What A Trade That Would Have Been-UPDATED

Buried deep in this story is a nugget about Jeffrey Loria and his love of Derek Jeter. In the late 90’s he ordered his GM to get Jeter no matter what. His GM called up Brian Cashman and offered Pedro Martinez and Vlad Guerrero. Brian Cashman replied that he couldn’t trade Jeter and that was that.

It’s delightful to think about what that trade would have meant to the Yankees. Vlad was one of the best outfielders in the game for about ten years. Pedro was apart from Randy Johnson, the most dominant pitcher of his generation. From a pure talent standpoint, the Yankees would win the trade.

But would they have won so often without Jeter? Who would have been the shortstop? Would Paul O’Neill have been traded or put in left field? Who knows, but it is fun to speculate.

UPDATE(6:37pm)- Greg provided this link in the comments section which shows that this story is a bunch of baloney. Sorry for getting anyone going on this, and thanks to Greg for setting the record straight.

Not So Fast

Before Sunday’s game the Yankees sent Refsnyder down to AAA, meaning I was wrong the other day when I said he had sewn up the last bench spot.

What happened? Well I suspect that getting hit in the face by two balls in two days at third this weekend changed the Yankees mind about his ability to cover third. They will send him to AAA and probably use him at third extensively.

But for now the Yankees will have to come up with a new answer for backup third baseman. Pete Kozma is a pure glove guy. Ronald Torreyes is an unproven minor leaguer. That’s it for what remains in camp. Perhaps the answer will come from another team’s cuts, which have started in earnest. We won’t have to wait much longer to find out.

Things Are Getting Clear-ish

When the Yankees opened camp, I asked five questions that spring games would provide answers for. We are close to knowing all of them.

#1- Was the fifth starter, or the potential for six starters. Both Nova and Sabathia have been bad, so I would scratch the six-man idea, and while it seems like a race to the bottom for the last spot, Sabathia and his enormous contract would seem to be the logical choice for the job- for now.

#2- Was about the backup catcher and now that Gary Sanchez has been optioned to AAA, the job is Austin Romine’s

#3- Was about the bullpen. At this point it seems Shreve, Mitchell and Nova have spots for sure alongside Betances and Miller. Pinder is probably there, and that leaves the spot open due to Chapman’s suspension. Barbato seems like a strong possibility after mopping up Nova’s outing today.

#4- Was about the last bench spot. I think Refsnyder is going to get it. He has handled third by all accounts and his bat has never been a question.

That leaves the lineup, and I think we are close to an answer there. Ellsbury and Gardner up top, Didi and Castro 8-9, with Headley at 7. I would guess Beltran or Teixeira in the 3 spot, with the other one in the 5 spot. Alex or McCann in the 4 spot, with the other in the 6. However that shakes out you would go L

L

S

R/L

S

R/L

S

L

R

That’s a pretty good balance, apart from the top, but the Yankees are enamored like most teams with the idea of “table setters” up top.

April 4th is getting really close!

Wishful Thinking

Alex Rodriguez announced today that he will retire after he finishes his current contract which means he is going to play two more seasons. I’m trying to stop laughing.

I will be the first to admit that Alex surprised me and surpassed all of my most optimistic expectations last season. I didn’t think he would come close to hitting 25 homers, let alone 33. I also didn’t think he would behave and not cause problems. It was truly a miraculous season.

So it won’t come as a surprise that I don’t think he is going to repeat it. I disagree with the people who say he is finished and point to his second half numbers in 2015 (.216/.324/.448) but I do think those numbers are more indicative of what will happen in 2016 than his first half of .278/.382/.515. His seven homers in September lead me to believe he can still be somewhat of a force, but I suspect time will continue to wither him as it does to all of us.

But no matter what he does in 2016, there is still 2017 and the fact that he will be 42 when his contract ends. Considering all that has happened with him off the field, and that he is only a DH on it, does he really think he will be in demand when that season ends? And, considering how the Yankees have turned to a youth movement and don’t want a full-time DH, I can’t see them offering him a contract in 2018 no matter what he does between now and then. This is clearly Alex’s attempt to bow out with some dignity. That’s his right, but considering his prior behavior, it is not something he is necessarily entitled to.

A Tough Choice

There is an interesting story playing out involving the Chicago White Sox and Adam LaRoche. LaRoche retired Tuesday because the White Sox asked him to stop bringing his son around the clubhouse so much. In doing so, LaRoche walked away from a contract that would pay him $13-million this season. Things are now getting heated as the entire White Sox team apparently thought about boycotting their game yesterday in support of LaRoche.

Ken Rosenthal wrote an interesting article about this controversy and it leaves me conflicted. On one hand, baseball players are essentially working during the times most of us can see our families and allowing them to bring their kids to the clubhouse gives them a connection with their family that’s important. On the other hand, not all players probably love having kids in the clubhouse all the time. There needs to be time for a team to be a team, devoid of distractions that family and outside people bring.

I don’t agree with LaRoche’s opinion about school. In the Rosenthal article he said,  “We’re not big on school. I told my wife, ‘He’s going to learn a lot more useful information in the clubhouse than he will in the classroom, as far as life lessons.’ ” But it is certainly his right to think that way and essentially home school his son.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out, if LaRoche truly retires (the paperwork hasn’t been officially submitted), and what the ramifications are for the White Sox if he does.

 

 

Pain Points

As camp progresses for the Red Sox, there are some major sources of pain, or at least potential pain.

Pablo Sandoval: No surprise here but he showed up in poor shape.  His fielding was poor last year and he had to abandon hitting from the right side.  And his hitting from the left side (.744 OPS) wasn’t worth nearly as much as he is being paid.  If Sandoval can’t figure it out, the Red Sox can use Travis Shaw at 3b.

Hanley Ramirez: After failing as an outfield last year, the Red Sox are trying to spin the idea of Hanley being a good candidate for first base.  It seems to make sense that a former shortstop could handle this roll but we are talking about Hanley Ramirez, the first baseman who showed up to camp without any first base gloves.  I know the idea here is to bridge the 2016 season and slot Ramirez into the DH spot once David Ortiz retires, but if he fails as a 1b, then that will essentially be 2 lost seasons on his 4 year deal.

Rusney Castillo: This is his 3rd season in pro ball and I sure hope he figures things out, he’s being paid to do so after all.  Castillo posted a .647 OPS in 289 plate appearances last season, not what we were hoping for but perhaps understandable for someone who was facing major league pitching for the first time aside from 10 games in 2014.  2016 is a big year for him, he needs to prove he can hit.

John Farrell:  First off, I’m very happy to learn Farrell is cancer free and his health isn’t an issue.  That said, he hasn’t done a very good job of late while managing the Red Sox.  When he took his leave of absence last year and Torey Lovullo took over, the team played much differently.  Farrell went 50-63, Lovullo 28-21.  Add to that the recent distraction of a local tv personality resigning her post when it came to light she and Farrell were involved.  Nothing against love, but if the players sense any resentment or feel there was a mole when it came to her reporting, that can’t be a good thing.  I wish them nothing but happiness but Farrell caused a major distraction for himself and his players.  He is on a very short leash, should he stumble out of the gate, he’ll get the boot from above.

Very Cool

The Yankees did something pretty neat today that you can read about here.

Five Questions For Spring

We now have actual baseball games to follow and box scores to pursue, so what are the questions the Yankees are trying to answer this spring? To me the following five are the obvious ones.

1- Who is the 5th starter or are there 6? The Yankees could do a couple of different things here. Assuming that the quartet of Tanaka, Pineda, Eovaldi, and Severino, emerge healthy from spring, the 5th starter spot would seem to come down to Sabathia vs. Nova. But, with all the injury concerns in the rotation would the Yankees consider going with all of them in the rotation? I think they absolutely would, so I think this is the biggest question.

2- Who is the backup catcher? Gary Sanchez is an intriguing prospect and his bat can probably help right now. But making him the backup catcher comes with two drawbacks. First, he won’t have regular playing time. Second, the Yankees will lose Austin Romine, hurting their organizational depth.

3- What does the bullpen look like after the Big 3? We know how the back end of the bullpen will play out, but what about the front? There are plenty of names in the mix- Shreve, Mitchell, Pazos, Pinder, Rumblelow, Lindgren, to name a few, but who fits where? With Miller and eventually Chapman on the roster, how many additional lefties will the Yankees take north?

4- Who gets the last spot on the bench? We know the bench is going to include Hicks, Ackley, and a backup catcher, but what do the Yankees do with the last spot? If Refsnyder can cover third, does he make it? Maybe a super-utility type instead or would the Yankees put such a value on Sanchez’s bat that they carry a third catcher?

5- What’s the lineup? I would guess something along these lines-

Ellsbury

Gardner

Beltran

Rodriguez

Teixeira

McCann

Headley

Didi

Castro

That keeps you from stacking too many lefties in a row and balances things, but Girardi may not want to put Castro below Didi and that could create the same lefty-overload problem we saw last year.

And we only have one month to find out all of these answers because the Yankees open the 2016 on April 4th. Can you believe it?

 

Thirty Games

Chapman has been suspended by MLB for the first 30 games of the regular season. He will not appeal. Chapman issued the following statement:

“Today, I accepted a 30 game suspension from Major League Baseball resulting from my actions on October 30, 2015. I want to be clear, I did not in any way harm my girlfriend that evening. However, I should have exercised better judgment with respect to my actions, and for that I am sorry. The decision to accept a suspension, as opposed to appealing one, was made after careful consideration. I made this decision in an effort to minimize the distractions that an appeal would cause the Yankees, my new teammates and most importantly, my family. I have learned from this matter, and I look forward to being part of the Yankees’ quest for a 28th World Series title. Out of respect for my teammates and my family, I will have no further comment.”

The statement leaves me wondering if he gets it. Does he understand that even if he didn’t harm his girlfriend in any way firing a gun eight times in anger is not ok? I guess we have to take the fact that he is sorry and that he is not appealing as a good sign, but ugh.

In baseball terms this means Chapman is out until 5/9 against the Royals. He will miss the first two series against the Red Sox, and not have to pitch in Fenway until August. The Yankees will almost certainly go with Betances for the 8th and Miller for the 9th in his absence, but the 7th inning is currently a mystery. Expect that to be a big focus of spring training as the Yankees will look to find this year’s Justin Wilson.

What Took Them So Long?

The Yankees announced today that Rob Refsnyder will work out at third base this spring. I can’t understand why he hasn’t been working out there and all over the diamond for weeks now.

Here’s what we know about Refsnyder. He has a good bat, one that projects to be decent in the big leagues. He also doesn’t appear to be an everyday second baseman. I say that because the statistics when he played there briefly last year weren’t great, and because there is no way the Yankees go and trade for Castro if they thought Refsnyder could play second on a regular basis. So why didn’t the Yankees tell him to spend the winter trying out some other positions?

It makes no sense. Castro is going to be in pinstripes for the next four years at minimum. By that time Refsnyder will be out of options and on another team. Furthermore, the Yankees have Ackley on the roster to backup second if needed. Sure, Castro or Ackley could get hurt, but the Yankees have stashed a couple of glove guys in the minors to prepare for that. So keeping Refsnyder as a second baseman only keeps him in the minors in 2016 which doesn’t make a ton of sense when you look at the Yankees bench.

We know two guys who will make the bench, Hicks and Ackley. There will be a backup catcher, and assuming that the Yankees carry 12 pitchers, always a good bet, one other player. If Refsnyder can play some third, he becomes a favorite for this spot. For one thing, he is a righty bat, something the Yankees could use. For another, he came to the Yankees as an outfielder so it is reasonable to expect that he could fill in there in a pinch.

Think about that bench. You have a backup catcher TBD. You have Hicks covering all the outfield spots with Ackley backing him up in the corners and at second and first. You have Refsnyder covering third and second, and the outfield in a pinch. You have decent pinch-hitting options, and the flexibility to use them because of the multiple ways you can cover things defensively. That makes a ton of sense for the 2016 Yankees. I just wonder why it took them so long to think of it.