With help from A-Rod, Greg Bird has made himself part of the Yankees’ long-term picture

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Opinions will vary, but I think most would agree first baseman Greg Bird has been the most impressive young hitter in Yankees camp this year. Jose Pirela has better stats but Bird looks the part of a big leaguer at the plate. He knows the strike zone and he hasn’t looked overwhelmed either by pitchers or the environment. Bird just looks like a hitter. I don’t know how else to explain it. Look at how quick his hands are:

It seems like Bird he was born to hit. He went 5-for-14 (.357) with three doubles and a home run during Grapefruit League play before being reassigned to minor league camp yesterday. Aside from being late to lunch, Bird was extremely impressive in Spring Training. Brian Cashman called him “by far the best hitter in the (farm system)” a few weeks go and Alex Rodriguez has sung his praises as well. From John Harper:

“I mean, when you’ve been around for 20 years, you know who can play and who can’t. You see the way the ball comes off his bat. Then you see his work ethic, and how he watches and asks smart questions, and you know he’s got a great makeup. He’s going to be around for a long time.”

This isn’t Jorge Posada or Jason Giambi calling Phil Hughes the next Roger Clemens or something silly like that. It’s just A-Rod praising Bird for being an intelligent player and a good hitter. There’s no hyperbole. A-Rod is just repeating what a lot of other people have already said about Bird, that’s all.

As it turns out, A-Rod had a small hand in Bird’s development as a hitter. The two first met back in 2013, when Alex spent a few days with Low-A Charleston working his way back from his surgery. A-Rod has always been great with young players and Bird credits him for some advice, not just as a hitter but about being a pro baseball player in general. From Andrew Marchand:

“Some of the things that he told us still is some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten as a hitter, just as far as professional baseball went,” Bird, now in his first big-league camp, said the other day.

A-Rod told Bird and the rest of the Single-A Charleston River Dogs that the higher the level you go, the easier the game becomes — the stadiums are nicer, the lights are better, the umpires are more precise, on and on. A-Rod also gave practical advice on hitting, making it simple.

“He is not even worried about (looking for pitches in specific spots),” said Bird, a 22-year-old, 6-foot-3, 215-pound, left-handed first baseman. “You can’t worry about the inner half of the plate because if you do, you give up the outer half. You give up off-speed pitches. Just hearing that out of his mouth that first full season was big. It stuck with me ever since.”

Bird, who turned 22 in November, obviously has a boatload of talent and it all starts there. His talent got him drafted — the Yankees selected Bird in the fifth round of the 2010 draft but paid him first round money ($1.1M bonus) — and is the main reason he’s torn up the minors, but taking advice and using it make the necessary adjustments is often what separates the guys who make it and the guys who don’t. It seems Bird has been able to do that after talking to A-Rod.

The Yankees have made it clear in recent years they have a “type.” They prefer certain kinds of players over others and I’m guessing every organization does as well. The Yankees like pitchers who throw hard but don’t walk everyone in the park — you didn’t think they pulled Michael Pineda and Nathan Eovaldi out of a hat, did you? — and the taller they are, the better. They also like great defensive catchers. And, of course, they like left-handed hitters with power and patience. Guys like Bird. He’s right in their wheelhouse.

This offseason the Yankees shifted gears and focused on getting younger, most notably by trading for Eovaldi and Didi Gregorius. Comments made by Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner this past offseason also make it seem like they will be more willing to give prospects an opportunity going forward, and there’s a clear path to MLB for Bird. Spend this year in Double-A and Triple-A, next year going up and down based on Mark Teixeira‘s health in the final season of his contract, then step into the lineup full-time in 2017. A-Rod helped Bird get here, now Bird has to take the next step and give the Yankees a reason to give him a chance.

Michael Pineda and the Quest for Better Health and More Strikeouts [2015 Season Preview]

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Finally. After two years of nothing, the Yankees finally got to see Michael Pineda in action last season. And it was glorious, even if it was only 13 starts. Big Mike pitched to a 1.89 ERA (2.71 FIP) in 76.1 innings across those 13 starts, and, most importantly, he showed his stuff had not been seriously compromised by his shoulder injury. He did lose some velocity — his fastball averaged 95.4 mph in 2011 and 93.3 mph in 2014 — but not a career-sabotaging amount.

Last year was sort of a feeling out period for the Yankees and Pineda. The team had no idea what he could do following two lost seasons and I don’t think Pineda did either. Sure, he was confident (he’s always confident), but the hitters were going to tell him how good he was after the injury. And they told him he was still good. Pineda has yet to hold up over a full season in pinstripes, though we know more about him now than we did at this time last year, and that affects his role on the 2015 Yankees.

Yankees Need: A Full Season

Pineda was great last year but only in flashes. He missed nearly four months with a teres major strain the Yankees officially called a “shoulder” injury in their press release. Pineda pulled a muscle in his back near his shoulder, basically. The injury limited him to those 13 starts, the only 13 he’s made in three years with New York.

The Yankees need Pineda to get over that physical hump now. He’s now three years removed from shoulder surgery and they want to see him out there for 30 starts. It’s time. They need him to do it because other pitchers in the rotation carry injury concerns and because they want him to lead the rotation. Remember, the Yankees acquired Pineda hoping he would have developed into their ace by now. That didn’t happen. The next step now is to be someone who takes the ball every fifth day.

Pineda Can: Just Go Out There And Pitch

Pitchers who have major shoulder surgery tend to continue having problems throughout their careers. Pineda is young and strong, so maybe he has a better chance of staying healthy than a veteran pitcher who undergoes a similar procedure, but we don’t know that for sure. I wouldn’t say I feel confident in Pineda staying healthy this summer, but I do think it’s important to note his injury last year was just a muscle pull. There was nothing wrong with his surgically repaired labrum. That’s encouraging in a lesser of two evils kinda way. Otherwise no one knows if Pineda’s physically capable of making 30 starts after his shoulder surgery. The only thing he can do is pitch as his body allows, that’s all.

Yankees Need: Find Some Strikeouts

Pineda was awesome last year, but he only struck out 59 batters in 76.1 innings. That works out to 6.96 K/9 and 20.3 K%, which is more or less league average for an AL starting pitcher (7.36 K/9 and 19.4 K% in 2014). Pineda struck out 173 batters in 171 innings as rookie in 2011 (9.11 K/9 and 24.9 K%) and his minor league strikeout rates were as good as it gets, so last year’s league average-ish strikeout rate was a big startling. I wouldn’t say alarming, he was pretty damn effective with a reduced strikeout rate, but the Yankees would like to see those strikeouts return in 2015, even with their improved team defense. Strikeouts are the best outs for pitchers.

Pineda Can: Still Get Swings & Misses, Just Not As Many He Once Did

Watching his stuff on television as a dumb fan sitting at home, it looks like Pineda should strike out more batters. He throws hard, he locates exceptionally well for someone who throws that hard, and slider is just filthy. Pineda’s changeup is very much a work in progress though it did flash some nice potential last year, like this one (GIF via IIATMS):

That specific changeup was poorly located — that baby is center cut, thigh high and splitting the plate right down the middle — but it had action and the hitter’s timing was disrupted. Like I said, the changeup is a work in progress but it shows flashes of being a weapon with some more refinement.

The changeup and slider are Pineda’s moneymakers, and his decline in strikeout rate last year comes with a decline in overall swing-and-miss rate. Here are the numbers (via Brooks Baseball):

Four-Seamer Sinker Changeup Slider
2011 10.5% 8.7% 6.4% 19.4%
2014 8.2% 16.7% 15.2% 17.9%
MLB AVG 6.9% 5.4% 14.9% 15.2%

Ignore the sinker and changeup. Pineda threw those two pitches less than 10% of the time combined in both 2011 and 2014. We’re focusing on his four-seam fastball and slider, both of which had an above-average whiff rate last year yet were down considerably from his rookie year in 2011. Swing-and-miss rates are among the first stats to stabilize, within 300 pitches or so, so this isn’t a sample size issue.

As mentioned earlier, Pineda did lose some velocity between 2011 and 2014 thanks mostly to the shoulder surgery. His fastball velocity dropped but his slider velocity stayed the same — the pitch averaged 84.68 mph in 2011 and 84.67 mph in 2014. Pitches are not mutually exclusive. Pineda’s slider plays off his fastball and vice versa. The decline in fastball velocity means the separation between his two main pitches isn’t as great as it once was, giving hitters slightly more time to react. Enough to take that big a bite out of strikeout and whiff rates? I don’t know. Maybe.

Pineda’s stuff is still very good, just not as good as it once was. Shoulder surgery has a way of doing that to a pitcher. That doesn’t mean his strikeout and swing-and-miss rates will never recover, however. This could be an adjustment he has to make, an adjustment he was unable to make last year because a) he only made 13 starts, and b) he was dominating even without the strikeouts.

Weak contact has always been Pineda’s thing — he gets a ton of pop-ups, which are near automatic outs, so his career .250 BABIP in 247.1 innings is not necessarily a fluke — and he still generated a bunch last year. Adding in more strikeouts will help take him to the next level, however. Weak contact is good. Weak contact and missing bats is better.

Yankees Need: More Development

As good as he looked last year, we have to remember Pineda missed two full seasons at ages 23 and 24 due to his shoulder injury. That’s pretty serious. Those are crucial developmental years and he won’t get them back. He just has to try to catch up this season. The Yankees need to Pineda to make up for some of that lost development this year. As a pitcher, as a teammate, as a big leaguer, the whole nine. He’s a guy with nearly four years of service time but only a year and a half of actual MLB experience on the mound. Pineda has a lot of learning to do.

Pineda Can: Learn!

In his first spring as a Yankee, Pineda showed up to camp out of shape and didn’t seem to take his profession all that seriously. I don’t know if that led directly to the shoulder injury, but it certainly didn’t make a good first impression. This year though, Pineda camp to camp in tremendous shape, which he did last year as well. He’s grown as a person and better understands the kind of work this game requires. Learning how to read swings and set hitters up, stuff like that, he can only learn while being on the mound, and hopefully he does a lot of that in 2015.

Supply and demand match up, but Yankees and Mets are imperfect trade partners

Niese. (Presswire)
Niese. (Presswire)

Spring Training has not been so kind to the Mets so far. Earlier this week they lost young right-hander Zack Wheeler to a torn elbow ligament, meaning he will soon have Tommy John surgery. That comes just a few days after the team learned top lefty reliever Josh Edgin also needs his elbow rebuilt. That’s two members of the projected Opening Day pitching staff going down with Tommy John surgery in the span of four or five days. Ouch.

The Mets have an enviable amount of rotation depth — they are probably best equipped to deal with a major pitching injury of any team in MLB right now — and have plenty of options to replace Wheeler. Edgin is a different matter. Their best option to replace him is probably Rule 5 Draft pick Sean Gilmartin, and I imagine a Rule 5 guy is not someone they want to thrust into the primary lefty relief role. GM Sandy Alderson has already said they will explore the market for a lefty reliever.

That’s where the Yankees come in. The Yankees have lefty relievers in spades and are in need of rotation depth, something they needed even before Chris Capuano strained his quad last week. The Mets, as I said, have a ton of rotation options. Enough to fill in for Wheeler, trade someone, and still have enough arms for depth. I mean, seriously. Look at their rotation depth chart without Wheeler:

  1. Matt Harvey — totally awesome
  2. Jacob deGrom — just named NL Rookie of the Year
  3. Jon Niese — boringly effective
  4. Bartolo Colon — Bartday!
  5. Dillon Gee — generic fifth starter who won’t kill his team
  6. Rafael Montero — 3.60 ERA (3.66 FIP) in Triple-A in 2014, named 68th best prospect in baseball by Baseball America prior last year
  7. Noah Syndergaard — ranked as 11th best prospect in baseball by Baseball America this spring
  8. Steve Matz — ranked as 33rd best prospect in baseball by Baseball America this spring

That’s a lot of pitching! Montero and Syndergaard are basically MLB ready while Matz has yet to reach Triple-A and is more of a second half option this coming season. Either way, the Mets are loaded with high-end rotation help, so much so that they spent all winter trying to unload Gee’s $5.3M salary. Given their depth, I don’t think Wheeler’s injury would stop them from trading Gee either.

The Yankees, meanwhile, have a whole lot of left-handed relievers. They made a point of acquiring southpaw relievers this winter similar to how the Mets focused on adding to high-end pitching prospects while trading away veterans in recent years. The Yankees sending a lefty reliever to Flushing for a spare starter makes sense in a vacuum, but in reality it might not be easy to find a match on value. Take a look at Yankees’ lefty bullpen depth chart:

  1. Andrew Miller — not getting traded
  2. Justin Wilson — tradeable
  3. Chasen Shreve — tradeable
  4. Jacob Lindgren — unlikely to be traded, but either way he can only be dealt as a player to be named later until June since he was just drafted last year, meaning he wouldn’t be able to help the Mets come Opening Day
  5. James Pazos — throws hard, zero MLB experience
  6. Tyler Webb — doesn’t throw hard, zero MLB experience

So that’s six lefty relievers but only two are tradeable right now. Maybe the Mets really like Pazos and/or Webb, but if they’re going to go with someone who has no MLB experience, they’d probably stick in house with Gilmartin or Jack Leathersich, who had great minor league numbers (3.16 ERA and 2.46 FIP between Double-A and Triple-A) last year like Pazos and Webb. Wilson and Shreve are the only movable pieces right now.

On the other hand, the Mets sure as hell won’t trade Harvey, deGrom, Syndergaard, or Matz. They might be willing to move Montero in the right deal — there was talk of a Montero for Nick Franklin swap last spring but that didn’t happen even though the Mets desperately need a shortstop — but I’m not sure a lefty reliever is that right deal. Even a dirt cheap lefty reliever under control for multiple years. That leaves Colon, who the Mets would probably give away right now, Gee, and Niese as the tradeable starters.

Shreve. (Presswire)
Shreve. (Presswire)

The Yankees wouldn’t trade Wilson or Shreve for Colon or Gee, who barely move the needle at this point. On the other hand, the Mets wouldn’t trade Niese for Wilson or Shreve. Heck they wouldn’t trade Niese for Wilson and Shreve. Niese is good! And he has a favorable contract too. He’s not someone they’re looking to dump for the sake of shedding salary like Colon or Gee. A straight up spare lefty reliever for spare starter trade isn’t happening between these two clubs, which means the pot would have to be sweetened somehow. (Brendan Ryan doesn’t count.)

The Yankees and Mets haven’t made a trade involving actually big league players (sorry, Gonzalez Germen) since the Mike Stanton-Felix Heredia swap way back in December 2004. I don’t think Alderson or Brian Cashman would hesitate to trade with one another, however. Maybe one (or both) of the ownership groups would be hesitant, but Alderson and Cashman are smart guys looking to improve their teams however they can. If that means trading with a geographical rival, so be it. Finding common ground on a trade like this seems like it would be difficult.

On paper, the Yankees and Mets match up well for a trade. The Yankees need a starter and have a ton of lefty relievers while the Mets need a lefty reliever and have some extra starters. But, when you take a deeper look at who actually is and isn’t available, there isn’t a great match. Maybe the Mets love Webb and the Yankees are willing to take on Colon’s hefty salary, that’s always possible. It just seems unlikely. Perhaps the situation will change in the weeks before Opening Day, but, as of this moment, it’s tough to see how these two clubs can find common ground without substantially expanding the trade.

Knee holds up as Sabathia allows two runs in two innings in spring debut

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

For the first time since last May, CC Sabathia pitched in an actual game Tuesday night, making his Grapefruit League debut against the Blue Jays at home in Tampa. He allowed two runs on four hits in two innings of work, striking out two. Twenty-two of his 31 pitches were strikes (71%).

Sabathia retired the side in order in the first (two grounders and a strikeout) before running into some trouble in the second. More importantly, scouts clocked his fastball at 90-92 mph in the first inning and 89-92 mph in the second inning, according to Mark Feinsand. That’s in line with the 90.6 mph he averaged last year and it’s only March 17th.

“I felt pretty good,” said Sabathia during a YES Network interview after his outing. “I was just telling the guys I was really nervous in the bullpen. Just wanted to get out there and be healthy. Felt good throwing the ball — made a couple bad pitches but I still wanted to get out there and get the game feel and get after it, and I did that.”

I thought Sabathia looked pretty good considering it was his first outing a) in ten months, and b) after knee surgery. His location was okay with most misses way off the plate, so hopefully he irons that out as camp progresses. It would have been nice to see him go six up, six down, but whatever. Sabathia didn’t come out with Jamie Moyer velocity and his mechanics seemed fine. That’s good enough for me in mid-March.

Spring Training Game Thread: Sabathia’s debut

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees are back in action tonight following yesterday’s off-day, their first of the Grapefruit League season. The big story tonight is CC Sabathia‘s spring debut. This will be his first game action of any kind since last May thanks to his knee issue aside from his recent simulated game, but that doesn’t really count.

Everything has gone well for Sabathia in Spring Training so far — he’s thrown bullpens and simulated games and all that and reported no problems with the knee — so tonight is about preparing for the season. Getting stretched out and developing a feel for his pitches. That sort of thing. Hopefully he makes it through in one piece.

Tonight’s reason to watch: Sabathia, obviously. I know people are going obsess over the radar gun but I have no reason to think Sabathia’s velocity is coming back. He’s 34 and has a million miles on his arm. I’m going to looking at his location more than anything. Is Sabathia consistently hitting the glove? That’s most important.

Here is the starting lineup that face the visiting Blue Jays tonight:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. 3B Alex Rodriguez
  3. RF Carlos Beltran
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. DH Garrett Jones
  7. CF Chris Young
  8. 2B Stephen Drew
  9. SS Didi Gregorius
    LHP CC Sabathia

Available Pitchers & Position Players: I haven’t seen tonight’s lineup card floating around anywhere so I have no idea who is coming off the bench or out of the bullpen tonight. Sorry.

It’s nice and sunny in Tampa this evening. No clouds and it’s cool, with temperatures in the low-to-mid-70s. Tonight’s game is scheduled to begin at 7pm ET and there are plenty of ways to watch: YES, MLB Network, and MLB.tv are all showing the game live. It will be blacked out in the Yankees’ market on MLB Network but not MLB.tv. Enjoy the game.

March 17th Camp Notes: Ellsbury, Bailey, Ryan, A-Rod

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees are playing the Blue Jays later tonight and CC Sabathia will be making his Grapefruit League debut. It will be the big man’s first game action since last May. That makes it a pretty important game by Spring Training standards. The regular game thread will be a long a little closer to first pitch. Until then, here are the day’s notes from camp:

  • Jacoby Ellsbury is day-to-day with a “mild, mild, mild, mild” right abdominal strain according to Joe Girardi, who isn’t too concerned. Ellsbury won’t play tonight or tomorrow. It’s the middle of March. No reason to push anything. Give Ellsbury whatever rest he needs plus an extra day for good measure [Dan Barbarisi]
  • Andrew Bailey is scheduled to make his spring debut tomorrow night. He hasn’t pitched in an actual game — Spring Training or otherwise — since July 2013. Masahiro Tanaka is scheduled to start tomorrow’s game, and others set to make the trip are Brett Gardner, Jacob Lindgren, and the entire projected starting infield. [Mark Feinsand, Brendan Kuty]
  • Bryan Mitchell and Andrew Miller both threw simulated games today. Esmil Rogers, Adam Warren, Nathan Eovaldi, David Carpenter, Ivan Nova, Chase Whitley, Vicente Campos, and Jose DePaula were among the small army of pitchers to throw bullpen sessions. Nova threw curveballs for the first time as he rehabs from Tommy John surgery. [Chad Jennings, Kuty, Pete Caldera]
  • During yesterday’s off-day, Brendan Ryan (mid-back sprain) took ground balls and did all sorts of hitting, including full batting practice. He’ll do the same today and is on track to play in a game later this week. [Feinsand, Jennings]
  • Girardi doesn’t seem to be in a rush to play Alex Rodriguez at first base this spring. “I am not sure, it’s something we will talk about,” Girardi said. “It is something we can do if we want. (Garrett) Jones is more than capable of playing there and we have to get him reps but I might throw (A-Rod) in there one or two games just to see.’’ [George King]

Yankees avoid ugly years of Cliff Lee, but missed out when he could have made a big difference

(Getty)
(Getty)

To date, the second highest traffic day* in RAB history is the day of the Cliff Lee non-trade back in 2010. I remember being off that day, sleeping in an extra hour, and waking up to the news that the Yankees were on the verge of acquiring Lee. Then throughout the day there were constant updates until, finally, no the Yankees were not getting Lee. The Mariners reportedly reneged on an agreement with New York and sent him to the Rangers.

Losing out on Lee as a free agent during the 2010-11 offseason was the first time a generation of Yankees fans experienced the team losing out on a big free agent they so obviously wanted. Like many of you, I was too young to remember the Yankees being spurned by both Greg Maddux and Barry Bonds in the same offseason 25 years ago. (Imagine how that would have gone over nowadays.) Everyone wanted Lee that offseason and the Phillies got him. It was a shock to the system.

Yesterday afternoon, the Phillies announced Lee, now 36, will again attempt to rehab the elbow injury that has been hampering him since last May. “Cliff has now attempted to twice rehabilitate this injury without having surgery. While surgery has now been recommended, it would effectively put an end to his 2015 season as the rehabilitation from the surgery would run through the end of the season. As a result, the Phillies and Cliff have mutually decided to try once again to rehabilitate the injury non-operatively, with the hope that Cliff might be able to return to pitch during the 2015 season,” said the team’s statement.

Lee has spoken to the media in Spring Training and said surgery would potentially end his career, which is why he is trying to avoid it. That makes sense. The Phillies owe him $25M this season, and since he won’t meet the innings pitched requirement to vest his option for next year, the team will pay him a $12.5M buyout after the season. Philadelphia is potentially going to pay Lee $37.5M in 2015 to throw zero pitches. Add in last season, and the Phillies could end up paying him $62.5M to make 13 starts from 2013-14. Ouch.

Needless to say, that’s a contract situation no teams wants a part of right now. The Yankees dodged a bullet by not signing Lee back during the 2010-11 offseason. They have enough bad contracts as it is. Then again, it’s not that simple. The end of Lee’s contract is really ugly, but having him at the front end could have made all the difference in the world. Remember, the Yankees were legitimate contenders from 2010-12, averaging 96 wins per season and going to the ALCS twice, and Lee was a top four pitcher in the world those years.

I find myself thinking about the non-trade in 2010 the most. The Yankees lost to Lee and the Rangers in the ALCS that year, so had the trade gone through, New York would have had Lee on their side instead of facing him. And considering what Lee did against the Rays in the ALDS, Texas probably doesn’t even make the ALCS without him that year. The trade would have changed everything — not automatically for the better, of course, but it’s really hard for me to see a scenario in which the 2010 Yankees are worse off by acquiring Lee.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

In sort of the perfect world scenario, the Yankees trade for Lee in 2010, he falls in love with New York and re-signs after the season, allowing the team to trot him and CC Sabathia out to the mound in 2011-12, when both were in the prime of their careers. Or, on the other hand, maybe re-signing Lee means the Yankees don’t give Sabathia an extension when he threatens to opt-out of his contract after 2011. Either way, the Yankees would have had Lee and Sabathia in 2011, the same year they were forced to start Freddy Garcia and A.J. Burnett in the ALDS against the Tigers.

Of course, trading for Lee means Jesus Montero is not around to go to Seattle for Michael Pineda during the 2011-12 offseason, and that would sort of suck because Big Mike is awesome. At least he is right now. The fact of the matter is Pineda has made 13 starts in three years for the Yankees due to injury. Lee made more starts for the Rangers in 2010 than Pineda has made for the Yankees overall. The Pineda trade has indisputably not worked out as hoped to his point. Based on what we know right now, having totally awesome Cliff Lee with those teams from 2010-12 is much more preferable to having Pineda on whatever the 2015-17 Yankees look like. Those 2010-12 teams were World Series threats. Like, for real.

The Yankees passed on guys like Max Scherzer and Jon Lester this offseason because they’re sick of getting burned by long-term six and seven-year contracts, and I am totally on board with that. Lee falls into the same category — another long-term deal that would have burned the team in the long run. (The Yankees reportedly offered Lee six years, remember. He took five from the Phillies.) The circumstances are very different though. The Yankees were a legitimate contender when Lee was available and he’s a piece who could have put them over the top early on in his contract. Scherzer or Lester this winter would have been an attempt to prop up an otherwise mediocre roster.

There’s a time to go for it and a time to scale back, and right now the Yankees are in a place where scaling back and regrouping make sense. A few years ago, that was the not the case. They were in position to win because their top players — Sabathia, Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Nick Swisher, Mariano Rivera, etc. — were all still very productive, and taking on another big contract like Lee would have made them even better because man, he was a difference-maker. He wouldn’t have guaranteed another World Championship, but he sure would have helped. So yeah, the Yankees dodged a bullet because they don’t have Lee’s contract on the books right now. They also would have been much better off with him from 2010-12.

* The busiest day in RAB history? December 6th, 2013. That day the Yankees re-signed Hiroki Kuroda, lost both Cano and Granderson to free agency, and signed Carlos Beltran. It’ll be hard to top a day with that much major news.