Archive for Mark Teixeira
Barring some kind of unexpected trade, the Yankees are not going to be able to replace Mark Teixeira‘s production while he is out with his wrist injury. Say what you want about his declining performance — you’re kidding yourself if you think he’ll be easy to replace because of his typically slow starts — he was far better than anyone reasonably available as an alternative. The Yankees will simply have to weather the storm and hope they don’t fall too far out of the AL East race while their first baseman (and center fielder) are on the shelf in April.
Given the in-house options, it seems like the best way to replace Teixeira is with a three-headed platoon. Kevin Youkilis is the common player here thanks to his ability to play either corner infield spot. Against righties, the Yankees could run with Youkilis at third and Dan Johnson at first. Against lefties, they could go with Youkilis at first and say, Ronnie Mustelier at third. Here are the numbers (from 2011-2012) for a real quick comparison:
- Johnson vs. RHP: .291/.409/.549 in 678 PA
- Youkilis vs. RHP: .227/.332/.395 in 719 PA
- Mustelier vs. LHP: .305/.357/.506 in 183 PA
- Youkilis vs. LHP: .294/.407/.528 in 307 PA
Johnson’s and Mustelier’s stats come from Minor League Central because they simply haven’t played much (or, in Ronnie’s case, at all) in the big leagues. That’s going to be a problem pretty much no matter who the Yankees choose to replace Teixeira — they won’t have much of a big league track record. Obviously Youkilis is a concern against right-handers, but we knew that at the time of his signing. Maybe his work with Kevin Long will improve that production, but I’m not counting on it.
Like it or not, Johnson’s and Mustelier’s performances will take a step back from those numbers with regular playing time in the show. If they could manage league average performances against pitchers of the opposite hand while Teixeira is on the shelf, I’d be thrilled. The Yankees would be getting approximately a league average performance from the two corners against righties and much better than that against lefties (thanks to Youkili)s. This is just offensively, remember. There’s no way to replace Tex’s defense.
Now that I think about it, it would probably be easier just to keep Youkilis at third the whole time and stick the defensively challenged Mustelier at first, but the Yankees like to make things unnecessarily complicated and this way they wouldn’t have to worry about teaching him a new position. If they want to keep Youkilis at third, they could use Juan Rivera at first against lefties. He has seen more time at first in camp lately and actually played more games there (54) than in the outfield last year (46). Jayson Nix is another right-handed option, but he’s a third baseman and more of a last resort than anything. Nice fill-in player but not someone worthy of a regular lineup spot, even against lefties.
The season starts in two weeks and two days, and right now I have absolutely no idea what the Yankees will do until Teixeira returns to the lineup. I’m guessing they don’t have a firm plan in place either, but are probably leaning one way or the other. That kinda scares me. First base is one of the most important (arguably the most important) position in terms of expected offensive production, and right now the Yankees are holding auditions for an injury fill-in(s). It seems like an easy spot to fill, but no obvious solution stands out right now.
Mark Teixeira will be sidelined for at least eight to ten weeks with a strained right wrist, the Yanks announced this afternoon. The first baseman will rest for four weeks before beginning rehab activities with a return expected by mid-May. For the power-starved Yankees, this development is a big blow to the team’s lineup.
With this injury, the Yankees’ 2013 Opening Day lineup will have at most three players who also appeared in the lineup on Opening Day last year, and such luminaries as Dan Johnson and Travis Hafner will be expected to pick up the offensive load. The Yanks’ April calendar isn’t an easy one, and pitching will now become that much more important. Hopefully, Tex won’t miss much more than the expected timeframe, but wrist injuries tend to both linger and sap hitters of their power.
9:48pm: Brian Cashman told Dan Barbarisi that Teixeira felt a “pop” in his wrist and he’s concerned because wrists are tricky. Either way, the first baseman will be shutdown for a minimum of two weeks.
6:27pm: The Yankees are officially calling it a right wrist sprain and say Teixeira will be evaluated by two doctors in New York tomorrow.
5:08pm: Danny Knobler says Teixeira has a strained forearm and will miss 7-10 days. The Yankees doctors still need to look at him though.
4:47pm: Jon Morosi confirms that Teixeira will indeed be removed from the Team USA roster. Apparently it’s more of a wrist/hand issue than a forearm issue, which is like ten times worse.
4:16pm: Mark Teixeira was been scratched from Team USA’s exhibition lineup this afternoon due to discomfort in his right forearm. Joe Girardi told reporters he felt it during batting practice and while x-rays are negative, he is headed for more tests with the Yankees doctors. There’s a decent chance he’ll be leaving the World Baseball Classic all together. It goes without saying how bad a serious injury to Teixeira would be. Fingers crossed.
Starting this week and continuing through the end of the Spring Training, we’re going to preview the Yankees position-by-position and on a couple of different levels.
The Yankees have only had four regular first baseman over the last 20 years, so the position has become pretty low-maintenance in the Bronx. That doesn’t make it any less important though, and this summer the club will have to rely on the most recent of those four first baseman to anchor their offense and be a steadying presence in the lineup. Robinson Cano is clearly the team’s best hitter, but he can’t do it all himself.
There’s no doubt Mark Teixeira is one of the most important Yankees heading into the 2013 season. The club lost quite a bit of offense this winter and will be without Curtis Granderson for the month of April, meaning they can’t afford another one of Teixeira’s customary slow starts — during his four years in the Bronx, Tex has hit .209/.336/.386 in April and .271/.361/.525 in the other five months of the season. Perhaps playing in the World Baseball Classic this spring will break that trend, but I’m not counting on it.
Teixeira, who will turn 33 a few days into the season, has all but abandoned any hope of getting back to being the all-fields hitter he was prior to the 2010 season. The short porch in right field was too enticing and he completely changed his approach as a left-handed hitter, opting to pull the ball in the air rather than just drive it wherever it was pitched. That approach is great for power but lousy for everything else, as the shift and routine fly balls have sapped his batting average and by extension, his on-base percentage. Teixeira tried to get back to hitting to all-fields last year and the result was a lot of weak fly balls the other way, so the damage to his left-handed swing is been done. He remains an above-average hitter (116 wRC+ in 2012) but is now just a one-dimensional one.
On the other side of the ball, Teixeira has few peers in the field and is one of baseball’s best defensive first baseman. His range actually kinda stinks thanks to his thick lower half and utter lack of foot speed, but he sucks up every ball he can reach and is as good a thrower as you’ll find at the position. The total package is an above-average player but not an elite one despite his salary, and Teixeira is aware of that. The Yankees desperately need him to stay healthy and be productive this summer.
With the bench still unsettled, Teixeira’s backup right now is third baseman Kevin Youkilis. Given the team’s lack of hot corner alternatives, I’m guessing the bench will feature a more clearly defined backup first baseman such as 33-year-old Dan Johnson or even 34-year-old Juan Rivera, who played more games at first (54) than in the outfield last year (46). Either way, Teixeira has been a lock for 155+ games played for most of his career and will be counted on for that many in 2013. There will be no platoons or experiments here, Teixeira is the guy. If he gets hurt and misses a few weeks, the drop-off between him and his replacement — or the replacement third baseman with Youkilis sliding over to first — is considerable.
Knocking on the Door
Johnson could either make the team or open the season in Triple-A — I don’t think either would be much of a surprise. If he does open the year on the bench in New York, 26-year-old Luke Murton would get the call as the regular first baseman for Triple-A Scranton. Matt’s little brother hit .249/.327/.464 (117 wRC+) with 25 homers in 526 plate appearances for Double-A Trenton last year, though he isn’t much of a prospect because he struggles against breaking balls and isn’t much of a defender. The righty hitting/righty throwing first baseman is one of baseball’s weakest historical profiles, so Murton is at an even greater disadvantage. He is technically knocking on the door of the big leagues since he’ll be with the Triple-A squad, but I wouldn’t expect to see him wearing pinstripes this year or any other year for that matter.
The Top Prospect
I didn’t rank a single first base prospect in my preseason top 30 list and that’s no accident. It’s a low priority position and very few players are actually drafted and developed as first baseman. Most move there from other more high-profile positions as a last resort. Prince Fielder is the most notable exception.
Anyway, New York’s best first base prospect — 20-year-old Greg Bird — has indeed moved to the position because he couldn’t handle catching full-time due to a back injury. The left-handed hitter owns a .307/.418/.446 (~159 wRC+) career batting line since signing for $1.1M as the team’s fifth round pick in 2011, but unfortunately that performance has come in only 122 plate appearances. Bird offers power and patience and he can really hit, but he’s going to have to keep producing since he’s already relegated to the lowest priority position before his 21st birthday.
The Deep Sleeper
As I said, there aren’t many first base prospects worth knowing throughout the game in general, nevermind in Yankees’ system. Bird is their best prospect at the position by a big margin, but last summer’s tenth round pick Matt Snyder could be a breakout candidate this summer. The 22-year-old hit .299/.397/.428 (147 wRC+) with more walks (26) than strikeouts (19) in 219 plate appearances for Short Season Staten Island last year, but therein lies the rub: his season ended prematurely because of a broke wrist. Wrist injuries tend to linger and impact power output for a year or so, meaning Snyder’s breakout potential is limited.
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The Yankees are setup well at first base with Teixeira, though his production has slipped and he’s no longer the two-way force he was earlier in his career. He’s more of a great complementary player than a cornerstone, which kinda sucks because there is still four years left on his contract. The team lacks first base prospects — specifically at the upper levels of the minor leagues — but that’s not really a big deal at this point. They are going to live and die with Teixeira for the foreseeable future thanks to his contract anyway.
Other Previews: Catchers
It was obvious Mark Teixeira‘s importance to the Yankees increased as soon as they made it clear they were willfully downgrading their offense. New York signed Teixeira to that fat eight-year contract — fourth largest contract in baseball history when it was signed — assuming he would anchor the middle of their lineup for years to come, but he simply hasn’t lived up to those expectations. Teixeira was great in 2009 but has faded in recent years.
Despite that fade, Teixeira has never actually been bad with the Yankees. Last year was his worst in the Bronx but he was still a comfortably above-average hitter, producing a .251/.332/.475 (116 wRC+) line with 24 homers in 123 games. That last number was the problem though, the games played. Outside of a quad-related DL trip back in 2007, Teixeira had been a lock for 150+ games played from 2005-2011. Last summer he missed a few days with a wrist issue and more than a month with a calf strain. Let’s not forget the early-season cough as well, which didn’t keep him on the sidelines in the traditional sense but surely impacted his production. If we go back to 2010, there was the broken toe in September and the hamstring strain that ended his season in Game Four of the ALCS.
Thanks to Curtis Granderson‘s injury, Teixeira’s importance to the Yankees has increased even more. They were able to withstand his declining production the last three years before their lineup (and bench) was deeper and better able to compensate. That’s not the case anymore. Derek Jeter is coming off his ankle surgery and both Kevin Youkilis and Travis Hafner are injury risks, meaning the lineup is even further at risk of losing its more productive players. The Yankees not only need Teixeira to stay on the field for 150+ games in 2013, but they also need him to halt his decline and improve on his offensive performance. Maybe being healthy instead of battling through a cough and a wrist problem and a calf strain will help him do that.
“Stay healthy and have fun. That’s my number one goal because I know if I stay healthy the numbers are going to be there,” said
Captain Obvious Teixeira to Mark Feinsand earlier in camp. “I’m going to help my team win. Have fun, because it’s a long season, there’s a lot of ups and downs and I’ve spent my entire career just trying to stay consistent. I know there are going to be low points, I know there are going to be high points. If I can have fun during both of those then I’ll be able to have a great season overall.”
Teixeira isn’t old, he’ll turn 33 about two weeks into the season. He plays a less-demanding/non-premium position and isn’t at an age where he’s at serious risk of falling off a cliff. His numbers — specifically his batting average and by extension, his on-base percentage — have declined because he’s gotten more pull/fly ball happy, and that’s not the best combination for maximizing offensive value. It’s been three years since Teixeira was the all-fields monster he was earlier in his career, so it’s time to stop expecting that guy to come back. Getting 150+ games of better than league average production, especially in the power department, out of Teixeira is the most important thing in 2013. If he continues to battle injury and/or sees his performance slip further, the Yankees will have a very hard time compensating.
It’s not often a ballplayer will talk openly and honestly about his performance, especially when he’s on the downside of his career. That’s why this great Dan Barbarisi piece on Mark Teixeira is a must read. Teixeira, who turns 33 in April, talks about being overpaid — “You’re not very valuable when you’re making $20 million. When you’re Mike Trout, making the minimum, you are crazy valuable.” — and how things aren’t as easy now as they were a few years ago. We all know Tex is on the decline, it’s been going on for several years now, but it’s refreshing to see him talk about it so candidly. Make sure you check it out.
Team USA announced its official roster for the World Baseball Classic earlier today (seen here), with Mark Teixeira being the only Yankee to make the squad. Andy Pettitte was reportedly going to participate in the event, but he is not on the final roster. Bob Klapisch explains that Pettitte’s exclusion may have to do with the insurance (or lack thereof) on his contract. Not gonna lie, I’m happy Andy will be the Yankees and not Team USA during Spring Training.
The remaining WBC rosters will be announced later this afternoon. Robinson Cano (Dominican Republic) and Frankie Cervelli (Italy) will participate in the tournament, and that’s expected to be it as far as 40-man roster players go.
Via Jon Heyman: Mark Teixeira will suit up for Team USA during the World Baseball Classic in March. He’ll be joined on the team by Andy Pettitte. Robinson Cano (Dominican Republic) and Frankie Cervelli (Italy) are also scheduled to play in the tournament.
Teixeira, 32, has a history of starting the regular season slowly, so maybe the WBC will help get him on track a little earlier than usual. Then again, I feel like we say something similar before every season. Those four guys are likely to be the only Yankees to play in the tournament unless David Robertson sneaks onto the USA roster, which will be officially announced on Thursday. I suppose Josh Spence could crack the Australia roster as well. Hiroki Kuroda and Ichiro Suzuki have already announced they will not play for Japan (the two-time defending WBC champs) while CC Sabathia, Derek Jeter, and Mariano Rivera are all coming off surgeries. I believe the club can prevent them from playing.
Baseball news is going to start to slow down in a day or two because of the holidays, and it won’t be until after the new year that things pick back up. Sure, there will be a move or three between Christmas and New Year’s, but GMs and agents and players tend to take it easy that week. Can’t really blame them, it’s a 24/7/365 profession and everyone needs a break at some point.
1. Now that R.A. Dickey has officially been traded to the Blue Jays, I sorta hate that I’m going to have to root against him. He was a blast to watch on the other side of town this season, and I don’t think he’ll have a ton of trouble switching leagues. Yes, the parks aren’t as friendly in the AL East, but he’ll still be well-above-average if not ace-caliber. Someone (I believe Bill Petti) has done recent research showing that the knuckleball removes some of the hitter’s skill from the equation in the pitcher-batter matchup, which would obviously serve Dickey well in the tougher league. The one real criticism I have of the Rays over the last few seasons is their unwillingness to make the big move to go for it, but we certainly can’t accuse the Blue Jays of that. The see an opening in the division and are going for it like hell.
2. So what changed about the Yankees’ evaluation of Russell Martin over the last 12 months? They offered him that three-year, $20M-something extension last offseason after the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (and incentives to get under the luxury tax) were in place, yet they wouldn’t go near the two-year, $17M deal he took from the Pirates a few weeks ago. Do they think his offense will continue to decline? That he’s not a safe bet to stay healthy the next two years given his big career workload? Is his defense not as good as advertised? The Yankees have passed on a ton of free agents over the years and for the most part you can understand why. With Martin, given the dearth of quality catching, it just makes no sense to pass on that price even with the 2014 payroll plan looming, especially since they were so willing to give Ichiro Suzuki two years. So weird.
3. This is worthy of a larger post later in the offseason, but is there a more important Yankees position player right now than Mark Teixeira? Given the offensive hits the team will take in right field and behind the plate (Derek Jeter is unlikely to hit .316/.362/.429 again as well), the Yankees badly need to Tex to halt his decline and get back to his 30+ homers, 125+ wRC+ ways. I’m not asking him to hit like he did from 2005-2009 (141 wRC+), but he needs to do better than a .332 OBP. Hopefully good health — remember, he had the cough and wrist issues in addition to the calf problem this past year — will help Teixeira improve his offense next season. The Yankees need him to be a middle of the lineup force again. It’s imperative.
4. Here’s the list of unsigned free agents; anyone in particular you want to see the Yankees sign before Spring Training? The big names are Michael Bourn and Scott Hairston and Shaun Marcum and A.J. Pierzynski and blah blah blah. I’m talking about someone off the beaten path, like infielder Ronny Cedeno (110 wRC+ vs. LHP in 2012) for the bench or right-hander Matt Lindstrom (2.85 ERA and 3.24 ERA from 2011-2012) for the bullpen. I’d love to see right-hander Tim Stauffer (3.15 ERA and 3.72 FIP from 2010-2011 before elbow surgery in 2012) on a minor league deal to stash in Triple-A for rotation depth. Any irrational favorites?
When the Yankees snuck up and signed Mark Teixeira out from under the Red Sox four winters ago, they thought they were getting an all-around switch-hitter with power, patience, and the ability to hit for average in addition to his great defense at first. They got that guy in 2009 and he helped them win the World Series, but Tex has been on a slow and steady decline since. Considering his age (32), it’s very fair to say that his performance decline was unexpected. He was supposed to have a number of peak-caliber years remaining when he signed.
Teixeira did acknowledge late last year that the short right field porch in Yankee Stadium had screwed him up a bit, as he became overly pull-conscious and tried to yank everything into the seats against right-handers. He came into Spring Training this year and said he intended to get back to hitting all fields, maybe even drop down a bunt or two to beat the shift. That never materialized though. Teixeira did start hitting the ball to all fields though, the only problem was that the hits didn’t fall in. He was hitting lazy fly balls to left, not line drives. In late-June, he told everyone he was going back to his pull-happy approach because going the other way wasn’t working. It was too little, too late.
Overall, Teixeira hit just .251/.332/.475 in 524 plate appearances this season. Not counting his rookie season of 2003, he set new career-lows in homers (24), walks (54), OBP (.332), SLG (.475), ISO (.224), OPS (.807), OPS+ (116), wRC+ (116), and fWAR (2.9). Ten qualified first baseman provided more offense (in terms of wRC+) this year. He did win a Gold Glove and a Fielding Bible Award for his still superlative defense, but the offense took another step backwards.
There are two very troubling aspects of Teixeira’s decline. One is the free-falling OBP, which has more to do with his inability to hit for average than his walk rate. He did draw a walk in 10.3% of his plate appearances this year, which is below his career average (11.4%) but not insanely so. It’s also still above the league average (8.0%). When all you hit is fly balls and pull the ball into the shift, a .250 BABIP and thus a low batting average isn’t unexpected. A .332 OBP from a first baseman is not something you expect to find on a contending team.
Secondly, Teixeira’s performance against right-handed pitchers continues to get worse. He hit just .239/.331/.438 against them this year, which is ridiculous. It’s a 108 wRC+ that is far out of line with his career average (127) and expectations. It’s not a fluke one-time thing either, Teixeira had a 111 wRC+ against righties last year, 116 the year before, and 143 the year before that. It’s a three-year trend in the wrong direction and it ain’t all BABIP luck either — his .243 BABIP as a left-handed batter this year was in line with his overall mark and again, it lines up with what you’d expect from a pull-happy fly ball hitter.
Whenever a team signs a player to an eight-year contract, they do it with the understanding that the last few years were going to be ugly. That said, I don’t think the Yankees expected a .332 OBP and a career-low 24 homers in year four of Teixeira’s eight-year contract when they signed him at age 28. When you see something like this…
…it’s very easy to get frustrated and annoyed with Teixeira’s production. He’s supposed to be a switch-hitting middle of the order threat, but right now does most of his damage on the short side of the platoon and probably fits best as a six-hole hitter.
A huge part of Teixeira’s value is his durability, especially as health has slowly become baseball’s sixth tool and most undervalued asset. Like I’ve said before, it’s not just about having the best players, it’s about having the best players stay on the field for the most games. Teixeira played in at least 155 games in four straight years and six times in seven years coming into 2012, but he managed a career-low 123 contests this season due to various ailments.
First, there was the cough. The unexplained cough that nagged Teixeira throughout the first two months of the season and required Joe Girardi to sit his first baseman for three consecutive games in mid-May. After seeing a number of specialists, Teixeira was eventually diagnosed with nerve damage to his vocal cords and started receiving treatment.
Secondly, there was the wrist. Teixeira originally hurt his left wrist on a swing in late-July but tried to play through it. That didn’t last long. The next day he further aggravating the injury diving after a ball on defense, and tests revealing inflammation in the wrist. He missed three games and returned to the lineup, but two weeks later the wrist was sore again. He missed another three games.
Then, finally, there was the calf. Teixeira first felt something pull in his left calf during a swing on August 27th, though he remained in the game to run the bases before being lifted. He was diagnosed with a Grade I strain that night and was slated to miss a week or two. Teixeira returned 12 days later and lasted just one game before re-injuring the calf, which happened as he ran out the final ground ball in the Jerry Meals blown call game. He missed another three weeks and returned just in time for the final series of the regular season.
It would be foolish to think that the injuries didn’t have some sort of impact on Teixeira’s performance this year, but I just don’t know how much. Like I said earlier, this wasn’t one down year offensively. He’s been trending in the wrong direction for three years now. Hopefully he can rebound a bit next year with the cough, wrist, and calf troubles behind him, but Teixeira’s steady decline from an all-around hitter to an all-or-nothing slugger has become a drain on the offense as a whole.