Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2015 New Year’s Resolution for the Yankees’ franchise

Individuals pronounce resolutions every New Year’s Day, so why can’t an entity like the New York Yankees do it as well? Sure, I could create one for general manager Brian Cashman, or another for Hal and Hank Steinbrenner, but in the end they have to act as one collective unit in order to get back to being a continually successful (and by that I mean a playoff team) franchise.

So what should the Yankees’ resolution for 2015 be?

Stay the course -- even if it hurts at first.

It’s that simple really. The Yankees have begun to show they have a plan; one which encapsulates their financial might and an undeniable desire to grow a farm system which can produce talent ready for the show in the Bronx or to be used as trade chips to bring in young MLB-ready players with upside to New York.

The issue is the Yankees had a similar plan being developed two years ago. It was preached throughout the 2013 season; the franchise is done paying the luxury tax and will get below the measure for the 2014 season. Then the Yankees failed to reach the 2013 postseason. Ownership and Cashman caved and went balls-out ballistic on spending; almost $500 million in guarantees put the Yankees further away from that goal.

I’m not suggesting that by staying the course the Yankees should have their eyes on getting below the luxury tax. In fact, if any team can withstand the tax it’s the Yankees, but they must begin to spend their money a bit more wisely. This has started already.

The Yanks have shown some restraint as 2014 winds down, but they have still spent close to $100 million in guarantees (Andrew Miller and Chase Headley cost the Yanks $88 million alone). The difference is that none of these deals will hamper the Yankees future and moreover they will end with younger pieces hopefully ready to fill those spots.

In the past the Yankees threw money at the problem. They overpaid for players that have become and an issue as their contracts wind down. Some of them are coming to an end over the next couple of years. Mark Teixeira’s and Carlos Beltran’s contracts end in 2016; while CC Sabathia and Alex Rodriguez will come off the books by the end of 2017 (Sabathia has a buyout of $5 million or a vesting option for 2017).

They will probably encounter similar problems with Jacoby Ellsbury (ends in 2020 with a 2021 club option) and potentially Brian McCann (done as of 2018 with 2019 club option). Masahiro Tanaka can stick around until 2020, but can also opt out after the 2017 season.

Now, the Yankees seem to be measuring their financial outlays with an eye toward how it will affect them at the end of the deal. There will be certain contracts the Yankees can take on which will be nine-figure deals, but hopefully they’ll be with younger players reaching their prime and even better if they are players they develop on their own.

For 2015, the Yankees need to remain vigilant in staying the course, even if it hurts at first. If they’re "suffering" through another season swimming just above .500, the Yankees cannot reverse their path. They must continue to get younger, find more athletic players and become more versatile.

They should spend on the international market until the well dries up before the mid-year deadline. The Yanks might want to hold onto players like Luis Severino, Aaron Judge and Gregory Bird until they can make a mark in the Bronx. The Bombers can utilize system depth in areas such as catcher to bring in players to fill holes throughout the system.

Finally, the Yankees need to allow the young players to get their shot; a full shot. I have had enough with speculation about run of the mill second basemen like Gordon Beckham and Rickie Weeks. Why pay Stephen Drew a dime (he wants slightly more than that at $9-10 million) when they can play someone like Rob Refsnyder or even Jose Pirela both of whom have nice upside?

I’m also done listening to the need to fill the backend of the rotation with veterans who own no more talent than the young guys like Bryan Mitchell and Manny Banuelos possess. Did anyone think that Chase Whitley and Shane Greene would make a contribution in 2014? Well, they did. Both Mitchell and Banuelos (if he is indeed all the way back) maintain potential well beyond Greene or Whitley.

It’s not going to be easy. With players like Max Scherzer and James Shields still on the market, the Yankees will have their temptations. There might come a point in time that the Yanks can obtain a player via trade and whether it is before spring training or mid-season they need to stick with the plan. If that particular player is under contract beyond 2015, he must not be a hindrance at the end of it. Further, they cannot give away a player who projects to be helpful in the Bronx within a season or two.

Again, I’m not recommending the Yankees seal their wallets shut. I believe they can spend on the appropriate players, those with a bulk of their best days ahead of them, and still maintain a promising farm system (so losing a draft pick for Scherzer or Shields needs to be part of the equation). They can and should continue to spend on international talent until the rules hold them back.

In the end the Yankees need to build a new core. It does not have to be completely developed from within. The Core Four had plenty of complementary pieces throughout the years. A new core can be built via a combination of current talent, international prospects and shrewd acquisitions on the free-agent market or via trade.

The Yankees can win now, but maybe they won’t. And if they fail to reach the 2015 postseason, it doesn’t mean their strategy is wrong. In fact, it might simply mean that they’ll have to have the same exact resolution for 2016. Give it time and the New York Yankees can become a model franchise. Stay the course, even if it hurts at first.

Contract information courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer and sports media strategist. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports, the FanSided network, Sportsideo and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In. He is a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and the BYB Hub.



Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Yankees’ bullpen tinkering rolls on

The New York Yankees had one of the strongest bullpens in baseball in 2014, and if the trend continues in 2015, it will be with a markedly different looking set of players. With Monday’s trade of Shawn Kelley, the Yankees opened up another spot for a young reliever in 2015.

The Yankees seem to be set at the backend of the bullpen with Justin Wilson, Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances set to tackle the latter innings. Esmil Rogers and Adam Warren are holdovers from last season, but it remains to be seen in what capacity they’ll serve manager Joe Girardi, as both can be stretched out or used as one-inning middle relievers.

From there, the Yankees would need to fill two slots. They could stay in-house or surely the Yankees could sign players to minor league deals with spring training invites. Looking at how this offseason has transpired to date, I’d expect them to stay within the franchise to fill the roles.

There are a slew of capable arms on the 40-man roster roster, both from the standpoint of potential starters like Bryan Mitchell, Manny Banuelos and Chase Whitley who could also serve as a swingman similar to the role that David Phelps once handled.

The Yankees also have prototypical relievers on the 40-man roster; namely righties Branden Pinder, Danny Burawa, Jose Ramirez and newly acquired Gonzalez Germen, each of whom could fill roles and could break camp with a major league role if they wow the coaching staff in Tampa.

Whitley and German have the most major league experience of the seven players (75.2 and 64.2 IP respectively), but are still learning their way.

There are some intriguing options on the Triple-A roster including highly regarded lefty Jacob Lindgren as well as righty Nick Rumbelow and southpaw Tyler Webb. Veteran righty Andrew Bailey also sits in the wings still recuperating from shoulder surgery.

With two lefties on the major league roster in Miller and Wilson, it would seem the possibility of another lefty entering the picture right away to be slight even though the aforementioned vets can handle righties effectively. That could change over time with injury, performance or if Miller and Wilson continue to handle right-handed hitters without issue.

In my view, either Mitchell and Banuelos seem to fit better as starters while Ivan Nova continues to heal from Tommy John surgery. The Yankees signed Chris Capuano to a one-year deal and dealt for Nathan Eovaldi. They'll be given the opportunity to secure the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation respectively, but with the uncertainty surrounding CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda, there cannot be enough depth at the ready. Mitchell and Banuelos would provide that.

If left as starters each player could head back to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and remain stretched out in an effort to allow them to garner as many innings as possible to assist in furthering their growth and making them long-term rotation options. Of course, with the multiple injury issues the Yankees could encounter, both Mitchell and Banuelos could see plenty of time assuming they're performing adequately.

That makes Warren, Whitley and Rogers swingman options, though I personally like Warren and Rogers in a one-inning role. If I was to venture a guess, with all things being equal and barring injury/trades/signings, either Mitchell or Banuelos will fill the fifth starter role. Whitley will claim the swingman spot and either Bailey or German will snag the last role in the bullpen.

The good news is the Yankees have plenty of viable relief options. The bullpen is still an area of strength and maintains significant and promising depth.

What are your thoughts? How do you think the bullpen will shape up with the current crop of players? Let me know in the comments below.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer and sports media strategist. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports, the FanSided network, Sportsideo and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In. He is a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and the BYB Hub.



Sunday, December 28, 2014

Yankees lose old safety net in Kuroda

Hiroki Kuroda did the same thing he did each of the last two offseasons; he went home to Japan to contemplate what he’d do the following season. His previous decisions took time to formulate but Kuroda eventually opted to return to the Bronx. This time he's staying put in Japan as Kuroda signed with the Hiroshima Carp of the Nippon Professional Baseball league, the team he began his professional career with.

Kuroda had been the Yankees most consistent and durable pitcher since 2012, going 38-33 with a 3.44 ERA (3.68 FIP). He tossed 620 innings across 97 starts during his three years in New York. While pitchers continually went down with injuries in 2014, Kuroda, at 39-years-old, was the one constant.

The level of the Yankees' desire to re-sign Kuroda is uncertain as general manager Brian Cashman recently said that he’d been in touch with Kuroda but the pitcher had given no indication of his decision at the time. However, it became apparent that the Yankees might have moved forward without Kuroda in mind when they signed Chris Capuano and traded for Nathan Eovaldi.

I had felt that the Yankees might want to re-sign Kuroda in an effort to give them some veteran depth and someone who they thought could provide consistent innings. The price would not have been cheap but the term would have been short and given the breadth of injury issues that could beset the rotation, I believed Kuroda would have been a comfortable piece to rely on for durability.

It remains to be seen if Kuroda even gave the Yankees a thought this offseason knowing he was getting up there in age and that he'd eventually want to finish his career in Japan. With the Yankees in transition, it's not difficult to assume that Kuroda was not going to come back to the states without feeling that the team could win a championship.

Right now this is not that team. There are more questions than answers, and in my book losing Kuroda is hardly detrimental to the team's chances of a successful 2015. In fact, his presence might have adversely affected the progress of players like Bryan Mitchell and Manny Banuelos, who should get some time at the big league level this season.

In sticking with the mantra of youth over aging veterans the Yankees continue to defy the pessimists to their plans. Kuroda just made it easier on them by making the decision himself and not allowing the Yankees the tempation to sign a previously valued safety net.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer and sports media strategist. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports, the FanSided network, Sportsideo and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In. He is a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and the BYB Hub.



Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Yankees taking a “Long” time to hire hitting coach(es)

Remember how the New York Yankees HAD to move to fire someone after their second straight season missing the playoffs? And remember how Kevin Long was considered the main scapegoat after the Yankees persistently fielded fledgling former All-Stars and a slew of replacement level players in an ever-changing lineup? Well, Mr. Long now has a job with the crosstown Mets and the Yankees are still looking for his replacement.

Just how important is a hitting coach’s job? Or how important is it to the Yankees?

Look, in my view it’s an essential role within the organization, but don’t you get the feeling that the hitting coaches in the lower levels have a much larger impact on players than the ones at the major league level? Sure, major league hitting coaches work hard and they obviously know their craft, but how influential are they really?

Wouldn't it be fair to say that if the Yankees’ offense produced as expected in 2014, Long would still be manning the position? How much of the Yankees’ problems were because of Long? Didn’t he produce some extremely productive offenses during his tenure? Did his approach to his job change or did the players simply fail? The Mets seem to think they've got a good coach, hiring him shortly after the Yankees gave him the ax.

Long was there for his guys and each of them would verify that if asked. So, it’s hard not to see the hitting coach position as one that rides completely on the performance of the group it’s overseeing. If they succeed, the coach stays, and if they fail he’s gone. It really is the same for any coaching or managerial position.

The Yankees did try to move on the job quickly but had little luck. They had some discussions with Chili Davis who chose Boston, and passed after speaking with Dave Magadan, who eventually landed in Texas. They supposedly had interest in former Yankee Raul Ibanez who wants to stay home, and another former Pinstriper Eric Hinske decided to stay with the Cubs. Since then, the Yankees were rightly concentrating on filling the roster.

Now, the New York Post’s George King III reports that general manager Brian Cashman is waiting until January now to truly reflect on which way he wants to go with the role and if he wants to add an assistant hitting coach as well. I guess there really is no hurry.

None of this is to say the Yankees feel the role is unimportant but the offseason is about getting the roster together. Theoretically, if they went with one hitting coach, he should be able to work with whoever is in the batter’s box in Tampa when spring training begins. However, this team has seen an overhaul of sorts on the offensive side and now the Yankees might want to make sure the person they select is going to be able to work with the younger players like Rob Refsnyder, Jose Pirela and Didi Gregorius who will play prominent roles in 2015.

Or they can bring in a veteran coach to work with the older players and someone from the system to act as the assistant hitting coach who is familiar with the players who have come up the system. King notes that one veteran name being tossed around is Jeff Pentland who has held the position with five different major league clubs, and most recently was the Miami Marlin’s hitting coordinator. James Rowson, the Yankees’ current minor league hitting coordinator, has also been mentioned as that potential assistant hitting coach.

Whichever way it goes, we’ll be waiting until after the New Year to see the structure. And in the end if it is one or two coaches it doesn’t matter. The person(s) given the role will be at the mercy of the hitters.

Veterans like Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann will either bounce back or not. The young players like Refsnyder, Pirela and Gregorius will thrive quickly or not. Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury will either have consistently productive seasons or one with rampant streaks in both directions like last season. Whatever happens we know that fans and ultimately the front office will hold new hitting coach(es) accountable for the players’ ability to hit or not. It's that simple.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer and sports media strategist. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports, the FanSided network, Sportsideo and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In. He is a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and the BYB Hub.



Monday, December 22, 2014

Rob Refsnyder or Jose Pirela for Yankees’ second baseman?

Let’s assume that the New York Yankees are serious about having Rob Refsnyder and Jose Pirela battle it out in spring training to become the team's next starting second baseman. Who is better suited for the position if they both have reasonably similar spring performances?

Refsnyder comes with the prospect tag, ranking #6 on MLB.com’s top 20 Yankees' minor leaguers, while Pirela has done nothing but impress and steadily move himself along the organization, even breaching the big leagues last September.

At the plate, both Refsnyder and Pirela have been productive. Refsnyder slashed .300/.389/.456 with 19 doubles, eight homers and 33 RBIs in 333 plate appearances with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2014. He has a career slash of .297/.389/.444 in just over 1,300 minor league plate appearances. Refsynder is not a threat on the bases.

Pirela, in 581 plate appearances at Scranton in 2014, slashed .305/.351/.441 with  20 doubles, 11 triples and 10 home runs. He drove in 60 runs and scored 87. Pirela added 15 stolen bases (caught seven times). Across just under 3,500 plate appearances in the minors, Pirela owns a reasonable .273/.339/.391 line, though he’s had OPS marks of .804, .771 and .792 the last three seasons showing consistency and improvement compared with his first few seasons in the minors.

Per Steamer’s projections via FanGraphs, Refsnyder’s anticipated slash across 393 PA is .262/.328/.390 with eight HR and 1.7 fWAR, while Pirela’s estimate over 230 plate appearances is .259/.307/.381 with 4 home runs and 0.7 fWAR.

Refsnyder is still a work in progress at second base, and Pirela has more versatility in the field (he played 6 positions for SWB in 2014). It’s that versatility that could earn Pirela a spot in Triple-A, waiting for the first injury to beset the Yankees' infield. The Yankees' bench, barring any future moves, is set with Brendan Ryan, Garrett Jones, Chris Young and John Ryan Murphy. There doesn’t seem to be a spot for Pirela at the moment other than as the starting second baseman.

It’s hard to see Pirela doing so unless Refsynder is severely overmatched at the plate, or shows a genuine inability to man the keystone. Refsnyder was cemented to second base (he was a former outfielder) once Robinson Cano signed with the Seattle Mariners last season with the thought that the soon to be 24-year-old would one day be the Yankees starting second baseman. That time might have come.

Pirela would be at the ready if any of the position players go down (other than one of the catchers), or if Refsnyder experiences significant growing pains upon making the team. I don’t expect Refsnyder’s progress to slow. There isn't much in his profile which suggests he will.

Refsynder has excelled at each stop along the way and while he might not become a premier hitter like Cano, he could provide the Yankees with steady offense to offset any immediate fielding issues, and continue to grow into a better all-around player as time goes on.

So, it seems that trading Martin Prado and gaining Jones might have cost Pirela a utility spot and earned Refsynder a leg up on the second base job. It will be a very interesting spring training battle, one in which I expect Refsynder to lay claim to the role and not look back.

Photo courtesy of Tom Hagerty via Flickr.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer and sports media strategist. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports, the FanSided network, Sportsideo and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In. He is a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and the BYB Hub.



Friday, December 19, 2014

Yankees’ youth movement continues with trade

The New York Yankees announced Friday that they acquired RHP Nathan Eovaldi, INF/OF Garrett Jones and RHP Domingo German from the Miami Marlins in exchange for INF/OF Martin Prado, RHP David Phelps and cash.

The trade continues the Yankees trend of getting younger on the roster. Eovaldi is just 24 and German is 22. It seems to, for the moment, free up a battle for the second base job between Rob Refsnyder, who turns 24 in March, and Jose Pirela, 25. Earlier this offseason the Yankees received Didi Gregorius, 24, from the Arizona Diamondbacks via trade.


It’s hard to see the 31-year-old Prado go, but I’m very intrigued by the Refsnyder and Pirela angle here. The deal, at least for now, signifies the Yankees are interested in testing them out this season. Stay tuned on that front.

As for Eovaldi, he’s a hard thrower who gives up a good number of hits – 9.5 per nine innings pitched across 460 major league frames. He can touch 98 mph with his fastball, but he’s been beaten a lot by his changeup. Eno Sarris over at FanGraphs suggests here that he simply ditch the pitch and compares him a bit to Garrett Richards of the Los Angeles Angels. That’s good upside if the Yankees can figure out how to calm Eovaldi down when he's rattled, which has been an issue.

Losing Phelps is not such a big deal in my view. He was a swingman at best, and totally unspectacular. I’d rather see any innings he had coming to him delivered to Bryan Mitchell or Manny Banuelos.

In Jones the Yankees receive a bonafide backup first baseman for Mark Teixeira, something that was sorely missing in 2014. Jones has hit at least 15 home runs in each of the last six seasons and his lefty swing could thrive some in Yankee Stadium. Jones, 33, can also play right field which gives them additional protection for Carlos Beltran than Chris Young provides as the fourth outfielder.

Finally, the Yankees brought in a legit prospect to the mix in German. He excelled in 2014 at Single-A Greensboro making 25 starts (123.1 innings) with a 9-3 record, 2.48 ERA, 113 strikeouts and just 25 walks. MLB.com already lists German as the seventh best prospect in the Yankees system.

In all, I like the Yankees deal. It sticks with the theme of the offseason and that is to build a franchise with strategic free-agent signings while infusing the roster and system with youth. They receive some help for the rotation, open up some space for prospects already in the organization and added to a farm system that is slowly but surely becoming better.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer and sports media strategist. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports, the FanSided network, Sportsideo and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In. He is a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and the BYB Hub.



Good news: Randy Levine says Yankees unlikely to add lavish salary

We’ve heard that the New York Yankees would not spend lavishly this offseason quite frequently from general manager Brian Cashman, and Thursday the Bombers’ president Randy Levine echoed those statements in an interview with Newsday’s David Lennon.

"We're always out there looking, but it has to be tempered by the reality of the organization," Levine said. "You look at our pitching staff, for example. We have two guys who make a lot of money, so you have to build around them. The chances of us bringing in another guy who makes $25 million or over are, in my opinion, virtually none."

It’s hard for me to understand why this is such a big deal to fans. So the Yankees decide to try to become somewhat more responsible with their money and some of the “faithful” are beckoning for George Steinbrenner to return from the grave.

The key word in the Yankees' mantra this offseason is “lavishly” not “cheap.” The Yankees have already spent $95.5 million this offseason on just four free-agents according to MLB Trade Rumors' free-agent tracker. Of that total, $88 million was guaranteed for Andrew Miller and Chase Headley alone. Not exactly chump change.

Further, the Yankees are not finished spending on the 2015 roster. They could certainly swing a trade for a starter which would end up costing them more money, or maybe they’ll fill another rotation spot by signing Hiroki Kuroda (who would cost them around $15 million or more). If not Kuroda, then it’s not difficult to believe the Yankees will sign someone to add some depth to their rotation before spring training.

No, this is not a franchise that is going to stop spending but rather one that is going to spend with a bit more of a glimpse into what the contract will look like at the backend. This was not the case when they dumped truck loads of dough for Alex Rodriguez, CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira. They might not have cared about the backend of a deal as recently as their signings of Brian McCann and Jacoby Ellsbury.

Those deals were predicated on winning right away and fielding teams that were "instant" contenders. The Yankees have missed the playoffs two seasons in a row while spending over $400 million in player’s salaries and guarantying close to $500 million more last season alone.

Understand that the Yankees do not simply pay a high price for major league players. The Yanks spend more on minor league contracts, out-bidding other teams for players they believe have upside by offering them large minor league deals that other clubs simply cannot afford. Additionally, the Yanks have doled out almost $29 million in signing bonuses/penalties on the international market simply because they could withstand the penalties to do so, and their front office staff was wise enough to know that there could be an international draft sooner rather than later.

See, the Yankees are not all of the sudden going to turn into a low-budget franchise. But, they’re certainly trying to pick and choose who they give long-term and lucrative agreements to in the future. It seems that they are not going to drop nine-figure salaries on players who have crossed the 30-year-old mark, or those who they feel will deteriorate quicker than the contract ends. They might have finally learned their lesson.

I fully believe the Yankees feel that they have a special group of talented players coming through the system that they can use in the majors beginning as early as this season, and that they will want to cultivate more of those players in the future. The theory then becomes one which revolves around paying those in the organization to stay for years to come. The Yankees seem to be trying to build a new core to grow with.

None of this suggests that the Yankees will not sign a free agent to a nine-figure salary again. Nor does it mean that the Yankees won’t back peddle and go after Max Scherzer or James Shields. But, everything they’ve done to date indicates that they’re doing their best to be prudent with their payroll. Hearing Levine say it almost solidifies that ownership is on-board with Cashman. This way of conducting business will benefit the Yankees long-term and fans might just have to “suffer” in the meantime.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer and sports media strategist. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports, the FanSided network, Sportsideo and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In. He is a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and the BYB Hub.



Thursday, December 18, 2014

Yankees don't need a "proven" closer

The New York Yankees currently possess an area of strength, potentially their only one at the present time, in their bullpen. With the addition of Andrew Miller and Justin Wilson to the fold, combined with the return of Dellin Betances, the Bombers have a very strong back end of the bullpen. You know what? The front end is pretty good too.

Add Shawn Kelley, Adam Warren (I’m not buying the starting rotation talk for him) Esmil Rogers (or the loser of the fifth starter role) and potentially add Jacob Lindgren to the mix and the Yankees don’t have any holes in the pen as far as I’m concerned.

Sure, there isn’t a player who has been a full-time closer but there are two guys in Miller and Betances who certainly have the stuff and the demeanor to close games. Perhaps Yankees manager Joe Girardi uses them in a split role allowing him to march one or the other out based on the circumstances of the game. Or maybe Girardi will simply come to camp and see who looks best in the ninth inning and name a closer for Opening Day. I’d have no issue with either of those deployment options.

There is rampant speculation that the Yankees will look at some relievers with closing experience. Some believe the Yankees NEED a proven closer. Guys like Jason Grilli, Rafael Soriano, Casey Janssen and Francisco Rodriguez are mentioned frequently as veterans who could simply come in and take over the closer role.

It’s enticing to think that Miller and Betances could cover the seventh and eighth innings for sure, but none of those “tested” closers are a sure thing. Further, not one of them is better than Miller or Betances. And each of them could surely add overpriced salary to an already expensive team.

Having saves under one’s belt does not make them the most qualified person to close out games. Talent and performance, shown at the moment, does. The Yankees have that right now with two different players.

And more so, the Yankees possess a veteran presence as well as up and coming talent littered in the system for added depth. They each area covered; closer, setup, middle relief and swingman. There is no need to add a "grizzled" veteran to the mix in my view. The Yankees can spend the extra cash for the starter they DO need and utilize the current crop of relief arms assembled to hold down the bullpen.

Photo courtesy of Keith Allison via Flickr.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer and sports media strategist. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports, the FanSided network, Sportsideo and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In. He is a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and the BYB Hub.



Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Capuano signing signals Yankees intent to wing it

The New York Yankees agreed to terms with left-handed starter Chris Capuano on a one-year, $5 million contract for the 2015 season Tuesday according YES Network's Jack Curry via Twitter. The deal has not been officially announced by the team.

This is not exactly what some Yankees fans were looking for, but it does indicate that the club might be intent on winging it when it comes to fielding a rotation for the 2015 season.

With CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and Ivan Nova all suspect to injury the Yankees figured to build a good deal of rotation depth during the offseason, but many hoped it would center around a deal for Jon Lester, Max Scherzer or James Shields. That’s looking more and more like a pipe dream with Lester already signed with the Chicago Cubs and Yankees general manager Brian Cashman suggesting that Scherzer’s contract wishes are too rich.

“I don’t think the pricier stuff is realistic in this particular year,” Cashman said as reported by Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News. “I’m open to any legitimate opportunities that present themselves.”

For the most part it seems like the Yankees are hedging their bets on the injury-riddled returning crew, hoping to get the most out of their potential upside and back it up with stopgap contracts like Capuano’s and those already in the system.

By adding Capuano, the Yankees figure to have him, David Phelps, Adam Warren, Bryan Mitchell and maybe even Manny Banuelos fight it out for the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation. Nova will not be ready to pitch until sometime in late May after Tommy John surgery last season. There is certainly still room for another starter and it would not shock me if the Yankees grabbed one more arm, if not a few more arms by adding some minor league contracts with spring training invites attached to the mix as well.

Ever since the Yankees started to really show signs of steering clear of Lester and Scherzer, I figured they would practically beg Hiroki Kuroda to come back for another season. Kuroda has been the most consistent and durable starter for the Yankees over the last three seasons (38-33, 3.44 ERA, 3.68 FIP across 620 innings).

Kuroda won’t come cheap, but he also does not have a long-term commitment to be concerned about and frankly he is arguably the best pitcher available on the thin free-agent market right now not named Scherzer or Shields. At this point, if Kuroda wants to pitch, it's not hard to see him doing so for the Yankees.

Could the Yankees jump in on Scherzer or Shields down the road? Of course they could and the player’s agents will do everything they can to engage the Yankees in talks. But, more and more it looks like a nine-figure salary won’t be handed out in the Bronx this offseason.

What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments below.

Logo courtesy of SportsLogos.net.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer and sports media strategist. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports, the FanSided network, Sportsideo and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In. He is a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and the BYB Hub.



Monday, December 15, 2014

Yankees choose stability with Chase Headley

According to multiple reports first noted by FOXSports’ Ken Rosenthal, third baseman Chase Headley will be signing with the New York Yankees for four-years worth $52 million per a tweet from CBSSports’ Jon Heyman. The deal is pending a physical. The Bombers were adamant about their desire to re-sign Headley from the moment the season ended and while it might have cost more than initially suspected, the deal is a good one for the Yankees.

Headley was dealt to the Yankees in July and showed some life at the plate after a rough time in San Diego. With the Bombers, Headley posted a .262/.371/.398 slash line with six home runs in 224 plate appearances. His defense at third base was spectacular and it is a big reason the Yankees are settling on Headley. Headley posted a UZR/150 of 28.0 at the hot corner in 2014 and carries a 10.8 mark at third base over his career.

Headley’s market value seemed to grow once Pablo Sandoval signed a 5-year, $95 million deal with the Boston Red Sox. There was said to be a four-year, $65 million deal on the table for Headley, which over time was being doubted. The San Francisco Giants were also said to be in pursuit of Headley’s services.

Signing Headley means the Yankees will move Martin Prado to second base giving some veteran presence around newly minted shortstop Didi Gregorius who was acquired in a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks. It also allows the Yankees to give prospect Rob Refsnyder a full season at Triple-A (barring injuries) and likely will provide Jose Pirela with a utility role in New York. I believe in the end, the Yankees were not exactly overly excited about a Pirela/Refsnyder battle for second base so long as they could get Headley.

In my view signing Headley provides the Yankees with some stability at third base and I firmly believe that Headley's bat will provide dividends in the Bronx. He may not hit 31 home runs again, but 20 is not out of the question in my opinion.

The signing also means the Yankees can begin to focus on the rotation which is in need of one, if not two starting pitchers. The market is fairly thin here so it remains to seen where the Yankees will look to fill the voids. They have checked in on Hiroki Kuroda, but he is said to still be unsure of his plans to pitch in 2015 and Brandon McCarthy recently agreed to a four-year $48 million deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Yankees are said to be showing little to no interest in signing Max Scherzer or James Shields at this time. After Scherzer and Shields, the free agent pitching market is very thin.

As for the trade market, Cole Hamels tops the list at the moment, but it remains to be seen if the Yankees have the talent required to nab him. Others available are Jordan Zimmermann (would pose Yanks similar issue as Hamels) or Doug Fister both of the Washington Nationals.

As I mentioned earlier today, I believe signing Headley was the best infield option for the Yankees even though I had said a three-year, $39 million deal might get the job done back in September. It seems that each multiyear deal this offseason has gone one year longer than might be initially desired by teams. That seems to be the case with Headley.

Are you happy with the Headley deal? Let me know in the comments below.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer and sports media strategist. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports, the FanSided network, Sportsideo and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In. He is a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and the BYB Hub.



What if Chase Headley spurns Yankees?

CBS New York’s Sweeny Murti wrote Monday that free agent third baseman Chase Headley is nearing a decision and the New York Yankees and San Francisco Giants remain the likely landing spots. The Yankees are eager to hear Headley’s decision so they can get to work on other moves.

Headley, who has a dubious four-year, $65 million “offer on the table” with a mystery team, is wanted back in New York and from some accounts, including Yankees general manager Brian Cashman’s, the third baseman wants to remain in pinstripes. In the Yankees new found desire to sign deals that they feel will not hamstring the team’s future the Bombers will likely not go much higher than four-years and $50 million in their offer to Headley. If Headley turns to the Giants or another team what are the Yankees’ options?

Beyond the financial and long term implications of such a deal the Yankees feel that they have an in-house backup plan that can work and do such much cheaper than Headley. The alternative would be to have Martin Prado man third base while Jose Pirela and Rob Refsnyder stage a competition for the second base role in spring training. It remains to be seen if the Yankees are very high on that option. It is there and they’ve publically commented that it’s an option, but we don’t truly know if it is what they want.

If Headley signs with the Giants or elsewhere and the Yankees get cold feet on the prospects, there are a few alternatives on the free agent market that could either play third or second base for less than Headley’s cost.

One option is Stephen Drew. Drew’s 2014 season was a complete disaster but some in the business believe that given a full spring training he could find his stroke back after slashing .162/.237/.299 in a season to forget. Drew played a bit of second base for the Yankees in 2014, and could fill that spot or even third base, though Drew will still be seen as a shortstop to some teams in the market for one. One advantage in going Drew’s route is it would cost the Yankees just one year as he and agent Scott Boras will want to rebuild his market for a better contract in 2016.

There are two players who might be making moves away from shortstop who could again fill either second or third base, namely Asdrubal Cabrera and Jed Lowrie. Cabrera, 29, played second base for the Washington Nationals after being traded by the Cleveland Indians where he was their shortstop for several seasons. Cabrera has not been as prominent an offensive force as it was thought he would be after all-star seasons in 2011 and 2012. He put together a .241/.307/.387 line with 14 home runs combined with Cleveland and Washington in 2014. Cabrera could fetch a two or three year contract worth about $10 million annually.

As for Lowrie, he too was thought to be ready for a breakout after posting a .791 OPS in 2013. However, he followed that up with a .676 OPS in 2014. He’s generated a lifetime .261/.333/.411 slash and he’s proven to be competent at both second and third base, logging 432 and 525 innings respectively in his career. Defensive metrics have shown him to be better suited for third base (5.6 UZR/150), though the samples are admittedly small. Lowrie, who turns 31 in April, could be worth about the same as Cabrera, so there is a small commitment with both players.

Truthfully, I do like what Headley has to offer when compared to the alternatives on the market (if staying within the 4 year/$50 million range), and further I would simply deploy the in-house plan if Headley goes elsewhere. I like the idea of availing the younger players some time and I’m not a fan of trying to fill voids with run of the mill free agents when there is the potential for upside with prospects. I don’t consider Headley to be run of the mill and the best free-agent option for the Yankees at this time.

What do you think? If the Yankees fail to sign Headley, should they simply move on with their in-house alternative or speak with any of the players mentioned above? Or is there someone else the Yanks should pursue? Let me know in the comments below.

Photo courtesy of Keith Allison via Flicker.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer and sports media strategist. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports, the FanSided network, Sportsideo and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In. He is a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and the BYB Hub.



Friday, December 12, 2014

Will Yankees choose now or the future?

The Winter Meetings were exceptional if you’re into big signings and huge trades, but not for some fans of the New York Yankees. For many Yankees fans, it was a downer, especially after the previous Friday when they signed Andrew Miller and traded for Didi Gregorius. What the meetings provided for Yankees fans is a wake-up call on how the club will be doing business in the future.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman is not pulling the trigger in a reactionary way. He will not sacrifice cash and the future of the club by signing contracts which could turn sour quickly, or be a drain at the end of the term. Cashman is going to hold his ground and rebuild this system whether you like it or not.

Or so I hope.

Will he get swept aside by ownership when Scott Boras goes straight to Hal Steinbrenner about Max Scherzer? It is possible. And Cashman will let you know if that’s the case. He hasn’t publically dismissed the notion of entering into talks with Boras about Scherzer, but nothing he’s done so far this offseason points to a man looking to make a splash. That was last year’s answer and it netted the Yankees one less win than the year before and another year without a postseason appearance.

Instead, Cashman looks like the general manager who finally sees the big picture. Loads of money is coming off the books after the 2016 and 2017 seasons. There are several players coming up the farm system, both pitching and positional players, who can make an impact at that time.

The good news is the Yankees aren’t going to turn into a team that doesn’t spend money and looks for the bargain basement deal. I think the Miller deal proves that. But, they’re going to be a bit shrewder about where that money goes and when they spend it. They’re going to want to earmark some of it for players they hope will be the next franchise player. The Yankees want to have a new core of home grown talent and keep them long-term when the time comes.

So getting back to Scherzer; can the Yankees withstand a contract that will be sucking air in years five, six and seven (or even year eight) when Scherzer’s violent motion catches up to him and the volume of pitches thrown that Boras mentions now add up? Financially, yes, but if the future is the key to another run of successful seasons with a potential World Series title mixed in Scherzer is not essential.

Scherzer certainly provides the Yankees with a better chance to win in 2015. The injury history that the Yankees have returning to the rotation this coming season is extensive. And guess what? One starter, even one of Scherzer’s ilk cannot overcome two other rotation members going down with an extended injury.

Most people are looking at the rotation and suggesting that if CC Sabathia continues to decline and/or gets hurt again, or if Masahiro Tanaka’s elbow finally gives out, or that Michael Pineda’s shoulder is not right or finally that Ivan Nova cannot provide enough after returning from Tommy John surgery that the Yankees NEED Scherzer to pick up the slack.

I’ve got news for you. If two of those four players cannot make 30 starts in 2015 (and we know Nova will not), the Yankees will have a very hard time making the playoffs even if Scherzer is a part of the team.

On the other hand, if the Yankees gamble that Tanaka’s elbow will hold out, Pineda can make 30 starts and Sabathia finds enough in the tank to be a viable third starter, would they need Scherzer? Add Nova as the fourth starter and pick from David Phelps, Adam Warren, Bryan Mitchell or Manny Banuelos as fifth starter and isn’t the rotation as good as it was last season? I can see Phelps, Warren, Mitchell or even Banuelos as 2015’s Shane Greene. Beyond that, Cashman can ink an arm or two from the bargain basement bin and hope for the best as well. Or he can try to find a deadline deal like he found in Brandon McCarthy in 2014 if no one is able to step up.

Need another reason Scherzer is not the be-all end-all answer? Let’s talk about the offense. Has it gotten much better this offseason? No, it has not. And in theory, even if they add Chase Headley, he was in the Bronx for half the season and while he was good, he is not a difference maker with the bat. Does it matter one iota if Scherzer is on the mound and has to hold teams to two runs each time he starts in order to win?

The offense has its own clunker deals clogging up space for the next two to three seasons. Alex Rodriguez is getting paid $63 million for three more years and Mark Teixeira is getting $23.125 million for each of the next two. Jacoby Ellsbury is making close to $21.5 million per year for the next six years and Brian McCann is making $17 million per season through 2018. Carlos Beltran has two more seasons left on his deal at $15 million apiece.

ONE of those players was worth their salary on the offensive side last season and that was Ellsbury. Does anyone feel confident that he’ll play in 149 games again this season? Are you ready to say that each of these guys can turn things around in 2015 and be a factor? I’d make that bet on McCann only, and it wouldn't be a huge play.

What you saw from Teixeira and Beltran might have had to do with injuries, but neither of them was lighting up the scoreboard when healthy either. As for A-Rod, he’s going to be a shell of what he was before the performance-enhancing drug suspension and that was not much. He’ll turn 40 this season, not exactly a savior in my view.

So, the Yankees should dole out $180-$200 million for Scherzer and add to the glut of troubles when the Yankees offense is no better than last season? And they’ll be committed to all the players I mentioned in 2016 as well.

The more and more I think about it, the Yankees should not be nearly as concerned about Scherzer, but should be getting ready to clear the way for some young blood that can make a difference.

Mitchell and Banuelos might get some time in 2015 while Luis Severino and Ian Clarkin have the potential to fill rotation spots in the next few seasons. Jose Pirela and Rob Refsnyder are knocking on the door from the positional side right now. MLB.com’s top Yankees prospects including Gary Sanchez, Eric Jagielo, Aaron Judge, Jake Cave, Gregory Bird, Ramon Flores, and Tyler Austin can all make a difference very soon be it in the Bronx or as a trade chip.

Further, by shying away from Scherzer the Yankees can actually use their first round pick in the 2015 First-Year Player Draft and along with the compensation pick from losing David Robertson, the Yanks could reap rewards there.

Finally, the Yankees heavily invested in international free agents this year, signing 10 of the top 30 players according to Baseball America. While many of them might not materialize, chances are good that one or two can become an impactful major league player for the Yankees. Again, the Yankees are spending money just in different areas.

Abstaining from the Scherzer sweepstakes could signal another year or even two in which the Yankees could miss the playoffs. But, adding to a glut of bad contracts right before they are about to get others off the books, while the farm system continues to get better, could make matters worse.

What do you think? Should the Yankees stay the course or go after Scherzer? Let me know in the comments below.

Salary information is courtesy of Cot's Baseball Contracts.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer and sports media strategist. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports, the FanSided network, Sportsideo and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In. He is a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and the BYB Hub.