Thursday, February 28, 2013

Yankees Have Made A "Significant Offer" to Robinson Cano

Could Cano be extended soon?
Entering the final year of his contract, Robinson Cano will be no stranger to contract extension talks throughout the season. New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman does not usually negotiate extensions before a contract expires, so it comes as a surprise that he admitted on Thursday that the Yankees made a "significant offer" to Cano and his agent.

There has not been any clarification yet as to when the offer was made, if it remains on the table or was rejected. 

Cashman did tell reporters that it should not come as too much of a surprise for the team to stray from their usual policy. There is nothing from the ownership telling the front office that contract talks should be should be saved for the end of the season. Hal Steinbrenner has been on the side willing to negotiate with Cano early. 

In 12 Spring Training at-bats, Cano is hitting .167 with two hits. He homered in the Yankees Grapefruit League season opener on Saturday afternoon.

Update: You can listen to Cashman on the Mike Francesa show here.

Update: Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the two sides are far apart in contract talks right now. Cano has his focus set on winning in 2013 and not negotiations, according to Boras' statement. Talks will remain between both sides and will stop if they become a distraction to Cano in-season. A projected deal for Cano would be 10-years worth over $200M.

Friday: Cano declined to comment on the Yankees' offer saying he will keep his focus on baseball and not allow negotiations to become a distraction. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Joba Chamberlain: Starting Pitching Comments & 2013 Expectation

One of the only things sweeter than that mustache could be
Joba's 2013 season. 
Right-handed reliever Joba Chamberlain collected two strikeouts and in his scoreless inning of work as the New York Yankees lost to the Philadelphia Phillies 4-3 on Tuesday afternoon. After the game, Chamberlain admitted to still having the repertoire to possibly make a return to starting pitching.

The Yankees currently have a starting rotation with CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, Hiroki Kuroda, Phil Hughes, and Ivan Nova. Michael Pineda is expected to join them in early June, which means someone will have to be moved to the bullpen or elsewhere. Chamberlain did not say that he wanted to start in 2013, but still may have the talent to do so.

One possibility could be that Chamberlain decides to test free-agent waters after the season and look for a team in need of a starter. His focus right now is on staying heathy for a full year and then seeing what the future holds.

His current role with the Yankees will be a late inning reliever and possibly competing for a seventh inning job. David Robertson is expected to be the set-up man for Mariano Rivera, which leaves the seventh inning open after Rafael Soriano signed with the Washington Nationals in January.

Left-handed pitcher David Aardsma and Chamberlain could complement each other well in the seventh inning. Chamberlain has a leg up on Aardsma after the left-hander missed most of the season and just pitched one inning for New York in 2012.

Expectation for Chamberlain? A breakout year for him could be in the works, if he manages to get back into the form before Tommy John surgery. In 2011, he was pitching well with a 2.83 ERA through 27 games with 24 strikeouts and just seven walks. In 2012, he came back from a trampoline accident and pitched in 22 games with a similar showing of 22 strikeouts and six walks.

His 4.35 ERA from 2012 is not much of an indicator that Chamberlain is back, because early on he struggled with his pitch command. Later on in the season, it was back and he did not earn a run in his last 11 appearances. He managed to drop his earned run average from 10.57 to 4.35 in that span of time.

The Yankees will be looking for more of the same from Chamberlain's late season surge to charge the bullpen's bridge to Rivera.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Impacts of Granderson's Injury

For the ladies and gentlemen who wanted to see more small ball out of the Yankees, you got your wish. 

Unfortunately, it happened in a rather painful manner. 

Outfielder Curtis Granderson, the team leader in home runs (43), RBI (106) and strikeouts (195) in 2012, has a fractured right forearm after being hit by a J.A. Happ fastball in his first at-bat of the spring.  The injury will cost Granderson ten weeks and will sideline him until May. 

Matt Filippi wrote a great article examining the possible replacements the Yankees could provide in the meantime.  As he noted, however, guys like Juan Rivera and Matt Diaz, barring unbelievably hot streaks, could never hope to replace the power provided by Granderson.  And even though Granderson was presumably headed for his first season as a corner outfielder, both Rivera and Diaz are not known for their speed or defense per se. 

There is not a ton of major-league ready outfield depth in the minors either, as top prospects Mason Williams, Tyler Austin, and Slade Heathcott still need time to develop.  Zoilo Almonte (who homered in the first spring training game on Saturday), Ronny Mustelier (who replaced Grandy in left field after his injury today) and Cuban-defector Adonis Garcia round out the organizational options. 

In the short-run, Granderson’s injury forces two dilemmas on the Yankees.  While New York will deal with them here and now, both issues have potentially high impacts on the rest of the season and beyond.

First, Granderson’s injury will adversely affect the Yankees’ original plan for the DH role in 2013.  Against righties, Travis Hafner was to fill the spot; against lefties, Juan Rivera/Matt Diaz could DH or give an outfielder a half-day off (or a full one with Eduardo Nunez at DH).  Derek Jeter, recovering from his ankle injury, was also expected to get a greater percentage of DH innings with Nunez taking over at shortstop (for better or worse).  Now that Rivera/Diaz will be counted on in the field with greater regularity, will the Yankees make Nunez their regular DH against lefties?  Will this compromise their plans with Jeter?  Should the Yankees prioritize Jeter’s time at DH, will Hafner’s at-bats be diminished, further sapping potential power from the lineup?  Or will Jeter spend more time at short, increasing the possibility of further injury while also damaging team defense?  (This has to do with the "Jeter has no range" argument as it does with any ankle injury.)

Second, the Yankees will have to find other ways to score without their biggest power threat in the lineup.  This comes on the heels of losing potentially one hundred home runs to free agency and prior injuries, including Nick Swisher, Raul Ibanez, Eric Chavez, Russell Martin, and Alex Rodriguez. 

A month might be a small sample size, but in it the Yanks will have to showcase their ability (or inability) to scratch and claw for runs with timely hits and sacrifice flies.  But this month has the ability to alter future organizational policy.  The $189 million deadline looms over Brian Cashman’s head.  Granderson’s contract is set to expire after this season.  April success could show him the door.  In addition, if power is considered too costly a commodity in future free agencies, wins without Curtis in the middle of the order could point to a new era of lineup construction in the Bronx.  Don’t get me wrong, the Yankees will always attempt to play their home park to their advantage.  We’re not taking the “bomb” out of the Bombers.  But wins are wins, with or without fly balls over 408 feet.  And a Brett Gardner will always cost less than a Josh Hamilton, though each player’s value comes on different sides of the ball.   

Of course, a disastrous April would do just the opposite.  Yankees fans, who were (for the most part) supportive of the Ichiro signing, could quickly turn against management for the two-year deal.  Or current fans of Francisco Cervelli’s hustle or Chris Stewart’s defense might be clamoring for the return of Russell Martin. 

So yes, the Yankees’ April playbill might include some bunts and hits-and-runs.  Whether or not fans will like the new show is another story. 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Replacing Granderson

Today was supposed to be a day full of excitement as the Yankees took part in their first televised game of the year against the Blue Jays. However, in the first inning, Curtis Granderson was hit by a pitch on the right wrist and was immediately taken out of the game for what seemed like precautionary reasons. It was at first diagnosed as a bruise, but after x-rays were taken, it was revealed as a fracture that will sideline the outfielder for ten weeks.

(AP Photo)
Let's table the idea that it will now be harder for Granderson to learn to play left field now and let's think about just finding a replacement for the first month plus of the season. Luckily, it's only a month and not too much of the regular season because it doesn't force Brian Cashman to rush and make a move. He has plenty of time to diagnose what he has in-house and then go from there. We're still more than a month from Opening Day.

The in house options start with the veterans that were brought in on minor league deals like Juan Rivera, Matt Diaz, and Thomas Neal to a lesser extent. Rivera and Diaz obviously have the upper hand on Neal, or any minor leaguer because they have more big league experience, but they were also only brought in to compete for a part time job as a lefty masher. Neither guy is a full time player, which would mean they would ideally have a platoon partner.

The problem is there isn't really anyone to take the strong side of the platoon. Zoilo Almonte and Ronnier Mustelier are both minor leaguers who have hit righties well down on the farm, but Almonte could use some time in Triple A and Mustelier getting that many at-bats would be scary. There's also the secondary issue that neither is very good on defense. A dark horse in this race could be Adonis Garcia, who was signed out of Cuba last season, apparently looked great in winter ball and received a nice report from the people at Baseball America.

After the game, Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi seemed unsure about what was going to happen in the outfield while Granderson is out, but the good news, once again, is that there is more than month until the regular season starts. A trade for an Alfonso Soriano or Chris Dickerson (a la 2011) could be in the cards, but maybe someone has a great camp and earns playing time that way. The Bombers are going to miss their outfielder and the power he brought to the table, but it's only a month of the regular season so there's no reason to panic too much.

Granderson Out 10 Weeks with Fractured Forearm

On Sunday afternoon, New York Yankees baseball was back in action as they hosted the Toronto Blue Jays at Steinbrenner Field. Adam Warren took the hill for the first time having never faced any of the hitters in the Blue Jays lineup ever in his Major League career...then again this is a brand new Blue Jays team all-around.

Grandyman Hurt? Curtis Granderson started off the game in left field as Joe Girardi tests his experiment this spring, but the outfielder's action on defense would not last more than the first inning. In the bottom of the first inning, Granderson was hit by a pitch in the right wrist from J.A. Happ and was forced to leave the game. The Yankees announced he has a fractured forearm and will be out at least ten weeks.

The team's current outfield depth is already lacking, so Brian Cashman's decision to stick with his guns is already being tested. Juan Rivera and Matt Diaz have emerged as initial options. Without a question, neither one of those guys has the tools to match what Granderson was expected to contribute to this lineup. It also means the left field experiment will be put on hold until at least May.

Catching Battle: Chris Stewart was behind the plate today after Cervelli caught Phelps' game on Saturday. He collected a base hit, but allowed a passed ball on defense. Girardi has said before that he will weigh both sides before making a decision at the end of camp.

Pronk and Youk Made Debuts: Kevin Youkilis flied out to right fielder Ryan Langerhans in the first inning and lined out to third baseman Andy LaRoche to end the first and third inning. Travis Hafner led off the second inning with a strikeout, but rebounded in the fourth inning with a double to mark his first hit as a Yankee.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Yankees Get Set for First Game Tomorrow; Posada Returns

Tomorrow brings the first of 35 Spring Training games on the New York Yankees' schedule. David Phelps has been announced as the starting pitcher with Francisco Cervelli getting the nod for catching duties. Phelps is expected to pitch the first two innings of the game, while Cervelli may only be behind the plate for half the game. 

Also slated to pitch are Brett Marshall, Nik Turley, Mike O'Brien, Kelvin Perez, Branden Pinder and Chase Whitley, according to manager Joe Girardi. 

No longer catching, Posada brings experience to Tampa.
- Jorge Posada arrived in Tampa as a guest instructor and immediately dismissed any rumors of possibly pulling an Andy Pettitte and returning to the Majors after taking a year off. Girardi did not rule out the possibility, but Posada went on to say he does not know if he could play the game today. 

- In other news for members of the Core Four, Derek Jeter noted that each day he is pushing himself for a quicker return by doing a bit more. He no longer tapes his ankle up before fielding drills. Meanwhile Mariano Rivera also looked solid in his 25-pitch batting practice session. It was the first time he pitched batting practice since he went down with a torn ACL last May. Girardi saw everything as "normal."

Injury Notes: Phil Hughes says that his back is feeling much better after being checked out by a doctor. He will be working out in the pool on Sunday and there is no date for his return to the mound just yet. The injury is not severe. 

- Switch-handed pitcher Pat Venditte has been cleared to pitch in the World Baseball Classic, but only lefty after recovering from right shoulder surgery. 

And now to leave you with a thought. If you thought Barack Obama aged in four years as president, here's what the last five years have done to Girardi as manager. Gotta love photo day!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Yankees Spring Training Weekend Notes: Cervelli out of WBC, Rivera Fine

With one minor league option left on his contract and a competition for the starting catcher's job on the line, Francisco Cervelli has decided to withdraw from the World Baseball Classic. LoHud's Chad Jennings reports that he was put on the Italy roster back in December, but told the team manager that he was not likely to play.

- Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte tossed the first bullpen session of the day. Once again, there was no sign of discomfort with Rivera as he hit 30 pitches this morning. A little further ahead in his training, David Phelps faced live batting practice.

- CC Sabathia also threw around 30 pitches off a mound and felt completely fine. He does not believe that there were any strikes thrown, but it is a step forward after elbow surgery this off-season. He could toss again on Tuesday, but is not expected to pitch in a game until March.

Manager Joe Girardi says don't expect the Yankees to try out Travis Hafner defensively. He will strictly be a designated hitter for the team. Derek Jeter will also be used as a designated hitter against lefties occasionally as Girardi told USA Today's Bob Nightengale.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Mariano Rivera to Announce 2014 Status Prior to the Season

Will he retire after 2013? We will all know soon enough. 
Yankees closer Mariano Rivera tossed 25 pitches and did some running in first base drills with no sign of pain or discomfort for the first time this Spring Training. When he met with reporters afterwards, it would only be a matter of minutes until the first question about retirement would come up, much like was asked all throughout last spring.

Rivera told the media that he will announce his decision as to whether or not 2013 will be his final season, prior to the beginning of this year's regular season. He expects himself to be back into the same shape that he was in prior to his ACL injury.

He already has made his decision, but will not reveal it until the time is right.

If he announces that 2013 is his final season, what may end up happening could be similar to Chipper Jones' final season. When Jones was on the road and neared his final at-bat or appearance against an opposing team, he was met with applause and respect. Rivera being the all-time saves leader is due for a similar case...even though his entrance in a game signals a save opportunity against the opposing team.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Spring Training Day One: Back in Action!

Manager Joe Girardi addresses the media on day one of Spring Training. 
The time has come. The New York Yankees' pitchers and catchers have arrived in Tampa for Spring Training. Manager Joe Girardi met with the media at 11 a.m. this morning and addressed several concerns and ideas surrounding the team.
  • Girardi was asked about his outlook on this team for the 2013 season and believes that they are a team that could win 95 games this year. In addition to that he cited the talent of the team has a chance of even making it to the World Series. 
  • Alex Rodriguez will not be joining the team in Tampa for Spring Training and will rehab in New York. There is no timetable as to when he will rejoin the team. 
  • With no big haul this offseason for the outfield, Girardi said that he may go with a similar outfield that he used towards the end of the season with Brett Gardner in left-field, Curtis Granderson in center-field, and Ichiro Suzuki in right-field. The Yankees' skipper said that as of right now there are no plans to move Gardner to center. 
  • According to Chad Jennings of LoHud, CC Sabathia is on a normal Spring Training schedule after undergoing elbow surgery in the offseason. He will toss his first bullpen session on Thursday and reports no pain. 
  • Michael Pineda threw off a full mound for the first time this Spring. The way that Rothschild mapped out some of the progress for Pineda, he's doing well. Due to the nature of the injury, Cashman would most likely want to see Pineda take his time and make his comeback in June. Still good news for the Yankees pitching staff. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Derek Jeter Back to Running

Today Jeter was on the treadmill instead of observing.
Back in 2008, when Derek Jeter was partnering with 24-Hour Fitness for the opening of three new gyms in Manhattan, the New York Yankees captain said that he won't be seen on a treadmill at the gym like fellow gym owner Shaquille O'Neal. Jeter spoke to reporters today in Tampa and informed them that he was on a treadmill today and ran for the first time since his foot surgery.

Jeter was originally expected to miss the beginning of the regular season, but he is rehabbing well and has been cleared for all baseball related activities. He arrived in Tampa early this year and has been seen taking grounders in the in-field as well as long tossing.

The Yankees are taking cautionary measures with Jeter's recovery. He may always want to get on the field and play, but at the age of 38 the team needs him to be fully healthy for him to be relied on as the daily shortstop in 2013. If a set-back occurs or he rushes to get back, the team could find itself with more injury risk and result in more playing time for Eduardo Nunez in the infield. To be honest, not many people want to see that.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

King Felix in Pinstripes Will Wait

Age this photo to when he's 34 and then put him in pinstripes.
The Seattle Mariners are close to locking up ace Felix Hernandez with a 7-year $175M deal, which would make him the highest paid pitcher of all-time. The new deal surpasses current Yankees ace CC Sabathia's contract worth $161M over seven years. A cloud of depression falls over Yankee fans that had hopes of soon seeing the 2010 Cy Young award winner in pinstripes.

Hernandez will be 34 by the time he hits the free-agent market, when the Yankees could make a run for him. The goal for Seattle is to keep him around for as long as possible and build their franchise around him. It could take some time and maybe they won't make the playoffs for most the seven year contract.

Their offense is lacking and behind Hernandez there is little to no support in the rotation. Hernandez's baseball card will have amazing statistics and that appears to be all as he is very committed to Seattle.

People forget that the reason Hernandez once signed with the Mariners was because fellow Venezuelan countryman Freddy Garcia was on the team back in 2002. Garcia would not be a Yankee until 2011, when it was too late.

Fans can't hang their heads on this for too long. What they got from the Mariners in the Jesus Montero trade will develop in due time. Patience is the key to seeing how Michael Pineda comes back from this injury and the same goes for Jose Campos moving up in the minor league system.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Francisco Cervelli Linked to Miami Performance Enhancing Drugs Clinic

According to Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan, Francisco Cervelli is among the names o Major League Baseball players linked to Anthony Bosch's clinic that provided performance enhancing drugs. He joins Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun on that list of players linked to the scandal.

Cervelli will be among those pitchers and catchers that report to Spring Training next week. After Russell Martin decided to sign with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Cervelli moved up on the depth chart and looks to be the Yankees' current option to be behind the plate on Opening Day.

Cervelli plans to leave Spring Training for a bit and represent Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic.

The catcher only played in three games for the Yankees in 2012 with two plate appearances to show for his season. In 2011, he was Russell Martin's back-up catcher and hit .266 with four homeruns and 22 RBIs in 43 games.

Much like the Alex Rodriguez situation, do not expect Brian Cashman or the Yankees to issue a statement without Major League Baseball completing its investigation of the Miami clinic. On the other hand, Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun will release his comments on the allegations soon.

Other former Yankees on the list: Melky Cabrera (now with Toronto) and Bartolo Colon (now with Oakland)

Update - CBS Sports' Jon Heyman tweeted out the following statement from Cervelli: 
"Following my foot injury in March, 2011, I consulted with a number of experts, including biogenesis clinic for legal ways to aid my rehab & recovery. I purchased supplements I am certain (they) were not prohibited by Major League Baseball." - Cervelli


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