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.

What Went Wrong: Travis Hafner

The 2013 season is over and now it’s time to review all aspects of the year that was, continuing today with the designated hitter who didn’t hit (and got hurt).

(Patrick Smith/Getty)
(Patrick Smith/Getty)

Ever since Hideki Matsui was allowed to leave and Jorge Posada called it a career, the Yankee have tried to keep their DH spot open and use it as a way to keep their regulars both fresh — “half-days off,” as Joe Girardi calls it — and still in the lineup. With Derek Jeter likely coming back plus Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira (and soon enough, Robinson Cano) not going anywhere thanks to their long-term contracts, expect the team to continue the rotating DH approach for the foreseeable future.

Last year the Yankees signed Raul Ibanez to serve as the left-handed half of a DH platoon and that worked well enough as long as you’re willing to ignore everything before mid-September. This season the Bombers turned to another veteran lefty masher, this time former Indians slugger Travis Hafner. Unlike Ibanez, Hafner was both injury-prone and unable to play a position, even in an emergency. Still, at $2M guaranteed, it was a relatively low (financial) risk signing.

Early on, it appeared the Yankees had struck DH gold. Hafner mashed out of camp, starting the season with a seven-game hitting streak (9-for-23, .391) that included two mammoth homeruns. Pronk went on to hit four more homers with nearly as many walks (ten) as strikeouts (12) during the rest of April and he carried that performance right into May. On May 14th, through 37 team games, Hafner was hitting .260/.383/.510 (140 wRC+) and was the team’s second best hitter behind Cano.

As if on cue, right when things seemed to be going well for the Yankees, Hafner’s surgically repaired shoulder started barking. He received a cortisone short and missed four days with tendinitis, and he actually hit well immediately after returning, like 6-for-19 (.316) with a double and two homers well. That didn’t last though. Hafner crashed and crashed hard in late-May and never recovered. In 54 team games from May 27th — the start of the home-and-home series with the Mets, in case you were wondering — through July 26th, Pronk hit .154/.218/.265 with four homers, ten walks, and 44 strikeouts.


With his season batting line sitting at .205/.300/.384 (86 wRC+) through 293 plate appearances, the Yankees placed Hafner on the 15-day DL with a shoulder problem on July 27th. The move cleared a roster spot for Jeter. The bum shoulder kept Hafner out right until the final series of the season, when New York activated him only because he was healthy and they were obligated to activate him. He took an 0-for-4 (with two hit-by-pitches) in the final game of the season, his last act in pinstripes.

Including incentives, the Yankees paid Hafner a total of $3.125M for a .202/.301/.378 (86 wRC+) batting line with 12 homers in 299 plate appearances. He was brought in to mash right-handers, but he instead had no platoon split (88 vs. 85 wRC+ in favor of lefties). That’s a bad thing. Pronk did take advantage of the short porch in right field though, hitting .222/.300/.452 (100 wRC+) with eight of his dozen homers at Yankee Stadium. That was pretty much his only redeeming quality, taking advantage of the short porch.

The Yankees and Brian Cashman have made it very clear they prefer hitters who hit for power and are patient at the plate, two traits that Hafner most definitely offered (on paper). It’s hard to ignore how his performance went south immediately after the shoulder problem in May, so perhaps his dreadful showing for most of the summer can be blamed on injury. Then again, no one should have been surprised when Hafner got hurt. Like so many players this season, the Yankees asked Pronk to do more than he was capable of doing at this point in his career and they got burned.

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.

Update: Yankees activate Travis Hafner

Wednesday: The Yankees have indeed activated Hafner, the team announced. Sabathia was transferred to the 60-day DL to clear a 40-man roster spot.

Tuesday: Via Mark Feinsand: The Yankees are planning to activate Travis Hafner off the 60-day DL on Wednesday. They’ll have to make a 40-man roster move to accommodate him, but that won’t be an issue. CC Sabathia is a 60-day DL candidate thanks to his hamstring injury.

Hafner, 36, hasn’t played since late-July because of a shoulder injury. He hit .205/.300/.384 (86 wRC+) with 12 homers in 293 plate appearances before getting hurt. It’s an inconsequential move in the grand scheme of things, but teams can’t just leave a healthy player on the DL indefinitely. Welcome back, Pronk. Make yourself useful these last five games.

Game 145: Just Win

I don't know much, but I do know that Girardi could kick the ass of every other manager in baseball. (Greg Fiume/Getty)
I don’t know much, but I do know Girardi could kick the ass of every other manager. (Getty)

I think I’m going to have to go with the Just Win title for every game thread from now through the end of the regular season. Or at least until the Yankees are eliminated from postseason contention. The Bombers are in a bad spot right now, and while tonight’s game isn’t a literal must win — their wildcard tragic number is 17 — it is a must win for all intents and purposes. They have to start winning games and a lot of them. Five in a row, six of seven, nine of eleven, something like that. If not, they’re going home in 19 days. It’s that simple. Here’s the lineup Joe Girardi is running out there against Miguel Gonzalez:

  1. CF Brett Gardner
  2. 3B Alex Rodriguez
  3. 2B Robinson Cano
  4. LF Alfonso Soriano
  5. DH Curtis Granderson
  6. 1B Mark Reynolds
  7. RF Ichiro Suzuki
  8. SS Eduardo Nunez
  9. C Chris Stewart

And on the mound is right-hander Ivan Nova. The Red Sox ran him into the ground last time out, forcing him to throw 96 pitches in just four innings of work. Considering the state of the bullpen, that can’t happen again.

It is crazy hot in Baltimore. Crazy hot and crazy humid. July and August weather. There is no threat of rain though, so they’ll have no trouble getting this game in. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05pm ET and can be seen on YES My9 locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy.

Injury Updates: Derek Jeter (ankle) is in a “holding pattern” and has yet to resume any kind of baseball activity. Girardi said he’s pretty much day-to-day for the rest of the season … David Robertson (shoulder) threw an eleven-pitch bullpen session and felt fine. Sounds like he’ll be available tomorrow night as long as everything feels the way it should when he wakes up … Boone Logan (elbow, biceps) had an MRI and it is being sent to Dr. James Andrews for a second opinion.

Roster Update: The Yankees have re-signed left-hander Mike Zagurski and he is available tonight. He had a 3.08 ERA (2.78 FIP) in 26.1 relief innings for Triple-A Scranton before opting out of his contract a few weeks ago. I guess he never did find another team willing to give him a big league spot. Zagurski gives the team some extra lefty depth with Logan out. Travis Hafner (shoulder) was transferred to the 60-day DL to clear a 40-man roster spot.

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.

Injury Updates: Cano, Phelps, Pineda, Almonte

(Otto Greule Jr/Getty)
(Otto Greule Jr/Getty)

As we await the results of the MRI on Eduardo Nunez‘s right knee, here are some more injury updates courtesy of Mark Polishuk:

  • Robinson Cano (hand) received treatment yesterday but will not know if he can play in tomorrow’s series opener against the Orioles until he takes batting practice. “The swelling has decreased,” said Cano. “I’ll swing in the cage and see how it feels, try to get ready for batting practice. I would say during batting practice, I would know.”
  • David Phelps (forearm) has been working his way back from two different strains. “I think it’s pretty soon he’ll pick up a ball,” said Joe Girardi. There’s almost no chance Phelps will return this season if he hasn’t even started playing catch yet.
  • Michael Pineda (shoulder) has been throwing side sessions in Tampa. Yesterday we heard he had started throwing off flat ground, but that report was ten days old. My bad. Good to know he’s actually gotten back on a mound. At this point, it seems unlikely Pineda will join the team in September, which means he won’t qualify as a Super Two.
  • Zoilo Almonte (ankle) has started hitting off a tee and soft toss. There’s a chance he’ll be able to take regular batting practice by the end of the week. Almonte’s rehab was delayed because he had his wisdom teeth removed. This season, man.
  • Travis Hafner (shoulder) has also started hitting off a tee and soft toss. Like Almonte, he could start taking regular ol’ batting practice before the end of the week. Remember when he hit .318/.438/.667 (196 wRC+) in April? Good times.