It was obvious Mark Teixeira‘s importance to the Yankees increased as soon as they made it clear they were willfully downgrading their offense. New York signed Teixeira to that fat eight-year contract — fourth largest contract in baseball history when it was signed — assuming he would anchor the middle of their lineup for years to come, but he simply hasn’t lived up to those expectations. Teixeira was great in 2009 but has faded in recent years.
Despite that fade, Teixeira has never actually been bad with the Yankees. Last year was his worst in the Bronx but he was still a comfortably above-average hitter, producing a .251/.332/.475 (116 wRC+) line with 24 homers in 123 games. That last number was the problem though, the games played. Outside of a quad-related DL trip back in 2007, Teixeira had been a lock for 150+ games played from 2005-2011. Last summer he missed a few days with a wrist issue and more than a month with a calf strain. Let’s not forget the early-season cough as well, which didn’t keep him on the sidelines in the traditional sense but surely impacted his production. If we go back to 2010, there was the broken toe in September and the hamstring strain that ended his season in Game Four of the ALCS.
Thanks to Curtis Granderson‘s injury, Teixeira’s importance to the Yankees has increased even more. They were able to withstand his declining production the last three years before their lineup (and bench) was deeper and better able to compensate. That’s not the case anymore. Derek Jeter is coming off his ankle surgery and both Kevin Youkilis and Travis Hafner are injury risks, meaning the lineup is even further at risk of losing its more productive players. The Yankees not only need Teixeira to stay on the field for 150+ games in 2013, but they also need him to halt his decline and improve on his offensive performance. Maybe being healthy instead of battling through a cough and a wrist problem and a calf strain will help him do that.
“Stay healthy and have fun. That’s my number one goal because I know if I stay healthy the numbers are going to be there,” said
Captain Obvious Teixeira to Mark Feinsand earlier in camp. “I’m going to help my team win. Have fun, because it’s a long season, there’s a lot of ups and downs and I’ve spent my entire career just trying to stay consistent. I know there are going to be low points, I know there are going to be high points. If I can have fun during both of those then I’ll be able to have a great season overall.”
Teixeira isn’t old, he’ll turn 33 about two weeks into the season. He plays a less-demanding/non-premium position and isn’t at an age where he’s at serious risk of falling off a cliff. His numbers — specifically his batting average and by extension, his on-base percentage — have declined because he’s gotten more pull/fly ball happy, and that’s not the best combination for maximizing offensive value. It’s been three years since Teixeira was the all-fields monster he was earlier in his career, so it’s time to stop expecting that guy to come back. Getting 150+ games of better than league average production, especially in the power department, out of Teixeira is the most important thing in 2013. If he continues to battle injury and/or sees his performance slip further, the Yankees will have a very hard time compensating.
During a recent radio interview, Johnny Damon said he had interest in a reunion with the Yankees for what I think is the third year in the row. “You guys know that I would have tons of interest to go to New York,” he said. “But I just don’t think they would be interested … They have had plenty of opportunities and I kept raising my hand, wanting to go back and, you know, hopefully it would be a perfect fit. It always had been. Have me for six weeks and then send me off on my merry way. That’s fine.”
Damon, 39, hit .222/.281/.329 (71 wRC+) with four homers and four steals in 224 plate appearances for the Indians last season before getting released. He hasn’t hit much since leaving the Yankees during the 2009-2010 offseason and he’s much more of a DH than an outfielder these days, but at this point the Yankees have nothing to lose. Damon said he’s cool with being cut loose when Granderson returns and it’s not like there’s a standout internal candidate, so what the hell, bring him to camp and see what he has to offer. For what it’s worth, Brian Cashman responded to Damon’s comments by saying “we will focus on what we have at this time.” · (46) ·
Pitchers and catchers reported to Tampa two weeks ago today, and during that time the Yankees have lost Phil Hughes to a bulging disk in his back and Curtis Granderson to a broken forearm. Hughes is working his way back slowly but could be back on a mound within a few days while Granderson will be sidelined until at least early-May. Considering that those two are among the youngest regulars on the projected roster, these last two weeks have certainly been disheartening. Here’s a collection of random thoughts…
1. A few hours before Granderson got hurt on Sunday, I wrote a nice big post for Monday afternoon explaining why moving him to left field wasn’t a slam dunk upgrade. It was absolutely worth trying of course, but factors like his inexperience — hasn’t played left regularly since 2003 and remember, left is the infamous “sun field” at Yankee Stadium during day games — and the potential for his bat to suffer could take away from the defensive upgrade. The inexperience is a very real thing while possible offensive decline is more theoretical than anything, but it is something the Yankees would have had to monitor in camp. Confidence was another thing; being “demoted” to left in his walk year couldn’t have been an easy thing for Curtis to take. Maybe he would have used that as motivation to kick ass and prove everyone wrong, but who knows. I think Granderson is likely to return as a center fielder when he’s healthy because the Yankees will emphasize getting his bat is ready as soon as possible rather than saving a few runs on defense. We’ll see.
2. My darkhorse/never-gonna-happen left field candidate? Corban Joseph. He can hit because he has an idea at the plate — his recent comments to Chad Jennings were encouraging — with some pop from the left side, but his defense has always been a question. Joseph isn’t quick enough to play an average second base and he doesn’t really have the arm for third, so a corner outfield spot might be his best long-term position. Baseball America said “he has taken fly balls in the outfield during pregame drills” in their 2013 Prospect Handbook, so at least he has a tiny bit of experience tracking a fly ball. Thirty-two Grapefruit League games wouldn’t be enough to fully transition Joseph from the infield to the outfield — right field might be better since it’s the smallest part of Yankee Stadium — but it’s probably worth a shot. Like I said, however, it’s never going to happen. Would be interesting to see though.
3. Since Chris Stewart and Frankie Cervelli are both out of options, an injury is pretty much the only way Austin Romine could make the team. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, he could use the regular playing time in Triple-A, but I doubt the Yankees would put one of those guys on waivers and sacrifice depth at this point. One thing I will be keeping an eye on in camp is Cervelli’s throwing, which was downright awful from 2010-2011 despite a very good minor league track record. Surely you remember all those errant throws into center field. Frankie threw a runner out at second trying to steal on Saturday and made a nice throw on a steal attempt yesterday even though the runner was safe. Cervelli told Jennings that he was “rushing” his throws and developed some bad habits from 2010-2011, but he corrected them last year and threw out 30% of attempted base-stealers in Triple-A. If he has in fact gotten over those bad habits and is able to contribute more defensively, he’d be the clear starter for me. None of these guys can hit much, but Cervelli is right in his prime years (27 next week) with a tolerable career .339 OBP. The lesser of two evils, I suppose.
4. By no means am I calling Ivan Nova a slacker, but I do think David Phelps has a bit of a leg up in the fifth starter’s competition because he is so far ahead in camp. He had already thrown a few bullpens by the time pitchers and catchers reported, and he was the first projected big leaguer to a) face hitters, and b) actually get into a Grapefruit League game. Phelps told Jennings he “pushed (himself) a little more in the offseason … because (he’s) trying to make an impression,” which is exactly what he did last year. As you probably remember, Phelps opened some eyes in camp last spring by showing some serious competitiveness and more velocity than he had in the past, and it helped him win that final bullpen spot. Talent always reigns supreme, but the Yankees have emphasized makeup and work ethic in recent years in an effort to get as much as they can out of that talent. Phelps is making one hell of an impression.
9:15am: The Yankees are officially calling it a “sore left oblique,” but Youkilis told reporters it was just a stitch in his side — near the top of his hip and not so much his oblique — yesterday and he’s totally fine today. “No concerns,” he said. We’ll see.
8:51am: Joe Girardi told reporters this morning that Kevin Youkilis will be shut down for a few days with some kind of left oblique issue. Apparently it was described as a “cramp” and Girardi said they’re just being cautious. The Yankees will re-evaluate their third baseman in a few days before sending him back out on the field. For what it’s worth, a left oblique strain sent Youkilis to the DL for two weeks back in 2009. · (35) ·
The Yankees lost to the Orioles this afternoon in a generally uneventful contest. Brett Gardner was the headliner for New York, going 3-for-3 with a bunt single. He slid head-first into first base in his first at-bat of the day, roughly 24 hours after Curtis Granderson fractured his forearm. Hopefully someone smacks some sense into him. No need to do that in February, especially after your 40-homer teammate got hurt.
Anyway, Jayson Nix had a pair of knocks behind Gardner and that’s pretty much it. Frankie Cervelli went hitless in three at-bats and was the only other projected big leaguer to play. The good news is that no one else got hurt today, thankfully. Here is the box score and here are my Corey Black .GIFs from earlier. As for the rest of the day’s news from Tampa…
- CC Sabathia (elbow) faced hitters in live batting practice and started throwing sliders, which is a big step following his surgery. “It was fine,” said the left-hander afterwards. He’ll do it again in two days. [George King]
- Mariano Rivera (knee) threw 32 pitches in his second round of live batting practice, saying everything went well afterwards. A simulated game could be he next step. [Meredith Marakovits]
- Chad Jennings has the rest of the day’s workout assignments. Ivan Nova, David Aardsma, and Clay Rapada also threw live batting practice while David Phelps threw in a bullpen. Phil Hughes (bulging disk) did some light work in a pool and will go for a checkup on Wednesday.
- No surprise here, but Joe Girardi said it is “fair to assume” Tyler Austin and Slade Heathcott are not in the outfield mix despite Granderson’s injury. [Andy McCullough]
- Joba Chamberlain, David Robertson, Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira, Travis Hafner, Eduardo Nunez, and Kevin Youkilis are on the travel roster for tomorrow’s game against the Phillies in Clearwater. Right-hander Jose Ramirez gets the start. That game will air on MLB.tv but not YES.
Here is your open thread for the night. None of the basketball or hockey locals are in action, but MLB Network will air a pair of Spring Training game, so hooray for that. Who you see depends on where you live. Talk about that stuff or anything else here. Go nuts.
Via Chad Jennings: Brian Cashman confirmed that prospect/suspect Dellin Betances will open the season as a starter for Tripe-A Scranton, just like last season. He’s expected to join Adam Warren, Brett Marshall, Vidal Nuno, and Shaeffer Hall in the rotation. Hall could get stuck spending a third year with Double-A Trenton if the Yankees sign a veteran depth starter.
Betances, 24, was so awful as a starter for Scranton last year (6.39 ERA and 5.88 FIP) that he had to be demoted to Double-A, where he was slightly less awful (6.51 ERA and 4.15 FIP). Betances pitched in relief during the Arizona Fall League and it seemed like he would continue to pitch out of the bullpen going forward since his command and mechanics have shown negligible improvement during his 6+ year pro career. The Yankees will burn Dellin’s final minor league option this year, meaning he’ll have to pass through waivers to go to the minors starting in 2014. It’s make or break time, if he doesn’t show any improvement early in the season they should stick him in the bullpen quickly and salvage whatever value they can. · (25) ·
That little right-hander up there is Corey Black, the Yankees’ fourth round pick from last summer and their 24th best prospect in my opinion. He pitched against the Orioles in Sarasota this afternoon and got hit around a bit — didn’t help his own cause with two walks — allowing two runs in an inning of work. He was very clearly overthrowing at times, which really isn’t necessary when you already live in the mid-90s.
Black is a big arm strength guy who is still working on his secondary stuff, but he did manage a 50/15 K/BB in 52.2 innings across three minor league levels after signing last summer. He’ll continue to work as a starter as he climbs the ladder, but his ultimate destination may be the bullpen. More .GIFs — which you can click for a larger view — after the jump. Read More→
It took all of ten Spring Training innings for the Yankees to suffer the inevitable injury that exposed their … well … vulnerability to injury. Because the baseball gods have a twisted sense of humor, it wasn’t one of the team’s older or injury prone players who got hurt. It was the young-ish and generally durable Curtis Granderson, who will miss the next ten weeks thanks to an errant J.A. Happ pitch and a fractured right forearm. Assuming everything heals well, he’ll return to the team in early-May.
The injury takes a huge bite out of New York’s lineup, obviously. Granderson is one of the game’s premier power hitters and that just can’t be replaced. Joe Girardi will have to get a little more creative in an effort to generate runs, which is something I’m sure he’ll enjoy. The speed of Ichiro Suzuki and Brett Gardner will be that much more important, ditto the continued health of Travis Hafner and Kevin Youkilis. Those two have combined for nine (!) DL trips in the last three seasons, but the Yankees have no choice but to keep their fingers crossed and hope they stay on the field through April.
Despite the initial shock of Granderson’s injury, the Yankees do have time on their side. Opening Day is still more than a month away and the club does have some internal options to audition in camp. None of them are particularly appealing to me outside of multi-threat/contact-challenged Melky Mesa, but they might as well give the Zoilo Almontes and Ronnie Musteliers and the like a chance. It’s not like other clubs are going to start offering up their spare outfielders out of the kindness of their heart, quite the opposite will happen. Trade prices have suddenly skyrocketed and now isn’t the time for desperation.
Brian Cashman has been on the job a long time, so he’s been here before. The Yankees lost Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield to significant injuries in the span of about two weeks back in May 2006, but it wasn’t until the trade deadline that Cashman acquired Bobby Abreu. Melky Cabrera got his chance and took advantage (.360 OBP and 98 wRC+), which is what the Yankees could use now. Outside of Mesa or Almonte running into some fastballs and having a Shane Spencer-esque month, they’re not going to be able to replace Granderson with a power hitter. Someone who can get on-base at a decent clip and not embarrass himself defensively is typical stopgap stuff. Cashman has always been patient in these situations and wouldn’t expect anything different now.
The Yankees have a pretty small margin of error this season, so the impact of Granderson’s injury is more dramatic than it would have been a year or two ago. The Bombers got worse this offseason while other clubs in the division improved, meaning the AL East might be a four-team race instead of the usual two or three. If Jeter’s ankle takes longer to heal than expected, or Ichiro turns back in to the pumpkin he was from 2011 through the 2012 trade deadline, or one of Hafner or Youkilis gets hurt, the Yankees are going to have a very serious problem on their hands. Then again, so would most teams who lost multiple regulars. New York is more vulnerable because of their age and division though, a problem that has been exposed before the calendar even flipped to March.
Jason Parks at Baseball Prospectus released his list of baseball’s 101 best minor leaguers today (no subs. req’d), which is topped by Rangers SS Jurickson Profar. Cardinals OF Oscar Taveras ranked second while Pirates RHP and former Yankees first rounder Gerrit Cole placed third. He’s an easy top ten guy, but top three? Might be pushing it. Orioles RHP Dylan Bundy is fourth.
The Yankees landed just two prospects on the top 101, C Gary Sanchez at #47 and OF Mason Williams at #51. It’s seems odd that OF Slade Heathcott didn’t make the list, especially since Parks admits “a bias against safe and secure in favor of high and hazardous.” I can understand leaving OF Tyler Austin off using that criteria, but Heathcott too? In Park’s defense, he did say he doesn’t believe Heathcott’s ceiling is as high as some others. Either way, all four guys were among the top 100 prospects in baseball according to Keith Law and Baseball America. · (66) ·
Spring Training Record: 1-1 (8 RS, 5 RA)
Spring Training Schedule This Week: @ Orioles (Mon.), @ Phillies (Tues.), vs. Orioles (Weds. on YES), vs. Blue Jays (split squad, Thurs. on YES), @ Astros (split squad, Thurs), vs. Phillies (Fri. on YES), vs. Red Sox (Sat. on YES), @ Red Sox (Sun. on YES)
Top stories from last week:
- Hall Steinbrenner is reportedly “freaked out” over the reaction to his plan to get payroll under the $189 million luxury tax threshold by next season. The owner confirmed Scott Boras knows they’re willing to discuss a “significant” contract for Robinson Cano.
- Injury News: Curtis Granderson (forearm) will mess ten weeks following a hit-by-pitch. Derek Jeter (ankle) continues to ramp up his workouts. Phil Hughes (back) has a bulging disk and figures to miss at least two weeks. Michael Pineda (shoulder) will stretch out his bullpen sessions and begin throwing changeups soon. Mark Montgomery (back) has resumed throwing off a mound. Relief prospect Nick Goody (ankle) has been shut down following a car accident.
- Despite Hughes’ injury, the Yankees do not have interest in Kyle Lohse. They are also unwilling to give up a good prospect for Alfonso Soriano, though that as before Granderson’s injury.
- Mason Williams, Slade Heathcott, Gary Sanchez, and Tyler Austin all ranked among Baseball America’s top 100 prospects.
- Melky Mesa, Walt Ibarra, Gil Velazquez, Juan Cedeno, and Pat Venditte will all participate in the upcoming World Baseball Classic.
- The Yankees are officially the Evil Empire, at least when the phrase is used in relation to baseball.
- David Price took back his comments after saying he wouldn’t sign long-term with the Yankees.
- Frankie Cervelli does not had an option remaining despite recent reports to the contrary.
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