Yankeemetrics: May 1-3 (Red Sox)

Number 660 for Al from Miami (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Number 660 for Al from Miami. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

The Not Milestone Home Run
Alex Rodriguez just doesn’t do normal. So it was hardly surprising when his 660th career home run on Friday night played out like a movie script: a pinch-hit, tie-breaking solo shot in the eighth inning that not only silenced the unremitting boos of the Fenway crowd but also lifted the Yankees to a critical win over the Red Sox.

Although he’s had his share of dramatic longballs in his career, this home run was far from predictable for A-Rod:

• Before Friday, he was 1-for-19 as a pinch-hitter (including the postseason) and that lone hit was a single in 2013. Of those 19 at-bats, only three times did he even hit the ball to the outfield.
• He swung away on a 3-0 pitch and hit just the third homer of his career on a 3-0 count. The others were in 2001 off Barry Zito and 2009 off Ervin Santana.
• The pitch that went over the Green Monster was a 94 mph fastball from Junichi Tazawa; prior to the homer, A-Rod was 1-for-13 in at-bats ending in pitches at least 94 mph this season.

Matching Willie Mays for fourth place on the all-time home run list wasn’t the only history that A-Rod made with that swing of the bat.

He also became the first Yankee to hit a go-ahead pinch-hit home run at Fenway since Johnny Blanchard in 1961. And the homer was his fourth against the Red Sox in the eighth inning or later that gave the Yankees the lead – twice as many as any other Yankee has hit in the last 50 years.

Evolution of Eovaldi
The Yankees clinched their fifth straight series win this season with a 4-2 victory against the Red Sox on Saturday afternoon. It’s also the fourth series in a row at Fenway Park that they’ve taken from the Red Sox.

Nathan Eovaldi turned in another strong outing by holding the Red Sox to just two runs while pitching into the seventh inning. For the first time all season, his four-seam fastball was a legit weapon, netting him 14 outs and allowing just two hits off the pitch. Entering the game, batters were hitting .481 in at-bats ending in his heater, the worst mark among all pitchers this season (min. 100 fastballs).

With Joe Girardi deciding to rest the official non-closer, Dellin Betances got his first save opportunity of the season and left no doubt that he could handle the pressure of closing out a game. He entered in the eighth inning and needed just 14 pitches to strike out all four batters he faced to secure the 4-2 win.

How impressive was that performance? Betances joined Goose Gossage (May 14, 1982) and Mariano Rivera (June 24, 2009) as the only Yankee relievers to record a save of at least four outs and strike out every batter he faced.

Brooms out in Beantown
The Yankees improved to 16-9 with a win on Sunday night, giving them their first series sweep of three-or-more games at Fenway Park since the epic five-game sweep in August 2006.

Jacoby Ellsbury is scorching hot right now and added four more hits on Sunday night, bringing his season batting average up to .351. He is the first Yankee outfielder to go 4-for-4 or better against the Red Sox since Dave Winfield in 1985. Ellsbury also walked and was hit by a pitch, becoming the first Yankee to reach base six times in a nine-inning game against Red Sox since Snuffy Stirnweiss in 1945.

Brett Gardner put the game out of reach with a three-run homer in the sixth inning to make it 8-0, the second straight day he plated three runs against Boston. He’s the first Yankee left fielder with back-to-back games of at least three RBI and two hits against the Red Sox since Mickey Mantle in 1966.

Despite a shaky ninth inning during which he loaded the bases, Andrew Miller pitched a scoreless frame for his 10th save in 10 tries this season. Miller is the second Yankee to convert his first 10 save opportunities with the team (since saves became an official stat in 1969), joining Tippy Martinez in 1975-1976.

email

5/1 to 5/3 Series Preview: Boston Red Sox

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

Time for another series against an AL East team. This will be the Yankees’ eighth series of the season and their sixth against a division rival. The only two non-AL East series were in the Detroit and the Subway Series last weekend. The Yankees are in Boston for three games against the Red Sox this weekend.

What Have The Red Sox Done Lately?

The Red Sox just took two of three from the Blue Jays at home, and it was their first series win in two weeks. Overall, Boston is 12-10 with a -10 run differential this season and a game back of the Yankees (13-9, +26 run differential) for first place in the AL East. It’s way too early to worry about that though.

Offense & Defense

As expected, the Red Sox have been one of the best offensive teams in baseball so far this season, averaging 5.14 runs per game. They only have a team 98 wRC+ though, mostly because their power hasn’t really shown up yet. They are currently without OF Shane Victorino (hamstring) and C Christian Vazquez (Tommy John surgery), neither of whom will return this series.

Sandoval. (Maddie Meyer/Getty)
Sandoval. (Maddie Meyer/Getty)

Manager John Farrell’s new-look middle of the lineup is anchored by OF Hanley Ramirez (165 wRC+), who already has ten homers on the season. OF Mookie Betts (84 wRC+) and 1B Mike Napoli (49 wRC+) are off to slow starts and DH David Ortiz (109 wRC+) hasn’t really gotten hot yet. 2B Dustin Pedroia (133 wRC+) and 3B Pablo Sandoval (136 wRC+) have fared well in the early going.

UTIL Brock Holt (174 wRC+) is the world’s most annoyingly productive utility player. OF Daniel Nava (7 wRC+), SS Xander Bogaerts (94 wRC+), C Ryan Hanigan (91 wRC+), and UTIL Allen Craig (-12 wRC+!) have been below-average thus far, in some cases substantially so. C Sandy Leon is the rarely used backup catcher. That Pedroia-Ortiz-Hanley-Sandoval middle of the order is dangerous. The rest of the lineup is navigable.

Defensively, the Red Sox seem to be either really good or really bad at each position. Hanigan, Pedroia, and Sandoval are excellent while Hanley and Nava are disasters. Obviously he’s new to the position, but man, Ramirez is as bad an outfielder as I’ve ever seen. Hit it to left field. Betts is good in center despite his inexperience thanks mostly to his athleticism. Bogaerts is error-prone at short and Napoli’s fine at first.

Pitching Matchups

Friday: LHP CC Sabathia (Career vs. BOS) vs. RHP Justin Masterson (Career vs. NYY)
The Red Sox rotation has been really, really bad. Even worse than expected (MLB worst 5.75 ERA). Masterson, 30, has a 5.16 ERA (3.57 FIP) and okay at best peripheral stats (20.0 K%, 9.0 BB%, 54.5 GB%, 0.40 HR/9) in four starts and 22.2 innings. As always, he has an extreme platoon split, holding righties to a .266 wOBA and lefties to a .347 wOBA. Joe Girardi has to load the lineup with lefties against Masterson, even if it means sitting Alex Rodriguez in favor of Garrett Jones. Masterson’s trademark sinker has lost a ton of velocity the last few years — the pitch averaged 91.7 mph in 2012, 91.1 mph in 2013, 88.5 mph in 2014, and now 86.5 mph in 2015. Yikes. He backs it up with an upper-70s slider he throws nearly 40% of the time nowadays. Masterson doesn’t have a changeup to speak of and he did not face the Yankees the last time these two teams met.

Saturday: RHP Nathan Eovaldi (Career vs. BOS) vs. LHP Wade Miley (Career vs. NYY)
Miley is a big reason Boston has such a poor rotation ERA. The 28-year-old has an 8.62 ERA (4.83 FIP) with more walks (14.9%) than strikeouts (13.5%) in four starts and 15.2 innings. His ground ball rate (43.4%) is a bit below-average and at some point his homer rate (0.57 HR/9) figures to climb in Fenway Park. Miley has a reverse platoon split so far this year (.419 vs. 339 wOBA in favor of lefties) but that’s a sample size issue and not in line with the rest of his career. Low-90s two and four-seamers are Miley’s main offerings, which he uses to set up mid-80s sliders and low-80s changeups. He tends to throw the two-seamer more than the four-seamer. The Yankees saw Miley at Yankee Stadium a few weeks ago and scored two runs in 5.1 innings against him.

Kelly. (Jim Rogash/Getty)
Kelly. (Jim Rogash/Getty)

Sunday: RHP Adam Warren (Career vs. BOS) vs. RHP Joe Kelly (Career vs. NYY)
Kelly, 26, has probably been the Red Sox’s most consistent pitcher so far this year. He has a 4.94 ERA (3.60 FIP) in four starts and 23.2 innings with a great strikeout rate (28.9%) and below-average walk (8.3%), grounder (42.4%), and homer (1.14 HR/9) numbers. Righties (.366 wOBA) have hit him much harder than lefties (.173 wOBA) and that’s a classic early-season sample size issue. Kelly has a big fastball, sitting in the mid-to-upper-90s with his two and four-seamers, though his mid-80s slider and mid-80s changeup lag. It’s no surprise he throws a fastball more than 70% of the time. Kelly held the Yankees to one hit and one run in seven innings earlier this month.

Bullpen Status
Like the Yankees, the Red Sox had an off-day yesterday, so their bullpen is fresh. Closer RHP Koji Uehara (1.75 FIP) either dominates or blows up spectacularly. There’s no middle ground and it’s been going on since last year. RHP Junichi Tazawa (3.83 FIP) is the primary setup man and probably the only other reliever Farrell truly trusts at this point. As bad as the rotation has been, the bullpen has a 4.03 ERA, which is also one of the worst marks in baseball.

The rest of Boston’s eight-man bullpen includes LHP Robbie Ross (5.53 FIP), LHP Craig Breslow (4.17 FIP), LHP Tommy Layne (2.74 FIP), RHP Edward Mujica (6.77 FIP), Alexi Ogando (3.60 FIP), and RHP Dalier Hinojosa. Hinojosa was just called up and his next appearance will be his MLB debut. Expect to see a lot of Ross, Breslow, and Layne this weekend. Teams know the Yankees are vulnerable against southpaws. Head over to our Bullpen Workload page for the status of the New York bullpen, then head over to Over The Monster for the latest and greatest on the Red Sox.

Yankeemetrics: April 10-12 (Red Sox)

Chase Headley, clutch Yankee. (Photo credit: Richard Perry/The New York Times
Chase Headley, clutch Yankee. (Photo: Richard Perry/New York Times)

I watched the entire game!
Three times a charm, right? Wrong.

In the series opener against their most-hated rival, the Yankees somehow erased three separate one-run deficits with their backs against the wall in the ninth, 16th and 18th innings – but could never get the big hit needed to complete the rally against the Red Sox. There are brutal losses, and then there’s the way that the Yankees lost in 19 innings on Friday night.

Let’s recap the craziness of this epic marathon in bullet-point form. First, some notes on the game length:

• It was the sixth game of at least 19 innings in franchise history and the first since a 5-4 19-inning win on August 25, 1976 against Minnesota.
• The only other time the Yankees lost a game that lasted at least 19 innings was a 3-2 loss in 19 innings on May 24, 1918 vs. Cleveland.
• The game was the longest the Yankees have ever played this early into the season (first four games).
• The Yankees and Red Sox have been playing each other since 1903. The only other game in the rivalry that lasted longer than this one was a 20-inning win on August 29, 1967.
• The game lasted six hours and 49 minutes, the longest game ever played by the Yankees in the Bronx. It was just shy of the longest game the Yankees have played anywhere, which was a seven-hour marathon at Detroit on June 24, 1962.

And now let’s put into context how improbable the clutch, game-saving hits were by Chase Headley, Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran:

• Headley became the first Yankee with a game-tying two-out homer in the ninth inning against the Red Sox since Roberto Kelly in 1991; the last Yankee to do that against Boston at Yankee Stadium was Roy White in 1977.
• Teixeira’s 16th inning homer is latest game-tying home run by an American League player since the Jim Finigan (Kansas City Athletics) tied the game in the 17th inning against the Senators in 1956. Before Tex, no Yankee had done it in at least the last 75 years.
• Beltran’s 18th inning game-tying double is the latest game-tying hit by an American League player since the Tom Paciorek’s single for the White Sox in the 21st inning against the Brewers in 1984.

Oh, and did you forget that Nathan Eovaldi actually started this game and pitched the first 5 2/3 innings? All he did was become the first pitcher in at least the last 100 years to throw at least two wild pitches and hit a batter in his Yankee debut. Good times, everyone.

The hangover
Red Sox starter Joe Kelly completely dominated the Yankees lineup on Saturday afternoon (W, 7 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 8 K), paving the way for an eventual 8-4 loss by the home team. He became the first Red Sox pitcher to allow no more than one hit and strikeout at least eight batters against the Yankees in a game at Yankee Stadium since Pedro Martinez’s one-hit, 17-strikeout gem on September 10, 1999.

Although the Yankees’ bats eventually woke up in the sixth game of the season (see below), but it’s worth noting how anemic the offense was through five games. Again, to the bullet-points:

Through five games, the Yankees…
• .622 OPS is their lowest since 1998 (.610)
• .280 OBP is their lowest since 1989 (.259)
• .193 BA is their lowest since 1968 (.176)
• 46 strikeouts are their most in at least the last 100 years

Seventh heaven
The Yankees wasted no time in getting on the scoreboard in the Sunday night finale, jumping out to a 7-0 lead in the first inning. It was the first time the Yankees scored at least seven runs in the first inning against the Red Sox since Aug. 15, 1954, when they took a 8-0 lead en route to a 14-9 victory at Yankee Stadium.

Prior to this game, not only had the Yankees never scored first in a game this season, they didn’t even have a hit in the first inning – the only the team in the majors that entered Sunday’s schedule without a first-inning hit.

The Yankees tagged Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz for 10 runs before he was pulled in the fourth inning. He is the only Red Sox pitcher to allow 10-or-more runs in fewer than four innings pitched against the Yankees over the last 100 years of the rivalry.

The Yankees broke out of their offensive slump in Sunday’s 14-4 win, but their sloppy glovework continued as they committed another error, bringing their league-leading total to nine after the first week of the season. Even worse, they have allowed at least one unearned run in each of their first six games, joining the 1995 White Sox as the only teams in the last 75 years to do that.

4/10 to 4/12 Series Preview: Boston Red Sox

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

One AL East rival leaves town and another comes in. The Red Sox will be in the Bronx for three games this weekend, including the ESPN Sunday Night Game. At least Saturday’s game won’t be on FOX. It ain’t all bad.

What Have The Red Sox Done Lately?

The Sawx drew the short straw and opened their season with a road interleague matchup against the awful Phillies. Boston took two of three in Philadelphia and outscored them 16-6 in the three games.

Offense & Defense

Like I said, Boston scored 16 runs in three games against the Phillies. Only five teams have scored more runs in the early going of the new season, which means not much, really. I’m not kidding when I say it’s early. The first series of the year isn’t definitive proof of anything. That said, everyone expects the Red Sox to hit this year. Here’s their lineup, their season performance to date, and their ZiPS projections:

2015 Performance 2015 ZiPS Projection
CF Mookie Betts
3-for-13 (.231), 1 HR .266/.336/.408 (109 wRC+)
2B Dustin Pedroia
3-for-12 (.250), 2 HR .278/.340/.392 (104 wRC+)
DH David Ortiz
1-for-7 (.143) .277/.363/.526 (139 wRC+)
LF Hanley Ramirez 4-for-13 (.308), 2 HR .271/.345/.455 (123 wRC+)
3B Pablo Sandoval
2-for-12 (.167) .279/.328/.454 (114 wRC+)
1B Mike Napoli
0-for-5 .241/.353/.441 (123 wRC+)
RF Shane Victorino
2-for-8 (.250), 1 SB .261/.317/.393 (98 wRC+)
C Ryan Hanigan
1-for-8 (.125) .240/.335/.333 (86 wRC+)
SS Xander Bogaerts
4-for-11 (.364) .263/.322/.409 (103 wRC+)

So yeah, everyone expects the Red Sox to hit and hit big this year, including the totally objective projection systems. Boston has at least three and maybe four guys who would qualify as the Yankees’ best hitter this season. They have power and on-base skills, mostly from the right side. Ortiz and the switch-hitting Sandoval are their only significant threats from the left side and Betts is their best stolen base threat at this point.

(Presswire)
Hanley. (Presswire)

On the bench, manager John Farrell has UTIL Allen Craig, UTIL Brock Holt, OF Daniel Nava, and C Sandy Leon. Leon was a last minute pickup in Spring Training after projected starting C Christian Vazquez blew out his elbow and needed Tommy John surgery. Holt can play anywhere and Nava, who can really hit righties, abandoned switch-hitting this spring and now bats exclusively from the left side. Craig is coming off a brutal 2013 season (69 wRC+) and is a square peg in a round roster hole. I have to think he’ll be traded at some point this summer.

Defensively, the Red Sox are strong on the infield and sketchy in the outfield. Pedroia and Sandoval and comfortably above-average at their positions and Napoli is strong around the bag, though not the rangiest at first. Bogaerts has skills but is maddeningly inconsistent. He’s error prone in the purest sense of the term. The outfield features two guys who have been full-time outfielders for less than a year (Hanley and Betts) and a 34-year-old coming off back surgery (Victorino). This isn’t a disaster outfield, but it’s not as good as the infield, for sure.

Pitching Matchups

Friday: RHP Nathan Eovaldi (Career vs. BOS) vs. LHP Wade Miley (Career vs. NYY)
Both Eovaldi and Miley will be making their first starts for their new teams later tonight. Miley, 28, came over from the Diamondbacks in the offseason after pitching to a 4.34 ERA (3.98 FIP) in 201.1 innings a year ago. His strikeout (21.1%) and home run (1.03 HR/9) rates were about average, his walk rate was below average (8.7%), and his ground ball rate was above average (51.1%). Miley didn’t have a platoon split at all — lefties had a .326 wOBA and righties had a .331 wOBA. The burly southpaw works in the low-90s with his two and four-seam fastballs, which he uses interchangeably, and he also throws a mid-80s slider and a low-80s changeup. Miley has pitched in Yankee Stadium before, allowing three runs in 6.2 innings with Arizona back in 2013.

Saturday: RHP Adam Warren (Career vs. BOS) vs. RHP Joe Kelly (Career vs. NYY)
The 26-year-old Kelly missed the end of Spring Training with a biceps problem, and he was originally expected to make a minor league rehab start this weekend, but Farrell told Scott Lauber yesterday they “are leaning towards” starting him against the Yankees tomorrow. Whatever. Kelly had a 4.20 ERA (4.37 FIP) in 96.1 innings split between the Cardinals and Red Sox last year, and only his ground ball (54.9%) and homer (0.74 HR/9) rates were better than average. His strikeout (15.9%) and walk (10.1%) rates were comfortably worse than average. He didn’t have much of a platoon split though (.318 vs. .307 wOBA in favor of righties). Kelly throws hard, sitting in the mid-90s with a two-seamer he uses as his main fastball. An upper-70s curveball is his go-to secondary pitch and he’ll also throw some low-80s changeups. If Kelly doesn’t start Saturday, it’ll be 30-year-old knuckeballer Steven Wright instead.

(Presswire)
Buchholz. (Presswire)

Sunday: RHP Masahiro Tanaka (Career vs. BOS) vs. RHP Clay Buchholz (Career vs. NYY)
So there will be plenty of rational discourse about Tanaka during the ESPN broadcast, right? Lol no. It’ll be awful. Anyway, the 30-year-old Buchholz held the punchless Phillies scoreless for seven innings on Opening Day, striking out nine and allowing just three hits and one walk. He had a 5.34 ERA (4.01 FIP) in 170.1 innings a year ago thanks to a below average strikeout rate (17.9%) and average-ish walk (7.3%), grounder (46.6%) and homer (0.90 HR/9) numbers. Lefties (.351 wOBA) hit him quite a bit harder (.308 wOBA) than righties. This is Clay Buchholz though, who knows what you’re going to get on a given night. Low-90s two and four-seamers and an upper-80s cutter set up his upper-70s curveball and low-80s changeup, both of which are legit swing-and-miss pitches on their best days. Even with the roster turnover the last year or so, the Yankees have seen quite a bit of Buchholz. He’s no stranger.

Bullpen Status
The Red Sox are without closer RHP Koji Uehara, who missed most of Spring Training with a hamstring injury and a subsequent setback. He’s still working his way back and won’t return this series. Farrell has said RHP Edward Mujica will take over ninth inning duties in the meantime. He threw eleven pitches in an inning of work last night. Middle innings lefties Craig Breslow and Tommy Layne also threw an inning each yesterday.

Mujica’s primary setup man is RHP Junichi Tazawa, who is quietly one of the better setup men in the game. He threw an inning on Opening Day and hasn’t pitched since. Ex-Rangers RHP Alexi Ogando and LHP Robbie Ross are Boston’s version of Justin Wilson and David Carpenter, but with less velocity. They each threw an inning Wednesday. RHP Anthony Varvaro is a Staten Island kid who is the quintessential “maybe he can more but probably not” middle reliever. He’s yet to pitch in the game this season. Wright is in the bullpen as well and I assume he’ll go to Triple-A to make room for Kelly. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the status of New York’s bullpen and Over the Monster for the latest and greatest on the Red Sox.

A New Era of Widespread AL East Mediocrity [2015 Season Preview]

For the first time since 2006 and only the fourth time since the wildcard system was implemented in 1995, just one AL East team qualified for the postseason last year. The AL East’s reign as baseball’s dominant division is over. The Orioles won the division by 12 games last season but there is no clear cut favorite heading into 2015. It’s just a jumbled mess of mediocrity. There’s a very real chance the division will be without a 90+ win team for the first time since the 2000 Yankees took the AL East with 87 wins. Here’s an overview of the Yankees’ division rivals heading into the new season.

"Hmmm. Who will win this terrible division?" (Presswire)
“Hmmm. Who will win this mediocre division?” (Presswire)

Baltimore Orioles

Biggest Strength: I say roster depth in general. They have five average or better starters — well, that’s with Kevin Gausman in the rotation and Ubaldo Jimenez in the bullpen — and a quality set of relievers to go with some power bats and a versatile bench. The defense is also very good, especially on the infield. And Buck Showalter is a difference-making manager. His strategic on-field moves are arguably the best in the game. On any given day, Baltimore can win with their pitching or their offense. They’re well-rounded.

Biggest Weakness: The lack of on-base guys — losing Nick Markakis will only exacerbate that — and injury issues. The O’s led baseball with 211 homers last year (the Rockies were a distant second with 186) but were only eighth with 705 runs because their team .311 OBP ranked 17th out of the 30 clubs. The O’s could easily lead MLB in homers again even without Nelson Cruz and that’s great. Homers are awesome! But they’re better when guys are on base.

As for the injury issues, both J.J. Hardy (shoulder) and Matt Wieters (Tommy John surgery) will open the season on the DL. Manny Machado is coming off right knee surgery and has already had surgery on both knees before his 23rd birthday. Will that hamper his mobility at third base? Machado’s an elite defender with a good but not great bat. Any decline in his defense will take a big bite out of his overall value. The starting catcher and left side of the infield carry health concerns.

The O’s In One Sentence: They lost some key players to free agency this past offseason, but there’s no way I’m going to write them off as a contender.

Hanley's back. (Presswire)
Hanley’s back. (Presswire)

Boston Red Sox

Biggest Strength: The offense. Hanley Ramirez is going to be a big help, even if he only plays 120 games. And even though Pablo Sandoval has gotten overrated — I’m guessing there are many fans who’ve only seen him play in the World Series and think that’s who he is all the time — Red Sox third basemen have hit .226/.280/.351 (85 OPS+) the last two years. He’ll be a big upgrade at the hot corner.

We have no idea what Mookie Betts and Rusney Castillo can do across a full MLB season yet, but expectations are high, especially for Betts. (They’re so insanely high at this point that there’s basically no way he can meet them.) Mike Napoli and David Ortiz are still annoyingly productive, and there’s at least some hope Dustin Pedroia can halt his decline now that his thumb’s healthy. The Red Sox are going to mash, especially at home.

Biggest Weakness: The rotation. My goodness. Forget the “they don’t have an ace” stuff. Do they even have two league average starters? Rick Porcello was quite good last year, with a 116 ERA+ in 204.2 innings, but Clay Buchholz had a 72 ERA+ in 170.1 innings. Justin Masterson has an 83 ERA+ in his last 528 innings (!) and those three miles an hour he lost off his fastball last year haven’t come back this spring. Wade Miley had an 86 ERA+ in 201.1 innings last year and Joe Kelly had a 91 ERA+ in 96.1 innings. Also, this group has combined for an 18.0% strikeout rate the last three years, so they miss a below average number of bats. Who’s going out there to stop a losing streak?

The Sawx In One Sentence: If the Red Sox are going to contend, they’ll have to contend like the mid-2000s Yankees and outhit their own pitching staff.

No. 2 starer. For real. (Presswire)
No. 2 starer. For real. (Presswire)

Tampa Bay Rays

Biggest Strength: I … I … I don’t know. I guess the revamped outfield defense with Kevin Kiermaier in center and Desmond Jennings in left? Otherwise the Rays don’t seem to be particularly good at anything. Evan Longoria is a really good player, Chris Archer is a quality starter, and the Jake McGee/Brad Boxberger bullpen duo is as good as it gets, at least once McGee comes back from offseason elbow surgery. That’s about it. Unlike the Orioles, who don’t have an obvious strength but are solid all around, the Rays don’t have an obvious strength and have questions all around.

Biggest Weakness: The rotation. Remember when the Rays used to add a new immediate impact rookie starter to their rotation year after year? That doesn’t happen anymore. They needed 24 starts from Roberto Hernandez in 2013 and 15 starts from Erik Bedard in 2014. Matt Moore (Tommy John surgery), Alex Cobb (forearm), and Drew Smyly (shoulder) are all hurt, so Tampa Bay had to scramble to trade for the extremely homer prone Erasmo Ramirez a few days ago and will start Nate Karns in the second game of the season. He had a 5.08 ERA in a full season at Triple-A last year. This rotation won’t be Devil Rays caliber bad, but it is in no way a strength.

The Rays In One Sentence: Ex-manager Joe Maddon and ex-GM Andrew Friedman jumped ship and not a moment too soon.

Reyes, Donaldson, and Encarnacion. And none of 'em is Toronto's best hitter. (Presswire)
Reyes, Donaldson, and Encarnacion. And none of ’em is Toronto’s best hitter. (Presswire)

Toronto Blue Jays

Biggest Strength: Middle of the lineup. The 3-4-5 combination of Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, and Josh Donaldson is straight up terrifying. They rank 10th, 11th, and 20th in OPS+ the last two years (min. 800 PA) and 7th, 2nd, and 18th in homers, respectively. Those three are going to generate a ton of runs, especially when Jose Reyes is healthy and leading off. Bautista and Encarnacion were scary enough these last few years. Adding Donaldson to the mix is unfair.

Biggest Weakness: Top heavy roster and extreme reliance on youth. Toronto is going to have two rookies in the rotation (Daniel Norris and Aaron Sanchez), two rookies in the lineup (Dalton Pompey and Devon Travis), and two rookies in the bullpen (Roberto Osuna and Miguel Castro). For a team looking to contend, they’re putting a lot of responsibility on the shoulders of young players with no real backup plans. Reyes, Bautista, Encarnacion, Donaldson, R.A. Dickey, and Mark Buehrle have to produce as expected for this club to have a chance. They don’t have the pieces to cover for a disappointing season from one of the veterans.

The Jays In One Sentence: Once again the Blue Jays made some big splashes in the offseason but stopped short of adding all the pieces they need, especially pitching.

Sanchez: Red Sox agree to deal with Yoan Moncada

(Jesse Sanchez)
(Jesse Sanchez)

10:43am: Brian Cashman told Dan Barbarisi the team made their “final and best offer” yesterday but were told by David Hastings, Moncada’s representative, it wasn’t good enough.

10:15am: The Yankees offered Moncada $25M and were willing to go to $27M, according to Sherman. So they were outbid by $4.5M, which is really $9M with the penalty. Though that assumes Boston wouldn’t have raised their offer. Either way, they bid just enough to not get him.

9:53am: Joel Sherman says Moncada is getting $31.5M. Add in the penalty and it’s $63M total.

9:12am: Once again, the Yankees did not sign a top Cuban free agent. Jesse Sanchez reports the Red Sox have agreed to sign 19-year-old infielder Yoan Moncada for a bonus in the $30M range. Including the tax for exceeding their bonus pool, the total investment is $60M up front.

The Yankees worked Moncada out privately three times, including twice last week. By all accounts the team loved his talent, so it seems they fell short financially, which is dumb. Hal Steinbrenner and the rest of the brass have been talking about building from within and yet they stopped short of signing a projected star.

The Yankees have not signed a top Cuban free agent since Jose Contreras more than a decade ago, and he blew up in their face. At some point they’re going to have to get back in the game though. They can’t ignore a talent source like that, especially since several top Cuban players have actually exceeded expectations (Jose Abreu and Yasiel Puig, specifically.)

Because they exceeded their spending pool last summer, the Yankees will not be able to sign an international player for more than $300,000 during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 signing periods. Moncada was basically their last chance to land a top international talent for nothing but money for another two years.

Bradford: Red Sox hire Yankees hitting coach candidate Chili Davis

Via Rob Bradford: The Red Sox are hiring Athletics hitting coach Chili Davis to be their new hitting coach. The Yankees interviewed Davis for the same role last week, so this takes him out of the running. New York also interviewed Rangers hitting coach Dave Magadan as well as some other unnamed candidates. They could name a new hitting coach as soon as Tuesday.