Today, the staff at The Yankee Analysts and It’s About They Money, Stupid will break ground on a new blogging endeavor. After years of discussion between TYA co-founders Moshe Mandel, Larry Koestler, and IIATMS founder Jason Rosenberg, we have effectively merged together!
In pursuit of expanding this community of Yankee fans, we believe it’s in everyone’s best interest to unite the writers and readers from each respective website. Our goal is to create a new gathering place of ideas and discussions that will continue to have the same quality objectiveness, but in a much larger quantity.
EJ Fagan, Matt Imbrogno, Domenic Lanza, Mike Jaggers-Radolf, Brad Vietrogoski, and I will continue our analysis over at It’s About The Money, Stupid. We’ll be joined by TYA regular Stacey Gotsulias, as well as Jason Rosenberg, Tamar Chalker, William Tasker, and Brien Jackson. We here at TYA are all incredibly proud and excited to be a part of IIATMS, and will strive to produce the best Yankee analysis and discussion alongside our new partners.
I would like to thank everyone involved with TYA, Alex Geshwind, Chris H, Eric Schultz, Matt Warden, Rebecca Glass, Sean Potter, Stephen R, Steve S, Tyler Wilkinson, Tom Gafney, and William J. Co-founders Larry Koestler and Moshe Mandel have built an incredible community here, it was with plenty of hard work and dedication that we now have this opportunity. Most of all, we’d like to thank the readers. At times, there’s nothing more fulfilling for us than your comments and contributions. Discussions lend for new ideas and more thorough research, and without this community of readers there would be no TYA.
As we move forward at IIATMS, we’d like to remind you that this is not the end of TYA. IIATMS will be incorporating our name in their banner, our archive of articles dating back to 2009 has already been merged, and a new site redesign is planned. Most importantly, our writers, our brand, and our analysis will all remain in tact at IIATMS. We hope that our readers follow us as well.
Please join us at It’s About The Money, Stupid.
The TYA Staff
Now that Alex Rodriguez and Curtis Granderson will both be starting the season on the DL most eyes have turned to Mark Teixeira as the most logical source of where the Yankees will need to get their missing power. And make no mistake about it, Tex has to produce. The Yankees will need him to plug that hole. But he isn’t the only source of potential power in the Yankee lineup. It doesn’t get mentioned much, but the Yankees did also add Kevin Youkilis.
Youkilis, of course, is a bittersweet addition for Yankee fans. He was probably the least popular Red Sox among the Yankee faithful, and now he’s a Yankee. That said, he has the potential to be a very good Yankee. Given his issues last season, it is easy to forget that as recently as 2010 he had a .564 SLG and a .419 wOBA. In 2011, the first season when Youkilis began demonstrating decline, he still managed a .459 SLG and a .366 wOBA. That production is welcome on any team.
The question is if he can do it in 2013. Youkilis has never been durable. Even in his prime in Boston he only averaged about 145 games a year. His injury risk is high. Furthermore, he didn’t rake with the White Sox, after he left Boston. He managed just a .236/.346/.425 line. That’s pretty mediocre. An average player in your lineup is nothing to sneeze at, especially one with Youkilis’ on-base skills, but he hasn’t been the All-World player he was for at least two years now.
Youkilis will be only 34 this season. He certainly has something left in the tank. While it seems unlikely that he will morph back into the .400 wOBA player he once was simply because he’s put on pinstripes, he should still be considered as a source of run production in the Yankee lineup. The Yankees are probably figuring they will get the .328 wOBA player Youkilis was last year, but there is a real chance he produces to a higher level. He should also be seen as a possible over achiever while the Yankees wait to get healthy.
(Syndicated from An A-Blog for A-Rod)
2013 was already going to be an important year for Mark Teixeira. After a stellar Yankee debut season in 2009, the last three have been a downhill trend of offensive regression and 2013 was shaping up to be the tipping point for the rest of Teix’s Yankee career. He could either bounce back and prove that he still had enough in the tank to be a consistent middle-of-the-order threat, or continue his decline, officially enter the downside of his career, and become the latest contract anchor on the payroll.
Teix’s comments to Dan Barbarisi a few weeks ago showed that he was very aware that he had reached this stage in his career, and his candor and openness about his regression was refreshing to read in a modern sports world full of excuses and cliches. But that position became much less acceptable when A-Rod had his surgery and even more unacceptable when Curtis Granderson was shelved over the weekend. Teix is now more important than ever to the lineup and the Yankees’ chances for success this season, a point Mike Axisa touched on earlier in the week. After spending four years flying under the radar in the Bronx, the spotlight is going to shine brighter on Teix than it ever has, and he needs to step up and meet the challenge.
“Under the radar” might seem like a stretch to describe a guy who signed a $180 million deal to play first base for the New York Yankees, and Teix’s decline the last few years has received a fair share of coverage in both the Yankosphere and the MSM. But I’ve always felt that the level of scrutiny given to his poor performances, and in fairness the level of praise given to his excellent 2009, has been overshadowed by the performances and storylines of others.
In 2009 Teix posted a .402 wOBA, scored 100+ runs, led the team with 122 RBI, and had the second-highest fWAR total (5.2) of all the Yankee position players, but the “real” stories were Derek Jeter‘s MVP-caliber season, the arrival of CC and A.J. to the rotation, and Alex Rodriguez exorcising his postseason demons to lead the team to their last World Series championship. In 2010, when Teix’s decline began, it was the ascension of Robinson Cano to MVP contender status and the problems in the rotation. These last two years, it’s been the rise and fall and rise again of Jeter and the beginning of the end of A-Rod.
At every step, there’s always been a player or a problem or a talking point that has taken center stage over what’s been going on with Teix. That’s not the case anymore, especially with C-Grand out of the picture until May. A-Rod is on the shelf, Jeter isn’t expected to replicate last season’s success, Cano is a proven commodity as one of the 5-10 best players in all of baseball, the rotation is basically set, and the rest of the lineup around Teix has taken a collective step back. Teix needs to have a bounce back year of his own this year, and he needs to start it with a bounce back April. We can safely assume that Cano is going to be Cano, but that more than likely won’t be enough to carry the lineup on his own. A powerful, productive, consistent April from Teixeira will be a huge help in supplementing Cano’s output and providing enough stability to make up for the expected inconsistency from the rest of the lineup, as will consistently productive months to follow.
Mark Teixeira openly admitted that he isn’t worth $20 million a season, and for the last two seasons he definitely hasn’t been. Truthfully no baseball player is worth that much and we all know that, but in the context of the world of MLB contracts the need for Teix to live up to that salary or at least come close to living up to it is greater than ever this year. The other guys have either faded in importance or become fixtures in what their expectations are. Teix is still a bit of a wild card for this season, and the expectations for him have grown. Another season of decreased production in the face of those expectations will be a dominating headline this year, as will a season of better production.
Lost in yesterday’s interview with Mike Francesa, Brian Cashman spoke meticulously about the the situation in left field. Unlike “accidentally” blurting out that the team offered Robinson Cano an extension, Cashman gave us a good long rundown of the outfield options. Melky Mesa, Zoilo Almonte, Matt Diaz, Juan Rivera, and a number of other young guys are in consideration before the team looks outside of the organization. But towards the end of the interview, Cashman could not stop raving about Slade Heathcott.
He called Heathcott a dark horse candidate. After talking up his tools and the way he plays the game, Cashman referred to 2005, when the Yankees called up the 20 year old Melky Cabrera from Double-A. In comparing Heathcott to Cabrera, he said that Melky had some additional experience at the time, but Heathcott’s tools are far better.
Melky Cabrera was certainly called up early in his career, but in July of 2005, Cabrera already had a handful of plate appearances in both Double-A and Triple-A. Heathcott’s highest level of play is High-A, where he has a combined 248 plate appearances. But unless Cashman misspoke, the General Manager implied that there is a chance the team promotes the 22 year old Heathcott from Tampa to the Bronx.
While the left-hander has received some enormous praise in the recent months, there are a number of serious concerns. Last season, Heathcott struck out 27.2% of the time, or 66 times in 243 plate appearances. Though this is acceptable for a prospect, it’s hard to imagine how this will translate when he sees the more impressive breaking pitches in the Major Leagues.
In the fall, Heathcott showed much better plate discipline, and took 14 strikeouts and 12 walks in 79 at bats. Altogether, he hit .388/.494/.612 in the Arizona Fall League, and flashed his impressive defense. Now he’s ranked as Baseball America’s 63rd best prospect in the game, and Brian Cashman made sure we knew that in yesterday’s interview.
So maybe the Yankees have some anomaly on their hands, a guy that can skip Double-A and Triple-A and become the next
Melky Cabrera Dave Winfield. Chances are obviously against that.
I see two scenarios for talking up Heathcott, the first being that the Yankees love his defense and speed. The team wouldn’t mind dealing with his strikeouts for a month if he can continue to steal runs in the outfield and as a pinch runner. While the stats indicate that his bat isn’t ready for the Major Leagues, the outlook on his fielding is incredible. His range and his routes are supposed to be fantastic, and depending on how his arm heals, he could be plus in that category as well. The Yankees have attempted to create a strong outfield defense as it is, and they may believe that Heathcott is the best defensive outfielder ready for the majors.
In the other scenario, Cashman used the five minutes he talked about Heathcott, not to educate the fans, but to build up the outfielder’s trade value. When Francesa asked about his makeup, Cashman dodged the question, and diminished the value of makeup, saying that Mark Melancon would be on an all-make up team, but still couldn’t figure out how to pitch in New York or Boston. This is a huge change of pace for an organization that’s gone out of their way to draft Cito Culver and Dante Bichette Jr based on make up as a defining factor. Maybe this indicates an ulterior motive, but maybe I’m reading into it too much.
But maybe Cashman really believes that he’s ready for the majors, at least his defense. After all, philosophies change, people change, and this is no longer the Yankees of old. We have budgets now, we have a team built on defense and pitching, and maybe we should give Cashman credit for believing in a player that the team would normally write-off. Even so, promoting Heathcott with the idea that he’s ready for the majors is an incredible stretch for even the Yankees. There are real risks with bringing a prospect up too soon, both mentally and physically. Unless we see him turn into Mike Trout this March, promoting him with such little experience isn’t a change of sensibility, it’s a loss of sensibility.
During the day (and night thanks to a certain “media personality”) Tuesday, Joba Chamberlain made some small waves with his comments about his ability to be a starting pitcher; not surprisingly, he still thinks he can start. Obviously, this isn’t going to happen for the Yankees. Joba will be a free agent after this year (time sure flies) and presumably, he’ll look for some team that will let him start. The last thing you need this afternoon is another beating of this long dead horse, but I can’t help it; this situation is still a thorn in my side.
Call me an apologist. Call me an optimist. Call me naive. Whatever you call me, I don’t believe Joba Chamberlain failed as a starter. He never even had the chance to fail. Joba was not great by any means. Though he flashed brilliance in 2008, he did get away with some shaky in-zone command. In 2009, he was inconsistent. However, the wider judgement across baseball and definitely across the Yankee organization, was that if he couldn’t do it then, he’d never be able to do it. A fairly irrational absolutism pervaded the discussion of Joba’s role. The attitude seemed to be ‘Well, Joba can’t do it now, he’ll never be able to do it, so he’s not a starter anymore.’ For whatever reason, he was expected to be a finished product despite a dearth of professional experience.
Certainly, the absolution didn’t reside on just one side of this debate. Of course Joba was going to be a front line starter. There was no doubt! However, he wasn’t given the chance. Joba may never have become the ace pitcher some of us envisioned him becoming. He could’ve been ineffective. He could’ve gotten hurt to the point where it would’ve been impossible for him to throw 180-200 innings a year. The latter sort of happened, but they never quite tested him out again. Because he never got a chance to fail (or succeed for long periods of time), his career as a starter remains an open book in my mind. Regardless of all that, though, he didn’t pan out as a starter. Some of the blame definitely lies with him as he didn’t exactly make it easy for people who defended him as a starter, given his up-and-down performances in 2009. But, the organization’s impatience with a young 20′s pitcher in the league’s toughest division still irks me.
If we take a step back from Joba and look at the pitchers with whom he’s most frequently associated–Ian Kennedy and Phil Hughes–we see something concerning. We can argue that of the “Big Three,” Kennedy has been the most successful. What’s concerning about that is that Kennedy had to leave the organization to reach (surpass?) his ceiling. There were other mitigating factors regarding Kennedy’s departure (it was a trade, after all), but by fans, analysts, and evaluators alike, Kennedy was considered to have the “worst” stuff and the lowest ceiling with the smallest upside. Yet he’s made himself into a successful starter in Arizona while Joba works as a reliever and Hughes still battles inconsistency. The Yankees definitely kept the two pitchers who were better at the time of the trade. What’s more, it’s possible (probable) that Kennedy–a pitcher whose possible 2010 role was unknown–would not have performed as well in New York as he has in Arizona. Still, the race was handicapped in the Yankees’ favor and they somehow came up short.
Joba’s comments don’t bother me and any he makes in the future won’t bother me either. I don’t think he gets enough credit for not complaining about and commenting on the way the organization jerked him around, though he’s certainly had right and reason to do so. The idea of Joba-as-Yankee starter is obviously over and done with, but it’s a situation that will always bother me. The situation was, for lack of a better term, completely and totally mind boggling.
Looking back, it reminds me of the Joker’s line from “The Dark Knight” about being a dog chasing cars and not knowing what to do if he caught one. The Yankees were long searching for high-end talent and when they got it, they didn’t have the slightest clue as to how to handle it. To a lesser degree, it extended to Phil Hughes’s situation and it makes me nervous for the future of not just Yankee starting pitching prospects–Manny Banuelos, Brett Marshall, Jose Campos, Jose Ramirez, Rafael DePaula, Ty Hensley, etc–but also the quartet of Gary Sanchez, Slade Heathcott, Tyler Austin, and Mason Williams. The Yankees have been without premier position-player talent for a long time and when they did have a player who could be identified as such, they traded him away for thus far questionable returns. Until they prove otherwise, when it comes to prospects, the Yankees will be a dog chasing cars.
The Yankees barely have a third outfielder to start the 2013 season. Yes, they’re loaded with depth, but hardly any of these players have even seen Triple-A. Matt Diaz, Juan Rivera, and Thomas Neal may be the most prepared players, but Diaz and Rivera couldn’t even break a .290 OBP in 2012. The two starting outfielders, Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki, have their own questions about health and age, and the Yankees could be in a lot of trouble if Gardner’s head-first sliding catches up to him for a second year, or Ichiro’s age starts to show.
Not only does the team need a third outfielder, but they need a respectable fourth outfielder. Living with an Adonis Garcia or Zoilo Almonte for one month isn’t terrible, but there is very little depth if Granderson can’t return or Gardner misses any more time. The Yankees were interested in a right-handed hitting outfielder a few weeks ago, and Curtis Granderson‘s injury will probably force them to make an actual move.
They don’t need a starting caliber outfielder, but a proper fourth outfielder should keep the position at replacement level or better. Here are a few names to look out for.
Casper Wells- I wrote about Wells at the beginning of the month. He’s nearly a perfect fit for the team, assuming the Mariners are willing to trade him. The 28 year old right-handed hitter can play all three outfield positions, but finds himself in a stacked outfield in Seattle. After a promising minor league career, Wells has struggled with the bat over the last couple of years, but splits show that Safeco Field is robbing him. In his career away, Wells has hit .268/.331/.478 with a 120 wRC+. He also has a ton of success against left-handed pitchers, who he hits for .264/.349/.489 with a 132 wRC+ both at home and away. Wells’ handedness, his ability to play all three positions, and his upside outside of Seattle could mean that he develops into an above average fourth outfielder and perhaps an everyday player. The outfielder is out of options on a crowded team, and he may be available as things take shape for the Mariners.
Tyler Colvin- Our own Domenic Lanza brought up a possible match up between the Yankees and Rockies recently. The Rockies are searching for pitching, and the Yankees have some excess. If Pineda continues rehabbing successfully, the Yankees could be forced to move both David Phelps and Ivan Nova to the bullpen or Triple-A by June. If the Yankees like what they see in Colorado, dealing one of these pitchers wouldn’t hurt the team’s depth with starting pitchers still sitting on the free agent market.
Usually, trading for a Rockies hitter is a bad idea, the stadium is just far too hitter friendly. But moving Colvin from Coors Field to Yankee Stadium might not have much of an impact. The left-handed Colvin hit .290/.327/.531 in 452 plate appearances in 2012. Though he can demonstrate bad plate discipline at times, Colvin has power, and that’s something which should continue for the 27 year old in Yankee Stadium. Colvin is a pull hitter, who batted .434 with a .478 ISO when going to right field. At home, he put up a 151 wRC+ versus an 83 wRC+ on the road, however Yankee Stadium is almost just as friendly to lefties as Coors Field. When it comes to power, StatCorner gives Coors a 150 rating (100 being average) for left-handed batters, and Yankee Stadium earned a 146 in 2012.
Domonic Brown- For some reason, Yankee fans love Domonic Brown. At one point, there were several rumors about the team trading Dellin Betances to the Philles for the left-hander, and perhaps that’s where fan interest began. Brown’s stock has fallen considerably. The 25 year old has earned a reputation as a poor outfielder, and the Phillies have not been kind to his development. In 492 major league plate appearances, Brown has put together a .236/.315/.388 slash line, and his power in the minor leagues has all but disappeared. But some still hold out hope, because sometimes he happens to do this.
Perhaps a change of scenery will help Brown, but his availablilty is questionable, and the Phillies will have a better idea of their outfield situation by the end of March.
Drew Stubbs- He only hit .213/.277/.333 last year, but as a right-handed hitter, Stubbs could fit a role as a strict platoon player. Over his career, Stubbs has hit .276/.344/.476 with a 120 wRC+ against left-handed pitchers. Against righties, Stubbs has a miserable 77 wRC+. Other than hitting lefties, Stubbs could also work himself into the game as a productive pinch runner. His massive amount of strike outs and average fielding is a major drawback, but it looks like the Indians want to trade him, and if the price is right, he could be useful.
(Syndicated from An A-Blog for A-Rod)
Getting Brett Gardner back is going to be a huge boost for the Yankees this year. His count-working ability and speed on the basepaths brings back a key missing element to the team’s offense and gives Joe another lead-off option, and that same speed makes him arguably the team’s best and most important defensive player wherever he is in the outfield. When Gardner went down last season, the team’s speed went down with him, and getting that speed back is a huge blessing for a team that’s lost a big chunk of its power. But Gardner’s speed can also be a curse, something that can and has gotten him into trouble before. Nowhere was that more apparent than in his first at-bat of
yesterday’s Monday’s game.
Top of the 1st inning, Gardner is leading off the game. He slapped a grounder to the right side of the infield that Chris Davis had to range to his right to field. Gardner raced up the line to try and beat Baltimore pitcher Brian Matusz to the bag and secured an infield base hit thanks to a headfirst slide into first base. That’s right, folks, a headfirst slide into first base as the leadoff batter in the third Spring Training game of the year, the day after the team lost its best power hitter until early May. There’s a time and a place for everything in baseball, but even the biggest baseball purists would agree that the top of the 1st inning in the 3rd ST game in late February is not the time nor the place for a headfirst slide into the bag.
This is where the downside to Gardner’s speed comes in. If Gardner weren’t as fast as he is, that play doesn’t play out the way it did. Gardner probably never makes it close enough to the bag to think he could beat a potential tag with a headfirst slide and instead runs through the base. He may have still been safe, more than likely would have been out, but the risk of getting injured on the slide would be completely eliminated because it would never factor into the equation. That risk of injury is what makes Gardner’s speed a detriment in these situations, and bringing it up is not just empty talk because we’ve seen Gardner get hurt before.
Gardner’s history with sliding headfirst is well-documented, and the rumor after the game yesterday was that Joe might have another word with him about ending the practice. Gardner himself has always been firm in his stance that he gets to the bag quicker when he slides headfirst, and to this day I haven’t seen any study that disproves his claim specific to his own baserunning career. What I have seen is Gardner bang up his thumb sliding into bases in years past, and injure his elbow sliding awkwardly to make a catch in the outfield last year. Gardner has put himself in harm’s way on more than occasion with his speed, and if yesterday’s play in the 1st is any indication he still hasn’t learned anything from those past occasions.
The Yankees got by without Gardner last season and they’ve had enough quality bench players to get by without him before, but that trend might not continue this season. The competition for the 4th outfield spot was already comprised of a couple of Major League has-beens and a bunch of unproven Minor Leaguers with little to no Major League experience. It was already more important for Gardner to stay healthy and stay on the field this year, and that was before Curtis Granderson went down. Now Gardner is even more important and yet he’s still choosing to put himself at risk of injury because of his speed.
Having not been blessed with any athletic gifts, I can’t speak from experience about what it’s like to be able to tap into those gifts when the moment calls for it. Gardner can, and because he can he would probably the first one to tell you that in the middle of a play like that there is no thought, just reaction. Gardner’s first instinct in situations where it could be a bang-bang play at the base or the difference between a great catch and a hit in the outfield is to dive, and he only has the opportunity to make those instinctual plays because of the tremendous speed he has. That speed is the foundation of his entire baseball skill set and it’s what makes him valuable as a player. It’s also what limits him as a player from time to time. If we’re going to talk about a young prospect like Slade Heathcott needing to tone it down and dial it back a bit on the field every now and then, we should probably be saying the same thing about a veteran like Gardner, at least in ST games. It’s in the team’s best interest for this season and in his best interest for both his immediate future and his long-term career.
Over the last few years, the Yankees organization has emerged as one of the best system for producing relievers. David Robertson, Joba Chamberlain, John Axford, Tyler Clippard, Mark Melancon, Alfredo Aceves, and a number of others have all been products of Yankee scouting and development. The big relief prospect at the moment is Mark Montgomery, who will probably see the Major Leagues by the end of 2013. There are a number of other relievers, such as Tom Kahnle and Nick Goody who could be fast movers, but Branden Pinder is one of the biggest names to watch this Spring Training.
The Yankees drafted the right-hander in the 16th round of the 2011 draft as a starting pitcher. In the move to the bullpen, Pinder’s velocity increased from low-90′s to mid-90′s, and he’s currently topping out at 97 mph. His slider also vastly improved during the 2011 season, and some scouts called it a major league ready pitch.
Through low-A in 2011, Pinder pitched 31.0 innings with a remarkable 0.677 WHIP and a 1.16 ERA. He wasn’t as successful in the jump to High-A, but still pitched 69.0 innings with a 2.79 ERA. His numbers, at face value, suggest that he lost some of his highly regarded control, however the splits show that most of his walks came against left-handed hitters. Against lefties, Pinder holds a 12.4 BB%, but against righties he’s throwing a 4.9 BB%. Considering the number of intentional walks, and the rate at which lefties hit him in 2012, there’s no surprise that his walk rates were so high.
Pinder will likely start the season in Double-A in 2013, where he finished in 2012 with 1.1 scoreless innings. If he can solve his problems against left-handed hitters, it looks like Pinder will someday see the major leagues. Yesterday, we got to watch his fastball and slider in action, and he displayed some tremendous movement and control.
Pinder has only thrown two innings thus far, but the way he’s pitching, we might see a lot more of him. With the type of depth the Yankees have in the major league bullpen, he has very little chance to make the team, but he should continue to follow Montgomery around the system as his setup man.
A week ago, the 2013 Yankees were walking on a tight rope. Their roster, while a significant downgrade from the 2012 squad, looked strong enough to contend for a wild card spot in the American League. The team’s rapidly aging core was still effective last year, and should a few things go right should have been good for 90 wins this year.
And then Curtis Granderson suffered a freak broken arm. Spring training has barely started, and probably the third or fourth most valuable hitter on the Yankee roster will miss around 1/4 of the season, without an able-bodied replacement in sight. The Yankee outfield/DH group was already razor-thin, and just lost its most valuable contributor for awhile.
By no means should the Yankees throw in the towel on the season, but at some point they need to decide whether they want to bet on this team to make the playoffs. I don’t know what the cut off point is, but it can’t be, “never.” This roster is not a vintage Yankee, sure-fire playoff team. It would be a huge mistake to assume that no matter what, the Yankees have to approach the trade deadline as a buyers.
Perhaps more than any other year in recent memory, the Yankees have a ton of players that could be sold off at the trade deadline for a valuable return. Any of Hiroki Kuroda, Curtis Granderson, Kevin Youkilis, Travis Hafner, Boone Logan, Phil Hughes and especially Robinson Cano, are all free agents after the season, could plausibly fetch good prospects from buying teams in late July. Not all of them will be performing great–otherwise, the Yankees would be unlikely to be out of contention–but a number of them could be.
What kind of prospects are we talking about? Below are seven 2010-2012 trade deadline deals that could serve as analogs:
- Robinson Cano – Mariners trade Cliff Lee for Justin Smoak (BA #13), and Blake Beavan, Matt Lawson, and Josh Lueke, all solid MLB prospects
- Hiroki Kuroda – Indians trade Ubaldo Jimenez for Drew Pomeranz (BA #30), Alex White (BA #47) and Matt Mcbride and Joe Gardner (Both unranked, but solid MLB prospects)
- Curtis Granderson - Cardinals trade Carlos Beltran for Zach Wheeler (BA #35)
- Kevin Youkilis – Red Sox trade Kevin Youkilis for Ethan Martni (BA #80)
- Travis Hafner – Phillies trade Jim Thome for Kyle Simon (decent prospect)
- Boone Logan – Pirates trade Javier Lopez for Joe Martinez and John Bowker, both fringe players.
- Phil Hughes – Cubs trade Paul Malholm to the Braves for Arodys Vizcaino (BA #83)
It seems highly plausible that the Yankees could pull off some kind of hall that looks like the following at the trade deadline: Justin Smoak, Zach Wheeler, Joe Martinez, and Ethan Martni, at the trade deadline, plus a few other pieces.
Here’s the problem: the presence of the 2nd Wild Card slot makes contention status less clear. Its tempting to use it as an excuse to never give up hope that a strong performance in the last two months of the season will propel a team to an unlikely playoff spot. But this is a dangerous thing to have around. Good teams need to go through a rebuilding cycle at some point. The Yankees were never immune to this, and are significantly less sheltered from it than in past years due to the new CBA soft cap, huge legacy contracts on the books, and a general trend toward higher payrolls and fewer players reaching free agency around the league.
The Yankees face a medium term trade off that every other aging contender faces: maximize your shot at the playoff this year, or sell off and increase your chances of a quick rebuild next year? If the Yankees are winning, this is a pretty easy question to answer: go for the playoff dice roll. But if the playoffs look unlikely (I’ll peg it at a 15% chance or less in late July), they should bite the bullet and maximize what they can get.
With Curtis Granderson down and out for ten weeks or so, the Yankees have a hole in left field. No injury can have an upside though there can be silver linings. “Luckily,” a lot of Granderson’s rehab time will be taken up by Spring Training and he’ll be back in early May. But on that not-so-lucky side, since it’s Spring Training, the market for outfielders is pretty thin and obviously, the timing isn’t great. There are, however, some internal options.
Though it should be obvious, let’s just cross of Slade Heathcott and Mason Williams. Ramon Flores, who’s on the 40-man roster and whose star seems to be rising, should be discounted because of the fact that he’s so young (he’ll turn 21 next month). That leaves us with Zoilo Almonte and Melky Mesa. For brief rundowns of those two, check out this post from Yanks Go Yard.
To add to it, the Yankees have expressed excitement about Almonte. That article, in which Brian Cashman says he wouldn’t want to use a young guy as a bench outfielder, was written before Curtis Granderson’s injury. With Granderson out, though, there’s a starting spot open. What could give Almonte an edge is that he is a switch hitter. What’s more, Almonte seems to be a better hitter as a lefty batter. In 2012, Almonte crushed righties to the tune of .303/.349/.542 with 17 homers. For his career, Almonte has a line of .286/.345/.497/.842 against righties. His career line of .268/.323/.440/.763 against lefties isn’t terrible, but the line against righties is more encouraging and hints that he could handle the heavy side of a platoon.
On the other hand, there’s Melky Mesa. Mesa, who just turned 26 in January, has a ton of minor league experience and finally got a crack at the Majors last year. He’s a speedy and powerful right handed hitter who also has a bit of a hole in his swing. As a righty, we’d expect him to fill the light side of a platoon if he were on the big league team, but for his career, Mesa actually has a reverse platoon split: His OPS vs. LHP is .642 and his OPS vs. RHP is .808. And with his power/speed combo–and reportedly good defense–he could be the most logical replacement for Granderson since he offers some of the same tools.
If the Yankees go internal by using their minor leaguers as a Granderson replacement, they’ll need to make sure that the player they pick gets a lot of playing time, especially if it’s Almonte. As Cashman said, it’s not good for the player or the team if a young guy sits on the bench. If I had a choice, I’d go with Almonte. But if I know the Yankees, I think they’ll go with Mesa’s tools and experience before going to Zoilo.
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