extension
The Yankees approached Kuroda about an extension the day after he beat the Angels for his 11th win of the season (so August 13th). Hal Steinbrenner specifically told him they were “ready to talk” that day in the Yankee Stadium weight room and soon opened negotiations with his agent. Kuroda was not ready to commit to another year just yet, so nothing came of it. Between Kuroda, Robinson Cano, and Russell Martin a few years ago, the Yankees appear to be loosening on that archaic “no extensions” policy.
On his late-season fade
Kuroda was unable to figure out why he struggled so much late in the season, but, in hindsight, he thinks he put too much pressure on himself and worked too hard early in the season, especially as the team struggled. From the beginning of May through the end of July, the Yankees scored a total of 41 runs in his 16 starts, an average of 2.56 runs per start. That’s an awful lot of stressful innings. Kuroda said he simply wore himself out both physically and mentally, and there was nothing in the tank those last few weeks.
On throwing 200+ innings
Although he has thrown at least 200 innings each of the last three seasons, Kuroda isn’t sure how important that is to him. He specifically cited Andy Pettitte, who scaled back his workload later in his career and was successful all season and into the postseason. (Pettitte last threw 200+ innings in 2008.) Given his age, Kuroda indicated he and the team might try to control his workload a bit better next year in an effort to stay fresh for all 162 games and a potential postseason run. He’d rather be a 180+ inning guy who is effective all season than a 200+ inning guy who is out of gas in September. Makes sense to me.
4:14pm: The Yankees have officially announced Matt Thornton’s two-year contract and confirmed Wells has been designated for assignment.
1:16pm: According to his Twitter feed, the Yankees have cut ties with Vernon Wells. Buster Olney says he was designated for assignment. The Yankees need 40-man roster space for both Brian Roberts and Matt Thornton and this clears one spot. Wells, 35, hit .233/.282/.349 (70 wRC+) last season and although he would have counted as $0 against the luxury tax in 2014, the team still owes him $2.4M in real dollars. The Angels owe him $18.6M. · (103) ·