Tuesday, December 31, 2013

AB4AR's 2013 "Best And Worst Of The Year": The Postseason/Offseason

(Still can't quite believe this happened.  Courtesy of Getty Images)

We've got 2 down and 1 to go on the 2013 AB4AR season recap.  Yesterday it was the regular season and today it wraps up with the best and worst of the postseason, or the offseason really since the Yankees failed to make it to the postseason this year.  Out of everything from the past 3 months, here are the choicest selections.

Concern Over Tanaka's Workload?

(Courtesy of Getty Images/AsiaPac)

There's not much that can slow down the Masahiro Tanaka train now that the 30-day negotiation window has been opened.  He's young, he's strong, he's very good, and he's generally regarded as the hands down best starting pitcher available on the FA market this offseason.  If anything could, however, it could be a growing sense of concern over the workload already accumulated on Tanaka's arm.  Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports posted a story on this very topic yesterday, quoting multiple unnamed MLB front office personnel who expressed varying levels of concern about Tanaka's arm and the stress that's already been put on it.

Alex And Randy, An Email Match Made In Heaven

Stop me if you've heard this one before.  Alex Rodriguez and/or Randy Levine said or did something stupid in the press that's now coming out and making them look bad.  It's been about a week or 2 since either of them fell into that familiar trap and this time it looks like they've fallen in together.

Yesterday Steve Fishman of New York Magazine published a story comprised almost entirely of a series of email exchanges between A-Rod and Levine dating back to the early part of the 2011 season.  Reading through it in chronological order, you'll see how the relationship between them and the relationship between Alex and the organization has deteriorated over the last 2+ years, especially after the latest round of steroid accusations and suspensions came down.  What starts with Levine saying "I'm worried about your health, u sure u r ok?" ends with Alex pleading for Levine and the Yankees to stop what he perceived as helping MLB's investigation against him and telling Levine "what you are doing is ruining the business of baseball."

It's truly bizarro world stuff from the 2 guys in the Yankee organization who are the best at providing such stuff.  The whole thing is a must-read and a must-re-read when you're done and another classic example of the 2 things we know most about these men: Alex thinks everybody is out to get him and has an over-inflated sense of ego and Levine is a complete moron.

Monday, December 30, 2013

AB4AR's 2013 "Best And Worst Of The Year": The Regular Season

(This never gets old.  Never.  Courtesy of MLB.com/ESPN)

Yesterday we took a look back at the best and worst blogs AB4AR had to offer from January 1st of this year to March 31st, and I have to say that I almost impressed myself going back over that early-year work.  It was decidedly more good than bad, even if my umpteenth post jumping the gun on Michael Pineda was completely ludicrous.  Time to see if that trend held when the regular season started.  Today we're reviewing the highs and lows of that long, often times boring, sometimes downright painful block of time from April 1st to the end of September.  Let's dive right in.

What Do The Yankees Still Need To Do This Offseason?

(Will we get another big introductory presser?  Hope so.  Courtesy of Getty Images)

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

A week ago today we reached the official halfway point of the 2013-2014 offseason.  53 days had passed since the last out of the World Series was recorded and 53 days remained until pitchers and catchers were scheduled to report to spring camp.  The Yankees headed into the holiday break last week with a lot already accomplished.  They had retooled their outfield, improved their infield depth and bench for next season, replaced their primary lefty out of the bullpen, and brought back one half of the 400 innings Cash said he wanted to add.

Despite losing Robinson Cano to Seattle it's been a pretty productive offseason thus far.  If I were handing out offseason midterm grades, I'd have the Yankees in the B- to B range.  With the calendar close to turning to 2014 and with the start of next season now closer than the end of last season, there's still work to be done to improve that grade up to an A level.  The Yankees have a little under 7 weeks until pitchers and catchers report, and here's what they need to do before then to finish this offseason successfully.

Winter League Wrap-Up

Not sure how much any of it really means in the grand scheme of things, but most of the Winter leagues have wrapped up or are in the process of wrapping up this week and the Yankees had their fair share of notable prospects participating.  Here's a quick look at how some of those notable names performed.
  • Zoilo Almonte: .316/.343/.454 w/ 4 HR and 20 RBI in 43 Dominican League games
  • Gary Sanchez: .267/.330/.367 w/ 1 2B and 2 RBI in 12 Domincan League games
  • Ronnier Mustelier: .270/.386/.360 w/ 2 HR, 27 RBI, and 28 BB in 53 Mexican Pacific League games
  • Adonis Garcia: .325/.347/.502 w/ 15 2B, 8 HR, and 39 RBI in 53 Venezuelan League games
  • Jose Pirela: .335/.419/.510 w/ 25 XBH, 41 RBI, and 33 BB in 61 Venezuelan League games
I touched on Almonte the other day, but very good performances from Garcia and Pirela as well.  They're fringe prospects at best, but they could find their way onto the 40-man if injuries allow it and could be useful bench pieces down the road.  Disappointing lack of power from Musty.  Sadly it looks like the ship carrying his roster spot chance may have passed.

For a full recap of the Yankee Winter League participants, check out Axisa's post from yesterday afternoon.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

AB4AR's 2013 "Best And Worst Of The Year": The Preseason

(Joe, Randy, Lonn, and Hal at the Jorge retirement presser.  Courtesy of Getty Images)

The 2013 calendar year is winding down and there's little going on in the way of Yankee news right now, so let's take a look back at the year that was for AB4AR.  2013 was another record year for the site, more posts, comments, and pageviews than ever before.  A big thank you goes out to everyone who read regularly and commented to help make that happen.  I know I'm woefully behind the times when it comes to blog design, layout, social media tie-ins, and all that, and it really just comes down to the fact that I don't have or want to have the time for all those other things.  I'm just a Yankee fan who likes to write about the Yankees and do as much as I can in the time my day job and social life will allow me, and to have more people than ever recognize and follow that basic, rudimentary format this year means a lot to me.

As we did last year, we'll break the 2013 review down into 3 parts: preseason, regular season, and postseason/offseason.  Today we'll tackle the preseason, the block of time from January 1st through the end of March, when the hot stove season was winding down and Spring Training was ramping up.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Saturday Evening Food For Thought: Current Opening Day Starting Lineup

1) Jacoby Ellsbury- CF
2) Derek Jeter- SS
3) Carlos Beltran- RF
4) Mark Teixeira- 1B
5) Brian McCann- C
6) Alfonso Soriano- DH
7) Kelly Johnson- 3B
8) Brian Roberts- 2B
9) Brett Gardner- LF

If Opening Day was tomorrow, that's the lineup I'd write down if I were Joe.  Is it perfect?  No.  It still needs some right-handed pop, preferably at third base so that Johnson can be moved to the bench, but it's not horrible.  I've seen a lot of talk about Ellsbury and Gardner at the top but I don't see that happening.  In the same way I don't see Jeter getting taking out of the shortstop position, I don't see him getting moved out of the top of the order until he proves he can't hit anymore.  Same concept with Teix.  He may not be capable of being an effective cleanup hitter anymore, but that's where he's hit a lot since joining the Yankees and I think Joe is going to show him some loyalty before bumping him down to 5 or 6 behind McCann.

There is speed, there is balance thanks to the multiple switch hitters, and it is a better Opening Day lineup than 2013's was.  If the Tanaka posting pushes the Yankees over the LT threshold, it should get a little more help before spring camp starts.

2013 AB4AR Comment Of The Year

There were more comments this year than I've gotten since I started AB4AR in the summer of '09, but there was one that stood out head and shoulder above the rest.  It came from a post I did on the idea of trading Robbie Cano in February and it captures almost everything I want to see in my comments.  Here it is again, in its full glory:

"THAT'S IT!!!! I'VE HAD ENOUGH!!!! I've listened attentively to all your pessimistic bullshit all winter and now you've gone over the edge. Maybe you just don't have anything to write about and are wallowing in some kind of self-induced hysteria. But I am up to my neck with your gloomy outlook and all the dire, negative nonsense coming out of your blog this off-season and I've had enough. So, I'm casting off! All this negative energy is really really bad for the brain Brad - and it's no wonder nobody is responding anymore to your rantings. It's just poison. If you were a Cubs or Astros fan, I could see where you would be down and out, but these are the FUCKING NEW YORK YANKEES you're talking about! MY TEAM! GET YOUR HEAD OUT OF YOUR ASS!!!! So goodbye for now! There must be some people out there who are looking forward to an exciting season, but you are not one of them. Since October your blog has been bile! I'll check back in with you in a few months when your meds starts kicking in again."

Outstanding.  Just outstanding.  Don't get me wrong, I would prefer that the comments on this site be a little more analytical and I'm always down to engage in a little back-and-forth debate with anybody who takes the time to comment here.  But in terms of just sheer, unbridled emotion, it doesn't get any better than that.  It's got everything: all caps, multiple exclamation points, profanity, insults towards me as a writer and a person.  It's brilliant.  To know that something I wrote elicited an emotional fan response of that nature is absolutely terrific because that's exactly the type of fan and writer I used to be when I started this site.

Shout out to my man James for taking home the first ever AB4AR "Comment of the Year" award.  Your free non-existent AB4AR t-shirt is in the mail.  And everybody else take note, I want more of this next year.  If I'm pissing you off that much, feel free to let me know about it.  I probably won't respond to it as quickly as I would a more calm, rational comment, but I'll at least get a good laugh out of it.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Friday Afternoon Linkapalooza: 12/27/13

Well here we are, the last Linkapalooza of 2013.  I probably said this last year too, but I really can't believe how quickly this year has gone by.  It seems like just yesterday I was rolling my eyes at the signing of Travis Ishikawa and just 2 or 3 days ago I was trying to talk myself into the Kevin Youkilis signing.  In a bit of pseudo-full circleness, I'll be spending my day today at the casino, just like I was on a Friday in April some 18 months ago for my buddy's bachelor party.  I walked out of that weekend up $150 and I'm hoping to repeat that feat today.  We'll see how it goes.  Now onto the links!

- On Monday, Mike Axisa of RAB profiled Stephen Drew as a FA target now that he's reportedly waiting on the Yankees.

- Daniel Burch of The Greedy Pinstripes explained why A-Rod being acquitted of his steroid suspension and on the field to start 2014 is at the top of his Christmas list.

- Michael Eder of IIATMS/TYA commented on the hold up that the A-Rod decision is causing for a lot of the remaining free agent market.

- SJK of NoMaas analyzed the current state of the starting rotation, which could change for the better if the Yanks can win the competition for Masahiro Tanaka.

- On Tuesday, el duque of It Is High... expressed his displeasure with the idea of signing Mark Reynolds this offseason.  I don't think Reynolds would be as bad a signing as the comparison ED made, but he is admittedly far from a perfect fit.  And that's coming from somebody who wants the Yanks to sign Reynolds.

- Chad Jennings of LoHud looked at the big questions that still need to be answered during the holiday hot stove break.

- Jason Evans of Yanks Go Yard compared Ubaldo Jimenez and Matt Garza to see who would be a better fit in the 2014 rotation.  Just in case they don't end up landing Tanaka.

- On Thursday, Harlan Spence of Pinstripe Alley broke down the competition for Tanaka now that he's been posted.  It's going to be tough with the new rules, but I still think the Yanks are the easy favorite.

- Delia Enriquez of Bronx Baseball Daily examined the Yankees' Plan B options in the event they aren't the team to sign Tanaka.  We all know how much of a step down those plans would be, so I'd rather not even think about them now that Tanaka is out there.

- On Friday, Chris Mitchell of Pinstripe Pundits compared the projected platoon splits for the Yankees next year to get an idea of what they're lineups might look like against righties and lefties.

We're kicking it old school for the final Friday Jam of 2013 with some Styx.  I've heard this song 3 times in the last 5 days and it's reminded me how good a song this is.  Styx wasn't always the best, but when they got it right they had some good shit.

Enjoy your weekends, everybody.  See you in 2014.

Where Does Zoilo Fit In Now?

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

It was an up and down 2013 for Zoilo Almonte.  He hit .297/.369/.421 (.361 wOBA) in 293 Triple-A plate appearances in his first experience at the level, showing improved plate discipline and on-base skills that had yet to be part of his offensive repertoire.  When the barrage of injuries struck the Major League club, he got called up to the show in the summer and the results weren't nearly as good, .236/.274/.302 (.257 wOBA) in 113 PA.

A hamstring injury ended his season early, but he's picked it up back in the Dominican Winter League this offseason.  If you haven't been following the comings and goings of that league closely, and I don't blame you if you haven't, Zoilo has hit .316/.343/.454 out there and has seen time at all 3 outfield positions.  What does that mean as far as his Major League standing for 2014 goes?  Probably not much.  Almonte has hit in this league before, and with the new acquisitions made by the Yankees to upgrade their outfield it's not a stretch to say he's the 7th outfielder on the 40-man right now behind Ellsbury, Beltran, Gardner, Soriano, Ichiro, and Wells.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

I Like Tanaka's Choice Of Agent

Now that the Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes are officially under way, key details relative to his negotiations with potential MLB suitors are starting to come out.  The first major one, as initially reported by Japanese media outlets and confirmed by Joel Sherman, is that he has chosen Casey Close as his agent.  From the Yankees' perspective, this has to be seen as another bit of good news and an advantage for them in the negotiating process.

Close, you'll recall, is the agent for current Yankees Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira and he was instrumental both in getting Jeter his big 10-year deal in the 2000 offseason and in working out Jeter's new 1-year deal with Hal Steinbrenner.  He doesn't have any experience with major international free agents from what I've read, but he's got a very good history in working out big money deals for other MLB players.

The Yankees already held a number of competitive advantages over the field when it came to signing Tanaka.  They've scouted him more extensively over the last year plus than any other team, they have the most money to spend on him regardless of posting rules, they have a gigantic media market with a history of being good to premiere Japanese players (some of whom are still on the Yankees right now), and they have a huge need for rotation help that makes their expansive monetary resources even more potentially imposing.  Add Close and his Yankee ties to the mix and that has to qualify as another advantage Yankees.

And So It Begins...

Did I just copy and paste 2 things in to "write" this blog?  You bet your ass I did.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas From AB4AR

I'm already well on my way to a second day of too much awesome food and too much good beer and I hope everybody else is too.  It's a tradition here at AB4AR to play the most underrated Christmas song of all time and I see no reason to break that tradition this year, so I'll keep it short and sweet and wish everybody out there a Merry Christmas and a heartfelt thank you for continuing to read this little blog.  Hopefully we all get some Masahiro Tanaka as a late Christmas gift to bring some last-minute Yankee holiday cheer.  Now take it away, Mr. Garrison.

Report: Tanaka Will Be Posted

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

It's a Christmas miracle!  After a few months of waiting, a negotiation of new posting rules between MLB and NPB that took longer than expected, and a report last week to the contrary, the Yankees and the rest of MLB got some good news yesterday when the Rakuten Golden Eagles announced that they will in fact post Masahiro Tanaka this offseason.  I'm so late to the game that I don't even know who had the story first, but most reports said the posting could happen quickly, possibly as soon as today.

This is big news for the Yankees and the report they were hoping to get after the new posting details came out.  Their biggest current need is another top flight starter and they were hoping that Tanaka would be that.  They've shown no willingness to entertain the rest of the top MLB free agents as backup plan options, and Tanaka represents everything their rotation needs.

Whenever he is posted, I fully expect them to go in guns blazing with a big contract offer and the full $20 million posting bid.  Because of the new posting rules, Tanaka's contract will be worth more in terms of AAV, enough that it will probably push the Yankees over the luxury tax threshold.  But they can't worry about that when it comes to a pitcher with Tanaka's ceiling and I don't expect that they will.  If they're going to break through that ceiling, this is the player to do it for.

Whenever Tanaka is posted, the Yanks will have 30 days to work out a deal for him.  There will definitely be other teams in the mix, but I have to think New York is the early favorite to sign him.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Xmas Eve Day News And Notes

Hopefully everybody has all their shopping and wrapping and what not taken care of now.  I had to run out and grab a few last-minute things (mostly beer) this morning.  Obviously there's not a lot going on in Yankeeland or baseball in general around the holidays, but there are a few noteworthy happenings you might have missed.

- The Cubs claimed Brett Marshall off waivers yesterday, so the Yankees' plan to sneak him through and back onto the Triple-A roster failed.  As I mentioned last week, Marshall became expendable after a poor 2013 and because of the returning Triple-A rotation depth. It's a bummer to lose him, but only a small one.

- Via Matt Eddy of Baseball America, the Yanks re-signed righty reliever Matt Daley to a MiL deal.  He pitched well in a few September outings and could be a part of the bullpen mix next season if injuries strike.

- Not surprisingly, the Yanks are interested in Grant Balfour for their bullpen now that his deal with the O's is off and his value is presumably down.  He'd be a helpful piece, but I'd still rather D-Rob be the closer than him.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Report: A-Rod Decision Could Be Coming Soon

It's been one of many slow-playing offseason storylines for the Yankees, but a resolution to the Alex Rodriguez steroid suspension saga could finally be coming.  According to a report earlier today by Bob Klapisch, Major League Baseball is expecting the arbitrator to hand down his decision "very early in January, possibly right after New Year's."

This is in line with some other reports/theories that have been floating around the Yankosphere lately.  The timeline for a decision was always set in early-to-mid January after the hearing wrapped up last month, and with HOF announcement set for January 8th, the prevailing thought is that MLB would want to get the A-Rod announcement out of the way early or late enough to not distract from that.

As far as the Yankees are concerned, a post-New Year's decision would be ideal.  They've put the brakes on their offseason activity since their payroll started creeping close to the luxury tax ceiling, and probably aren't going to make any more moves to address third base or their pitching staff until they know how much of A-Rod's money is going to be coming off the books.  If this schedule holds, it will put an end to a long, bizarre, frustrating, and often entertaining part of the 2013 offseason.

Projecting David Phelps As A Starter In 2014

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

I continue to stand by my belief that the Yankees will not actually follow through with their plan to fill out next year's rotation from within if, for whatever reason, they don't end up signing Masahiro Tanaka.  If they do decide to take that path, however, I don't think there will be much of a competition in Spring Training to determine the final 2 spots.  Michael Pineda was brought in to be a top-of-the-rotation stud along side CC Sabathia.  Regardless of whether he's still capable of being that type of pitcher or not, the Yankees owe it to themselves to have him in next year's rotation to at least attempt to start getting some value out of that trade.

If he's the #4 starter, the last spot will more than likely go to David Phelps.  He's got more experience than any of the other young starters on the 40-man roster, he's had more success at the Major League level, and those 2 things have traditionally held the most weight when the final decision is made in the annual Yankee spring rotation competition.  Phelps has made 23 starts in his first 2 Major League seasons, pitching to a 4.39/4.15/4.17 slash line in 123.0 IP.  Nothing flashy, and his numbers have been much better as a reliever, but that type of production from the 5th spot in the rotation would be a welcome addition to a team that still needs all the pitching help it can get.

Monday Morning Food For Thought: The Old Get Older

Interesting article by Joel Sherman over the weekend, one that leads off with this doozy of a line:

"The Yankees have accomplished the near impossible — they had the oldest player in the majors (Mariano Rivera) and the oldest starter (Andy Pettitte) retire and yet somehow have gotten older this offseason."

To be honest, I hadn't even really paid much attention to the age factor of this offseason's moves.  I was just happy that the Yankees were spending money on players who could still actually play and would actually make the team better in 2014.  But Sherman's point is valid and there is something to be said for the fact that the Yankees will enter next season without a single player under the age of 30 in their starting lineup.  They're no strangers to age-related regression and age-related health problems wreaking havoc on their roster, and by getting older this offseason they've done more to increase the risk of that happening again than lessen it.  Beltran, McCann, and Ellsbury all come with some form of legitimate injury concern, and they're being added to a mix of CC, Jeter, Teix, Gardner, and A-Rod (maybe) that already comes with plenty of concerns of their own.

Will next year's team be better than the one that opened 2013?  Absolutely.  Will it be any safer from the risks associated with being an older club?  Maybe, maybe not.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Report: Stephen Drew Waiting On Yanks

It seemed like the Yankees were out on top free agent shortstop Stephen Drew after all the other smaller signings they've made to address their infield this offseason.  According to Peter Gammons that may not be the case.  Gammons tweeted yesterday afternoon that Drew is "awaiting some further Yankee clarity" before making his decision on where to sign.  There's a lot of different ways that statement can be interpreted, but it suggests that the Yankees may still be in on Drew in some capacity.  He would be an ideal starting shortstop over Derek Jeter, even though he's never going to get that role, and if he's willing to play other positions he would be better offensively than anybody else currently on the Yankee roster.

The Yankees are likely waiting on a final resolution to the A-Rod suspension before moving forward with more infield signings.  So if they're waiting and Drew is waiting on them, there's going to be a few more weeks of waiting before we get to see what's really going on here.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Yanks Still Trying To Avoid The Luxury Tax?

The Yankees' activity on the free agent market has slowed way down since the Carlos Beltran signing.  Sure, they added Brian Roberts and Matt Thornton this week, but their involvement on the starting pitching market has been non-existent with things held up on the Masahiro Tanaka front and now it sounds like the plan to stay under the $189 million luxury tax threshold is back on again.  Via Joel Sherman's Thursday column:

"Because as one member of the organization said to me, 'We either have to be under $189 million or up over $200 million or more. Think how dumb it would look if we worked for a few years to get under $189 million and we didn’t and we were at like $192 million and just missed. Either we go under or way over.'"

That comment was made in the context of talking about Alex Rodriguez's suspension, but it still doesn't make a lot of sense to me.  The Yankees have spent a shit ton of money this offseason, enough money to put themselves right on the ragged edge of going over that 189 number.  They've done a solid job of trying to reload the team on the fly but there are still some major spots that need to be addressed.  To not stay fully committed to that and to go super cheap to avoid the luxury tax in the event that A-Rod isn't suspended for the whole year is stupid and makes the rest of their big offseason moves relatively pointless.

Beltran Introductory Presser Wrap-Up

(Courtesy of the AP)

Carlos Beltran got to fulfill what had to at least be a small life goal yesterday when he became the latest, but hopefully not the last, Yankee free agent acquisition to meet the media.  As expected, flowers were presented to wives, pictures were taken, questions were asked.  Here are the highlights:

- Beltran said "I used to look up to this organization" when talking about his long standing desire to be a Yankee.  He confirmed that he grew up a Yankee fan and specifically mentioned Bernie Williams as a player he was a fan of.  That's pretty cool.

- Both Joe and Cash talked about the flexibility Beltran brings to the lineup as another switch hitter to add to the mix.  It'll be interesting to see how Joe decides to lay out the middle of the batting order with all these new faces.

- Apparently the wound from his time with the Mets hasn't fully healed.  Beltran said that he thought "it wasn't right" how the team portrayed him at times, especially when it came to leaks from within the organization.  He did later say that if he made the HOF he would strongly consider going in as a Met though, so he can't be too upset.

- We knew this already from a tweet of his weeks back, but Beltran will wear David Cone's old #36 next year.  And he will play right field.

- Beltran on the team's chances next year: "With the signings of Ellsbury, McCann, myself and the players that we have, I believe that we have a good (enough) team to go all the way. We still have to go out there on the field and perform, but most importantly, we feel that we have the players – the characters – to accomplish that.”

Friday, December 20, 2013

Friday Afternoon Linkapalooza: 12/20/13

Can't talk now, gotta keep a close watch on the weather forecast for the next 20 hours to make sure my flight home for Christmas is still able to leave on time.  Suffice it to say I'll be quite Grinch-y if I'm stuck at the airport all day tomorrow.  Now onto the links!

- On Monday, William Juliano of The Captain's Blog took a very detailed look back at some classic Yankee hot stove deals that weren't.  This was a fantastic read.  Seriously, stop reading this and click the link and read that instead.

- SJK of NoMaas lamented the potential scrap heap strategy the Yankees might use to fill out their roster if they try to keep the luxury tax avoidance goal in play.

- On Tuesday, SG of RLYW compared Matt Thornton and Boone Logan's previous stats and next year projections to show how the Yankees made 2 good decisions in signing one and letting the other walk.

- On Wednesday, Chad Jennings of LoHud compared next year's projected Opening Day starting lineup to the starting lineup from 2013.  It actually is a lot better.  Some people might have forgotten that.

- Craig Edwards of Pinstripe Alley discussed Brett Gardner's value in terms of this offseason's trade market to show why the Yankees have been smart to not move him.  Yet.

- Michael Eder of IIATMS/TYA took a closer look at Dean Anna to see if he could be of service as part of the infield rotation next season.

- On Thursday, Mike Axisa of RAB commented on the high injury risk to the 3 for sure returning members of the rotation and how that could impact the team's chances of going after more rotation help this offseason.

- Derek Albin of Pinstripe Pundits examined the pre- and post-injury performances of players who suffered similar wrist injuries to Mark Teixeira to see if they could tell us anything about what to expect from Teix.

- Jason Evans of Yanks Go Yard pondered the idea of trading for Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks.  As someone who's had the displeasure of watching Weeks play for the last few years, my vote would be no.

This Friday's jam is a song about jams.  About kicking out the jams actually.  I got another week of no work in front of me and I'm ready to get loose so let's kick 'em out.

Enjoy your weekends, everybody.

Some Cheaper Tanaka Alternatives

(Meh... Courtesy of Getty Images)

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

Yesterday the news broke that the Rakuten Golden Eagles were not going to post Masahiro Tanaka this offseason.  Then some reports came out that they still hadn't decided if they were going to post him this offseason.  Then there was a report that they still would post him this offseason.  So as of right now they're not planning on posting him and they're going to offer him a record NPB contract to stay, but they might post him because they haven't decided if they want to post him even though they don't have to post him and eventually they will post him but maybe not.

As far as the Yankees are concerned, they almost have no choice but to move on assuming that Tanaka isn't going to be posted.  The process has already dragged out longer than they anticipated or wanted it to and their rotation isn't getting any better while they wait around for Rakuten to make up its mind.  The Yanks are reportedly not interested in the next tier of MLB free agent starters like Jimenez, Garza, and Santana, but I still can't see them not bringing in another pitcher and instead filling the back end of the rotation out with their internal cadre of young arms.  If they want a short-term placeholder for the rotation until next offseason, when they can hopefully try for Tanaka again, here are the most likely candidates for an offer.

Why Brett Marshall Got DFA'd

I have to say I was more than a little surprised when I saw that Brett Marshall was the 40-man roster casualty for Carlos Beltran yesterday.  He wasn't very good in Triple-A last year as a starter or in his handful of Major League relief appearances, but he's still just 23 years old with a good fastball and a plus changeup.  That seems like a commodity much more worthy of being held onto than a washed up 35-year-old outfielder who can't hit anymore.  But in looking at the projected starting rotations for the Yankees and the SWB RailRiders, it starts to make a little more sense.

Yankee Rotation: CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Ivan Nova, Free Agent Pitcher X, Winner of the Pineda/Phelps/Warren/Nuno ST competition (probably Pineda or Phelps)

RailRider Rotation: Manny Banuelos, Vidal Nuno, Jose Ramirez, Nik Turley, Shane Greene

With guys below him in Double-A having better years and moving up and ManBan being healthy again, Marshall's Triple-A rotation spot wasn't the sure thing it was last year.  And with Phelps and Warren already more established as Major League swingmen, Marshall wasn't going to beat them out for a spot on the 25-man roster.  His poor 2013 made him expendable and the Yankees probably felt they had enough MiL depth in Triple-A to cover for injuries.

It sucks for him and hopefully Marshall clears waivers and stays in the organization, because I do think he can develop into a decent pitcher, but that's life for a low-ceiling prospect on a team with constant 40-man roster issues.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Yanks Make Carlos Beltran Signing Official

It took a little longer than it did for McCann and Jacoby, but the Yankees finally made the Carlos Beltran signing official today.  The team formally announced the deal, which was for 3 years and $45 million in case you'd forgotten, and he will be introduced at a press conference tomorrow at 11 AM EST.

To clear a spot for Beltran on the 40-man roster, the Yankees designated Brett Marshall for assignment.  He was mostly bad as a starter in Triple-A and mop-up reliever in the Majors last year, but still has some prospect value as a young, hard-throwing pitcher.  I'm not sure why the team would elect to expose him to waivers when they could have dumped someone more expendable like Vernon Wells or David Huff, but hopefully he clears through and makes it back to Triple-A.

With Beltran in the fold, the Yanks now have a projected starting outfield of he, Ellsbury, and Gardner for 2014.  It still remains to be seen if Gardner will be traded or if the team will move forward with Soriano as the primary DH and de facto 4th outfielder, but there's plenty of time to figure that out.

Report: Rakuten Won't Post Tanaka

(Maybe next year, guy.  Courtesy of the AP/Kyodo News)

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

It seemed like things were starting to move in a positive direction on the Masahiro Tanaka front.  The new posting system between MLB and NPB was agreed upon and officially announced, and earlier this week Tanaka told his team that he wanted to pitch in MLB in 2014.  Despite their waffling on the decision to post him and their clear desire not to, it was reasonable to expect that the Rakuten Golden Eagles would eventually give in and honor Tanaka's wishes, not wanting to set a bad precedent for future players who would want to make the jump to the top level of competition.

2014 Yankee ZiPS Projections Released

(Depth chart graphic courtesy of Eephus League.  Click to enlarge)

If you haven't already checked them out, Dan Szymborski released his 2014 ZiPS projections for the Yankees over at FanGraphs yesterday.  Projections, in any system, always have to be taken with a big grain of salt, but the ZiPS method has been the most accurate the last few years and is at least a decent way to gauge the team's current talent level.

Definitely click the link and peruse through in greater detail when you get the chance.  If you don't have that chance right now, here's what you need to know.  ZiPS isn't a fan of the current infield, projecting just 1.7 WAR from Mark Teixeira (in 356 PA), 0.4 from Derek Jeter (in 325 PA), and 0.2 from the newly acquired Brian Roberts (in 215 PA).  It does project Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann to be the 2 best players on the team in terms of WAR (no surprise there), and also expects somewhat of a bounce back from CC Sabathia and another solid season from Ivan Nova.

There's a lot to sort through there, but it basically tells us what we already know.  The Yankees still need help everywhere.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Cause For Concern With Matt Thornton

(Courtesy of FanGraphs.  Click to enlarge)

That graph shows Matt Thornton's career K/9 trends.  As you can see, it's broken down by K/9 against right-handed and left-handed hitters and as you can see, both of those lines have been trending in the wrong direction for the last 3 seasons.

Part of what makes Thornton a bit of a risky signing is that major decrease in K rate he's experienced since 2010.  The loss of swing-and-miss stuff has made him much more susceptible to getting tuned up by right-handed hitters and since 2010 that's exactly what's happened.  In 2010 righties posted a .254 wOBA against him.  In 2011 that increased to .291, in 2012 it was .302, and this past season it was .370.

Thornton is no longer the dynamic reliever he was against hitters from both sides of the plate.  He's devolved into a lefty specialist only and there's reason to be concerned that his effectiveness against lefty hitters could start to deteriorate as well based on his downtrend in strikeouts.  It hasn't happened yet (.280 wOBA vs. lefties in 2013), but it could.  Righties have figured Thornton out now that he's not throwing the same smoke he used to.  It's not out of the realm of possibility for lefties to start doing the same.

Let's Talk About Some Prospects

(Courtesy of the AP)

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

I have a confession.  I'm bored.  I'm bored talking about mediocre second and third basemen and I'm bored waiting around for the Rakuten Golden Eagles president to just embrace the inevitable and agree to post Masahiro Tanaka.  I'm bored pondering which righty reliever the Yankees will overpay to "compete" with D-Rob for the closer role next year and I'm bored wondering how or if they are going to be able to move Ichiro.

Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus have both recently released their annual top 10 Yankee prospects lists, and both have their strengths and weaknesses.  That means prospect ranking season is right around the corner, if it isn't here all ready, so I'm saying the hell with the Major League issues this morning and going with the prospects.  I still have to put the finishing touches on my top 30 ranking for this season, but for the sake of conversation and debate here's a peek into my mindset.

The Only Thing That Matters About This "Tell-All" A-Rod Book

If you were busy following the important stories about the new player signings or actually doing something constructive with your time yesterday, you might have missed this juicy nugget of gossip about A-Rod.  Apparently he's close to locking up multimillion dollar deal to publish a book that he says will dish all the “full dirt of Major League Baseball’s tactics” against him as part of his suspension.

Al.  Can I call you Al?  If you read this, I need you to know something.  I need you to know that no matter what kind of details you put in this book, the one thing that needs to be confirmed is the story of the centaur painting.  I need to know if that thing exists or not, more than I need to know how big of a scumbag Bud Selig truly is.  I've named this blog after you.  The image of you as a centaur is basically the logo of this site.  I've been one of your biggest supporters since I started AB4AR in '09 and I will continue to be for as long as there's still a chance that you can play.  After all that, I think I deserve to know the truth about the centaur painting.

And if you don't want to do it for me, that's fine.  Then do it for the kids.  And their kids.  And their kids' kids.  Do it so that future generations of Yankee fans don't have to live with the same uncertainty the rest of us live with now.  We all pretty much know the story of how your battle with MLB went down.  What we don't know, and what we need to know, is whether or not you commissioned a painting of yourself as a centaur.  It's the one chapter of the A-Rod Saga that really needs closure.

Mark Reynolds vs. Jeff Baker- Who Ya Got?

Joel Sherman threw another name into the free agent hat yesterday when he reported that the Yankees had "expressed interest" in utility man Jeff Baker.  They've been linked to him before but never made any serious moves and he actually makes a ton of sense for them right now.  They're also still linked to Mark Reynolds but it's highly unlikely they have room for both on next year's roster.  So who would you rather have?

Reynolds Career Averages: .233/.329/.464, .344 wOBA, 28.86 HR*
Baker Career Averages: .267/.321/.440, .330 wOBA, 5.33 HR*

Reynolds Career vs. LHP: .238/.359/.475, .361 wOBA
Baker Career vs. LHP: .298/.353/.522, .375 wOBA

Reynolds Career BB/K Rates: 11.6% BB/32.3% K
Baker Career BB/K Rates: 7.1% BB/24.0% K

Reynolds Defensively: Well below-average at the infield corners; hasn't played the outfield since '07
Baker Defensively: Below-average at the infield corners, well below-average at second, below-average in the outfield but capable of playing it.

Closer than you thought, right?  Reynolds provides the power and patience that fits well with the Yankee offensive model, but he's a big time hacker and a butcher in the field.  Baker is a more balanced hitter with tremendous power potential against lefties and he can play more positions, although none of them particularly well.  Take your pick, Cash.  Just don't lose out on both of them.

*- Baker has never played more than 104 games in a season.  Reynolds has never played less than 111.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Brian Roberts Not A Very Good Plan D At Second

(Courtesy of Derick Hingle/USA Today Sports)

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

When Omar Infante signed with the Royals and the Cardinals swallowed up Mark Ellis last week, many of us went back to our mental drawing boards regarding the second base position for the Yankees next year.  The team had said from the minute it signed Kelly Johnson that he was not looked at as a full-time replacement for Robinson Cano, and the expectation was that the team would ramp up efforts to secure Infante or another more reliable Plan B/Plan C option quickly to at least provide some stability there.  They didn't, other team swooped in, and the new Plan D option, according to Ken Rosenthal's reports last night, is 36-year-old Brian Roberts.

Who's Next On The 40-Man Roster Hit List?

The Yankees appear to be making up for a slow Winter Meetings week with another flurry of signings early this week.  They've agreed to sign Brian Roberts to a 1-year deal as part of what looks more and more like a patchwork solution at second base.  And a few hours ago the Matt Thornton signing broke, giving them an MLB-proven option for the LOOGY role in next year's bullpen.  Add to that the still-not-official Carlos Beltran signing and the Yankees are looking at 43 players for 40 spots on the active roster right now.

So who gets the axe next?  Based on the positions of the players added, it only makes sense that Vernon Wells be the one to go for Beltran.  He serves little purpose as a 5th or 6th outfielder and the team can get better production out of the DH spot by rotating players through than they would have from Wells.  Lefty pitcher David Huff will probably also get future endeavored now that Thornton is in the 'pen.  No need to carry 3 lefty relief options when there's only 1 available spot.

The last one could be a little trickier.  Roberts' presence could signal the end for Eduardo Nunez.  But with Nunez and Dellin Betances both reportedly still having MiL options left, perhaps the Yankees will just take the easy way out and bump 1 or both of them down to clear space.  Another spot should open up when the A-Rod suspension decision comes down, for 50 games at least, and it makes sense to hold onto as many potential assets as you can when your projected starting lineup is as old, injury-risky, and platoon-heavy as the Yankees' appears it will be.

They don't have to make any decisions yet, but as physicals get completed and deals become official it will be interesting to see how they go about juggling 40-man spots for all these new players.

BREAKING: Yanks Sign Lefty Reliever Matt Thornton

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

Well there's some unexpected bullpen help.  As first reported by Jack Curry, the Yankees have agreed to a 2-year/$7 million deal with lefty specialist Matt Thornton.  The deal is pending a physical of course, and should he pass it Thornton will replace Boone Logan as the team's primary LOOGY out of the 'pen in 2014.

Thornton, 37, was one of if not THE premiere lefty specialist in baseball as recently as 2011 with the White Sox.  He struggled for them early last year before being dealt to the Red Sox at the trade deadline and performing much better.  Overall he pitched to a 3.74/4.04/4.13 slash line in 43.1 IP in 2013 with a .280 wOBA against from left-handed hitters.  For his career lefties have hit .229/.296/.350 against him in 249.2 IP.

Thornton comes with a pretty fair amount of risk as an older reliever.  His K rate has decreased every year since 2010, from 33.9% then to just 16.0% this past season.  That's partially due to his increased ineffectiveness against righties, but as a LOOGY he should still be above-average and he comes at a much more team-friendly cost than Logan would have.  At the very least, it's an early-season upgrade over Cesar Cabral if Thornton can maintain his effectiveness against same-side hitters.

P.S.- For shits and giggles, here's my anti-Thornton rant from the 2011 offseason.  At that time it didn't make a lot of sense to trade away prospects for a guy with $12 million still owed to him.  Today, for just $7 mil and no prospects, it's a much better deal.

Tuesday Mid-Morning Food For Thought: Bang For The Buck (UPDATED)

Yankee Free Agents Lost This Offseason: Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Boone Logan, Joba Chamberlain

Total Amount Paid to Those Free Agents: $319 million

Yankee Free Agents Signed This Offseason: Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, Kelly Johnson, Hiroki Kuroda, Carlos Beltran*, Brian Roberts, Matt Thornton

Total Amount Paid to Those Free Agents: $304 311 million

Say what you want about how the Yankees are approaching this offseason, but don't say they aren't being smarter in general than we're used to seeing.  They would have been crazy to go 10 years for Cano or 3 for Logan and they wisely let them walk, and 4/$60 mil for Granderson is probably more than they wanted to pay.  Despite the holes they still have on the roster, they've managed to sign 6 7 players for $15 8 million less than the dollar value of the 4 they lost and they still have money available to add rotation/bullpen depth before equaling the total amount they didn't spend on the other guys.

If a chunk or all of that $15 8 million goes to Masahiro Tanaka, it'll be hard to say the Yankees didn't make the right moves this offseason.  7 8 useful bodies beats 4 any day of the week.

(*- Still not technically signed, but he will be)

Report: Yanks "Likely" To Sign Brian Roberts (UPDATED)

Well I guess that's one way to start plugging the hole at second.  This report came out late last night and it hasn't been verified by another of the regular Yankee beat guys, but Ken Rosenthal is a pretty reliable source so I'm taking it as gospel.

Roberts, 36, is a former All Star-caliber second baseman who's had his career completely derailed by injuries over the last 4 seasons.  The most serious one was a concussion and a long bout with post-concussion symptoms in 2011.  He's a .278/.349/.412 career switch hitter (.335 wOBA) but his line has been closer to the .230/.300/.350 range since the injury problems started.

There are no details yet on what type of deal it will be, but I have to imagine it will be for only 1 year regardless of the dollars or if it's even a guaranteed Major League contract.  Roberts' best days are far behind him and the Yankees seem to already know that if they are not taking themselves out of the running for other better options as Rosenthal reported.  At first glance I'm not a fan of this move.  I am willing to wait to see where it goes as more information on it comes out, however.  There isn't much left out there on the FA market for the Yanks, so I guess Roberts is better than nothing.

* UPDATE 7:47 AM- Via Rosenthal's latest tweet, the deal is official.  1 year/$2 million plus incentives and it is obviously pending a physical.  There you go. **

Monday, December 16, 2013

MLB And NPB Officially Announce New Posting Rules

The details have slowly been coming out on the new posting system over the past few weeks, but Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball made it official today with the announcement that an agreement has been reached and the new posting system will go into effect today and for the next 3 years.  The major details of the new posting system are:

  • $20 million maximum bid limit, paid only if a team submitting it agrees to a deal with the player being posted.
  • Negotiating rights for any MLB team who pays the maximum $20 million posting fee.
  • 30-day window after the player is posted for all MLB teams to agree to submit the posting fee set by the NPB team and negotiate a new contract with the posted player.
  • Fee payment for the winning MLB team to come in installments set by the NPB team.  NPB team has the right to set the posting fee for any player at any level they want up to the $20 million cap.
There's good and bad in this system for the Yankees, which doesn't detract from the fact that it was a complete screwjob to the Yankees by the have-nots in MLB.  It also won't mean much for them this offseason if the Rakuten Golden Eagles decide not to post Masahiro Tanaka.  He's their only real target for the rotation in this year's free agent class, and I highly doubt the team would be happy using a Phelps or a Warren in the rotation in place of Tanaka.  His club has all the power right now, and the last I read they were leaning towards not posting him and trying to convince him to stay for 1 more year.  If that happens, this new system won't mean much to the Yankees until the 2014 offseason.

Report: Yanks Prefer Internal Rotation Options Over Garza And Jimenez

The Yankees have been slow to act on the free agent market when it's come to their rotation so far this offseason.  They were able to bring Hiroki Kuroda back for another year, but he's just one piece to a puzzle that's still far from complete.  A new report earlier today makes it seem like one of those pieces might already be on the roster.

According to Bob Klapisch, the Yankees are not big fans of either Matt Garza or Ubaldo Jimenez and would lean towards filling one of their open rotation spots internally before signing either of those 2 top free agents.  This comes as a bit of a surprise after Brian Cashman's earlier "we need 400 innings" comment, which made it sound pretty clear that the Yankees were pursuing multiple starters.

Klapisch did add that the Yankees would still be quick to pounce on Masahiro Tanaka if and when he is posted.  But with no clear time table for that in place, they don't seem to be fond of stepping down to that next level of FA starters should Tanaka not be posted.  We already knew there was going to be a fatal 4-way for the final rotation spot, but if one of those competitors gets slotted into the 4th spot in the rotation, that leaves the back end incredibly weak.  While Garza and  Jimenez are no sure things themselves, I have to think they would be better full-time rotation options than David Phelps or Adam Warren.  We'll see how real this plan is if the Yanks don't end up with Tanaka.

Baseball Prospectus Releases Its 2013 Top 10 Yankee Prospects List

Last week it was Baseball America unveiling its top 10 Yankee prospects for 2013.  This week it's Baseball Prospectus.  They took the cover off their 2013 top 10 earlier today and there are some surprises at the top.  The entire write-up is for subscribers only, but here's how the list shakes out:

1) Gary Sanchez
2) Jose Ramirez
3) J.R. Murphy
4) Slade Heathcott
5) Tyler Austin
6) Mason Williams
7) Greg Bird
8) Eric Jagielo
9) Ian Clarkin
10) Aaron Judge

No surprise with Sanchez at the top again, and the love for J.R. Murphy after his strong 2013 season continues.  What really shocks me here is Jose Ramirez making it all the way to #2.  He showed flashes of brilliance again this season, starting with an impressive Major League Spring Training.  Once again, though, they were just flashes and he struggled to maintain consistency and his health.  I don't see how you can take a guy who pitched just 73.2 innings this season and has pitched fewer innings every year since becoming a pro in 2010 and rank him higher than guys like Murphy, Austin, and Williams, but that's just me.

P.S.- The AB4AR Top 30 is coming...

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Darwin Barney: Do Not Want

I know the options are starting to dwindle with Omar Infante off the market now, but is it really time to start slogging through the bottom of the barrel to find a second baseman for next year?  Because that's what trading for Darwin Barney would be.

The simplest way to describe his offense is to say it sucks.  In 1,799 career Major League PA, he has a .246/.293/.336 slash line (.278 wOBA).  He doesn't hit for average, he doesn't hit for power, he doesn't draw walks, and he doesn't do anything on the bases on the rare occasion that he gets there.  He is a plus-plus defensive player at second, but his offense was so bad in 2013 that even registering 11 defensive runs saved only made him worth 0.4 fWAR.

He's heading into his first year of arbitration eligibility, so he does have a few years of team control remaining at what should be a reasonable cost.  But with as much service time as he has, he's probably going to cost the Yankees a few million if they trade for him.  They're already paying a few million for a middle infielder who can't hit a lick in Brendan Ryan.  Adding another at second wouldn't make a whole lot of sense when the team still needs to replace lost offensive production.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Saturday Afternoon Food For Thought

Total IP by Mariano Rivera, Boone Logan, and Joba Chamberlain in 2013: 145.0 IP

Total IP added this offseason to replace them: 0

The bullpen was an area of need this offseason before yesterday.  The Yankees were going to be without the greatest closer in baseball history for the first time in almost 20 years and they still hadn't committed to his internal heir apparent as the actual heir to his throne.  After yesterday, it's become a much bigger area of need.  With Logan going to Colorado and Joba to Detroit, the Yankees are missing almost a third of their total bullpen work from this season, 30.36% to be exact, and they haven't made any progress on replacing any of it.

They have internal options, but the plan was always to sign at least 1 veteran arm to pick up some of that 145-inning slack.  With some big names already off the board and a few more in serious talks with other teams, it might be time to start ramping up efforts to replace those innings.

Ellsbury Introductory Presser Wrap-Up

(Courtesy of the AP)

The Yankee formally introduced their second big free agent acquisition yesterday, holding a press conference for new center fielder to be Jacoby Ellsbury.  As always, there were a few moments of note.  If you were stuck at work like I was and unable to watch, here are the highlights:

- Ellsbury will wear #22, the same as some pretty significant Yankees before him wore.  He said he decided on 22 because all his other previous numbers he wore in Boston and in college - 2, 46, 23 - were either taken, off limits, or retired. Yeah, that'll happen when you come to this team.

- As with Brian McCann, Ellsbury said he spoke to a few current players before making the decision to sign.  Specifically, he said Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira reached out to him to sell him on playing in New York.

- He played through a compression fracture in his foot in the postseason, but Ellsbury said he's fully healthy and able to have a normal offseason workout program.  When asked about his past injuries, Ellsbury said, "“I play the game hard.  I play the game, I feel like, the right way. That’s what I take pride in, going out there each and every day and giving everything I have. It was just two unfortunate things."

- Cash on the idea of Ellsbury's power playing up in YS3: “I’m not looking for that.  I certainly don’t want him to change his approach because of the ballpark."

- Joe's big comment to Ellsbury: "You're no longer a thorn in our side, you're a flower in our clubhouse."  Aaaaaaawwwwwwwwwwwww!

There's 2 officially in the fold for next year.  Time to get that Beltran physical over with and get him introduced too.