Fan Confidence Poll: December 8th, 2014

2014 Record: 84-78 (633 RS, 664 RA, 77-85 pythag. record), did not qualify for postseason

Top stories from last week:

Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the interactive Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.

Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?

Weekend Open Thread

I was planning to post a Didi Gregorius highlight video for the open thread this weekend, but apparently no such thing exists. No one made one for 2013 or 2014. That’s a shame. So, instead, I picked one defensive play and will roll with that. Here are some more Gregorius videos and here are the weekend links.

  • Jorge Arangure wrote about the unusual defection story of wunderkind Yoan Moncada. As always, most of how he left Cuba is a mystery, but Moncada is represented by an everyday accountant in Tampa and may have impregnated another agent in California. Yeah.
  • Chad Finn recently wrote about the role Twitter plays in breaking baseball news these days. He actually wrote that before some recent silliness involving kids — like 13 and 14-year-olds — pretending to have sources and breaking news on Twitter. Good timing.
  • David Laurila interviewed Reid Nichols, the Brewers director of player development. I always enjoy Laurila’s Q&As with player development executives. Nichols discusses the team’s development strategies — including the use of the shift in the minors — among other things.
  • Jon Roegele did some great work analyzing pitch sequencing, meaning how one pitch affects the one after it. The slider after a fastball, etc. I think — and have thought since watching Barry Zito throw 84 mph fastballs over the plate for swings and misses during the 2012 postseason — that pitching sequencing is the next big baseball analytics breakthrough. Kinda like pitch-framing a few years ago.

Friday: This is your open thread for the night. The Knicks and Nets are both playing, plus there’s college football and basketball on as well. Talk about those games, the Gregorius trade, the Andrew Miller signing, or anything else right here.

Saturday: Use this as your open thread again. The Rangers and Devils are both playing and there’s the usual slate of college football and basketball. Have at it, folks.

Sunday: For the last time, this is the nightly open thread. The late NFL game is the Patriots and Chargers. The Knicks are playing and there’s some college basketball going on a well. Talk about anything and everything here.

DotF: Jose Pirela’s winter ball dominance continues

Before an update on everyone in winter ball, here are some minor league notes:

  • Long-time Double-A Trenton manager Tony Franklin will not return to the team next year, report Dan Pfeiffer and Matt Kardos. Word is he will be reassigned to another position within the organization. I wonder if he’s moving up to Triple-A Scranton to replace Luis Sojo as third base coach. Franklin had been Trenton’s manager since 2007.
  • The Yankees have signed catcher Juan Graterol to a minor league contract, reports Pete Caldera. Graterol, 25, spend most of last season in Double-A with the Royals and hit .280/.313/.398 (103 wRC+) with four homers in 70 games. He’s an organizational catcher. The Yankees could lose the out-of-options Austin Romine at some point before Opening Day and Graterol adds depth.
  • Some updates on ex-Yankees farmhands: IF Corban Joseph has signed with the Braves and LHP Nik Turley signed with the Giants, both on minor league deals. The Braves have now signed CoJo, Zoilo Almonte, and Francisco Rondon. I’m guessing Gordon Blakeley, who left New York’s front office for Atlanta’s, recommended them.

Arizona Fall League (season is over, so these stats are final)

  • OF Tyler Austin: .304/.392/.449 (135 wRC+) with two doubles, two homers, ten walks, and 19 strikeouts in 19 games.
  • 3B Dante Bichette Jr.: .260/.317/.274 (67 wRC+) with one double, seven walks, and 18 strikeouts in 20 games.
  • 1B Greg Bird: .313/.391/.556 (156 wRC+) with six doubles, six homers, 13 walks, and 23 strikeouts in 26 games.
  • C Kyle Higashioka: .409/.480/.682 (216 wRC+) with three doubles, one homer, three walks, and two strikeouts in six games. He actually led the league in hitting if you set the plate appearance minimum to zero.
  • OF Aaron Judge: .278/.377/.467 (133 wRC+) with five doubles, four homers, 13 walks, and 22 strikeouts in 24 games.
  • RHP Caleb Cotham: 10 G, 13.1 IP, 18 H, 9 R, 9 ER, 2 BB, 14 K, 2 HR, 1 HB, 1 WP (6.08 ERA, 4.25 FIP)
  • RHP Kyle Haynes: 10 H, 11.2 IP, 11 H, 7 R, 3 ER, 8 BB, 9 K, 1 WP (2.31 ERA, 4.24 FIP)
  • RHP Alex Smith: 10 H, 10.1 IP, 25 H, 15 R, 12 ER, 8 BB, 7 K, 2 HR, 2 HB (10.45 ERA, 7.79 FIP)

Australian Baseball League (season doesn’t end until late-January)

  • OF Adam Silva: 11 G, 8-43, 6 R, 2 2B, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 5 BB, 14 K, 1 SB (.186/.271/.302)

Dominican Winter League (season ends two weeks from today)

  • OF Eury Perez: 24 G, 18-86, 9 R, 3 2B, 1 RBI, 2 BB, 17 K, 2 CS, 1 HBP (.209/.218/.279)
  • IF Jose Rosario: 2 G, 0-1, 1 R, 1 SB
  • RHP Joel De La Cruz: 4 G, 3 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 1 HR, 1 WP (0.00 ERA, 4.00 WHIP)
  • LHP Jose DePaula: 2 G, 2 GS, 10 IP, 8 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 10 K (0.90 ERA, 0.90 WHIP) — hasn’t started since he signed a one-year MLB contract with New York

Mexican Pacific League (season ends three weeks from tomorrow)

  • RHP Gio Gallegos: 16 G, 16 IP, 16 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 5 BB, 12 K, 2 HR, 1 HB (1.69 ERA, 1.31 WHIP)
  • RHP Luis Niebla: 9 G, 9 GS, 37.2 IP, 29 H, 14 R, 12 ER, 18 BB, 27 K, 2 HR, 2 HB (2.87 ERA, 1.25 WHIP)

Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League (season ends three weeks from today)

  • SS Vince Conde: 1 G, 0-1

Venezuelan Winter League (season ends three weeks from Tuesday)

  • C Francisco Arcia: 20 G, 14-73, 3 R, 3 2B, 8 RBI, 4 BB, 16 K, 1 HBP (.192/.244/.233)
  • UTIL Ali Castillo: 43 G, 56-170, 33 R, 7 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 13 RBI, 7 BB, 25 K, 14 SB, 5 CS, 2 HBP (.329/.359/.412)
  • OF Ramon Flores: 42 G, 47-148, 23 R, 5 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR, 15 RBI, 19 BB, 27 K, 2 SB, 1 CS, 1 HBP (.318/.396/.439) — great winter after missing much of the season with an ankle problem
  • OF Adonis Garcia: 43 G, 51-179, 17 R, 8 2B, 3 HR, 23 RBI, 11 BB, 21 K, 3 SB, 2 CS, 4 HBP (.285/.338/.380)
  • OF Ericson Leonora: 5 G, 3-11, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 3B, 5 K, .273/.273/.545)
  • UTIL Jose Pirela: 32 G, 39-121, 24 R, 10 2B, 4 3B, 6 HR, 19 RBI, 12 BB, 17 K, 1 CS, 2 HBP (.322/.393/.620) — even if the Yankees sign another infielder, Pirela’s versatility puts him in position for a bench job
  • C Jackson Valera: 3 G, 0-0
  • RHP Luis Niebla: 1 G, 0 IP, 2 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 1 HR (? ERA, ? WHIP)
  • RHP Diego Moreno: 20 G, 18.1 IP, 18 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 5 BB, 14 K, 2 HR, 1 HB (2.95 ERA, 1.25 WHIP)

Thoughts following the Miller signing and Gregorius trade

(Doug Pensinger/Getty)
(Doug Pensinger/Getty)

The Yankees finally — and I say “finally” while fully acknowledging it is only December 6th — made some moves yesterday to bring in help for the infield and pitching staff. First they acquired shortstop Didi Gregorius from the Diamondbacks in a three-team trade that sent Shane Greene to the Tigers, then they signed lefty relief ace Andrew Miller to a four-year contract worth $36M. The team still has a lot of work to do to improve the roster but yesterday was a nice first step. Here are some thoughts.

1. I don’t have much to say about the Miller signing so I might as well start there. I thought he was going to end up getting $44M or so across four years, so getting him for $36M is pretty neat. He’s awesome, four-year contracts for relievers are really risky, blah blah blah, yadda yadda yadda. Don’t really have much more to add to that. Nothing you haven’t heard already, anyway. I am curious to see how the bullpen roles shake out though, especially if David Robertson doesn’t return. It would be awesome if Joe Girardi uses Miller and Dellin Betances as sort of a tandem setup men/closers situation, using them based on matchups in the eighth and ninth (the Braves did something like this with Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez a few years ago), but I think the Yankees are last team in MLB that would try that. Girardi likes using guys in set roles and you know what? Players like having set roles too. If Robertson doesn’t come back, I think I’d rather see the Yankees sign a cheap capital-C closer like Jason Grilli or even Soriano so Miller and Betances can raise hell in the seventh and eighth than see them use Miller or Betances to close.

2. If Robertson does leave — I think that’s likely at this point — the only players left from the 2009 World Series team will be CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, Brett Gardner, and Alex Rodriguez. That’s it. Gardner and A-Rod will be the only players left on the team who played in the old Yankee Stadium too. The times, man. They are a changin’.

3. As for Gregorius, I am pretty tired of the defense-first profile, but it was unavoidable at shortstop. There was very little chance the Yankees were going to acquire a shortstop who significantly improved the team’s offense this offseason. It just wasn’t going to happen, the players weren’t available for it to happen. Gregorius can catch the ball and he might learn to hit down the road, which makes him like most other 24-year-old shortstops. The guys who can field and already know how to hit at that age cost way more than Greene to acquire. I’m just glad they were able to plug the shortstop hole with a young player. They really needed that. The Yankees need to start adding more young building blocks to the roster and Gregorius might be one of those guys. Stephen Drew on a one-year contract would have been fine as a stopgap, but this is much more preferable. New York has to stick with Gregorius all year next year, ride out the slumps, not platoon him with Brendan Ryan, and see what happens. Gregorius is more of a long-term asset than someone who will have an immediate impact.

4. The rotation now without Greene is very thin. Three of the team’s top five in innings pitched as a starter from this past season (Hiroki Kuroda, Brandon McCarthy, Greene) are no longer on the roster and the two that remain (Masahiro Tanaka, David Phelps) will head into next year with injury concerns. As of right now, the rotation is Tanaka, Phelps, Sabathia, Michael Pineda, and I guess Bryan Mitchell in whatever order. The Yankees don’t need a starter, they need starters. Plural. One Jon Lester or Max Scherzer won’t solve their problems. They’ll help, but one of those guys alone isn’t enough. I think they need at least two starters — I like Phelps much more in the swingman/sixth starter’s spot — and I’d prefer three because the odds are pretty high someone won’t make it through Spring Training in one piece, either Tanaka (elbow) or Sabathia (knee) or whoever. The Yankees do have Ivan Nova due to return from Tommy John surgery around midseason — no earlier than May based on when he actually had surgery — but counting on him to come back and boost the rotation in the second half probably isn’t a great idea. Getting another bat is very important. Getting more help for the rotation is somehow now even more important.

5. The good news: there is still plenty of pitching left on the free agent market. The only starter to sign so far is A.J. Burnett, who was either going to go back to the Pirates or retire, so he doesn’t really count. The Yankees continue to insist they won’t be in on Lester or Scherzer, at least depending on which reporter you want to believe, but there are plenty of second and third tier options they could explore. Brandon McCarthy is the most notable, and others like Jason Hammel, Francisco Liriano (qualified), Justin Masterson, and Ervin Santana (qualified) all make some sense for the New York depending on the price. The Padres, Reds, Athletics, and Mets are among the clubs said to be open to trading pitching this winter. The arms are out there. The Yankees just have to find the best ones for them, and I’m pretty confident they’ll do that given the way they cobbled together the rotation around all those injuries this summer. I’m not saying it’ll easy. Just that digging up adequate pitching is doable right now given the market.

Yankees sign Andrew Miller to four-year, $36M deal

(Patrick Smith/Getty)
(Patrick Smith/Getty)

The Yankees had two elite relievers in their bullpen the last four years and they’ll continue to have at least two elite relievers next year. New York has signed left-hander Andrew Miller to a four-year contract, the team announced. Jack Curry reports the deal is worth $36M total and Buster Olney says there are no no-trade or opt-out clauses. Bob Nightengale says Miller turned down a larger offer to come to New York.

Signing Miller does make it seem less likely David Robertson will return, but, for what it’s worth, earlier today Brian Cashman told Dan Barbarisi the club has not ruled out signing both Miller and Robertson this winter. Either way, the Yankees will go into next season with Miller and Dellin Betances anchoring the late innings. Joe Girardi does like putting relievers in set roles, but we’re a long way from worrying about who closes and who sets up.

The four-year, $36M deal is largest ever given to a non-closer reliever in baseball history. The previous record was Jeremy Affeldt’s three-year, $18M deal with the Giants a few years ago. The Yankees did give Rafael Soriano a three-year, $35M contract a few years ago to go from Rays closer to Mariano Rivera‘s setup man. This is the first four-year deal for a non-closing reliever since the White Sox gave Scott Linebrink four years during the 2007-08 offseason. I honestly through Miller was going to end up with $10M to $11M annually.

Miller, 29, had a 2.02 ERA (1.51 FIP) in 62.1 innings last season with stellar strikeout (14.87 K/9 and 42.6 K%) and walk (2.45 BB/9 and 7.0 BB%) rates. He also gets plenty of grounders (46.9%) and held lefties to a .161/.206/.261 (.211 wOBA) batting line with 49.0% strikeout rate. Miller is no lefty specialist though — he held righties to a .142/.245/.202 (.208 wOBA) line with a 38.2% strikeout rate in 2014. Girardi can use him for full innings. Chances are this past season was a career year for Miller, but, as explained in our Scouting The Market post, he was very good from 2012-13.

The Tigers drafted Miller with the sixth overall pick back in 2006 — Miller was Adam Warren‘s teammate at UNC — then traded him to the Marlins as part of the package for Miguel Cabrera. It didn’t work out in Florida and eventually he landed in Boston. It wasn’t until Bobby Valentine got Miller to smooth out his mechanics, ditch his windup, and pitch exclusively from the stretch that he became the reliever he is today. That’s pretty much the only good thing Valentine did for the Red Sox.

The Yankees addressed two of their biggest needs — late-inning reliever and shortstop — on Friday by signing Miller and trading for Didi Gregorius. They still need quite a bit of rotation help — more than before because they used Shane Greene to get Gregorius — and another infielder or reliever wouldn’t hurt. There’s still a long way to go before they’re postseason caliber and there’s plenty of offseason remaining, but the Yankees are better right now than they were 24 hours ago.

RAB Live Chat

Yankees land Didi Gregorius in three-team trade, send Shane Greene to Tigers

So what's the Sterling call? (Presswire)
So what’s the Sterling call? (Presswire)

1:58pm: It’s a done deal, the Yankees have officially announced the trade. The deal is as reported this morning: Greene to the Tigers, Ray and Leyba to the D’Backs, and Gregorious to the Yankees. Welcome to the Bronx, Didi.

12:01pm: The Yankees have landed their shortstop of the future. Or at least their shortstop for 2015. The team has agreed to acquire Didi Gregorius from the D’Backs in a three-team trade that sends Shane Greene to the Tigers. Detroit is sending left-hander Robbie Ray and minor league infielder Domingo Leyba to Arizona. It doesn’t appear there are any other pieces involved. The deal is still pending physicals. The always reliable Sweeny Murti and Ken Rosenthal had the news. Bob Nightengale says Arizona rejected Greene-for-Gregorius straight up before the Tigers got involved.

In a nutshell, the trade plugs the Yankees’ shortstop hole with a young player who can actually play above-average defense and may improve at the plate. It also creates an even bigger hole in the rotation — Greene was the only MLB starter on New York’s roster without some kind of injury concern heading into 2015. The Yankees needed rotation help before the trade and they need even more now. It seems like they will dip into free agency to take care of that. Plenty of arms still available.

Gregorius, 24, was originally signed and developed by the Reds. He went to Arizona in the three-team trade that sent Shin-Soo Choo to Cincinnati and Trevor Bauer to the Indians two offseasons ago. Gregorius is from Amsterdam and he comes from a baseball family. His father pitched in Honkbal Hoofdklasse — the highest level of pro baseball in the Netherlands — and his brother plays in that league now. Didi’s real name is Mariekson Julius, by the way.

This past season Gregorius hit .226/.293/.393 (76 wRC+) with six homers in 229 plate appearances for the D’Backs. He spent much of the summer in Triple-A — he hit .310/.389/.447 (122 wRC+) with three homers in 260 plate appearances in Triple-A in 2014 — after losing the starting shortstop job to Chris Owings in Spring Training. Arizona has clearly identified Owings as their shortstop of the future and used Gregorius to fill their pitching needs.

Didi, who is listed at 6-foot-2 and 205 lbs., hit .252/.332/.373 (92 wRC+) with seven homers in 404 plate appearances in 2013, his first extended stint in MLB. He actually hit his first career homer at Yankee Stadium last April, but it came against Phil Hughes, so that hardly counts:

The Yankees are clearly hoping Gregorius, a left-handed hitter, can get back to his 2013 level of production and improve on it going forward. It’s worth noting Gregorius does draw a fair amount of walks (career 8.1 BB%) without striking out much (16.9 K%), and those are two traits that generally portend well for the future. He hasn’t hit lefties at all as a big leaguer though — 33 wRC+ against lefties and 102 wRC+ against righties.

In the field, Gregorius is considered an above-average defender by scouts while the various stats say he’s been about average if not a tick below so far in the show. I wouldn’t take the numbers to heart right now given the relatively small sample size. “He has smooth actions, plus range and a sniper rifle of an arm. His arm rates as a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale, allowing him to make plays from deep in the hole that other shortstops can’t,” said Baseball America (subs. req’d) when they ranked him Cincinnati’s fifth best prospect following the 2012 season, before the trade to Arizona.

Gregorius has been healthy throughout his career aside from an elbow strain in 2013 that kept him out for just about all of Spring Training plus the first two weeks of the regular season. He missed another week in April 2013 after suffering a concussion when he was hit in the head by a pitch. Otherwise his medical history is clean. Gregorius is considered a good makeup/clubhouse guy and he also speaks four languages: English, Spanish, Dutch, and Papiamento. That’ll come in handy in the clubhouse.

Greene, 26, was pretty much a rotation savior for the Yankees this summer. He had a 3.78 ERA (3.73 FIP) in 78.2 innings during his MLB debut with strong strikeout (9.27 K/9 and 23.5 K%) and ground ball (50.2 GB%) rates. His walk rate (3.32 BB/9 and 8.4 BB%) was solid and his command has been much improved these last two years thanks to some mechanical tweaks make by minor league pitching coordinator Gil Patterson. I like Greene, I think his mid-90s sinker/upper-80s slider combo is legit, though he did struggle against lefties this season, as detailed in our season review post.

Because he spent a big chunk of 2014 season in the minors, Gregorius currently has less than two years of service time, so he can not become a free agent until after the 2019 season. He will be a Super Two though, meaning he will be arbitration-eligible for the first time next offseason and have three more years or arbitration after that. Greene won’t be arbitration-eligible until after 2017 or a free agent until after 2020. The Yankees are giving up six years of Greene for five years of Gregorius. I don’t see a problem with that.

The Yankees desperately needed a shortstop, both for the short-term and long-term, and while we have to wait to see if Gregorius can become that long-term piece, the team got him at what I think is a more than fair price if not an outright bargain. I really like Greene and think he’ll be a solid pitcher going forward, but pitchers like him are much easier to find that 24-year-old shortstops these days. I don’t love Didi, I’m skeptical about his bat going forward, but this is a shot the Yankees had to take.