Thoughts on A-Rod

If you had told me back in 2004 that Alex Rodriguez and the Yankees would go to only 1 World Series together, I would have bet you anything that you were wrong. The Yankees had just lost the 2003 World Series, but it was their sixth appearance in the last eight Fall Classics. Adding the best player on the planet seemed like a guarantee for plenty of more Octobers in the Bronx.

But we didn’t know that baseball was changing and A-Rod was a major jerk. Team like the Red Sox were better than the Yankees at exploring new ways to win. A-Rod alienated most of his teammates immediately by doing things like requiring the clubhouse attendants to put the toothpaste on his toothbrush. Those Yankee teams of the mid-2000’s were more talented than the results they produced and I think that has a lot to do with how divided they were.

Alex kept making himself look bad while putting up enormous numbers. He preened and pressed for attention and then committed the cardinal baseball sin of trying to upstage the 2007 World Series by opting out of his deal during the final game. Yet all was forgiven when the Yankees weeks later not only took him back, but gave him a raise. His ten-year contract guaranteed him $275-million and additional money for the milestone home runs he was going to hit as he pursued the record.

Brian Cashman was absolutely right yesterday when he said that the Yankees don’t win the 2009 World Series without Alex, but that was a heck of a price to pay for the 13 years he was under contract. Some people feel sorry for Alex which is hard for me to fathom. He became fabulously wealthy playing baseball, yet cheated the very sport he professed to love multiple times. He was benched because he simply didn’t add any value to the team, not because of some vendetta by management against him. Give credit to Hal for not only swallowing a big check in releasing Alex, but taking the high road. It would have been very easy for the Yankees to simply cut him yesterday without another thought. Instead, they gave Alex a way to leave with some dignity.

I hope Alex takes advantage of the opportunity. He can head back to Miami next weekend and then pour his efforts into helping younger players grow. If I were him, I would play the long game doing everything I could to bolster my image for a shot at the Hall of Fame. Alex could follow Mark McGwires path and coach, staying involved in the game he loves and helping other player succeed.

But I don’t think that will happen.  I suspect he will start working out and leaking stories about it. He will work out at first base to gain some competency there and Loria and the Marlins, looking for another gate attraction after Ichiro, will bring him into camp next March. So think of this only as a good-bye to the Yankees, not baseball.

*****

With the subtractions of A-Rod and Beltran, the Yankees no longer have a permanent DH. This has big implications for the future.

First off it means that Brian McCann stays a Yankee unless someone absolutely backs up a truck for him. (Remember he has the most home runs as a catcher since 2014 and is still very good defensively). The Yankees can shuttle him and Sanchez between DH and catcher, giving Sanchez a chance to grow into the job while learning from a really good source.

Second it means that someone else is going to come up and play. I suspect it will be Tyler Austin and the Yankees will give him every chance to show what he can do, but Aaron Judge won’t be far behind. And if Austin and Judge show they are ready over the final months of the season, you can bet that the Yankees trade Gardner or, if they somehow could, Ellsbury, this offseason.

The A-Rod Press Conference

A few minutes before the start and nothing has leaked. The only possible hint of what might be coming is the news that Tyler Austin isn’t in the Scranton lineup today. If Alex as being removed from the roster, Austin would make a lot of sense as his replacement. I’ll update as events progress

11:01- Jack Curry who usually has a great read on the inner workings of the team says this is going to be some form of good-bye but he expects Alex to stay in an advisory capacity

11:02-The Yankees have scooped themselves, issuing a press release stating that Alex will play his final game on August 12th and then become a special advisor to the club through 2017

11:04- Alex will be reporting directly to Hal Steinbrenner under his advisory contract

11:05- Alex can barely speak while holding back the tears.

11:08- Choking up multiple times, A-Rod thanks a number of people

11:10-Hal apparently reached out to A-Rod to facilitate this

Reading between the lines Hal gave A-Rod a choice: do this or we will cut you

11:14- Alex asked Hal for the chance to play one last game in front of the fans and his family

11:24- Alex has been told he will have a few at bats on Friday, but nothing has been guaranteed beyond that

11:28- Cashman says he wasn’t part of the conversation in regards to this deal.

11:33- Cashman says Alex will get everything he is owed money wise.

Tex Is Retiring

Buster Olney is reporting that Mark Teixeira will announce his retirement today, effective at the end of the season.

It makes sense, he has been hobbled by injuries. The question now is does he want to go out a Yankee, or would he accept a trade to a contending team? (IF a contending team wanted him).

Out With The Old!

I know that most of us would like to see the Yankees give all the playing time to young guys now. But, that simply isn’t realistic. While the Yankees have done good work moving out some of the road blocks for younger guys, more remain. The problem is that most of the older players, who aren’t playing well, are still due substantial salaries. And while I would like the Yankees to cut A-Rod and Sabathia right now, I can’t expect that they would cut over $50-million of remaining payroll. You also have to remember that 30 of the Yankees remaining 58 games will be played under September roster rules, so they will have plenty of chances to sit some of the older guys extensively. Here’s what I think should happen with a number of the big names

A-Rod- If you listened to the GM last night, he was not kind about Alex’s play. I still don’t think that will equal his release as the Yankees don’t want to pay him the $27-million they still owe him for nothing. But, I also think the idea that A-Rod would walk away for a cent less is foolish. He is going to get paid, the Yankees just have to figure out how to do it. I suspect something like this will happen. A-Rod will continue to play sparingly and at some point in the near future, he will get “hurt” running out a ground ball. His DL trip will last until September when he will be activated and not play much at all. Before the final week of the season, the Yankees will announce he is retiring and becoming a special assistant to Brian Cashman. That will be the cover they use to give him some dignity while they pay him $20-million next year. Maybe it doesn’t happen exactly like that, but Alex isn’t going to be back in 2017.

Teixeira- I bet the Yankees have already put him on waivers and if a team is so bold as to claim him, he will be gone tomorrow. Assuming that doesn’t happen, I suspect he stays and plays pretty frequently until September 1st. The reason for that is that the Yankees could conceivably trade him once he is through waivers and if a playoff team suddenly needed a first baseman, they might be interested. If that doesn’t work, he is mostly a bench player on September 1st and a memory after the season ends.

Sabathia- Barring a miracle shoulder injury in the next few weeks, he will be under contract next year at $25-million. However, his last six starts have been bad and unless he turns it around, he will be a bullpen piece by September 1st. And if that happens, I suspect the Yankees will talk to him about allowing a trade where they will pay almost all of his salary to get him out of here before the 2017 season starts.

Some other names of note. McCann is above-average offensively and good defensively. Sanchez looks like a real find, but with Byrd coming back from injury and no set DH, McCann could easily fit in as a C/DH/1B next year depending on need. Gardner is probably the most likely to go as he is relatively cheap and the outfield could get crowded fast. The Yankees would gladly let Ellsbury go on a waiver claim, but no team would be dumb enough to claim him I think. Headley has been great since May 1st and of all the positions, third is the one with no obvious successor right now. The remaining rotation is all under contract for next year, and I suspect the Yankees will spend the rest of this one trying to decide if they want to keep Eovaldi or Pineda around past 2017.

 

It’s A New Day

Over the last seven days the Yankees have formalized a new vision that their previous actions hinted at. Consider the 2014-15 offseason. The Yankees handed out two free agent contracts- four years each to Miller and Headley, but avoided the entanglements that they have jumped at in years past. They also traded for youth, bringing in Eovaldi and Didi to try to remake the roster. Connect those dots to last year’s trade deadline where their “big” move was acquiring Dustin Ackley, a young guy with promise and a bad track record. Then they became the only team in MLB not to sign a major-league free agent this offseason. All of these developments suggested to me that the Yankees were changing the way they did business, but this past week has confirmed it. The Yankees aren’t going to try to spend their way to success. They are going to look to develop talent and then supplement that with free agency. That’s a welcome change

The Yankees did some of their best work in ages this past week. They got a high-end shortstop prospect and a projected middle of the rotation guy for Chapman plus Adam Warren. They turned Andrew Miller into their potential left fielder of the future, a piece of the rotation and picked up two very promising bullpen arms. They got the #4-pick overall in the draft from last year for Beltran.

But there is more work to do. The Yankees now have just over 1/3rd of the season left to see what some of their younger guys can do. That means Severino goes back into the rotation. It means Green and Cessna get some pitching chances. It means that Refsnyder and Hicks get regular at bats, but also guys like Sanchez get a shot to show some things.  That’s going to cause some changes with some of the older players, lets scope that out tomorrow.

Deadline Blog

2:55- We kick things off early with news that the Yankees and Rangers are close on a Beltran deal.

3:00- Word is Dillion Tate, #4 overall pick last year will be part of the trade

3:02- Rangers will apparently trade Joey Gallo to Brewers for Lucroy

3:03- Tate plus 2 more players reportedly heading to NY

3:04- Tate injured his hamstring in April and hasn’t shown the velocity he had last year, but this would be a great return for Beltran

3:07- Jay Bruce is going to the Mets if the Reds agree on the medicals

3:10- Joel Sherman raises the question of if the Beltran deal goes through do the Yankees bring Sanchez up and use him and McCann as DH/C?

3:16- Joel Sherman reporting that Yankees are working on a Nova trade

3:18- Nick Cafardo reporting that what the Red Sox have offered hasn’t interested Chicago much in regards to Chris Sale

3:22- Mets trying to get Bruce and Lucroy

3:26- Joel Sherman reporting that Ben Gamel will fill Beltrans roster spot if trade happens

3:28- Buster Olney reports Mets are out on Lucroy

3:30- Pirates interested in Nova according to Rosenthal

3:31- Jack Curry reports Yankees getting Tate, Eric Swanson and Nick Green for Beltran

3:34- Joel Sherman confirms Curry’s report and adds that Mets trade for Bruce is going through

3:38- Ken Rosenthal reporting Jessie Chavez going from Toronto to LA

3:40- Rangers apparently going “hard” after Lucroy according to multiple sources

3:42- Yankees have announced Beltran trade

3:45- Olney reports Yankees are talking to multiple teams about Nova

3:47- Rosenthal reports Lucroy is headed to Texas

3:50- Chad Jennings reports that Gamel is on Yankees active roster

3:53- Jeff Passan says Joey Gallo is not in deal for Lucroy

3:57- Rangers getting Jeffress in Lucroy deal too.

3:59- Nova to the Pirates per Jon Heyman

4:02- Matt Moore to Giants per Joel Sherman

4:10- Chris Sale staying put according to Heyman

4:13-Everything is quiet, could it all be over?

4:20- Nova trade is for infamous PTBNL. Not a shock

4:28-That’s a wrap. Remember trades can still happen, but guys need to pass through wavers first. That means Yankees still could sell some of their big contracts. I’ll add a post later recapping it all.

Deadline Day

Yesterday Brian Cashman told reporters to “stay tuned” about future moves. I am taking his advice to heart and will start a live trade deadline blog at 3pm. I hope you will stop by.

Now What?-UPDATED

The Yankees have shocked me, and I think a lot of people, by trading Andrew Miller to Cleveland this morning. Now that we can see they are clearly sellers, what do they do from here? I would say the focus needs to be on clearing out the roster of parts they won’t use in the future and getting good looks at guys they want to use in the future. So, here are the guys that need to go.

Beltran tops the list because he is hitting well enough that the Yankees wouldn’t want to lose him without receiving a draft pick back. The problem is that offering him arbitration is risky because he might accept it and be on the team next year at around $17-million. The Yankees can’t let that happen, so they need to move him now.

Nova is next because he isn’t good enough for a qualifying offer and the Yankees are clearly ready to move on from him. Trade him for a bag of balls or release him. They need to use his spot in the rotation for looking at guys like Severino, Green and Cessna.

A-Rod needs to go because rebuilding teams don’t waste spots on 41-year old, lefty-hitting DH’s. If they want him to fake an injury until September 1st when rosters expand, that’s fine to, but he can’t be on the active roster anymore.

Those are the “big 3” the following guys should be moved if possible.

Sabathia- I don’t know if it is possible to trade him, but the Yankees should try to get him out the door.

McCann- Sanchez is out of options next year and obviously the future at catcher. If Atlanta is interested in a reunion, the Yankees should try to make that happen.

Gardner- I would rather trade Ellsbury, but realistically that isn’t happening. The Yankees are suddenly getting flush with outfielders, moving Beltran will help, but they need to make more room to look at other guys.

The Yankees also need to look at some of their younger players in more depth.

I know Aarron Hicks has been abysmal, but the Yankees have to keep trying him for now and seeing if he is worth keeping a roster spot for. They should also get guys like Mason Williams and Ben Gamel back on the active roster to see what they can do. Severino should be back in the rotation and ideally Green or Cessna too. Refsnyder plays somewhere almost every day and Sanchez is brought up to start learning the bigs for real. When September rolls around, Judge makes his debut. The Yankees have 59 games left to figure out the best team to put out there in 2017. No time to waste!

UPDATE-11:30AM

The Yankee have apparently acquired Tyler Clippard for Vincente Campos  Clippard was a Yankee prospect back in 2007 and got sent to Washington for Jonathon Albaladejo in a trade that did not work out for the Yankees because Clippard became a pretty good bullpen arm and Albie didn’t  He is signed through next year, but gives them a veteran arm in a bullpen that is pretty much Betances and Warren with a bunch of rookies  Campos was the second piece of the Pineda trade and has been hit by injuries, but has made it to AAA this year.  Problem with him is that he is probably out of options and would need to stick on the roster next season. Still not sure I would have traded him for Clippard but these are the Yankees and we can’t expect them to abandon all of their tendencies in a week.

 

 

We’re Selling!-UPDATED

Not much in the way of details yet, but multiple sources are reporting the Yankees have sent Andrew Miller to Cleveland. I’ll update as details leak out.

8:52AM- This is complicated by the fact that Cleveland apparently has also traded for Lucroy.

8:53- Jon Heyman speculates that since the Yankees are in sell mode “Beltran, Pineda, Eovaldi, Nova and others” could be in play. And that “Yankee higher-ups made the call to sell while watching team lose 2 straight….”

8:54- Seems like the two prospects are Clint Frazier (OF) and Justus Sheffield (LHP)

8:59- Frazier is ranked 24th in MLB and Sheffield 95th.

9:00- Frazier just got to AAA Columbus, remember that place? He hit .276/.356/.469 in AA with 13 steals. He is a righty and has played all three outfield positions this year.

9:02- Ken Rosenthal reports that the trade is the two names above plus two more.

9:04- Sheffield is a lefty who is currently in A-ball. 95 innings, 93 K’s, 40 walks. Big stuff, needs to learn to control it.

9:09- Heyman reports that some in Yankees organization see Frazier as “the next Mike Trout”. That is a crazy thing to say publicly.

9:10- Joel Sherman reports that two other players are pitchers.

9:11- Sherman adds that teams want the Yankees to include money in any Beltran trade and the Yankees won’t do that. I get that, but the Yankees need to consider the end game here. Offering Beltran arbitration, to ensure you get a draft pick, is a risky bet since he might accept because he loves playing here and might want to retire after next year. That means you either let him walk away at the end of the year for nothing or risk having him under contract next season. Under those scenarios, you have to trade him now.

I’m just going to add that this is a plunge into the unknown and therefore scary, but at the same time exciting. The Yankees are showing that they get it! They are going to actually rebuild. (Watch them send all these prospects off in a trade for some overpaid star now)

9:15- Joel Sherman points out that Baseball America had Frazier, Torres, and Sheffield ranked 21,27, and 69 in their midseason rankings. By my count this trade gives the Yankees 7 guys on the top-100 list- Frazier, Torres, Mateo, Judge, Sanchez, Rutherford, and Sheffield.

9:18- Both Rosenthal and Sherman speculate that this trade could signal the end of the line for A-Rod as a Yankee.

I have to agree with them. What’s the point of keeping him now?

9:24- Heyman backing off of earlier Mike Trout comparison, now says the Yankees absolutely love Frazier.

9:25-Sherman reports Yankees also getting two bullpen prospects- Ben Heller and JP Freyereisen in the trade.

9:32- Just a reminder, the trade deadline is tomorrow because today is a Sunday.

9:45- Yankees PR just officially announced the trade.

Brian’s Song

I do not envy Brian Cashman this week. He made a great trade, but he needs to make more, and indications are that ownership isn’t on board with that.

I understand Hal’s reluctance. Since they bottomed out at 9-17, the Yankees have gone 43-32, that’s almost half a season of playing at a 92-win clip. The problem is that the record is a mirage. Look at their runs scored vs. runs allowed. Even while playing .573 baseball, they only scored 4 more runs than they allowed. This is not a team that can win 92 games. It is much more likely that this is a team that can win 82 games. And their playoff odds, currently 11.1%, reflect that. Brian has to somehow convince Hal that the season is lost and the best thing the Yankees can do is cash in on some of their current assets. Primarily, that means Beltran and Nova must go now. But, it also means they need to listen on everyone. You don’t trade Miller unless a team is offering more than you got from the Cubs for Chapman, but you listen to everything and see what can happen.

The problem is that second wild card is out there, not too far away, tempting Hal and Randy to chase it. If they ultimately determine the Yankees need to stay in the race, that will be a missed opportunity, but one definitely mitigated by the Chapman trade. What I hope for is a bad weekend of baseball leads the Yankees to realize the futility of chasing the title this year and puts them into full sell mode. Beltran and Nova get moved, but more than that, the Yankees really commit to tearing it down for now. Done correctly, they can be back and much, much better very soon. Right now I don’t think that is going to happen. I think it is far more likely that they simply don’t trade anyone. I hope I am wrong.