Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Start The A.J. Trade Doomsday Clock!

I can't believe I'm doing this, but we're getting down to the wire here.  When we wake up tomorrow there will be only three minutes left to midnight; three days until pitchers and catchers have to report to camp.  And with everything that's gone down this offseason, there's just no way that A.J. can still be a Yankee when that day comes.  A.J. doesn't need that, and the team doesn't need that.

The latest news has the Yanks and Pirates still trying to figure out that last $3-5 million and who's going to pick it up, so things look close and that's good.  But it's still too risky to not be prepared for the fallout from an A.J. Spring Training attack, so doomsday clock it is.

3 minutes, Cash.  Make it happen.

Jorge Soler, Anybody?

I'm admittedly very late to the Jorge Soler discussion party.  I haven't followed him as closely as others have, mainly because my focus has been on the rotation upgrades, roster filling, and the ongoing A.J. trade saga this offseason.  But with Yoenis Cespedes coming off the market earlier this week, Soler now becomes the premiere Cuban/international free agent available.  The Cubs are the reported front runner for Soler right now, but Buster Olney reported yesterday that the Yankees have "serious interest" in Soler and it's easy to see why.

As a prospect, there's a lot to like about Soler.  He's got great size (copyright Jay Bilas) at 6'3"/205, and has a couple of very attractive tools, notably his power and bat speed.  Soler projects as a big-time power hitter, favorably compared to Gary Sanchez in that department by my TYA colleague Eric Schultz yesterday, and also possesses enough athleticism and defensive skills to become a good corner outfielder.  His swing mechanics need some work, but what 19-year-old's don't to some degree?  As a 19-year-old, Soler potentially has a higher ceiling than the 26-year-old Cespedes, and if signed he could follow a much more traditional path to the Majors, likely starting this season in High-A ball.  The Yankees are noticeably short on legit corner OF prospects right now, and Soler would be one of, if not the best one available if he were going to be in this year's draft.

The problem for the Yankees in this seemingly right-fit situation is the money it will take to sign Soler.  The rumors going around yesterday, which have now been squashed, was that the Cubs had agreed to terms with Soler on a deal worth more than $27 million.  With the Yankees shying away from the Cespedes contract demands, I can't imagine they would be willing to invest a comparable amount to someone who is still at least 2-3 years away from helping them at the Major League level.  Soler is  a top-tier prospect, would fill a position of organizational need, and could potentially give them a long-term replacement for Nick Swisher in right field if the Yankees decide to let him go (albeit a replacement that would need a short-term placeholder while he moves through the MiL system).  The question is, would the Yankees be willing to cough up that much money to get him if that's what it takes?

Pineda In Camp Early

(Photo courtesy of the NY Daily News)

At this rate, there isn't going to be anybody to report on Sunday when the Yankees are supposed to "officially" open Spring Training.  Yesterday, newly acquired starter Michael Pineda arrived in Tampa to begin his spring work.

Anthony McCarron reported that Pineda is already forming a strong friendship with Robinson Cano, and Pineda said he's looking forward to working with CC Sabathia.  Being a guy who has made the transition from hard thrower to polished pitcher, Sabathia is the perfect resource for Pineda to use to improve his repertoire as he matures.  And he doesn't seem like he's going to waste any time getting to work on that, as McCarron also reported that Pineda said he plans to work on his changeup in camp.  I think that's a damn good place to start when you're working with the kind of heater that Pineda is.

For the sake of comparison, when I turned 23 I spent the majority of my time going out in downtown Milwaukee, getting near blackout drunk, and making out with almost all of my buddy from work's chick friends, so this is exactly the type of stuff you want to see and hear from a young pitcher like Pineda.  He's in camp early, he knows what he has to work on, and even a small improvement in his change will be incredibly beneficial to Pineda's development and a positive omen for his 2012 campaign.

P.S.- Big ups to Ron Antonelli for finally getting a shot of this guy in a Yankee hat.  I was getting tired of using pictures of him in a Mariners uniform.

For more on Pineda's first day in camp, check out this piece that McCarron wrote last night for The Daily News.