Tuesday Links: Chapman, Jansen, CBA, GMS Field, AzFL

(Ezra Shaw/Getty)
(Ezra Shaw/Getty)

Pretty soon — as in 48 hours or less — the 2016 World Series will be over the offseason can officially begin. The free agent class is pretty weak, so I think we’re going to end up seeing a lot of trades this winter instead. That’s cool with me. Trades are much more fun. Anyway, I have some news and notes to pass along, so let’s get to them.

Yankees will target Chapman over Jansen

No surprise here: Jon Heyman says the Yankees are planning to target Aroldis Chapman in free agency before Kenley Jansen. Those two as well as Mark Melancon will hit the open market in the coming days now that the World Series is close to being complete. This upcoming free agent class kinda stinks, but there will be three high-end relievers available. Competition for them should be fierce.

A few weeks ago we heard the Yankees are planning to target a top reliever in free agency. I figured that would happen following the Chapman and Andrew Miller trades at midseason. The Yankees had the opportunity to flip those two for high-end prospects, then replenish the bullpen with free agents in the offseason. They did step one, now they have to do step two. Chapman won’t cost a draft pick plus the Yankees know him from his time in New York, so it’s no surprise he’s their Plan A. I prefer Jansen, but whatever.

MLB, MLBPA optimistic about finalizing new CBA

The current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires on December 1st, which isn’t all that far away now, and Joel Sherman hears MLB and the MLBPA have agreed to “very few key issues” so far. Both sides are optimistic about avoiding a work stoppage, however. “I’m optimistic as well. The good thing is everyone understands and appreciates the issues,” said union chief Tony Clark.

Apparently free agent draft pick compensation is a hot topic and many potential changes are being discussed, including eliminating the need to surrender a pick. The team that loses a qualified free agent would still receive a compensatory draft pick, but the signing team would get to keep their first rounder. Sherman also hears it’s possible the current rules could remain in effect this offseason before a new system kicks in next winter. As long as there’s no work stoppage, and I don’t think there will be, it’s cool with me.

Yankees renovating GMS Field

Yankee Stadium is not the only park getting a facelift this offseason. George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa is being renovated as well, the Yankees announced. The ballpark is getting $40M worth of upgrades that will bring new seating sections, a shaded cabana area, and a huge new gift shop. Construction started in August — High-A Tampa had to play all their postseason games on the road this year — and will be presumably completed in time for Spring Training.

“The renovations, which include an increased number of fan-friendly vantage points, social gathering spaces and shaded areas, will provide our guests with the modern amenities necessary for an exceptional game day experience. We are equally excited about furthering the Yankees’ commitment to the Tampa community and look forward to unveiling a beautiful facility for our fans to enjoy for years to come,” said Senior VP and CFO Tony Bruno in a statement. Neat. Here are renderings of the upgrades and construction photos, if you’re interested.

Torres, Tate selected for Fall Stars Game

Gleyber Torres and Dillon Tate were selected to participate in the Arizona Fall League’s Fall Star Game, the league announced. Here are East and West rosters. Torres is the best prospect in the game according to MLB.com’s top 100 list. He’s hitting .313/.421/.656 (187 wRC+) with three homers, six walks, and five strikeouts in nine AzFL games so far. Tate has a 3.86 ERA (5.24 FIP) in 9.1 relief innings with the Scottsdale Scorpions.

The Fall Stars Game is more of a prospect showcase than a true All-Star Game. They pick the biggest names each year regardless of their AzFL performance. Also, they don’t disrupt pitching schedules, which is why Tate and not James Kaprielian was selected to the roster. Kaprielian’s not scheduled to pitch the day of the game. The Fall Stars Game is this Saturday at 8pm ET. It’ll be broadcast on MLB Network and streamed live on MLB.com. It’s a good time.

2016 Minor League Coaching Staffs Announced

Pedrique. (Martin Griff/Times of Trenton)
Pedrique. (Martin Griff/Times of Trenton)

With Spring Training inching closer and closer, the Yankees have announced the field staffs for their various minor league affiliates. Minor league coaches are important! They’re the ones working most closely with the team’s prospects on a day-to-day basis. Here are the 2016 coaching staffs.

Triple-A Scranton

Manager: Al Pedrique
Hitting Coach: Tom Wilson
Pitching Coach: Tommy Phelps
Bullpen Coach: Jason Brown
Trainer: Darren London
Strength Coordinator: Brad Hyde
Video Coordinator: Tyler DeClerck

Almost the entire Triple-A coaching staff is new. Longtime manager Dave Miley was let go earlier this offseason, hitting coach Marcus Thames was promoted to the big league assistant hitting coach job, and pitching coach Scott Aldred was moved into a roving pitching coordinator role to replace the departed Gil Patterson.

Pedrique has climbed the ladder the last few seasons, going from High-A manager in 2014 to Double-A manager in 2015 to Triple-A manager in 2016. Phelps was the pitching coach at High-A last season after serving as the Double-A pitching coach from 2009-14. Wilson, the former MLB catcher, is moving into a coaching role after spending the last few seasons in the organization as a scout. Hyde was actually with the big league team last year as the assistant strength and conditioning director. He gets the head job in Triple-A.

Double-A Trenton

Manager: Bobby Mitchell
Hitting Coach: P.J. Pilittere
Pitching Coach: Jose Rosado
Defense Coach: Justin Tordi
Bullpen Coach: J.D. Closser
Trainer: Lee Meyer

Mitchell replaces Pedrique and is a new hire. He has big league coaching experience — he previously worked as an outfield and base-running coach with the Braves, Angels, Red Sox, Padres, and Expos — and has spent the last few years managing in Angels and Cubs minor league systems. Mitchell played 202 MLB games as an outfielder with the Dodgers and Twins from 1980-83.

Pilittere and Rosado return as hitting and pitching coach, respectively. Pilittere has long been an organizational favorite, dating back to his playing days as a catcher. Tordi moves down a level after serving as a defense coach with the RailRiders last year. Closser, the former big league catcher, moves up a level. He was the defense coach with High-A Tampa last summer.

High-A Tampa

Manager: Patrick Osborne
Hitting Coach: Tom Slater
Pitching Coach: Tim Norton
Defense Coach: Anthony Pacheco
Trainer: Michael Becker
Strength Coordinator: Jose Siara

It appears Osborne is a rising managerial star in the system. He joined the organization back in 2014 after managing in independent leagues, and he’s since climbed the managerial ranks from the Rookie Gulf Coast League (2014) to Short Season Staten Island (2015) to High-A Tampa (2016.) Norton, the former bullpen prospect, was the Low-A Charleston pitching coach last year. Slater rejoins the organization after holding various hitting coach/instructor positions from 2012-14. Pacheco has been promoted after working in the GCL last year.

Low-A Charleston

Manager: Luis Dorante
Hitting Coach: Greg Colbrunn
Pitching Coach: Justin Pope
Defense Coach: Travis Chapman
Catching Coach: Michel Hernandez
Trainer: Jimmy Downam
Strength Coordinator: Anthony Velazquez
Video Coordinator: Cody Cockrum

This will be Dorante’s third season as RiverDogs manager. Pope has been promoted after spending last year with the new Rookie Pulaski affiliate. Colbrunn returns to the RiverDogs — he was with the club from 2007-12 as their hitting coach and manager — after spending the 2013-15 seasons with the Red Sox. He was their big league hitting coach from 2013-14 and held another job in the organization in 2015. Colbrunn suffered a brain hemorrhage late in 2014 and stepped down as hitting coach so he could be closer to his family in Charleston, where he lives year round.

Hernandez seems to be the organization’s minor league catching guru. He signed with the Yankees as a player in 1998 after defecting from Cuba, and he appeared in five games with the 2003 Yankees before moving on to other organizations. Hernandez has been a coaching coordinator in the system for years and last season the club named him Double-A Trenton defense coach specifically to work with Gary Sanchez. Hernandez’s assignment to the RiverDogs may indicate the now healthy Luis Torrens will spend next season with Low-A Charleston.

Short Season Staten Island

Manager: Dave Bialas
Hitting Coach: Eric Duncan
Defense Coach: Teuris Oliveras

The SI Yanks didn’t announce their entire coaching staff, just those three names. Bialas managed High-A Tampa last season, so he and Osborne switched jobs. Duncan, the Yankees first round pick back in 2003, will be in his second season as Baby Bombers hitting coach. Farm system head Gary Denbo told Brendan Kuty he hopes Duncan will join the organization in a full-time capacity at some point. Right now he wants to stick with the short season leagues. Oliveras, like Duncan, is returning in the same role.

Rookie Pulaski

Manager: Tony Franklin
Hitting Coach: Edwar Gonzalez
Pitching Coach: Butch Henry
Defense Coach: Hector Rabago
Trainer: Josh DiLoreto
Strength Coordinator: Danny Russo
Video Coordinator: Nick Avanzato

Everyone on the staff was with Pulaski last season except Henry, who was the pitching coach with Short Season Staten Island. Longtime DotF readers will recognize Gonzalez and Rabago from their playing days in the system. Franklin, who managed Double-A Trenton from 2007-14, was moved down to Pulaski last year because Denbo wanted him working with the organization’s youngest prospects. During the first half of the season Franklin is something of a roving coach who travels to the different affiliates to work with players. He then joins Pulaski when the season starts in June.

Rookie Gulf Coast League Yankees

Up-to-date information on GCL coaching staffs is always tough to find — last year’s coaching staffs are still listed on MiLB.com — though Josh Norris did mention former big leaguer Armando Galarraga has joined the organization and will serve as pitching coach with one of the two GCL affiliates. You remember him from the botched perfect game. Galarraga retired as a player last year and was at the Winter Meetings looking for a coaching job in December, and apparently the Yankees hired him. He’s never been in the organization as a player to anything, so he must have impressed during the interview. Cool.

Minor League Notes: Hernandez, Coaching Staffs

Duncan is heading back to Staten Island. (AP)
Duncan is heading back to Staten Island. (AP)

Got some minor league notes to pass along, including an interesting (because of his story, not prospect potential) signing and the coaching staffs for the lower level affiliates.

Yankees Sign OF Robert Hernandez

According to Matt Eddy, the Yankees have signed outfielder Robert Hernandez to a minor league contract. He hit .264/.350/.358 with three doubles during a 20-game stint in winter ball in his native Venezuela this offseason. Hernandez is notable because he used to be a pitcher — he converted some time ago and is not trying to make it as a position player. Here’s more from Eddy:

… he worked as a pitcher in the Cubs system from 2006 through 2009, making it as far as low Class A Peoria as a starter, but he hasn’t played affiliated ball in any of the past five seasons. The obvious parallel for Hernandez is Diamondbacks outfielder David Peralta, who flamed out as a Cardinals pitcher, took three years off, toiled as an outfielder for two and half years in independent ball, then got noticed by Arizona scouts in 2013. Now he’s a big leaguer coming off a successful rookie campaign in 2014.

Hernandez played with a few current Yankees’ farmhands in winter ball, including UTIL Jose Pirela, so maybe the team liked what they saw as they were tracking their own players. He hasn’t played at all since 2009 — not in the minors, not in independent ball, not overseas, nothing — so obviously he’s an extreme long shot to make it. Either way, this is next level deep scouting. Hopefully Hernandez does well. It’ll be fun.

More Coaching Staffs Announced

Triple-A Scranton and Double-A Trenton announced their coaching staffs not too long ago, and the rest of the minor league affiliates followed suit these last few days. Here are the coaching staffs set to lead the lower levels this coming season.

A+ Tampa A- Charleston SS Staten Island Rk Pulaski
Manager Dave Bialas Luis Dorante Pat Osborne Tony Franklin
Hitting Coach Tom Slater Greg Colbrunn Ty Hawkins Edwar Gonzalez
Pitching Coach Tommy Phelps Tim Norton Butch Henry Justin Pope
Defensive Coach J.D. Closser Travis Chapman Eric Duncan Hector Rabago
Trainer Michael Becker Jimmy Downam ? Josh DiLoreto
Strength Coach Joe Siara Anthony Velazquez ? James Gonzalez

So, first things first, yes, Franklin will indeed be the manager for the team’s new rookie ball affiliate, the Pulaski Yankees. We recently heard he will serve as a “roving instructor” and travel to the various affiliates this summer to help out, but Matt Kardos confirmed Franklin will do the roving thing in the first half of the season before joining Pulaski when their season begins in late-June. Alrighty then.

Anyway, the most notable name among the coaching staffs is Eric Duncan, who was New York’s first round pick in the 2003 draft. He spent a few years in the system — the Yankees really rushed him up the ladder in an effort to boost his trade value (he was in Double-A four months after turning 20) — but eventually flamed out and retired after the 2012 season. Duncan spent the last three years getting his degree and is now getting into coaching. Neat.

Norton, Gonzalez, Pope, and Rabago are all recently retired Yankees’ farmhands. Norton had a ton of arm problems during his career. He flat out dominated with Double-A Trenton in 2011 (1.55 ERA and 2.42 FIP) was on the verge of a call-up to MLB when he hurt his shoulder again. That led to the team signing Cory Wade off the scrap heap — they had to replace the depth. Norton was the pitching coach in Staten Island last year.

Dorante is returning as manager of the River Dogs while Osborne is moving up from one of the rookie Gulf Coast League squads. Bialas just joined the organization and has been managing in the minors for over 30 years. He’s part of new farm system head Gary Denbo’s initiative to have veteran managers lead young players at the lower levels. Colbrunn is returning to Charleston after spending the 2013-14 season as the Red Sox’s hitting coach. He lives in Charleston and left the Sox because he wanted to be closer to his family. Colbrunn was with the River Dogs as either hitting coach or manager from 2007-12.

RHP Andy Beresford Retires

Beresford, the club’s 19th round pick out of UNLV in 2013, has decided to retire according to a message he posted on Instagram. The 24-year-old reliever had a 2.67 ERA with 54 strikeouts and 19 walks in 91 career innings, most with Low-A Charleston this past season. Beresford was suspended 50 games last August after testing positive for amphetamines.

Yankees back out of deal to move High-A affiliate from Tampa to Ocala

Rendering of the proposed ballpark in Ocala. (via WFTV)
Rendering of the proposed ballpark in Ocala. (via WFTV)

The Yankees have backed out of a deal that would have moved their High Class-A affiliate from Tampa to Ocala, reports WFTV Channel 9. Susan Latham Carr says the agreement is technically suspended until April, but it is unlikely to completed. Apparently the team withdrew their relocation plan after getting some resistance from the local community regarding a proposed tax hike that would have paid for a new ballpark. The city of Ocala is out the $300k it spent trying to woo the team.

“While we expected to bring the community together with this project, it has unfortunately become a source of division,” said Ocala City Council President John McLeod. “They were a little taken aback at the first county commission meeting where they were expecting a little bit more united support, and they didn’t get that. That’s politics. That’s the way things go sometimes.”

The Yankees have been looking to move their High-A affiliate out of Tampa for a while now and this isn’t the first relocation deal that has fallen through — a plan to move the club to Orlando fell apart back in 2010. The deal with Ocala, which was agreed to back in October, included a new $45M ballpark that would have been built in time for Opening Day 2016. A half-cent sales tax increase over the next ten years would have paid for the facility.

Relocating the High-A affiliate is all about finding a better and more lucrative market. The Florida State League has historically struggled with attendance and High-A Tampa averaged only 1,827 fans per game last season, fourth best in the league. They’re stuck competing with the Rays, the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning, and various collegiate sports. Moving the team a hundred or so miles north to Ocala would have eliminated some of that competition.

The Yankees will surely continue to look to relocate their High-A affiliate, but they are locked into Tampa for Spring Training. That isn’t changing no matter what. The team still has a 12 years left on a 30-year contract that will keep them in Steinbrenner Field for Spring Training and Grapefruit League play.

Yankees reach deal to move High-A affiliate from Tampa to Ocala

Via Susan Latham Carr: The Yankees have reached an agreement to relocate their High-A Florida State League affiliate out of Tampa and up the road a hundred miles or so to Ocala. We first heard the team was in talks with the city of Ocala last December, after plans with Orlando fell through. “I think it makes a lot of sense. It’s a good quality-of-life-type venue,” said Ocala mayor Kent Guinn.

The agreement is in place but the deal is not yet final. Staff will present the agreement to the Ocala City Council tomorrow, where they will also discuss plans for a new $45 million facility. The new building will be used for more than just baseball and will be paid for by a half-cent sales tax increase over the next ten years. The tax hike and several other things must be voted on before the deal is finalized. Preliminary polls show the public is in favor of the deal. If everything goes smoothly, the relocation could be complete in time for Opening Day 2016.

Josh Leventhal says the relocation of the High-A squad will not change anything regarding Spring Training. The Yankees still have 12 years remaining on a 30-year contract that locks them into Steinbrenner Field in Tampa for Spring Training. The Yankees are looking to move their High-A affiliate out of Tampa to improve the market. They currently have to compete with the Rays, the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning, and various collegiate sports. High-A Tampa averaged 1,827 fans per game this past season, fourth highest in the historically attendance-starved FSL.

Yankees hire Marcus Thames as High-A hitting coach

The Yankees have hired Marcus Thames as the hitting coach for their High-A Tampa affiliate, the club announced. He joins long-time manager and former Yankee Luis Sojo, the winningest manager in Florida State League history.

Thames, 35, last played with the Dodgers back in 2011. He was originally drafted by the Yankees back in 1996 and broke into the show with them in 2002, famously homering off Randy Johnson on the first pitch he saw as a big leaguer. He’s perhaps best remembered around these parts for being a force off the bench back in 2010 — .288/.350/.491 with a dozen homers. Thames is a super nice guy and incredibly easy to like, so I wish him well down in Tampa. Plus, you know, I get to link to this.

The Yankees don’t want the Yankees to be called the Yankees anymore

Via Paul Sokoloski, the Yankees have informed their minor league affiliates in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Tampa, and Staten Island that they want them to drop “Yankees” as their nickname. “There’s only one team they want as the Yankees,” said Jim Timlin, chairman of the Lackawanna County Stadium Authority board in Northeast Pennsylvania. “And they live in the Bronx.”

“It was a recommendation,” added Timlin. “We don’t have to listen to them. But it would be a good idea to go along with them. The Yankees, when they come back [to Scranton] in 2013, may have a different name. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre-something. The naming rights are up for grabs.” The Triple-A Scranton franchise will play all of their 2012 home games on the road as PNC Field undergoes $40M worth of renovations.

There’s something fishy going on here, no? The Yankees just offloaded their stake in the Staten Island franchise, and now asked them to change their name. Meanwhile, they’re purchasing the SWB franchise … and are still asking them to change their name. I’m sure there’s some weird legal reason behind it, but it just seems off from where I sit.