Can’t They Just Be Bad?

Tonight we have a match-up this very website celebrates.   Should be fun.

Somehow the Red Sox have a 2 game lead on the AL East.  What is most amazing is that the Yankees, despite major injuries, simply won’t go away.  They have so many key players hurt, no other team could survive.  What does it take for them to be crappy?  I’m not asking too much, am I?  If you lose half your payroll due to injury, shouldn’t you be bad?  Or at least mediocre?

As of this post, the following Yankee players are on the DL:

ARod – $28m

Jeter – $17m

Teixeira – $22.5m

Granderson – $15m

Youkilis – $12m

Pettitte – $12m

That’s $107.5m in 2013 salaries on the DL.  Granted Youk and Teixeira are set to return tonight and Pettitte on Monday, but still.  For me, a Red Sox fan, this is so discouraging.   The Red Sox have had relative health and still only have a 2 game lead on New York.

I do take some solace in the fact the Red Sox really weren’t supposed to be competitive in 2013 and playing .600 ball was not at all a reality.  While the season is still young, I must say this Red Sox team has surprised me with their constant fight (5 walk off wins this year so far vs. 3 all of last year) and the collection of great personalities.

That’s all well and great, but even in second place, the Yankees are as maddening as ever to me.  An ever-present thorn in my side.  Serenity now!!!

It’s About To Get Really Crowded

The Yankees should be thrilled to get Mark Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis back tomorrow, but their return will create some roster complications.

The easy move the Yankees can make is to send one of their 13 pitchers down to the minors and activate either Teixeira or Youkilis. I suspect Vidal Nuno is the guy who will go as the Yankees won’t need him to start after tonight and they will want to keep him stretched out in the minors.

But the second move is going to be a tough one. The safest move to make would be to send Adams back to the minors. It’s not a popular move, but with Teixeira and Youkilis back, there isn’t a lot of playing time left for Adams since he can’t play short.

They could avoid demoting Adams by DFA’ing one of Brignac, Hafner or Overbay, but I don’t think that is the way they will go or even should go. Brignac is an easy DFA, but he offers protection at almost every spot in the field. If the Yankees insist on carrying a DH-only guy and two firstbasemen (Tex and Overbay) you need guys like that. Hafner did enough in April that the Yankees will keep him around to see if he gets hot again. Overbay is protection in case Teixeira gets hurt again and he definitely has value as a lefty bat.

What I would like to see the Yankees do is try exchange  Overbay for another productive asset via trade. The Brewers are suffering through Betancourt at first, I wonder if they would be interested in trading Khris Davis? Davis is a terrible outfielder, but he is a righty, has a bit of speed and pop and could help balance the Yankees’ lineup. The Yankees could then send Boesch down for Davis and backup Teixeira by moving Adams to third and Youkilis to first. The thing is, as great as Overbay has been this year, he is really only a good hitter against righties and its hard to see how he gets to play much with Hafner already on the roster.

And while this roster crunch will be interesting, it pales in comparison to the potential one later this summer. Five Yankees are on the 60-day DL besides Teixeira (A-Rod, Jeter, Pineda, Cabral and Cervelli) All of them are expected back before the end of the year, so that means five players have to be traded, released or DFA’ed to get them back on the roster. Stay tuned, change is coming to the Bronx.

The Odds Don’t Compute

I think the Yankees need to consider an exorcism quickly. It’s pretty rare that you see a hitter get hurt when getting hit on the hands by a pitch. Curtis Granderson suffered that type of injury in the second game of spring training and only came back last week. Tonight, he did it AGAIN and has a broken pinkie. No word on a timetable for his return.

As if that wasn’t enough of a freak occurrence, David Phelps had to leave the game tonight after getting hit on his pitching arm by a batted ball back to the box.

I fully suspect that tomorrow’s game will be postponed because of a plague of locusts. (And yes, I know the game is inside.)

 

Change Of Persepctive

A year or so ago everyone in Yankeeland was screaming about the trade of Michael Pineda for Jesus Montero. Pineda was headed for shoulder surgery and Montero was a big league catcher. Now Montero has been demoted to the minors while Pineda is apparently throwing 95-mph in extended spring training.

I said it before and I will say it again, you can’t judge this trade until years have gone by. I think the fairest thing to say about it is that Montero simply didn’t fit the 2012 or 2013 Yankees. Sure, his bat looked like a huge asset, but where was that bat going to play? You can read this post about Montero’s demotion, I think it makes it very clear that he is not a viable big league catcher. The Yankees obviously were never going to come right out and say that, but they did tip their hand back in September of 2011 when they had Austin Romine fly across the country at the last minute so they could avoid putting Montero behind the plate. So, I think the Yankees did a smart thing and cashed in on Montero when his value was at its peak. They got a very good pitcher, who got hurt, and a very good prospect, who also got hurt. Both are on the way back and we may yet see a day when people say the Yankees “won” this trade. One thing is for sure, if Montero had been in pinstripes the past 14 months and posted the same .252/.293/.377 line he has with Seattle, plenty of fans would have screamed about how overrated he was. GM’s really do have a thankless job.

****

I think it was a very good sign that Curtis Granderson looked like Curtis Granderson again last night. There are too many nights when the Yankees simply have too many dead spots in the lineup. Ichiro has doing nothing. Gardner is about what we expected him to be (maybe a little low in the OBP category). Wells was amazing in April, but has cooled considerably in May. So has Travis Hafner. The Yankees need Granderson just like they need Teixeira. The subs did some amazing things over the first quarter of the season, but it is time for the stars to earn their paychecks.

Remember This One?

I may be dating myself, but the Yankees-Orioles brawl from 1998 is seared into my memory.

I was actually at Fenway that night with the guy from the other side of the blog. As my memory recalls it, the Red Sox got beat up early and we decided to avail ourselves of one of the finest bars in that area- Jillians. Jillians had the two things guaranteed to suck in a 20-something male- plentiful beer and a huge TV. As I remember it, the TV was actually 16 smaller TV’s that could enlarge a picture to a ridiculous level. (Remember HDTV wasn’t a thing back then.) Being a weeknight with the Red Sox game still ongoing, we had the run of the place and we shot some pool while I got the servers to put the Yankees game on the big TV. (This was quite an accomplishment in 1990’s Boston.)

Watching that video now brings that all back and so much more. Look at Jeter with hair! Look at Andy Pettitte looking like a teenager. How about Joe Girardi mixing it up? Then again, I look at a picture of myself from that same year and realize that time hasn’t been generous to any of us.

1998 was such a special year for Yankees’ fans, but that memory has never left me. Another one is much better though. Back at Fenway, September 9th, 1998, I sat with Andy and the Yankees clinched the AL East. I didn’t leave early that night, in fact I stood on my seat and cheered the greatest team I have ever seen in person.

Send Me Your Hitless, Your Gloveless, Your Rockies….

The Yankees like players who have been let go by Colorado. Remember who caught the last out in 1996? Why none other than Charlie Hayes (Rockie 1993 and 1994). Who came off the scrap heap to go 7-3 with a 2.85ERA in 2005? Shawn Chacon (Rockie 2001 to 2005) Why this season alone we have Jason Nix (Rockie 2008) and Chris Nelson (DFA’ed by the Rockies this year.) So the acquisition of Reid Brignac from Colorado shouldn’t be a surprise. Brignac was acquired for $75,000 and comes onto the roster in place of Alberto (I was never a Rockie) Gonzalez.

It’s not a bad move. Gonzalez was a fine fielder (and a decent mopup reliever) but he was a no-hitting shortstop. In his place comes Brignac, who can’t hit either, but can play anywhere on the infield besides first and even in the outfield in a pinch. So more positional flexibility for $75,000 is a trade you have to make.

The person who should worry in my mind is Eduardo Nunez. He hasn’t hit a lick this year and hasn’t been able to stay healthy. Lyle Overbay has been a very nice pickup, but the Yankees can’t really carry him, Hafner and Teixeira on the same roster unless they have some other guys on the bench who can cover a lot of positions. In Nix and Brignac, you suddenly have that. So maybe Nunez gets sent back to Scranton when he is healthy enough to play with the mandate to show some offensive chops if he want back in the majors?

Then of course the Rockies might DFA another guy tomorrow, so we should probably just wait and see.

 

Jacoby Ellsbury

What was supposed to be a highly productive season for Jacoby Ellsbury, has been anything but.  Ellsbury is on the cusp of unrestricted free agency and his agent is Scott Boras.  Generally the combination of those two things equals money in the bank for a player.

The problem for Ellsbury has been that he has been terrible this year.  He has a .683 OPS.  Yes he has 12 steals, but his .323. OBP means he really shouldn’t be a lead-off hitter.  And if Ellsbury isn’t leading off, his value is dramatically reduced.

In the off-season, the idea that he was a $20mm a year players was tossed about with even his biggests critics saying they’d pay him $12mm a year for 4-5 years.  But if Ellsbury doesn’t turn this ship around, he’ll be lucky to get $6mm a year for 2-3 years.  With Ellsbury, the promise is always there and this will probably help him this off-season.  After all, it was just 2011 that he put together an amazing offensive display, but that was then.

Consider his OPS tallies in seasons he played everyday and was healthy (i.e. 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2013 to date):

2008: .729

2009: .770

2011: .928

2013: .683

Now his injury plagued seasons and rookie campaign:

2007: .902 (127 PAs)

2010: .485 (only 84 PAs)

2012: .682 (in 323 PAs)

If you were a GM, would you pay this guy $20mm?  $14mm?  I wouldn’t.  First off, he can’t stay healthy and secondly, his 2011 season is worlds apart from anything else he has done.  It makes no sense.

Now Boras will spin Ellsbury into something he isn’t and I’m sure some team will pay him far more than he is worth.  I just hope it isn’t the Red Sox, but I do hope Ellsbury puts together a strong run so the Red Sox can get more when the time comes to trade him this year.

Night(s) in the Ruts

Many have said of the Red Sox early season success that it will be interesting to see how they deal with adversity.  Well, adversity as at their door.

What started as a stacked bullpen has been seen Joel Hanrahan lost for the season, an ineffectual and always odd, Alfredo Aceves sent down to Pawtucket.  Daniel Bard hasn’t found his form and Andrew Bailey has spent a few weeks on the DL.  Add to it the offense, save for last night’s outburst, that has been horrendous of late, has led to a 3-9 performance over the last 12 games.

The Red Sox benefited from a relatively light schedule at the beginning of the year.  That’s not to take away from the AL East, but let’s face it, all AL East teams have their significant question marks:  The Yankees are loaded with injuries (yet have been winning nonetheless…as always), the Blue Jays imported a bunch of talent that didn’t do anything last year, the Orioles, well, they just seem to play better baseball than they should and the Rays are always hamstrung by a low payroll.  Sprinkle in games against Houston and Cleveland and the schedule wasn’t too tough, baseball-reference.com has them as an average strength of schedule.  Things, however, got tough when they traveled to Texas and got swept.  That’s when the wheels came off.

It’ll be very interesting to see how the Red Sox deal with the next 10-15 games.  With Andrew Bailey set to return, hopefully the bullpen will settle down a bit and hopefully the starters, other than Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz, can offer up a few innings.  Ryan Dempster has probably pitched better than his record, but he is still 2-4.  The good news is the Sox are still 6 games over .500 and are very much in the mix in the AL East and Wildcard.

Ben Cherington has to be wondering if they are going to be buyers or sellers in a couple of months.  My original prediction of 82-88 wins is still in range.  A 6 game swing/margin in a prediction is somewhat lame, I know, but I guess my point is that they could be average to borderline wildcard.  They are currently projected to win 88.1 games according to coolstandings.com, so I’m not totally off and of course I would be the happiest person on Earth if they came in above 88 wins.

If the Red Sox do stay competitive, it will be very tough for Cherington to sell off parts, but let’s face it, this is not a World Series team.  I think their pitching is fine, but their lack of offense lately is worrisome.  Where has it gone for the last 12 games?  12 games!!!  Cherington will be best served selling off various pieces/parts to better prepare the Red Sox for 2014.

Tomorrow: Let’s talk about Jacoby Ellsbury.

As The Roster Turns

The Yankees have made a flurry of transactions the last few days and its likely that they won’t stop anytime soon.

Vidal Nuno got sent down and Brett Marshall got called up. Nuno pitched five innings in the doubleheader Monday and they wanted a fresh arm in the bullpen. Plus, they don’t need Nuno to start right now so he is better off staying stretched out in the minors.

Nunez was put on the DL with Alberto Gonzalez, who they acquired from the Cubs two days earlier was recalled. In order to free roster space on the 40-man, Mark Teixeira was moved to the 60-day DL. Gonzalez probably has a future with the team until Youkilis or Nunez is ready to return. Then he will be dumped on the scrap heap.

Brennan Boesch got sent down to the minors and Curtis Granderson got activated from the DL. Unless someone gets hurt, Boesch’s future is in AAA.

David Adams was promoted to the majors and Chris Nelson got DFA’ed. Nelson had a 10-game career with the Yankees and didn’t do much. Adams is a homegrown prospect and will probably stick around until Youkilis is ready to return.

The Yankees sent Joba and Caesar Cabral on minor league rehab assignments which means they will need to be activated in the next 30 days. Joba is reportedly very close to being activated, so expect that move (probably Marshall) imminently. Cabral will have to be on the 25-man roster or returned to the Red Sox. If he pitches well in the minors, the Yankees will have to figure out a way to get him onto the 40-man roster and the 25-man.

But the real crunch is going to come as all of the players on the 60-day DL return from injury and the Yankees have to open spots on the 40-man for each of them. Right now the Yankees have 6 players on the 60-day and five of them are going to be activated when they are ready (Teixeira, Jeter, A-Rod, Cervelli and Pineda) Cabral is the last guy as noted above.

How will the Yankees manage it? Well, Ben Francisco is an easy cut, but he is the only one. As the roster is currently constructed, the Yankees don’t have a lot of good choices. When Teixeira returns the Yankees probably DFA a productive player in Lyle Overbay since its hard to see them carrying a backup first baseman and Travis Hafner. And it only gets harder from there.

Of course there can always be setbacks for injured players and new injuries for healthy players, but if not, things will get very interesting.

Betances to the Pen

Joel Sherman is reporting that the Yankees are moving Dellin Betances to the bullpen. As Sherman notes, the reason for this is that Betances doesn’t have an option next year and must make the big league roster or be exposed to waivers. Since he still can’t control his stuff as a starter (16BB’s in 24IP this year after 99 last year) the Yankees are going to see how his 95-mph pitching works in the bullpen. Maybe they get a reliever, but they wanted so much more.

It’s a good lesson about prospects and their value. You either have to use them or you can lose them in a blink of an eye. After 2011, I don’t think anyone in the Yankees’ organization would have traded either Betances or Banuelos, but not Betances is a reliever and Banuelos is hurt. Jesus Montero has a .609 OPS in Seattle after putting up a .685 one last year. The guy he was traded for is still trying to work his way back from injury. Yankees’ fans will never forget Jay Buhner for Ken Phelps, but today is another reminder of how rarely “Jay Buhners” work out.