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Offseason decisions coming back to haunt Yanks as deadline looms

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Well, it’s finally here. It’s July 31st, otherwise known as the non-waiver trading deadline, and in a matter of hours the Yankees will have either added another bat, or decided  to ride out the remainder of the season with the guys they have.

Coming off a stinging loss by way of a walk-off single by Dodgers’ second baseman Mark Ellis, the team now stands at 55-51. Slowly sinking closer to the mediocre .500 mark, the Yanks have now fully embodied the club we all expected them to be when the season opened – a power-less, atrocious offense coupled with good, but not great pitching.

Sitting 8.5 games out of first place in the A.L. East and somehow just 3.5 games out of the Wild Card race, the Yanks are by no means “done”. Brian Cashman Ownership brought back Alfonso Soriano, Jeter has returned, and Curtis Granderson is finishing up his rehab assignment, so the lineup will certainly be given a boost by having those guys back.

Meanwhile on the pitching front, (aside from CC and when Hughes starts at the Stadium) things have been improving. Pettitte is finding his groove again, Nova is pitching even better than in his breakout 2011 season, and Kuroda continues to be a dark horse in the A.L. Cy Young race. The bullpen continues to impress with the likes of Shawn Kelley, Boone Logan, D-Rob, and of course Mo, so there is nothing to really be concerned about there.

This is stating the obvious, but for the first time in years, the lineup is the overwhelming achilles heel to this season. Even with Sabathia’s treacherous season and Hughes’ long-ball woes, this current pitching staff coupled with any Yankees lineup from the past decade would easily win 90+ games.

But that’s the thing – this isn’t any Yankees lineup from the past decade. It’s 2013’s.

There’s no Sheffield, no Bernie, no Giambi, no Abreu, no Matsui, no Posada, no Swisher, no Teixeira, no A-Rod…must I keep going? Even with Sori, Jeet, and Grandy, they would need a Giancarlo Stanton-caliber bat added to the mix to really make them a threatening team. With the way Tampa Bay, Baltimore, and Boston are all playing, even if there are signs of improvement from the players currently on the roster, I can’t imagine it being enough in the end.

As mentioned, the Yankees are either going to make a move, or they won’t. Stanton is not on the block, nor does the team have the caliber of prospects needed to make a deal even if he was. The best hitter that could be on the move is Hunter Pence, followed by Michael Young, Nate Schierholtz, and [depending on Schierholtz] David DeJesus. Pence is adamant about staying with San Francisco, Young prefers Boston than the Bronx, and the Yankees have too many outfielders to realistically take on a Schierholtz or DeJesus.

Like I said, even if any of those guys were to be fitted for pinstripes in the next few hours, it wouldn’t make much of a difference when comparing this “Bombers” lineup to that of the Orioles, Red Sox, or even the Rays. Power is not the tell-all, be-all factor of a team, but all three clubs have, and can out-slug the Yanks, even in their own bandbox known as the new Yankee Stadium.

It would be great to see the team rally around Mariano Rivera’s final season and go out and make a valiant playoff push, but I just don’t see it happening. At it’s worse the pitching has been steadily above-average, but at it’s best the lineup is nothing close to deserving of a spot in October.

Maybe I’m being harsh, and perhaps this club as constructed could have been better in another season with less competition. But the fact remains that the Yankees picked the worst year possible to let so many core guys (Nick Swisher, Russell Martin, and Raul Ibanez) leave via free agency, and just hope that the oldest team in baseball would have one last magical run in them.

Clearly they don’t, and no matter what happens by 4 o’clock PM today, the Yanks should begin making plans to go golfing come this fall. It’s unfortunate, but we can’t act like we didn’t see this coming.

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Five Yankees Questions For the Second Half

We will find out a lot about the Yankees very quickly as they begin the second half of the season tonight in Boston.

They currently sit six games back of Boston in the AL East and three back in the AL wild card race. The first 10 games for the Yankees after the All-Star break have the potential to be a disaster. They play three at the first place Red Sox, four in Arlington against a very talented Texas team and three at home against red hot Tampa Bay.

If I were Brian Cashman I would have desperately been working the phones trying to get an impact bat over the All-Star break because if he waits until after this 10 game stretch it might be too late.

Here are five things to watch over the Yankees second half of the season:

1. What happens at the trade deadline?

The Yankees have recently been linked to Chase Headley and Asrdubal Cabrera and both would be huge gets for the Yankees. Unfortunately, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com wrote that Padres have little interest in dealing Headley despite his down year.

Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain will be continued to be shopped by the Yankees, and it will be interesting to see what happens with them. I do believe that Hughes will be moved because the starting pitching market is very thin, and the Yankees can sell teams on his home/road splits this year. Although, Joel Sherman of the New York Post, wrote that the Yankees would be o.k. with keeping Hughes and offering him a qualifying offer this winter.

As I mentioned earlier, I believe that the time for Cashman to try to strike is right now with this brutal 10 game stretch upcoming. I would be looking for players who are under team control for a few years. I would not be giving up big prospects for rentals this year, since I believe that the Yankees are more than one bat away from being championship contenders this season.

2. Will Ivan Nova’s progression continue?

Nova’s development will probably be the number one thing I will be watching for over the second half. He has looked terrific over his last two starts, as he has 17 strikeouts to only three walks. Nova has always had the talent and if he can finally put it together it will be huge for the future for the Yankees, who have had a tough time developing their own starting pitchers.

What is fascinating about Nova is how he has completely transformed himself as a pitcher from his solid rookie season in which he went 16-4. He only averaged 92.6 MPH and he only was not a strikeout pitcher (5.33 K/9) in that rookie season. He had success because he was able to keep the ball on the ground with his sinker (52.7 GB%), but most thought that he would not have long term success unless he was able to get more strikeouts.

Nova added a slider to his repertoire in 2012 to try to remedy this issue. He threw it 14% of the time and he raised his K/9 to 8.08, but he also allowed a lot of hard contact (16.6% HR/FB%) because he missed location to often with his fastball and that new slider. Also, Nova’s GB% went down to 45.2%.

This year, Nova has mostly scrapped the slider, as he has only thrown it 3.4% of the time compared to 33.5% for his curve ball. Over his last two starts, Nova has thrown 66 curves, 43 of them have been for strikes and 17 of them have induced whiffs. When you combine that dominant curve with a fastball that has been in the 94-97 MPH range, you have a pitcher that has the potential for greatness. His  GB% is back up to 51.4% this year, so hitters are really having a hard time getting good contact on his hard sinker.

3. How much will Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez contribute?

The first question with them is how much will they play? Rodriguez hit a home run for Triple-A Scranton last night and appears set to rejoin the Yankees in Texas on Monday. We should find out more about Jeter’s status today. If Jeter and Rodriguez can stay on the field it will be pretty much impossible for them to not be upgrades, as Yankee shortstops have a slash line of .214/.271/.268/.539 with a 46 wRC+ and Yankee third basemen have a slash line of .218/.281/.293/.574 with a 57 wRC+. They should also add some much needed excitement and buzz to the team as well.

4. What is the plan for Michael Pineda?

At Triple-A Scranton last night, Pineda threw 4.2 scoreless innings and struck out eight. He was dominant in the first three innings before throwing a lot of pitches over the fourth and fifth innings. Right now, with Nova pitching well and Hughes still in New York, the Yankees do not have room for Pineda in their rotation. If there is an injury, or Hughes is traded, than Pineda can slide right in. The Yankees should try to get Pineda to New York as quickly as possible to get more information on what they can expect out of him next year.

If the Yankees continue with their $189 million plan they will need cheap starting pitchers, and Pineda can be one of them. It would be good for him to get as much experience as he can this year and it will be very interesting to see what he looks like if he does come up to the big league club.

5. Can CC Sabathia turn it around?

Sabathia had an uncharacteristically average first half, as he was only 9-8 with a 4.07 ERA. His average fastball velocity has only been 90.6 MPH, although it has been better later in the season. Sabathia has not fully adjusted to pitching with his loss of velocity yet and when he has missed location with his fastball he has gotten hit hard. Sabathia has also had a bit of hard luck this season, as his 3.53 xFIP is very solid. His slider and changeup are still great pitches, and Sabathia has still been an innings eating machine, which is still an under appreciated aspect of his game. I still believe that he is capable of pitching like the Sabathia of old and hopefully we see that in the second half of the season.

 

 

 

Yanks have missed the boat with talented IFAs

The IFA market is where the Yanks can find high upside talents like Yasiel Puig

The IFA market is where the Yanks can find high upside talents like Yasiel Puig

Anyone watching Sportscenter for the last week or so has seen Dodgers OF Yasiel Puig put on a show, cracking opposite field HRs and gunning runners out from RF.  He has jump-started the anemic Dodgers offense and energized their fan base while looking like a young Bo Jackson on the field.  Watching Puig and being reminded of fellow Cuban OF Yoenis Cespedes while playing the A’s tonight, I couldn’t help but cringe when thinking that both of these talents were available to the Yankees a little more than a year ago.  At a time when the Yankees offense is putrid and their corner OFs are the worst in baseball it is very frustrating

Puig was one of 3 talented Cuban OFs who were available to the highest bidder in 2012.  Cespedes and highly regarded Cubs prospect Jorge Soler were the other 2.   Many of us fans thought the Yankees would sign at least one of them and it’s beginning to look like they made a big mistake by passing on these talents.  Under Brian Cashman’s leadership, the Yankees have become extremely conservative on the International Free Agent market.  After being burned by the signings of Hideki Irabu and Kei Igawa, the team has refused to spend significant money on any IFA.  In an interview this winter with Drew Voros, Cashman said. “We have learned over time to be very conservative and cautious in acquiring pitching talent from Japan, for instance. It’s a different game there”

Cashman has been applying that conservative approach to all IFAs, signing only a few low-priced players like Adonis Garcia and Ronnier Mustelier.  While it’s natural to be conservative, it seems the team has become gun-shy and is more afraid of making a mistake.  When you have the largest payroll in MLB, you can afford to take some risks on high-upside talents.  While it’s true you cannot expect success in Japan, Cuba, Korea or any other league to equate to success in MLB, talent plays anywhere.  And that is where the Yankees are missing the boat.  If a 20-yr old LHP in the U.S. was consistently throwing 98-100 MPH or when a trio of young OFs are displaying 4 out of 5 plus tools or a 6’5′ 225 pitcher is throwing 3 plus MLB pitches with great command and poise, you have to get involved!  The Yanks let all of the above players pass them by when all they would cost was money….no draft picks, no players in trade.  Where else can the Yankees obtain talent like that? The answer is no where.  While I think the Yanks did well in this year’s amateur draft, they never have access to elite amateur talent picking at the end of the first round and the financial restraints put on them in the new CBA when it comes to signing amateur foreigners, they are going to have trouble finding high-end talent there also. Well, no problem, the Yankees have always just been able to buy Free Agents at the Major League level, right? Well that window has been closing also.  Teams are locking up their young talented players before they become FAs and the small number of big talents that do hit the open market are able to command huge salaries since so many teams have money to spend.

The Yankees MUST become players on the IFA market again.  They are paying $27 Million for washed up Vernon Wells and Ichiro to play LF and RF this year and next – approximately $6.5M per yr for each of them.  Meanwhile, 22-yr old stud Yasiel Puig signed with LA for $6 Million a year for 7 years and the A’s 27-yr old slugging OF Yoenis Cespedes (36 HRs and .843 OPS in 181 games) is earning $9M per season over 4 years.  And they aren’t the only IFA players doing well.  Japanese OF Norichi Aoki had a strong year for Milwaukee last season hitting .288 with 10 HRs and 30 SBs and is hitting .300 with a .375 OBP this season while earning just $1.25 M per yr (plus a $2.5M posting fee for his rights).  These are just some IFA OFs who were signed in the last year or2 but there are other IFAs all over MLB from Shin-Soo-Choo to Dayan Viciedo to Alexi Ramirez, etc.

There has also been a wave of talented foreign pitchers doing well in MLB the last year or 2 also.  The 100-MPH lefty I mentioned of course is Reds closer Aroldis Chapman who has a 15.4 K/9.  Texas Ace Yu Darvish was a guy I thought the Yanks should have been all over.  He’s a true #1 type starter in his prime at just 26 and signed for the extremely reasonable 6 years @ $56M. An ace pitcher hitting the FA market would get nearly triple that. And make no mistake about it, Darvish is an Ace.  He’s 7-2 with a 2.75 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and a 12.0 K/9 pitching in the offensive haven of Texas.  And he’s not alone as a front-end starter, Korean LHP Ryu-Hyu Jin is 6-2 with a 2.89 era in his first year for the Dodgers,  Japanese RHP Hisashi Iwakuma is 7-1 with a 1.89 ERA and 0.81 WHIP for Seattle in his 2nd season and 27-yr old Taiwanese LHP Wei-Yin Chen has been Baltimore’s best starter the last year and a half.

It’s time for the Yankees to dive back in to the IFA waters.  George Steinbrenner was a trailblazer who was all over talented IFAs.  While it worked brilliantly with Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez and Hideki Matsui, the failures of Irabu and Igawa seem to have the Yankee brass afraid today.  It is poor reasoning to write off all big-ticket IFAs because of a couple of failures.  This is the last market where the Yankees money can be used to acquire high-end talent.  Amateur IFAs are subject to spending limits and penalties in the CBA but for veteran IFAs 23 and older, it’s still an open market and one which the Yankees must begin to capitalize on or they will have to continue to spend their money on the veteran has-beens like Wells and Ichiro.

Yankees Off-Day Notes: Cashman breaks his ankle

Well, we all knew Brian Cashman was a dare-devil and this time, it looks like his dare-devils way got him injured. Brian Cashman has been known to rappel buildings and jump out of planes for a good cause, but due to him helping a good cause, he ended up breaking his ankle.

Cashman was unscathed sky-diving the first time, but he decided to jump a second time and landed badly on his ankle, thus resulting him going to the hospital. Cashman went to get x-rays, which confirmed his break. However, Cashman was in good spirits. How did he respond to him jumping out of the plane and landing, despite getting injured?

“It was awesome.”

Well…at least Cashman’s off-day ended with a bang. Literally.

Is $189m mandate really changing or is it Front Office PR?

Is Randy Levine behind these latest stories?

Is Randy Levine behind these latest stories?

I read Wallace Matthews piece about the $189m payroll next yr and Hal’s changing stance on it.   Matthews cites some vague anonymous team sources saying that Hal is ready to spend money and draws the conclusion that the $189M budget isn’t a necessity anymore.  I’m sorry, but I don’t buy it.  Until I see them spend some money or Hal comes out and says they are scrapping the plan, I don’t believe it because all of their actions up to this point say they are serious about trimming payroll.

I think it may just be the Yankees trying to leak stuff to the media because they know fans aren’t happy and that ticket sales are likely down again.   The last 2 days we’ve had back to back non-news headlines stating that Hal is willing to spend big money to bring back Cano and now that Hal is likely to ditch the $189 goal because he wants to ensure they field a championship team.  Sounds like they are trying to save face in the media to me.  EVERYTHING they have done for the last 2-3 offseasons has been based on getting below $189m.  They have not signed 1 significant player in FA past 2013 except Ichiro who will turn 41 in 2014.  I think that speaks volumes.

Think about the Ichiro signing.  First off Cashman refused to give anyone a multi-year deal this Winter to protect the 2014 budget.  He liked Tori Hunter for RF but it went nowhere because he wanted 2 yrs.  Russell Martin was never even made an offer.   If you recall, Cashman tried to sign Nate Schierholz to play RF before he decided on the Cubs and kept Ichiro on the back burner for weeks.  It looks like Ichiro was signed more at the direction of ownership/Levine than by Cashman due to the fact that he attracts a large Asian fan-base that adds to ticket sales.  Don’t forget it was Levine who originally initiated the Ichiro trade talks with Seattle in July and brought it to Cashman.  Once again that likely had a lot to do with ticket sales just like when Levine over-ruled Cashman and signed Rafael Soriano in 2011 because Cashman hadn’t signed any significant FAs.  Fans weren’t pleased and Levine felt the team had do something to spark interest and at that stage of the offseason, Soriano was the only legitimate FA left.

Hal was surprised to hear that fans weren’t happy with the offseason and according to Matthews’ source,  he was “freaked out” by the fans negative reaction to the team’s payroll cuts and lack of significant acquisitions. The 2 stories about Cano and $189 on back to back days seems like a PR move orchestrated by Levine and/or Hal to address fan perception just like the Soriano signing in January 2011, the Ichiro trade in 2012 and the Ichiro signing in 2013.  While it sounds like a good thing that the Front Office cares what the fans think, putting band-aids on problems and making reactionary moves to try to bolster ticket sales are not a way to run a team. Bring up and play some exciting young players, sign/trade for players in their primes and don’t mandate sizable payroll cuts while revenues around baseball are at an all-time high and the team has the highest ticket prices in MLB.  Those are the things that will energize the fan base and help the direction/performance of the team at the same time.  After all, nothing is better for attendance and fan confidence than winning rings.

What do you think? Do you think the team has softened on $189m or is this a PR move designed to save face?

Yanks miss out on Pierzynski

Where was the Yankees offer?

Where was the Yankees offer?

It has been reported that the Texas Rangers have agreed to terms with Free Agent Catcher A.J. Pierzynski.  The Yankees were said to have looked into the 35-yr old as an option to replace Russell Martin but ultimately backed off because he supposedley wasn’t strong enough defensively.  To me, I thought AJ would be an excellent match for the Yankees but I thought he was out of the picture because he would receive a 2-yr deal from someone.  I wanted to see the Yanks offer a Kevin Youkilis type deal – high money for just 1 yr for AJ.  In fact I thought they should have offered the same $12M deal to AJ that Youk signed for.  Well, I was crushed to see that Pierzynski signed with Texas for a mere $7.5 Million for 1 year. Where was the Yankee offer?

Based on the wreckage that is the current state of Yankees catching and the club’s ridiculous insistence on 1-yr contracts – there really couldn’t have been a better match.   I don’t expect AJ to hit 27 HRs and win a Silver Slugger again like he did in 2012, but he seemed to be a good fit and would have improved the team immensely over the Catchers they have now.  AJ is a high average , contact hitter who is one of the toughest to strike out in the league.  He crushes RHP which would be ideal to match with any of the Yankees RH hitting backups in Stewart, Cervelli or Romine.  AJ feasted on RHP in 2012, hitting .287/.338/.536/.874 with 24 HRs in 399 PAs.  It would have been ideal to have him start the roughly 110 games this year vs RHP and one of the RH backups to start vs LHP.

Pierzynski is an all-out player with a fiery personality who gets under the skin of opponents.  He’s one of the more disliked players in MLB but he’s known to be a good teammate and leader.  His demeanor and effort would be a welcome addition to the team.  Apparently, the Yankees had concerns that he was only an “average” defensive catcher. This is rather laughable considering the Catchers currently on the team.   At this point in their careers AJ is better defensively then Cervelli and Romine.  And while Stewart is a solid defender he is like having a Pitcher in the batting order.  Pairing AJ with Romine may have been a good move so the young catcher could learn on the job from a seasoned veteran the way a young Posada learned from the veteran starter Girardi.

Looking at the state of catching in MLB, Pierzynski was an excellent option and a no-brainer at the contract he got.  Although its been just 114 PAs over the last decade, he’s shown that he won’t wilt in the post-season with a .300 BA, 5 HRs and a  .892 OPS.  AJ’s LH power also could have made it easier to trade Curtis Granderson for young talent without inhibiting their offense in 2013.  There seems to be a multitude of good reasons to have signed Pierzynski to be the Yankees catcher in 2013 yet they had very little interest.  I have been perplexed with a number of the team’s decisions this Winter (and the last 2-3 Winters actually) but I totally don’t understand this one.  Currently, it looks like the Yanks have perhaps the worst starting Catcher in the A.L. which doesn’t add up with their apparent strategy.  All of their moves this offseason make it seem that they are going with a lot of veterans to take one last shot while guys like Pettitte, Mariano and Jeter are still around.  They have made no effort to get younger or to make any significant additions for the team’s future beyond 2013. Pierzynski was the perfect fit to go after it in 2013 without adding any further commitment/burden to the 2014 payroll.  I want to believe the team has a plan but with each subsequent move and non-move it makes it harder to understand it.

Winter Meetings Day 2: Would you trade Curtis Granderson?

Earlier today, the Yankees made clear that Brian Cashman would become open to a trade for Curtis Granderson. Curtis Granderson has an interesting case. He’s a free agent next season, he strikes out about 200+ times a year and he’s not the best defensive CF in the whole entire world. But what makes Granderson so special, so unique that it would become hard to part with him? It’s simple, the man has hit 40 HR’s and has driven in 100+ RBI’s since the Kevin Long tutorial. Now, we all know the Yankees list has gotten longer and longer, but the fact of the matter is, trading Curtis Granderson wouldn’t be the way to get the players we need. I made a poll on Twitter today asking fans if they would be interested in trading Granderson and why. Here were some of the responses I received:

As you can see, the favorite answer is no. Although it would make sense to trade Granderson since he is a free agent next season, like @venomous1913 said, 40 HR’s and 100 RBI players don’t grow on trees. If the Yankees were to trade Granderson, it would have to be for the right price.

In Other News

– If Alex Rodriguez were to sit out for the 2013 season, the Yankees would get insurance on the contract–but it would count against their luxury tax in 2014.

– The Yankees made no deals but they did talk a lot: They spoke with Kevin Youkillis, asked about Marco Scutaro and of Jeff Keppinger.

– The Yankees have to look for a catcher, right fielder, DH and a third baseman. The Yankees are adding assistant hitting coach to the list to work alongside Kevin Long. Is this a panic move I sense?

– If you’re interested, the Red Sox signed Shane Victorino to a 3 year deal meaning that Nick Swisher is no longer considered for the Red Sox RF role. A source close to Swisher did say that if the Yankees or the Angels/Dodgers didn’t want him he would love to go to the San Francisco Giants.

*I had so many responses for my Curtis Granderson twitter poll that I couldn’t use all the answers but thank you everyone for sending in your input. I appreciate your enthusiasm and your answers.

Winter Meetings Day 1: Yankees now need a third baseman

It’s the end of Day 1 of the 2012 Winter Meetings and the big news today is none other than Alex Rodriguez needing hip surgery which questions his 2013 season.  As if the job of Brian Cashman was hard enough, needing to replace a right fielder and a catcher–now we have to add third base to our list as well. The Yankees don’t have many options on the free agent market, which is where a trade would have to come in. Jon Morosi believes that Chase Headley of the Padres could be the Yankees best bet at this point, but if the Yankees want him then they would have to trade high.

Now, not sure if this would be a valid reason to get off A-Rod’s back during the postseason but A-Rod had the hip issues during the playoffs and even stayed in the hospital after one of the ALDS games vs. the Orioles. Again, not trying to give A-Rod an excuse as to why he performed poorly but–just saying.

In Other News:

Derek Jeter spoke on the Michael Kay show this afternoon to address how far along he is with his recovery. Jeter needs to wear the boot for another 6-7 weeks but he says he will be ready for Opening Day. When asked what Jeter wanted for Christmas, his answer was simple.

“I want this boot off my ankle.”

Oh also, Jeter has seen the pictures of himself in the New York Post looking out of shape. His answer about his workout regimen this offseason?

 “Evidently I haven’t been staying in shape.”

Well played Captain. Well played.

– Brian Cashman had a press conference earlier this afternoon during the Winter Meetings to address the Alex Rodriguez issue. He did give a firm no when asked if the Yankees would use Eduardo Nunez at 3B to replace A-Rod in the meantime. A-Rod will be the 3B once he returns but in the meantime, the Yankees are going to have to look high and low for a deal. Just–if you’re going to trade for a 3B, RF, C or something Cashman, don’t touch Brett Gardner. You’d be crazy to do so.

– Oh and one more note, Freddy Garcia won’t be back with the Yankees for the 2013 season. You can silently boo (or fist-pump depending on your views on Freddy now).

Cashman goes into Winter Meetings with a lot on his plate

With Russell Martin going to the Pirates, Brian Cashman's winter list got a little bit longer

With Russell Martin going to the Pirates, Brian Cashman’s winter list got a little bit longer

When the Yankees ended their 2012 season with an ALCS loss to the Tigers, the pieces that the Yankees have to pick up again seemed legitimately small. They knew they were going to have to sign Hiroki Kuroda and Mariano Rivera to contracts. They knew they had to wait for Andy Pettitte’s decision on whether or not he would return in 2013–which came quickly this year. They knew they were going to have to replace the right fielder since Nick Swisher most likely won’t come back next season. They also knew that they were going to have to re-sign Russell Martin to another contract to play behind the plate in the Bronx. Well, as of last night Brian Cashman’s list got a little bit longer.

Although he was able to re-sign closer Mariano Rivera to a 1 year, $10 Million contract, he let another player get away–Russell Martin. The offseason plan has always been to take care of starting pitching first before going off and extending contracts to other players. Apparently, Russell Martin couldn’t wait for that, signing a contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates for 2 years and $17 Million, rejoining ex-Yankee A.J Burnett in the process. This leaves Brian Cashman heading into the Winter Meetings on Monday with no catcher and no right fielder, two moves that he has to fill up before Spring Training.

With Martin gone from the Yankees, heading to Pittsburgh there are two legitimate catchers on the free agent market that are still available: A.J Pierzynski and Mike Napoli. Although the Yankees aren’t reportedly targeting either catchers, at this point they don’t have much of a choice.

Last season if Martin had ever gotten hurt, Francisco Cervelli would have been the starting catcher. Now that Martin is gone, that looks to be the case with Chris Stewart at backup and Austin Romine as an emergency choice. As much as I like Cervelli (he’s a big fan favorite), he’s not a power hitter. The same goes for Chris Stewart. Although Stewart is an amazing defensive catcher, he doesn’t have the pop in his bat.

Brian Cashman believes that the answer to the catcher situation could possibly already be on the team, but with players like Cervelli, Stewart, Romine and new Yankee (who is currently in the process of clearing waivers) Eli Whiteside, I don’t see a legitimate starting catcher in the Yankees organization. 2014 is a year away Cashman. Time to take out your wallet and make a deal for someone for this year, no matter what it takes.

Cashman shouldn’t spend much to re-tool for 2013

They’re known as the Evil Empire. The New York Yankee$. Or in Nickelodeon’s “Fairly Odd Parents”, the Bankees.

Year after year, the Yankees and their fans are constantly discredited and disrespected because of how they take advantage of their surplus of cash, spend it on the best players in the game, and build a perennial All-Star team each year in the Bronx.

2009 is the most recent year anti-Yankee fans point to. After an 89-win 2008 season in which the Yankees missed the playoffs for the first time since 1993, general manager Brian Cashman went on a mission to own the proceeding winter’s free-agent market to put a championship-caliber team in the Yanks’ brand new billion dollar ballpark.

Well, some 400 million dollars later, Cash got his wish. He brought in not only stud lefty CC Sabathia and Roy Halladay’s sidekick A.J. Burnett, but slugging first baseman Mark Teixeira as well. Three players who were all still in the beginning of their primes despite having accomplished plenty in the seasons leading up to their pinstriped days.

As many predicted, the Yankees won the World Series that year by defeating the Phillies in six games. It was a glorious moment (one I witnessed in person), and of course there’s nothing better than your favorite team winning it all.

Besides one thing though: winning it all multiple times.

That’s something this seemingly stacked Yankees team has failed to do, after now three straight playoff failures despite having trophy-worthy regular seasons.

But of course as we all know, that last point is irrelevant to us. No trophy besides the trophy matters. George Steinbrenner set a precedent that is followed by everyone in Yankeeland – that anything short of a World Series is an unsuccessful season. Throw away all the memories and historic moments of the past three years. The Yankees didn’t win it all, and that signals it’s time for change.

Most fans are convinced this offseason will be a replaying of the spending-spree of ’09. Brian Cashman will go out and sign the top free agents [Josh Hamilton and Zack Greinke in this case] and the Yankees will become a superhuman team and power their way towards another world championship.

The worst part of it all is that they want this to happen. The same fans that are complaining about A-Rod’s contract are the ones begging ownership to give a drug abusing, clunky, and 32 year old Josh Hamilton hundreds of millions. Not to mention head-case Zack Greinke, who’s an A.J. Burnett waiting to happen.

Don’t get me wrong, those moves would definitely help the Yankees. The question is for how long? I don’t want to win another pennant/World Series, and then suddenly fall apart and fail to win again without a true core in place. This team is too old and has too many holes for it to be fixed with the ‘dough. Hopefully Brian Cashman realizes this and fans can stop their pre-orders of Josh Hamilton jerseys before they arrive at their doorsteps with Red Sox colors.

Just look at the San Francisco Giants. Here they are in a blink of an eye winning their second World Series in three seasons. Biting their lips in the 2000s and watching their West Coast foes enjoy championships and playoff baseball sure paid off, didn’t it? They let their farm system progress, made trades to help the club in a couple years, and locked up young players who clearly had potential others couldn’t see. Now they have two world championships with a roster filled with MVP contenders and Cy Young winners, and most of the players haven’t even reached their prime years yet.

To quote John Sterling, “isn’t that amazing?”

It really is, and quite embarrassing for the Yankees to be witnessing.

Austin Jackson. Phil Coke. Melky Cabrera. George Kontos. Arodys Vizcaíno. Jesus Montero. Ian, Patrick, Kennedy. Do you want me to continue?

Those players (plus many more) made up the future of the Yankees just a couple years ago. It seemed like the Core Four could pass the torch off to this bunch and they could continue the winning and success that Jeet, Mo, Andy and Jorgie enjoyed for the majority of their careers.

Now, after the Cash-man decided to deal away all of those young prospects, the Yankees are left with a team full of senior citizens (baseball-wise). Each season seems like a “last-hurrah” for this whittling core of the Bombers, and had the club simply instilled trust and held on to it’s promising young guns, a new dynasty could have just been getting underway.

Instead, we’re left with a home-run or bust center fielder, two injured pitchers, and suddenly many problems to be addressed this coming winter.

There’s no doubt in my mind this team is certainly still salvageable, and can get younger and stronger for the upcoming season. That’s of course as long as Cashman looks for trades that bring in youth, rather than dealing it away for pretty much nothing.

Then again, that’s just like telling a college student to change his study habits, or lack thereof the night before the big exam. It just won’t happen. Cashman isn’t that type of GM, and it’s certainly hard to be being in the “win-now” atmosphere of New York.

But I’m just flat-out tired of teams taking advantage of the Yanks’ farm system and winning pennants and making superstars due to our front office’s lack of faith in any youngsters. It seems like we hear about these top Yankee prospects for years and BOOM – they’re flipped to the Atlanta Braves for Javier Vazquez. Come on.

I want Curtis Granderson gone. Each time his name is brought up I think of IPK, A-Jax, and Coke. That’s it. He’s done nothing but make me regret that trade year after year. He still has value in being able to hit 40 home runs, and the Yankees could get a great deal including top prospects if you throw in a Phil Hughes or a Joba Chamberlain.

How about Alex Rodriguez? I don’t think he will be traded, and that’s because my personal lack of trust and faith in Brian Cashman. But if dealt, the Yankees could get a big head-case off the team and also either some prospects or a young established Major Leaguer in return.

Look, I am thinking of moves for 2013, 2014, 2015 and beyond. It seems like the Yankees’ offseason policy is just how to win in the next calendar year. And it really annoys me because clearly, that policy has only worked once in the past twelve years. When something ain’t broke, you don’t fix it. But something is clearly wrong in the Yankees organization, be it their outlook on fielding a team or the ones who do the very job.

As I stated, I want to win. But not for one season. I want a dynasty that can last with young exciting players you want to root for.

Hey, what can you say. I’m a Yankee fan. It’s in my blood for me to want that.

This has been a rant on the New York Yankees, sponsored by AARP.

Cashman needs to pursue moving ARod

Alex would be more comfortable in Miami

Although both Cashman & Girardi have stated that Alex is the Yankees 3B in 2013 and they have no plans to pursue a trade, they would be foolish to not explore every opportunity to move him.  We all know the obstacles in place to move Alex, the 5 yrs @ $114 Million remaining on his deal, the no-trade clause and his decline at the age of 37.  However, if anything has been proven over the last year in MLB, it’s that any player can be traded regardless of the obstacles.

This is not meant to be a typical, blame all of the Yankees problems on ARod piece.  Alex is still an above average player in the regular season and has value going forward.  So why should the Yankees trade him? Well, there are 3 major motivations for the Yankees to pursue a trade:

  1. The Money - In years past, it really wouldn’t matter what ARod made as the Yankee payroll was routinely $210-225 Million.  However, with Hal dead serious about reducing the payroll to get under the $189M Luxury Tax threshold,  the ARod deal is the biggest albatross.  Although he will make less in the latter years of the deal, he will still count $27.5M towards the Cap every year due to the Annual Average Value and that amount will balloon to $33.5M in the years he hits his milestones.  That first milestone is likely to be hit in 2013 as he needs 13 HRs to tie Willie Mays.
  2. Derek Jeter - We don’t know how Jeter will recover from his broken ankle or how it will affect his already declining range at SS.  I’m not one who thinks Jeters range kills the team but the facts are he will have to play fewer games at SS in 2013 and beyond.  With Derek needing more time at DH in coming years, can the team really afford to have 2 players in their late 30′s that need extensive DH time?
  3. The Post-season - I really thought Alex lifted an enormous monkey off his back with his performance in the 2009 Playoffs when he helped lead the team to the WS.  However, since then he has been totally invisible in the post-season for the last 3 years. Since 2009, he is 12 for 75 (.160 BA) with 0 HRs and only 2 Doubles for an anemic .448 OPS and 24 StrikeOuts.   In his Yankee career, he has had 2 good post-seasons, 1 meh and 5 complete debacles.  For a team that goes to the post-season nearly every yr, they need better than that and it is clear that Alex presses during the post-season.

With the above demerits, why would any team want to trade for ARod? Well, let’s look at the motivations for a team like Miami.  The money is definitely an issue and the Yanks would have to take back a big salary, eat money and perhaps sweeten the pot with another good player.  But Miami wouldn’t have the same financial issues as the Yankees do.  For starters, the Luxury Tax is not an issue for them so the fact that Alex’ AAV is higher than his actual paycheck is meaningless to them.  The fact that his salary drops to $20-21M the final 3 years is advantageous to Florida.  The other big detriment to the Yankees is also meaningless to Miami – the post-season performance.  Miami was in last place in 2012 and  they would be happy just to make it to the post-season in the next few years.

The 3 major reasons Miami would be interested in Alex are the following:

  1. Attendance/Exposure - Miami just opened their new stadium in 2012 and have been looking for Latino box office draws to create a buzz and fill seats.  If anything, Alex is interesting and always creates a huge media buzz.  Miami would definitely benefit from the added exposure and the fact that Alex is aa Miami-native with deep ties to the community is a huge factor for them.  Miami tried to sign Albert Pujols in FA as a big Latin draw but failed, they signed Jose Reyes for the same reason.  Alex could play the role Pujols was intended to play in the community.  Chasing down some HR landmarks may also create a buzz in Miami where it’s almost hum-drum in drama-filled NY.
  2. Leadership -  Despite his flaws, Alex has become a solid leader for younger players and youn Latin players specifically.  With Florida building with a young club, ARod could be an important force in the clubhouse to show the young players how to work hard and what is required to succeed.  In NY, he’s always in the shadow of Jeter but in Miami – his town, his home – he could be in charge.
  3. Performance - Like Cashman said, Alex is still an above-average 3B.  Although his #s are in decline, he still had a 112 OPS+ in his worse season of his career in 2012.  If healthy and rejuvenated in a new setting, he could be a good complement in their lineup to young stud Giancarlo Stanton.

Miami has 2 high-priced, long-term commitments on their books after trading Heath Bell.  Both players have heavily back-loaded contracts.  The first – Jose Reyes – is highly unlikely to be moved as he’s still young, productive and dynamic.  the 2nd player is Mark Buehrle who may be a candidate for the Yanks to take back in an ARod deal.  Buehrle made just $6M in 2012 but his salary jumps to $11M in 2013 , then to $18 & $19M in the final 2 seasons.  To me, that means Miami intends to trade him in those latter years.  He has 3 yrs @ $48M left on his deal and he’s still a solid starter with proven success in the A.L.  The Yanks could take him back, eat some money and maybe throw Miami a player to make the deal even.  It could be done.

The last impediment of such a deal is ARod and his no-trade clause.  But after being embarrassed by the club in the Playoffs and having lukewarm at best support from the NY fans, I think Alex would jump at the chance to go to Miami – his hometown, with a chance to start over and without the glaring spotlight of the NY media and constant post-season pressure.

What do you think? Is a trade possible and should the Yankees pursue it or just sit back and listen like Cashman says?  Cashman has always been a very stealth operator who feeds the media a lot of mis-information.  I have to believe he will explore every option to deal ARod this Winter because of the reasons above.

Morning Bits: Teixeira, 14 Inning Game, Cashman, Managing Yankees

Good morning everyone! What a wild game yesterday with the Yankees (eventually after 6 hours) winning the ball game 10-9. The Yankees magic number to clinch the AL East is 11, so maybe they can shrink that number today. Hiroki Kuroda is on the mound for the Yankees at 1:05pm today and here…are your morning links.

– The Yankees are playing well enough that they could make it to the play-offs but if the Yankees do make it–will Mark Teixeira be ready to play?

– The Yankees probably could have or should have lost yesterday after Freddy Garcia gave up runs in extras to the Oakland Athletics–but the Yankees played with grit (something they hadn’t had in a while) and beat the A’s 10-9 after 6 hours of nonstop baseball.

– Brian Cashman’s father John Cashman who was elected into the Harness Racing Hall of Fame in 1992 in Goshen, NY and helped Brian Cashman get into baseball business, died yesterday. He was 72 years old.

– Obviously there are more ways than one to win a ball game, but the Yankees like to depend on the home run ball. So I decided to test out how to “manage” the Yankees to a victory without trying to hit home runs–by using video games.

American League Standings (from Espn.com)

Morning Bits: Cashman patience paying off, Lowe & Phelps and more.

Good morning all.  Nice win for the bombers last night as Swisher had a 5 RBI game.  Both Phelps & Lowe pitched very well. On the mound tonight is Harrison vs Kuroda first pitch is scheduled for 7:05PM.

Enjoy the day now for some links…

Ian O’Connor of ESPN NY writes that Cashman is hoping that his patience pays off.

Richard Justice of MLB.com writes that Lowe is the latest Yankee to find magic in pinstripes.

Austin Laymance of MLB.com has the pregame story of tonight’s matchup.

Jeff Bradley of The Star Ledger writes that the Yankees new mantra is don’t get blown out early.

Morning Bits: Cano’s hit streak at 22 games, Time for Cashman to shop?, Gardner out for the year

Good morning all.  Well the team had to lose eventually.   Another hit for Cano thought to extend his hitting streak and David Phelps looked very good coming out of the bullpen.  Tonight is another late start 10:05PM to be exact.  On the mound is Nova vs Milone.

Enjoy the weekend and let’s start of today with some links….

Wallace Matthews of ESPN NY asks if it’s time for Cashman to go shopping.

– One of my favorite articles is always Katie Sharp of ESPN NY with the Yankeemetrics.  This one was for the Toronto series.

David Waldstein of the New York Times has the story on Gardner getting surgery and probably missing the rest of the year.

Jeff Bradley of The Star Ledger takes a look how it has been tough for the AAA Yankees without a home this year.

Christopher Connors of The Bleacher Report has an article about how the Yankees keep rolling through the season even with all the injuries.

Evan Drellich of mlb.com has the story of Cano extending his hitting streak to 22 games and other tidbits on the Yankees.

Morning Bits: Trades, Joba, A-Rod better at DH

Good morning all.  It would have been nice to see them win last night but at least they took the series and the took the season series from them as well.  The Yankees begin a series with division rival Toronto Blue Jays tonight.  On the mound is Alvarez vs Hughes.

Enjoy the day.  Now here are some links….

Mike Mazzeo of ESPN NY ponders to deal….or not to deal for Cashman.

Bryan Hoch of mlb.com has the scoop on Chamberlin and his progress back to the Bombers.

– Hoch has another article this one with Ethan Asofsky.  The both write that A-Rod’s numbers are boosted when he is the DH.

Morning Bits: Jackson, Rodriguez, Teixiera, Cashman

Good morning everyone and Happy Saturday to you all! Drink extra coffee, glue yourself to your chairs and turn on YES at 12:30 because today we’re playing a double-header! Let’s get onto the Morning Links!

– Reggie Jackson apologized about his comments to Alex Rodriguez yesterday but A-Rod wouldn’t say what the conversation they had over the phone was about.

– The RBI triple last night had to be especially sweet for Mark Teixiera since he feels that Vincente Padilla tends to him him with a pitch on purpose.

– Brian Cashman’s stalker was released from prison yesterday after making bail but if she doesn’t stay away from Cashman, she’ll be back in Rikers faster than a Mariano Rivera save.

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