Thursday, February 25, 2016

Refsnyder taking reps at third base is a no-brainer

The New York Yankees have finally decided to try and utilize Rob Refsnyder wherever he shows he can play.

Rob Refsnyder
Photo: Arturo Pardavilla III via Flickr
It’s been evident for some time that while the Yankees like Refsnyder’s bat and approach at the plate, they were not at all confident in his ability to play second base. He’s gotten better, but when Starlin Castro became available, the Yankees jumped at the opportunity giving up an important piece in the process.

There isn’t a player at spring camp who is a true third baseman other than Chase Headley and that's somewhat concerning for the Yanks. Although Headley played in 156 games last season, he has fought back problems in the past, and it’s possible that the amount of time he played last season adversely affected his abilities down the stretch.

The Yankees initial plan was to use Castro as an occasional replacement for Headley, and that’s fine. There is nothing wrong with having multifaceted players on a roster. That thought gave rise to the chance that Refsnyder could take Castro’s place at second base during the days Castro covered for Headley. Further, if Headley was to get hurt, Castro could slide over and Refsnyder takes over at the keystone.

But why not test Refsnyder at third base? Or in the outfield from where he was transitioned to learn second base? Why not give a guy who is a major league ready hitter a chance to find a comfort zone (or more zones) by moving him around the diamond?

The Yankees finally decided Wednesday that they’ll give Refsnyder some reps at third. The outfield was not mentioned and in all honesty, the Yankees are fairly deep there right now, so it’s not a necessity. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman’s reluctance to test Refsnyder at third base was most likely related to his still learning second base, but manager Joe Girardi must have been convincing in yesterday’s meeting on the matter.

At this point the Yankees need to get everything they can get out of Refsnyder. Who knows, maybe he performs adequately at third and the need to shift Castro around diminishes allowing him to continue to learn second base of which he has played just 38 games after transitioning from shortstop last season with the Chicago Cubs.

Furthermore, the Yankees only increase Refsnyder’s value by showing he can be more versatile. If it works, it helps the team directly and might make it easier to trade him down the line if they need to. At worst, Refsnyder shows he cannot handle the role and he stays at second base. At best, he aids the team by giving them more options on the field and as a potential commodity.

Like I said  no-brainer.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance baseball writer. Besides his work here, Christopher is a featured Yankees writer for SNY.tv. His baseball commentary has also been published on The Cauldron via Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports 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, February 24, 2016

Teixeira wants to play another five years, prefers to stay with Yankees

We all want what we cannot have, right? Mark Teixeira wants to play another five years and remain a member of the New York Yankees according to a tweet from YES Network’s Jack Curry. That notion might not be as cut and dry as it once seemed to be.

Mark Teixeira
Photo: Keith Allison
In the Yankees’ perfect world, future first baseman Greg Bird would not be injured and entertaining signing Teixeira to a short-term contract would not even be a question for the team. But, Bird is out for the season after shoulder surgery and considering the Yankees wanted the youngster to get more seasoning at Triple-A this year anyway, it’s not without question that they might want the same thing in 2017.

But, if Teixeira has a 2016 season which resembles that of 2015, it’s likely that he would find enough suitors to push his value high enough to garner a two-year deal to be someone’s first baseman and designated hitter. From there Teixeira might be able to sign one-year deals until he retires. All of this is predicated on his health of course.

Here’s the rub. If Teixeira drills another 30 home runs in say 500 plate appearances would the Yankees be willing to tag the 36-year-old with a qualifying offer which might be in the neighborhood of $17 million next season (it was $15.8 million for this offseason)?

In my view there’s a good chance he might take it considering what some players went through this offseason who had qualifying offers attached to their name. Maybe Teixeira wants to stick around another season and then go year to year with his contracts? It wouldn’t necessarily harm the Yankees. They could utilize the same plan they had coming into 2016, and remember I’m speaking from the premise that he is as good this season as last.

More likely however, if Teixeira has a fine season, he would check the free agent market because some team out there will want a good first baseman with some power, and someone who could transition to a DH if necessary. Or, a club could flat-out offer him a good sum of money to be their fulltime DH. I can see Teixeira thriving in such a role as it would eliminate the wear and tear from being on the field.

I believe that the market for Teixeira on a two-year deal could go over the $30 million mark if he is a 2.5 to 3.0 WAR player. If Teixeira and his agent Casey Close believe the same thing, he’ll forgo a qualifying offer and the Yankees simply transition to Bird at first base in 2017.

On the flip side, if Teixeira is injured most of the season, and/or performs like the player the Yanks saw in 2013-14, then the team doesn’t bother with a qualifying offer and he goes wherever he can find a deal. I would also suggest a lot needs to happen in order for the Yankees to consider signing Teixeira to a two-year deal.

First, Bird’s recovery has to go completely awry. Or, Alex Rodriguez would have to be somehow gone from the equation since he is owed $20 million in 2017 which pretty much inks him into the lineup card as the DH for most games. Finally, the Yankees might also want to use Brian McCann in the DH spot at least for part of 2018 if things work out with Gary Sanchez's development. There doesn't seem to be a need beyond 2017 (if even then), regardless of Teixeira's performance and desires.

As I said, it’s not a simple matter. Two things we can hang our hats on –– first, Teixeira’s 2016 performance and Bird's recuperation will dictate the next steps and two, the Yankees benefit from explosive production in Teixeira's walk year.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance baseball writer. Besides his work here, Christopher is a featured Yankees writer for SNY.tv. His baseball commentary has also been published on The Cauldron via Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports 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, February 22, 2016

Yankees weekend news wrap: Bullpen trio tosses, Chapman, Parmelee

The New York Yankees completed their first weekend of spring camp with a few notable items to discuss.

Betances, Miller and Chapman take mound together


The trio of Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman took to the hill Friday for their first mound work of the spring. Under the watchful eye of Yankees manager Joe Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild the flame-throwing threesome threw free and easy. There was plenty of glove popping during the session. Here is some video courtesy of MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch.


The Yankees will be thoroughly reliant on the backend of the bullpen in 2016. There is a chance that some games can result in as many as 12 outs coming from the three players. The Yankees will not want to employ that method too often, but the option is certainly there. Having all three hurlers also gives Girardi the ability to provide ample rest to each pitcher without sacrificing the end of games.

Chapman suspension looming


Rumors swirled Sunday that Major League Baseball may be ready to hand down a suspension on Chapman for his domestic violence incident. There has been some speculation that Chapman might even be disallowed from attending spring camp. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has plenty of leeway in which he can enforce discipline because this is a completely new policy.

I’m not certain anyone realized that any Chapman suspension might include lost time with the club at spring training. Being away from the team means Chapman will have less time acclimating to his new surroundings. While Chapman seems to be a bit aloof, working with his new catchers and coaches is a big deal. Losing that time might have a negative impact on his performance.

That said I’m not certain that missing spring training is more important than the actual number of games that Chapman might be suspended. I expect Chapman can get his work in elsewhere and knows when he’s ready to face batters in live action. For a veteran reliever, it typically does not take much time to get fully into the swing of things. So, whenever Chapman’s suspension ends, I would expect him to need just a week or two at most to feel completely comfortable on the mound.

Parmelee joins Yanks


When Greg Bird went down with his season-ending injury, it left a hole in the depth chart at first base. The Yankees were ready to go with Dustin Ackley as Mark Teixeira’s backup from the beginning, but the club wanted to have a sound option at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and Chris Parmelee fits the bill.

Parmelee, 27, has played in 305 MLB games in his career, mostly at first base and right field. Parmelee owns a .707 OPS and is an average fielding first baseman. I wouldn’t expect to see Parmelee up with the major league club unless there are injuries to both Teixeira or Ackley.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance baseball writer. Besides his work here, Christopher is a featured Yankees writer for SNY.tv. His baseball commentary has also been published on The Cauldron via Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports 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, February 18, 2016

Yankees' Girardi talks Chapman, rotation and spring battles

New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi held his initial spring training news conference Thursday morning as pitchers and catchers reported to camp in Tampa, FL. He touched on several items in his discussion.
Joe Girardi
Photo: Keith Allison

Aroldis Chapman


Girardi said he understood the apprehension surrounding the domestic violence allegations against Chapman, and felt it was a very important topic of which he has discussed at length in his own home. Girardi stated he understood and agreed that while there were no criminal charges brought against Chapman, MLB and the Players’ Association wants to hold their employees to a higher standard. Girardi would not go so far as to label Chapman. He will read the police report and then meet him before discerning his closer’s character.

Girardi’s take is a good one in my view. He seemed sincere when speaking about the importance of domestic violence and how it has no place in the game, or anywhere for that matter. I had some reaction to Chapman’s own comments over at SNY earlier today.

The rotation


Girardi discussed several areas of the rotation, one of the Yankees bigger question marks. He mentioned that the rotation needed to try to provide more innings per start and he believed that Masahiro Tanaka and Luis Severino would be in the best position to do so. Tanaka led Yankees starters in innings per start last season with 6.4. Girardi also mentioned that Tanaka will be taking it slow this spring.

Girardi stated that there was not an innings limit on Severino and that he felt the young right-hander can accumulate 200-plus innings this season.

When asked about CC Sabathia being the No. 5 starter, Girardi skirted the issue and basically suggested that he’d put out his top five pitchers and usually competitions over the spring weed themselves out (typically due to injuries). I mentioned yesterday at SNY that this topic was going to be a major theme of the camp. Girardi seems to think so as well.

I find it interesting that Girardi suggested Severino could help where it concerned getting deeper into games, essentially bypassing Michael Pineda and Nathan Eovaldi who have plenty more experience and should be the ones doing better in that area. If anything, the comment points to Girardi’s confidence in the soon-to-be 22-year-old hurler.

Upgraded roster


Girardi sounded confident that the additions to the team in the offseason — Chapman, Starlin Castro and Aaron Hicks — make the club better on paper, but that means little. I’d have to agree on both fronts.

Chapman strengthens one of their best areas from last season, Castro is an upgrade over Stephen Drew with the potential be a special player and Hicks can aid the Yankees in all three outfield positions. As Girardi alluded, being better on paper is all well and good, but winning on the field is what counts. Those players will have to live up to expectations in order to give the Yankees a chance to win the American League East.

Other battlegrounds


The other spring battles will focus on the backup catcher role and the front-end of the bullpen. Heralded prospect Gary Sanchez seems to be the favorite for the backup catcher spot. Girardi said that Austin Romine and Carlos Corporan will be given a fair shot at winning the role behind starting catcher Brian McCann.

After the rotation is sorted out, it seems plausible that the odd person out (if no injuries pop up) will be the long man in the bullpen. After that the three remaining roles will be all up for grabs. The Yankees have a slew of talented young relievers with which to pick from as well as a few veteran arms at camp on minor league deals.

I would expect Girardi to let those battles last straight through the final day of camp and I’d also suspect that he’ll pinpoint more than three arms who will be able to come back and forth from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to New York much like the Yanks employed in 2015.

The main thing to understand from Girardi’s discussion is that there are no sure things for his or any baseball team in February. There will be injuries, there will be players who have poor springs and others who will open some eyes. The best thing for a club to do is be ready to pivot in the direction necessary so they do not lose ground. The Yankees have some issues, but they seem to have enough depth to be able to shift gears if necessary.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance baseball writer. Besides his work here, Christopher is a featured Yankees writer for SNY.tv. His baseball commentary has also been published on The Cauldron via Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports 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, February 8, 2016

The Cauldron: When rivals celebrate rivals

In 2013, New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera announced his retirement before the season began, and a farewell tour ensued across Major League Baseball. At his final stops around the league, Rivera was presented with numerous gifts from the teams, and pregame celebrations became the norm.

The following season, another Yankee icon, Derek Jeter, professed he would be playing in his final season in pinstripes, and a grander (if that’s possible) spectacle unfolded at each MLB city the Yankees visited. Even the Boston Red Sox, New York’s archrival, partook in the celebrations of two players who dominated their club for some years — both as individual players, and as part of a wildly successful team.

Well, now it’s the Yankees turn to lay presents and accolades upon the enemy, as Red Sox star David Ortiz will be playing his final season in Beantown.

Read more at The Cauldron >>>

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Will Yankees’ Brett Gardner remain a valuable commodity?

It’s a business and the New York Yankees believe outfielder Brett Gardner is a valuable commodity. All the same, it will be interesting to see if Gardner’s value as an asset grows or diminishes during and after the 2016 season. Is this the final season in Gardner’s contract that his performance will considerably influence his worth to the club as a trade piece?

Brett Gardner
Photo credit: Keith Allison
Gardner is one of the few Yankees with a contract that has some value for a multitude of teams. As such, New York was open to listening to offers for the home grown player this offseason.

I’d argue that one of the reasons the Yankees extended Gardner with a four-year, $52 million deal in 2014 which takes him through the 2018 season (there is team option for 2019) was in part to use as a trade asset. The Yanks know full well they have the potential for duplicate production from Jacoby Ellsbury, who the club invested $153 million in during the same offseason. They might rather ship Ellsbury, but his contract is not perceived as one which will be moved easily.

Gardner had an interesting 2015 season, in which he was on the top of his game in the first half, leading to his first All-Star selection. However, Gardner suffered a severe let down in the second half of the season which might have adversely affected his value. Gardner played a bulk of the second half with a nagging left wrist injury, but he neglected to blame his performance on the ailment.

The Yankees surely see Gardner as a player who can outperform his contract value based on the lengthy streaks of positive performance he’s provided during his tenure in the Bronx. However, the fact that Gardner is still in New York might mean that potential trade partners did not value Gardner as high as the Yankees. Those clubs certainly based their valuation on the significant slumps he has also suffered from.

If asked, I suspect Gardner would prefer to stay in New York through the remainder of his contract. I’d also guess that he would love to put together a season without such drastic highs and lows, but rather consistent above-average production. But he wouldn’t necessarily be sticking it to his employer by elevating his game across a full season. No, the Yankees would love a strong and complete season from Gardner too; potentially so they can start the trade process all over again in the next offseason.

If Gardner jumps out to a hot start which extends to the MLB trade deadline, and the Yankees still desire a starting pitcher, will the club be ready to pull the trigger knowing it might be their last chance to extract the value they see in Gardner? If Gardner slumps early on or is simply average during the season, the Yankees might have to ride out the rest of Gardner’s contract, or take a deal that severely undercuts their previous perception of his worth.

Any club, the Yankees included, would be happy to have Gardner in the outfield producing 2.5-3.0 fWAR seasons in 2017 and 2018 (worth approximately $17.5 – $21 million based on 1.0 fWAR being worth $7 million). Such production would outweigh the salary he’ll take down in those seasons ($12 million and $11 million respectively). Unfortunately, this type of performance is no longer a guarantee from Gardner who produced a 2.6 fWAR valued at $20.4 million in 2015 according to FanGraphs' data.

At 32, Gardner’s performance value is likely to stick in a downward trend. That's not to say that Gardner cannot bounce back into the 3.0 or higher fWAR territory in 2016, but it is less reasonable to assume that to be the case. If the Yankees receive above-average production from Gardner AND Ellsbury is able to bounce back, plus they are happy with Aaron Hicks and/or someone else in the minors in 2016, the team might be wise to push harder to trade Gardner at the deadline or in the next offseason while his stock increases.

If Gardner generates above-average across the board performance in 2016, the Yanks might not have a better chance to extract the value they believe they have in Gardner again. As he continues to age, Gardner becomes less of a valued commodity and the window closes quicker if his performance declines again in 2016.

Be certain that Gardner wants to prove he hasn’t lost a step and can be an asset over a full season, and rest assured the Yankees hope so if their intention is to move away from Gardner during or after the 2016 season.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance baseball writer. Besides his work here, Christopher is a featured Yankees writer for SNY.tv. His baseball commentary has also been published on The Cauldron via Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports 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, February 2, 2016

Losing Greg Bird puts wrinkle in Yankees’ 2017 plans

The New York Yankees had it all mapped out for 2017; that is until Greg Bird was found to have a torn labrum forcing him to miss the entire 2016 season.

Greg Bird
Photo credit: Arturo Pardavilla III via Flickr
Bird was to take the reins at first base from Mark Teixeira and be part of the new young core of the Yankees. With Bird’s eye-opening performance in Teixeira’s stead at the end of the 2015 season, the club could not help but feel comfortable knowing the latter’s contract was set to expire at the end of this season.

Out with the old and in with the new. It was simple, and it might not happen now.

At issue for the Yankees is whether or not to go forward with the plan in 2017. Bird would have had another full season to build on his spectacular 2015, had he been able to play this season. Now, he’ll be coming off a full season away from the game, and be recuperating from an injury that often derails careers.

Regardless of whether Bird would have played a bulk of his games in Triple-A or in the big leagues in 2016, he might have racked up 600+ plate appearances altogether. The results would surely have given the Yankees a better idea of whether they had a long-term answer in Bird or if he would need a platoon partner or another season at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

There is a slight chance that Bird is able to recoup in a timeframe that allows some playing time at the very end of this season. However, what could really be determined by that, and would it be worth risking further injury by interfering with the healing process?

The Yankees could certainly put all their faith in Bird in 2017, assume he recovers completely and loses none of the power in his stroke. He was not going to be taking over first base because of his glove, but rather because he’s shown promising power to all fields.

While Bird is just 23, his injury history which includes back problems, has become alarming. Back and shoulder issues for a power-hitter can be detrimental no matter the age of the player, so it would not be all that surprising if they pushed the clock back by a year. If they hold Bird back, who mans first base for the Yanks in 2017?

Believe it or not, the Yankees could think about inking Teixeira to a one-year deal. The Yankees could saddle him with a qualifying offer and it might be his best option. Or the Yankees may choose to sign Teixeira for two seasons and transition him to the designated hitter role in 2018 when Alex Rodriguez is off the books. These are plausible scenarios, but a couple of questions come immediately to mind.

First, would Teixeira want to stay for just one season (or two) if he could get a better deal elsewhere? Would the Yanks want to add what would amount to a sizable chunk of salary (qualifying offers were worth $15.8 million in 2016, and are sure to rise) when they thought they were getting rid of Teixeira’s hefty salary after 2016?

I don’t have the answers to either question, but I can tell you that Teixeira’s performance in 2016 means as much to the future of the Yankees as it does to the upcoming season.

If Teixeira is not part of the equation in 2017, can the Yankees get something out of Dustin Ackley in the backup role now, where it convinces them he can hold the spot down for a full season in 2017? Ackley has been deemed the backup for 2016 even after Bird’s injury. What happens in 2017 with Ackley certainly depends a lot on how he performs in the role in 2016.

I’m not convinced Ackley is the answer. He’s had his share of success as a big league player, but he’s also had more issues than expected out of a former first round pick (second overall in 2009). He has played 22 games at first base on the major league level and last played there a significant amount of time in college. This is not college baseball. Ackley, who turns 28 at the end of this month, is considered a good athlete, so he might be able to handle it, but to assume he can just waltz into the role (on a very irregular basis in 2016, assuming Teixeira plays about 125 games) is not something I’m willing to hang my hat on.

If Teixeira doesn’t work out and/or the Yankees are not impressed with Ackley as a fulltime option, they could try to sign a stopgap first baseman for 2017, or someone to pair with Ackley. Again, this leads to the question of money, as first base was not an area the team figured to have to spend for some time. I have no idea who that person might be, but I can assure you that the Yankees would not want to spend a lot here.

I highly doubt the Yankees would invest in someone (other than Teixeira) for more than two years either. I suspect they hope Bird comes back healthy next spring, and by the middle of the season shows he can be the hitter they believed they had before the injury. At that point Bird either stays in Triple-A and continues to hone his game, or he is brought up because the initial 2017 option is simply not working out.

When Bird was lost for the season, it surely put a wrinkle in the plans for 2016. But on a grander scale, Bird’s absence and the uncertainty surrounding how he’ll perform upon his return in 2017 could be the bigger issue for the organization. And that’s one concern they didn’t imagine they’d have.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance baseball writer. Besides his work here, Christopher is a featured Yankees writer for SNY.tv. His baseball commentary has also been published on The Cauldron via Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports 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.