Friday, January 9, 2015

What’s on Yankees' agenda before players report to spring training?

Major League Baseball announced Thursday the official dates that clubs will begin workouts at their respective spring training sites. The New York Yankees’ pitchers and catchers will ramp up Feb. 21 and the first full-squad workout is scheduled for Feb. 26.

It seems as if the Yankees have solidified the positional side of the roster after the Stephen Drew signing and their bullpen is pretty stacked. So, what is on the Yankees' agenda from now until then?

Coaching staff

How about completing the coaching staff for manager Joe Girardi? The Yankees have been slowly announcing their minor league staffs, so it’s possible that the announcements are coming for the big league squad.’s Jon Heyman reported Monday that the Yankees had talked with former player and coach Willie Randolph presumably about the first base coaching position which also carries with it the job of infield instructor. I cannot see the downside of this hiring.

The hitting coach role, one which carries more weight for a team that was weak offensively in 2014, has been vacant for so long that the rumor mill has even died down. There’s no telling where the Yankees are going with this one.

The Bombers have been linked to a veteran hitting coach in Jeff Pentland, a minor league hitting instructor in James Rowson and former Yankee Marcus Thames has been mentioned consistently as a possible assistant hitting coach, though general manager Brian Cashman point blank dispelled those theories. One thing is for certain with Thames, he will not be back at Trenton in 2015 as the club named P.J. Pilittere the new hitting coach for the Double-A squad.

Update: 1/9/15, 10:34 AM -- Chad Jennings of the LoHud Yankees Blog tweeted that Thames has been named the Triple-A hitting coach at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

It remains to be seen if the Yankees will need an assistant hitting coach at the major league level if there are no rookies on the club at the outset of the season. Why bother? At the time that it looked like Jose Pirela and maybe even Rob Refsnyder had a legit opportunity to break camp, it made sense to have a guy like Thames, someone familiar with the youngsters, work alongside the head hitting coach.

Add rotation depth?

This is not exactly a must, but it wouldn't be surprising if the Yankees added a player or two who they felt could supply innings as a precaution to CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka or Michael Pineda not be completely healthy this spring. I wrote earlier this week about two players who might fit the bill for minor league deals with spring training invites – Chad Billingsley and Eric Stults.

Neither player is a savior by any means, but Billingsley has some upside if his arm issues are gone and Stults can log innings. Chris Capuano and Nathan Eovaldi, who right now slot in as the fourth and fifth starters, have performance questions of their own. The Yanks have plenty of depth currently but none of them have major league experience as starters except for Chase Whitley.

Again, not a priority, but what can it hurt to have more options during the spring?

Last chance for a big splash?

Two of the biggest names of the free-agent class are still not signed – Max Scherzer and James Shields. There are players like Cole Hamels, Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister who might be available on the trade market. Do the Yankees have a chance to get involved here?

I still don’t see the Yanks signing Scherzer or Shields. I believe they were dead serious about avoiding nine-figure salaries this offseason. Next year’s free-agent pitching class seems to hold some nice options for the Yankees.

And that’s the reason I don’t see the Yankees making a trade for Zimmermann or Fister right now. They can be had as free agents next year. Why waste top prospects for them now, unless they know for certain that they want the player long term and can immediately sign the player to an extension?

As for Hamels, the Yankees might have the pieces, but will they want to sacrifice them for a pitcher who is 31 years old and is still owed $94 million through 2018, with a vesting option of $24 million for 2019? The Philadelphia Phillies are not going to toss in cash for Hamels; they want a haul for him. So, the Yanks would be on the hook for an expensive aging pitcher and lose talented youth in the process.

I think they hold tight here too, but it’s been a wild offseason for the Yankees and I’m not sure they’re done yet. If they make a move, I just hope it does not deter the fine job the front office has done so far of sticking to a plan centered on youth development and not hinging themselves to bad contracts.

What are your thoughts? Who will be the coaches? Will the Yankees make any more moves (small or large) before the team reports in a little more than a month? Let me know in the comments below.

Salary 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.