Hang In There

I can’t begin to describe the scenes of destruction I have seen in the NYC area the past few days. While my family and I were spared the worst of the storm, there are many people I know who were not so lucky. My thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by this storm and I encourage people who can to volunteer their time or money to organizations like the American Red Cross which are trying to support communities destroyed by Sandy. We’ll get back to baseball soon, but for now just take care and be safe.

All the best,

Peter

My Plan

It is never a good idea to overreact to a small sample and the 2012 playoffs are a small sample. Sure, the Yankees didn’t hit, but they didn’t hit over 9 games. In the previous 162, they hit plenty. But, I also think the Yankees are at a turning point here. For the first time in ages, we can’t assume that either Derek Jeter or Mariano Rivera will be productive members of the upcoming team. Jeter’s ankle should be fine, but he isn’t a kid anymore. And Rivera is even more of an enigma since he is trying to come back from a much more serious injury. In addition, the Yankees have a lot of potential free agents so the chance to make significant changes to the team has arrived.

In a perfect world the Yankees would have players ready to step in and fill the roles of the players leaving. That isn’t really the case. Through a combination of bad luck and bad drafting, there are simply not a lot of AAA ready players ready to jump into the starting lineup. In fact the only guy who you could argue is ready, Eduardo Nunez, has serious defensive questions.

And there is the goal of being below $189 payroll in 2014. This will be exceedingly hard because the Yankees are already have a lot of money committed to 2014. Between Sabathia, A-Rod, Teixeira and Jeter, you have around $88 million tied up once you figure out the AAV’s of each deal. Add in the fact that the $189-million figure includes health insurance and other miscellaneous cost which add up to around $10-12 million per team and it means you have $89-million left to fill out the entire 40-man roster. In addition the following players become free agents after 2013- Cano, Granderson, Hughes, Joba, Logan and Soriano (if he doesn’t opt-out this year.) Brett Gardner and David Robertson will be in their third years of arbitration. And Pineda, Nova, Cervelli, Nunez, Stewart and Rapada will all be in arbitration.

So, I find it almost impossible to see how the Yankees meet that figure and sign both Granderson and Cano. Even signing one of them will be tough. Consider the following. If the Yankees have 20 players making the minimum in 2014 and Cano gets a deal of $18-million per, the Yankees have an average of $4-million to spend on the remaining 15 players, some of whom would be significant pieces of the 2014 team.

Furthermore, the Yankees have to think long and hard about how much they want to be in the long-term deal business. The complaints about A-Rod are valid to an extent, but what can the Yankees do about him? Maybe they can trade him, but they would have to pay a lot of money to get rid of him and that counts against the luxury tax. What they can do is learn that it is a bad bet to sign players to ultra-long contracts when they are over 30.

But, 2014 is also not 2013. The Yankees can spend freely in 2013 and still cut in 2014. What they should focus on in 2013 is collecting as many assets as they can and using them in various ways. They can spend big now and then trade away assets at the deadline if that is the prudent thing to do. The key is to remain flexible, which means short-term deals only. Anyway, here is my plan…

1- Offer Swisher arbitration. To me this is obvious. If he accepts, he is signed for 2013 at $13.3 million. If he declines, the Yankees get a draft pick. I’m not against signing Swisher either for say three years at $12-million per, but I suspect he will get much more in the open market.

2- Assuming Soriano opts out, do the same thing and offer him arbitration. There is little downside to this move because Soriano would get paid about the same he was due to make in 2013 and is only signed for 2013. If he declines, which seems likely, the Yankees have another draft pick because I would let him walk.

3- Offer Kuroda arbitration. If Kuroda accepts, you have him locked in at $13.3 milion with no commitment beyond 2013. Hiroki was everything you could have asked for and I see no reason, or any young pitchers on the horizon that should or could displace him from the rotation next year. But, if Kuroda wants more than a one-year deal I say let him go.

4- Exercise the option on Granderson and then see what you can get for them on the trade market. Outfielders generally don’t hold up as well as infielders as they age and Granderson will be 33 after the end of the 2013 season. We focus on his flaws too often in New York, but this is a guy who has 40-plus homers each of the past two years and should be in line for a fairly big contract when he hits the free agent market. I don’t want to pay that price if I am the Yankees and while the draft pick they would get from losing him would be nice, I bet they could get a couple of young players right now. And, they have his replacement, Gardner, under control through 2014.

5- Tell Andy Pettitte you are happy to have him back, if he takes $5-million or less. Andy was great this year, but he is three-years older than Kuroda. I don’t particularly want both of them in the rotation next year, but I would take another flier on Pettitte if he agreed to a smal salary. $5-million is only one-million more than Freddy Garcia earned in 2012.

6- Speaking of Garcia, he is gone. So is Andruw Jones. Eric Chavez can come back on the same contract as 2012. Russell Martin gets a one-year offer that will allow the Yankees to break Austin Romine in for full-time duty in 2014. If he doesn’t accept, I go with Cervelli and Stewart to start the season with Romine moving up later on in the year.

7- That brings me to two lefty outfielders, Ichiro and Ibanez. I want to keep both, on one-year deals. Ichiro was a perfect fit for the Yankees’ lineup and I would bring him back for $5-million in place of Swisher. I would also bring Ibanez back for a small deal similar to what he earned this year.

8- I am going to figure out a way for Eduardo Nunez to get 500 AB’s next year. I would send him to winter ball and have him play third and short. I still think his ultimate destination is the outfield, but for 2013, the left side of the infield is the best spot for him.

9- Offer Mariano a contract, but make it one loaded with incentives and a low base salary. I would never bet against Rivera, but he is 43 and coming off of a major surgery. However, I wouldn’t spend any money in the bullpen beyond this because you already have Robertson, Joba, Logan, Rapada and Aardsma on the roster.

10- Take a long look at the draft process and strategy that the team employs. If the Yankees are going to save money, they are going to need to produce in the draft. This is especially important now that international free agent signing have been capped. Take a look at the current roster. You have Jeter, Hughes, Joba, Robertson, Gardner, Pettitte and Phelps as the only players drafted by the Yankees. And, Jeter and Pettitte were drafted 20 years ago. The fact is, the Yankees have done a terrible job of drafting since the 2006 draft where they picked Kennedy and Joba 1+2 and followed it up with guys like Robertson, Melancon and Betances. Their 2007 first rounder was Andrew Brackman. 2008 was Gerrit Cole, a great pick, but they didn’t sign him. 2009 pick Slade Heathcott has gotten better, but he still hasn’t moved past A ball. 2010 pick, Cito Culver, just finished hitting .215 in low A ball. The Yankees have to get better results from the draft.

11- Shop A-Rod, but don’t simply give him away. Yes, he was terrible in the playoffs, but that is a small sample. Unless you can get significant savings, say at least $9-million per season it really doesn’t make sense to keep him.

12- And that brings me to the biggest decision the Yankees have to make, Robinson Cano. I love Cano and I think he is a wonderful player, but I am not sure I want to sign him to a long-term deal. His agent is Scott Boras and you know Boras is going to be looking for at least 8 years and possibly 10 years for Robbie. Exercise his option, but then shop him around. Cano is the type of player who could bring back significant pieces for the future. The Yankees have to consider that.

Obviously, my potential 2013 team would not be as good as the 2012 team, but it would be younger and it would have significant salary flexibility going forward. Whatever direction they choose, I am willing to be that we look back at the winter of 2012-13 in the future as a transformational moment for the Yankees.

The New Skippa

The Red Sox are set to announce that John Farrell will be there next manager. I’m glad the Red Sox did this relatively quickly and now can focus on next season.

The Pros:

– Farrell knows several Red Sox pitchers and hopefully will get guys like Bard and Lester back on track.

– Farrell knows many on the team and in the organization and they know him. Farrell is an intimidating presence and the “inmates running the asylum” should be a thing of the past.

The Cons:

– Pitching coaches aren’t generally considered managerial material. Joe Kerrigan was the last one in Boston and that didn’t turn out so well.

– Farrell’s record with Toronto wasn’t good. Part of that is on the GM and financial strength of the Jays, but some of that has to be on Farrell, right?

– Farrell’s addition doesn’t mean much unless Ben Cherington’s can cobble together far more talent than exists today. It wi be very difficult to make the 2013 Red Sox very competitive unless most free agent signings click and a handful of minor leaguers step up.

A good first step (or second if firing Valentine was step one). Now on to filling out the rest of the 25 man roster.

Season Over

Two stats sum up this mess for me. 1- The Yankees hit .188 in the postseason. 2- The Yankees never had a lead in the entire ALCS. Yeah, CC Sabathia was terrible tonight, but who are we kidding? The Yankees lost this game at 2-0, the rest was simply window dressing. I thought this Yankees team would be great in the playoffs because the starting pitching would be so good. I never expected the hitting to fall off the map.

So, now we enter what should the most interesting offseason in years. The Yankees have some HUGE decisions to make. I am going to formulate my own plan, which I will publish in the next day or so.

The Season Goes On

The game is rained out. Judging from Twitter, this is a huge disadvantage for the Yankees because now CC Sabathia won’t be able to pitch in Game 7. This of course ignores the reality that the Yankees will have to win three games before getting to a Game 7 and that they would still face Veralnder in a Game 7. One day at a time folks, win Game 4 and then go from there.
*****

Just a FYI, Type Pad is having some problems. They are working to resolve them, but they haven’t given us a timeframe. You can still comment without it, or try and slip a comment in with it. Sometimes it appears to work. Sorry for the confusion.

Here We Go

The first A-Rod trade story has been posted. Interestingly, the author is Keith Olbermann, a guy who hasn’t been a sports reporter in a long time, but certainly has connections in the Yankees organization.

The Yankees immediately denied that they have talked to the Marlins, but I find this rumor somewhat plausible. Miami is the one logical place for A-Rod to go. He is from there and he would draw people to the ballpark. If the Marlins could get him heavily-subsidized by the Yankees I think they would do it.

I also think Alex would do it. For one, he would escape New York can play in a place he loves with a much more relaxed atmosphere. Also, he would save some money as Florida has no state income tax.

But, I don’t believe the Yankees are so desperate to get rid of him that they would be willing to pay almost all of his salary. For one thing, that would be a stupid move as A-Rod is still slightly above average with the bat and a good defender. For another, how would giving A-Rod away benefit the Yankees? They are still on the hook for his salary. And, the luxury tax calculation is based on the average annual value, so he will represent a hit of $27.5 million per year from 2014-2017, even though he will earn $24 million less than that amount in those years. If they are going to pull the trigger on an A-Rod deal they either need pieces back than can help or some salary relief. Otherwise, it just doesn’t make any sense.

The question the Yankees have to as themselves is if this is situation can only get worse. Is A-Rod inevitably going to decline and therefore become more and more of a liability? My eyes tell me yes and a recent projection run on him seems to confirm that.

Projections (BA/OBP/SLG, HR)
2013: .256/.339/.425, 16
2014: .251/.328/.405, 13
2015: .249/.317/.393, 11
2016: .241/.302/.364, 9
2017: .238/.292/.352, 8

This year the average AL thirdbaseman put up a line of .261/.320/.420, so Alex would be just above it in 2013 and starting to dip below it in 2014. This will be quite an offseason. Hopefully, we can avoid it for a few more days.

To The Brink

Well, give credit to Justin Verlander who was wonderful tonight. Now the Yankees are going to need to win four-straight or the season is over. Yankee fans know that isn’t an impossible feat, but it is certainly not an easy one. The Red Sox did it in 2004. The Flyers did it to the Bruins a few years ago, but those are the only examples I can think of in the last 40 years. (Sidebar- Statistically, if you give a team a 50-50 shot of winning any given game, 3-0 comebacks should happen about 6% of the time. Even if you only give them a 40-60 chance, they should comeback 2.5% of the time. So, it’s not impossible, but it clearly doesn’t look good.)

If you want the one good note, it was obviously Eduardo Nunez. I said this earlier in the season and I was reminded of it again tonight- he is a lot like Soriano. Soriano was a terrible defensive player, but he could put the ball over the fence and he was never scared in a big spot. The Yankees would be smart to pick a position for Nunez to play in 2013 and send him to winter ball to get some experience at it. Thirdbase could work, so could left or right field. Whatever the answer is, Nunez should get 500 AB’s next year.

I’ve buried the lead here because the biggest question is what is going on with A-Rod? I had no problem benching him, but the 9th inning was very interesting. After Teixeira and Cano reached, the Yankees had Ibanez up with a lefty on the mound. Not only did the Yankees fail to consider using A-Rod in that spot, but they had Nick Swisher in the ondeck circle getting ready to hit for Martin. Maybe the Yankees are punishing A-Rod for his flirtations the other night? If not, they have a player they clearly don’t want anymore. The question will be, what can they do to get rid of him?

Hopefully, those questions can wait a little longer. From a Yankee standpoint, you have the right guy on the mound tomorrow. The Yankees just need to figure out how to score some runs for him. Along those line, I keep Gardner and Nunez in the lineup tomorrow. Nunez is a no-brainer after his homer and Gardner had some deep AB’s tonight. Keep them in there.

We Have A Lineup

Joe Girardi is doing the right thing in my mind. He is putting his three fastest players in the lineup and seeing what happens. So, A-Rod, Swisher and Nix go to the bench and we get Chavez, Gardner and Nunez. Here is the whole lineup

Gardner- LF
Ichiro-RF
Teixeira- 1B
Cano-2B
Ibanez-DH
Martin- C
Chavez- 3B
Granderson- CF
Nunez- SS

It may not work, but at least the Yankees are trying to shake things up.
*****
On a separate note. Alex Rodriguez is just not a smart guy when it comes to his actions. He consistently shoots himself in the foot and if this latest story is true it is just another example of his tin ear. What I would like to see is the Yankees address it and not sweep it under the rug. We shall see.

Back after the game.

What Is Happening?- UPDATED

So, let’s talk about something else. Let’s talk about the attendance problems at Yankee Stadium. This is not a new phenomenon. I have had a Saturday ticket plan to the Yankees for a long time and this was the first year that I wasn’t able to resell most of my seats. In fact, apart from the Mets-Yankees game, I lost money on all of the other seats I tried to sell. I assumed this was simply because the “newness” of the stadium had worn off, but now I see that playoff tickets aren’t selling either. If you look at Stub Hub for Game 6, you will find a lot of seats available for a potential Game 6 and a lot of them are well under $100.

My theory is this. It costs $50 to park at Yankee Stadium before you even consider the price of the tickets. With really good HDTV’s costing under $1000 fans just don’t need to go to these games like they did years ago. Sure it is fun to be at the event, but you can have a pretty good time watching it from your couch which saves you a boatload of money and lets you avoid the hassle of getting to and from the game. But I wonder, am I right? Jump into the comments if you have a theory.
*****
I also would like to address Nick Swisher and his feelings. Personally, I never boo my team at a game unless I perceive a lack of hustle on a play. All I can ask of the players is that they try. But, I understand why people boo, and it is their right to express themselves. I think Swisher understands this as well and I get the sense he is trying to lay the groundwork for his free agency. That’s his right as well, but I wish he would focus more on the task at hand than worry about that now.

UPDATE I just received an email about buying World Series tickets. (As a plan holder, I get the opportunity to buy postseason tickets before they are sold to the general public.) In years past I have been allowed to buy two tickets total to the World Series. This year, they are allowing me to buy 12. Obviously, they know they have a problem.

You Can’t Bench Everyone

Let’s start with the gripe everyone will have tomorrow, the umpire definitely blew the call. I don’t understand how he missed it, but he did and it cost the Yankees. BUT, and this is important, don’t forget that it was 1-0 Detroit when that call was missed. The Yankees didn’t score any runs in the game, so you simply cannot blame the umpire for the loss. Obviously, you have to blame the bats.

If you want to parcel out offensive blame, where do you stop? I guess we can exempt Ibanez. Ichiro had a good game yesterday…Texieira has a few hits…um…I think that’s it. And as much attention as A-Rod has gotten for his struggles, how about Cano? He has been truly horrific with the bat.

So, now the Yankees are in a 2-0 hole and have to try and beat Verlander to avoid a 3-0 hole. Personally, I think it is time for a radical makeover. This would be my lineup in Game 3:

Ichiro- LF
Gardner-CF
Teixeira-IB
Ibanez-DH
Cano-2B
Chavez-3B
Swisher-RF
Martin-C
Nunez-SS

If they are going to beat Verlander, they are going to have to manufacture runs. They are going to need to steal bases and take the extra base. So, I say put the three fastest guys they have in the lineup and bunch them together. See what they can do. At this point, what do the Yankees have to lose?