Friday, November 30, 2012

Jayson Nix Designated for Assignment

One of the first stories that we published when we launched last year was the news of the Jayson Nix signing. Almost a year later, we have news about him again as the New York Yankees have designated him for assignment in order to make room for Mariano Rivera on the 40-man roster.

This is not a goodbye for Nix. Chad Jennings of LoHud tweeted that Nix agreed to a one year contract worth $900K and avoided arbitration, but will head to the minor leagues. If he clears waivers, he will be able to rejoin the Major League club for Spring Training in Tampa.

As a utility player in 2012, Nix hit .243 with four homeruns and 18 runs batted in.

Russell Martin Signs with the Pirates

Russell Martin is officially a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates after signing a two-year deal worth $17M. The New York Yankees did not make an official offer to the catcher since he passed on their three-year deal worth $20M in Spring Training. He ended the 2012 regular season with a .211 batting average to go along with 21 home runs.

Pittsburgh could use a defensive and offensive upgrade from the catcher position after Rod Barajas hit .206 with 11 homeruns. Martin also had the upper hand in throwing out base runners 24 to six percent.

To make room for him on the roster, the Pirates designated former Yankees pitcher Jeff Karstens for assignment. The Pirates will hold onto former Yankee AJ Burnett, who is reunited with Martin. The duo played in 30 games together for the Yankees and compiled a 5.15 ERA.

General manager Brian Cashman said that he would not have an issue with the Yankees sticking with what they currently have for catcher next year. Francisco Cervelli, Austin Romine, Chris Stewart, and Eli Whiteside are candidates for the job as of right now.

Austin Romine has not played a full season at the Triple-A level yet, so he could start the year there instead of the Majors.

Cashman believes that the focus for the team right now is looking for a right-fielder.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Mariano Could Sign With Yankees Later This Week

Rivera recently returned to the mound for a fragrance ad.
Shortly after breaking the news about Andy Pettitte's imminent return with the New York Yankees, ESPN New York learned that Mariano Rivera could be the next member of the Core Four (now three after the Jorge Posada retirement) to be back in pinstripes for the 2013 season. Rivera was signed for $15M in 2012, but did not pitch after tearing his ACL in May on the road in Kansas City.

Rivera is expected to make a full recovery and be back on the mound by early 2013. His agent and general manager Brian Cashman have been discussing negotiations for when he announces his return for one final season as the Yankees closer.

Along with re-signing their closer, the Yankees will be looking for bullpen help to solidify the bridge to Rivera as Rafael Soriano has elected to test free-agency. Soriano has said that he would be open to setting up for Rivera for one year, but he is looking for a closer's role on the market.

The all-time saves leader was 1-1 with a 2.16 ERA prior to his knee injury shagging fly-balls in Kansas City. Any saves in 2013 would be adding to his record 608.

Updtae 11/30: The deal has officially been signed and is for one-year worth $10MM. 

Andy Pettitte and Yankees closing in on $11M deal

A sight in pinstripe since the 90's will continue in 2013.
After re-signing Hiroki Kuroda, the New York Yankees shifted their attention to bringing back another member of the 2012 starting rotation by awaiting the decision as to whether or not Andy Pettitte will pitch in 2012. According to Buster Olney of ESPN, the southpaw is nearing a one year deal with the Yankees worth $11M.

This contract would be more expensive than the minor league deal for $2M that he signed at the end of Spring Training in 2012.

Pettitte will be turning 41 in June for the Yankees and has 245 career victories, which is just six away from tying Bob Gibson for the 44th winningest starting pitcher in Major League Baseball history. He is currently tied for 48th with Dennis Martinez.

The left-handed pitcher will most likely be the third starter behind CC Sabathia and Kuroda. Behind him could be Phil Hughes as the fourth starter and the fifth slot could lead to a Spring Training battle between Ivan Nova and David Phelps.

By signing a one-year deal, things still look to be in good shape for the Yankees to be under the $189M payroll limit that they have set for themselves for 2014. They have yet to re-sign Ichiro and Russell Martin, which could be next on the agenda for the front office.

In 2012, Pettitte started 12 regular season games going 5-4 while striking out 69 and posting an earned run average of 2.87. 

Update 11/28: Pettitte has officially inked his deal with the Yankees. He will be earning $12 million in 2013. He can also earn up to $2.5 million in awards bonuses. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Yankees Agree To Re-Sign HIROK

Per Buster Olney, the Yankees have agreed to re-sign right-handed pitcher, Hiroki Kuroda to a one year deal worth $15 million with some incentives worth up to $1 million. Kuroda, 38 in February, pitched to a 3.32 ERA and a 3.86 FIP across 219.2 frames in 2012. This was big because it gives the rotation some stability and solves one of the many question marks going into next season. This takes a lot of pressure off the front office to make a upgrade to the rotation. Next up: Andy Pettitte.

40-Man Roster Set, Mickey Storey Claimed

Here are some noted from the last hour or so:
  • The Yankees have added Manny Banuelos, Nik Turley, Brett Marshall, Ramon Flores, Francisco Rondon, and Jose Ramirez to the 40-man roster in order to protect them from the Rule 5 draft. Turley and Marshall were no-doubters, and if Banuelos' time of being protected without being on the roster was up, so was he. Flores and Ramirez were kind of surprising just because I don't either could fit into an MLB roster at this point. But I guess we didn't think Jose Quintana could either. And Rondon is probably the biggest surprise because he's just a loogy.
  • The Yanks also claimed Mickey Storey off waivers from the Astros. Storey, 26, started his career in the Athletics organization before moving on to the Astros where he pitched well in Triple-A for them and got a late call up for Houston in 2012 and pitched well (2.80 FIP in 30.1 IP).

Free Agent Option: Shaun Marcum

Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte are still deciding if they want to come back to New York and we should hear soon about what their plans for 2013 are. If both come back the Yankees are pretty much set in the rotation, but if even one of them doesn't, the front office will probably have to go out and make a move. It will be tough to win as many games in 2012 if they decide to roll the dice with both David Phelps and Ivan Nova in their starting rotation.

(AP Photo)
The problem is that the team wants to get below the $189 million threshold by the 2014 season so they can save a ton of money. The further we go along, the more this plan becomes annoying, but that's a different topic for a different day. So if the Yanks do have a spot to fill, it's unlikely they will go after an Anibal Sanchez or Edwin Jackson because they will command multi-year deals, but rather someone on a one-year pillow deal looking to re-build value. Someone like Shaun Marcum.

Pros

  • Despite being hurt this for a couple of months this year, Marcum was effective for the Brewers when on the bump. He pitched to a 3.70 ERA and a 4.10 FIP over 124 innings along with a solid 2.66 K/BB ratio. The injury will probably force him to take a one year deal, which is probably exactly what the Bombers are looking for.
  • Marcum also does have a track record of success. His two best years were 2010 and 2011in which he made more than 30 starts each and pitched to ERA's and FIP's below four. 
  • Marcum does also has had decent succes in the American League East as late as 2010 with the Blue Jays. He came up with Toronto and was one of their better starters in the late 2000's posting a 3.85 ERA in almost 600 innings.
  • He will also be turning 31 in December so they won't be getting someone who is too far out of their theoretical prime.
Cons
  • Marcum is no stranger to long ball allowing 1.16 per nine innings in 2012 and 1.22 for his entire career. He's not much of a ground ball pitcher either (career 35.4% clip), which means he probably won't be the best fit for Yankee Stadium.
  • The right-hander is also not a stranger to the disabled list. He missed almost two months this year with an elbow problem, which wouldn't be too big of a deal if he hadn't just had Tommy John surgery back in 2009. Even though it would probably only be a one year deal, it's still something of a red flag.
  • If Kuroda doesn't sign back, the Bombers will need some stability for their rotation and Marcum isn't really the guy for that.
There's a good amount to like about Marcum and some to dislike about him, just like with any player. If they don't get one of Kuroda or Pettitte, he wouldn't be a bad option on a one year deal perhaps with an option, but hopefully it doesn't come to that.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Season Assessment & Offseason Outlook: Front Office


By the Yankees’ standards, any season that doesn’t end with a World Series title is a failure, so the 2012 season is the latest addition to that category.  Critics have said this team – put together by general manager Brian Cashman – wasn’t made to produce offense in the postseason. And based on what we saw in the playoffs, it would be very difficult to defend the Yankees’ offensive performance.

But in Cashman’s defense, this was the second-highest scoring offense in all of baseball in the regular season. Nobody hit more home runs or finished with a higher OPS than the Yankees did. So the way I see it, the players deserve much more blame for the postseason failures than management does.

But pointing fingers now won’t do us any good now. A very busy winter lies ahead of Cashman as he prepares for next year.

(Sports Gulp)
Season Assessment: Going into last offseason, the Yankees’ 2012 starting lineup was pretty much set in stone, with the exception of the rotating DH-outfielder. So most of Cashman’s decision-making was bench and pitching-related.

Overall, I’d say Cashman picked the right platoon players for the roster. Jayson Nix was useful at a handful of positions. Andruw Jones provided some power off the bench, but wasn’t close to the outfielder he used to be and didn’t make the postseason roster.  But Raul Ibanez proved to be a great acquisition. 

When the 40-year-old struggled early in the season (except for his HR, 4-RBI performance on opening day), Cashman took some heat for signing Ibanez and not former Yankees Johnny Damon or Hideki Matsui. Ibanez isn’t much of an outfielder, but was a solid contributor offensively and was unbelievably clutch in the playoffs, at a time the rest of the team simply wasn’t hitting.

Cashman also took some criticism (from me, especially) for signing Hiroki Kuroda, but that deal ended up bringing much-needed stability to the Yankees’ starting rotation. Cashman dealt struggling starter A.J. Burnett to Pittsburgh in February. Burnett pitched well for the Pirates (16-10, 3.51 ERA, 1.24 WHIP) but no one can say for certain he would’ve done as well had he stayed in New York. 

In a perfect example of a low-risk, high-reward transaction, Cashman also pulled the string on the trade for Ichiro in late July, a trade that worked out pretty well as the aging star hit .322 in 67 games with the Yankees.

Offseason Outlook: This is a tricky offseason for the Yankees. With Nick Swisher on his way out and Curtis Granderson’s future looking somewhat uncertain, the outfield could look completely different in 2013. There’s reason to believe Russell Martin will return, but nothing is certain. Hiroki Kuroda is drawing interest from other teams and Andy Pettitte is in the midst of his annual “to retire or not to retire” debate, so the starting rotation could see some new arms. Rafael Soriano declined his qualifying offer and is looking to close elsewhere, so Cashman could look to replace his late-inning role.  Mariano Rivera has yet to sign a contract, although there’s no doubt that if the closer is pitching in 2013, it’ll be in pinstripes.

And with eyes set on a $189-million payroll for the 2014 campaign, Cashman’s funds are somewhat limited for this project of an offseason. There’s no telling what the general manager will decide on this winter but regardless of who comes and goes, the Yankees will be a competitive team again in 2013. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Toronto's Mega-Deal Influences Other AL East Teams


(Denis Poroy)
In the quest for AL East Domination, only one team can be king in a division that holds five competitive teams.

Up until last year, that title was normally reserved for the Yankees and Red Sox.

The winds of change have been brewing, and those breezes turned into gale-force gusts yesterday when Toronto acquired Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, Emilio Bonifacio, and John Buck. They gave up Yunel Escobar, Jeff Mathis, and some minor leaguers.

It's important to understand how important this move is, considering the AL East, as a whole, hasn't been "as great as advertised" the past few years.
The Red Sox have failed to make the playoffs in three straight years. 
The Rays haven't advanced past the first round of the playoffs since they lost in the World Series in 2008. 
Baltimore lost last year in the ALDS to New York, but hadn't made the playoffs 14 straight years before that. 
The Yankees have only won one World Series since 2000.
What exactly does this trade mean? For one, Toronto is tired of losing. The Jays want to contend, and they want to do it now. I could go on about what this means for Toronto, but what's much more significant is how the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, and Orioles will react.
I bet the Yankees took notice of the Jays' trade.

Anytime a team acquires over 100 million dollars in payroll in one day, it's going to make its division rivals at least question where they are going.

----------------------------

The whole outlook of the AL East changed after this move.

New York, the typical big spenders, is looking to cut money (surprisingly). The Yanks want to be under a 189 million dollar payroll in a few seasons. I think that's improbable if the Bombers aren't winning titles, but George Steinbrenner isn't at the helm anymore.

Baltimore are the upstarts looking to prove they still belong. They fought the Yankees into September and October for the division title, and played some close games against the Evil Empire in the playoffs.

The Red Sox are reloading. Think of them like the British Army, post Revolutionary War. They just lost a lot of pieces, but have the money to change their team. They have a new manager, younger faces, but a solid group of vets (Pedroia, Ortiz).

The Rays want to show they are still elite. They have been competitive with New York four a few straight seasons now, but haven't proven their worth in the playoffs in awhile. They have young talent, and lots of it, but that's about all you can say.

That leaves Toronto, the "unwanteds" who turned into baseball's hottest story, want to join the party. It's been too long for a franchise that won back to back titles twenty years ago and hasn't really done anything since.
The Sox made a similar salary-dumping move this season.
(Otto Gruele Jr/ Getty Images)


----------------------------


It's important to note the Rome wasn't built in one day, but this still pressures other AL East clubs.

Think about it, general mangers try to make their clubs as competitive as possible within reasonable means. It's impossible to sign one player and change the franchise, but public relations messages go a long way.

Toronto made a big PR move yesterday. They brought in three very talented players who had sub-par years to play along side some good young pieces. Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion now have some other legitimate players around them in the lineup.

Toronto's pitching staff looks much better too.

All three of these players look overpaid right now, but consider what the public's perception of them was before last season. Buehrle was a perennial CY Young candidate who played well in the AL. Josh Johnson was considered one of the best pitchers in baseball. Jose Reyes was baseball's most exciting player when he gets on base. It'll do him some good to DH every now and then.

If these players stay healthy, it could change the face of the AL East. Don't think the Yankees aren't paying attention when they get outspent.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Free-Agent Watch: Torii Hunter

Torri Hunter could be laughing a one-year Yankee offer.
The New York Yankees could be looking for an outfielder as Nick Swisher is expected to come off the books and a spot opens up in right field. Torii Hunter is among the players that the Yankees have been rumored to be considering. Yet the Dodgers appear to be the front runners with two weeks until Hunter makes his decision.

The Yankees could offer a one year contract to the 37-year old, but other teams could go for two years. His glove could be used in right field as he has nine Gold Glove awards to show for his skill set, which has not declined with age.

On Sunday, Mark Feinsand of the Daily News tweeted that a source does not expect Hunter to land with the Yankees. Hunter is friends with Matt Kemp of the Dodgers, which could lead to keeping him on the West Coast.

Productivity could go down for a player like Hunter in 2013, but he is one of the best options that the Yankees will find without dipping into their payroll for 2014. As time creeps closer, the sub-$189MM payroll is looking tougher to abide by, so moves have to be adjusted accordingly.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Season Assessment and Off-Season Outlook: The Bullpen

A consistent strength of the Yankees since Joe Girardi took over is the quality of their bullpen.  In a season without Mariano Rivera, the greatest closer of all time, the bullpen still remained strong.  Some guys appeared consistently (Boone Logan, Clay Rapada, Cody Eppley), some spent time shelved on the DL (David Robertson, Joba Chamberlain, David Aardsma), some shuffled back and forth between starting and relieving (David Phelps, Freddy Garcia), one joined the relief corps late in the year (Derek Lowe), and one simply didn't pitch to a single batter over his contract (Pedro Feliciano). 

As a unit, the Yanks' bullpen sat in the middle of the pack in 2012, 14th in baseball in ERA (3.43), 15th in BAA (.241), 15th in WHIP (1.27), and 15th in home runs allowed (47).  In 444 IP, they've racked up 440 K, 158 BB, and 404 H.  Perhaps the most telling statistic is a cumulative bullpen winning percentage of .585, good for sixth in baseball and showing that New York's bullpen keeps them in games.

Of course, the bullpen is made up of many guys, so I'll run a brief season assessment and off-season outlook for each.

Season Assessment:

David Robertson should return for the 8th (Wikipedia)
David Robertson: The Yankees' set-up man and Rivera's heir-apparent, Robertson missed a month of the season with a strained muscle in his rib cage.  The injury didn't affect his overall performance, as he built on his All-Star 2011 season with a great 2012.  His strike-out rate dipped slightly, but he also cut walks in half from last season.  He finished with a 2.67 ERA and 1.17 WHIP.  At 27, he got a taste of the closer role for a brief period in May. 

Boone Logan: The Yanks' crunch-time lefty out of the pen, Logan remained consistent over his Yankee career.  In three seasons since being acquired from the Braves as part of the Javy Vasquez deal, Logan's ERA has hovered in the 3's, with a WHIP within percentage points of 1.35 every season.  He also passed his career-high in strikeouts this season with 68.  The impressive part about that?  He struck out 42 left-handed hitters, which by itself would be the second-highest season total in his career.  At 28, he can do more than get lefties out. 

Clay Rapada: Another great find by Cashman, Rapada, 30, had his best season in the bigs as a Yankee.  The lefty-specialist had a career-best 2.82 ERA.  Lefties hit .189 off Rapada, striking out nearly a third of the time (33 in 102 AB).  He and this next guy matched were used by Girardi as a superior mix-and-match tandem in late-game scenarios. 

Cody Eppley: A second-season pitcher at 27, Eppley was the righty counter to Rapada, dropping down to throw sidearm sinkers.  His WHIP was a relatively high 1.37 for a contact pitcher.  He held righties to a .229 BAA but lefties crushed him to the tune of .352 in 54 AB. 

Joba Chamberlain: Joba's 2012 season began with an infamous ankle injury on a trampoline, but he rejoined the bullpen on August 1st. He was inconsistent this season leaving Girardi to admit he would not be used in pressure situations in September.  In his fifth big league season at 27, had a 4.35 ERA and a 1.55 WHIP, a new career high.  Righties raked off him with a slash line of .345/.362/.600.  His fastball, however, averaged about 95 MPH, the same velocity as in his stellar 2011 campaign. 

David Phelps was a nice surprise (NY Daily News)


David Phelps: As a rookie at 25, Phelps burst onto the scene after a strong spring.  He split time between the rotation and bullpen, pitching well in each but really setting into the bullpen role by season's end.  Opponents hit .209 off Phelps when he came out of the pen (compared to .233 as a starter).  Phelps, now 26, will be one of the more important questions this winter in terms of his future role with the team. 

Freddy Garcia: A savior in the rotation in 2011, Garcia alternated between starting and relieving, beginning the year as a starter before being demoted to a long man.  He spent all of May and June coming out of relief and had a 1.56 ERA in 10 appearances.  He returned to the rotation amid injury issues before rejoining the bullpen in mid-September.  Overall, the 36-year-old righty had a .198 BAA as a reliever.  He is a free agent. 

Derek Lowe: Signed after being released by the Indians, Lowe had a solid tenure with the Yanks.  The sinkerballer was a long man in the regular season and sported a 3.04 ERA and 1.27 WHIP out of the pen.  The 39-year-old righty is also a free agent this winter.

David Aardsma: Formerly one of the game's better closer, Aardsma tossed only one inning in 2012 after returning from Tommy John, giving up a solo homer to J.P. Arencibia and recording one strikeout.  Of his 13 fastballs thrown, none exceeded 92 MPH.  He'll be 31 this December.

Pedro Feliciano: The lefty-specialist Feliciano went under the knife for arthroscopic surgery during the 2011 season and hasn't played at all in pinstripes.  At 36, "Perpetual Pedro" is a free agent. 

Off-season Outlook:

Robertson, Logan, Chamberlain, Rapada, Eppley and Phelps are all under contract to remain with the team for 2013, so the core of the bullpen remains both intact and young.  As mentioned, Phelps' role with the team will be determined by the moves made this off-season.  If he does return to the bullpen, he and Chamberlain would keep for that 7th inning slot, assuming that Rapada and Eppley will continue to mix-and-match and Robertson/Logan handle the big bats in the 8th.  The Yanks' won't necessarily need to replace Phelps' production if he does become a starter.

Aardsma is also coming back in 2013, and the Yankees really have an opportunity to strike gold if he returns to elite form.  The rest of the bullpen is made up off free agents.  Feliciano is not worth the gamble coming off surgery and at 36.  Besides, New York has two high-caliber lefties in their pen already with Logan and Rapada.  The Yankees will probably have to decide between Lowe and Garcia for their long man, and both have their risks and rewards.  For Lowe, he's a veteran contact pitcher who could eat cheap innings quickly.  If his sinker is on, nothing will leave the yard.  That said, his numbers with Cleveland were downright awful.  Garcia put up better bullpen numbers than Lowe in 2012, but is more prone to home runs - something you don't want in relief.  Both will come cheaply, but it would be redundant for the Yankees to retain both.

The market for relief pitchers this winter is very deep, with plenty of opportunities to add depth behind Rivera.  The Yankees could chase top-tier relievers, like Joakim Soria and Ryan Madson, to set-up Rivera and eventually succeed him as closers if they agree to longer deals.  However, Cashman's design to get under the luxury tax by 2014 will more likely open them up to second-tier relievers in search of an Aardsma-like gem, such as Jason Grilli, Mike Adams, Carlos Villaneuva, Jeremy Affeldt, Matt Lindstrom, Juan Oviedo, or Koji Uehara.  Talent like this comes at a better price, as one of the game's better set-up men, Joel Peralta, resigned with the Rays for two years, $6 million.

The Yankees had success with a middle-of-the-road bullpen lacking Rivera.  When they get him back, and hopefully it will be the same Rivera, it will improve.  But with the talent available on the market, outside improvement is certainly possible.  Most of the key pieces will remain, but it would be nice to see a former closer come out for the 8th. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Quick Hits: Yankees Offseason Week In Review

#HIROK in 2013? Not so fast. 
Winter Meeting Notes
- Hiroki Kuroda, Rafael Soriano, and Nick Swisher all declined the Yankees' qualifying offers. Brian Cashman said that he was open to seeing how discussions were going and how if the players choose to leave, the farm system could improve. The compensatory picks that the Yankees would receive would not be any later than 38th.

Kuroda's options were rumored to have been Japan or the Yankees. He rejected that notion. The market will most likely provide him with more than what the Yankees put forth with their qualifying offer. The Red Sox have reportedly started to get in contact with him.

- Alex Rodriguez will not be traded. Cashman made that point clear all throughout the winter meetings.

- No progress has been made in talks to re-sign Ichiro or Raul Ibanez.

- Robinson Cano extension talks have started, but he is being smarter about the negotiations and having it more geared towards him years-wise.  The $189MM payroll is coming into play more now, but the Yankees are sticking with it.

- Andy Pettitte has not made a decision on coming back, but Cashman believes there is a good chance he will return. The Yankees would not mind having him next year as well. David Phelps is an option to take his place, if he retires. 

Injuries
Mariano Rivera threw off a mound for the first time since May. He threw 25 pitches as part of a commercial. The Yankees should be opening talks soon to re-sign him.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Season Assessment & Offseason Outlook: Hiroki Kuroda


I’ll be honest, I was very skeptical when the Yankees and Hiroki Kuroda agreed to a one-year, $10-million contract in January. Just as David Fine wrote in August, I wasn’t too confident in a 37-year-old starter who had one winning record in four years in the National League West.

But I couldn’t have been more wrong. The right-hander proved to be one of the Yankees’ most consistent starters over the course of 2012.

(Newsday)


Season Assessment: Kuroda was streaky through his first month and a half. He shut out the Angels over eight strong innings in his second start on Apr. 13, but allowed seven earned runs – by way of three home runs – in Toronto on May 16. However, after that loss to the Blue Jays, Kuroda was charged with five or more earned runs in just two of his 25 starts the rest of the year.

Over those 25 starts, Kuroda never left a game before the sixth inning and never walked more than three batters in an outing. He had two 10-strikeout games and completed three games – including a two-hit shutout against Texas on Aug. 14. He was phenomenal in June, going 4-1 with a 1.98 ERA, a WHIP of exactly 1, and a BAA of .211. Kuroda’s August WHIP was 0.87 and he lasted at least eight innings in his last four starts of the month.

In Game 3 of the ALDS – Kuroda’s first playoff start since 2009 – Kuroda continued to throw the ball well. Pitching into the ninth inning, he held the Orioles to two runs and kept the Yankees in the game long enough for Raul Ibanez’s late-game heroics. In Game 2 of the ALCS, Kuroda took a perfect game into the sixth inning, striking out 11 Tigers. He went seven and two-thirds and allowed three earned runs but – like many other Yankee starters this postseason – he didn’t get any run support from the offense in Yankee Stadium’s last game of the season.

This was only Kuroda’s fifth career season (not including his 11 years in Japan) but he set plenty of career-highs and finished in the top-10 in many American League categories- 16 wins (tied for sixth), 3.32 ERA (eighth), 219.2 IP (fourth), 1.17 WHIP (eighth), 2.09 BB/9 (sixth) and 279 ground outs (third).

Offseason Outlook: Kuroda was one of the three players who received a qualifying offer of $13.3 million from the Yankees and he has until Friday to accept or decline the offer. Should he decline, other teams might be less inclined to pursue him, at the risk of losing a draft pick. Regardless, the Dodgers, Padres and Royals are rumored to have interest in the right-hander.

However, Kuroda reportedly wishes to eventually return to Japan to finish out his career. If he does stay in the MLB this season, he will be looking for a short-term contract to keep his options open for the future. There is a chance he will accept the Yankees offer, since it’ll be a raise of $3.3 million and a one-year deal. He could also decline it in hopes of asking the Yankees for a little more money, if he so chooses.

By extending the qualifying offer to Kuroda, Brian Cashman appears to be interested – as he should be – in bringing the 16-game winner back to New York. But if Kuroda declines the offer and is still open to returning, it’ll be interesting to see how much extra money and/or years Cashman is willing to commit to the starter.

Aside from CC Sabathia, not much else in the Yankees’ projected 2013 rotation is without question. Andy Pettitte is mulling retirement again and some trade speculation surrounds Phil Hughes. Ivan Nova didn’t pitch well enough to make the playoff roster. Michael Pineda won’t be ready to pitch until June the earliest and David Phelps started just 11 games in his rookie season.

Considering how uncertain the rotation is at the moment, re-signing Kuroda makes plenty of sense. As long as Kuroda is willing to sign a one or two-year contract for a reasonable amount of money, I say bring him back.  

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Season Assessment and Off-Season Outlook: Andy Pettitte

The 2013 Opening Day version of the New York Yankees might not look anything like the Yankees of the last few seasons.  I mean, sure, chances are they will still be a pretty good team playing in a pretty good division.  And sure, while they have a large number of free agents from the 2012 team, an equal number of slots are essentially set in stone. 

What will look different?  The potential absence of the Core Four.  We don't know whether Derek Jeter will be back from his ankle injury in time for Game 1.  While Mariano Rivera wants to pitch again in 2013, his injury was freaky enough for him to be considered a guaranteed active player come April.  And tell me if you've heard this one before, but Andy Pettitte isn't sure if he will retire. 

But if Andy wants to give it another go, should the Yanks take him up on the offer?

Season Assessment:

Pettitte's comeback from retirement was a memorable saga, starting with him showing up to spring training as a "guest instructor."  Before you knew it, he wanted back and Brian Cashman worked out a risk-free, $2.5 million deal.  After four minor league starts, Andy was back on the mound in Yankee Stadium.  He lost his first start back to the Mariners on May 13th, giving up 4 runs in 6.1 fairly solid innings.  But his next start, an 8-inning, 9 strikeout, shut-out performance against the mighty Cincinnati Reds opened eyes. 

It was the first of four consecutive starts of at least 7 innings for Pettitte, including another gem against Tampa Bay.  In his five June starts, he threw 30.1 innings with 37 K's.  But in the fifth inning of his final June appearance, against Cleveland, Pettitte fractured his ankle on a line-drive come-backer to the mound, sending him to the DL until mid-September. 

"The stare" never gets old... but Pettitte does (Newsday)
When he did return, he went 2-1 with a 1.62 ERA in three starts.  He made two starts in the playoffs, Game 2 of the ALDS and Game 1 of the ALCS, and pitched fairly well in each, losing to Baltimore 3-2 and would have lost to Detroit until Raul Ibanez's heroics continued (the Yanks still fell, however, 6-4).  Better put, he and not the offense was the problem in each of those losses. 

Off-season Outlook:

At face value, Pettitte had a great season for a 40-year-old pitcher who hadn't played in a year.  But there are some concerns.  First is that age.  Yes, his ankle injury was unlucky, but even back in 2010 Pettitte showed signs of wearing down.  He missed time for a groin injury and had his back stiffen up in September.  That said, he only threw 92.1 innings total this season after not pitching the year before, so he is "fresh" in a way. 

More encouragingly, he posted the highest K/9 rate, 8.24, than at any time in his career.  Ever.  His BB/9 was also the lowest it's been since 2008.  But here are the warning signs.  His opponents' BABIP was .278, while his career opponents' number is .308.  His GB%, 56.3%, was the highest of his career.  And to top it all off, his LOB% was also a new career-high at 80.2%.  What does that mean?  Much of Pettitte's success on the surface seems to have been luck. 

Or you could spin "luck" as "experience."  There's no question that Pettitte adds a championship vibe to the clubhouse, a living, breathing, and still playing paragon of postseason pitching success.  But is it worth bringing him back at his age?  David Fine wrote back in September that he would rather give Pettitte's spot to David Phelps, acknowledging that while either choice would make a strong rotation he prefers the youth and upside of Phelps. 

That probably would've been the wisest move for the Yankees, but everything was complicated when Cashman revealed Pineda will be out until June.  With that rotation spot in question for nearly half the season, Pettitte would be a welcome asset.  He would come at another one-year deal, so the Yankees would not have to offer multiple years and tens of millions to sign a starting pitcher like Zack Greinke or Dan Haren. 

Of course, this all depends on whether or not Pettitte decides to return.  If he wants to come back, I think the Yanks would be wise to give him another shot. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

C.C. Sabathia: Season Assessment And Future Expectations


C.C. Sabathia has an ability to make his "bad" look "pretty good".

His weight has been an issue since he came into the majors. He has found a way to make it work.

According to FanGraphs, he lost some speed on his fastball this year. His fastball had an average speed over 93 in 2011, and it has been over 93 for his entire career. This past year, it was 92.4 MPH. He still had an ERA less than 3.40.

Over the past two seasons, (excluding the postseason), he has allowed more than five earned runs in a start seven times. In all seven games, he has pitched over six innings.

He finds away to make it work, and that's precisely why I'm worried about him next season, and moving forward after that.

The Future


There's no denying Sabathia is the best starter on a team that seems to constantly be searching for answers on the mound.

He has handled the pressure of New York, and he deserves credit for that. Kevin Brown broke his hand on a wall while pitching for the Bombers and A.J. Burnett "threw tantrums", but C.C. keeps his focus on hurting batting averages.

Sabathia still has some glaring problems. 

His weight is the most significant issue. He is 32, and weighs almost 290 pounds. He's not short (6' 7"), and he's obviously not "all fat", but that means his body mass index is 32. That puts him in the "obese" category.

It's clear he has handled his weight in the past, but who's to say that will continue?

I would rather have Randy Johnson at age 32 than C.C Sabathia. They are both around the same height, but I know Johnson will keep himself in playing condition. 

It's just one less thing to worry about.

Losing speed isn't necessarily a problem for the best pitchers. They find a way to adjust because they cannot blow fastballs by hitters any more.

Sabathia does have a few pitches that will serve him well over the next few seasons. It's unrealistic to expect him to turn into Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, or Pedro Martinez, but if there's one player on the Yankees that can do that, it's C.C.

Regardless of how good Sabathia is moving forward, the Yankees certainly have a ton of money invested in him. He's going into the second year of a five-year, $112 million extension that will keep him with the team through 2017.

He's lived up to his contract with New York so far, but there's no guarantees we will be saying that in a few years.





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