A-Rod Gets it Right

I don’t know if this was A-Rod acting on his own, or someone told him to do it, but issuing a handwritten apology for his actions was the smartest thing he has done pr-wise ever.

There was zero upside to some sort of press conference to discuss what happened over the past few years. First of all, would anyone believe what he had to say ? Second, what answers would he have been prepared to give?  I hope Alex takes a page from Mark McGwire when the cameras do reach him and tells everyone, “I am not here to talk about the past”.

Some will say A-Rod didn’t need to apologize to the fans. I disagree with that. He played all of us for fools. He proclaimed his innocence, attacked his accusers and tried to create the case that he was getting railroaded by MLB. I think the sentence he wrote about how he, “made the situation worse than it had to be”, captures what happened perfectly. I commend him for apologizing for that.

But an apology doesn’t excuse his behavior. Alex cheated and lied. He tried to manipulate lots of people involved in this sordid saga. There have been plenty of worse crimes committed, but that is a not a person I want to root for. I will still cheer for the Yankees as vociferously as I have in the past, but I will also be very happy when Alex, and all the drama that goes along with him, is no longer a part of the equation.


A Good Offseason

With James Shields now heading to the Padres, I think we can declare the Yankees offseason is over. They could always bring in another guy on a minor league deal, but the heavy lifting is certainly complete. Let’s review the results.

The Yankees did a lot of good things this offseason, but I wonder if we will think about it more in the future for what they didn’t do? They didn’t make another huge bet in free agency. They certain weren’t parsimonious, they gave Chase Headley and Andrew Miller contracts that total over $80-million combined, but they were careful. Nobody received more than $13-million a year. Nobody received more than a four-year commitment. For the Yankees, this equals frugal.

They also got younger. Not incredibly so, but about as much as they could given the commitments they have made in years past. Didi Gregorious will only be 25 when the season starts. The hoped-for rotation in May of Tanaka, Pineda, Sabathia, Eovaldi and Nova would have four guys in their 20’s with Sabathia as the grey beard at 35. The bullpen will probably only have guys in their 20’s when the season starts. What will the end result be? Your guess is a good as mine. I can make a case for them finishing first, and I can make a case for them finishing last. Let’s get through March and then assess where the team might end up.

For now, I think we can be cautiously optimistic that the Yankees are trying a new way of building a roster. There are some real benefits to that, but there will be hiccups along the way. The next two seasons will be some of the most interesting ones we have seen in a long time. Prospects are coming and the Yankees will have some tough choices to make with sunk costs like Sabathia, Teixeira, and you know who. How long do they run they out there based on their salaries and at what point do they simply move on?  As a fan, I am very excited to see it all unfold.

Cut Him or Welcome Him

Two different stories in today’s papers with the same theme- the Yankees are rejecting A-Rod’s attempts to apologize and meet with the top brass. This is a stupid approach for the club to take.

I have said that I don’t think the Yankees should allow Alex to ever wear their uniform today. I still believe that they should cut him. But, if they are not going to cut him, they need to stop acting like five-year olds. Alex has behaved like a total ass, but he deserves some small amount of credit for wishing to meet with team officials and apologize for that. The Yankees gain nothing from preventing him from doing that. In fact it makes no sense at all.

The Yankees owe Alex $61-million for the remainder of his contract that much is clear. Barring a career-ending injury, they are going to have to pay that. So unless they are willing to cut him and swallow that hit, they should make nice with Alex and pray that he can give them some production in exchange for that money. They don’t have to do anything special to accommodate him, but would listening to him apologize really hurt them in any way?  And how will making it harder on him help them get a productive Alex this spring?

I get it, the Yankees are mad at Alex. Get in line, pretty much everyone is. He cheated, then he lied, and then tried to cover it up in a despicable fashion. Everyone knows all of that, but the Yankees have to decide if they want a chance at a return on that $61-million, or they simply want to throw a tantrum.

Back Where They Belong

The Yankees are heading back to Channel 11, WPIX next year for 20 games. I am thrilled by this.

It has been 16 years since the Yankees last appeared on Channel 11, and in the interim the channel became home to Mets games of all things. But from 1951 until the late 70’s, Channel 11 was the only place to watch the Yankees on TV. It was the channel I turned on as a six-year old on October 2nd, 1978, and watched Dent hit a big homer and Greg Nettles catch a huge pop-up. It was the channel that gave us Bill White and the Scooter calling games and showed us flashes of the GWB every game because Rizzuto was worried about beating the traffic.

It is also the channel that broadcasted Batman every afternoon along with the “Pix Game“, and the Yule Log every Christmas. (They still do the latter, and I put it on every Christmas morning.) In short, Channel 11 reminds me of my childhood, so excuse a 40-something guy for getting a bit nostalgic over this news.

Height Matters?

The Yankees made another trade today, getting Chris Martin from the Rockies for cash. Martin is 6’8″, which puts him in good company with the new Yankees’ pitching staff. The Yankees designated Gonzalez Germen, a pitcher they had acquired for cash from the Mets, to make room. Germen is only 6’2″.

Poor Brett Gardner. At 5’10”, he is the shortest Yankee and he gives up three inches to the Yankees shortest pitcher- Adam Warren. The Yankees have the makings of a basketball team with the quintet of Betances, Miller, Martin, Sabathia, and Pineda. Everyone is 6’7″ or 6’8″.

What does the height  mean? I have no clue, but Martin is another guy who throws heat. He has only had a brief cup of coffee in the majors, but he misses bats, a common theme among the Yankee bullpen. (Sidenote- Buster Olney ranked the Yankees bullpen second in MLB today behind the Royals) Realistically, Martin will head to AAA and wait for an injury to get his chance. But, it isn’t impossible that he beats out someone like Rogers for a roster spot.

38 days until pitchers and catchers.


An Interesting Point

Buster Olney (subscription required) points out that the Yankees could have a serious platoon advantage in the new AL East.

To summarize, the Yankees can trot out an all-lefty lineup now between switch-hitters and lefty bats. The AL East is projected to have 16-of-20 righty starters on teams other than the Yankees, much less than in recent years.

Add in the fact that Yankee Stadium clearly favors lefties, and it could be a solid advantage.



It’s Their DNA

Jon Heyman is reporting the Yankees have reached a deal with Stephen Drew. It sounds like a one-year deal for $5-million with an extra $1 or $2-million possible in incentives. I haven’t seen anything else about this, but Drew is a Boras client and Heyman has exceptional sources with Boras, so I would believe it.

Drew was terrible last year as we know, but a bounce back closer to his career levels is certainly not out of the question at the age of 32. The money is not a lot for the Yankees, but two things about this deal bother me.

1- All advanced metrics show that Drew wasn’t a very good second baseman last year. Now I am assuming he will play second, so that is a concern for me. (I don’t think they are trading Didi, but Cashman has been wheeling and dealing lately.) He had never played second before, so maybe he needed to learn the position, but it is something to worry about.

2- The Yankees had two young guys deserving of a shot to take over the position. Who knows if Refsnyder or Pirela would have worked out, but trying to beat Drew’s 2014 season wouldn’t take much. I am having a hard time seeing how this makes the club better.

And ultimately, wouldn’t it have been better to spend this money on starting pitcher?

Bullpen Depth

Brian Cashman didn’t take today off, trading Manny Banuelos to Atlanta for David Carpenter and Chason Shreve.

Banuelos was once a top prospect, but injuries and surgery derailed him. After he had TJ surgery, he struggled to pitch effectively and he represents a lottery ticket for Atlanta. If he can find his old form, they will easily win this trade. That’s the risk the Yankees have taken to get two very promising bullpen pieces.

Carpenter has been the 8th inning guy in Atlanta and while his 2013 and 2014 ERA’s differed by two runs, his FIP’s were 2.83 and 2.94.  He has a huge fastball, averaging 95-mph and a good slider. He is eligible for arbitration for the first time this year .

Shreve is a lefty who came up at the end of 2014 for Atlanta and has shown the ability to get lots of K’s in the minors.

The Yankees now have a lot of power arms in their bullpen. They can close with either Miller or Betances. They have Carpenter to set things up for those two. They have Wilson and Shreve from the left side and Rogers and Warren from the right. They have some interesting arms in the minors that could contribute as well. The rotation will be full of questions, but the bullpen will be a force to be reckoned with.

Kuroda’s Heading Home

Multiple reports are out that Hiroki Kuroda will pitch in Japan next year. This is both bad and good news for the Yankees.

It is bad because their rotation is very, very thin. Right now we can project a rotation of- Tanaka, Pineda, Eovaldi, Sabathia and Capuano. Hopefully, Ivan Nova is back quickly and replaces Capuano. But even if he does, the Yankees are betting on two pitchers coming back from major injuries and a guy who has been in the NL his whole career. Kuroda would have been really helpful.

But, betting on 40-year old pitchers is not a great idea and while Kuroda was just as good in 2014, as he was in 2013 and 2012, at some point he is going to wear out. Maybe this will spur the Yankees to take a long look at Banuelos or even Warren in camp.

The only certainty now is that the Scherzer to the Yankees drumbeats will grow louder and louder. I still don’t think they do it, but until the Yankees actually sit out an offseason, I am not overly confident in that prediction.

Another Trade

The word is the Yankees have packaged David Phelps and Martin Prado to Florida in exchange for Nathan Eovaldi, Garett Jones, and prospect Domingo German. This trade has three big ramifications.

1- Eovaldi is now part of the rotation. I like that. While his strikeout numbers have been mediocre, he has one of the best fastballs in the game and has a FIP much better than his ERA. He is an upgrade over Phelps and he is not eligible for free agency until 2018  Add in German, the sixth-ranked prospect in the Marlins system also with a big fastball as well, and you have two more young, power arms in the system.

2- Second base now appears to be a competition between Refsnyder and Pirela. I like that too. I wanted a younger and more athletic team, and the Yankees are starting to create that. I also was a bit worried about Prado’s defense at second.

3- Jones gives the Yankees a legitimate backup first baseman for the first time in a while (thank you!) and a very nice lefty bat for the bench. He mauls righty pitching, and can also play right field- where he would  be a good platoon choice with Young.

And here’s a really interesting undercurrent of it all. Look at the bench for a minute. It’s full with Young, Jones, Ryan, and a backup catcher. This assumes Pirela or Refsnyder at second and A-Rod at DH. But the Yankees may have also made A-Rod even more of an afterthought. In his career, Jones has hit .267/.333/.479 vs. RHP. Young has hit .254/.357/.460 vs. LHP. Putting that platoon in right gives the Yankees a way to mitigate Beltran’s eroding defense. Putting Pirela on the bench gives you another Prado-type defender. Unless A-Rod hits, it is getting harder and harder to see where he can add value. Perhaps the Yankees have realized that $61-million is purely a sunk cost and forcing Alex onto a roster where he doesn’t fit is not going to help? There’s still plenty of time until the roster is finalized, but it will be very interesting to hear what Brian Cashman has to say about this trade when he holds his usual conference call.