Thursday, October 31, 2013

Another Key Monday Deadline To Consider

(Courtesy of the AP)

Next Monday is the deadline for teams to make qualifying offers to their free agents, and the Yankees are expected to be active in that department over the next 5 days.  It's also the deadline for players or teams with 2014 contract options to make a yay or nay decision on those options.  For the Yankees, that means Derek Jeter and his $9.5 million player option for 2014.

Somebody Fire Up The Burner...

(Hope you've got that phone fully charged, guy. Courtesy of Corey Sipkin/NY Daily News)

... Because it's hot stove time!

In addition to setting off another painful to watch Fraud Sawx celebration last night, Koji Uehara's strike 3 pitch to Matt Carpenter also signaled the official start of the 2013 MLB offseason.  I've been beating around the offseason bush in the last week or so, not wanting to fully dive into it until the season was actually over, and now that time has come so full speed ahead.

Things don't start getting really real until The Winter Meetings in December, but there's a lot of important stuff coming up just in the next week.  Starting today, teams have 5 days to extend qualifying offers to any of their pending free agents they deem worthy.  By next Monday the Yankees have to make QO decisions on Cano, Hirok, C-Grand, and Hughes (my personal decisions here), decisions that will get the wheels turning on a lot of their other offseason plans.

They'll also have to reset their 40-man roster.  There's more than a few guys on the 60-day DL right now, Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira chief among them, who need to be added.  For once the Yankees shouldn't have a problem clearing spots as there are at least a dozen guys coming off the active roster per free agency.

Like I said, the meat and potatoes of the hot stove season are still to come, but there's plenty that will happen in the next calendar week that will start to shape the path of this offseason.  The Yankees have a helluva lot to do, and with a tick over 5 months until the start of the 2014 season it's time to start doing it.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Any Chance Of The Cardinals Being An Offseason Trade Partner?

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

Whatever combination of draft and/or development problems you think are responsible for the Yankees' present farm system situation, we can all agree that it's very far from where it needs to be.  In analyzing and discussing those problems over the last 2 days, the St. Louis Cardinals have come up often as an example of the type of farm system the Yankees should be striving to match and with good reason.  Picking lower in the 1st round than most teams and finding undervalued assets that they turn into productive Major League players, the Cardinals' blueprint for success is based in their strong draft and development strategies.

The Yankees obviously aren't going to turn their farm system around to that level of success overnight, but could there be an opportunity for them to poach some of the fruits of St. Louis' labor this offseason?  The Cardinals will at least test the trade market waters to address their biggest roster needs and they have plenty of young pitching to dangle, the type of young pitching the Yankee system has failed to generate.  Seriously, it's almost stupid how much pitching depth St. Louis will have next year when Jason Motte and Jaime Garcia come back from injury.  If they get serious about moving some of it, the Yankees should be all over that.

Wednesday Afternoon Food For Thought

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

Adam Warren had himself a pretty good rookie season in 2013.  Just like his clone David Phelps in 2012, he gave the Yankees more than they were anticipating having to get from him, filled a variety of different roles when situations called for them, and had moments of success in each of those roles.  He'll be a more important piece of the pitching staff equation next year, but in what capacity?  Is he a viable starting candidate?  Is he best staying in the flexible long relief role?  Or could he become an effective 1-inning reliever?  Here's a quick statistical breakdown of how Warren fared in different situations this year:

- 1 IP < : 10 G, 8 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 2 HR, 4 BB, 2 K

- 1+ IP-3 IP: 17 G, 37 IP, 50 H, 22 ER, 7 HR, 17 BB, 39 K

- 3+ IP: 7 G, 32 IP, 24 H, 5 ER, 1 HR, 9 BB, 23 K

Hard to draw anything conclusive from those sample sizes, but Warren did have most of his success pitching in longer appearances or shorter appearances.  That middle ground is where he really took a beating, although it's also where he racked up most of his strikeouts.  With Phelps and Pineda back in the mix next year, and presumably a free agent starter or 2 added as well, it will be interesting to see how the Yankees decide they can best utilize Warren.

Yankees Ranked 16th In Baseball America's Near-Term Prospect Value List

Baseball America is moving forward with their offseason farm system rankings, and on Monday they released their organizational rankings based on high-level depth and the ability to provide Major League help in the next year or 2.  The Yankees came in 16th in this weighted ranking system, almost right smack dab in the middle of MLB.

This doesn't come as any kind of a shock based on where the Yankees came in on BA's level-by-level rankings and what we already know about the structure of their farm system.  They're light up top and heavy on low-level guys with high ceilings, so the chances of them churning out a lot of young talent in the next year or so are slim.  Personally, I'm a little surprised the Yankees even ranked as high as they did.  The only upper level player who could break in and make an impact next year is J.R. Murphy, and the futures of top guys like Sanchez, Williams, Austin, and Heathcott are up in the air based on their collective 2013 performance.

If nothing else, them falling in the middle of these rankings shows that there is value in the Yankees' depth.  Business as usual.

Get Over Here, Newman. You Don't Get To Skate That Easily

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

Yesterday when I raked Damon Oppenheimer over the coals and mocked the Yankees for allowing him to keep his job, the general consensus in the comment section was that the problem in the Yankee farm system was more development-based than draft-based.  There's a lot of truth to that statement, more than I might have realized at the time I was writing the Oppenheimer post, and Senior VP of Baseball Operations Mark Newman shoulders the bulk of that responsibility.  He's the one in charge of the team's developmental plan in the Minors and his recent track record is actually worse than Oppenheimer's.  Case in point, Baseball America's 2013 top 10 Yankee prospects and their career paths to date:
  • 1) Mason Williams- .404 wOBA in SS Staten Island in 2011, .381 in Low-A/.331 in High-A in 2012, .317 in High-A in 2013.
  • 2) Slade Heathcott- .335 wOBA in Low-A in 2010, .346 in Low-A in 2011, .389 in High-A in 2012, .334 in Double-A in 2013
  • 3) Gary Sanchez- .461 wOBA in the GCL in 2010, .364 in Low-A in 2011, .390 in Low-A in 2012, .336 in High-A/.348 in Double-A in 2013
  • 4) Tyler Austin- .434 in SS Staten Island in 2011, .442 in Low-A/.391 in High-A in 2012, .333 in Double-A in 2013
  • 5) Jose Campos- 2.38 FIP in SSL in 2011, 3.24 in Low-A in 2012, 2.83 in Low-A in 2013
  • 6) Brett Marshall- 2.96 FIP in Low-A in 2010, 3.24 in High-A in 2011, 4.09 in Double-A in 2012, 4.62 in Triple-A in 2013
  • 7) Angelo Gumbs- .347 wOBA in SS Staten Island in 2011, .339 in Low-A in 2012, .282 in Low-A/.266 in High-A in 2013
  • 8) Manny Banuelos- 2.76 FIP in Low-A in 2009, 1.71 in High-A in 2010, 4.01 in Double-A in 2011, 3.83 in Triple-A in 2012
  • 9) Ty Hensley- 4.20 FIP in 12.0 GCL IP in 2012, injured in 2013
  • 10) Rafael DePaula- 1.84 FIP in the DSL in 2012, 2.03 in Low-A/4.63 in High-A in 2013

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Changes To The NPB Posting System Should Benefit The Yankees

Over the weekend, Joel Sherman posted a story on the latest developments in the effort to change the current posting system for players wishing to jump from the Nippon Professional Baseball league to Major League Baseball.  For years the posting rules have given no power to the player, only the MLB team who wins the right to negotiate with the player by submitting the highest posting bid to his NPB team.  Per the new proposed changes to that system, 1 team will still maintain exclusive negotiating rights if they win the bidding process, but the player will also have the option of choosing to negotiate with one of the other top 2 or 3 bidding teams.

Obviously this change would benefit the Yankees greatly in their pursuit of Masahiro Tanaka this offseason.  All reports indicate that they will be making a serious push for him and it seems reasonable to expect that they'll turn in one of, if not the highest posting bid.  Under these modified rules, which are expected to be in place by this Friday in time for the start of MLB free agency, the Yankees would still stand a solid chance of being able to work out a deal for Tanaka even if they don't win the post fee bidding.

How Do I Get Damon Oppenheimer's Job Security?

(Do you even know how to read that thing, dude?  Courtesy of The NY Daily News)

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

Because if I sucked at my job as much as he's sucked at his and had been sucking at it for as long as he has been, my employer would have axed me years ago.  They especially would have done it if I were in his situation where my bosses were strongly hinting at making changes in my department, but somehow Oppenheimer survived last week's organizational meetings and will continue on as amateur scouting director next year. Real quickly, here's a list of the Yankees' 1st round draft picks since Oppenheimer took that position:
From that group, only 2 3 players (forgot about Brackman) took the field as Yankees and neither of them will be with the organization next year, 2 of them either never signed or flamed out before they could even do anything for the organization, and the rest have never played a game above the Double-A level.

Monday, October 28, 2013

So What's The Deal With This Suk-Min Yoon Guy?

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

Masahiro Tanaka continues to be the most sought after international free agent pitcher, and justifiably so, but the Yankees aren't limiting their international pitching options to just him.  While dishing a harsh slice of truth on the state of the Yankees' reputation in the free agent world last week, Scott Boras also did some promotional work for a new client of his, 27-year-old right-handed pitcher Suk-Min Yoon from South Korea.

If you've never heard of Yoon, don't fret.  You're not alone.  He's been well under the MLB radar for most baseball fans and writers despite being one of the best pitchers in the Korean Baseball Organization for years.  His team, the Kia Tigers, did not allow him to go through the MLB posting process after the 2011 and 2012 seasons, and so this offseason he's working to finally become available as a traditional free agent.  He's obviously an unknown commodity in the MLB landscape, and he does have some legitimate concerns attached to him.  But for the right price, he could be a low-risk/high-reward asset for the Yankees to add to next season's pitching competition.

Monday Mid-Morning Food For Thought

Since Damon Oppenheimer took over as amateur scouting director during the 2005-2006 offseason, here is the breakdown of position players drafted by the Yankees who have made it to the Majors as Yankees:
That's it.  That's the list.  Those 6 players have combined for 172 games played and 443 plate appearances as part of the Yankee Major League roster.  72.2% of those PA were racked up by Romine and Adams this past season.  In those 443 PA, they've produced -1.3 total fWAR.

If you're looking for a major (maybe THE major) reason why the Yankee roster has become so old and brittle and stagnant over the last few years, there it is.  They haven't developed and inserted a single useful everyday position player into their lineup in Oppenheimer's time at the helm of amateur scouting and drafting.  That's influenced some by trades, and in fairness their results with pitchers have been better, but that's still a terrible track record to have after 8 drafts.  Even with those results and even with his mostly miss record in the 1st round, somehow Oppenheimer survived last week's meetings and will be back at the helm of amateur scouting again this year.  Welcome to Bizarro World, folks.

2013 AB4AR Season Review Wrap-Up

(Courtesy of USATSI)

I didn't get to this over the weekend, but if you missed any of the 3-week 2013 season review, here's your chance to catch up.  The "2013 Storylines" reviews can be found here.  The "What We Thought We Knew & What We Learned" reviews broken down by roster group can be found here.  And last week's group-by-group and season prediction reviews can be found below:

- The Lineup

- The Rotation

- The Bullpen

- The Bench

- The Predictions

I'm especially proud of this year's predictions.  A step in the right direction for sure, even if it was the prediction equivalent of a wobbly, tiny baby step.  The 2013 season is officially over in my eyes and the associated eyes of AB4AR.  Time to bury it and move on to 2014.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

That's Quite The Shopping List

The offseason still hasn't officially started, and already the list of potential free agents the Yankees are reported to have interest in is pretty long:
And that's not even counting the handful of their own pending free agents who they have to make qualifying offer decisions on or the larger group of arbitration-eligible players.  Lotta decisions that need to be made and a lotta moving parts to this offseason.  Somehow I don't think that supposed $300 million is going to cover everybody...

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Report: Oppenheimer To Stay On As Amateur Scouting Director

I don't get it.  I really don't.  What legitimate reasons could there be to retain him?  Only thing I can think is that the team wants to give Ty Hensley and the 2013 1st round picks one full season to prove themselves before cutting Oppenheimer loose.  That's the only explanation that would make a shred of sense to me because the last few drafts haven't produced any real blue chippers and the last few 1st round picks have been atrocious.

If Oppenheimer is staying, hopefully those "other changes in baseball ops" that Feinsand mentioned are made in positions of significance.  If the strength and conditioning coach is going to be the only scapegoat for last season, that's not nearly enough change.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Friday Afternoon Linkapalooza: 10/25/13

Not including Bucker's ball through the legs, have there been 2 worse defensive plays in World Series history than Pete Kozma's dropped double play toss and Wainwright and Molina's dropped infield pop-up in Game 1?  Sweet fancy Moses, people, somebody wake up and make a fucking play!  Buck and McCarver did their best to make excuses for Kozma having to come from the other side of the bag, but the bottom line is the guy dropped an easy ball.  No reason to take your eye off it to check on the player sliding into you, dude.  Not when that player is 4-foot nothing Dustin Pedroia.  And shame on Wainwright for calling everybody off and then not making the catch and double shame on Molina for running all the way out to the mound like a jackass and distracting him.  Good thing they made up for it with a win last night.  I hate bad baseball.  Now onto the links!

- On Monday, el duque of It Is High... submitted his list of ways to improve the Yankees in 2014 and beyond.

- SG of RLYW did the same, stressing the importance of building a team that could contend beyond 2014 instead of just signing flashy names to big deals (Beltran, McCann) or repeating the 2013 approach of signing names whose flash had already worn off.

- SJK of NoMaas reiterated his belief that the Yankees missed an opportunity by not trading Robinson Cano at the deadline this year.

- On Tuesday, Joe Ferraiola of IIATMS/TYA broke down the Jurickson Profar-for-Cano trade that never was and gave hist thoughts on whether or not the Yankees missed an opportunity there.

- Chad Jennings of LoHud had the most details I've seen on the mysterious A-Rod legal team press conference that got Taffered before it could happen.

- On Wednesday, Greg Corcoran of Bronx Baseball Daily went back over the last 6 Yankee drafts and updated the progress of each player, signed and unsigned.  Hell of an effort by Greg, and the results are as depressing as you'd expect.

- On Thursday, Chris Mitchell of Pinstripe Pundits, in an act of extreme self-masochism, reviewed Eduardo Nunez's brutal defensive season.

- Mike Axisa of RAB posed an intriguing and not often talked about trade possibility to address the potential hole at third base next season.

- Michael Brown of Pinstriped Bible mused on some ways the Yankees could bring the "evil" back to the Evil Empire next year.  His post was meant to taken somewhat jokingly, but he may be onto something.  It would be nice to see a little attitude back in the team.  They've become very boring.

- On Friday, Daniel Burch of The Greedy Pinstripes looked ahead to 2014 and what kind of production we should expect from the returning Mark Teixeira.  30+ homers and 100+ RBI would be nice.

This Friday's jam is one from the treasure trove of awesome cover songs that is Richard Cheese and Lounge Against the Machine.  If you aren't familiar with Mr. Cheese, he takes popular rock, rap, and top 40 songs and remakes them as Vegas lounge music.  A song of his came on my iPod a month or so ago when my girlfriend was in the car and I was shocked to find out she had never heard of him.  Damn near stopped the car in the middle of street.  She'll never know how close she came to getting kicked out of the car right there on the spot.

Enjoy your weekends, everybody.

2013 AB4AR Season Review: The Predictions

(Still my favorite image of the season)

Well we made it.  We've come to the end of the 3-week season review extravaganza, and I don't know about you readers but I've been exhausted by it and I'm glad it's over.  We finish it off, as always, with a review of my preseason predictions and some honest self-reflection about my skills as a baseball prognosticator.  Admittedly, my track record in making season predictions is not a sparkling one.  2011 was a tough year, 2012 even tougher.  I honestly didn't even go back and recap my 2013 predictions post before I started writing this and there's no way I could remember them all off the top of my head, so this should be interesting.  Here we go...

Early Offseason Happenings Not Kind To Hughes

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

I'm short on ideas today so I'm going back to an old standby, Mr. Phillip Hughes.  It probably seems pointless to talk about Hughes in relation to the Yankees anymore.  He very likely pitched himself out of contention for even a qualifying offer from them let alone a new multi-year contract offer, and his reputation as the organization's biggest developmental pitching flop would make it very difficult to bring him back with any expectations of success.  The Yankee have already set their sights on a bunch of other free agent targets. Time spent considering Hughes as part of that mix would be time wasted.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

2013 AB4AR Season Review: The Bench

(Courtesy of Robert Sabo/NY Daily News)

The Yankee bench wasn't going to be very good this year.  We knew that going in when they started scraping the bottom of the barrel to bring guys like Juan Rivera and Matt Diaz into spring camp to compete for a spot.  The whole lotta nothing that the team did to address its holes in the lineup trickled down big time to the bench, where guys who were better suited for part-time roles got forced into everyday duty and there was nobody left to replace them on the bench.  Well, nobody who could produce at a replacement level.

It was a non-stop revolving cast of characters on the Yankee bench this year, necessitated by injuries, poor performance, ownership's tight grip on the payroll, and sometimes just the need to have a warm body at a position.  If you read the "What We Thought We Knew/What We Learned" post from last week, you know this isn't going to be pretty.

Surprise, Surprise. Yankees Still The Most Valuable MLB Franchise By A Wide Margin

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

Quick, how much money do you think this down year cost the Yankees in terms of franchise value?  If you answered any amount of money, you're wrong.  According to Bloomberg's latest calculations, the Yankees are valued at approximately $3.3 billion.  That's $1.2 billion more than the next most valuable MLB franchise (the Dodgers), and almost $1 billion more than what Forbes valued them at back in March.  Despite the scaled back payroll and subsequent failure to reach the postseason, stadium attendance that was down from 2012, and TV ratings that were the same, the Yankees are still the gold standard when it comes to professional baseball value and are still practically printing their own money.

While it is good news in the grand scheme of things - I'd much rather the Yankees be the most valuable franchise instead of one of the least - it does present an easy opportunity to revisit the topic of Hal's plans for the team.  If you'll allow me a few minutes to beat a dead horse again, this valuation from Bloomberg and continued growth of the franchise's worth makes this payroll slashing, luxury tax avoiding plan seem all the more ridiculous than it did the first time I heard about it.

Update On Tyler Austin's AZFL Exit

Yep.  It's a problem with his wrist.
Oh it's not serious?  That's good news.  Except that if it wasn't that serious you wouldn't be removing him from the fall league so he wasn't at risk of re-injuring it.  Ask Mark Teixeira about those non-serious wrist injuries.  See how well rest and recuperation worked for him.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

2013 AB4AR Season Review: The Bullpen

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

It's no coincidence that the Yankees have had both Mariano Rivera and a consistently strong bullpen for the last 18 seasons.  When you've got the G.O.A.T. out there closing down the 9th inning, that makes the rest of the 'pen much easier to construct.  The Yankees have excelled at constructing strong support staffs in front of Mo in his time as closer, through free agency and their own farm system, and with Mo finally deciding to show mercy on the rest of baseball and retire after the 2013 season, that support staff was going to be put to the test as part of a transitional period to a new era of Yankee relief pitching.

As usual, the Yankee 'pen wasn't short on depth in 2013.  In fact, they had more viable options than available spots near the end of Spring Training.  What it didn't have was the strong depth of talent that it usually does and the end result for the group in Mo's final season was a step down from what we've come to expect.

MLBTR's Arbitration Projections And Not Paying Too Much For Mediocrity

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

MLB Trade Rumors released their projected salaries for the Yankees' arbitration-eligible players yesterday.  While they are only projections, MLBTR has been pretty accurate with their numbers the past few years.  Typically these deals are an afterthought in Yankeeland, but with signs still pointing towards the $189 million luxury tax threshold being the main goal for them this offseason they become much more important.  Here's what MLBTR projected for the Yankees' 7 eligible players:
That's $17.2 million of potential salary added to next year's total, and when you're trying to cut costs on a team that already has almost $85 mil tied up in 6 players, that can make or break you.  The decision to offer arbitration or new deals to these players isn't as simple as it usually is for New York, and they need to be smart about these decisions.

Report: Tyler Austin Removed From The AZFL

Even when the season is over the Yankee organization can't escape injury problems.  At least that's what appears to be happening with Tyler Austin.  Josh Norris reported yesterday that he has been pulled out of the Arizona Fall League after playing in just 4 games.  Austin hasn't played in over a week, and based on his injury problems earlier in the year and now the decision to remove him from the fall league, it's only logical that a setback would be the cause.

You'll recall that Austin missed a large chunk of time due to a wrist injury and he was dinged up late in the 2012 season.  If this does indeed turn out to be health-related, and especially if it turns out to be a setback with his wrist, that's another bad look for the Yankee training/medical staff.  They've gotten burned a lot by rushing guys back before they were ready to play in both the Major and Minor Leagues and another setback to a top prospect makes them look even worse than they already do.  Hopefully this doesn't turn out to be something serious that could impact Austin's ability to start the 2014 season on time.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

2013 AB4AR Season Review: The Rotation

(Courtesy of Reuters)

The Yankees got a pretty good collective effort from their starting rotation in 2012, and they appeared to be primed to at least repeat and hopefully improve upon that in 2013.  The same 5 faces were back for another run, giving the rotation a familiar blend of right and left handers, old and young guys, and plus stuff and plus command from multiple sources.  We thought the biggest issue surrounding this group coming into the season was injury concerns and how each of them would hold up physically.  We learned that the issues ran much deeper than that, and the rotation as a whole was unable to build on 2012's performance.

Yanks Suddenly Have All The Leverage In The Cano Contract Talk

(Hopefully money ain't too much of a thang for Robbie.  Because he isn't getting anything close to $300 mil now.  Courtesy of Cano's Twitter)

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

It's been a little under a month since Robinson Cano and his camp came out with their initial contract figures.  That A-Rod-ian 10 year/$305 million proposal was met with a hefty chunk of scorn from the Yankee fanbase and blogosphere and relative silence from the Yankees, who simply referred back to the offer they made Cano earlier in the year - 7 years/$161 million - as their starting point for negotiations.  The most we've heard since last month was Hal reiterating on his recent media tour that the Yankees would not be willing to go 10 years for Cano, which would be a wise move considering the mess they're in with the A-Rod contract.  Other than that it's been all quiet on the Cano front.  Somehow, in the midst of all the silence between the 2 sides, the Yankees have seemingly made a big gain in the leverage department and are now in the driver's seat heading into the official start of free agency.

A-Rod's Legal Team Is Straight Up Putting In Work

I know I said a long time ago that I wasn't going to use AB4AR to post every little A-Rod story, but it's hard not to when there's new stuff like this coming out every other day.

"Alex Rodriguez’s lawyers were blocked from holding a news conference Monday with a person they described as a 'Major League Naseball whistleblower' when the commissioner’s office obtained an order from the arbitrator hearing the case.

More than an hour after the scheduled start of the news conference, one of Rodriguez’s lawyers read the substance of the order from arbitrator Fredric Horowitz to the assembled media.

The lawyers would not say whether the 'whistleblower' worked for Major League Baseball, one of its teams or some other affiliate. They also said the 'whistleblower' had facts not directly related to the substance of the case."

Staying on the offensive against MLB at every turn.  Love it.  I can't wait until this thing runs its course and ends up as the base storyline for an episode of "Law & Order" in a few years.

New Yankee Ticket Prices For 2014 Are ... OK, I Guess?

The Yankees announced their new ticket prices for 2014 yesterday, and on the surface it looks like they're doing everybody a solid.  From the team:

"Prices for 96 percent of tickets will either remain the same or decrease.

Approximately 39,000 tickets (78 percent) will have the same price in 2014 as they had in 2013, while approximately 9,000 tickets (18 percent) will have a decrease in price. There are approximately 2,000 tickets (four percent) that will have an increase in price."

I don't want to come off like a complete malcontent here, because having 96% of tickets either stay the same or decrease in price is a good thing.  Everybody who's been to the new Stadium knows how much of a strain it can be on the wallet.  That's a lesson I learned the hard way during my Yankee weekend trip back in early September.  Keeping ticket prices as affordable as possible for the majority of the common fan is a good thing.

But when I read about how the 4% of ticket prices that are going up are doing so because the team is creating more suites and more specialty field-level seating, that makes the efforts on the other 96% of prices ring a little hollow.  The lengths the Yankees go to now to cater to the deep-pocketed, bougie baseball fans has gotten a bit tiresome and it'd be nice if they would take the hint from this past season that maybe they need to do a little more for the rest of us.  Yankee Stadium attendance was down over 9% this year, a little over 3,000 fans per game, and that decrease has just as much to do with the insane prices as it did the mediocre product on the field.  Adding more luxury seating to the stadium hardly feels like the right move given the current state of the organization, but what are you gonna do?  It's Hal's team now and he can do whatever he wants with it.

Monday, October 21, 2013

2013 AB4AR Season Review: The Lineup

(Too many ABs for these guys.  Courtesy of the AP)

I gotta be honest, people.  These first 2 weeks of season recap posts have been much tougher to write than I thought they'd be.  I figured after taking a week off from the long, slow, disappointing but ultimately predictable death that was the 2013 Yankee season, I'd be recharged and ready to look back on everything that happened with a sharp analytical mindset.  Instead, I've just ended up reverting back to the feelings of sadness and boredom I had while covering this team this year.

But whatever, we've reached the final week and it's time to look back on the 2013 edition of the New York Yankees.  We've reviewed the major storylines that defined the season, we recapped the lessons learned, now it's time to put it all together and put a bow on it.  The Yankees entered 2013 with a lineup that had been decimated by their intentional downgrading of it through a few key free agent decisions and the unintentional and unexpected rash of ST injuries that cost them more than a few of their big names.  It was an uphill battle for the lineup for most of the season and a battle the lineup was incapable of winning.  Years from now, people will look back on this season and recall how they got to watch some of the worst Yankee lineups ever to take the field.  That tells you everything you need to know.

This Week's Tampa Meetings Could Bring Major MiL Changes

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

As the start of the offseason draws closer with the World Series set to begin this week, the Yankees draw closer to a potentially franchise-altering few months, one unlike anything we've seen in any of the past 5-10 years.  They've got a ton of money coming off the books, a significant chunk of additional money that could be coming off sometime in the next month or so, the current cornerstone of the franchise who may or may not leave via free agency, almost an entire starting rotation to rebuild, a floundering farm system that could finally be in for some major changes at the top, and as competitive an environment in the AL East as we've seen in years.

Scott Boras Comments On The Yankees' Standing In The Free Agent Market

What Boras said to The NY Post last week:

"It’s the first time in a lot of years the Yankees have to prove to major free agents they will be competitive next year.  That’s never really been a question in New York, but they have so many spots to fill. It’s a different place."

That may sound like the words of a man who's still butthurt about losing his 2 biggest Yankee clients to other agencies, but there's a lot of truth in Boras' words.  The Yankees weren't really that active in the free agent market last offseason beyond re-signing their own guys and they stood mostly pat at the trade deadline.  The perception they've created around the game in the last year is that they're more concerned with the bottom line than with winning ballgames, and players can and will pick up on that.  They know the Yankees haven't been spending much and they know they have a lot of holes to fill this offseason.  The chance for big money in pinstripes isn't as high as it was just a few years ago.

It would be one thing if free agents thought they could get the most money from New York while playing for a team that may not make the postseason next year.  It's another when even that is no longer a guarantee and the team looks closer to falling into the AL East basement than climbing back to the top of the division.  If they want to maintain the allure they've always had to big time free agents, the Yankees do have to do some work to prove their willingness to compete.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

2013 Season Review: What We Thought We Knew & What We Learned (The Recap)

2 down, 1 to go.  The storylines have been revisited, the lessons have been learned, and next week we'll start the final week of the 2013 AB4AR Season Review series.  Most, if not all of the lessons learned in 2013 were learned in a negative light and many of them paint a potentially harrowing picture for what might be in store in 2014.  If you missed any of this week's positional lessons, here's the recap to prep you for tomorrow.

- The Infield

- The Outfield

- The Rotation

- The Bullpen

- The Bench

Saturday, October 19, 2013

$300 Million Spending Spree? I'll Believe It When I See It

So everybody's all aflutter after this Andrew Marchand story came out yesterday about a supposed $300 million spending spree on the horizon.  According to Marchand's sources, the Yankee front office has laid out a plan to re-sign Robinson Cano, sign free agents Masahiro Tanaka, Brian McCann, and Carlos Beltran, AND stay under the $189 million luxury tax threshold.  Before I dive into the details and the numbers and how that could even conceivably work, all I'm going to do right now is sit and wait for the Yankees to prove that this is something more than just another phony report designed to draw pageviews.

Last offseason, when this scheme to get under the luxury tax limit really started to become a front office focal point, the only thing the Yankees showed a willingness to do was cut payroll and work to cut more payroll for 2014.  They they didn't show any commitment to spending money that had a positive impact on the on-field product.  Adding all 4 of those players mentioned would certainly do both of those things.  It would also go against everything the Yankees just finished doing this past offseason and against what they've shown their new top priority to be.

I'm on the record as wanting Cano back next year and for the remainder of his career.  I think the Yankees should absolutely go after Tanaka and fully recognize that both McCann and Beltran would be major upgrades to 2 positions that are in need of upgrades.  If this is the plan they're going with, and they think they can do it while staying under their 189 number, I'm on board with it.  I'm just not going to say much about it until I actually see actions from the front office that are in line with Marchand's words.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Friday Afternoon Linkapalooza: 10/18/13

There's a kickass Mexican place a few blocks from my girlfriend's place.  Their house margaritas are the tits and I plan on getting hammered drunk on them tonight.  The weather has started to turn in Wisconsin and I want one more chance to pretend it's still warm before it's time to take out the sweatpants and winter coat.  Hope everybody else has something fun planned for their evenings.  Now onto the links!

- On Monday, SJK of NoMaas offered up his take on who should and should not receive a qualifying offer from the Yankees.  One of his selections might surprise you.

- On Wednesday, Mike Axisa of RAB broke down the 40-man roster logjam the Yankees are going to have to deal with this offseason.  Is it me or does this problem get worse every year?

- Chad Jennings of LoHud perused the LCS rosters to identify potential offseason targets for the Yankees.

- Ricky Keeler of Yanks Go Yard looked back at Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, or as I call it, the greatest game I've ever watched.

- Michael Eder of IIATMS/TYA pondered the option of signing guys like Beltran and McCann at the cost of giving up a 1st round draft pick this offseason.  That decision should tell us the true future direction of the franchise.

- On Thursday, Delia Enriquez of Bronx Baseball Daily mused on the possibility of the Yankees trading for Chase Headley.

- El duque of It Is High... commented on the differing of fan opinions on what to do with Curtis Granderson and how that's a perfect microcosm of the Yankees' organizational future.

- SG of RLYW played the projection game with Brian McCann to see what he could offer in terms of production at catcher and if that production was worth the contract it will take to sign him.

- On Friday, Derek Albin of Pinstriped Bible examined the lowered expectations for Derek Jeter in 2014, based both on historical numbers and Jeter's recent health problems.

- Clive Barker of The Greedy Pinstripes questioned MLB's case against Alex Rodriguez, how fair the punishment is and how real their evidence is, and commented on how those questions have changed how he feels about the case.

This week's jam is "Bleed American" by Jimmy Eat World.  Great album this was, even if it took up about 96% of Jimmy Eat World's songwriting skills.  This used to be in heavy rotation in high school Brad's music mix.  Good tune.

Enjoy your weekends, everybody.

2013 Season Review: What We Thought We Knew & What We Learned (The Bench)

(Jayson Nix, ladies and gentlemen.... )

The less I say about the 2013 the better.  It's just going to make me upset recapping how the Yankees took their recent "build the bench with cheap, aging veterans and a few young guys" approach to new lows this season.  It was a sorry, sadsack group of misfits, washed up has-beens, and "who the hell is that guy???"s that had to set the bar for the worst collective bench in Yankee history.  There wasn't much we didn't know about them when the season started, and there wasn't a lot of new ground broken in what we learned when it was over.

Why Not ManBan For Next Year's Rotation?

(Courtesy of Corey Sipkin/NY Daily News)

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

Here's a whacky idea to fill a spot in next year's rotation.  Give a spot to Manny Banuelos.  You remember Manny Banuelos, right?  Former top prospect, lefty pitcher, was striking out Double-A hitters on the reg at age 19 a few years back.  He's been out of action since early 2012 and rehabbing Tommy John Surgery since last October.  He's also been throwing for months and is expected to be 100% healthy for the start of next year.  The Yankees took a very cautious approach with ManBan's rehab, waiting almost a year before letting him pitch in simulated games late this season and shutting him down completely for the winter to let him rest.  Given the uncertainty in the back end of their 2014 rotation and the unlikeliness of the front office to spend much to fill it, they might want to consider taking the kid gloves off their former organizational crown jewel and taking a chance with him.

Latest On The Coaching Staff Contracts

Joe's been long locked up with his new deal now, but the progress on re-signing the rest of his coaching staff remains slow.  On Wednesday, Mark Feinsand reported that the Yankees and pitching coach Larry Rothschild had agreed to a new deal, but we've yet to hear or read anything about the terms of the deal and there's been nothing formally announced by the team.

As for the rest of the staff, according to Cash there's "nothing to report" on their statuses.  We're now less than 2 weeks away from their current contracts expiring, so that adds a slight tick of intrigue to what their fates might be.  I'm sure the Yankees would like to bring back their bases coaches - they have no reason not to with Joe back - and Tony Pena as bench coach, although Pena could get some interest from teams with managerial openings, and I can't see Mike Harkey being let go.  The one to watch is Kevin Long.  His star isn't shining nearly as brightly as it was a few years ago, and the regression of guys like Granderson and Teix has been a problem.  If anybody doesn't make it back, it could be him.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

2013 Season Review: What We Thought We Knew & What We Learned (The Bullpen)

(Courtesy of the AP)

If there was anything that could conceivably derail the Yankees' yearly tradition of having one of the best bullpens in baseball, it would be the loss of Mariano Rivera.  That's a reality they had to face for the first time in 2012 after he went down with a season-ending ACL tear, and it's a challenge they met head on thanks to an all-around "next man up" effort from the remaining healthy cast.  Rafael Soriano proved to be a valuable signing when he was there to take over the closer role last season, allowing everybody else to stay in their usual roles and not compromising the depth in the 'pen that has become a Yankee staple.

Soriano was out after last season, a compensatory draft pick taking his place, and Mo made his gallant return to his 9th inning throne.  Also returning from injury were Joba Chamberlain and David Aardsma, along with much of the same cast that did the job in 2012.  The Yankee bullpen was once again primed for a big year in 2013, with a few minor (and 1 major) details that needed to be ironed out.  The late-inning crew did their job, but it was those unresolved details in the middle relief department that really defined the 2013 bullpen's campaign.

Thinking About Possible Rule 5 Casualties

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

In a little less than 2 months, the MLB Winter Meetings will wrap up and hot stove season will be brought to a full boil.  At the end of the meetings, the 2013 Rule 5 Draft will be held and the Yankees could find themselves in a tricky spot for that draft this year.  It's no secret that the Yankees have a crowded 40-man roster on their hands right now.  It's something that seems to have been a growing problem for the past few years, a byproduct of an aging roster full of big contracts and an organizational desire to both protect its top prospects and keep the below-replacement level players blocking them around (see: Nix, Jayson or Stewart, Chris).  With an unknown number of roster spots opening up and a large group of Rule 5 eligible players worth protecting, the Yankees might be at risk of losing a useful prospect or 2.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

2013 Season Review: What We Thought We Knew & What We Learned (The Rotation)

(Courtesy of the AP)

There was a time in the mid-aughts when it felt like the major talking point every offseason was "the Yankees need more starting pitching" and there were always new faces being brought in to achieve that goal.  It even carried over into and after the 2009 season when they won the World Series.  In the past few seasons, however, that talk has quieted and the Yankees have established some consistency with their starting rotation.  They entered 2013 with the same projected starting 5 they had in 2012, and even added a little more younger depth behind it than they'd had in years past.

That all looked like a good sign for a club that was going to need to lean on its pitching to be successful this season, although there were still a few questions that needed to be answered.  Those answers turned out to be the ones the Yankees didn't want to hear and 2013 ended up being a tougher year for the rotation than they hoped for.

There's Mutual Interest Between The Yanks And Beltran Because Of Course There Is

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

To say that yesterday's news of there being mutual interest between the Yankees and free agent to be Carlos Beltran was unsurprising would be a gross understatement. My reaction to Mark Feinsand's report was a pretty simple, "duh."  The Yanks and Beltran have been loosely linked for almost 10 years now, and Cash is still probably kicking himself for not getting a deal done with Beltran back when he was in his prime in 2005.  Now that Beltran is 36 going on 37, he's much more in line with the current Yankee business model.  He's a former All Star on the downside of his career looking for one last contract and the Yankees are the safest of havens for those types of players.  The only thing surprising about this story is that it came out this early while Beltran was still playing in the postseason.

10 Years Ago Today...

Do you remember where you were for this 10 years ago?  I sure as hell do.  In my family's living room, screaming my head off and jumping around the house to the point that it woke my old man up to come down downstairs and see what was going on.  Easily my favorite Yankee game I've ever watched and I watched every pitch of this one.  Aaron Effing Boone.  Classic.

P.S.- Joe Buck still sucks.

The A-Rod Hearing Is Really Getting Good

The hearing for Alex Rodriguez's suspension appeal is scheduled to resume today, and if there wasn't already enough anger and hatred on both sides of the table, this fun little story from ESPN NY yesterday about A-Rod's lawyer getting into it with Anthony Bosch's lawyer should add a little extra heat to the fire:

"Told that MLB might need several more days to question Bosch, Tacopina was quoted by the New York Daily News as saying, 'Well, I guess we have all of October, and by then Mr. Bosch will be in jail.'

'If he is, he is not going alone,' Ayala is alleged to have retorted, prompting Tacopina to 'bull rush' Ayala, according to the source. Tacopina was restrained before any blows could be exchanged."

FIGHT, FIGHT, FIGHT, FIGHT!!!!  Seriously, how can people not love this stuff?  There should be a new 24/7 ESPN channel dedicated to showing everything that's happening inside and outside that meeting room.  If I'm scoring the bout, I'm going to have to give the nod to Ayala (Bosch's lawyer).  The "not going alone" line is a pretty good comeback on the spot like that, and the fact that Tacopina responded by rushing him proves it got under his skin.  Rookie move by Tacopina too.  Everybody knows you don't escalate to physicality after the first insult, bro.  You should have come back with the "you bob for apples in the toilet, and you like it" line and seen where it went from there.  Amateur.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

2013 Season Review: What We Thought We Knew & What We Learned (The Outfield)

(Never got enough of these 3 together.  Courtesy of Reuters)

After a few years of familiar faces and familiar expectations, the Yankees shook things up in their outfield for 2013.  Gone was Nick Swisher, the plus-offense, passable-defense right fielder from the previous 4 years and gone was Curtis Granderson, who missed a big chunk of time early in the year due to a broken forearm and a bigger chunk later due to a broken finger.  In their places were 2012 trade deadline acquisition Ichiro Suzuki, out to prove his strong SSS performance wasn't a mirage, and Vernon Wells, a former All Star who was past his expiration date and had pretty much been a piece of shit for 3 of the last 4 seasons before the Yanks traded for him in March.

Yeah, it was a new and not so improved group in 2013, one that inspired more concern than confidence when evaluating them before the start of the season.  The lessons we learned from them this season were hard, painful lessons, ones that any intelligent baseball fan didn't really need a refresher course on.  After the jump, re-live some of that pain again.

Let's Talk About Mark Teixeira

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

There are headlines aplenty going around the Yankee infield right now.  When you've got $50-60 million worth of players whose statuses for next year are all in some sort of doubt, that'll happen.  The one name that is absent from the conversation is that of Mark Teixeira, and that's probably just fine with him.  Never one to draw a lot of media attention with what he does on or off the field, Teix has slid almost into Kevin Youkilis "don't even both talking about him" territory after having season-ending wrist surgery in early July.  Considering his importance to next year's team, it's probably time to dust him off and get him back in the offseason discussion.

Early AZFL Update

The Arizona Fall League is still in its early days, but there are already some results worth talking about.

- Tyler Austin has gone 4-10 at the plate in 3 games with 1 3B and 3 RBI.  The plan was to get him work at both infield corners this fall, but I've yet to see any reports on what position he's played in the 3 games.

- It's been a bit slower going for Mason Williams (4-18, 2 2B in 4 games) and Peter O'Brien (1-8, 1 HR, 4 K in 3 games), although O'Brien did win the inaugural Bowman Hitting Challenge over the weekend.

- Mixed bag results for the pitchers as well.  Vidal Nuno struck out 5 in 2.2 IP in his first start, but also gave up 5 hits and 4 runs (2 ER).  Brett Gerritse has also gotten knocked around in his 2 relief appearances (4 ER in 2.2 IP), but the lefty tandem of Fred Lewis and James Pazos has combined for 8 K and 4 BB in 4 scoreless appearances.

Monday, October 14, 2013

2013 Season Review: What We Thought We Knew & What We Learned (The Infield)

(Courtesy of Reuters)

Once the biggest pillar of the team's offensive strength, the Yankee infield came into the 2013 season a crumbling, weather version of its former self and the first place to point to when making a case against handing out long-term contracts to players approaching their 30s.  The Yankee infield was old, injured, and regressing at the corners, older and more injured at shortstop, and heading for free agency while already on the wrong side of the age 30 threshold at second.  That was just in Spring Training too, and none of those descriptions changed for the better once the regular season started.

It was long and difficult year around the Yankee infield, one that I don't think anybody quite saw coming.  I know I didn't back in March when I first outlined what we knew and didn't know about this group.  Even in my attempt to stay grounded with my expectations, I was still way too optimistic about the prospects of 2013 being a good year for the infield.  Lesson learned there I guess, along with these others.

Prioritizing The Offseason To-Do List

(Courtesy of John O'Boyle/The Star-Ledger)

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

While the best teams in baseball continue to put on a nightly show in the postseason, the Yankees are slowly moving forward with their offseason plans.  They re-signed manager Joe Girardi to a new 4-year deal last week and they are in the process of re-signing his coaching staff to return with him.  The word "stability" was used a lot when Joe's new deal was announced and it's something this organization needs to re-establish going forward, but there's still a lot that needs to be done to achieve that goal.

The coaching staff is just the first piece of the puzzle for the Yankees this offseason, and hardly the most important one at that.  There's a lot of work that needs to be done with the roster and a lot of big decisions that need to be made to determine the direction this franchise takes in 2014 and beyond.  A lot of those decisions probably won't be made until a decision is rendered in the Alex Rodriguez suspension appeal hearing, something the Yankees have no control over.  There's plenty they do control, however, and they'd be wise not to sit on their hands while the A-Rod case plays out.  If Cash is making a checklist of things he can control this offseason, here are the ones that should be the top priorities.

Cash Speaks On A-Rod

Brian Cashman was a guest on Ian O'Conner's radio show yesterday and he had a lot to say about Alex Rodriguez and the idea that the Yankees would rather have him suspended and his salary off the books than have him on the field next year.  Cash dismissed the idea that the Yankees would prefer A-Rod to be suspended, citing the lack of available and comparable talent to replace him at third base.  Here's the money quote:

"It's not like going down to a Home Depot and pulling something out that you need that's broke and you've got to fix it.  So ultimately from a baseball operations standpoint, taking out all the areas of controversy, having Alex Rodriguez man third base is obviously by far the best option for the Yankees than what the alternatives would be in theory."

You can decide for yourself how honest you think Cash is being when he makes that statement, but there's plenty of truth in the logic.  Yeah, it's easy to say that having that $27 million off the books is a huge help to the Yankees, but that line of thinking assumes they are going to be able to easily replace A-Rod's presence and production and that's just not the case.  He proved he can still play well when he's healthy in his limited time on the field this season.  Losing that production along with losing the salary commitment does work out to a net loss for the Yankees and it's a loss that's going to be more difficult to overcome than people realize.