WestCoastYankees-The Blog

WestCoastYankees-The Blog

WestCoastYankees-The Blog

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Nine Days Out And Questions Remain

Stephen Drew would solve several problems for the Yankees' infield. Photo courtesy ESPN.com

By now, everyone who follows baseball is well aware of the spending spree the New York Yankees went on this winter to upgrade a roster that finished third in the American League East, and out of the playoffs for just the second time since 1994. While many believe the Yankees' overall lineup is better and longer 1-9 than it was a season ago, many questions still surround a team that has spent close to half a billion dollars in free agent signings.

With pitchers and catchers reporting in nine days, the Yankees still have several questions to answer not only with their roster heading into spring training, but questions to answer once spring training begins. Today's entry will ask the questions--and attempt to answer them given the available information.

1. Who will be the 5th starter? The free agent market is still slow-moving for Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana, along with several other lower-tier starting pitchers that remain available. Compensatory draft picks are attached to both Jimenez and Santana because each declined their former team's qualifying offers to remain with their respective clubs for one more season. With the value placed on draft picks, teams are unwilling to part with those picks to sign less than stellar top-tier free agent pitchers. Of the two, Jimenez makes the most sense for the Yankees, as Santana would be a more expensive version of Phil Hughes...a home run machine. If Jimenez's price comes down, don't count out the Yankees to swoop in and snag him, draft pick be damned. General manager Brian Cashman says the Yankees are done spending money, but I'm not buying it.

What about their in-house options? I've been a fan of Michael Pineda since his rookie season in Seattle. If he comes to camp healthy, at the tender age of 25, he could be the surprise of the season for the Yankees. For whatever reason Pineda falters, then the Yankees have a mixed bag of options to choose from. David Phelps has been up and down throughout his short big league career, and I believe is better situated as a mop-up guy or long reliever. Lefty Vidal Nuno is the one who intrigues me. In a handful of games in 2013, he impressed Joe Girardi with his poise and grittiness for handling the pressure of pitching at the big league level. A groin injury ended Nuno's season prematurely, and if Pineda isn't the guy, I would love to see the rotation book-ended by two lefties.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Continuing To Tread Water

Tanaka Isn't The End All And Be All For The Yankees

Pitchers and catchers report in less than a month, and for the New York Yankees, it might be a reprieve from the heavy criticism the team has absorbed for their lack of functional activity in replenishing a less than championship-caliber roster in 2013. We are only days away from Masahiro Tanaka making his decision to either sign with a big league club (he will) or return to Japan and give it another go next season.

We also know who the obvious options are if Tanaka chooses the big leagues from among the Yankees, the Los Angeles Dodgers, either one of the Chicago clubs, or god forbid, the Boston Red Sox. While none of the so-called big name free agents pitchers are of the #1 type, all three could be serviceable. We've also previously discussed some of the under the radar guys who might make an impact, that won't cost the Yankees draft picks, long term deals, or a ton of cash. Those guys include Jason Hammel, Tommy Hanson and Paul Maholm. Trades have been talked about, including Brett Gardner for Homer Bailey. It all depends on what happens with Tanaka. An article from the N.Y. Post stated that the Yankees' upper management are divided on how they feel about Tanaka.

While starting pitching is the obvious glaring weakness, this team, simply stated, has more holes than viable options available to fill them. Brian Cashman made initial big splashes during the offseason, but has failed to make the Yankees a championship team once again. The infield is filled with underachievers and retreads, Mark Teixeira is no guarantee for the start of the season, and the bullpen is far from a sure thing with the retirement of Mariano Rivera. I personally, am not sold on David Robertson as the heir apparent.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Would Gardner for Bailey Work For The Yankees?

The Yankees would be fools not to deal Gardner for Bailey

Over the past couple of days, the trade rumors have once again began heating up between the New York Yankees and the Cincinnati Reds. If you remember back to December's Baseball Winter Meetings, the Reds offered up second baseman Brandon Phillips in a 1-for-1 deal for Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner. The Yankees said "Thanks, but no thanks." That was probably a smart move, as Phillips numbers have continued to plummet, and his salary was simply too much for the Bombers to take on.

The Yankees' need for starting pitching hasn't gone away. None of the big three domestic free agents are #1 guys in any rotation, while Ubaldo Jimenez has shown flashes of brilliance at times. The Bombers continue to focus on the now-posted Masahiro Tanaka, most recently of the Rakuten Golden Eagles. Rumors are now starting to circulate, that the Reds are now willing to listen to offers for Homer Bailey as the team tries to clear salary room to make additional moves. Now whether that means going out and signing a Nelson Cruz or a Stephen Drew, who knows, and frankly, who cares? It's the Reds. They are not my concern as a Yankees blogger or writer. What concerns me is what the Reds would be asking for in return for Bailey.

Enter one Brett Gardner. The Reds obviously have an interest in the speedy outfielder, otherwise, why would you offer a multiple Gold Glove-winning second baseman who drove in 100 runs last season and provided along with Jay Bruce, protection for the team's best hitter, Joey Votto? The deal on the surface, if it was a 1-for-1, would benefit both teams. And no, I don't care what anyone in the Yankees organization (Yes, that means you Randy Levine) says about the Yankees not looking to deal Gardner. I'm also tired of reading all of the comparisons to new Yankees center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury. You are talking apples and oranges. Gardner only stole 24 bases this past season, and hasn't stolen more than 40 since 2011. He missed most of 2012 with an injury. With those 24 swipes, he was caught 8 times. Gardner looked lost on the base paths at times during the season, and at age 30, I don't think he's going to improve much on what he already is: a career .268 hitter who has no power, doesn't run as much as he should, and will never develop into a top-of-the-order threat like everyone else thinks he will. Gardner is a phenomenal outfielder, and would make two-thirds of the Yankees outfield in 2014 one of the best defensively in baseball.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Thoughts For The New Year...

Spring Training is right around the corner and there's still work to be done...

The New York Yankees went through a down year by their standards in 2013, and probably by most fan's standards as well. The team had intended on shedding payroll as they hoped to be under the $189 million threshold, but after an 85-win season and empty seats in the Bronx, the mandate changed to a goal.

The team is still toying with the idea of possibly getting under the $189 million, but are just dipping their toes in the water. The Bombers still have no idea what will come of Alex Rodriguez's appeal, even though a decision is expected by the end of next week, after the announcement of the Hall of Fame selections. The Yankees would be off the hook for A-Rod's 2014 salary if he were forced to serve his entire 211-game suspension originally handed down by Commissioner Bud Selig. More than likely, A-Rod's suspension will be in the neighborhood of 50-85 games maximum. Selig tried to lower the boom, but A-Rod and his legal team pushed back. It's now in the hands of Frederic Horowitz to sort it all out.

In the meantime, the Yankees have to proceed through their off-season plans as if A-Rod will be a part of the team. This has prevented them from committing one more season to late 2013 acquisition Mark Reynolds, who would provide much needed thunder from the right side of the plate, and adequate defense at the hot corner. The Yankees still need at a minimum one arm for the starting rotation, and in recent weeks, the thought that the Bombers are pursuing a second arm has come to light. The end all and be all of the team's free agent plans centers around Masahiro Tanaka. The Seattle Mariners and Arizona Diamondbacks are also vying for the Japanese ace's services, and nothing is a given. If the Yankees lose out on Tanaka, they are faced with the decision of either signing one of the lesser talented free agents on the market (Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez, or Ervin Santana), going with lower cost options (Jason Hammel or Tommy Hanson), or going extremely cheap while providing a couple of in-house options the chance to shine (David Phelps, Michael Pineda, Vidal Nuno, or Manny Banuelos).

The lineup has been revamped even after losing perennial All-Star Robinson Cano to free agency. General manager Brian Cashman has brought in a couple of options to try and fill the shoes of Cano (Kelly Johnson and Brian Roberts), replaced a piece in the bullpen (Matt Thornton for Boone Logan), and as of right now, will go with David Robertson as the heir apparent to the legendary Mariano Rivera, who retired at the end of 2013.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

What Makes Me A Yankees Fan...

I'm a 37 year old man, who is a husband and father to three great kids. I've lived all over the world and throughout the United States. I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, but don't consider myself a native of anywhere. I love God, I love my family, I love baseball, and I love the New York Yankees. No matter what life has thrown my way in terms of tragedy or triumph, the Bronx Bombers have remained a mainstay throughout my entire life.

It all started at the Kingdome in Seattle, Washington back in 1981. My parents took me there for my very first big league game. It was the Mariners hosting the Yankees. My father had grown up a Yankees' fan, rooting for Whitey Ford and Mickey Mantle. He stopped following the team closely after George Steinbrenner purchased the team in 1973. He would always tell me what a mockery of the game that man was, and that is not how professional men were supposed to act. My Dad became a fan of the National League San Diego Padres while serving in the Navy. Why he and my mother selected the Yankees game to take me to, I will never know, but I have a sneaking suspicion that deep down, he still loved his Bronx Bombers.

I remember walking through the doors of the Kingdome, and I couldn't believe how big the building was, and how loud it was. Being a small child of only 5 years old at the time, I was full of questions. "Why is there a roof over the building? Isn't baseball supposed to be played outside? Dad, why is there no grass? What is that shiny green stuff on the ground?" I recall my father patiently answering each of those questions, with a somewhat smart ass tone. "Baseball is supposed to be played outside, there is a roof because of how much it rains here in Seattle, that shiny green stuff on the ground destroys knees and dreams son."

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Bits and Pieces

Michael Pineda May Surprise Many in the Bronx in '14

As we quickly approach both the Christmas holiday, and the end of the year, the New York Yankees still have some unfinished business to attend to. Right now, there is a log jam of outfielders (Gardner, Ellsbury, Beltran, Soriano, Suzuki, and Wells), a couple of unattractive options at second base (Johnson and Roberts), an aging legend at shortstop (Jeter), and no answer in the likely case that the starting third baseman is MIA until mid-2015 (A-Rod). Not to mention some glaring holes in the starting rotation and the back end of the bullpen. In today's piece, we will examine some remaining options to help the Yankees fill out the remainder of their roster heading into spring training. Just in case you didn't know, pitchers and report on February 14th!

Outfield: It is common knowledge that if the season started today, the outfield would read left to right, Gardner, Ellsbury, and Beltran. That leaves a trio of Soriano, Ichiro, and Wells to rotate among the starters, and jockey for time at designated hitter. While Ichiro still provides some value, Wells is the perfect DFA candidate. He was acquired with the hope that he could maintain his career averages of crushing left-handed pitching, and he failed miserably. If we subtract Wells from the roster, that leaves five solid options in the outfield, along with being able to rotate Soriano and Beltran in and out of the DH slot. Ideally, if the Yankees could find a taker for Ichiro, and they dump Wells, it provides the team an opportunity to begin working some of the younger guys into the mix, such as Zoilo Almonte and Mason Williams.

Middle Infield: I believe general manager Brian Cashman jumped the gun a tad in his re-signing of Brendan Ryan. Sure, he did a phenomenal job with the glove, but can't hit much better than my 4-year old son. As a matter of fact, I'd give the edge to little Braden Brost on this one. While I think a straight platoon of Kelly Johnson and Brian Roberts could work in a perfect world, the fact that Roberts has played less than 170 total games over the last four seasons doesn't instill me with confidence. I think Kelly Johnson could hit 20 home runs with enough at-bats with the short right field porch in Cathedral 2.0. In an ideal world, Johnson would serve manager Joe Girardi in the same role that he did well in while playing for the Tampa Bay Rays, that of a super-utility guy. There is absolutely nothing left in the free agent market in terms of impact second basemen, so that leaves the trade market. Prospect to watch in the future: Gosuke Katoh.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Plan B

Reynolds Would Provide Right-Handed Thunder

There wasn't much thought when the New York Yankees signed third baseman/first baseman Mark Reynolds this past August after he was released by the Cleveland Indians. Reynolds was once again providing middle of the road power numbers for the Indians, but he just didn't seem to be a good fit. If the Tribe was under the impression that Reynolds was going to win an American League batting crown, they made a serious mistake in judgement when they signed him to a 1-year, $6 million dollar deal. 

The Yankees, who had been missing the services of Alex Rodriguez for most of the season, and Mark Teixeira for all but one week of the season, were in dire search of a powerful bat to add to their lineup, but one that wouldn't cost an arm and a leg. Enter Mark Reynolds. While in Cleveland, he hit his usual low .200s, but did have 15 home runs and drove in 43. What is interesting is the timing of Reynolds' release from Cleveland, because they were in the midst of one of their worst offensive output stretches of the entire season. Why give away a bat that can go yard every time he steps to the plate? It didn't take long for the Yankees to snatch him up and immediately insert him into the lineup. While his K:BB ratio was just under 4:1, his slash line improved across the board, posting a .236/.455/.755 in 120 at-bats. He also went deep six more times, and drove in 19 in 36 games in pinstripes.

Fast forward to this offseason. Reynolds has made it known that he really enjoyed his brief stay in New York, and if given the opportunity, would like to return in some capacity. It just so happens that there is a certain $25 million dollar per season third baseman who could very well find himself out of the game of baseball for the next season+. That is all the opportunity Reynolds needs, and as of this writing, the he and the Yankees remain in talks to bring him back for another go-around in the Bronx. If we were to spread Reynolds' base numbers over a 162-game season, they would equate to: .220/28/101 in just over 500 at-bats. Plugging him into the bottom-third of the Yankees batting order would not only pose the constant threat of thunder to the opposition, but provides the Bombers a much-needed right-handed threat in their lineup.