Minor League Notes: Kaprielian, Acevedo, Sanchez, Mateo, Refsnyder, Florial

Spring Training has begun and we are only eleven days away from the first Grapefruit League game. The Yankees tend to start someone other than one of their five projected starters in the first spring game, so I’m curious to see who gets the ball this year. Watch it be a journeyman like Anthony Swarzak or Tyler Cloyd, not an interesting prospect. Anyway, I have some minor league links and notes to pass along.

Kaprielian already turning heads in Spring Training

I guess this is more of a Spring Training update than a minor league update, but whatever. RHP James Kaprielian is already getting some very high praise in camp even though pitchers and catchers officially reported only a few days ago. He’s been in Tampa for several weeks now and recently took part in Captain’s Camp.

“He’s shown some leadership ability among the players. He’s been a big part of things (in Captain’s Camp) and he’s another guy we think that, over the long term, has an excellent chance to be part of our Major League rotation,” said farm system head Gary Denbo to Brendan Kuty. “He’s shown the ability to locate his fastball. His breaking ball has the chance to be a plus pitch for him. The changeup also has improved the more he’s pitched and will as he develops. He’s shown improvement in velocity in the course of last season.”

Kaprielian, 21, threw his first official bullpen session of the spring yesterday and Joe Girardi came away impressed. “Thought he had good command today,” said the skipper to Chad Jennings. “You know, the focus early on in Spring Training is the command of that fastball, and I thought he had good command. I thought he was not overwhelmed by his surroundings. He was comfortable. That’s always a concern of mine for kids their first year in camp. He was talkative, and it was good to see.”

Kaprielian among Baseball America’s top 100 just misses

A week ago Baseball America published their annual top 100 prospects list, which included three Yankees. Kaprielian was not one of them, but he was one of six players who just missed the top 100, says Josh Norris. Here’s the blurb:

Kaprielian, the Yankees’ 2015 first-rounder from UCLA, was one of the last few players in consideration for the final spot on the list. His fastball bumped 96-97 mph in pro ball with short-season Staten Island and in fall instructional league. Each of his other three pitches—curveball, slider and changeup—grades as at least average. He should start this year at high Class A Tampa and could zoom through the minor leagues.

J.J. Cooper says RHP Domingo Acevedo, 2B Rob Refsnyder, and SS Wilkerman Garcia all received top 100 votes in addition to Kaprielian when the Baseball America team was compiling their top 100 list. A total of 208 players received at least one top 100 vote, so that’s not that exclusive of a club, but I’d be pretty happy to get a vote. Being a top 208 prospect would be pretty cool.

Grandmaster Kap. (Presswire)
Grandmaster Kap. (Presswire)

Prospect position rankings

Last week both Keith Law (subs. req’d) and Baseball America released their prospect position rankings. Well, Baseball America is in the process of releasing their rankings. They’ve only published a few so far. MLB.com published their prospect position rankings a few weeks ago (catcher, second base, shortstop, outfield).

Law ranked C Gary Sanchez second among catchers, SS Jorge Mateo 15th among shortstops, OF Aaron Judge ninth among outfielders, and LHP Jacob Lindgren seventh among relievers. Kaprielian did make Law’s annual top 100 list but he was not among the top 20 starting pitching prospects only because so many pitchers were ahead of him on the top 100. Refsnyder did not rank among his top 10 second base prospects.

As for Baseball America, they ranked Sanchez as the best catching prospect in the game, Kaprielian and Acevedo as the 35th and 55th best right-handed pitching prospects, respectively, and Lindgren as the 22nd best left-handed pitching prospect. None of the other positions have been released yet. Those are coming next week. Good to see Sanchez so high among catchers.

Florial a deep sleeper

I don’t pay much attention to the Dominican Summer League because there is so much misinformation about those kids out there, and also because they’re just so very far away from MLB. Most don’t even make it stateside. Ben Badler is one of the best international baseball reporters in the game though, and he says OF Estevan Florial is a deep sleeper to keep an eye on.

Florial, 17, was part of the Yankees’ big 2014-15 international spending spree, but I can’t find any bonus information, which usually indicates he didn’t get a ton of money. Florial hit .313/.394/.527 (154 wRC+) with seven homers, 15 steals, an 11.3% walk rate, and a 22.9% strikeout rate in 57 DSL games last year. I can’t find anything else on him and I don’t trust DSL stats at all, but if Badler says he’s a sleeper, then he’s a sleeper. File his name under players to remember.

Misc. Links & Notes

Here are some links and notes not worth a full write-up but are worth checking out:

  • Jeff Zimmerman used WAR-to-scouting grade equivalencies and Baseball America’s 2016 Prospect Handbook to calculate farm system surplus values. The Yankees rank 18th at +23.5 WAR after ranking 17th in Baseball America’s farm system rankings.
  • As part of their top 100 list, Baseball America is running a series called “Split Decisions” where they compare two prospects at the same position who ranked close together. Mateo was paired up with Royals SS Raul Mondesi Jr. Seems like the consensus is Mondesi has more ceiling but Mateo is a safer bet.
  • Baseball America posted updated team top ten prospect lists a few days ago to reflect all the offseason activity. RHP Rookie Davis went from No. 6 in New York’s system to No. 9 in the Reds system, and that’s pretty much it. 3B Eric Jagielo did not make Cincinnati’s top ten. RHP Bryan Mitchell jumped into the top ten with Davis gone.
  • Longtime Florida area scout Jeff Deardorff has been promoted and will now focus on analyzing amateur hitters for the draft, reports George King (subs. req’d). I could have sworn Deardorff played with the Yankees at some point, but no. He appeared in 122 games with Triple-A Columbus in 2004. That’s all.

Just a heads up, the four full season minor league affiliates begin their regular season on Thursday, April 7th this year. That’s three days after the big league Yankees behind their season.

Open Thread: February 19th Camp Notes

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Day two of Spring Training — the first real workout day — went without a hitch today. CC Sabathia held a press conference and said he plans to stay sober this season by keeping himself occupied and hanging out with teammates. He did all of his heavy drinking alone in his hotel room. “That’s something I kind of got away from the past couple of years,” he said to Brendan Kuty. “Just kind of shutting myself into my hotel room and doing my deed. I’ll be out with my teammates, hanging out with the guys in the same role when I first got here, very social.”

Sabathia also confirmed he will continue to use the knee brace he used at the end of last season, when he finished with five strong starts. “I got a new lightweight one that I started using at the end of the year last year and I really took to it. Throwing my bullpens this winter, I’ve felt great. I’ll use it again tomorrow in my first bullpen and just work from there,” he said to Ryan Hatch. Here are today’s photos from camp and here are the day’s notes:

  • Chad Jennings has the day’s bullpen and batting practice groups. Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, Nathan Eovaldi, Luis Severino, Bryan Mitchell, and James Kaprielian were among those to throw. Tanaka threw 25 pitches while Pineda, Eovaldi, Severino, and Mitchell each threw 20 pitches, took a break, then threw 15 more with increased intensity. Everyone came through fine. The pitchers went through bunting drills too. [Kuty]
  • Eovaldi said his elbow is perfectly fine after he had to be shut down late last season with inflammation. “I haven’t had any issues with it. If I didn’t know I had it, I wouldn’t know I was hurt,” he said. Eovaldi plans to work on his curveball this year to complement his fastball and splitter. Also, Eovaldi is locker neighbors with Aroldis Chapman, and he said it’s the first time he’s been next to someone who throws harder than him. [Anthony McCarron, Bryan Hoch]
  • NJ.com has the full list of guest speakers from Captain’s Camp, if you’re interested. The team built a big hill on one of the backfields at the request of strength trainer Matt Krause. The players are going to get stuck running up it during workouts this year. “It’s definitely something that other organizations have … It’s an important tool for Matt that he’s been pushing for and I’m glad Hal Steinbrenner gave us the funds to build it,” said Brian Cashman. [McCarron]
  • The Yankees invited righties Mark Montgomery and Kyle Haynes to big league camp as non-roster players, the team announced. They’re now up to 68 players in camp. Jennings has the full list of uniform numbers, if you’ve been looking for them. By my count 24, 38, and 69 are the only unissued numbers. (Montgomery and Haynes are wearing 62 and 63, respectively.)
  • Gary Sanchez appears to be the favorite for the backup catcher’s job but he “will be given every chance to lose” it to someone else. The progress of his defense will be more important than his bat this spring. [Sweeny Murti]
  • And finally, the Yankees are wearing a No. 8 on their sleeve this spring to honor Yogi Berra. Yogi passed away on September 22nd last year and the team did wear No. 8 on their uniform, but it was only for a short period of time because the season ended. Hopefully they wear it for the entire 2016 season. [Hoch]

This is tonight’s open thread. The Knicks are playing the Nets and the Devils are playing the Islanders. There’s no college hoops on the schedule though. Chat about those games, the day in Spring Training, or anything else here.

Witz: Chapman would not be allowed to play while waiting for appeal of suspension

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

According to Billy Witz, Aroldis Chapman would not be allowed to play while waiting for the appeal of his suspension under the domestic violence policy. No suspension has been announced but it could come any day now. Chapman said yesterday he plans to appeal any discipline.

Now just because Chapman would have to serve his suspension while waiting for the appeal does not mean the appeal would be a waste of time. The suspension could be shortened, in which case I assume he would be retroactively credited with service time and salary, and each game equals roughly $70,000 in Chapman’s pocket.

Players who appeal performance-enhancing drug suspensions or on-field behavior suspensions (charging the mound, etc.) are allowed to play while waiting for their appeal to be heard. I guess the goal with the domestic violence policy is to make sure the player can’t drag the process out any long than it needs to be.

Witz says in addition to a suspension, Chapman could be entered into a treatment program that would possibly require him to relinquish his guns or even find a new place to live so he’s no longer near his girlfriend. If he doesn’t comply with the treatment program, he could suspended even further.

Commissioner Rob Manfred has indicated any suspension for Chapman would likely be announced before Opening Day, but that’s not a guarantee. Manfred told Mike Berardino he expects “some action” on Chapman’s case in the next couple of days, whatever that means. Jose Reyes and Yasiel Puig are also being investigated under the domestic violence policy.

The Yankees seem likely to lose their new closer for some length of time. Maybe a week or two, maybe a few months. Who knows? No player has ever been suspended under the domestic violence policy. There’s no precedent.

Spring Training has begun, but the Yankees still have time to upgrade their roster

Sign pls. (Mike Stobe/Getty)
Sign pls. (Mike Stobe/Getty)

After four long months of offseason, the Yankees opened Spring Training yesterday as pitchers and catchers reported to Tampa. Position players will follow next Wednesday. Grapefruit League play begins the week after that. Soon real live baseball will be on our screens, and we’ll be overreacting to small sample sizes against low quality competition even though we all know we shouldn’t.

The offseason is over but the roster building is not. It never is. The Yankees have made some notable moves in the middle of Spring Training in recent years, including trades to acquire Shawn Kelley, Vernon Wells, Chris Stewart, and Chris Dickerson. They also traded way Eduardo Nunez and signed Lyle Overbay during the spring. There are always a final few tweaks made in the spring.

Right now several quality free agents remain unsigned — can the Yankees please sign Juan Uribe now? pretty please? — and apparently the trade market is still active. Rays president of baseball operations Matt Silverman told Marc Topkin the “transaction window is open longer” these days, and added more teams are willing to talk about significant trades in Spring Training.

The Yankees spent all offseason looking to add a young starter and were willing to discuss Andrew Miller and Brett Gardner in trades to make it happen, but nothing got done. There will always be a trade market for Miller as long as he’s healthy because he’s very good, very affordable, and teams always need bullpen help. The market for Gardner is limited right now because so many teams added outfielders through free agency.

The Angels, however, have not yet addressed their left field issues. Yesterday Mike Scioscia told Jeff Fletcher the team intends to bat Mike Trout third this year, which is no big deal in and of itself, but it prompted me to look at their depth chart to see who would be candidates to bat first and second ahead of Trout, and holy crap, look at this team:

Angels depth chart

Albert Pujols is questionable for Opening Day following foot surgery, so Anaheim’s offense right now is basically Trout, Yunel Escobar, and Kole Calhoun. And I guess C.J. Cron, who can mash taters but lacks on-base ability. I mean, I knew who they had on the roster, but it’s shocking to see how unimpressive that offense is when you look at all the names in one spot.

I’ve mentioned the possibility of a Gardner-Angels trade a few times this winter and it still looks like such a perfect fit. The Angels need a left fielder and leadoff hitter, and they have some pitching to spare. Gardner’s salary, while not exorbitant, may be an issue because the Halos have about $12M in wiggle room under the luxury tax threshold. The Yankees could always pay down some of his contract to facilitate a deal.

Anyway, I don’t want to turn this into another “trade Gardner to the Angels post,” I just wanted to use that situation as an example of how the Yankees could still upgrade their roster. There are free agents who fit the roster — did I mention Juan Uribe is still available? because Juan Uribe is still available — and there are still potential trade partners out there. With so many more teams in contention nowadays, you’d expect there to be desire to improve.

The Yankees don’t have a ton of open roster spots at the moment — the last bench spot and three bullpen spots, that’s about it — though there are always ways to upgrade, and the Yankees should be in the business of upgrading both short and long-term. A Gardner trade would be significant and I think it remains unlikely, but small trades (like Kelley and Stewart) and small signings (Juan Uribe!) are out there waiting to be made.

Spring Training has begun, but Opening Day is still more than six weeks away, so there’s lots of time for Brian Cashman & Co. to fine tune the roster. The AL East is so very competitive that every upgrade, no matter how big or small it appears, it’s worth making.

Update: The Indians just signed Uribe according to Ken Rosenthal. No word on the terms. Grumble grumble.

Based on Trost’s comments, the Yankees continue to be tone-deaf to their fan base

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Earlier this week we learned the Yankees are discontinuing the print-at-home ticket option, which is a pretty big inconvenience. You can now get ticket barcodes on your phone, which is great, but the days of grabbing some last minute tickets on StubHub and printing them out are a thing of the past. Hard-stock tickets or mobile barcodes only. That’s how you get into Yankee Stadium now.

The Yankees claim the decision to discontinue print-at-home tickets is based on eliminating ticket fraud, and while I’m sure that’s a factor, this is about money. It’s obvious. The Yankees have long been opposed to StubHub and this move undercuts the secondary market. It helps establish a minimum price on all tickets by giving fans a reason to purchase them either directly from the Yankees or on Yankees Ticket Exchange, and that reason is convenience.

For whatever reason the Yankees don’t want to come out and admit this is a business decision designed to make money. Yesterday morning, Yankees COO Lonn Trost appeared on a talk radio show to discuss the team’s decision to dump print-at-home tickets, and, well, it wasn’t pretty. Here’s the video. Here’s a transcript:

“The problem below market at a certain point is that if you buy a ticket in a very premium location and pay a substantial amount of money. It’s not that we don’t want that fan to sell it, but that fan is sitting there having paid a substantial amount of money for a ticket and (another) fan picks it up for a buck-and-a-half and sits there, and it’s frustrating to the purchaser of the full amount … And quite frankly, the fan may be someone who has never sat in a premium location. So that’s a frustration to our existing fan base.”

The Yankees don’t want their rich fans to sit next to poor fans, basically. I hope that’s not what Trost intended to say — I do plenty of radio hits these days and believe me, I know how easy it is for things to come out incorrectly when answering questions live — but that’s how it came out. This is not the first time Trost has said something like this, so it’s tough to give him the benefit of the doubt here.

That is really, really bad. It makes Trost — and by extension, the Yankees — look completely tone-deaf and elitist. They don’t want fans in premium seats getting upset because the people sitting next to them may have found a better deal somewhere else even though it happens in every venue all around the world. Those premium seats have rarely been full since the new Yankee Stadium opened …

Good seats behind the dugout still available. (Presswire)
(Presswire)

… and the Yankees have spent more time blaming (and suing) StubHub than offering practical solutions. The ticket price is set and the Yankees seem totally unwilling to adjust even if the demand is not there. Now the COO insinuates the team doesn’t want a certain kind of fan sitting in those premium seats. That’s a real thing that really happened.

This is a problem. The Yankees come off as snobby and favoring the elites in premium seats. Trost didn’t just double down on the club’s decision to eliminate print-at-home tickets, he made it personal. Despite the glamour of baseball blogging, I am not independently wealthy, and if I happen to find a good deal on a premium ticket, I’m going to jump on it. No one has a right to tell me I don’t belong in that seat just because the guy sitting next to me paid full price. Tough. That’s life.

The numbers do not lie: attendance at Yankee Stadium is dropping and YES Network ratings are taking a hit. The Yankees’ biggest offseason acquisition was a guy being investigated for domestic violence, and regardless of how you personally feel about that, a lot of people don’t like it. The team has been marginally competitive the last few years and ownership continues to talk about the desire to cut payroll. These things are all generating negative PR. Now getting good deals on tickets will be more difficult for the average fan.

Look, I don’t begrudge the Yankees for making a business decision. I imagine it’s only a matter of time until other teams eliminate the print-at-home ticket option. But man, can they do this without being insulting or snobby? There’s a line and Trost crossed it. The Yankees seem to be out of touch with the majority of their fan base, and given the way things have been going the last few years, they need all the goodwill they can get.

Mailbag: Otani, Gardner, Warren, Judge, Hensley, Gurriel

Got 13 questions in the mailbag this week. Remember to use the RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com email address to send us anything at any time.

Otani. (Presswire)
Otani. (Presswire)

Toshiki asks: I’m Japanese and the Japanese media this week reported that Yankees are prepared to commit around $300m for Shohei Otani. I’m not concerned about the authenticity of the report but my questions are: 1. do you think the Yankees would be interested in signing him (depends on when he’ll get posted) and 2. if he does sign, do you think Yankees would spend THAT much money on him?

Yes, I do think the Yankees would be interested in signing Otani. Like you said though, he has to be posted, and I don’t think that will happen anytime soon. Otani is only 21 and he is still six years from international free agency. Thanks to the posting system, the Nippon Ham Fighters are getting the same $20M release fee regardless of whether they post him next offseason or four offseasons from now. Might as well hang onto him a little longer.

As for the $300M question, no way. I don’t think any team would go that high. We’re just now getting the point of $200M contracts for pitchers, and those are going to Cy Young winners in the prime of their careers. Otani is very young and that’s very appealing, but man, I don’t think we’re at the point of $300M for pitchers yet. Would, say, Noah Syndergaard get $300M if he became a free agent tomorrow? I doubt it.

Otani is a two-way player for the (Ham) Fighters, often playing the outfield on the days he doesn’t pitch. He does own a career .245/.300/.429 batting line with 18 homers in 557 plate appearances, but his future clearly lies on the mound. Otani’s a potential MLB ace with a triple digit fastball and a dizzying array of offseason stuff. To the action footage:

By all accounts Otani is the best pitcher in the world not under contract with an MLB team. He had a 2.25 ERA with 196 strikeouts and only 33 unintentional walks in 160.2 innings last season. Whenever he gets posted, I expect the bidding to be fierce, and it’s very possible he will end up with a $200M+ contract. I would be floored if he broke the $300M barrier though. I feel like we’re still a good eight or ten years from that happening. Maybe longer.

Keith asks: You’ve mentioned the Yanks adding two new minor league affiliates recently. Is there a cap on how many minor league teams an MLB club can own or use? Could the yanks have a dozen or more minor league teams in their stable?

Technically, no, there is no cap on the number of minor league affiliates an MLB team can have. (MLB teams don’t own all of their affiliates. They usually form player a development partnerships with independent minor league franchises.) The issue is minor league baseball is a zero sum game. There are only so many affiliates to go around. Adding an affiliate means another team loses an affiliate, and teams usually don’t shortchange themselves in the minors.

The Yankees were able to pick up their second Gulf Coast League team a few years ago because the Mets shut down their GCL affiliate in a cost cutting move. (Not joking.) They added their Pulaski affiliate last year because the Mariners pulled out of the Appalachian League. The Yankees had to wait for another team to drop one of their affiliates before they could add another. Player development contracts are usually long multi-year deals, so it’s not like a bunch expire each winter either.

Right now the Yankees have ten minor league affiliates (Triple-A Scranton, Double-A Trenton, High-A Tampa, Low-A Charleston. Short Season Staten Island, Rookie Pulaski, two GCL teams, two Dominican Summer League teams) and that’s a ton. Most teams have six or seven. I’m not sure if adding any more is practical.

Warren. (Mike Stobe/Getty)
Warren. (Mike Stobe/Getty)

Ross asks: Knowing that the Cubs were just as interested in trading for Brett Gardner as they were for Adam Warren in the Castro trade, which player would you have rather traded at that time? Has your opinion changed with the way the rest of the offseason played out?

This is an interesting question. Gardner is the more valuable player in my opinion, but the Yankees have a greater need for a Warren type. They have plenty of outfielders. The Yankees could have plugged Aaron Hicks into left field, or Dustin Ackley, or some combination of Slade Heathcott and Mason Williams and Ben Gamel. At the same time, the Yankees also have a ton of bullpen arms they can stick in Warren’s spot, but not all of those guys can start. Bryan Mitchell, Brady Lail, and Luis Cessa are the only true rotation candidates of the bunch. At the time I much preferred trading Warren to trading Gardner. Now I wonder if sending Gardner would have been the better move from an organizational depth standpoint. (Of course, I didn’t love the idea of trading either for Starlin Castro, but it is what it is.)

Alex asks: Assuming that none of the presumed starters get hurt in spring training, could/should the Yankees send Nova to Scranton for the dual purpose of keeping him stretched out and also manipulating his service time? His service time is 5.024 (according to Cots) so it’s close enough where the team could delay free agency for a year if he stayed in the minors for a month plus.

They can’t. Ivan Nova is out of options, so they’d have to pass him through waivers to send him to Triple-A, and I don’t think they’d do that. There’s a decent chance Nova would get claimed even with his $4.1M salary, and they couldn’t risk losing the depth. Also, players with more than five years of service time can decline minor league assignments. So even if Nova had an option, he could refuse the assignment and force the Yankees to keep him in MLB. If possible, yeah, of course it would be worth it to send Nova down for a month (36 days to be exact) to delay free agency. It won’t happen though. Nova would refuse the assignment.

Tom asks: You did not have Ty Hensley in your top 30. Do you think there is any hope to regain his status as a prospect and what should we look for in 2016 to consider it a success?

Hensley has thrown 42.1 innings since being the 30th overall pick in the 2012 draft, so we’re talking about three and a half pro seasons here. That is a ton of missed development at a crucial age. History suggests most pitchers are unable to make it back after a layoff that significant and those who do often come back as much less than what they were before getting hurt. (Steven Matz is the most notable recent exception.) Given his history, simply staying on the field and throwing 80-something innings in 2016 would qualify as a success for Hensley in my book. I like Hensley and I’m rooting like hell for him, but man, it’s hard to expect him to develop into a big league pitcher at this point.

Vince asks: Am I misremembering (thanks roger) or did judge’s aaa struggles begin after an ankle(?) injury?

It was a lower back issue, apparently. Aaron Judge did not play from July 17th to July 26th last year, and he told Shane Hennigan at the time he wasn’t hurt, just “tight.” Hennigan said he saw Judge in the clubhouse with his lower back wrapped, for what it’s worth. Judge had been in Triple-A for barely a month at the time. He hit .275/.358/.388 (117 wRC+) with an 18.9% strikeout rate in 95 plate appearances with the RailRiders before the injury and .208/.288/.365 (90 wRC+) with a 32.2% strikeout rate in 177 plate appearances after returning. The back injury certainly could have played a role in his Triple-A struggles, though most scouting reports indicate it was an approach issue more than a physical issue.

Adam asks: No one in the minors close or anyone on the current roster that can actually play third and he’s signed for 3 more years. Is there anyone Yankee on the current roster that has more job security than Chase Headley?

Yeah, the veteran players with huge contracts, especially those who have been great players in the past. CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, Jacoby Ellsbury, guys like that. The Yankees have shown they’ll stick with those guys no matter how poorly they perform, even when they have viable alternatives. That’s real job security. When there are potentially better options and the team sticks with you anyway. There’s no one to push Headley for playing time at third, but if there were, I think the Yankees would go with their best option.

Yangervis. (Denis Poroy/Getty)
Yangervis. (Denis Poroy/Getty)

Samuel asks: In 20/20 hindsight, assuming Solarte posted identical stats in pinstripes over the last year and a half as he did with the Padres, would the Yankees have been better off keeping him?

Well yeah, in hindsight they should have kept him, except there was no reason to think Yangervis Solarte was anything more than a fringy Major Leaguer who got hot for a few weeks at the time of the trade. He hit .180/.264/.256 (49 RC+) in the two months leading up to the trade and had to be sent to the minors for a few weeks. Solarte looked like a journeyman who had a few good weeks and reverted back to being a career Triple-A type. He deserves a ton of credit for getting where he is right now. Based on what we knew at the time, I still make that trade every day of the week. Guys like Solarte are found money and you flip them for some more established players every chance you get.

Paul asks: What’s the highest uniform number ever worn by a Yankee in the regular or post season? With the revolving door of the bullpen and 25th-man expected this year, do you see that number going higher?

Brian Bruney wore No. 99 for a little while back in 2009. So did Charlie Keller back in 1952. The highest number worn by a Yankee for multiple years is No. 91 by Al Aceves, though he had only one full season in pinstripes (2009) and several partial seasons (2008, 2010, 2014). The highest number worn by a regular player for multiple years are No. 65 (Phil Hughes) and No. 68 (Dellin Betances). It’s No. 55 for position players (Hideki Matsui and some others). Here’s the team’s full uniform number history. Between the shuttle and retired numbers and whatnot, it seems like we’re seeing more and more players with numbers in the 60s and above these days. I can’t imagine that’ll change anytime soon.

Michael asks: The Rangers are exploring the market for Outfielders. Obviously Brett Gardner’s name has come up quite a bit during the offseason. Would you trade Gardner for a Texas starter such as Chi Chi Gonzalez? Yes, I know, MTPS.

I don’t think the Yankees would do that. Gonzalez is not their type of pitcher. They love their hard-throwing strikeout guys and he’s kind of a generic low-90s fastball guy who fanned only 17.5% of batters face in Double-A and Triple-A the last two years. The idea is good, trading Gardner for a young starter, though I don’t think Gonzalez is that starter.

Also, I don’t think the Rangers would go for Gardner either. They’re said to be looking for outfield depth in the wake of Josh Hamilton’s latest knee issue — he had knee surgeries in September and October, and reported some discomfort the other day — but are looking at scrap heap guys like Will Venable. Gardner has a hefty contract and I don’t get the sense Texas is looking for that kind of commitment. I still think the Angels are the best bet for a Gardner trade.

Travis asks: Since Bird’s health cant be counted on for 2017 (or beyond), I was wondering if Yulieski Gurriel could be an option for first base? I don’t think he has experience there, but he seems like a good athlete and he has experience at second and third base, which COULD translate to first base.

Gurriel has played mostly second and third bases in his career — he also played some center field years and years ago — so I suppose he has the hands for first base, but there’s no real way to know. As we’ve learned the last few years, first base is tougher than it looks, especially if you’ve never played it before. I thought Alex Rodriguez was going to pick up first base super quick last year and that didn’t happen even though A-Rod is a baseball playing robot. I’m a Gurriel fan and would like to see the Yankees sign him to play … somewhere. Make it work. If that includes first, so be it.

Michael asks: Wouldn’t it make sense for the Yankees to look at extending a few of their young players (specifically Gregorius, Pineda and/or Eovaldi), especially given their emphasis on getting under the luxury tax in an upcoming year?

Eovaldi. (Presswire)
Eovaldi. (Presswire)

Yes, I think so. I’ve written about possibly signing Michael Pineda and Nathan Eovaldi long-term because they’re young, they’re theoretically getting better, and they’re only under team control another two years. The Yankees lack controllable pitching beyond 2017 — it’s Luis Severino and, uh, James Kaprielian maybe? — and neither of those two are in position to command a huge contract right now. Seems like a good opportunity to lock them in at affordable rates.

As for Gregorius, I think it’s a question worth asking, though going year to year with him might not be a terrible idea. Unless his offense really takes off, Didi’s not going to get huge arbitration raises because defense still doesn’t pay. He’s going to make only $2.425M this year, so he might end up pulling down something like $25M total during his four arbitration years. (That’s a $2.5M per year raise.) Is it worth the risk to sign Gregorius to, say, a five-year contract worth $30M or so? Doing so actually hurts the luxury tax situation the next two years since the average annual value is higher than his projected salaries.

Given their financial situation, I tend to think the Yankees should only focus on signing their budding stars long-term, like they did with Robinson Cano. He was a young player who had yet to blossom but clearly had big time ability. Does Gregorius have that? I don’t think so. Extending Eovaldi or Pineda would make sense because the Yankees are short on pitching. It might be worth waiting another year with Didi to mitigate the risk.

Dan asks: I think it’s pretty clear that, aside from Jeter, no additional players deserve retired numbers. What other players do you see the Yankees honoring with plaques. Graig Nettles’ name seems to get mentioned a lot as a candidate for a plaque. How about Matsui and Moose?

Nettles is the big one, I think, especially since he’s in the “hey maybe this guy’s number should be retired” conversation. The problem with the plaques is I feel like if Tino Martinez got one, a lot of people deserve one, including Nettles, Matsui, Mike Mussina, and David Cone. That’s not a great way to look at it, I know, but that’s the established standard for a plaque. A-Rod should absolutely get one. But will he? I doubt it. Couldn’t you make a case for CC Sabathia getting a plaque since he was the ace on a World Series winning team and the club’s best pitcher for a half-decade? Nettles definitely deserves one in my opinion. So does A-Rod, and I think Cone as well. After them, I’d be okay with no plaque for Matsui or Moose, even though they were both awesome.

Open Thread: February 18th Camp Notes

"Aroldis, meet Gary. Gary, Aroldis." (Presswire)
“Aroldis, meet Gary. Gary, Aroldis.” (Presswire)

Pitchers and catchers reported to Tampa today and everyone who was supposed to report today did report today. No problems there. Joe Girardi held his annual start-of-spring press conference this morning, so check that out if you missed it. Here are some photos from today’s workout and here are a bunch of other notes from the first day of Spring Training:

  • Masahiro Tanaka returned to camp today after spending a few days with his wife in New York after she gave birth to their first child. (It’s a boy.) He said his elbow feels better now than it did last spring. Tanaka will be behind the other starters this spring because the team is being cautious, but he’s healthy and ready to go. [Chad Jennings]
  • Mark Teixeira (shin) has been running since January 1st and has no lingering issues from the small fracture he suffered late last year. Andrew Miller has gone back to an old training regime following last year’s forearm issue. Dellin Betances changed his offseason routine and took off two months rather than the usual four weeks.  Jacob Lindgren (elbow) is “100% and feeling great right now” following last year’s surgery to remove a bone spur. [Brendan Kuty, Meredith Marakovits, Anthony McCarron]
  • Aroldis Chapman said he is “very happy” to have already been named closer. He and Miller will throw bullpens Saturday. Rob Refsnyder said he is “up for anything, to be honest” when asked about possibly changing positions. Right now the Yankees intend to keep him at second base. [Jack Curry, Bryan Hoch, McCarron]
  • Here is a partial list of this year’s guest Spring Training instructors: Orlando Hernandez, Ron Guidry, Reggie Jackson, Hideki Matsui, Willie Randolph, Stump Merrill, and Lee Mazzilli. The usual suspects, basically. [Erik Boland]
  • And finally, today is the first day teams can place players on the 60-day DL, so the Yankees can slide Greg Bird over whenever they need a 40-man roster spot. Ronald Torreyes can rest easy. For now. [Jon Morosi]

Here is tonight’s open thread. Both the Rangers and Islanders are playing, and there’s some college basketball on the schedule as well. Talk about those games, the first day of Spring Training, or anything else right here. Baseball’s back. Get excited.