July 2014

To pay or not to pay…

The high “Price” of success…

The majority of the Yankees starting rotation is gone, with Hiroki Kuroda as the last man standing.  Honestly, I keep expecting reports that Kuroda has been lost for the year and perhaps his career as this is most likely his final year in Major League Baseball. 

I am not ready to declare Brandon McCarthy as a top of the rotation starter after Brian McCann’s comments to the same effect following McCarthy’s debut win as Yankee yesterday but will acknowledge that he is at the top of the rotation with this Yankees staff.  That’s why it is amazing the Yankees are two games over .500 at this point in the season.  It is certainly a testament to Joe Girardi’s managerial ability.  But as it stands, it is not sustainable and by Brian Cashman’s own admission, the team needs starting pitching.

McCarthy feeling like himself while wife tweets support

 Bill Kostroun/New York Post

I have such mixed feelings on this subject because I do not believe there is a move that can be made that would propel this Yankee team to the World Series.  Well, there’s moves that could be made to give the Yankees “something” for “nothing”, but of course that’s not going to happen.  I am watching the increasingly glowing reports about minor league pitcher Luis Severino, and there is part of me that wonders how much is legitimate and how much is the Yankees PR machine.  He is a quality talent, don’t get me wrong, but of course, the Yankees will ‘enhance’ the images of its young future stars given the lack of quality major league ready talent at the upper levels of the farm system.

But with that being said, I don’t want to see Severino, or Peter O’Brien or Gary Sanchez or Rob Refsnyder or any other quality prospect headed to another team for an aging overpaid player that has seen his best years and is a short term option since it still will not mean a World Series and the Yankees will regret having those players in future years.  David Price is one of the few quality exceptions that I’d make, but despite the talk, there’s no way the Tampa Bay Rays trade with the Yankees.  From Tampa’s perspective, I’d only do it if I knew that I could clean out New York’s quality prospects and damage the organization for years to come.

Even if the Yankees bring in pitching upgrades for the starting rotation, you still can’t win games if you do not score runs. 

Open audition for Closer’s role?…

With impending free agency for Mariano Rivera successor David Robertson and the lack of any discussions, I wonder if the team is evaluating whether Robertson or the breakout performer Dellin Betances is better suited for the role long term.  Robertson has done a great job but Betances is younger (albeit by a few years) and he casts a far more imposing presence on the mound by virtue of his height and size (6’8”, 260 lbs) compared to the smaller, more slender Robertson (5’11”, 195).   

Dellin Betances earlier this month.

 Barton Silverman/The New York Times

There’s also the cost factor as Betances will be the cheaper option and the Yankees will need those dollars to upgrade other areas of the team for its 2015 rebuild. 

Robertson has done much better than I thought he did.  There have been a couple of hiccups but even the great Rivera had a few of those.  It’s part of the life of a closer.  But he’s been more successful than not and consistency in the role is the key.  I’d like to see Robertson stay as the knockout punch of Betances-Robertson is a good one.  But of course, I liked the knockout punch of Mariano Rivera-John Wetteland in 1996 but the decision to let Wetteland walk turned out alright. 

This will be an interesting off-season for the Yankees with so many decisions to make.  I am still not convinced that Brian Cashman will be the GM beyond this year.  The only certainty I can project is that Joe Girardi will be back.  Well, that and Derek Jeter is headed to the Hall of Fame.  But beyond that, I am sure there will be a series of moves again this off-season as the team tries to recapture its glory.  The 2014 Yankees are certainly not one that you would stand pat for. 

Farewell to a Champion…

Okay, this is not baseball related, but I was saddened to see the news of the passing of actor James Garner.  As a child, I used to regularly watch The Rockford Files and would catch old episodes of Maverick on syndication.  Garner had such a great sense of “coolness” that he brought to the roles of Jim Rockford and Bret Maverick, and his happy-go-lucky attitude was always so refreshing.  This has been a difficult year in terms of the losses we’ve seen.  Celebrity deaths have been almost a frequent as pitchers requiring Tommy John surgery.  A sad day but Garner made a difference with his life and that’s something all of us aspire to do…

 

–Scott

 

Where do we go from here?…

Glass is starting to look half empty…

I remember back at the start of the year when there was about one dominant cycle through the starting rotation of CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Ivan Nova, Michael Pineda and Masahiro Tanaka.  At the time, I was very optimistic about the team’s chances, particularly if the new acquisitions like Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran hit like they always had.  But fast forward to July, the team is playing .500 baseball and as Michael Kay said on a recent YES network broadcast, Hiroki Kuroda is “the last man standing”.  One moment, Masahiro Tanaka was the pride of the Yankees…most wins for an AL starter, an All-Star selection, league leader in ERA, front-runner for Rookie of the Year, but then the next moment, after a couple of non-quality starts, it’s learned that he has a slight tear an elbow ligament that will sideline him for six weeks.  While it is encouraging that surgery is not recommended at this time, the threat of potential Tommy John surgery is real if the rehab is not successful.

Masahiro Tanaka Masahiro Tanaka joins teammates to listen as Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees speaks at a media availability after announcing that the 2014 season will be his last before retiring at George M. Steinbrenner Field on February 19, 2014 in Tampa, Florida.

Mike Carlson/Getty Images North America

With Kuroda standing as the lone original starter, the rest of the spots are starting to feel like last year’s attempts to fill first base with journeymen to replace Mark Teixeira.  Of the replacement starters, David Phelps has had the most consistency.  Others like Chase Whitley may have had greater success at times but they’ve also had the more horrific starts.  The pressure the patchwork rotation has placed on the bullpen has been immense.

The trade for Arizona Diamondbacks starter Brandon McCarthy, on the fast track for 20 losses, doesn’t improve the starting rotation but he does give them much needed innings.  The only spots in the rotation right now that provide any source of confidence are Kuroda and Phelps.  Shane Greene is the latest minor league hopeful.  Maybe he will prosper at the major league level, maybe he won’t.  It’s a tough situation when there are so many holes in the rotation.  The latest acquisition, Jeff Francis from the Oakland A’s, has not been a quality starter since his days in Colorado many years ago.  Francis appears earmarked for long relief so it is still anybody’s guess who fills the fifth spot in the rotation.  Today is Saturday and I do not know who will start for the Yankees on Sunday.  Perhaps Chase Whitley gets plugged in or they recall Bruce Billings, but neither option is overly appealing on a day, the last day before the All-Star break, that should have featured Tanaka.

I would have liked to have seen the Yankees acquire Jeff Samardzija from the Chicago Cubs before the Oakland A’s did but it’s obvious the Yankees do not have the upper level prospect and major league ready talent to make that type of deal.

I have mixed feelings about whether the Yankees should be buyers or sellers at the trading deadline.  If I felt they had a great chance for October success, then I’d be all in for sacrificing some promising talent for a run.  But I am not sure there is a move that can be made which would propel the Yankees past the Toronto Blue Jays and/or Baltimore Orioles.  Perhaps it would be better for the team to sell and pick up some younger talent for a recharge next year.

There are not any available starters in the Yankees’ price range (in terms of trade-able talent, not dollars) which make sense.  I keep hearing Cliff Lee’s name mentioned but the stars have never aligned to bring him to New York in the past and he openly spurned the Yankees when he signed with the Philadelphia Phillies.  Even if he did finally come to New York, he would not be a long-term solution.  Ian Kennedy, a former Yankee, is another name bounced around but his stuff just isn’t tailored for Yankee Stadium.  A return of A.J. Burnett?  No, thank you.

The cost of a lackluster season…

I am starting to get the sense that this will be Brian Cashman’s last year as general manager.  Maybe it is time for a change.  I’ve been watching the San Diego situation with interest as I am hopeful that Billy Eppler does not become the Padres’ new general manager.  For in-house talent to replace Cashman, Eppler is at the top of the list.  I would prefer replacing Cashman with someone who knows the inner workings of the Yankees organization and not someone from the outside who would have to go through a transition period.

AP

The All-Star break comes at a good time.  The.500 Yankees need some time to reassess where they are and regroup.  It also wouldn’t hurt to capture some good luck before they embark on the second half of the season.

The prodigal son returns home…

I am not a Cleveland Cavaliers or Miami Heat fan, but I have to say that I was pleased with LeBron James’ decision to return to his home.  The way that he rejected Cleveland with “The Decision” in 2010 to sign with the Heat was awful and he deserved the backlash that came with it.  But he has shown that he’s a better man today with his words for why he wants to return to his Northern Ohio roots.  Of today’s NBA superstars, LeBron has always been one of my favorites and I wish him the best in bringing a championship to the City by the Lake.  The Cavs should be a fun team to watch next season, particularly if they can acquire Kevin Love from the Minnesota Timberwolves.  Kyrie Irving must think that he won the jackpot with his new contract and the addition of the best player in the NBA.

Now that LeBron has decided where he’ll play next season, Carmelo Anthony should follow suit fairly soon.  Still hoping for a return to the New York Knicks…

–Scott

 

Sometimes Money Does Matter…

The Hunger Games…

When the Yankees said they were going to be big spenders during the opening signing period for international prospects, I still didn’t imagine how aggressive they would be. Based on MLB.com’s list of top international prospects, the Yankees have apparently signed five of the top ten players:

• Dermis Garcia, SS, Dominican Republic, #1
• Nelson Gomes, 3B, Dominican Republic, #2
• Juan De Leon, OF, Dominican Republic, #5
• Jonathan Amundaray, OF, Venezuela, #7
• Antonio Arias, OF, Venezuela, #9

In the second ten (11-20), they grabbed three shortstops:

• Hyo-Jun Park, SS, Korea, #13
• Wilkerman Garcia, SS, Venezuela, #14
• Diego Castilla, SS, Venezuela, #16

They also signed the #25 player in catcher Miguel Flames, Venezuela.

At first pass, it seems like a number of shortstops but I’ve read that Dermis Garcia will eventually be a corner infielder and Wilkerman Garcia may be switched to second base.

Dermis Garcia, the prized signing, represents the most the Yankees have spent on the international market since they signed top catching prospect Gary Sanchez in 2009. Garcia received $3.2 million, while Sanchez received $3.0 million.

It’s interesting that Garcia was born in 1998, perhaps the greatest year of the modern Yankees era.

I can still remember when the Yankees selected an 18-year-old Derek Jeter out of Kalamazoo, Michigan. Hopefully, the 16 year-old Garcia will be a presence in pinstripes for more than 20 years too.

Of course, while the Yankees were focused on position players, the Boston Red Sox quietly signed the top two pitchers in Christopher Acosta, Dominican Republic, and Anderson Espinoza, Venezuela.

I thought it was a telling choice in the selection of the catcher (Flames). The Yankees seems overloaded with catching prospects and the Flames arrival is probably the prelude to the inclusion of another catching prospect such as Sanchez or John Ryan Murphy in a potential trade this month. I would not want to lose Sanchez for a middle-of-the-road starting pitcher but if the return were say someone like David Price, then I am all in.

With the international signings at approximately $14 million, the cost could be as much as $30 million with penalties plus the Yankees will be non-players in the next two signing periods as they’ll be restricted to no more than $300,000 per player. But with their aggressive approach this year, the Yankees have infused significant future talent into the lower levels of the farm system.

The future is now…

I saw a reference that Park would be the first Korean-born Yankee but that’s unfair to AAA second baseman Rob Refsnyder. Although raised in CA since he was 3 months, he was born in Seoul, South Korea to Korean parents. So I’d say Refsnyder will be the first Korean Yankee. Speaking of Refsnyder, I seriously hope that his Bronx arrival is sooner rather than later. The Yankees need to upgrade second base. Brian Roberts was once a great player but he’ll never be that guy again. Why not go with a younger player who has upside potential? The sooner we can put Robinson Cano in the rear view mirror, the better.

What have you done for me lately?…

So much for the rags to riches story for career minor leaguer Yangervis Solarte. After a terrific start to the season, he has been non-existent for the past month and it earned him a free ride to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. His replacement is actually an older career minor leaguer, Zelous Wheeler, so we’ll see how this goes. If it were me, I would have brought up Refsnyder. But there’s a reason that Brian Cashman is GM and I am not, so I’ll just have to have faith in the decision.

Too little, too late?…

Honestly, I am not sure there is anything the Yankees can do to save this season. They are a game under .500 entering play tonight and have played with virtually no offense. They only win if they can hold the opponent to a couple of runs or less. Robinson Cano is one player that could ignite the offense but obviously there’s no way the Seattle Mariners are going to give him up. In retrospect, the Yankees should have overpaid to keep Cano. Alfonso Soriano was that kind of player at times last year but he’s been in a season long slump that almost certainly means this is his final year in pinstripes. I thought that Brian McCann would be hitting by now but he is showing that he’s one of those guys who needs a long acclimation process to the Bronx. Carlos Beltran is merely showing that he is a 36-year-old outfielder. The other off-season right field option, Shin Choo-Soo, has fared no better in Texas.

At this moment, the Detroit Tigers stand as the team to beat in the American League. For the past couple of weeks, they’ve been invincible and easily handled the second best Oakland A’s this week. Joba Chamberlain is probably loving life at the top.

While I recognize the Yankees will make a move this month, I hope that they do not trade any top prospects unless the return is top shelf (i.e., David Price). I’d hate to lose Gary Sanchez and still finish 3rd or 4th in the AL East.

Oh well, tonight the Yankees play Phil Hughes in Minneapolis. Let’s hope the results are better than the last time they saw Hughes in the Bronx when he and the Minnesota Twins dominated the Yanks.

–Scott

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