Daily Archives: October 25, 2012
Good evening everyone. Game 2 of the 2012 World Series is tonight which should be very exciting. Let’s get into some headlines from Yankee Land today.
Mariano Rivera Might Retire?
— According to ESPN New York, Brian Cashman said that Mariano Rivera informed him on Tuesday whether he will return in 2013 or if he will retire from baseball as the greatest closer in history. Cashman said that Rivera and him were deep into a conversation about whether Mo would pitch his 19th season with the Yankees and that Mo would need some time to think it over.
“He wasn’t certain on what he was going to do.” Cashman told the press.
After suffering an ACL tear in May, Mariano told fans that he was returning in 2013 but now Mo has to deal with whether or not to leave his family for possibly one more time before he calls it a career. If Rivera does decide to return, contract negotiations could get a bit messy since Rivera only made $15 Million to pitch in 9 games last season. The front office would have to think of a negotiable asking price all while keeping their budget at least $189 Million to avoid luxury tax in 2014. Mariano River did the same song and dance last season during Spring Training when he said he knew whether he was going to retire or not but wasn’t going to tell anyone.
If Mariano doesn’t come back, the Yankees could sign Rafael Soriano who had 42 saves as the closer in 2012. The Yankees don’t want to picture winning another Championship without Mariano Rivera, but if he does decide to retire–that nightmare would become a reality.
CC Sabathia Has Elbow Surgery
— CC Sabathia underwent arthroscopic elbow surgery today which was performed by Dr. Andrews. Doctors removed a bone spur which they believe CC had since beforehe came to the Yankees. Sabathia is doing well and the Yankees confirm that he will be ready by the start of the 2013 season.
It’s come that time time to look back at the club and assess the good, bad and the ugly. Unfortunately we don’t have to put this off until November, but it is what it is. I can however avoid typing this with a heavy heart, as last night the Big Panda wiped the smirk off of Justin Verlander’s face and too-many-homered his way to beating the Tigers in game one of the WS. I’ll admit I carry a bit of bias towards SF after my stint in the Bay Area, and a slice of redemption tasted rather good after watching the Tigers take advantage of my stone cold Yankees and some incompetent umpires. Rant over, on with the show.
We’ll start out in left field, which was a microcosm of the SWB Yankees, in that it was a revolving circus for much of the year. Raul Ibanez’ PS heroics and Andruw Jones’ past gold gloves aside, it was indeed Barnum and Bailey when it came to defense out there. I suppose it doesn’t help when you’re following up a guy who lapped the field in defensive metrics the previous two seasons and ran away with the Fielding Bible Awards, but I digress. First up is Andruw Jones; a shell of his former glorious self. There was a time that Andruw was one of the absolute best defenders in baseball history at his position. Alas, those days are well behind him, and this year his bat went on hiatus as well. Andruw ended the year with a slash line of .188/.291/.422/.712 Yikes. Granted those numbers were on the back of a .181 BABIP, but when you hit nothing but fly balls and roll over on weak grounders your average on balls in play is going to stink. The only saving grace for Andruw is that when he does get ahold of one it’s a no doubt see ya later bomb. Unfortunately there weren’t many of those and over the course of a full season he would have challenged Kurtis Kranderson for the leader in K’s. It recently came out that he was ailing from a lingering injury to his hand, but please, if he wants to play another four years let it be somewhere else.
On to Raul Ibanez; who was our hero many times over this October. While I will never forget his amazing efforts to keep us in the series’, there were some flaws to his game. To be fair to both Raul and Andruw, these guys weren’t hired to be the platoon LF’er, and it started to look as if the time in the field may have taken it’s toll on them. Raul started to fall off the map in the second half as well until some guy named Ichiro showed up in the Bronx. A second half swoon isn’t all that surprising from a 40 year old that had put up a decent workload, and if we could have kept him off the field his overall numbers might have looked a little better. Either way, a final line of .228/.302/.414/.716 was pretty bleak, but he managed quite a few timely hits both in the beginning of the year and of course to cap it all off. He’ll go down as putting up one of the greatest post-season performances of all time (5th highest in PS history per WPA) and he had the stadium rocking like crazy, but I would call it his swan song in NY.
Last up for the major LF contributors is Ichiro! One of the biggest surprise trades of the year, Ichiro was revived after a long and fruitless career in Seattle. His speed and defense were a breath of fresh air; something we had been certainly missing since the loss of Gardner. His splits in Yankee Stadium had always been strong, and in spite of falling numbers the last two seasons there was some hope that a change of scenery and the hope of October baseball would put a spring back in his step. Ichi did come around, and ended the second half with a .311/.332/.382/.694 slash line. His BABIP did jump over 50 points, so you could chalk his spike in performance up to a bit of luck, but results are results no matter how they come. As far as bringing the rockstar back, my contention is that he’d make a great fourth OF’er; a guy who could sub any OF position, start once in a while and come in for a defensive upgrade assuming the new RF’er was more bat than glove.
Now on to the catcher position. Starting off with the backup Chris Stewart, who came to NY via San Francisco. I’ll admit i’m not much of a fan of trading a viable bullpen arm for a position that we already have filled, but that’s for another day. Even as a mere backup Stewart never really impressed me. By the eye test his defense was OK but nothing spectacular. On the offensive side I swore he was trotting around with a horseshoe in his pocket. Where Martin had given the finger to the BABIP gods, Stewart was apparently sacrificing chickens in the locker room for them. Hit after hit was finding holes and bouncing off of infielders gloves. Occasionally he’d run into one and get it into the OF but those times were few and far between. His final line of .241/.292/.319/.611 is a bit above his limited career totals and not very promising. As far as a return to the BX, I suppose i’d bring him to camp and see what happens. Really it hinges on Romine, who missed most of 2012 with back injuries and is now playing in the AFL to get some work in. If he’s healthy then Stewart should be traded/released. Not sure what, if any return could be had there but I wouldn’t lose sleep over it.
This leaves us with our starting catcher. The Russ bus started out the season chugging along at his usual pace, at one point ranked in the top third of AL catchers in wOBA, but the wheels came off getting deeper into the season and his average plummeted below the Mendoza line. Russ did manage to turn things around down the stretch; at that point recovering his BA was not in the cards but getting some big hits and driving in runs was enough for some of us anyway. In spite of a lack of hits, he still took his walks and hit for a career high HR total. He ended up with a .211/.311/.403/.713 line and an OPS+ of 92, a bit below league average for all hitters. In terms of wOBA ranked against AL catchers only, Martin came in with a .316 mark and a 95 wRC+. That leaves him ranked 10th in the AL, which in spite of slugging over 20 HR’s is still on the worng side of average. The good news is that he’s pretty solid behind the dish, and the Yanks ended up as one of the best teams in terms of actual vs. expected strikes. This all has to do with pitch framing, a subject that Mike Fast first covered and recently Jeff sullivan over at fangraphs expanded on in his article “Getting and not getting the calls”. Getting ten extra strikes per 1000 pitches may not seem like much, but they do add up over the course of a season with ~26K pitches thrown, and when you consider the difference between your pitcher having to get three outs an inning vs. four, it can easily mean the difference between a win and a loss. Overall Martin was underwhelming, but that may allow the Yankees to buy low on a one year deal hoping that Russ will want to try and get his value up fora multi-year contract. It would give the Yankees time to evaluate guys like Romine and even allow JR Murphy another year to adjust to AA and possibly push his way to Scranton. I wouldn’t be opposed to a one year offer that gives us a buffer, but anything more than that is pushing it.
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:
- 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.
- 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?
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.