Thursday, January 31, 2013

Yankees in agreement with DH Travis Hafner

You can add Travis Hafner to the list of "low risk-high reward" signings of the off-season. Yankees are in agreement on a one-year major league deal with Hafner. The lefty slugger has not played in many games over the last two seasons, but if healthy Hafner can serve as the Yankees' primary lefty designated hitter. After losing Raul Ibanez in free agency the Yankees felt that Hafner could provide similar things for the Bombers. The difference between Hafner and Ibanez is that Ibanez can play for a full season, whereas Hafner is almost likely to land on the disabled list at one point or another.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Robinson Cano and Second Base

Robinson Cano is heading into his walk year with the Yankees. He is represented by agent Scott Boras and has made it clear that he will not provide the Yankees with a hometown discount in the upcoming off-season. Cano is said to be looking for a deal in the Alex Rodriguez territory. He would like ten years at an annual salary of $25 million. There is no question that he is worth it but Cano is going into the 2013 season at the age of 30. Any contracts signed by players on the wrong side of thirty is scrutinized. For the Yankees, they may have no other option but to sign him. At this point Robinson Cano is undoubtedly the best hitter in the Yankees lineup. The next tier of hitters are not even half as good as Cano is. The Yankees should have been astute enough to sign Cano to an extension before the 2012 season but stuck to their rules of not handing out contracts until free agency. Times are changing and the Yankees' contract policy is simply inane. If the Yankees wanted to remain under the luxury tax threshold for the 2014 season, they bit themselves in the behind by not taking care of Cano earlier.
However, Cano is still the starting second baseman for the Yankees in 2013. Something tells me that the Dodgers will be all over Robinson once he finishes his contract with the Yankees. Let's focus on this year for now.

In 2012, Cano was average by his standards for the majority of the season. He wasn't as clutch as he used to be in previous years, and he looked like he didn't show up mentally on the field at times. There was an infamous incident at Tropicana Field against the Rays where Cano didn't dive for a ball and allowed the tying run to score in a crucial game between the Yankees and Rays. Cano faced a lot of scrutiny after that game and since then has been diving a lot more for balls that he would ordinarily allow to roll into right field. All that aside, Cano is still by and far the best second baseman in the game. He was the AL second base Gold Glove winner in 2012, beating out Pedroia of the Red Sox for the hardware. In addition to his stellar defense, Cano provides the Yankees with power. Not often is there a second baseman who will hit 33 home runs for you in a season. Cano keeps breaking his own season highs in all he major categories and something tells me that 2013 will be a great season for him since he will be looking for that payday.

If he wants to do even better in 2013, Cano needs to have more plate discipline. He swung at bad pitches too much in 2012, getting away from something he improved on in previous years. Also, Cano had an awful time against lefties last year, hitting .239 against southpaws when he crushed lefties in previous years. Cano is a hard worker, so I have no doubts that he will improve on all his shortcomings from 2012 and translate them into strengths in the final year of his contract with the Yankees.

My 2013 predictions for Robinson Cano: .328 BA, 35 HR, 120 RBI

Friday, January 25, 2013

State of the Yankees: First Base

Mark Teixeira will obviously be the Yankees starting first baseman this season, barring an injury. Unfortunately for Teixeira, his 2012 season was plagued with injury and inconsistency at the plate. His splits from the right side were almost dead even with those batting right handed. I know he isn't getting any younger but this steep decline coupled with his recent hamstring injury that kept him out of the lineup for most of September doesn't add up to a promising 2013 season.

For Teixeira's career, he has remained very healthy, playing in almost every game for his whole career. However in 2012, he suffered a hamstring injury in late August in a game against the Toronto Blue Jays. He came back a couple of weeks later, prematurely. He would miss another three weeks on top of that when he re-aggravated his hamstring after hustling to first base to break up a controversial double play that would have tied the game against the Baltimore Orioles. When he came back before the postseason began, Teixeira was actually hitting. Notoriously a bad postseason hitter in the Bronx, Teixeira turned his misfortunes around and had a good series against the Orioles.

Teixeira's defense has never been an issue. Almost all baseball people will tell you that Teixeira is the best defensive first baseman in the Major Leagues. He recently added to his stellar defensive reputation by taking home a Gold Glove award after the 2012 season, where he made only one error all season which equated to a .999 fielding percentage. That is absolutely amazing and I wouldn't trade that defense for anything. The problem with Teixeira is his bat. He is s very streaky offensive player. When his bat is hot he can carry a team. He blasts home runs as a left handed hitter like clockwork. He is, however, unable to hit with any sort of consistency as a lefty batter. Teixeira is a dead pull hitter. After the 2011 season, Teixeira told the media that he would try different hitting mechanics in order to stop opponents from playing him in a drastic shift. He poked around at the idea of laying down a bunt, which never happened in the 2012 season. Teixeira essentially scrapped what he was adjusting in spring training and the early part of the season and started to hit the way he always did. Although he still grounded into extreme shifts, Teixeira said he felt more comfortable. He stopped letting the shift beat him and because of that, Teixeira sprayed the ball around the park a little more than he did in the previous two seasons.

After playing only 123 games last year, Teixiera still managed to hit 24 home runs and drove in 84 runs. His average is hovering over the .250 range over the past three seasons, and I think Teixiera is content with that.

My predictions on a healthy Mark Teixeira for the 2013 season: .260 BA, 32 HR, 110 RBI

Monday, January 21, 2013

State of the Yankees: Starting Rotation

As I did last year, I will again be breaking down the Yankees position by position. Last year I started with the catching depth the Yankees had at that point. This year I will begin my analysis by examining the starting rotation. These analyses should lead me into March where I will then analyze the rest of the American League East, heading into the regular season marathon.
Most experts will say the starting staff is actually a plus for the Yankees. At the top of the rotation you have lefty CC Sabathia who will always give you the length and stability you need as the head of your pitching rotation. In 2012, Sabathia had two separate stints on the disabled list, followed by off-season elbow surgery to remove excess tissue. That operation should not get in the way of Sabathia's 2013 campaign, and if anything Sabathia should feel re-energized after missing a few starts in 2012 and undergoing off-season surgery which gave him additional resting time. However, CC's fingers may have issues going into the 2013 season after excessive tweeting in a failed effort to grab MLB 13 The Show's cover picture. Sabathia made it close, coming in at second place thanks to all of the tweets of support he received. Sabathia made it clear that he would be ready to begin the new season on time. With all the time off recently, expect a CC Sabathia who is ready to compete at a higher than usual level given all of the energy and adrenaline he obtained after a long winter.

Behind Sabathia, the Yankees were able to obtain right handed pitcher Hiroki Kuroda for a second season. Kuroda had more enticing offers from teams like the Dodgers and Angels but the pitcher wanted to make the Yankees his home for a second year after doing well in the organization as the number two starter in 2012. After coming over from the NL West many thought that Kuroda would not perform as well as the Yankees may have hoped. What the Yankees got from Kuroda though, was even more than they bargained for. In his first year in pinstripes, Kuroda won 16 games for the Bombers in 33 starts while pitching a career high 219.2 innings. He posted a very respectable ERA of 3.32 in the AL East and pitched three complete games, two of which were shutouts. Kuroda made two postseason starts where he went deep into the game both times but didn't receive a victory either time. Kuroda obtained a 5.2 WAR rating, which for pitchers is All-Star quality. WAR, wins above replacement, measures a player's ability to win games for his team. The number is gathered by comparing a player's statistics to a league average player at the same position. So in that category, Kuroda was dominant.

Andy Pettitte is a number three starter that many rotations wished they had. Even at 40 years old, Pettitte gives the Yankees a chance to win every five days. When he takes the mound in a big game you have confidence in his ability to bring home a victory. After missing most of last season due to a broken leg caused by a line drive, Pettitte returned in September and started two postseason games for the Yankees. Just like Kuroda, Pettitte did not get a win due to the Yankees inability to hit last year in the playoffs. Expect a crafty Pettitte this year, who without injuries, could have a brilliant year at his advanced age.

In the back of the rotation, the Yankees have some options. Phil Hughes is the likely candidate to make the number four starter role for the Yankees in his walk year. Hughes is erratic, but there are games where he is dominant. With this year being Hughes' chance for a big payday, expect the righty to pitch well for a long term contract.

The real debate comes into full force when discussing the Yankees number five starter. Ivan Nova filled that role last season, but he was highly inconsistent. His ERA ballooned by almost two runs between 2011 and 2012. He allowed a ton of extra base hits. His sinker just wouldn't sink. David Phelps provided the Yankees with a reliable arm out of the bullpen and as a spot starter down the stretch after Pettitte's injury and Nova's ineffectiveness. There will be an open competition between the two youngsters to battle out the Yankees number five starter. Phelps has a promising future, but Nova is a proven commodity. I give a slight edge to Nova based on familiarity, but that could change based on Spring Training results.

Michael Pineda is waiting in the wings after undergoing surgery on his shoulder. Shoulder injuries are very tricky, but Brian Cashman has stated that a probable return for Pineda would be sometime in June or July. Things should get interesting if everyone is healthy and effective, causing an overcrowding effect for Pineda in the rotation.

*I will post win total predictions in March before the regular season begins.*

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Yankees avoid arbitration w/ Phil Hughes, Morse Traded

The Yankees have avoided arbitration with RHP Phil Hughes. The righty settled on a contract worth $7.15 million for the 2013 season to pitch for the Yankees. This is probably the last year that Hughes will wear pinstripes, so expect him to pitch well for a new contract somewhere in the $70 million range, similar to what Anibal Sanchez received from the Chicago Cubs.

Also, as a side note Fox Sports writers Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi are reporting that the Seattle Mariners are close to acquiring Nationals outfielder Michael Morse. The Mariners were very close to getting Justin Upton in a trade that would send several key pieces to Arizona but that deal fell through after Upton exercised the no-trade clause in his contract. Instead, the Mariners will be receiving Morse to presumably play the outfield for the team. Morse was brought up in the Seattle organization before getting traded to the Nationals before the 2009 season.

The transaction is a three way deal that sends Morse to Seattle for RHP AJ Cole. The Mariners sent catcher John Jaso to Oakland to complete the deal. Cole was the centerpiece that the Nationals gave up in the Gio Gonzalez trade. He will now land back in the organization that traded him away one year ago. From the looks of it, this trade is a reunion of sorts, for both players.

A-Rod Surgery Day; Youkilis New Stance

Today is the long awaited day where Alex Rodriguez will finally undergo surgery to repair his torn labrum, bone impingement and a cyst. It will take Dr. Bryan Kelly approximately two hours to perform the operation and he gave a rough estimate of "about six months" of rehabbing before A-Rod can even think about coming back to play baseball. Dr. Kelly says it would not be unfathomable to see Alex return after the All-Star break. In a way, that doesn't make me optimistic for a 2013 A-Rod return. The rough date set by his doctor is barring any setbacks. If something goes wrong in his rehab, Rodriguez is almost certain to miss the entire 2013 season, which would be music to Kevin Youkilis' ears.
 
Speaking of Kevin Youkilis, he is excited for a fresh start in pinstripes and hopes to perform well under the pressure of the bright Bronx lights. This is something of familiarly to Youk as he thrived in pressure packed moments during his run with the Boston Red Sox where he was beloved by fans and teammates.
 
Youkilis sat down for an interview with Jack Curry recently and discussed with Curry what he expects out of himself this year. Youk has already worked with Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long on his new and improved stance. According to Jack Curry of the YES Network, Youkilis will lower his hands, spread his legs wider apart and he will be in more of a crouch. These changes come after Youkilis and K-Long looked at footage from 2008 where Kevin Youkilis was having a great year, using similar mechanics.
 
Mechanics aside, Youkilis admitted that CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte called him in an effort to recruit him to the Yankees. Before signing with the Yankees, Youkilis also was in touch with Johnny Damon and asked for advice on how to behave in his transition from Boston to New York. Damon supposedly highly endorsed the switch.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Washington Nationals Agree to terms with Rafael Soriano

 

After writing yesterday about Rafael Soriano's baggage and him still being a free agent, reports indicate that he has agreed to terms with the Washington Nationals on a two year contract worth $28 million. There is a vesting option on 2015 that goes into effect if Soriano finishes 120 games over the two year contract. Since Rafael Soriano declined the Yankees qualifying offer at the end of the 2012 season, the Nationals will lose the 29th pick of the draft while the Yankees will gain a a draft choice, 32nd overall.
 
Soriano posted a 2.26 ERA in the 2012 season after taking over for the injured Mariano Rivera in the beginning of May. He averaged 9.2 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 with the Yankees last season. When you really think about it, Soriano only received one additional year on top of what the Yankees were willing to offer him with their qualifying offer.
 
Soriano will close for the Nationals while Drew Storen will presumably serve as Soriano's eighth inning guy. After struggling in the 2011 season as a set-up man for the Yankees, Soriano probably refused to go to a ball club where he would serve as a set-up guy. Still, I'm proud of the Yankees for not overpaying for a reliever whose name is not Mariano Rivera.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Curious Case of Rafael Soriano



Rafael Soriano, a Scott Boras free agent, is coming off a fantastic season where he filled in at the closer position for the injured Mariano Rivera. Soriano thrived in the closer spot. He felt wanted, and that's when his blood really gets flowing. As a closer for the Yankees, Soriano piled up 42 saves in 45 opportunities which is Mariano territory. He pitched to a sparkling 2.26 ERA in the American League East against teams like the Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays, both equipped with capable offenses in 2012. However just one year prior to pitching like Mariano Rivera, Rafael Soriano was pitching like a middle of the pack reliever. He was getting paid $10 million to pitch in the seventh inning as a bridge to David Robertson and Mariano Rivera. His 4.12 ERA was frightening to some, and even more frightening was his inability to pitch under the bright lights of New York.
 
Now, Soriano finds himself a free agent after opting out of his Yankee deal that would have him stay in pinstripes for one more season. After he opted out, the Yankees extended Soriano a qualifying offer of $13.3 million, which would be a raise based on his current salary. As Boras clients usually do, Soriano opted out in search of a long term deal that would pay him $15 million annually.
 
Here we are on January 14th and Rafael Soriano is still looking for that long term deal that he was promised to get by Scott Boras. Supposedly, as a last resort Soriano's agent reached out to the Yankees and offered Soriano to them on a one year deal, to which the Yankees flatly said no to. If I'm Brian Cashman, I feel proud of myself for saying no to Scott Boras. Boras is the same agent who screwed the Yankees into overpaying Alex Rodriguez and he is the same agent who will try to squeeze every last penny out of the Yankees when Robinson Cano becomes a free agent at season's end.
 
Quite honestly, I would rather have David Robertson as a backup plan to Mariano Rivera should anything go wrong this season. We have already learned that Soriano is a mess before the ninth inning and with Rivera's return, Soriano would most definitely be pitching the eighth. So when it comes to Rafael Soriano and all his rules and baggage, I would have to say thanks, but no thanks.

***Please vote in my poll to the right of this post***

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Pursuit of Justin Upton

Justin Upton
For what seems like decades, the Diamondbacks have been trying to ship out their star right fielder Justin Upton. Many suitors have inquired, however the asking price of D'backs GM Kevin Towers has been too steep. That was not the case when Arizona had a deal in place with the Seattle Mariners that would send Justin Upton up north to play with the likes of Felix Hernandez. After the two sides agreed on a deal, the Diamondbacks came to Upton, who has the Seattle Mariners listed as one of four teams that he can block a trade to. Upton flatly rejected the deal, sending Seattle back to the drawing boards in pursuit of an impact hitter. The non-deal also left the Diamondbacks scratching their heads. Just when they thought they finally found a landing spot for Upton, the deal falls through and Justin Upton is not a happy camper. The first thing that I don't understand is why the D'backs would even go to these great lengths to create a deal when they were almost certain that Justin Upton would block it.
 
If I'm Justin Upton, I want out of Arizona before reporting to spring training in the Cactus League. Many other teams, including the Yankees, have inquired on Upton but the asking price is through the roof. Quite honestly if I'm Brian Cashman and Co., I would be relieved that Upton is not likely to end up in pinstripes. While Upton is under team control for the next three seasons, his annual salary is way too high for a guy who, on average, hits 20 home runs and drives in 80 in any particular season. Despite his strikeouts, Granderson suddenly looks like the better option. True, he's a lefty but he is only under team control through the 2013 season. Chances are that Granderson is a goner at season's end. The Yankees are likely to offer him a qualifying offer and he will be inclined to reject it. As a result, the Yankees will receive another draft pick as compensation and will have freed up salary space to maybe sign Cano to a long term deal and have one of the Yankees minor league players play a corner outfield position.
 
Brett Gardner, a natural center fielder is much better suited for the position that will be vacated upon Granderson's departure at the end of the season. Still, I don't think Justin Upton is the answer for the Yankees. Also, the Diamondbacks aggressively shopping him over the last two seasons tells me that there may be something more to Upton than just getting him into a new atmosphere. As a result, Justin Upton is simply a mirage that Yankees fans are fascinated with because of the lack of right handed power hitters in the starting lineup.
 
Folks, you have to remember that things change rapidly in Yankee Land. In the end, the Yankees always put a representative product on the field. Don't think for a minute that Upton is the solution to the Yankees problems though. If you believe this, you are sorely mistaken!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

State of the Yankees


With pitchers and catchers reporting exactly one month from today, let's go through some of the questions that manager Joe Girardi will have to answer when he makes his yearly Spring Training address regarding the New York Yankees.
Will Brett Gardner be in center field?
-The answer should be yes. Brett Gardner is perhaps the best defensive left fielder in all of baseball. However, he does not hit for power which is a skill that a corner outfielder usually possesses. Granderson would be better suited in left field, which means he will still have to cover a lot of ground but will not be forced to make those spectacular center field plays in the gaps. Girardi will most certainly be asked that in his address one month from today. I do believe though, that Girardi will remain mum on the topic when he speaks about the matter. Eventually, I believe that the decision will be made to move Gardner into center field and have Granderson man left while Ichiro plays his most familiar position in right field.

Who will be the Yankees starting catcher?
-This will be the most interesting question that I would like to see Girardi answer. Chris Stewart has practically been named by media outlets as the Yankees opening day catcher, however I still believe that the job is Cervelli's to lose. The Yankees didn't leave Cervelli in the minors all of last season to have him be the backup this year. He has played every day in 2012 and I see him taking a step forward in 2013, winning the starting job and thriving in the role. Chris Stewart has proven that he is a very good backup, but he is in his mid 30's and has never played a full season in the major leagues as a starting catcher. Also, aside from his decent hitting display last season I don't think he will be half as good of a hitter as Cervelli has a chance to be. Then there's always a chance Austin Romine impresses some folks and wins the job outright. However, after missing a big chunk of 2012 due to a back problem, I don't think that will be the case. There is a chance though, that the Yankees starting catcher struggles in April and May, forcing management to call up Romine to be the every day guy.

How are the Yankees injured players doing?
-Surely, Girardi will tell everyone that Alex Rodriguez is coming along as planned and that Derek Jeter is getting better every day. The bigger question is how they will use Mariano Rivera. Almost one year removed from his torn ACL, the 43 year old is poised for a comeback in what will probably be his final season in baseball. Still, I'd like to see how Girardi and Cashman decide to use Mo in spring training. Usually, Mariano does not play in any games until a couple of weeks into ST and I expect that to be the case again this year. However, do the Yankees give him a lighter load in spring training, hoping that he can be at full strength in April? He already only works about 7-8 spring innings. I don't see how his workload can possibly be reduced.

How will Girardi use his bench?
-As of today, Girardi doesn't have much of a bench. Heck, he doesn't even have an every day DH. Hopefully between today and February 12th, the Yankees go out and find good role players, similar to what Eric Chavez, Raul Ibanez and Andruw Jones provided them with in 2012.

Who will win the fifth starter spot in the rotation?
-This will be a competition between Ivan Nova and David Phelps, for sure. There will be some outside chance that a prospect is thrown into the mix, but this is a tight race between Nova and Phelps. I honestly don't know who should be the fifth starter. Phelps was great down the stretch in the spot starter role, while Nova struggled to an ERA of 5 in 2012. If they were to begin the season today, Ivan Nova would probably be the chosen one to become the Yankees fifth starter and David Phelps would begin the year in the bullpen. This can all change between February and April though.

Please comment below and tell me what you think!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

WANTED: Outfielder

This is really the last remaining pressing need for the Yankees to fulfill before they begin the season. Let me clarify the title of this post: I'm talking only about right handed outfielders. Let's go from there. The Yankees have inquired on Nationals utility man Michael Morse, who can put up number similar to Nick Swisher when he was in the Bronx. Morse, a right handed hitter, can give the Yankees acceptable defense and is only under team control for the 2013 season, before he becomes a free agent. Morse also plays first base and some shortstop, which is something the Yankees may need with an aging Jeter who will not play 162 games at the position. Morse could be a fit for the Yankees, but at the right price. The Yankees farm system is very low level heavy. They don't have many top prospects who are Major League ready. As a result, in order to obtain Morse the Yankees need to figure out a package that would send two or three average players to the Nats. The Nationals are reportedly seeking a lefty reliever, and I don't think the Yankees are willing to part ways with Boone Logan. If Caesar Cabral is ready by the beginning of the season, I believe the Yankees would be willing to trade a lefty reliever, be it Clay Rapada, Boone Logan or Caesar Cabral.

Another appealing option for the Yankees to look at is Scott Hairston, who has spent the last two seasons as a righty off the bench. Hairston hits extremely well against left handed pitching, and his track record shows that. His .286 average and 11 homers against lefty pitching is what the Yankees are really looking at. They are trying to find a player who would replace Andruw Jones. However, word around the Yankees organization is that they are pessimistic about signing Hairston because he believes that he can receive more at bats with a different team (Mets). Also, Hairston is reportedly seeking a two year contract and that is not something the Yankees feel comfortable doing right now because of their efforts to go under the $189 million luxury tax threshold starting in 2014.

Certainly, there are not many options remaining for the Yankees to choose from but they must find a player or a combination of players who will get them those good at bats against lefty pitching. Morse seems to be a better fit than Hairston because of the contract length and also because of age but you never know with the Yankees. They may already have something up their sleeve.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Hall of Fame

With the Hall of Fame inductees being announced later today, here is the list of players that I would vote for if I was given a ballot.
 
-Craig Biggio
-Jack Morris
-Mike Piazza
 
First, you have to put Biggio into the Hall of Fame in the first round because he collected 3,060 hits in his career and above all was consistent. He is one of the only players who is eligible for the first time that does not have the cloud of PED use surrounding him. If nobody else but Biggio makes this class I will not be heartbroken.
Jack Morris has suffered long enough. He has been on the ballot over a dozen times and I think it's time that he gets recognized for his hard work and his ability to pitch well in big games. Morris' ERA was not impressive, but quite frankly I don't care about that. Morris won over 250 games over his career (all of which came while pitching in the American League) and had almost 200 complete games, which is something that isn't done in modern day baseball. At the same time, if Morris gets voted in, I firmly believe that Andy Pettitte deserves to one day be in Baseball's Hall of Fame. He has won nine less games than Morris has and is still playing. Pettitte's ERA is almost identical to that of Jack Morris' and even a tick lower. Even though Andy Pettitte has admitted to using performance enhancing drugs, I believe him when he says it was just to get over an injury. Pettitte's numbers have been consistent throughout his entire career. If he used performance enhancing drugs as a means to get an edge over hitters, it would have been reflected in his earned run average.
 
Mike Piazza deserves to make the Hall of Fame this year because of his offensive numbers at the position he played. As a catcher in the major leagues, Mike Piazza hit 427 home runs in his career, which is the best mark of any catcher in Major League history. Piazza not only hit home runs, but his lifetime batting average was .308, which shows that he always played successfully. Some believe that Piazza was involved in using PED's, however if there was no breaking of any law at the time of usage, Piazza deserves a spot in the Hall. In other words, if he was not found guilty of anything after the drug program was instated, Piazza should not be penalized.

I am not putting Roger Clemens or Barry Bonds into the Hall of Fame at all because of the level of their usage. Bonds played like he was in another world after he began using PED's. He gained a ton of weight and after he stopped playing, denied using performance enhancing drugs! And same goes for Roger Clemems. Those two men, along with Mark McGuire, do not deserve a spot in the Hall of Fame at all. Their records were tainted and they put a black cloud over the sport that has left baseball purists rolling over in their graves because of the tainted records those players now hold.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Rumor Mill: Michael Morse


The Nationals and Adam LaRoche have come to terms on a contract worth $24 million over two years. LaRoche believed he could get three years initially, but the draft pick compensation tied to his signing with another team kept his price lower. Since the agreement has been announced, the Nationals have put OF/1B/SS Michael Morse on the trading block. Morse, 30, is one season from free agency and would provide the Yankees with a right handed power bat that could DH and could also play the outfield to give one of their three lefties a day off. Morse also would fill the Yankees needs in several categories. He is a proven player, he will be 31 years old at the beginning of the 2013 season and he is a short term fix, which is something that the Yankees are looking for in an outfield bat.
 
Morse's best season came in 2011 with the Nat's where he hit .301, smacked 31 homers and drove in 95 runs. Essentially, he is a Nick Swisher-type player who hits from the right side. Morse would fit well in the Yankees batting order, hitting sixth or seventh after Youkilis or Teixeira. According to several outlets, the Yankees have shown interest in the hours since the LaRoche deal was announced. It could be that they are doing preliminary research on Morse, but if he lands in the Bronx, I feel confident that he can return to his 2011 self surrounded by all of the great hitters in the Yankee lineup.

Monday, January 7, 2013

WANTED: Designated Hitter

Another area of need for the Yankees, in my opinion, is a designated hitter who would play the position for the majority of the year. Since Alex Rodriguez's return for 2013 is now in question, there will be less need for a revolving DH. It's true that Derek Jeter is coming off surgery, but it is also a forgone conclusion that Derek Jeter is not a designated hitter. He does not hit for power, but rather loops singles and doubles into right field with his Jeterian swing. Mark Teixeira is as good of a defensive first baseman as there is in all of baseball, but his hamstring injury at the end of the 2012 season may be a cause for concern. Even with that, he is still not a great option as a designated hitter. His defense is sparkling and he would be better suited playing that gold glove defense at first base. Lastly, Robinson Cano is just as good defensively at second base as Teixeira is at first. In addition, Cano is entering his age 30 season and plays about 160 games per season, 150 of which are usually started at second base.

Sure, Kevin Youkilis could serve as a part time designated hitter, but he was signed to play third base for the Yankees until A-Rod returns, which could mean that Youk may be manning third base for quite some time. Also, the Yankees do not have a true backup option for Youkilis at third base. Eduardo Nunez will be used strictly as a shortstop and Eric Chavez plays for the Arizona Diamondbacks now. However, utility man Jayson Nix could be an option to spell Youkilis at third base while the newly acquired third baseman plays some games at DH.

Postseason hero, Raul Ibanez has already signed with the Mariners on a one year pact. Also, Lance Berkman has agreed to terms on a one year deal with the Texas Rangers, which leaves the Yankees searching for a DH. As reported by Ken Rosenthal, the Yankees were involved in the Berkman sweepstakes, but either they did not formally offer him a contract or Berkman saw the Rangers as a better option for him. Either way, the Yankees missed the boat on Berkman, who had an MVP caliber season right after leaving the Yankees in 2010.

Eduardo Nunez
The mystery of the Yankees designated hitter remains just that. Brian Cashman and ownership still have time to obtain a DH before the season starts. However, when it comes down to it I have a feeling that Eduardo Nunez may be a strong candidate as the designated hitter despite his lack of power. He is lethal on the base paths and is a good hitter. Is there really a better option for the Yankees, in house?

Sunday, January 6, 2013

WANTED: Catcher

This is a pressing need for the Yankees, and quite possibly the most important position for them to fill before they break camp. The Yankees have a handful of backup catchers and do not have a brand name at catcher for the first time almost two decades. The Bombers have internal options which they intend to use for 2013. Basically, the job is Francisco Cervelli's to lose. Unless Austin Romine opens eyes up in camp, he should start the season at AAA to get every day at bats as a catcher. While the Yankees have a strong pitching staff, there is nobody right now who is a viable option at catcher. Based on early returns on the poll to the right of my blog, people overwhelmingly believe that the Yankees must improve at the catcher position before focusing on anything else. With Joe Girardi, defense is important for a backstop, and that is not something that Mike Napoli or AJ Pierzynski possessed. However, Francisco Cervelli does not have a strong history as a defensive catcher at the major league level either. I say Francisco Cervelli because there is no microcosm of a chance that the Yankees will head into the regular season with Chris Stewart as their every day catcher.

C Salvador Perez of the Kansas City Royals
Speaking of Chris Stewart, he is a perfectly capable option to continue serving as a backup catcher for the 2013 season. Gary Sanchez is in the low levels of the Yankees minor league system, so he will not be an option for the Yankees to go to in 2013. This leaves the Yankees with some minor league invitees as options for their catching position. However, there is a much stronger chance that they will begin the season with Francisco Cervelli serving as their primary catcher. Romine needs to take this opportunity to complete his development in Scranton Wilkes-Barre and possibly have a chance at becoming that every day guy if the Cervelli plan backfires at the Yankees.

There are also trades that can possibly be made. Cashman is good at coming up with players who fit the Yankees' needs. If Cashman has enough in his farm system to acquire a Salvador P√©rez or a Jarrod Saltalamacchia, more power to him. Let's stop dreaming for a minute and realize that trades like this are rare surrounding the Yankees. I can always dream of Cashman acquiring Salvador Perez from the Royals, but I don't think the Yankees have enough chips to make that kind of a deal. So, for now the fans must live through this period of frugality the Yankees are currently going through.