Yankees, A-Rod call press conference for 11am ET Sunday

(Adam Glanzman/Getty)
(Adam Glanzman/Getty)

The Yankees and Alex Rodriguez will hold a press conference at 11am ET tomorrow, the team has announced. A-Rod, Brian Cashman, and Joe Girardi will be in attendance. No reason for the press conference was given, so feel free to speculate. The press conference will be broadcast on YES.

The way I see it, there are four possible reasons for the press conference. Well, there are countless possible reasons, but these are the big four:

  1. A-Rod is retiring, effective immediately. Seems really unlikely.
  2. A-Rod is retiring, effective at the end of the season. Possible!
  3. The Yankees are releasing A-Rod.
  4. The Yankees and A-Rod have agreed to some sort of “mutual parting of ways” that involves a buyout.

My official guess: A-Rod will announce he is retiring at the end if the season.

The fact A-Rod, Cashman, and Girardi will be at the press conference suggest that, whatever it is, it’s amicable. I have a hard time thinking Alex would be a willing attendant if the team did decide to release him.

Whatever it is, I just hope we get to see one more gentleman’s bat flip before it’s all over.

Alex Rodriguez bat flip

What a weird, weird season in Yankeeland.

Saturday Links: Chapman, Beltran, Best Tools, A-Rod

(Greg Fiume/Getty)
(Greg Fiume/Getty)

The Yankees and Indians will continue their three-game series later this afternoon, assuming the weather cooperates. Here are some stray links to help you pass the time until first pitch.

Chapman, Beltran open to re-signing with Yankees

After being traded last week, impending free agents Aroldis Chapman and Carlos Beltran told reporters they would be open to re-signing with the Yankees after the season. “I would love to come back again,” said Chapman to Mark Feinsand while Beltran simply told Jared Diamond he would “gladly” return to the Yankees if the opportunity presents itself.

As good as he has been this year, I don’t love the idea of bringing Beltran back next season, even on a cheap-ish one-year deal to DH. There are lots of young position players in Triple-A Scranton waiting for an opportunity. Chapman’s a different story because he’s still right smack in the prime of his career, and there’s always room for another high-end reliever in the bullpen.

I feel like it’s inevitable the Yankees will sign a top reliever this offseason, and I’d prefer Kenley Jansen or Mark Melancon to Chapman. I just have no interest in rooting for the guy following the domestic violence stuff. You’re welcome to feel differently. Anyway, it’s no surprise Chapman and Beltran are open to coming back. Why would any impending free agent rule out the Yankees?

Baseball America’s best tools survey

One of my favorite features each season is Baseball America’s best tools survey. They poll managers and coaches about the players in their leagues, then put all the results together. Here are the Yankees at each level. The links go to each article and they’re not behind the paywall.

Chapman (best fastball) and Andrew Miller (best slider, second best reliever) both made appearances in the survey as well. Sanchez being voted as the best defensive catcher in the International League is pretty darn interesting. I’m not sure if that’s because he’s made a lot of improvement, or because it’s just a weak year for IL catchers. I choose to believe the former. Go Gary!

No plans to release A-Rod

To the surprise of no one, Brian Cashman said the Yankees have no plans to release Alex Rodriguez during a recent radio interview (via George King). If the Yankees had any plans to release A-Rod, I think they would have done so already. Here’s what Cashman said:

“It’s not an easy circumstance, but there are no plans right now to do anything but give some reps to other people and see where it takes us, and if matchups or injuries hit, you might see him back out there,’’ Cashman told ESPN Radio. “First and foremost, you just have to admit it’s not easy to go ahead and eat — meaning release — that kind of money. It’s not something you come to a quick decision on … There’s a very large financial commitment through next year on a player of Alex’s caliber that was productive as [recently] as last year. Now, he’s being put in a position where sporadic play to try to get it going makes it more difficult. It’s fair to ask why and it’s fair to understand why it’s not a quick, rash decision, especially with September around the corner.”

Rosters expand in three weeks and five days, and I expect the Yankees to just ride this out with Rodriguez until then. They could release him in the offseason, but right now my guess is they hang on to him through the winter, then evaluate him in Spring Training. If he hits, they can give him a shot. If he stinks, they’ll cut him loose. And if he gets hurt, they’ll collect insurance on his contract.

The Alex Rodriguez Problem

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

What a difference a year makes, huh? Last season Alex Rodriguez was coming back from his 162-game Biogenesis suspension and no one knew what to expect. How would a soon-to-be 40-year-old with two surgically repaired hips perform after missing a full season (close to two full seasons, really)? Quite well, it turns out.

A-Rod hit .250/.356/.486 (129 wRC+) overall with 33 homers in 2015, which was truly best case scenario stuff. I think each and every one of us would have happily signed up for that before the season. Rodriguez did slump in the second half like most Yankees, but, overall, he was a middle of the order force and a big reason why the team managed to qualify for the postseason.

This season has been a much different story. Rather than come to Spring Training as a complete unknown, Rodriguez came to camp with the Yankees counting on him to provide power and a steadying middle of the order presence. It hasn’t happened. A-Rod owns a .204/.252/.356 (56 wRC+) batting line with nine homers in 234 plate appearances around injuries and benchings.

The Yankees have not so gradually started scaling back A-Rod’s playing time. For a few weeks they benched him against righties, and these days they bench him against pretty much everyone, so much so that Gary Sanchez is expected to be called up today to DH against lefty Steven Matz. Alex can’t play the field at all, and now if he’s not trusted enough to start against lefties, what purpose does he serve? None. He serves no purpose.

It’s no surprise then there’s been talk the Yankees may release A-Rod at some point in the second half. The team denies it because what else are they supposed to do? “I know it’s been tough on him. But he’s been a pro and working his tail off,” said Brian Cashman to reporters earlier this week. Now that Carlos Beltran is gone and the Yankees are in sell mode, chatter about cutting Alex is only going to grow louder. What’s the right thing to do?

The Case for Cutting A-Rod

This is the easy one so we might as well start here. The case for cutting A-Rod comes down to two things: his lack of production and his lack of flexibility. He’s hitting .198/.276/.367 (71 wRC+) in 446 plate appearances since August 1st of last year, so this isn’t a small sample. For a DH, those numbers are putrid. There’s a minimum acceptable standard on offense and Alex ain’t meeting it, especially relative to position.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Defensively … well there’s not much to talk about. A-Rod hasn’t played even one out in the field since last May, and although he’s been working out at first base lately, there’s no indication the Yankees will actually use him there. Rodriguez almost got into a game at third base in San Diego a few weeks ago, though that was an emergency situation in the late innings. It didn’t happen. The game ended before he could return to the hot corner.

A DH who can’t hit or play the field in something more than an emergency is useless. It’s a dead roster spot. Cutting A-Rod frees up a roster spot and playing time for one of the many kids the Yankees have in Triple-A. We’re not talking about Shelley Duncan types here. Sanchez figures to be the catcher of the future. Aaron Judge figures to be the right fielder of the future and Tyler Austin is looking to carve out a role as well. Moving on from A-Rod creates an opportunity for players who will part of what we hope is the next great Yankees team.

The Case for Keeping A-Rod

This is a much tougher argument to make, and honestly, I’m not sure I can do it. I’m going to try though. Here are three reasons it may be wise for the Yankees to hang on to Rodriguez in the second half.

1. A-Rod could always get hot. The Yankees traded Beltran, by far their best hitter, at the deadline in one of their “seller” trades. Their best hitter is now, uh, Didi Gregorius? Maybe Brian McCann? That’s not so great. Despite his down year, A-Rod is still insanely talented, and with Beltran gone, the DH spot is wide open. Alex still has the ability to get hot and carry a team for a few weeks, and the Yankees are going to need someone to create runs. I’m not sure Rodriguez can bounce back at this point, but I’ve bet against him before and he’s made me look silly pretty much every time.

2. He’s closing in on 700 homers. Right now A-Rod is sitting on 696 career homers, meaning he’s only four away from becoming only the fourth member of the 700 home run club. That is pretty incredible. It’s historic. It really is. We may never see another player reach 700 homers in our lifetime. It’s also very marketable. I don’t know the numbers, but I’m willing to bet attendance and ratings are down this season, and A-Rod’s pursuit of 700 homers could help the Yankees sell some tickets and improve ratings down the stretch. They would actually have to play him regularly for the chase to be interesting, of course.

3. He can be a mentor to the team’s young players. A-Rod has long had a reputation for being a leader in the clubhouse and a great mentor to young players. He’s a preparation and workout freak, and he makes sure the young guys put in the work that is necessary to excel at the MLB level. “I’m a teacher at heart,” he told Joe Lemire yesterday.

Alex is one of the most talented players in baseball history, and seeing someone that talented do that much prep work really drives home the point of just how hard it is to be a good big league ballplayer. Coasting on talent isn’t an option. The Yankees have a lot of young players on the cusp of the show and, with Beltran gone, A-Rod is someone who can take them under his wing and show them the ropes. He may not hit anymore, but Alex’s leadership has value that can’t be quantified.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Is the 700th home run pursuit and leadership enough to keep A-Rod on the roster? It may not seem so to you and me, but the Yankees could feel otherwise. They know much more about his intangible value as a marquee player and mentor than we ever will. All we see is the on-field performance, which this year means a total lack of production. Like I said, a DH who can’t hit or play the field occasionally is not worth a roster spot.

My guess is yes, the Yankees have indeed kicked around the idea of releasing A-Rod, but they’re not ready to commit to that just yet. Rosters expand four weeks from tomorrow, and I think the team will ride it out with Alex until September 1st, when it’ll be more easy to carry the wasted roster spot. If he smashes his 700th home run between now and then and mentors some young players, great. They’ll reassess his place on the roster in the offseason.

Make no mistake though, if A-Rod were Joe Schmo and not a guy with a huge contract approaching a historic milestone, he’d be long gone by now. Teams usually don’t stand for this type of production, or lack thereof. A-Rod’s still on the roster because of what he’s done in the past and the money still owed to him through next year, and that’s generally not a good reason to keep a player around. Not when there are young players in Triple-A ready for an opportunity.

Yankeemetrics: Mediocrity at its finest [July 29-31]

(AP)
(AP)

Loss for #Yankees, Win for #TeamSell
With this weekend’s series against the Rays representing one final opportunity to convince the front office to keep the band together for a late-summer playoff push, the Yankees inched closer to declaring themselves sellers with another frustrating loss on Friday night.

All 10 of their hits were singles and they scored just one run in a 5-1 loss, going 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position. The the only other major-league team this season (through Friday) that had a game with double-digit hits, none for extra bases, and scored one or fewer runs was the Brewers in a 8-1 loss to the Phillies on June 5.

Ivan Nova — who had posted a 2.66 ERA in his previous four turns during a stellar month of July — was predictably horrendous in Tampa against the last-place Rays lineup, allowing five runs on six hits in 4 1/3 innings.

Tropicana Field has become a house of horrors for Nova. This was his first start at the dome since April 19, 2014, his final game before being diagnosed with a torn UCL that required Tommy John surgery. And he now owns a 7.03 ERA in seven appearances (six starts) at the ballpark, the highest among all active pitchers with at least two starts and 25 innings pitched there.

The Rays clobbered Nova, with five of the six hits he allowed going for extra bases. This continues a yearlong trend of tons of loud contact against Nova, who has given up an average exit velocity of 94.9 mph on line drives and fly balls, the second-highest mark in the majors (min. 100 batted balls).

Chad Green kept the Yankees within spitting distance as he relieved Nova in the fifth inning and went the distance, throwing 3 2/3 scoreless innings. It was his third straight relief appearance with more than two innings pitched and no runs allowed. Green is just the second Yankee pitcher in the last two decades to put together a streak like that; Ramiro Mendoza had a three-gamer in 2001 and a four-gamer 2002.

You can’t spell ‘Sell’ without a couple ‘L’s’
Saturday’s deflating 6-3 defeat gave the Yankees two losses in two games to the last-place Rays, providing another layer of evidence that this team is not fit for October and needs a re-boot.

arod
(Getty)

The Yankees got off to another rocky start as Nathan Eovaldi surrendered a first-inning home run to Brad Miller, the 20th homer allowed by Yankee pitchers in the opening frame this season; through Saturday’s games, the only MLB teams that had allowed more first-inning dingers were the Twins and Royals, both with 22.

Eovaldi gave up a second homer to the Rays No. 9 hitter, catcher Curt Casali, giving him 21 homers allowed in 116 2/3 innings this year. That rate of 1.62 homers per nine innings is on pace to be the third-highest single-season mark by any Yankee qualifying pitcher, behind Phil Hughes (1.65 in 2012) and Terry Mulholland (1.79 in 1994).

Starting for the first time in a week, A-Rod did little to show management that he deserved more at-bats, going 0-for-4 with four strikeouts. It was the fourth game in his Yankee career that he came to the plate at least four times and struck out each time; only one other player in franchise history had four such games during their career: Mickey Mantle.

Drew Smyly, with a career strikeout rate of 24 percent (just a few ticks above the MLB average of 20 percent), is an unlikely candidate to be A-Rod’s personal kryptonite. But these are the facts: He has struck out in nine of 12 plate appearances (including playoffs) against Smyly, his highest whiff rate versus any of the 600-plus pitchers he’s faced more than five times in his 22-season career.

Just your average Yankees
On the same day the Yankees put the proverbial For Sale sign outside team headquarters in Tampa, they sunk deeper and deeper into the depths of mediocrity, losing to the Rays, 5-3.

They are now 52-52 this season, which includes a 44-44 record before the break, 8-8 after the break and a 13-13 mark in July. #TeamMediocre

It was their fifth time being swept this year, the same number they had in 2015 … with 58 games and two months remaining. And they’ve now scored no more than three runs in 55 of their 104 games, their highest total at this point in the season since 1972.

Michael Pineda once again delivered a maddeningly inconsistent performance, flashing dominance and looking strong at times (eight strikeouts), but ended up with disappointing results and a crooked final pitching line (five runs on six hits in six innings). It was his third game this season with at least eight punch outs and five earned runs allowed; no other American League pitcher has more than one such game.

Carlos Beltran put the Yankees on the board in the sixth inning with a two-run homer that sliced the Rays lead to 3-2. It was his his 22nd homer in 2016, matching Eddie Murray (1996) for the most by a switch-hitter in his age-39 season or older.

Yankeemetrics: Many questions, no answers [July 18-21]

(USA Today Sports)
(USA Today Sports)

The winning formula
Inconsistency has been the theme of this year’s Yankees team, but they have been remarkably consistent in one thing: their winning formula. Combine solid starting pitching with justenough offense to get a slim lead thru six innings, and then unleash their high-powered, flame-throwing bullpen trio to seal the victory.

The plan worked to perfection on Monday night as the Yankees opened their series against the AL East-leading Orioles with a 2-1 win.

Alex Rodriguez sparked the lineup with a towering home run to left field in the second inning. It was just his second homer at Yankee Stadium this season. A-Rod entered the game with a .226 slugging percentage in home games, the second-worst in the majors among players with at least 100 plate appearances.

The blast was his 69th against the Orioles, breaking a tie with Harmon Killebrew for the fifth-most hit against the franchise. The four guys ahead of him are Babe Ruth (96), Lou Gehrig (92), Jimmie Foxx (87) and Ted Williams (80).

And one more milestone for A-Rod: that homer was also his 1,578th hit in a Yankee uniform, passing Wally Pipp for 17th place on the franchise all-time hits list.

Aroldis Chapman’s blazing fastball was in peak form as he closed out the game for his 19th save. Per Statcast, his 1-2 pitch to J.J. Hardy reached 105.1 mph, matching the fastest pitch ever recorded by Statcast dating back to 2008. Chapman also threw a pitch that went that fast on Sept. 24, 2010 to Tony Gwynn, Jr.

Chapman hit 104 mph on three other pitches in the inning, and Ryan Flaherty actually put one of those heaters in play … barely. Chapman’s 0-2 fastball to him was clocked at 104.9 mph and broke his bat, resulting in an easy grounder for the final out of the game. That was the fastest pitch put in play by a batter in the Statcast era (since 2008).

(Getty)
(Getty)

#TeamBuy
A funny thing happened on the way to the Trade Deadline … the Yankees decided to build some momentum and hold off the cries to SELL!!! for another day as they routed the Orioles, 7-1.

Starlin Castro has hardly been a consistent run producer during his debut campaign in pinstripes, but he’s definitely come up huge at times this season. His two-run blast in the second inning gave the Yankees an early 2-0 lead they wouldn’t relinquish in this must-win game.

It was his 11th homer of the season (matching his total from last year) and his sixth that gave the Yankees a lead. That’s the most go-ahead homers of any Yankee this season.

Jacoby Ellsbury made sure the fans in the Bronx would witness history on Tuesday night when he reached base via catcher’s interference for the ninth time this season, breaking the major-league record set by Roberto Kelly in 1992. The number becomes even more ridiculous when you consider that every other player in the American League has combined for six catcher’s interferences this season.

Huge Mike
The Yankees continued their desperate push toward contender status with another victory and another dominant performance from their pitching staff on Wednesday night. It was their fourth straight win overall and the fourth game in a row they allowed no more than one run and no more than five hits.

This is the first time since 1932 that the Yankees have put together a four-game win streak at home, giving up one run or fewer and five hits or fewer in each game.

pineda
(Getty)

The Yankees took an early 1-0 lead thanks a leadoff triple by Brett Gardner and a Carlos Beltran sac fly in the bottom of the first. That snapped a franchise-record 23-game scoreless streak in the first inning dating back nearly a month. Remember, this is a team that last year led the majors with 125 runs scored in the first frame.

Carlos Beltran capped off the scoring, too, with a solo homer in the eighth inning to give the Yankees a 5-0 lead. It was his 20th homer, making him just the second switch hitter to hit 20 home runs in his age-39 season or older. Eddie Murray reached that milestone in both 1995 and 1996, at age 39 and 40.

Michael Pineda spun a gem as he pitched six scoreless innings for his first win since June 7. He featured a nasty, sharp slider that baffled the Orioles lineup, netting him a whopping 18 whiffs and six of his eight punch outs. The 18 swings-and-misses are the most that any pitcher has gotten with a slider in any game this season, one more than Clayton Kershaw had against the Blue Jays on May 7.

Back to losing
The Yankees had their confidence-boosting four-game win streak snapped on Thursday afternoon, failing to complete the sweep thanks to a listless 4-1 loss. Their all-too-familiar anemic offense mustered just one run on five hits, the 20th time in 95 games that they’ve been held to no more than a single run. The only other AL team with 20 games of zero or one run scored this season is the last-place Tampa Bay Rays.

CC Sabathia had little to celebrate on his 36th birthday as his downward spiral deepened with another discouraging outing (four runs, seven hits, 6 2/3 innings). He’s now given up at least seven hits and four runs in each of his last six starts, the first time in his career he put together a six-game streak with that many hits and runs allowed in each game.

Coincidental or not, the large lefty has historically struggled on his birthday as a major-leaguer. He’s now 0-3 with a 6.99 ERA in five starts on July 21 and his team has lost all five games.

2016 Midseason Review: The Bench

Now that the All-Star break has arrived, it’s time to look back and review the first half of the season. We’ve already looked at the catchers, infielders, and outfielders. Now it’s time to cover the bench.

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

Despite their efforts to get younger, the Yankees still have a very veteran roster. In fact, they have only two regulars under the age of 31, and they’re the double play combination. Everyone else is on the wrong side of 30, which means the Yankees need a quality bench to give those players extra rest throughout the season.

As always, the Yankees started the season with three non-catchers on their bench: Aaron Hicks, Dustin Ackley, and Ronald Torreyes. Torreyes beat out Rob Refsnyder for the final bench spot in Spring Training — he not only out-hit him, but his ability to play short and third worked in his favor too — though a few weeks later both guys ended up on the bench anyway. Funny how that works. Times to review the bench.

Alex Rodriguez: The Designated Hitter Bench Player

A-Rod was not supposed to be a bench player. He opened the season as the team’s regular DH for the second straight season, though the combination of a hamstring injury and unproductive at-bats have limited him to only 47 starts in the team’s 88 first half games. The hamstring injury sidelined him for close to three weeks in May. More recently, the Yankees have benched A-Rod against righties.

Overall this season Rodriguez is hitting .220/.260/.382 (65 wRC+) with eight homers in exactly 200 plate appearances. That’s broken down into .198/.237/.333 (46 wRC+) with six homers and a 29.6% strikeout rate in 135 plate appearances against righties, and .267/.308/.483 (105 wRC+) with two homers and a 24.6% strikeout rate in 65 plate appearances against lefties. It’s easy to understand why they’ve decided to sit him against righties, right? Right.

A-Rod will turn 41 later this month, and really, it’s not much of a surprise when player in his 40s doesn’t hit, even one as talented as Alex. His 2015 season was marvelous. He was so good last year. Now he looks close to done, so much so that the Yankees have cut into his playing time. As with Mark Teixeira, it was probably foolish to expect him to repeat his 2015 effort. At the same time, no one expected him to be this bad. At least we still get to see this once in a while:

Second Half Out Look: Gosh, I wish I knew. There’s no reason to think A-Rod won’t be benched against righties to open the second half, though he is working out at first base, which could mean more at-bats. There’s a Catch-22 here. A-Rod’s not playing because he hasn’t hit but he probably needs more at-bats to get his bat going. The more interesting question will come after the season. If Rodriguez struggles all year, would the Yankees really cut ties and release him, and or will they handicap the roster for another year with a righty platoon DH? That’s another question for another time.

Aaron Hicks: The Fourth Turned Fifth Outfielder

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

When the Yankees acquired Hicks over the winter, they did so with the expectation he would play fairly regularly by rotating around the outfield and resting the regulars. At worst, he would platoon against lefties, against whom he’d hit .272/.360/.447 (125 wRC+) prior to 2016. The Yankees had a spare catcher in John Ryan Murphy and wanted an athletic, switch-hitting outfielder, so the trade was made.

Hicks fell well short of expectations in his first half-season as a Yankee. On both sides of the ball, really. He’s hitting .197/.261/.301 (46 wRC+) with three homers in 204 plate appearances overall — yes, he has more plate appearances than A-Rod — including .155/.218/.225 (15 wRC+) against lefties. The Yankees have given him regular at-bats at times, most notably when Alex was on the DL, but it hasn’t come together.

In the field, Hicks seems to have a knack for breaking the wrong way when the ball comes off the bat. He has good speed and often that bad first step doesn’t matter, but it has definitely come back to bite him and the Yankees at times. The one thing Hicks does insanely well is throw. Gee willikers does he have a strong arm. Needless to say, the start of Hicks’ first season with the Yankees has been a huge disappointment.

Second Half Outlook: Hicks doesn’t have any minor league options remaining, otherwise the Yankees would have sent him to Triple-A already. They’re not going to expose him to waivers — he’d get claimed in a heartbeat — or release him even though Joe Girardi‘s patience seems to have run out. (Refsnyder has seen more time in right lately as A-Rod rides the bench.) I could see the Yankees flipping Hicks as part of a deadline deal, but, mostly likely, he’ll remain on the roster in the second half and continue to get playing time as the Yankees try to get him going.

Ronald Torreyes: The Necessary Backup Infielder

(Brian Bahr/Getty)
(Brian Bahr/Getty)

Usually when a player changes organizations five times in the span of nine months, he doesn’t make an Opening Day roster. And yet, Torreyes did indeed change teams five times last season and over the winter, and there he was on the Opening Day roster as the backup infielder. He won the job by having a good spring and showing he was capable defensively all over the infield.

Torreyes, who is only 23, started the season with an insane 8-for-17 (.471) hot streak that had people calling for him to start at third base. I get it, Chase Headley was off to a terrible start, but it was only a matter of time until Torreyes came back to Earth. Sure enough, he’s gone 6-for-48 (.125) since, and is hitting .219/.286/.297 (55 wRC+) overall. His walk (8.6%) and strikeout (14.3%) rates are good, so yay?

Not surprisingly, Torreyes has started only two of the team’s last 29 games. Gregorius has been awesome of late and Headley has been very good since May, plus Castro seems to have a very long leash, so there’s no real way to get Torreyes in the lineup. He’s been solid defensively wherever he’s played — second, short, third, even some right field — and that’s his primary value. Torreyes is a sound gloveman who will put the ball in that play. He’s the quintessential utility infielder.

Second Half Outlook: The Yankees do not seem to want to use Castro as their full-time backup shortstop — they’ll use him there now and then, but I don’t think they want him to be the guy — which means Torreyes will stick around through the second half. He’s essentially a replacement level backup infielder. He won’t kill them in spot start duty, but he’s not someone you want to run out there on an everyday basis either.

Dustin Ackley: The Perfectly Imperfect Role Player

For the second straight year, the Yankees opened the season with a player capable of filling in at first base, right field, and DH, three positions with starters who carry perpetual injury concerns. Last year Garrett Jones filled that role. This year it was Dustin Ackley. Jones played his way off the roster. Ackley got hurt before he had a chance to do the same.

That little dive back into first base resulted in a torn labrum that required season-ending surgery. It’s the same exact thing that happened to Mason Williams a year ago. Freaky, right? We see players dive back into first base a million times each year. The Yankees managed to have players suffer season-ending shoulder injuries in back-to-back years on pickoff plays.

Prior to the injury, Ackley hit .148/.243/.148 (9 wRC+) in 70 plate appearances spread across 49 team games. Not much playing time at all. At least his walk (11.4%) and strikeout (12.9%) rates were good, I guess. Ackley wasn’t good defensively anywhere (first, second, or right), which was to be expected. In theory, the Jones/Ackley slot is a good idea. Someone who can fill in at right, first, and DH, and maybe sock the occasional dinger into the short porch sounds like a useful bench piece. But, for the second straight year, it hasn’t worked out.

Second Half Outlook: There is none because of the injury. The surgery almost certainly ends Ackley’s time with the Yankees. He was going to be a non-tender candidate after the season to start with, and the injury all but clinches it.

Rob Refsnyder: Forcing The Issue

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees tried to find a way to get Refsnyder on their Opening Day roster. They had him work out at third base in Spring Training in an effort to increase his versatility, but the four-week crash course didn’t work out too well. Refsnyder took two grounders to the face right at the end of camp that all but assured Torreyes would be the backup infielder to start the regular season.

To Triple-A Refsnyder went, where he remained until A-Rod landed on the DL in May. He was on the roster for only a few days before being sent back down, though the Ackley injury got him back to MLB a few days later, and Refsnyder has been with the Yankees since. After teaching him third in Spring Training, the Yankees stuck Refsnyder at first base — he played there after literally one day of taking grounders at the position — when Teixeira was on the DL. Once Teixeira returned, the team started using Refsnyder all over the field.

All told, Refsnyder has played 19 games at first, ten games in right, five in second, and one at third. He’s looked fine at first base all things considered, though his inexperience has been painfully obvious at times. That was to be expected. Refsnyder is a bat first player though, and his numbers probably aren’t as good as you may think: .276/.337/.368 (86 wRC+) with no homers in 99 plate appearances.

Now, that said, Refsnyder has looked like he belongs. He takes quality at-bats (9.1 BB% and 16.1 K%) and he consistently hits the ball hard (only a 12.3% soft contact rate), so it’s only a matter of time until the results match the process. Eventually he’s going to hit a dinger, you know? With Hicks struggling and A-Rod benched, Refsnyder has seen more and more time in right field of late, so Girardi’s giving him a chance.

Second Half Outlook: I get the feeling we’re going to see a lot of Refsnyder in the second half, especially if the Yankees trade Beltran at the deadline and A-Rod remains glued to the bench against righties. The Yankees have asked a lot of Refsnyder — learn third, learn first, play second and right too, hit your way into the lineup, etc. — and he’s handled it well. He’s the only guy in this post who has earned more playing time.

A-Rod planning to take ground balls at first base during All-Star break

(Jeff Zelevansky/Getty)
(Jeff Zelevansky/Getty)

According to Mark Feinsand, Alex Rodriguez is planning to take ground balls at first base during the All-Star break in an effort to improve his versatility and get into the lineup a little more often. Brian Cashman told George King it was Rodriguez’s idea to work out at first base, not the team’s. “I wouldn’t say he was encouraged. I was told he was more open to playing the field. Last year he was opposed to it,” said the GM.

A-Rod, who turns 41 in two weeks, is hitting .220/.260/.382 (65 wRC+) with eight homers in 200 plate appearances on the nose this year. That includes a .198/.237/.333 (46 wRC+) line against right-handers. The Yankees are now benching Alex against righties — he’s started only one of their last ten games — so he’s not playing much at all. He’s been a forgotten man. Anyway, I have some thoughts on this.

1. It’s about time! I’ve been beating the “give A-Rod a first base glove” drum since the offseason. I’m not saying he should play there every single day. Just having the option to put him there increases his versatility a bit. A right-handed platoon DH is the least flexible player possible. Getting Rodriguez comfortable at first gives Joe Girardi some more options. It’s not much, but it’s something.

2. There figures to be a decent amount of playing time at first. Mark Teixeira is now getting regular days off to rest his ailing knee — he hasn’t started more than four straight days since coming off the DL — so that clears some playing time for A-Rod, who probably needs to play more than once every ten days to get his bat going. Those spare starts at first could add up to another 100 plate appearances the rest of the season.

3. Rest won’t be a problem. One of the reasons the Yankees have been hesitant to play A-Rod in the field is fatigue. They don’t want him to get worn down throughout the season. That’s understandable, especially last year when he was playing so well. Nowadays the Yankees are straight up benching Rodriguez against righties, so they can schedule the starts at first in such a way that he’ll get the next day or two off because righties are on the mound. Fatigue isn’t much of a concern when you’re sitting three out of every four games anyway.

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I’m glad A-Rod will spend the break getting work in at first base. That the Yankees didn’t ask him to do it tells you Alex is motivated and looking to get back into the lineup however possible. I can’t say I’m optimistic this will lead to anything, but you never know. With Teixeira’s knee acting up, Rodriguez could be forced into first base duty at a moment’s notice in the second half. At least now playing him in the field might be an option rather than off the table completely.