Mailbag: A-Rod, Kazmir, Chapman, Valbuena, Murphy

Massive mailbag this week. Maybe the biggest in RAB history. Thirteen questions total, so I tried (and mostly succeeded) to keep the answers short. You can send us questions via the “For the Mailbag” form in the sidebar. I know it doesn’t look like the question goes through, but trust me, it does.

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

Vinny asks: Alex Rodriguez: hitting coach. Discuss.

It’ll never ever ever ever happen for a million different reasons, but I think A-Rod would make a pretty good hitting coach. The guy was put on this planet to play baseball. He knows as much about baseball as one person could possibly know and has worked tirelessly on his swing throughout his career. I’m sure he can help players with their offense. The real question is whether his communication skills are good enough. Coaching is as much about communication as it is knowing the ins and outs of the craft. But, like I said, it’ll never happen. The Yankees would sooner not have a hitting coach than hire A-Rod in any kind of authority role.

Daniel asks: Alex Rodriguez currently sits at 2,939 career hits. He will very likely reach 3,000 hits in 2015 even with a bad season. The media will be unbearable. The Yankees front office will be so awkward. Barry Bonds set the HR record after his BALCO scandal, and he was still celebrated. But that was uncharted territory and so much has happened since. How do you think this all gets handled?

I wouldn’t say it’s “very likely” Alex will get those 61 hits next year, but it is definitely possible. He’s way to much of an injury risk to count on him staying on the field that long. Anyway, it’ll be incredibly weird whenever A-Rod gets to 3,000 hits. Bonds was absolutely loved in San Francisco, which is part of the reason why his homer chase was celebrated. Everyone hates Rodriguez, even Yankees fans. Also, unlike Bonds, Alex has actually admitted and been suspended for his PED stuff, which changes the equation. My guess is the accomplishment will be downplayed as much as possible and we’ll get another round of articles saying it is morally wrong to take PEDs. But the Yankees will probably still sell some A-Rod3K merchandise. Cash, as the kids say, rules everything around me.

Bhavin asks: It seems like every time the Yankees are interested in a player there are other teams involved and “raising the price” to sign a free agent. How come Brian Cashman doesn’t do the same for other teams? Would it be a smart strategy to make your competitors spend more money than they are comfortable for the same player even if NYY are not interested?

Oh the Yankees definitely do this. Heck, earlier this week Cashman said the only reason they said they were still interested in re-signing Robertson was to drive up the price. (That was much as thank you to Robertson as it was trying to get a competitor to spend more.) Even when the Yankees aren’t involved, agents float rumors saying the Yankees are interested in their clients too because it helps inflate the market. That’s why they’re connected to almost every big free agent each winter. The Yankees absolutely 100% do this.

Kazmir. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
Kazmir. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

Hunter asks: Since the Yankees need some starting pitching, what are the chances that they trade for Scott Kazmir? Billy Beane seems apt to trade him considering he’s in his walk year. Would it be a good move for New York, and who do you think it would take to get him?

For what it’s worth, Joel Sherman says the Athletics aren’t looking to move Kazmir. The A’s do still need someone to pitch innings and he’s both effective (3.35 ERA and 3.55 FIP in 2014) and reasonably priced ($13M in 2015). The fact that he’s faded big time in the second half the last two years and is a fly ball pitcher scares me, but let’s roll with it.

Three pitchers with one year of control were just traded in Jeff Samardzija, Mat Latos, and Rick Porcello. Of those three, Kazmir is most similar to Latos in my opinion. Latos fetched a good MLB ready pitching prospect (Anthony DeSclafani) and a good Single-A catching prospect (Chad Wallach). Not great prospects, not fringy prospects, good prospects. I guess the Yankees equivalent would be Bryan Mitchell and Luis Torrens, though that’s not a perfect match because Torrens is five years younger than Wallach. Of course, Kazmir is somehow the healthier of the two between him and Latos.

Anyway, that doesn’t mean Mitchell and Torrens will be enough to get Latos. Different teams have different demands and different player valuations, and Oakland seems to be prioritizing quantity over quality in their deals so far this winter, with the caveat that most of the quantity be MLB ready. Maybe that means they would want Mitchell, Ramon Flores, and Jose Pirela instead? I dunno. Kazmir’s not a perfect fit for the Yankees but he would be an upgrade for the rotation for the one year they’d have him.

Peter asks: Is a C.J. Wilson trade worth a shot? Lots of available pitching out there and if the Angels refuse to eat salary, maybe Cashman get him without giving up much. Do the Yanks and Angels even match up anywhere?

Wilson had a rough 2014 season, with a 4.51 ERA (4.31 FIP) and an AL-leading 85 walks in 175.2 innings. He’s owed $18M in 2015 and $20M in 2016 as well, so it’s no surprise the Halos are reportedly looking to deal him. Wilson was very good in 2013 (3.39 ERA and 3.51 FIP) and he had a run of four straight 200+ inning seasons from 2010-13 before an ankle sprain sidelined him for three weeks this summer. If the Angels eat enough money to make Wilson, say, an $8M per year pitcher these next two seasons, isn’t it worth at least exploring? (I wouldn’t touch him if I had to pay all that money.) He eats innings, gets grounders (47.8% in 2014), has some rebound potential (.306 BABIP in 2014 after .286 from 2010-13), and should some cheap. Maybe it can be similar to the A.J. Burnett trade, only with the Yankees playing the role of the Pirates.

Brad asks: I know the Yankees are a business and don’t place a high premium on fielding a “likable” team, but the 2014 team was joyless and terrible. And Derek Jeter was still around. Shouldn’t the Yankees have placed a higher priority on retaining David Robertson?

You answered your own question there. The Yankees can’t worry about likeability, they have to focus on putting the best team on the field. Letting Robertson walk so you can replace him with a cheaper Andrew Miller and get a draft pick is a perfectly sensible baseball move, albeit an unpopular one with the locals. These Yankees are pretty bland and unlikeable though, you’re right. At least that’s how I feel. The only players on the roster I won’t actively hate next year are Dellin Betances, Michael Pineda, Masahiro Tanaka, Brett Gardner, maybe Didi Gregorius, and CC Sabathia whenever he isn’t hurt. (I may or may not be joking.)

Chapman. (Joe Robbins/Getty)
Chapman. (Joe Robbins/Getty)

Ward asks: With rumors that the Reds may be trying to trade some of their pitchers to save money, what could the Yankees give up to get Chapman?

The Reds cleared some salary yesterday with the Mat Latos — by the way, Mat Latos has a cat named Cat Latos — and Alfredo Simon trades, though it’s unclear if they hit their payroll target or still have work to do. Chapman isn’t all that expensive (owed $5M in 2015 and will probably make $10M+ through arbitration in 2016 before becoming a free agent) but he would bring back a major haul. He’s no worse than the second best reliever in baseball right now and a true difference maker. Lesser relievers like Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey were traded for decent hauls a few years before free agency and I assume Chapman would blow those deals out of the water. My hunch is it would take one very good young MLB player, one top of the line prospect, plus a third lesser piece. For the Yankees, I guess that means … Pineda, Luis Severino, and maybe John Ryan Murphy? That feels light. I’m not sure they could put together a package good enough to bring Chapman to New York.

Sam asks: With the acquisition of Didi Gregorius, will the Yankees still go after Yoan Moncada? If they do, does he work at short or third in the Minors?

I don’t think the Gregorius trade will change anything with the team’s pursuit of Moncada. It shouldn’t, anyway. Moncada is still just a 19-year-old kid who is expected to start his pro career in Single-A. He’s not someone you worry about when building your MLB roster. Just about everything I’ve seen says Moncada has the potential to play just about anywhere on the field other than shortstop, though I suspect whichever team signs him will keep here there for a little while. If that doesn’t work, second base seems like the next logical spot.

Richard asks: Why didn’t the Yankees go after Josh Donaldson?

How do you know they didn’t? The Indians asked about Donaldson but the Athletics said they weren’t seriously considering moving him, according to Terry Pluto. This Donaldson deal is reminiscent of last year’s Doug Fister trade; there seem to be a lot of people wondering why the A’s didn’t shop around and get a better deal. Seems like they just really wanted the guys they got from the Blue Jays. Besides, the Yankees don’t have a player on par with Brett Lawrie they could have offered as a center piece.

Alex asks: Knowing that trades with the Mets are rare, what about trading for Daniel Murphy to fill in 1B/2B/3B? Power numbers should go up. If you can lock him up, trading Gardner for him could work for both NY teams.

Murphy would make a lot of sense for the Yankees, who could use him at every non-shortstop infield position if necessary. He might hit a few more homers in Yankee Stadium but his offensive game is more about spray line drives to left field, so I wouldn’t expect a huge boost in power. That said, he’s consistently been a .285+ AVG, .330+ OBP, 10+ homer, 10+ steals guy these last few years. The Yankees could definitely use someone like that, even if his defense stinks. I wouldn’t trade Gardner for him — Murphy will be a free agent next winter and there’s no sense in paying the Mets for the right to extend him (the “right to extend” is inherently included in every trade ever)  — but I do think Murphy’s a fit.

Valbuena. (David Banks/Getty)
Valbuena. (David Banks/Getty)

Dustin asks: If the Yankees miss on Chase Headley, would trading for Luis Valbuena be a good move? Or would you prefer starting Martin Prado and Rob Refsnyder?

Valbuena is probably the best third base option on the trade market. He doesn’t have the name recognition of Chris Johnson but he hit .249/.341/.435 (116 wRC+) with 16 homers and an 11.6% walk rate last year. That’s pretty damn good. Valbuena just turned 29, has gotten better at the plate every year since breaking into the show five years ago, and the various stats say he’s a passable defender at second and third. He’s a nice little underrated player who’s cheap (projected to make $3.1M in 2015) and under team control through 2016. I’d prefer Prado/Valbuena to Prado/Refsnyder this coming season — it’s not really an either or because Refsnyder is still in the organization — and if the Yankees miss out on Headley, I hope their next call would be to Chicago about Valbuena. Even if he is only a league average hitter in 2015 (as the projections project), that’s still a nice upgrade for New York.

Evan asks: Todd Frazier and Jay Bruce are both great fits. Brandon Phillips isn’t because he’s declining and his brutal contract.  But assuming you had to take Phillips to get Bruce or Frazier what would that deal look like?

I wouldn’t take on Phillips to facilitate a trade for either of the other two. I hate the idea of taking a bad contract to get a discount for another player — the bad contract negates the discount and, if you’re only trading prospects, there’s at least a chance they won’t come back to bite you whereas the bad contract will definitely hurt. I’d rather just pay full price for Frazier or Bruce than get saddled with more dead weight in Phillips.

Bruce is a nice rebound candidate coming off knee surgery and Frazier is just a perfect fit for the Yankees — right-handed power, quality hitter, can play the two corner infield positions plus left field, under control through 2017, super high character guy, and he’s a local dude from New Jersey. What’s not to like? It’ll take a haul to get him after the year he just had though. Unless the Yankees are willing to talk about Severino or Aaron Judge, I don’t think they have the pieces to make it worth Cincinnati’s while. Man would Frazier be a great though.

P.J. asks: Let me preface this by saying that I absolutely don’t want this to happen. That said, what would Dellin Betances be worth on the trade market? What if he was a FA (non-QO)?

If he was a free agent, he’d probably get Andrew Miller/David Robertson money. He was awesome in 2014 but has no track record whatsoever. In a trade … that’s really tough to answer. When was the last time a player like Betances traded? An elite reliever with five years of team control remaining? The Athletics traded pre-shoulder mush Andrew Bailey when he had three years of control remaining and they received an adequate everyday player (Josh Reddick) and two nondescript minor leaguers. Do the two extra years of team control mean Betances fetches better prospects in addition to the okay regular? It’s really tough to gauge his trade value. I don’t think he can be a centerpiece in a blockbuster because, at the end of the day, he’s still a reliever, but maybe he can be the number two piece in a deal for an ace or a young, above-average everyday player. If that is the case, he is worth more to the 2015 and beyond Yankees as a trade chip, or in their bullpen?

email

Girardi Talks: Robertson, Bullpen, A-Rod, Rotation, Didi, Offseason, More

San Diego natives Ian Clarkin and Gosuke Katoh stopped by the Winter Meetings on Tuesday. (Photo via Ian Clarkin)
San Diego natives Ian Clarkin and Gosuke Katoh stopped by the Winter Meetings on Tuesday. (Photo via @iClarkin)

Yesterday afternoon Joe Girardi held his annual “state of the Yankees” press conference at the Winter Meetings. It was a fairly standard Yankees press conference, meaning lots of words were said but there wasn’t a whole lot of substance behind them. The organization has mastered the art of saying a lot and nothing at all at the same time, if you know what I mean. Here’s a recap of the important stuff from Girardi’s press conference with some thoughts as well.

David Robertson and the Bullpen

  • On losing Robertson: “Obviously we’re going to miss David … I’m happy for him because I feel like relievers usually get one shot at the long-term contract, and he got that shot and he took full advantage of it. And we’re going to miss him. He was a great young man to manage and had a lot of confidence in him. I wish him the best of luck, except against us.”
  • On the bullpen with Robertson: “Well, we feel that our bullpen is going to be very strong again. With the additions of (Andrew) Miller and (Justin) Wilson and the development of (Adam) Warren and (Shawn) Kelley, we feel like we have a number of great arms … I feel like we’ll have a very good bullpen.”
  • On naming a new closer: “We’ll talk about it as Spring Training goes on to see what is the best situation. I think you have to figure out who is in your bullpen. And the one thing is that we feel that — you look at four of the guys down there, (Dellin) Betances, Miller, Warren, Shawn Kelley, they all have significant amount of time in the back end and have been set up — so you could do probably a lot of different things. It could be dependent on how many days in a row a guy has worked. But like I said, we don’t need to figure that out (now). But I like the arms that we have down there.”
  • On bullpen roles in general: “I think it’s important they have an idea how they’re going to be used, but sometimes it takes time to develop that. When we started out this season Betances was pitching the fifth and sixth inning. In the end he was pitching sometimes the sixth, seventh inning. So that takes time to get ironed out.”

The Yankees have a great opportunity to use a co-closer system, with Betances and Miller sharing eighth and ninth inning duty based on matchups. The Braves did this with Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez a few years ago — Soriano (27 saves) faced the tough righties whenever they were due up and Gonzalez (ten saves) faced the tough lefties whenever they were due up. The Yankees could do similar but I think there’s no chance they will. Girardi likes having set roles — seventh inning guy, eighth inning guy, closer, etc. — and so do the players. Someone will replace Robertson as the closer and everyone will fall into place behind him. I just have no idea who the new closer will be.

All A-Rod, All The Time

  • On communication with Alex Rodriguez: “We text, we email, we talk on the phone. We do different things, see videos. It’s been good. I know he’s working extremely hard and that’s going to be a hot button in Spring Training. And we’ve just got to go through Spring Training and see where he’s at. He hasn’t played a lot in two years … We have to see where he’s at.”
  • On first base: “Well, I talked to him about first base and I said ‘We’ll talk about it in Spring Training’ because let’s see the makeup of our club. If we have another first baseman, if I want to give (Mark Teixeira) a day off, then we can put the other one in there. If we don’t, we could possibly move you over there. I’ll see if he’s comfortable and go from there.”
  • On distractions: “You know, I think our guys will handle it well. I’m not so sure over the last three years, when he hasn’t garnered a lot of attention when he’s been in the clubhouse — think about when he came back to Chicago, in San Diego, when he came back — so it’s something we have to pay attention to, but I think our guys are up for it and have the experience and know how to handle it and we’ll handle it.”

Girardi also mentioned he saw some video of A-Rod hitting and working out and other stuff and said he looked good. I fully expect Spring Training to be a total circus because of Alex and I think he will spend some time at first base, at least in camp. It’s really hard to expect him to be productive though. How you do you think Chipper Jones would perform in 2015 if he returned to the game after a two-year retirement? That’s basically what A-Rod will be doing, but with two surgically repaired hips.

The Rotation

  • On depth: “There’s some concerns, I think just because of guys coming off injuries. We feel good about them. We feel good about them coming back … But as we’ve seen, you need more than five starters, usually. You have to have some players that have the ability to do both. So we’re going to have to see what our rotation is, where everyone is at.”
  • On Masahiro Tanaka: “We’re counting on him to make his 32 starts. That’s something we’ll have to look at as the season progresses. We have a little bit more experience with him being on a five-man rotation now than we had before. He seemed to do pretty well. He did get hurt. But a lot of times when you talk about guys that have that situation it’s not necessarily one incident — it’s over time. But he came back well. His velocity was there, his split was there. So it’s just something I think you have to pay attention to.”
  • On other injury concerns: “In the back of your mind there’s some question marks. (Ivan) Nova will not be ready for Opening Day. We’ll have to wait a little bit, for sure. He’s had a great rehab … (CC Sabathia‘s) rehab has went well …. Michael Pineda has not thrown 200 innings in a while.”

I’m sure the Yankees are hoping Tanaka will make 32 starts next year but are planning for a scenario in which he makes, well, none. Nova not being ready in time for Opening Day is no surprise — he had surgery in late-April 2014 and at the very earliest would be ready in late-April 2015, but the more likely scenario is May or June. Who in the world knows what Sabathia can do. Not really much more to add here. The Yankees need some rotation depth.

The New Shortstop

  • On Didi Gregorius in general: “I think he’s a good young player that has a chance to blossom in New York. A very good defender. Had success with the bat last year with right-handers and is still young and has the ability to grow into a very good player.”
  • On Gregorius having to replace Derek Jeter: “I think the most important thing for Didi — and I’ll stress it — and I’ll have all the coaches stress it and the people around him, you just need to be yourself. You don’t need to try to be Derek. I think Robertson did a really good job of filling in for a superstar, a legend, a Yankee legend and was just himself. And we need to pay attention to that and make sure that Didi, hey, go out and play, just do what you do.”
  • On Jeter being gone: “I think the reality for me started to hit a little bit the last games in Boston. That that was going to be kind of it … We’re starting anew now. It’s kind of a new era for the Yankees without Derek at shortstop. He’s been there a very, very long time and played at a very high level. But I’ll say it again, Didi, just be yourself.”

Gregorius replacing Jeter is going to be a thing all season, isn’t it? May the baseball gods help the poor kid if he gets off to a slow start in April. Every slump at the plate and error in the field will be scrutinized. That’s just how it will be. I’ve already seen articles saying Gregorius has what it takes to succeed in New York (link) and articles saying he won’t be able to handle the bright lights (link), so no one has any idea what the hell they’re talking about. We just have to wait and see.

Girardi’s right when he says Gregorius just has to be himself, and at the same time the Yankees can’t baby him either. Treat him like any other 24-year-old you’re trying to develop into your shortstop of the future. Play him everyday — sitting him against a tough lefty like Chris Sale or David Price is fine, but a straight platoon with Brendan Ryan would be so, so dumb — and give the kid an opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them. It’s curious to see how the team balances Gregorius’ development with winning because, frankly, they’ve sucked at developing players lately.

The Offseason

  • On the team’s biggest needs: “You know, when I look at our club, I think you have to think about the depth of the rotation … You need depth in your rotation. You have to. I don’t know how many starters we used last year, but I know we lost four. So we used a lot and that’s something that’s a concern.”
  • On Hiroki Kuroda: “We’re not sure what he’s going to do. That’s a decision he has to make and it’s about the time a player either has in his heart, I want to come back, or It’s time for me to retire. So it’s a decision that he has to make.”
  • On Francisco Cervelli: “We’re going to miss him. He was a good player for us …. He’s a player that was loved in the clubhouse. We loved his energy and the way he played the game. The way he went about his business. I’m happy that he gets an opportunity to play every day. I’ve said all along, I believe he’s an everyday catcher, and he’ll help someone.”

Getting Kuroda back would add some stability to the rotation but the Yankees can’t wait around forever for him to make his decision either. The pitching dominoes are starting to fall and the club has to act soon to get the help they need. If Kuroda decides to play later, great. They can figure it out then. The Yankees don’t want to be left standing at the game of pitching musical chairs because they spent weeks on end waiting for Kuroda.

Miscellany

  • On losing two homegrown stars in two offseasons: “It’s the nature of the revenue sharing and what TV contracts have allowed other clubs to do. I think the game has changed (from what) it was 20 years ago.”
  • On incorporating young players: “We need our system to be productive and for our young players to come up and help us out because, as I’ve said, the game has changed. And more clubs are able to bid on players than probably ever before. So the price goes up and sometimes you lose those players. I feel pretty good about our young kids that are coming. And it’s not just (Rob) Refsnyder or (Jose) Pirela, there’s more that you could talk about and that excites me.”
  • On the coaching staff: “We’ve had some interviews and things have kind of got interrupted with the GM Meetings and organizational meetings and changes in our organization and then coming down here … We’ll probably pick up again when this is all said and done, and we’ll iron out our coaching staff.”
  • On Martin Prado: “I don’t think you have an ideal (position). Would you like to leave him at one spot?  Yeah. But his versatility allows us to rest people at times. We might ask him to do that depending on the makeup of our club.”

Imagine if the Yankees don’t re-sign Chase Headley and go into next season with a double play combination of Gregorius and either Pirela or Refsnyder. How much patience will they have for those growing pains on the middle infield? I’m guessing not much but more than most fans. And, as I’ve said before, I think I’m more curious to see how long the team can go without a hitting coach and first base coach than I am to see who they actually hire. Today’s the two month anniversary of them firing Kevin Long and Mick Kelleher, you know.

Cashman says Yankees will “test the waters” with A-Rod at first base

Alex Rodriguez
(AP/Kathy Willens)

At the GM Meetings last week, Brian Cashman told Ken Davidoff the Yankees plan to “test the waters” with Alex Rodriguez at first base. Cashman mentioned the team spoke to A-Rod about possibly playing first a few weeks ago, and now it seems like something they will try in Spring Training.

“We’re going to get him exposed to [first base]. It doesn’t mean he’ll be a viable option. But we just want to test the waters on it,” said the GM. “I think there was an area of vulnerability for us last year that was really predicated because of the outfield alignment that we had. We had more outfielders than necessary because the guaranteed commitments that we had kicked in, so I couldn’t get a backup first baseman situation. But hopefully we can alleviate that this year.”

A-Rod has never played anywhere other than shortstop and third base in his career, and at this point, with two surgically repaired hips at age 39, there’s little reason to think he has the mobility to play the left side of the infield. Cashman and the Yankees insist they are not counting on Alex to play the field until he proved he can do it, which makes total sense. They re-signed Brendan Ryan to protect against Derek Jeter at short last offseason and I’m sure they’ll bring in a real third baseman this offseason.

Pure backup first basemen don’t really exist these days. It doesn’t make sense to waste one of four bench spots on a guy who can only play first. He has to be able to fill in at third base (like Eric Chavez) or in left field or something. The Yankees are stuck with A-Rod though, and if he’s not going to be able to play third regularly, maybe he can help at first. He’s a very smart and instinctual player. He might pick it up in no time. There’s no reason not to try Alex at first base at this point.

Report: A-Rod admitted PED use to DEA

According to Jay Weaver of the Miami Herald, Alex Rodriguez admitted to purchasing and using performance-enhancing drugs from Biogenesis in a January meeting with federal agents and prosecutors in exchange for immunity. He told them he paid Anthony Bosch approximately $12,000 per month for the drugs. A-Rod publicly maintained he did not use PEDs even after the meeting, though we all knew that was a lie. Weaver’s article is Alex’s confession. Really great piece of reporting. Anyway, it’s November 5th and I already have A-Rod fatigue. Sigh.

A-Rod reinstated, ten Yankees become free agents

Now that the World Series is over, Alex Rodriguez has officially been reinstated off the restricted list by MLB and the Yankees. He was originally suspended 211 games for his ties to Biogenesis, but it was reduced to 162 games during an appeal. A-Rod would not have been eligible to play in the postseason had the Yankees qualified. He now counts against the team’s 40-man roster.

In other news, a total of 121 players became free agents at 9am ET this morning. Here’s the full list. Ten of those 121 players are Yankees: Chris Capuano, Stephen Drew, Chase Headley, Rich Hill, Derek Jeter, Hiroki Kuroda, Brandon McCarthy, David Robertson, Ichiro Suzuki, and Chris Young. No surprises there at all. Martin Prado, CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, and Slade Heathcott all have to be activated off the 60-day DL if they haven’t been already. So, after all of that, the Yankees have 35 players on their 40-man roster.

Cashman confims Yankees have talked to A-Rod about playing first base

Via Erik Boland: Brian Cashman confirmed last week that the Yankees — specifically Joe Girardi — have talked to Alex Rodriguez about playing some first base next season. “Joe Girardi conveyed to me he talked to him, briefly, about him getting some work at first base,” said Cashman. “Joe had a conversation recently about that. How extensive that conversation was, I don’t know, but he conveyed it to me.”

A-Rod has never played first base in his career and, as we saw this summer, you can’t just stick anyone at the position and expect them to be adequate. It’s easy to get exposed at first. The Yankees will need a true backup first baseman next year since Mark Teixeira gets hurt all the time, and Alex is as good an internal candidate as anyone. He’s by far the most instinctual player I’ve ever seen. It wouldn’t be surprise me at all if A-Rod picked up first base quickly.

2014 Season Review: Alex

The 2014 season is over and it’s time to look back at the year that was. Our old What Went Right/Wrong format has gotten stale, so it’s time for a new review format. We’ll review individual players, performances, tendencies, all sorts of stuff in the coming days and weeks.

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

Although the Yankees failed to make the postseason for the second straight year, the 2014 season was mighty peaceful, wasn’t it? The hottest topic in Spring Training was whether Yangervis Solarte would make the Opening Day roster, and the summer was focused first on Masahiro Tanaka‘s dominance and later Derek Jeter‘s farewell. It was pure baseball all the time. It was pleasant and refreshing.

That was all possible because Alex Rodriguez was serving a 162-game suspension for his ties to Biogenesis. His initial 211-game suspension was handed down last August, he appealed the ruling and played in 44 second half games, then spent most of the offseason in front of an arbitrator in a court room. The ban was eventually reduced to the entire 2014 season and postseason by the appeal, which saved the Yankees almost $24M against the luxury tax. That helped them sign Tanaka.

As we’ve learned over the last ten years or so, A-Rod is a human lightning rod, creating and drawing all sorts of attention. A little of it is good — I’m certain the Yankees and MLB love the additional ticket sales and ratings — but most of it is bad or controversial. To his credit, Alex stayed out of the limelight during his suspension. I expected him to make some headlines at some point but he didn’t. He was photographed at a few college football and baseball games, plus he recorded an Ice Bucket Challenge video …

… but that’s it. The MSM was so starved for A-Rod driven controversy that they made a big deal out of him spending a few days in New York last week because he didn’t meet with the Yankees, as if a guy can’t just spend a few days in a New York to attend a charity event in the offseason. It was a nice, quiet, A-Rod free summer.

Joe Girardi, Brian Cashman, and Hal Steinbrenner all made it clear in recent weeks Rodriguez will be back with the team next year — “When he’s healthy, he’s an asset. We need those kind of assets. We need the hitting,” said the owner — and that makes sense. I initially thought they would release him after the suspension but I’m an idiot. Of course they won’t release him. They could still recoup a significant chunk of the $63M they owe him through 2017 if he gets suspended or hurt (via insurance) again. The odds of one of those two things happening is pretty high, especially the getting hurt part given the last few years.

The quiet, controversy-free season is over and now the attention will shift back to Alex as soon as Spring Training begins. It’ll start before then, really. I’m sure the first few days of camp will be total chaos and there’s really no avoiding that. No one has any idea what he can contribute on the field — A-Rod is said to be in great shape, but he’s 39 and has played 44 games these last years, so it’s almost like he’s coming out of retirement after a two-year hiatus — but the Yankees are stuck with him. They signed him to that contract. They made their bed and still have another three years to lie in it. I have zero sympathy for the team.

I enjoyed watching A-Rod so much for the first five or six years of his time in pinstripes. He was a tremendously productive player and goofy enough to make you laugh a few times a year. And that’s why I felt sad when I realized how much more peaceful this past season was without Alex. He’s such a distraction — he’s a distraction even when he isn’t doing anything wrong at this point, just his presence is a distraction — that it took away from my enjoyment of the game, and I didn’t realize it until he was gone this summer.