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To The Courts!-UPDATED 4:09PM

Stop the speculation, we have an official announcement. MLB has announced the remaining Biogenisis suspensions and they are exactly what we thought they would be. Twelve players, including Jesus Montero and Francisco Cervelli, are suspended for 50 games starting immediately.

Strangely, Alex Rodriguez has been suspended for 211 games, starting Thursday. (Huh?) In the MLB Statement they claim that Alex used testosterone and HGH over multiple years and obstructed the investigation.

So, Alex can play tonight and the next couple of nights as his suspension doesn’t start until Thursday. And, he can play after that, assuming he appeals his suspension. And, if the Yankees made the 2014 playoffs, Alex could play in them as his suspension is for the 2014 Championship Season and not the 2014 playoffs.

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A few things on this. Let’s get the smaller fish out of the way. Cervelli said he didn’t do anything back in February, but then why did he agree to a suspension? That Montero trade doesn’t look like such a bust now, does it?

As for Alex, now we have total war. If you read the MLB statement, it is not a nice one. They are out to punish him. For his part, Alex has hired the same lawyer who got Ryan Braun off the hook the first time.  There is always the chance that Alex doesn’t appeal, but at this point I think he absolutely will. For one thing, being suspended in 2013 costs him more per game than it will in 2014 and 2015. And, he actually has a clear path into the lineup right now, something he probably wouldn’t have if he took the suspension and tried to return to the club in 2015.

So now we wait for the almost certain appeal and then the process to work itself out. How long will that take? I have seen estimates as low as two weeks to as high as two months. I am sure baseball will try and rush it along, but Alex’s lawyers will certainly have all the time that they need to present their case. And before you assume A-Rod is a goner. Just remember that Clemens got out of perjury charges, Braun escaped the first test, there is nothing cut and dry with this and it wouldn’t shock me to see Alex get a heavily reduced suspension. And for at least the next three games, I expect we will see him playing third base.

Finally, everyone suspended today should take a look at this statement. That’s the way you apologize and admit guilt.

UPDATE 4:09-  You have to love these statements too.

Down The Stretch We Come-UPDATED 4:35

So the Red Sox have landed Jake Peavy and the Padres have landed Ian Kennedy. The biggest rumor right now is that Michael Young has decided a little over an hour before the deadline that he would accept a trade to the Yankees. Stay tuned.

3:15pm I think the Astros are going for a MLB-record in terms of lowest salary. They have traded Justin Maxwell to the Royals. Why trade Maxwell? He is arbitration eligible next year. The Astros most expensive player is Wandy Rodriguez, who plays for PITTSBURGH. If they can trade Bud Norris and his $3-million salary, they would cut their payroll by over 10%-WOW!

3:20pm Just speculating here, but if we see the Yankees take on a big contract in 2014, that’s a pretty solid indication that they think something big is happening to A-Rod suspension-wise

3:22pm Joel Sherman tweets that the Yankees have a .560 OPS from their thirdbasemen this year-worst in MLB.

3:25 Michael Young is hitting .279 with 8 home runs and he would be HUGE upgrade for the Yankees <sigh>

3:31 Heyman and Rosenthal reporting that the Orioles are getting closer on Bud Norris.

3:35 Rosenthal reporting that Norris is headed officially to the Orioles.

3:41 Olney reporting that the Yankees are not getting traction in Young talks.

3:42 Sherman reporting that the Braves talked to the Yankees about Hughes but nothing likely.

3:47 Rosenthal reporting that the Pirates are quiet.

3:52 Here’s a big non-trade item. Matt Moore is headed to the DL with elbow problems. It’s been a good 24 hours for the Red Sox.

3:57 Rosenthal reporting that nothing is going on with Texas or the Yankees.

4:35 And that’s about it, nothing major anywhere and the Yankees didn’t pull off a deadline trade. But, since they are in 4th-place, so they will be able to block the Orioles, Red Sox and Rays from making moves in August.

A Great Trade

There is a nice symmetry to Alfonso Soriano returning to the Yankees at this moment. After all, he was the key piece the Yankees traded to Texas back in 2004 for Alex Rodriguez. And despite all of the crap the Yankees have endured since that trade, it was a wonderful move. Let’s look back at it.

The Yankees traded Alfonso Soriano and Joaquin Arias for A-Rod. Since that trade happened, A-Rod has produced 49 WAR. Soriano has priduced a 29.1 WAR and Arias has produced a 0.5 WAR. Sure, up until this point, the Yankees have paid about $80-million more for A-Rod than Soriano and Arias have earned, but $4 million per WAR is a below the 2012 average of $6.3 million. Plus, like it or not, the 2009 title doesn’t happen without A-Rod.

So, the 2004 trade that sent Soriano away was a good one. How does the 2013 trade to bring him back look? Well let’s start with the obvious- they needed to get a righty bat. Here are two stunning stats. Soriano has out-homered the entire Yankee team since the start of July and he has 10 home runs since the Yankees last had a righty hit a  homer.

According to various sources the Yankees are giving up  Corey Black, and paying a prorated $5-million salary this year and $5-million next year. Black is an interesting prospect. He throws close to 100-mph, but he is wild. He is only in A-ball so he has a way to go, but he could definitely come back to haunt the Yankees in a few years. The money isn’t much, though it is interesting that the Yankees are going to pay $5-million to Soriano next year instead of paying more this year. Overall, I think it is a good risk for a team trying to win. This is not Jay Buhner to the Mariners, it is a gamble that a 22-year old in A-ball won’t develop. That’s usually a smart bet.

The question that remains is how will the Yankees use Soriano? The smart play would be to DH full time and cut Hafner. Hafner hasn’t hit since April and his OPS has gone down each month. In July he has put up a line of .154/.241/.212. The Yankees can play Wells in LF against LHP and Mesa against RHP. When Granderson is healthy, he plays there everyday.

A Different View of A-Rod

Here’s a take from across the Pacific on the A-Rod situation.

This is Getting Crazy

UPDATE I wrote all of this below before I read this tweet  Basically, the doctor Alex went to for a second opinion was reprimanded earlier this year by the NJ Attorney General because of “failing to ensure proper patient treatment involving the proscribing of hormones including steroids…”

It’s an old adage, but it is so true; you can’t buy smarts.

The latest twist in the A-Rod saga is that the Yankees are apparently trying to keep him off the field by claiming he is injured. Never mind the fact that it was ALEX who went to the Yankees Saturday and complained about his quad. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any stranger….

Obviously, I am not buying this one. But i will give you a better conspiracy theory if you want.  I have no proof of this, so read on at your own risk.  The Yankees have asked MLB to take their time with the A-Rod/Biogenisis investigation. Why do I say that? Because every game he is suspended for in 2014 helps them towards their $189 payroll goal.

A-Rod is going to make $26-million in 2014 and could earn an extra $6-million if he hits his 660th home run. Since he is currently only 13 away from that, it seems likely that he might do it in 2014, unless he was suspended for a huge chunk of the season. Based on my understanding of the luxury tax, the $6-million bonus would count against the luxury tax number. And since it is A-Rod’s AAV, not his actual salary that counts, the Yankees could take a luxury tax hit of $33.5 million next year thanks to Alex.

Now if Alex is suspended for a portion of 2014 he loses that salary while suspended and that means it doesn’t count against the luxury tax. He is going to make about $4.3 million per month, so a 100-game suspension handed down at the end of July would save the Yankees around $7-million in luxury tax bills for 2014 (55 games this year plus 45 games next year).  If they can get MLB to hold off until the end of August, they could save around $12-million (27 games this year plus 73 games next year) Plus, he might not hit 13 homers in the remaining 89 games, so he wouldn’t trigger the $6-million bonus.

 

 

Soriano

Ask and you shall receive? The Yankees are reportedly close to acquiring Alfonso Soriano from the Cubs for a “mid-level” prospect. The Cubs will pay a significant portion of the $25 million left on Soriano’s contract.

We will have to wait and see what the final terms of the deal are before judging it, but this clearly shows you how bad things are. CBS ran a story today on the potential trade that contained two numbers that are shocking.

  • Yankee left fielders are hitting .225/.267/.332 this season (OPS+ of 62)
  • Yankee DH’s are hitting .212/.297/.362 this season (OPS+ of 92)

That is atrocious production and that is why the Yankees have to turn to someone like Soriano. He doesn’t play defense well and he certainly doesn’t get on base a lot (.286 OBP). But he still has plenty of power (17 homers) and he hits lefties (.280/.312/.508) something very few Yankees are able to do. Vernon Wells has been solid against lefties, so I imagine Soriano will DH and Wells will play left when the Yankees face LHP. When they face a righty, Wells will become Soriano’s defensive substitution.

This isn’t a trade you ever wanted to see the Yankees make, but it is a reflection of where the team currently stands. The minors don’t have any answers and the fill ins are showing why they are fill ins. Soriano is flawed in many ways, but he is better than what they have.

Say Goodbye To Kevin

Well the Youkilis experiment is probably over. Sure, the surgery could cure him in the estimated 10-12 weeks (end of August to mid September) but it is more likely that it finishes him for the season. When the Yankees signed Youkilis, I wondered why they chose him over Nunez. I didn’t like the fact that they wouldn’t give him a shot at third.

Well Nunez had a chance at short and he didn’t do much with it. I still think the idea of making him only a shortstop was a mistake, but his injuries this year and last have deprived us of a chance to truly evaluate him. I will say this- I don’t think the Yankees win much with the leftside of the infield occupied by Nunez and Adams.

So now we get Nix at short and Adams at third for the immediate future. Maybe you believe A-Rod and Jeter are on their way back, but consider this. A-Rod watched, yes watched, pitches go by in BP today. He wasn’t allowed to swing. Jeter hasn’t even gotten to that point. Neither one of them is coming back anytime soon. Brian Cashman needs to see if there are anymore productive castoffs he can acquire. Otherwise, the Yankees are going to be forced into a tough decision. Do they sacrifice the future for today or do they sacrifice today for tomorrow?

The Crystal Ball

A quick break from vacation to get my picks in before the season starts in a few hours. As always, follow these at your own risk.

AL EAST

1- Tampa

2- Toronto

3- Yankees

4- Red Sox

5- Baltimore

To me Tampa is a great team people seem to forget about. Their pitching is great and I think Myers will provided them with the big stick they need when they call him up at the end of April. I love Toronto’s offseason, but not enough to put them on top. I get the bandwagon that thinks the Yankees finish in last, but I don’t see it. Sure they are old and injured, but they can pitch and that should keep them out of the basement. Plus, lets not forget how truly bad Boston was last year, why should we expect them to climb over New York? I say the Yankees finish third with 85 wins and miss the playoffs. The surprise is probably the Baltimore pick, but I think their luck in one-run games runs out and they certainly won’t surprise anyone this year.

AL CENTRAL

1- Detroit

2- Chicago

3- Kansas City

4- Minnesota

5- Cleveland

Detroit is the class of this division.

AL WEST

1- Angels

2- Oakland

3- Texas

4- Seattle

5- Houston

I think the Angels run away with it, but Oakland and Texas are the wild cards. That is in part do to how epically bad Houston will be. I would guess 110 losses for them.

NL EAST

1- Washington

2- Atlanta

3- Philadelphia

4- Florida

5- Mets

Hard to see anyone catching the Nats this year, but Atlanta will give them a run.

NL CENTRAL

1- Cincinnati

2- Pittsburgh

3- St. Louis

4- Milwaukee

5- Chicago

Now that Houston is gone, this might be the most competitive division in baseball. I think the Reds hold off a surprising Pirates club.

NL WEST

1- Giants

2- Dodgers

3- Arizona

4- Colorado

5- San Diego

The Dodgers may be the fashionable pick, but I will take the winners of two of the last three titles.

AL PLAYOFFS

Texas over Oakland in the wild card

Detroit over Tampa
Angles over Texas

Angels over Detroit

NL Playoffs

Atlanta over LA in the wild card

Nats over Atlanta
Cincinnati over San Fran
Nats over Cincinnati

WORLD SERIES

Nats over Angels- at least something works in D.C.

Finally a toast to the two greatest words in the English language- PLAY BALL. I can’t wait to hear them tomorrow afternoon.

Stumbling Into Something?

Don’t mistake this post for contentment about the state of the Yankees. I don’t think any fan who takes a hard look at the team can feel great right now. But, I think the anger over the Lyle Overbay signing is obscuring the fact that the Yankees may have improved a lousy situation.

It’s not a pretty solution, but the idea of using Overbay at first against RHP and Nix at 3b against LHP with Youkilis shuttling between the two spots maximizes the Yankees chances to win. Overbay had a pretty solid year with Arizona in 2012 and although the Red Sox cut him loose if he can hit RHP like he did in ’12 he will be a positive addition. Nix can hit lefties a bit, so this three-headed platoon just might work. Besides, what was the real alternative? Would Juan Rivera have been an upgrade? I don’t think so.

The Yankees have done the best they can to cobble together patches for Granderson and Teixeira. Francisco could provide some protection against LHP and Neal is in the minors if he stumbles. Bosch will give them some protection against an injury to Hafner and maybe Wells will be rejuvenated by a move to New York. And, considering all the roster changes over the past two weeks it is very possible that the Yankees have a new face joining the team before the More

Evaluating The Offseason

With pitchers and catchers reporting , we can look back and evaluate the moves the Yankees have made to prepare for the 2013 season. For me, the frustration of this offseason is that the Yankees seemed to try and thread the needle between two different goals. The first goal is the desire to get to a payroll of $189 million in 2014. The second goal is to win the World Series. Now, I don’t believe those two goals are mutually exclusive, but there is not a lot of overlap between the two of them because of the way the Yankees are currently constructed.

The Yankees made some curious choices in their approach to achieving both goals. They let Russell Martin leave for Pittsburgh because they didn’t want to give him a two-year deal and then turned around and gave a two-year deal to a 39-year old outfielder. They let Eric Chavez sign with Arizona for a paltry $3 million and then gave Kevin Youkilis $12 million to play third. Without breaking down each deal, I think it is fair to say the Yankees aren’t better than they were at the end of 2012, but I am not sure that they are as bad as a lot of people think. (A healthy Brett Gardner is a very under-appreciated asset.)

The problem is, they will be very hard to project. If they stay healthy (a big if) and find reasonable solutions to their catching and right-handed outfield needs, I could see them winning 90 games. But, if the older guys show their age and they don’t figure out how to plug those holes, I could see things going the other way and a sub.500 finish being the result.

So what are the big questions heading into camp? Here are my top-3.

1- Who is the starting catcher? From everything I read, Yankee decision makers think Romine is ready for the bigs from a glove standpoint. If that is true, I would make him the starter because the other options have very little upside offensively and Romine just might hit. One thing to keep in mind, Francisco Cervelli still has an option, so he can be sent to the minors.

2- Who is the 5th starter? Barring injury, we know that the Yankees’ rotation will be Sabathia, Kuroda, Pettitte and Hughes, but the fifth starter is probably a two-man race between Nova and Phelps. Based on 2012, Phelps should win this in a laugher, but I think the Yankees will give Nova every chance to win the job.

3- What is the bench? This is a really easy one to predict by role, but very hard to predict by name. We know there will be a backup catcher, right-handed outfielder, backup infielder and one other player on the bench. My early guesses would be Stewart, Diaz, Nix and Nunez, but I think this is a wide-open competition. Stewart makes sense, assuming he is not the starting catcher, as he did it in 2012. Diaz is my early pick over Juan Rivera, but I am hoping the Yankees find some other players for this competition. I think Nix’s versatility earns him a role as the Yankees will need someone who can fill multiple positions. Nunez is an utter guess because I just don’t understand what the Yankees are doing with him. Is he really only a shortstop? Even if he is, there would be value is carrying him on the roster as a SS/DH/PH. He could play a fair amount of short against LHP, moving Jeter to DH. He could also provide a runner off the bench.

These next seven weeks will answer a lot of questions.