Yankees

Elvis Was A Hero To Most

Word is the Rangers are shopping Elvis Andrus and the Yankees just might be interested. Andrus is 26 and about to start an 8-year/$120-million deal with two interesting clauses in it. First, Andrus can opt out of the deal after both the 2018 and the 2019 seasons. (The Rangers love those opt out clauses) and he also has a vesting option for 2023 which is triggered by either 550 PA’s in 2022, or a combined 1,100 PA’s in 2021 and 2022.

Neither of those clauses would be a concern if Andrus was still the player he was in 2012. In 2012, he appeared to be an emerging offensive force who was a defensive whiz. Now he appears to be a declining player on both offense and defense. Clearly, any team that acquires him will need to be very cautious.

Now part of the reason for that may be that he showed up to camp in 2014 overweight and he hurt his right shoulder early in the season. A healthy shoulder may bring back some of the lost defense and losing the weight would certainly do that. If Andrus goes back to being the defender he was in 2012, he becomes a lot more valuable. But his bat is the bigger problem. His 2014 line of .267/.314/.333 is slightly worse than the 2014 average AL shortstop (.257/.307/.359) That’s not something you pay $15-million a year for.

So how much do you pay? That’s the key question. If the Rangers were willing to knock pay $5-million of his salary each year, Andrus becomes a lot more interesting to me. Yes, there are definite risks involved, but remember this guy is only 26. He becomes the youngest Yankees position player by almost 5 years if a deal is made. The Yankees can risk $10-million a year on him and hope he becomes more like his 2012 self, but even if he doesn’t, a 2015 infield with Andrus instead of Brendan Ryan is a better one.

He Lied?

I don’t think there were many people out there who believed Alex Rodriguez when he claimed he had never used any of the PED’s he was accused of using, but just in case, this story should put an end to that. Here’s the key quote in my mind, “Rodriguez gave a sworn statement to the DEA and prosecutors that, between late 2010 and October 2012, he did use substances prohibited by Major League Baseball.”

Just to recap. Alex vehemently denied these charges in public, but told a very different story when faced with the option of perjury.

The question I have now is what happens next? I have already stated that I don’t think the Yankees should let A-Rod play for them again, and this only increases my conviction in that belief. I also think that this news will increase the pressure on everyone to figure out a way to let Alex shrink away out of the spotlight. I cannot imagine he will want to face the press and try to explain these inconstancies, and I know the Yankees won’t want him to attempt to do so with an interlocking NY on his head or chest. I don’t know how it happens, but this should convince everyone that Alex Rodriguez should not be in Yankee camp when it opens in three months.

 

Would You Sign Any Of These Guys?

There are a lot of top free agent lists out there, I just took the top-10 names I saw the most and put them into the post. My question is, if you were the Yankees or the Red Sox, would you sign any of them? Let’s look at the list

#1- Max Scherzer

The good- Incredible last two seasons in Detroit and he is 29.

The bad- Already turned down a six-year/$144-million deal so what will he cost?

#2- Jon Lester

The good- Proven winner in the AL East

The bad- He will be 31 this offseason and will cost a small forunte.

#3- James Shields

The good- Definition of workhorse. 8-straight years with 30-plus starts and 200-plus innings

The bad- Will be 33 when this contract starts and has a 5.49ERA in 60 postseason innings

#4- Pablo Sandoval

The good- Good production at a tough position and only 28.

The bad- Weight concerns and four-straight years of declining OPS.

#5- Hanley Ramirez

The good- Brilliant player when motivated and healthy.

The bad- Not always healthy or motivated. Can he still play enough defense to stay at short?

#6- Nelson Cruz

The good- Power that you don’t see that much anymore.

The bad- PED suspension, 34 years-old, bad defender. Seems destined to be a DH soon.

#7- Victor Martinez

The good- Offensive machine who is also a switch-hitter.

The bad- 36 and probably a DH only very soon.

#8- Melky Cabrera

The good- Has turned into a good offensive player and he is only 30

The bad- PED suspension.

#9- Yasmany Thomas

The good- Young guy with big power.

The bad- He is coming from Cuba so he will need to adjust to MLB.

#10- Russell Martin

The good- Good catcher defensively and offensively

The bad- 32 years old and will attract a premium price in a thin market.

 

So getting back to my original question, would you sign any of these guys if you were the Yankees or the Red Sox? Since I am the Yankee side of this blog, I will focus on that.

A guy like Lester or Scherzer would be nice, but pitching is not the Yankees problem and spending huge money on another starter seems foolish. Shields is more interesting to me as an innings sponge, but assuming he gets an arbitration offer from KC, I wouldn’t want to surrender the draft pick for him.

On the offensive side of things, Russell Martin isn’t needed and Melky Cabrera isn’t wanted. I wouldn’t go near Sandoval or Cruz. That leaves the three tempting players for the Yankees- Ramirez, Martinez, and Thomas.

Ramirez makes sense because the Yankees could put him at short now and move him to third later. He would be an upgrade to the position in 2015 and help an offense in need of fixing. But, is he worth the headaches? That’s the part I am unsure of. If the Yankees could get him for five years at most and $100-million or less, I think they would be very interested, but I would pass.

Victor Martinez would really help the offense, but where are you going to play him? Teixeira, A-Rod and Beltran are probably your 1b/DH combination already. Plus, Martinez is exactly the type of guy the Yankees should stop signing (old) so I would pass.

That leaves Thomas and he is intriguing. The scouts love his power, a commodity in short supply in MLB these days. But, there are questions about his OBP ability and his defense. The market for Cuban players has exploded, so he is going to cost a lot, and I think the Yankees could get better value elsewhere.

So if I am running the Yankees, I avoid all of these guys. I would look at guys like Headley and McCarthy and see what they want to stick around,  but I would not give up a draft pick for any of the top free agents. Spend some money on short deals with lower-tier free agents and hope you hit on some of them. The Giants have shown that a wild card team can win the World Series, so the important thing is to qualify for the playoffs. With the right tweaks, that is attainable for the 2015 Yankees.

 

 

What A Wonderful Series

That was awesome. Seven games and it came down to the final inning. How amazing was Madison Bumgarner? He has written himself into the baseball book of legends with that performance.

I do have two questions about that final inning. First, am I the only one who thought Gordon would have scored on his eventual “triple” in the 9th? He seemed to have busted it out of the box and with two misplays on the ball I think he would have gotten in there. Alas, we will never know. (I fully admit that would have been a brutal decision for the third base coach)

Second, how does the batter not see Buster Posey practically standing up behind the plate on a high fastball? To me that is a dead giveaway of the pitch location, but I must be missing something. No matter what, that was a great ending to the baseball season.

******

Watching Madison Bumgarner out there tonight made me think of two things in regards to the 2015 Yankees. First, the Yankees need to make the bets the Giants did on pitchers like Bumgarner. The Giants signed him to a five-year/$35-million deal in 2012 with two additional options for $12-million each, after he had made less than 50 starts in the bigs. That looks like the steal of the century at this point with San Francisco controlling him for the next five years at a total of $52-million, but it was obviously a risk. The Giants know this from the contract they gave Matt Cain, which cost them almost twice as much, but hasn’t come close to providing any value.

Pitchers are inherently unpredictable. But the Yankees would be much, much smarter if they placed their bets on guys earlier in their career than later. The Bumgarner bet cost the Giants a total of $$59-million for seven seasons. The Yankees spent almost three times that amount to lock up Tanaka for seven years. How about approaching Nova and Pineda this offseason and seeing what the cost of a long-term deal would be? Both have risks, but both could be real bargains in the future.

Second, I wonder if Bumgarner showed us a model for the way pitchers in the 21st Century should be handled? I am not suggesting that they pitch 117 pitches on a Sunday and then throw 60-plus on a Wednesday, but considering the cost of pitching, why are throwing days wasted in the bullpen? I don’t know what the exact number is, but maybe a starter could pitch on a Sunday and then throw 20 pitches in a game on Wednesday? Whatever the number, wouldn’t that make more sense than using a guy for 6 innings every five days? I hope the Yankees are smart enough to find out.

Can You Blame Him?

Chili Davis has chosen to be the next Red Sox hitting coach instead of the next Yankees hitting coach. I think it is a very smart move for Chili.

For one thing, the Red Sox actual have some young hitters he can work with. For another, the Yankees just fired a very respected hitting coach for not getting a bunch of 30-plus year olds to hit in 2014. Why would Chili think he could do any better? The Yankees will need to keep looking, and Dave Magadan will not be the choice.

In other news, the Yankees have tapped a former hitting coach, Gary Denbo, to take over as VP of Baseball Operations. The news on Denbo comes along with the news that Pat Roessler, the Director of Player Development is out. These are two encouraging moves as they demonstrate that the Yankees understand they need to fix their minor league system.

The Yankees Fired The Wrong People

The news today is that Brian Cashman has a new three-year contract while Kevin Long and Mick Kelleher have been dropped from Joe Griardi’s coaching staff.

I’ve already said that I would not have given Cashman a new contract, but these moves puzzle me. Yes, the offense was bad this year, but is that Long’s fault? Is it his fault the Yankees are old? Is it his fault Derek Jeter played like he was 40? Wasn’t Long the guy who helped Curtis Granderson have back-to-back 40+ homer years? Wasn’t he the hitting coach when the Yankees scored all of those runs? I would have stuck with him for at least another year.

And I have no idea what Mick Kelleher did. He was the defensive coach, and while the Yankees were not especially good on defense, I can’t see how you blame him. Let’s be honest, the Yankees may have had the worst middle infield defensively in their history this year. Jeter was never a good defender and Brian Roberts didn’t help matters. Kelly Johnson at first, a revolving door at third for the first three months…. When you add it up, I can’t see what Kelleher could have done better.

The Face of The Yankees

The Yankees have had various characters as the face of their franchise through the years. Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle weren’t saints. Lou Gehrig might have been. Reggie Jackson was a narcissist. Derek Jeter and Joe DiMaggio were intensely private. And while the “job” is open again, it is about to be filled by Alex Rodriguez. Short of the Yankees bringing Mike Trout to the Bronx before the start of next season, and that is absolutely not happening, Alex will become the face of the Yankees. He will be the person most associated with the team and that is one of the  reasons the Yankees should cut him outright instead of letting him be reinstated at the conclusion of the World Series.

Let’s start with the obvious reason. Alex is a disgrace. He has been exposed as a massive cheat and refused to take the stand at his own arbitration hearing claiming the process was rigged and his lawsuits would prove it. Yet, he quietly dropped those lawsuits on a Friday in February and disappeared for the 2014 season. Opposing teams’ fans will obviously boo him, but Yankees fans should too. Management know that and the only reason the Yankees are even thinking of letting him in the front door is because they owe him $61-million.

Tradition matters to the Yankees. Perhaps it matters to them more than any team in baseball. They constantly market it. They are the only team that still has an Old Timers’ Day. They practically shove it down your throat at times. It has been a big part of the reason why the Yankees are the most valuable brand in sports. Fobres estimates that the Yankee brand is worth $521 million alone. That is a valuable asset and one that the Yankees should protect. Letting Alex return to the team will only reduce the value of the club. Maybe it won’t be $61-million of damage, but it will be damage and the Yankees could take a stand here and show that they value their principals more than their wallets.

But here’s the thing. Even if they won’t. Even if they desperately want to earn something off of that $61-million can they? Alex is about to be 40 and hasn’t played since 2013. He has missed at least 20 games every season since 2008, and was just slightly above average with the bat in 2013. Is a 2015 season where he hits .260 with say 15-20 homers really worth all the distractions his presence will create or the logjam at DH?

So, I hope the Yankees wake up to the reality that it is time to close the door on Alex. Sadly, I don’t think they will.

 

The Price of Qualifying

MLB has announced that a qualifying offer will cost $15.3 million this year. Only players who are free agents and have played the entire past season with a club may have an offer extended. If an offer is extended and rejected by the player, a club signing that player will forfeit its first draft pick in next June’s draft. If the offer is accepted, the player is signed for a one-year deal of $15.3 million.

This news gives the Yankees an interesting decision as they have two players who could get qualifying offers- Kuroda and Robertson. While it is a lot of money, I would absolutely give Robertson a qualifying offer. While it is a much bigger salary than he would otherwise get, it is a one year deal. And, if he rejects it, the Yankees pick up a draft pick. (They could theoretically also work out a longer deal with him, but that’s a different topic)  If Robertson accepts a qualifying offer, the Yankees will have their 1-2 punch in the bullpen back for another year.

As for Kuroda, I wouldn’t extend an offer. Kuroda has been a great addition to the Yankees and remarkably consistent during his time here, but he is going to be 40 next season. The Yankees need to get younger and the rotation is the one place where it is obvious that they can do so. Imagine a rotation next year of Tanaka, Pineda, Sabathia, Phelps and Greene with Nova working his way back in and Bryan Mitchell and Manny Banuelos waiting in the wings. Sabathia is the only guy in that group over 30, and he is only 33. Not everyone will work out in that group, but the Yankees have enough arms around that they can put together a reasonably strong rotation internally, and there are some other arms in the system that could help out  very soon.

Teams have until five days after the end of the World Series to make a qualifying offer.

No More Cash

Unlike 2011 or 2008, I think the Yankees should not keep Brian Cashman as GM. I have three reasons for this.

First, the farm system has not produced enough talent in the past few years. A lot of this has to do with some pretty bad drafts. Now the Yankees have been handicapped because of their low draft position, but they still should be able to get players in the first round who can at least contribute to the big league club. That hasn’t happened since the 2006 draft when they took Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain in the first round. Since then they have picked Brackman, Cole, Heathcott, Culver, Bichette, Hensley, Jagielo, and Lindgren. With the exception of Brackman and his 1/3 of an inning, none of them have reached the bigs as a Yankee and most are never going to.

But it goes beyond the draft. The players who we hear about being on the verge of contributing seem to flame out. Take Mason Williams. Before the 2013 season, he was the #32 prospect in all of baseball. Now he is on the verge of getting released after a sub-.600 OPS season in AA. Maybe he simply didn’t have it, but there are other names like him and I question the instruction the Yankees are providing. Whatever the reason, the Yankees are not getting the talent they need from their minor leagues and that is Cashman’s fault.

My second reason for letting him go is his approach to roster building is outdated in my mind. While there have been exceptions, I think the game has been cleaned up dramatically in terms of PED’s. Furthermore, amphetamines are not part of the game now. Maybe those are the reasons why players in their late 30′s don’t hit like players in the late 30′s once did, but whatever the reason, the game is more about youth and positional flexibility than it was. Brian Cashman hasn’t shown an ability to thrive under those conditions. Year after year, he builds his roster around stars and then tries to round it out with castoffs from other clubs. Part of this is simply the Yankees way of doing business, but part of it is simply an inability or unwillingness to try younger players in certain spots. The Yankees need to stop signing guys like Brian Roberts to round out the roster and sign more guys like Yangervis Solarte. I know Cashman signed both, I just believe he prefers the former to the latter.

Finally there is the simple fact that he has been on the job for 17 years and that is a really, really long time. Thinking becomes calcified in organizations without change. Opportunities are missed because there are not enough new perspectives. Brian Cashman has been a great GM, but it is not a lifetime appointment.

Unfortunately, I don’t think the Yankees will make a change. There are already stories that they are working on a new deal with Cashman. I can only hope that if they keep him they make him change some of the ways he operates. Brian has been a wonderful GM for 17 years, but the time has come to try a new one.

 

Great Job Boston

I want to compliment the Red Sox and all of Boston on a fabulous job this weekend. The fans were awesome and the way the club handled the Derek Jeter ceremony was incredible. While we may be enemies on the field, it is always great to see us come together off of it.