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It Was Twenty Years Ago Today…

That the MLB players started a strike that would ultimately wipe out the 1994 season. It’s amazing to think how far baseball has come since that day.

When the strike happened, Bobby Bonilla was the highest paid player in the game at $6.3-million. That’s approximately what the Yankees are paying Ichiro Suzuki this year to be their fourth outfielder. Annual revenue was about $1.9 billion for all of baseball in 1994. Today it is close to $9-billion.  Not surprisingly, average ticket prices have almost tripled from about $10 to nearly $30. (It’s worth noting that inflation since 1994 has been about 61%, so MLB revenues and salaries are far, far ahead.)

Back in 1994 George Steinbrenner was trying to bully NYC into building a stadium in Manhattan for the Yankees while also threatening a move to New Jersey. Ultimately, he got massive tax breaks and other incentives for building a palace in the Bronx. Sadly, that’s what most of the MLB owners have done.

So when you hear the powers of MLB mention how wonderful the labor peace of the past twenty years has been, just remember who really paid for it.

 

Waiving Goodbye

The Yankees are waiving goodbye to Matt Thornton. Let me explain.

Because the non-waiver trade deadline has passed, teams need to pass a player through waivers before trading him. Starting with the team with the worst record in the same league as the club requesting waivers, every team gets the option to claim a player put on waivers. If claimed, the parent club can either pull the player back, or simply let the player go to the new team. That’s what the Yankees have done with Matt Thornton, letting the Nationals take him for the price of the claim. (50k I believe)

Why are they doing that? Two reasons I can think of. First, Thornton has been perfectly adequate as a lefty specialist, but he is 37-years old and has pitched 24 innings. Second, they have some younger arms who might be a lot better. In the MLB Draft this year, the Yankees took a lefty reliever named Jacob Lindgren with their first pick. He is shooting up the system, reaching high-A already and Jim Callis at Baseball America predicted he would be the first player from the 2014 draft to reach the majors.

Ahead of him you have two arms- James Pazos and Tyler Webb. Pazos, was selected in the 2012 draft and is at AA. Webb, selected last year, is at AAA. It wouldn’t be a shock to see either of them show up in the majors this year and Lindgren might even make it.

For now, the Yankees will let Rich Hill take a crack at the job. He had been in the Red Sox minor leagues before getting traded to and released by Anaheim.  Hill takes the spot, the kids continue to build and the Yankees save some money on the Thornton contract. Nice work Mr. Cashman.

Another One Bites The Dust

We now know the reason the Yankees picked up Chris Capuano- David Phelps had elbow soreness. Sunday that soreness was bad enough that he had to leave the game. Today he is on the DL.

The Yankees started the year with a rotation of Sabathia, Kuroda, Nova, Tanaka and Pineda. When Nova got hurt they put Phelps into the rotation. When Pineda went down they turned Nuno. We have seen Whitley, Greene, McCarthy, and Capuano start and chances are we will see another person start when Phelps’ turn comes up next time. Perhaps we should stop wondering why the Yankees won’t rebuild and take a moment to appreciate the fact that a team with these injuries is still in contention for a playoff spot.

But instead of trotting out another replacement, what if the Yankees turned to Michael Pineda for Friday’s start? Yes, he just had his first rehab start and yes, he only threw 58 pitches. But this is crunch time and I would be that 70 pitches from a rehabbing Pineda are probably going to be a lot more effective than 100 pitches from someone like Chase Whitley. The other option is that the Yankees find another arm on the trade market.

Maybe Pineda is simply not ready, that could definitely be the case. The Yankees don’t want to risk hurting him again, but pitching the likes of Matt Daley is akin to surrendering a game- something the Yankees aren’t in a position to do right now.

Deadline Thoughts

Let’s start with the immediate picture. Are the Yankees better today than yesterday? I would say yes. Steven Drew has suffered through a terrible start to 2014, but he has hit better of late (.781 OPS in July vs. .360OPS in June) and he is a good defensive player. I know he has never played second, but good shortstops can usually play other positions on the infield without much problems. He is replacing Brian Roberts who didn’t hit and didn’t field, so the bar is low.

Martin Prado is a guy the Yankees have been trying to find for years- a guy who can play multiple positions, but still hit at an average level. Solarte, Nunez, Pena, Nix, they have gone through a number of guys and failed to find a Prado. So he is a good asset to have.

The prices they paid were right. Kelly Johnson had no future with the Yankees. Peter O’Brien has massive power, but also massive holes in his swing from all reports. He’ 24 and has a sub-.300 OBP in AA, that’s a guy who cannot be considered a great prospect. He doesn’t have the tools to stick at catcher and there are questions about his ability to play first or right. In some ways, he is a much lesser version of Montero, so I don’t think he will be missed.

But let’s step back for a minute and think about these moves and the addition of Headley. Basically, they added three infielders  to a team that hasn’t lost any infielders since the season started. (Sure Kelly Johnson was on the DL, but he would have been back next week.) Basically, the Yankees confirmed with those moves what most of us knew all along- they did a terrible job of building an infield this offseason. They didn’t have a backup first baseman when their primary guy was coming back from wrist surgery. They tried to use a guy at second who hasn’t played a full season since 2009. They tried to use Kelly Johnson as something more than a bench bat. These are failures of planning and the Yankees had far too many of them. You cannot blame the Yankees for not being prepared for losing 4/5th’s of their rotation- no team is ready for that hit. But what happened on the infield this season was easy to see ahead of time and should not have forced them to scramble in July. Brian Cashman’s contract ends this season and if I were Hal my first question to him would be what happened in the farm system followed by what was the infield plan for 2014.

We can argue about whether or not the Yankees should have followed the Red Sox plan from yesterday, but we also know they never were going to. Not when they were above .500 and only 3 games out of a playoff spot. Knowing that, the best you could have hoped for was what happened. They tried to improve, but not at the expense of the 2015 Yankees. It is most likely not enough to get them into the playoffs and, considering the upgrades in Oakland and Detroit, nowhere near enough to win the AL. But they get an A for effort. The heavy lifting will come in November.

 

 

Trade Deadline Blog-Updated

I figured I would get things started a bit earlier than usual on what is an annual tradition. Plus, we have a big deal. The Red Sox have sent Jon Lester  and Gomes to Oakland for Cespedes and a competitive balance pick.

I think you evaluate this trade when you see where Lester ends up after the season. If he signs back in Boston, this is a great move by them. If he doesn’t, I don’t like this move much. Cespedes hits home runs, but he doesn’t get on base and his average leaves much to be desired. His defense is excellent, so there’s that, but his speed has disappeared. Plus, he is only signed through 2015, so they are getting a player they control for a long time. It’s not a terrible return for a guy who is an impending free agent, but I don’t understand why the Red Sox didn’t sign Lester to an extension. I also think Lester is much more likely to go somewhere else this offseason now. He won’t have the draft pick attached to him and he will get big, and I mean big, offers.

Now, if I were the Yankees, I would look at the rotation Oakland has put together and think twice about trying to win the World Series this year. Nothing is decided in July, but on paper that is a heck of a pitching staff.

More as news happens.

12:41pm- Jon Heyman reporting the Red Sox have traded John Lackey to the Cardinals for a “pitcher and a position player”.

12:44pm- Meanwhile, John Danks is warming up to make his start for Chicago. He had been a name mentioned in a lot of trade rumors.

12;49pm- Red Sox getting Joe Kelly and Allen Craig for Lackey

12:46pm- Joel Sherman points out the Red Sox have now traded three of the guys who started games in the 2013 World Series for them.

12:50pm- Craig is an interesting bet by Boston. He is hitting a lot more ground balls than he did before 2014, but his line drive rate is still good.

2:38pm- Reports are that the Rays are “close” to trading David Price. No word yet on where he is headed.

2:56pm- Jon Morosi reporting that trade of Andrew Miller to Detroit has “fallen apart”

3:03pm- Multiple sources say Miller is going to Baltimore.

3:11pm- Orioles sending Eduardo Rodriguez, a 22-year old lefty from AA to Boston.

3:15pm- To the shock of no one, Ken Rosenthal is reporting there is “no chance” the Yankees get David Price.

3:26pm- Yankees have claimed Esmil Rogers off of waivers and released Scott Sizemore. The pennant is ours!

3:29pm- I have to digress here, but the point of Moneyball wasn’t the idea that OBP is the secret to winning baseball, it was that OBP was incredibly undervalued by baseball people. The Moneyball guys realized that once everyone caught on, OBP would become overvalued and they moved on to other things. Right now, the “Moneyball” secret seems to be prospects. Teams are putting tremendous values on them. Anyway, back to the deadline.

3:33pm- Reports are David Price trade will be a three-team trade. No names or teams yet. Joel Sherman reports he will be traded and has heard Seattle and Detroit as possible teams.

3:36pm- Jason Stark reporting the Yankees are “out” on Marlon Byrd.

3:43pm- This is interesting, Gordon Edes is reporting that Steven Drew is headed to the Yankees. This would be the first trade between the clubs since Mike Stanley I believe. In that trade, the Yankees have up Tony Armas, Jr., a key piece in the Red Sox’s trade for Pedro.

3:44pm- Buster Olney confirming the report of Drew.

3:46pm- Can’t imagine the Yankees gave up anything of value for a guy hitting .176. Bigger question on Drew is where exactly is he going to play? Last I checked, the Yankees filled their hole at third and have a shortstop. So maybe second?

3:48pm- Rosenthal reports David Price is headed to Detroit.

3:50pm- Yankees send “top prospect” Kelly Johnson to Boston for Drew. Advice to Boston, ask him to leave his glove in New York.

3:51pm- This is almost like if DiMaggio had been traded for Williams!

3:54pm- In all seriousness, I don’t think Kelly Johnson can be traded as he is on the DL so I think the trade will be PTBNL for Drew. Either way, this is a salary dump by Boston as Johnson makes $3-million and Drew makes $10-million

3:55pm- Jon Heyman reporting Austin Jackson and Drew Smyly are in Price trade. Seattle is the third team, but who is going where is unclear.

3:57pm- Austin Jackson was in a game and had to be removed because of Price trade.

3:58pm- Ken Rosenthal reports Austin Jackson to Seattle, Nick Franklin to Tampa and Smyly to Tampa as well. Also, the Phillies will not be making a trade today.

4:03pm- So this probably means Max Scherzer and Jon Lester will be free agents after this season.

4:06pm- Buster Olney points out the last three AL Cy Young winners are now in the same rotation (Verlander, Price, Scherzer)

4:08pm- Jon Heyman says Seattle is only trading Nick Franklin to Tampa as part of the Price trade. The rest of the players are coming from Detroit.

4:11pm- Jack Curry reporting the Yankees have acquired Martin Prado from Arizona.

4:13pm- Heyman confirms Prado move. Have to figure this is the end of Brian Roberts.

4:16pm- Curious as to what the Yankees gave up for Prado. He is signed through 2016 at $11-million per.

4:19pm- Yankees reportedly trading Peter O’Brien for Prado. Not sure I like that, but need to think about it a bit.

4:22pm-Yankees are getting cash from Boston for the Drew trade.

4:26pm- So thinking a bit more about Prado. Besides 2014 position question, where does he play in 2015 and 2016?

4:29pm- I’m ok with the O’Brien trade. 33HR’s in A/AA this year, but reportedly huge holes in his swing. 20BB/106K’s this year confirm that.

So, I think that’s it. A more exciting trade deadline than last year that’s for sure. Andy will be sharing his thoughts on the Red Sox moves shortly and I will recap the Yankees’ moves tomorrow.

4:40pm- One last update, Mark Feinsand reports that Brian Roberts will be DFA’ed.

Thanks for Coming, Now Return to Denver

Troy Tulowitzki came to Yankee Stadium as a “fan” Sunday. At least that’s what some people believe. Others see more nefarious motives behind the move. A large part of me wants to believe that his motives were pure. There is something very cool about the idea that a ballplayer would make a trip to see his childhood hero play one last time. But, it also could have been a message that he wanted to send to Yankees’ management. A message of- I’m ready to take over shortstop when you want me to.

And that’s my fear in all of this. He is a wonderful player, but he is also the type of player the Yankees need to avoid if they are going to build another team sustained for the long haul. For one thing, he will be 30 next season, not old by any means, but hitting the downside of his career. For another, he isn’t a free agent- the Yankees would need to give up significant pieces to trade for him. Finally, there is the matter of the 150-point drop in his OPS when he isn’t playing at Coors Field.

But the Yankees will almost certainly chase him very hard if he goes on the trade market. For one thing, they will need a shortstop in 2015. For another, Tulo is a star and the Yankees need stars to sell those expensive seats. But if they are ever truly going to be great again, they need to take a different approach. They need to build a new core and then supplement it from there. Adding Tulo to a team that is close to a World Series title is one thing, but adding him to a team that is barely .500 is another thing altogether. I hope the Yankees come to realize that.

Chris Capuano?-UPDATED 7/25

The Yankees just tweeted that they acquired Chrish Capuano from the Rockies for cash considerations. I don’t see how this helps, but the Yankees are putting together quite a collection of washed up lefties. Francis, Huff, and Capuano, that’s an interesting bullpen trio for a team trying to convince itself they are legitimate contenders.

But, the Yankees will do that. Depending on tonight’s Orioles’ result, they will be no more than three-games out of first and they are 6-1 since the All-Star Break. More nuanced fans might notice that they are still -27 in the run differential department, but this management team will certainly not surrender this season before next week’s trade deadline. If they can upgrade this team without damaging the future, then by all means do it. But trying to radically overhaul this team under that constraint seems impossible. More power to Brian Cashman if he can do it.

Update 7/25@5:30pm- Good Lord, Capuano is now the Yankees’ fifth starter. He will get the ball tomorrow. This is a guy the Red Sox released at the start of July, the Rockies put in the minors, and now he is a starter for a playoff “contender”?  We really need to come up with a good nickname for the trio of Capuano, Huff and Francis. Any suggestions?

A Slight Upgrade At Third

The Yankees have acquired Chase Headley from the Padres for Yangervis Solarte and Rafael DePaula. Let’s dig into this.

What happened to Chase Headley? He hit 31 homers in 2012 and was fifth in the NL MVP race. Since that season he has hit a total of 20 homers. For his career, playing home games in San Diego has hurt him, his slugging percentage on the road is 72-points higher on the road than home, but interestingly, he has had a lower road slugging percentage in 2013 and 2014. A switch-hitter, in 2012 he destroyed RHP with a .906 OPS. That has declined to .740 in 2013 and .654 in 2014.

So why do I consider this an upgrade? Two things stick out about Headley. First, he is a very good defender and the Yankees could really use that on the infield. Secondly, he did have that year in 2012. Now he may not be that player anymore, but the Yankees have gotten overall production of .246/.312/.382 from third this year. Headley has the talent to achieve that, which would be an upgrade when you factor in his defense.

And consider what they gave up. Solarte is a fun player, but I think he got overexposed. There are very few six-year minor league free agents who become regulars. DePaula is the type of arm who could come back and haunt you, but he is stuck in A-ball at the age of 23. He was also originally signed in 2010, which should make him eligible for the Rule 5 draft after this season. Since the Yankees weren’t going to put him on the 40-man anytime soon, this makes sense. This is not surrendering the future in any way.

And it makes sense for the Padres. They were never going to offer Headley a qualifying offer, so at least they get something for him instead of seeing him leave as a free agent after the season. The interesting thing will be to see what happens if he plays well for the Yankees. Would they sign him to a deal and if they did, what would that mean for A-Rod? (Remember him?)

We shall see, but one thing worth remembering as we close in on the trade deadline- nobody reported anything about this deal being in the works. I don’t know how he does it, but remember that Brian Cashman, aka the Silent Assassin, moves in the shadows. Listen to trade rumors at your own risk!

I Hope He Grooved One

You know what most baseball fans wanted to see last night? They wanted to see Derek Jeter get a hit in the All-Star Game. You know what most baseball fans could care less about? This stupid idea that the All-Star Game “counts”.

It is ridiculous that home field in the World Series depends on a game where the best players can’t go more than a few innings. MLB should be ashamed of that and they should immediately switch it to the team with the best record in the World Series gets home field advantage. The NHL and the NBA figured that out a long time ago, why can’t baseball?

So I could care less if Wainwright grooved one to Jeter. First of all, even if he did  Jeter has to hit it. Second, why not do it? If Jeter’s last home game finds the Yankees mathematically eliminated from the playoffs and the Orioles are in a position where a win doesn’t matter, I hope a Baltimore pitcher grooves one to Jeter then. I hope the same thing happens when David Ortiz makes his final appearance at Fenway. Denny McLain did it for Mickey Mantle and I imagine other pitchers have done it as well. Baseball is a sport where failure is the norm. Even the greatest hitters make an out more often than they reach base. And that is not how we want to remember them. We want to see them touching them all or racing into second. Just like we saw Jeter do last night.

The 2015 Rotation

When 2014 started, I had moderate expectations about this team. What I was really hoping for was three pitchers to take big steps forward- Tanaka, Nova and Pineda. I was hoping the three of them would step forward as the rotation of the future. I was hoping the 2015 Yankees would open with a rotation fronted by those three with CC as the 4th guy. I was hoping Manny Banuelos would join them in a strong rotation next season. Now it is very, very hard to see how any of that happens.

We know Nova won’t be ready by Opening Day 2015. It sounds like Sabathia’s career hangs in the balance, so he is probably out. Banuelos is not close to being ready to pitch in the bigs as he continues his rehab from TJ surgery. Tanaka may very well need TJ surgery. Pineda is probably the best bet at this point to open the 2015 season on the big league roster, but he is still rehabbing from an injury suffered in late April and he has a total of 19 innings to his name this year.

So, we now have a rotation of Kuroda, McCarthy, Phelps, Greene and probably Whitley. Kuroda won’t be back next year and McCarthy is a free agent. Phelps looks like a decent back of the rotation guy at most. Whitley might not even be that. Greene is a complete unknown. While I do not want the Yankees to mortgage their future to try and compete this year, it is worth pursuing a trade if it can help the 2015 rotation because that is shaping up to be an absolute mess. Something to keep in mind over the next few weeks.