Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Yankees Sign Brian Roberts, Matt Thornton

Earlier today, the Yankees came to terms with second baseman Brian Roberts and left-handed relief pitcher, Matt Thornton. The agreement with Brian Roberts is for one year with a salary of $2.5 million plus incentives the oft-injured second baseman can obtain based on plate appearances. Brian Roberts has not played in more than 77 games in any of his last four seasons in Baltimore, and the Yankees will be lucky to get more than that out of him in 2014 with Kelly Johnson there in case of emergency. When healthy, Roberts can hit 50 doubles and be as pesky of a hitter as anyone in the league; the problem is that he can't stay on the field to play to his potential. In the early part of his career, Roberts was as dynamic of a player as anyone and was above the Jacoby Ellsbury caliber in terms of pure talent. However, that has gone downhill since injuries of all sorts started to plague his career. If the Yankees get a decent year out of Roberts, he has the potential to make them forget about Cano quickly with a couple of clutch doubles and a key stolen base. He hustles and plays like his career is ending tomorrow, which is probably what contributes to his long list of injuries.
The signing of lefty reliever Matt Thornton was a sneaky-good signing for the Yankees. Thornton, 37, has proven to be dominant against lefties, although his strikeouts have been on the decline recently. He will be on the Yankees for two years and will make $7.5 million, which is still less than half of what Boone Logan signed for to pitch in Colorado for three years. I don't understand how a left-handed specialist gets over $16 million for three years, but the Rockies are trying to shore up the pitching out of their bullpen, as it was suspect throughout the 2013 season. Their starters pitch well but there is no core of relievers to shut down the game for the Rockies, especially playing in the high altitude where the ball flies. I'm not sure Logan will do well in Colorado- he surrenders too many home runs and is a fly ball pitcher when he isn't striking batters out.

Today was a good day for the Yankees, as they are one step closer to having their bullpen complete. Another arm or two and the Yankees will be back where they were in 2013 and before. If there's something Girardi does well, it's good bullpen management.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

BREAKING: Yankees to sign Carlos Beltran

Just hours after learning that Robinson Cano left to sign with the Seattle Mariners, the Yankees go out and sign another outfielder in Carlos Beltran. The 37 year old is a power hitting switch-hitter whose swing is tailor made for Yankee Stadium. The initial shock of the Yankees front office must have been very strong to have made the Beltran deal hours after learning of Cano leaving for the Mariners. They considered the Cano money as a reserved sum that would have been set aside for Robbie had he decided to stay with the Yankees. However, with $25 million a year freed up, the Yankees figured that they better start signing free agents, and they used Cano's money to sign Carlos Beltran.

Beltran is a power hitter that will thrive in Yankee Stadium. It was Beltran's lifelong dream to play for the New York Yankees and now it is somewhere that he can possibly finish a border-line Hall of Fame career.

However, with Beltran's Bronx welcome comes a problem in the outfield. Jacoby Ellsbury will be playing center field and Carlos Beltran will play right. This means that either Alfonso Soriano or Brett Gardner will play left field with Vernon Wells and Ichiro Suzuki on the bench. Brett Gardner will likely be used as trade-bait for another team needing a player of Gardner's caliber. He can provide a team with stellar defense and speed on the bases with 30 doubles and 10 home runs a year. This is what a possible lineup will look like in 2014 with a healthy offense:

Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Derek Jeter SS
Carlos Beltran RF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Brian McCann C
Alfonso Soriano DH
Kelly Johnson 2B
3B ?????
Brett Gardner LF

Yankees Agree to Terms with Hiroki Kuroda

One piece of the Yankees pitching rotation puzzle has been solved with the reported agreement between the Bombers and right handed pitcher Hiroki Kuroda. This fills a major hole in the Yankees rotation that now consists of CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Ivan Nova, Michael Pineda and whoever the Yankees go out and sign. There are rumors that if Japanese pitcher Tanaka posts, the Yankees will be heavy favorites to sign the Japanese star.

Despite Kuroda struggling at the end of the season, the Yankees believe that an off-season of rest and workouts will help Kuroda to freshen up and come back recharged and ready to pitch 200 innings for the Yankees in what the Yankees hope will be a World Series Championship
winning club.

Friday, December 6, 2013

BREAKING: Mariners to sign Robinson Cano

After talks regarding Cano's negotiations with the Seattle Mariners coming to a halt late last night, just hours later ESPN Deportes is reporting that the Seattle Mariners have agreed to a 10 year deal worth $240 million. The signing will be official on Monday when Cano undergoes his physical. The Seattle Mariners are going all-out right now, so I would not be surprised to see them land David Price in a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays. Sources also say that the Mariners are involved in the Mike Napoli sweepstakes.

The Yankees letting Cano go to Seattle negates the signings of Brian McCann and Jacoby Ellsbury in that the lineup would have been completely filled out with the three biggest free agents, but now the Yankees must scramble to sign a second baseman or stay with Kelly Johnson to play second, who can hit 20 home runs over the course of a season. The Mariners gave Cano more years and more money than he deserved, granted he is the top second baseman in the league. However, the Mariners will regret the contract in year seven of the deal when Cano's power is gone and he needs a position change to accommodate his reduced quality of play. There is no doubt that Cano will lose home runs playing in a spacious Safeco Field, but his line drives will translate into more doubles. The only issue with Cano going to Seattle is that he has no protection in the lineup.

Cano is the lone bright spot in a lineup filled with Minor League players like Kyle Seager, Nick Franklin and Jesus Montero. His average will diminish because of his inability to have protection in the lineup unless the Mariners sign other key free agents, which will make them more attractive after getting a player of Cano's caliber. Cano will be the offensive star in Seattle, similar to how Felix Hernandez is the pitching star in the rainy city.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Seattle in serious talks with Cano

On the same day the Yankees had a lavish press conference for newly acquired catcher Brian McCann, the talk of the day was barely about their new All-Star catcher. Various credible sources have been reporting that the Seattle Mariners are ready to offer Robinson Cano a nine year, $225 million contract, somewhere the Yankees are not willing to go. The current Yankee offer is believed to be at 7 years, $170 million. If Cano accepts the Seattle offer that they reportedly have on the table he will regret it in the long run. He could have easily made up a lot of that money in endorsement deals in New York. Also, Jay-Z would lose a lot of his popularity among Yankees fans, that of course comes secondary to Cano finding a team that is willing to meet his demands, or close to them.
The Yankees are prepared for Cano to leave elsewhere, with offers on the table to Omar Infante and having already signed Kelly Johnson who can serve as a second/third baseman. Now, there is no second baseman in the league anywhere near as talented as Robinson Cano but the Yankees will have to try their best to find the player(s) that best suit(s) their needs. Brandon Phillips is said not to be available by Reds officials. However, if the Yankees become desperate they can trade for Phillips by including Gardner as a centerpiece in a trade and by sprinkling in catching prospect Gary Sanchez and Mason Williams, as well as a Major-League ready starting pitcher. Trading Gardner to the Reds for Brandon Phillips would enable the Yankees to go after Carlos Beltran more intensely and would give room to sign Tanaka and Hiroki Kuroda.

According to Brian Cashman, Kuroda is definitely pitching in 2014 however the pitcher is still unsure of whether it will be in the Major Leagues or for Japan. The Yankees have reportedly offered Kuroda a one-year deal in excess of $15 million to stay with the Yankees for another year. In addition, according to sources close to Kuroda, the free agent right-hander will stay with the Yankees if he decides to pitch in the Majors for one more season.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Yankees agree to deal with Kelly Johnson

Just hours after the huge Jacoby Ellsbury news, sources have broken the news that the Yankees are in agreement with utility infielder Kelly Johnson on a one deal worth $3-4 million. Johnson will provide them with insurance in case Cano walks or in the case that Alex Rodriguez is suspended for the 2014 season, which is a very realistic possibility.

In 2013 with the Tampa Bay Rays, Johnson hit a low .235 with 16 home runs and 52 RBI in limited playing time. In his only full season in the Majors, Johnson hit .285 with 26 home runs in 2010 with the Arizona Diamondbacks. With the Yankees spending rate this winter, I would not be surprised to see Johnson getting playing time just to spell players a possible second or third baseman. He reminds me of Eric Chavez but instead of playing third and first, would play third and second base.

The Robinson Cano saga will continue, and I will not be surprised to see the Yankees make another move before coming to terms with Cano. With each player the Yankees sign, the window of opportunity for Robinson Cano to accept the Yankees' offer is closing.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

BREAKING: Yankees sign Jacoby Ellsbury

Multiple sources are reporting that the Yankees have indeed agreed to a context with center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury. The contract will exceed Carl Crawford's 7/142 contract that he signed with the Red Sox after 2010. Ellsbury's contract will be worth $153 million over seven years with an option for an eighth year that could bring the total to $169 million. That would make the contract MLB's ninth largest contract in history. Ellsbury is only a physical away from officially becoming a Yankee, with the press conference for him and McCann coming on the same day, Thursday.

The Yankees are also in serious discussions for another Boras client, Shin-Soo Choo. However, Ellsbury was their top target. The Cano contract is still on the table, and the Yankees must be sending their free agent second baseman a message with their enormous Ellsbury contract. According to Yankee officials, the contract to Cano is still on the table, but the time in which he has to accept the deal is closing. He may end up on a team like the Seattle Mariners who have the money to spend. However, his numbers will take a hit if he is the sole hitter in the Mariners lineup. Rewind to the way pitchers pitched around Cano in 2013 with no other real threats in the depleted lineup.

With Ellsbury now a Yankee, the team has a dynamic top of the lineup in Ellsbury, Jeter and possibly Gardner. I can't help but think though, that Gardner is on the trading block. However, upon the agreement with Ellsbury the Yankees clearly stated that they have no intentions to trade Gardner, who will be on the last year of his deal with the Yankees in 2014. With Carlos Beltran in deep discussions with the Royals, the Yankees seem to have given up on the aging outfielder, who is looking for a three year pact. The Yankees have contingency plans if discussions do not pan out with Robinson Cano, as they have publicly stated that there is an offer on the table for free agent second baseman Omar Infante.

With the signing of Ellsbury, the Yankees could have a scary lineup in 2014:

Brett Gardner LF
Derek Jeter SS
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Alfonso Soriano RF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Brian McCann C
DH ?
2B ?

Monday, December 2, 2013

Yankees Trade Stewart to Pirates, other notes

The Yankees have traded catcher Chris Stewart to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for cash or a player to be named later. With the Yankees' acquisition of Brian McCann and Francisco Cervelli as the favorite in-house option to be the back-up catcher, their catching situation seems to be set for 2014. Chris Stewart caught 109 games for the Yankees, which was the most he'd ever caught in a season for his career. Before the All-Star break, Stewart played well, hitting in excess of .270 and defending well, which was the prominent reason for the Yankees trading for him prior to the 2012 season.

Stewart will reunite with Russell Martin, with whom he shared the catching duties for the Yankees in 2012, catching the 55 games that Martin did not appear in or appeared in but left in later innings due to injury or defense.

In other notes:
  • The Yankees and Robinson Cano are far apart on numbers, and the two sides are not in discussions as of now. Cano's agent is looking for $260 million for 10 years as the Yankees still stand firm in their offer of 7 years/$160 million which is a beyond reasonable number for a player who is entering his age 30 season.
  • The Brendan Ryan deal is official, two years/$5 million with a mutual option for a third year.
  • Brian McCann will be in New York to take his physical either today or tomorrow, with a press conference not far behind, according to Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News.
  • The Yankees have again signed first baseman/outfielder Russ Canzler to a minor league contract. The Yankees claimed Canzler off waivers early in January of this year but he was taken off the roster when Travis Hafner was added in early February.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Phil Hughes Agrees with Twins

Sources say that RHP Phil Hughes is in agreement with the Minnesota Twins on a 3 year/$24 million contract. The Twins are looking to sure up their rotation after historically bad team pitching statistics in 2013. Like the Twins in 2013, Phil Hughes had his worst season in 2013, going 4-14 with a hefty 5.19 ERA. After what looked like a promising first half, where Hughes just ran into bad luck he had an awful second half in which he failed to win even one game the rest of the way through the season. He was even taken out of the rotation down the stretch when the Yankees were competing for a wildcard spot in favor of David Huff who too, could not handle the September pressures of a playoff race.

Hughes' annual salary will be $8 million for three years over the length of the contract. He is only 27, which would put his next free agency year at age 30 when pitchers are in their prime. The contract is good for both sides; Phil Hughes received a raise after an awful year and the Twins are buying low on a pitcher with a very high ceiling. Remember how Jason Giambi and Jorge Posada called Hughes the next coming of Roger Clemens?