November 2013

The Return of the Empire…

Why?  Because the Yankees McCann!…

I have to admit that the Yankees’ free agent signing of former Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCann caught me by surprise.  Like so many people did last Saturday, I went to see The Hunger Games:  Catching Fire.  No sooner than I walked out the theater after the movie, I immediately saw the alerts the Yankees had signed McCann. 

I had heard the Yankees were interested in McCann, but so were other teams like the Boston Red Sox, Texas Rangers, and Colorado Rockies.  I thought the Rangers were the most likely landing spot.  It’s a winning organization in a city that puts more pressure on the local football team.  The cost of living is reasonable, and the area is spacious.  There’s not too much to dislike about Texas…well, outside of those hot humid summers, the long drives to get anywhere, and the infrequency of trees (at least in North Texas).  I also thought the Boston Red Sox might have an advantage with former McCann backup David Ross on the roster.  Either Texas or Boston offers the chance for World Series participation. 

But in the end, it was the Yankees’ offer (number of years) in combination with the short porch in right field which is very attractive for the left-handed slugger. 

I had Brian McCann as my catcher on my fantasy baseball team this year and his health caused me to seek other options.  While he was on the DL, I leaned on his Braves replacement (Evan Gattis) among others.  So, McCann’s health is an obvious concern.  But if healthy, he is a tremendous addition to the team.  He gives the Yankees their best offensive threat from the position since Jorge Posada retired.  Russell Martin would occasionally get hot, but he is not close to the hitter that McCann is.  Plus, McCann’s leadership abilities are well documented.  When Chipper Jones retired, he gave a strong recommendation for McCann as a team leader. 

Nothing against Francisco Cervelli, but I think he is better suited to backup someone like McCann than to start.  He had his moments last year before getting hurt and then the subsequent suspension, but he’ll get his opportunities when McCann rests or moves to DH.  I am fine with the number of years on the contract because I think McCann is an excellent bridge to super prospect Gary Sanchez.  When Sanchez is ready for the majors, it will be time to slide McCann to first or DH anyway.  It also frees GM Brian Cashman to potentially include other catching prospects like Austin Romine or J.R. Murphy is potential trades.

Signing McCann was a great start to the off-season but there is obviously still much work ahead for Cashman and the Yanks.

Where are we?…

As we turn the page to Thanksgiving, the Yankees have their manager, backup shortstop and catcher in the fold.  They are rumored to be the leaders for the services of free agent outfielder Carlos Beltran of the St Louis Cardinals, although I have heard he has a preference for staying in the NL (I don’t know if that’s true or not, and I personally believe he’d have even greater success in the American League).  I like the idea of Beltran in right. 

As it sounds, Robinson Cano’s camp is still asking for something in the neighborhood of $300 million.  They’ve dropped “slightly” from the initial figure of $310 million, but anything in the Alex Rodriguez area of contracts is too much…even for arguably the team’s best player.  I would rather see the Yankees use the money on multiple key players, shift the offense to other positions and then backfill second base with someone like Omar Infante.  I still hope there are compromises made on both sides to bring Cano back to the Bronx, but if it is not meant to be, I don’t want to see the Yankees overspend. 

So far, no help for the starting rotation.  Several notable free agent pitchers in a market void of any aces have already signed.  Dan Haren with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Tim Hudson with the San Francisco Giants, and Ricky Nolasco with the Minnesota Twins.  I don’t think the Yankees were linked to any of those guys, but the smaller the free agent pool, the more intense the competition becomes at least for the guys who can win 12-14 games for you.  I know the Yankees are rumored to be heavily counting on the posting of Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka if MLB and the Japanese are able to come to an agreement for a new posting system.  But you have to wonder what Plan B will be.  So far, I have not heard much about Hiroki Kuroda but I would like to see the team try to bring him back for one more year. 

The next few weeks will go a long way toward determining how strong and competitive the 2014 Yankees will be. 

Coaching staff intact…well, almost…

Several weeks ago, I heard that Joe Girardi’s entire coaching staff would be returning.  However, today, I saw that the Arizona Diamondbacks have named Yankees bullpen coach Mike Harkey as their new pitching coach.  Congratulations to Mike!  Larry Rothschild is not going anywhere so it is good to see Harkey get his opportunity elsewhere.  Now, the Yankees will be in the market for a new bullpen coach.  Say, I wonder what Mariano Rivera is doing…  ;)

Well, that’s all for now.  Have a very Happy Thanksgiving and Holiday Season!

–Scott

 

The Anticipation…

 

The 2013-14 Hot Stove League has opened for business…

The baseball offseason is always interesting.  In November, when the Hot Stove League open, there is more talk and speculation than real action.  There is the occasional free agent signing, like Marlon Byrd to the Philadelphia Phillies, but for the most part, it’s the most boring part of the winter. 

Baseball fans get excited as the baseball winter meeting approach in early December.  The ‘name’ free agents come off the board and there are a few major trades as teams look to improve their rosters for the coming year.

Then, in January and early February, things go quiet again until the excitement of pitchers and catchers reporting for spring training begin to fill the air. 

The key is what teams do in December.  Doing something versus doing nothing can be the difference in an invigorated fan base.  With the Boston Red Sox fresh off a championship season, the Yankees and their fans need something to be excited about.  Hope needs to be restored in the Yankees Universe.  The Steinbrenner family have an enormous responsibility of the owners of baseball’s most storied and valued franchise.  Sure, it is their right to do nothing and cut salaries if they so choose, but it is not good for baseball.  MLB needs a successful Yankees franchise as much as the fan base demands a winner.

From early indications, it does appear that Hal Steinbrenner is taking a more proactive role.  He plays down the speculation that the team is resolved in its intent to bring salaries below $189 million and he recognizes the weaknesses of the current roster.  So, what is he going to do about it?  Time will tell, as the saying goes…

I am still not 100% convinced Derek Jeter can be the player of old or just an old player.  He might be able to play a serviceable shortstop if healthy but the Yankees need more.  I want Jeter to play for the Yankees his entire career and he is clearly a future Hall of Famer but this is the season of transition for the legendary player.  He needs to work on playing other positions, whether it is third base or left field, to give the team its greatest value.  It is obvious Jeter has the ability to exceed my expectations but I think the odds are against it.  I am just being a realist.  Age doesn’t slow down for anyone.  Well, except for maybe Mariano Rivera

The “gift” that keeps on giving…

The unresolved Alex Rodriguez situation casts an ominous shadow over the team.  I believe the Yankees should proceed as if A-Rod will not be a member of the 2014 team but that’s easy for me to say.  The Yankees have to be prepared for a scenario that allows baseball’s most vile player to return to the field in 2014.  Personally, I look forward to the day A-Rod turns in his pinstripes for the final time.  I do not expect the Yankees to go out and land a premier third baseman like Evan Longoria but they need more than they had last year.  I respect Kevin Youkilis but his best years have passed by and at this point, he is too much of an injury risk to re-sign.  I heard the rumors the Yankees had talked with the St Louis Cardinals about David Freese but I don’t think that would have been the solution.  It’s too bad that former number one draft pick Eric Duncan didn’t work out as this would have been his prime opportunity to take third if he had been successful and not released.  But still, there are Scott Brosius-type third basemen that can be found. 

Betances-Robertson?…

After years of knowing the back end of the bullpen was secure, the Yankees have uncertainty.  The heir apparent to the great Mariano Rivera is top set up man David Robertson.  However, there is risk.  When Mo was lost for the season in 2012, Robertson failed in his brief audition as closer before Rafael Soriano took the role and ran with it.  I like Robertson as the key 8th inning guy but I am not convinced that translates to 9th inning success.  I really do not want an aged option like Joe Nathan as I would prefer younger arms.  My hope is for Robertson to succeed but there does need to be a safety net in case it doesn’t work out.

I am looking forward to key bullpen roles for guys like Dellin Betances, Preston Claiborne, and Adam Warren.  With the right moves this winter, the Yankees bullpen should be a strength even if we no longer get to see #42 warming up. 

I do remember the sense of some uncertainty when Mariano Rivera replaced John Wetteland and that turned out well.  Granted, David Robertson will never be Mariano Rivera but he can be successful in his own right.  With the right bridge from the starters to his late inning arrival, he can be successful. 

The April Iceman Cometh…

Mark Teixeira, I really hope your wrist has healed and is stronger than ever before…

But first, or rather, but second…

The perceived success or failure of the Yankees’ offseason will be tied to a single event…whether or not they re-sign second baseman Robinson Cano.  While that’s a huge part of the 2014 equation, the true testament will be how the team bolsters the starting rotation behind CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova.  Nevertheless, I hope the Yankees can retain Cano even if the player has the desire to go for top dollar regardless of who cuts the checks.

Speaking of the rotation or lack thereof…

It is hard to get excited about potential names like Ricky Nolasco.  I remain hopeful Hiroki Kuroda returns for one more year and Michael Pineda is finally able to fulfill the promise that brought him to New York.  It’s hard to speculate who I would want added to the team as there is no possibility for an acquisition of David Price or Felix Hernandez.  As Pineda has shown, arms carry great risk.  I have liked free agent Bronson Arroyo but he does not exactly fit the ‘younger arm’ mold.

Well, for now, the uncertainty and disappointment of the 2013 season still looms but soon the promise of the 2014 season will be upon us.  I said it last year and it did not happen so I’ll say it again:

Hal Steinbrenner, the message is simple…excite us!  Signed, Yankees fans.

 

–Scott

To the Victor goes the spoils…

 

Congratulations to the Boston Red Sox…

I know, I never expected to see the words appear on my blog.  But you have to give credit where credit is due and the 2013 Boston Red Sox proved that they were the best team in baseball.  This is a team that hit the bottom with the 2011 collapse in September that cost beloved manager Terry Francona his job, followed up by a year of Bobby Valentine that ranks as one of the worst teams in recent memory.

Proving that he is nobody’s fool, GM Ben Cherington deserves much of the credit.  I am not sure how much the decisions can be attributed to Cherington or to Larry Lucchino, but the deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers last year to unload salary-draining dead wood was genius.  The malcontents were shipped to the West Coast, while the recaptured dollars were re-invested to good clubhouse types like Mike Napoli, Jonny Gomes, Shane Victorino and Koji Uehara among others.  The pieces made for good chemistry and the team, beards and all, became a very cohesive unit.  

This may have been the first time that I ever pulled for the Red Sox in the post-season but they gained my respect and I thought they were the team to beat. 

Naturally, I hope this is the end of the Sox championship run that started in 2004, but for this off-season, they are the champions of Baseball.  Again, congratulations to the Red Sox, the city of Boston, and the Red Sox Nation.

Turns up like a bad penny…

I am so tired of Alex Rodriguez and anything A-Rod.  His battle against the MLB is extending the inevitable suspension and is likely throwing a monkey wrench into the Yankees off-season plans.  For a team that appears bent on getting under the $189 million salary cap, A-Rod’s salary is substantial.  Will they be freed of it, for a season, or will they be responsible for some portion thereof, or does A-Rod win to bring his salary back in full?  I think the latter is very remote if impossible.  I, for one, would accept a year of no A-Rod even if it means the entire salary counts against the cap.  The guy is poison and I don’t think the team will win again with him on the roster.  Yes, they won in 2009, but teams generally do not win with such narcissistic players. 

Rest assured that no decision Alex Rodriguez makes will be in the best interests of the Yankees and Major League Baseball.  MLB needs the authority to end this foolish A-Rod farce and banish him for his sustained PEDS use and lies.  I’d love a lifetime ban but I doubt that happens so I want nothing less than the original 214 game suspension. 

Introducing the 2014 Yankees…

Check back with me in a few months.

There will be changes, but I am not sure that they will be the moves necessary to return the Yankees to AL East and American League prominence.  I saw one New York paper running an article this morning that indicated the Yankees may go after the Detroit Tigers’ Omar Infante should free agent Robinson Cano.  No offense to Infante, but what a drop off.  I don’t think it is smart to pay Cano $300 million, but hopefully the Yankees and Cano can find common ground that is mutually rewarding for both. 

I have seen the Yankees linked to free agents Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, Ervin Santana, and A.J. Pierzynski.  Yes, Beltran is a good post-season performer but you need to get there first.  As a McCann fantasy owner this past season, I was frustrated with how much time he spent on the DL.  I’ve always thought Santana was a decent pitcher, but he’s not a frontliner.  Then again, when you’ve lost Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes and possibly Hiroki Kuroda, you just need arms.  The Yankees will most likely lose Curtis Granderson so the Yankees will spend most of the winter just trying to fill holes rather than being able to focus on adding significant upgrades. 

It would be nice if some members of the farm system were ready to take the major league stage but that does not appear to be the case.  We may see Dellin Betances in the bullpen as the Yankees look to find a quality setup specialist for new closer David Robertson. 

I do not want to lose Robinson Cano but then again, I do not want the Yankees to give him an A-Rod like contract that will become a financial albatross in future years.  I may be the only one who feels this way, but I am not excited about a 40 year old Derek Jeter at shortstop with bad ankles.  The Yankees really need to find a younger shortstop who can spell Jeter and perhaps push #2 to DH more times than not. 

Mark Teixeira, cold starts and a bad wrist.  Second base…currently there are nothing but crickets.  Shortstop…see aforementioned comment about DJ.  Third base is really anybody’s guess.  Catcher needs more than a backup catcher who can’t hit and a proven PEDS user.  Right field is even older than shortstop.  Left field, at the moment, only shows the largely unreliable Vernon Wells.  Centerfield is truly the only position that I feel comfortable with, and even that carries some injury risk.  On the pitching staff, CC Sabathia is starting to show that he’s on the downward slide, and Hiroki Kuroda could very well be pitching in Japan next season.  The enigma, more commonly referred to as Ivan Nova, will be in the rotation but who really knows what we’ll get.  Adam Warren, David Phelps, Manny Banuelos (if he can make it back), Michael Pineda and others form the pool that Joe Girardi will be picking from.

In the bullpen, it is no sure thing that David Robertson will succeed as a closer.  In 2011, when the great Mariano Rivera went down for the season, Robertson had first crack at the job and failed.  He gave way to Rafael Soriano who proved very capable in the role.  Going into 2014, at the moment, there is no safety net for Robertson.  This is truly an off-season of uncertainty and it doesn’t help that A-Rod is doing his part to ensure greater uncertainty. 

The Red Sox, the Rays, the Jays, and the O’s must be loving this.  I can only hope that GM Brian Cashman and the Steinbrenner Boys prove that they can check Ben Cherington’s move and bring championship baseball back to the Bronx where it belongs.

–Scott

 

 

 

 

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