2013 Winter Meetings Day Two Open Thread

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

By Winter Meetings standards, Monday was pretty slow. Most of the top free agents have signed already, and until we get some resolution regarding Masahiro Tanaka, the pitching market will remain relatively quiet. The Yankees are still looking for a starter even after re-signing Hiroki Kuroda, plus they need some bullpen help and either a second or third baseman. Oh, and general depth. That’s always necessary.

Here are yesterday’s Yankees-related rumors. The most notable thing we learned is that New York’s asking price for Brett Gardner is “through (the) roof” while rival executives think he’ll fetch a number three starter at best. His value is greater to the Yankees than it is anyone else, really. We’ll keep track of the day’s rumors right here, so make sure you check back often. All times at ET.

  • 9:18am: The Yankees want to import two relievers and they’ve been discussing Joaquin Benoit internally. Matt looked at him earlier today. [Bob Nightengale]
  • 5:46pm: The Yankees have not yet shown much interest in left-hander Paul Maholm as a back of the rotation stopgap. [McCullough]
  • 5:39pm: Unsurprisingly, Ichiro has a “limited trade market, maybe very limited.” The Yankees want to move him and keep Gardner. [Heyman]
  • 3:00pm: The Yankees are one of three teams to inquire about Dustin Ackley. He’s a buy-low second base candidate. Like the idea but not sure how salvageable he is. [Jon Heyman]
  • 2:08pm: “Signing one might be easier than trading for one,” said Cashman, referring to the market for starting pitchers. Not surprising given the team’s trade chips. [Chad Jennings]
  • 1:57pm: Cashman confirmed other teams have inquired about Gary Sanchez, J.R. Murphy, and Ivan Nova in addition to Gardner and others. [Andy McCullough]
  • 1:49pm: “I have thrown a lot of trade proposals out there, as well as conversations with free agents,” said Cashman while adding he’s unsure if these talks will actually lead to anything. [Barbarisi]
  • 1:38pm: The Yankees have not had any trade talks about their spare outfielders (i.e. Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki) with the Giants. [John Shea]
  • 1:28pm: Brian Cashman called Kevin Youkilis‘ agent to gauge his interest in returning, but Youkilis wants to play closer to his home in California. Funny, I want him to do that too. [Jack Curry]
  • 12:17pm: The Yankees do have interest in re-signing Mark Reynolds. Alfonso Soriano is the team’s only right-handed power hitter, so Reynolds would fit in a limited role. [David Waldstein]
  • 11:52am: The Yankees and others have interest in Danny Espinosa, but the Nationals are balking at moving him right now. I looked at him as a buy-low target back in August. [Ken Rosenthal]
  • 11:45am: There is nothing going on between the Yankees and Mets about Daniel Murphy at the moment. I looked at him as a potential trade target last month. [Andrew Marchand]
  • 8:24am: The Yankees are “very much interested” in Michael Young and have also checked in on Juan Uribe, Eric Chavez, Matt Garza, and Ubaldo Jimenez. Talks with Garza and Ubaldo are not serious. [Erik Boland & Steven Marcus]
  • The Yankees did contact the Reds about Homer Bailey. It’s unclear what they were offering or what Cincinnati was seeking in return. Gardner makes an awful lot of sense here. Two underrated players both one year away from free agency and the Reds needs a leadoff man/center fielder. [Dan Barbarisi]
  • Other clubs do not think highly of New York’s outfield prospects and that limits their ability to make trades. “The Yankees have no upper-level talent,” said a Cubs official after the Yankees asked about Jeff Samardzija. [Joel Sherman]

Reminder: Your trade proposal sucks.

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147 players, 13 Yankees officially become free agents

As I mentioned this morning, eligible players officially became free agents at 9am ET this morning. They still have to wait five days to sign with new teams, however. The MLBPA released a list of all 147 free agents this afternoon, which you can check out right here. Among those 147 players are 13 Yankees: Robinson Cano, Joba Chamberlain, Curtis Granderson, Travis Hafner, Phil Hughes, Hiroki Kuroda, Boone Logan, Lyle Overbay, Andy Pettitte, Mark Reynolds, Mariano Rivera, Brendan Ryan, and Kevin Youkilis.

There are currently 28 players on the 40-man roster, though Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter, Corban Joseph, Jayson Nix, Francisco Cervelli, and CC Sabathia all have to be activated off the 60-day DL by Monday. So, in reality, there are 34 players on the 40-man.

Youkilis’ agent confirms no talks with Yankees about possible return

Via Anthony McCarron: Kevin Youkilis‘ agent Joe Bick confirmed he has not had any conversations with the Yankees regarding a potential return next season. It’s unclear if the team has any interest. “He’s fine,” said Bick when asked about his client’s back. “Had the Yankees made it to the postseason, there’s a pretty good chance he would’ve been ready to play.

Youkilis, 34, hit a weak .219/.305/.343 (78 wRC+) with two homers in 118 plate appearances this summer. He played only 28 games due to back problems, including season-ending surgery in early-June. The Yankees could actually use a player just like Youkilis, a right-handed hitter with (theoretical) power who can play the two corner infield positions, but I don’t see the point in a reunion. They had a better (and far cheaper) version in Mark Reynolds down the stretch. Given his history of back problems, New York shouldn’t consider bringing Youkilis back in 2014.

What Went Wrong: Kevin Youkilis

The 2013 season is over and now it’s time to review all aspects of the year that was, continuing today with an injury replacement who missed more days than the guy he replaced.

Quite possible the most useful thing Youkilis did in 2013. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Quite possibly the most useful thing Youkilis did in 2013. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Even though it happened five months before Opening Day, Alex Rodriguez‘s left hip injury and eventual surgery left the Yankees scrambling. They had just lost their starting third baseman and a middle of the order bat, two things that are tough to replace even in the dead of winter through free agency. With no obvious internal replacement, the team was left … well, scrambling.

The best available option was a familiar face and former bitter enemy. The Yankees wound up signing former Red Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis to a one-year contract worth $12M, and in the process he reportedly declined a two-year, $18M offer from the Indians to reunite with manager Terry Francona. It was a risky move given Youkilis’ history of back problems and declining production (103 wRC+ in 2012).

A monster Spring Training (.280/.339/.800 in 56 plate appearances) and stories of a revamped swing courtesy of hitting coach Kevin Long had pretty much everyone thinking Youkilis was primed to be a big contributor for New York. He was further away from his injuries and the Yankees had success with reclamation project hitters like Eric Chavez in recent years, so it wasn’t all blind faith. Just mostly blind faith.

When the season started, it looked very much like Youkilis had found the fountain of youth. Or at least a way to stave off age-related decline for the time being. He doubled on Opening day, had two hits the next game, doubled again in the third game, then homered in the fourth game. In his first nine games with New York, Youkilis went 14-for-33 (.424) with four doubles, two homers, (.727 SLG), three walks, and two hit-by-pitches (.500 OBP).

Obviously that’s not something you’d expect any player to sustain over a full season, but any fear Youkilis was just a washed up ex-Red Sox crony brought in for name value had started to be assuaged. Then, just a week later, Youkilis was sidelined with back stiffness. He missed a week before returning to the lineup at first base, and in his first game back, he slide into the bag on a defensive play and re-injured himself. The official diagnosis was a lumbar strain and it was much more severe this time around.

The play that re-injured Youkilis' back. (Mike Stobe/Getty)
The play that re-injured Youkilis’ back. (Mike Stobe/Getty)

Youkilis needed an epidural even though his MRI came back clean. He spent a month on the DL before returning in late-May, the same time as Mark Teixeira. Youkilis went a weak 6-for-41 (.146) with 13 strikeouts (28.3%) in eleven games after coming back before, yet again, his back started barking. Another lumbar strain landed him on the DL on June 14th, but just four days later the Yankees announced he needed season-ending surgery to correct whatever needed to be corrected. There was always a small chance Youkilis would get healthy in time to rejoin the team in late September and the postseason, but that never happened. Both the getting healthy part and the postseason part.

All told, Youkilis played in only 28 games and received 118 plate appearances this past season. A-Rod, the man he replaced, batted 181 times in 44 games after returning from hip surgery in August. David Adams even managed more games (43) and plate appearances (153) thank Youkilis after coming up from the minors in mid-May to serve as what amounted to the replacement for the replacement. For their $12 investment, the Yankees got a .219/.305/.343 (78 wRC+) batting line and an awful lot of medical bills out of Youkilis.

As I wrote in What Went Wrong: Injuries, it would have been surprising if Youkilis didn’t land on the DL at some point this season. Backs very rarely get better — ask David Wells or Randy Johnson, for example — at best they get more manageable. Youkilis had two back-related DL stints as well as several day-to-day type problems from 2010-2013, so the surgery was a long time coming. It seemed inevitable and the Yankees were left holding the cards when the time came. The team was in desperation mode after A-Rod’s injury and they wound up wasting a huge chunk of change for very, very little return.

What Went Wrong: Injuries

The 2013 season is over and we’ve had a week to catch our breath. It’s time to review the year that was, starting with the Yankees’ significant injuries. They pretty much defined the season.

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

Every single team deals with injuries every single year. It’s impossible to make it through the full 162-game season without losing players to injury, either nagging or severe. Injuries come with the territory and the Yankees had a lot of them in 2013. They didn’t use a franchise record 56 players out of the kindness of their heart — they lost roughly 1,400 man games to injury and used the Major League DL a ridiculous (and MLB-high) 28 times this season. If you wore pinstripes this summer, chances are you got hurt at one point or another.

For the most part, we can fit every injury into one of two categories: predictable and unpredictable. A player rolls his ankle running through first base? Unpredictable. Not necessarily surprising, it happens, but not something you’d expect. But a pitcher with a history of arm problems blowing out his elbow? Yeah that’s predictable. Some guys are so injury prone it’s a matter of when they’ll get hurt, not if. You want to think this is the year they’ll stay healthy — remember when being a full-time DH was supposed to keep Nick Johnson healthy? — but it very rarely is.

The Yankees had a ton of injuries this year, some more devastating than others. We’re not going to focus on the nagging day-to-day stuff or quick 15-day DL stints in this post. We’re going to look at the long-term injuries — both the predictable and unpredictable ones — meaning the guys who missed most or all of the regular season. I’m leaving Alex Rodriguez (left hip) out of this because we knew coming into the year he would be out until at least the All-Star break. I want to focus on the players everyone expected (or hoped) would be on the roster come Opening Day.

Predictable Injury: Derek Jeter
It all started last September, when Jeter fouled several pitches off his left ankle/foot and played through a bone bruise late in the season. In Game One of the ALCS, the ankle finally gave out and fractured. The Cap’n had surgery in October and the initial timetable had him on track for Spring Training and the start of the season. He’s Derek Jeter and he works harder than everyone, so he’ll make it back in time, right? Wrong.

Jeter’s progress in camp was deliberate as he nursed the ankle, and it wasn’t until mid-March that he appeared in his first Grapefruit League game. He played five exhibition games before needing a cortisone shot in the ankle and being ruled out for Opening Day. Here’s the timeline that followed:

  • March 31st: Yankees place Jeter on 15-day DL.
  • April 18th: Yankees announced Jeter suffered a setback — a second (and smaller) fracture in the ankle. He was not expected to return until the All-Star break.
  • April 27th: Jeter is transferred to the 60-day DL to clear a 40-man roster spot for Vidal Nuno.
  • July 11th: Yankees activate Jeter off DL. He goes 1-for-4 in his first game back but suffers a calf strain running out a ground ball.
  • July 23rd: Jeter is retroactively placed on the 15-day DL after the calf doesn’t respond to rest and treatment.
  • July 28th: Yankees activate Jeter. He plays five games before the calf starts acting up again.
  • August 5th: Jeter is retroactively placed on the 15-day DL (again) as rest and treatment doesn’t do the trick (again).
  • August 26th: Yankees activate Jeter. He plays 12 games before his surgically-repaired left ankle becomes sore.
  • September 11th: For the fourth time, Jeter is placed on the 15-day DL. The moved officially ends his season. Three days later, the Yankees transferred him to the 60-day DL to clear a 40-man roster spot for David Phelps.

Four DL trips for what amounts to three different leg injuries. Jeter appeared in only 17 of the team’s 162 games and looked pretty much nothing like himself, with little impact at the plate and close to zero mobility in the field. He was never the rangiest defender, but it was especially bad this season. When a 38-year-old shortstop — Jeter turned 39 in June — has a major ankle surgery, you have to expect there to be some delays and complications during the rehab process, even when he has a full offseason to rest.

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

Unpredictable Injury: Mark Teixeira
Up until last season, Teixeira was an iron man. He was good for 155+ games played a year every year, but various injuries (cough, wrist, calf) limited him to only 123 games in 2012. With the cough behind him and an offseason of rest for the calf, Teixeira was expected to be as good as new for this season. Then, while with Team USA preparing for the World Baseball Classic, he felt some discomfort in his right wrist and had to be shut down.

The soreness turned out to be a tendon sheath injury, which can be pretty severe if not allowed to heal properly. Teixeira and the Yankees opted for rehab because there was no reason not to — surgery, which was always a realistic possibility, would have ended his season anyway, so might as well try the rehab route first. He did the rest and rehab thing before rejoining the team on the final day of May. Teixeira appeared in 15 games before the wrist started acting up again. On July 3rd, he had the season-ending surgery. No one saw the wrist problem, which was described as a “wear-and-tear” injury, coming.

Predictable Injury: Kevin Youkilis
When it became official that A-Rod needed his hip surgery in early-December, the Yankees had to find a replacement everyday third baseman. The free agent market had little to offer, especially once Eric Chavez decided to move closer to home in Arizona. New York signed Youkilis to a one-year, $12M contract to replace Rodriguez despite his history of back problems.

Not counting four separate day-to-day bouts with spasms from 2008-2010, Youkilis spent time on the DL with back problems in both 2011 and 2012. That doesn’t include some nagging day-to-day stuff between the DL stints either. Sure enough, 17 games in the season, Youkilis’ back started barking. He missed a handful of games with tightness before aggravating the injury on a feet-first slide into first base on a defensive play. That sent him to the DL with a bulging disc. Youkilis returned in late-May and managed to play another eleven games before needing season-ending surgery to repair the damaged disc. For their $12M investment, the Yankees received 118 mostly ineffective plate appearances. Backs don’t get better, then just get worse.

Unpredictable Injuries: Curtis Granderson
Aside from Jeter and A-Rod having surgery in the offseason, the parade of injuries started in the first home game of Spring Training. On the fifth pitch of his first Grapefruit League at-bat, Granderson took a J.A. Happ fastball to the right forearm. Just like that, the Yankees had lost their top power hitter for three months with a broken arm. They’re lucky (in a sense) that the injury occurred so early in Spring Training and Granderson was able to return in mid-May, not much later in the season.

After returning from the DL in the team’s 39th game of the season, Granderson appeared in eight games before another errant pitch sent him to the sidelines. This time it was Rays left-hander Cesar Ramos who did the deed. The pitch broke Granderson’s left hand and would keep him out ten weeks even though the initial diagnosis called for a six-to-eight week recovery time. Curtis returned to the team in early-August and wound up playing in only 61 of the club’s 162 games. Hit-by-pitch injuries are the definition of unpredictable injuries.

(John Munson/Star-Ledger)
Pineda didn’t do much more than this in 2013. (John Munson/Star-Ledger)

Predictable Injury: Michael Pineda
Thanks to last May’s labrum surgery, Pineda was expected to miss the start of the 2013 season but be a factor in the second half. He started an official minor league rehab assignment in early-June and exhausted the full 30 days before the Yankees determined he was not big league ready. They optioned Pineda to Triple-A Scranton in early-July and less than a month later, he came down with shoulder tightness. Although tests came back clean, the tightness all but assured we wouldn’t see him in pinstripes for the second straight season. For what it’s worth, Brian Cashman said during his end-of-season press conference they shut Pineda down as a healthy player after more than a year of rehab and pitching just to get him rest. Given the nature of the injury, it was no surprise the right-hander was slow to return and ultimately a non-factor in 2013.

Unpredictable Injury: Frankie Cervelli
Thanks to some throwing improvement in Spring Training and the fact that Chris Stewart can’t hit, Cervelli took over as the team’s everyday catcher early in the season. He started 16 of the team’s first 22 games, but in that 16th start, Rajai Davis fouled off a pitch that hit Frankie square in his exposed right hand. His suffered a fracture and was expected to miss at least six weeks … until he suffered a stress reaction in his elbow during rehab. The stress reaction supposedly stemmed from a change in his throwing motion to compensate for the hand injury. Cervelli was suspended 50-games for his ties to Biogenesis in August but that really didn’t matter; the elbow injury had ended his season anyway. Catching is brutal, but a broken hand on a foul tip is still not something you can see coming.

Predictable Injury: Travis Hafner
You name it, and chances are it sent Hafner to the DL at some point in recent years. Most notably, he missed almost the entire 2008 season due to right shoulder surgery. The same shoulder started barking this summer, first in mid-May and then again mid-July. It’s probably not a coincidence his production completely tanked after the first bout with soreness. Hafner was placed on the DL in late-July and missed the rest of the season, for all intents and purposes. He was activated for the last few games of the season but only played in one. Pronk visited the DL seven times from 2008-2012, so it’s no surprise he wound up there in 2013.

Injury Updates: Kelley, Robertson, Youkilis

(Jared Wickerham/Getty)
(Jared Wickerham/Getty)

Boone Logan and his barking biceps — he described it as tightness in the back of his elbow — went for an MRI this morning but the results were not yet available when Joe Girardi spoke to the media before this afternoon’s game. As we wait for the update, here are some other injury info courtesy of Chad Jennings, Joel Sherman, and Andy McCullough:

  • Shawn Kelley (triceps) threw in the bullpen with no pain this morning. “Felt real good. Felt better than it has in a few months, actually,” he said. He could be available tomorrow.
  • David Robertson (shoulder) feels better, but he’s still going to rest for another 3-4 days before playing catch. He’ll then throw a bullpen session before rejoining the bullpen.
  • Kevin Youkilis (back) is hitting off a tee and soft toss. He’s heading to Tampa on Monday to play in simulated games and is shooting to rejoin the team in the final week of the season.

Injury Updates: Pineda, Phelps, Hafner, Youkilis

(Tod Shapiro/Flat Iron Hot! News)
(Tod Shapiro/Flat Iron Hot! News)

Got a bunch of injury updates, courtesy of Andy McCullough and Vin Mercogliano:

  • Michael Pineda (shoulder) is still just throwing bullpen sessions. He last pitched in a game one month and three days ago. Pretty obvious he won’t be joining the team this month, though I wonder if the Yankees will let Pineda play winter ball back home in the Dominican Republic in a few weeks.
  • David Phelps (forearm) has been playing catch and will throw his first bullpen session in the coming days. It would be nice to get him back as either a starter or reliever at some point, that won’t happen. Phelps won’t be back in time and rushing it would be foolish considering how important he figures to be to the luxury tax driven 2014 team.
  • Travis Hafner (shoulder) recently played in a simulated game but still isn’t quite ready to go just yet. I suppose he could make a quick rehab assignment pit stop with Double-A Trenton before rejoining the big league team for the last two weeks of the season or something.
  • Kevin Youkilis (back) has taken dry swings but nothing more. He recently had some more soreness in his back and had to slow down his rehab. Pretty much zero chance he returns to the team this month.
  • In case you missed it yesterday, Shawn Kelley (triceps) will be unavailable until at least next week and Zoilo Almonte (ankle) started a minor league rehab assignment.