The bullpen for the Yankees will look much different in 2014 than it did in 2013. They will be without Mariano Rivera, Boone Logan, Joba Chamberlain and David Huff. David “Houdini” Robertson will also be in a different role as he will be the closer this season after pitching in the eighth inning in 2013 as Rivera’s set-up man.
Mariano Rivera, who has 652 saves, has retired as the best closer in Major League history. He will be a first ballot Hall of Famer. Boone Logan, who was a reliable lefty pitcher for the Yankees for four seasons, signed a three-year contract with the Colorado Rockies. Joba Chamberlain signed a one-year contract with the Detroit Tigers after seven seasons as a starting and relief pitcher with mixed results. He was very successful as a relief pitcher (Joba Rules) early in his career helping the team get to the playoffs, then mostly struggled as a starter and then his return to the bullpen included a dispute with Rivera. David Huff, who did not add much as a reliever last season, was traded to the San Francisco Giants for cash considerations in January.
The Yankees will be counting on David Robertson, Shawn Kelley, Preston Claiborne, and Dellin Betances even more this season. David Phelps and Adam Warren could return to the bullpen as well. They have brought in Matt Thornton to essentially replace Logan as the primary lefty in the bullpen. Left-hander Cesar Cabral could replace Warren or Phelps.
Robertson is ready to handle the pressure of being the closer as he has pitched well as the primary eighth inning pitcher for the last three seasons. He had a 1.08 ERA in 2011, 2.67 ERA in 2012 and a 2.04 ERA last season. He has repeatedly proven that he can get a big strikeout or grounder to strand runners that are in scoring position. Robertson has a very effective curveball that he uses when he needs to get an out. All of the advice that Robertson has received from Rivera should help him adjust to the pressure of the ninth inning.
The eighth inning is currently up for grabs. Kelley appears to have the inside track based on how he pitched last season in the seventh. He had a 4.39 ERA last season, but that is a result of not pitching well in September. This was likely because he pitched in 57 games, while his previous high was 47 games with the Seattle Mariners. His ERA was consistently in the mid 3′s in July and August. His ability to record strikeouts is an asset as he had 71 in only 53.1 innings.
Thornton, who signed a two-year contract for $7 million after pitching last season with the Chicago White Sox and Boston Red Sox, had a 3.74 ERA in 2013. The lefty pitched a lot better against lefties (.235 batting average against) than righties (.333 batting average against) last season. His first two seasons were for the Mariners in 2004 and 2005, but he truly established himself as a solid relief pitcher in his seven full season with the White Sox. His ERA was below 3.00 from 2008-2010, and he even picked up eight saves in 2010. For the Yankees, he could close in an emergency, come in to get a lefty out in a key situation and even come in to pitch the whole inning.
Another pitcher that has the potential to be a key member of the bullpen based upon his performance last season is Claiborne, who is entering his second season. He finished his rookie campaign with a 4.11 ERA, 42 strikeouts in 50.1 innings and four holds. The righty from Dallas who was called up on May 5 did not allow any runs in his first seven appearances, and had an outstanding 1.46 ERA after his 20th game. He was on track for finishing with an ERA below 3, but struggled in September like Kelley did.
Betances, who is a towering 6’8″ righty who grew up in the Lower East Side and went to Grand Street Campus High in Brooklyn, pitched very well last season in AAA in relief. He had been a one of the team’s best prospects as a starter along with Manny Banuelos and Andrew Brackman a few years ago, but the decision was made in the middle of the summer that he would have more value in the bullpen as a result of his struggles with control. In 10 games before being called up to the Yankees at the end of August Betances pitched a total of 19.1 innings and only allowed one run (0.47 ERA).
He is able to use his intimidating presence to his advantage out of the bullpen. So far in spring training he has converted 6 and 1/3 scoreless innings out of the bullpen. His started using a slurve, which is a mixture between a slider and curveball, in 2012 after mechanical issues with his curve and has been able to use it very effectively during the spring. He has been able to control his 95 MPH fastball so far, and he needs to continue doing that.
Betances is a dark-horse, but if he continues pitching the way he has been, he could prove to be a valuable relief pitcher in the seventh or eighth inning. He is great stuff and has been commanding his pitches, so it seems like he could start the season in the seventh for the Yankees, even though a he can still be sent to AAA without being released.
Betances grew up a Yankees fan and attended David Wells’s perfect game in the bleachers, so it would be fitting if he is able to be a key pitcher out of the bullpen for the Bronx Bombers. He is unproven pitching in the seventh or eighth inning, but based on his numbers so far as a reliever and the effectiveness of his pitches, he has the possibility of being a better option than Kelley in May or June.
The Yankees defeated the Philadelphia Phillies 4-0 Saturday afternoon in a highly anticipated spring training game at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Many were looking forward to this game because it had been known for a few days that Masahiro Tanaka would be pitching against another team for the first time after coming over from Japan.
Before Tanaka came in, CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda each pitched two scoreless innings. Sabathia allowed two hits and struck out one during his two frames. He will be the team’s No. 1 starter for the sixth year in a row. Kuroda, who had a 3.31 ERA last season at age 38, only needed 17 pitches to get through the third and fourth innings. The Yankees could not have asked for their No. 2 starter to be more efficient.
After Ichiro hit an RBI single for the first run of the game in the fourth, Tanaka would make his long awaited appearance in the top of the fifth. In his two innings, he allowed two hits, three strikeouts and did not allow a walk. He definitely did not disappoint in his first outing of spring training.
The first batter that Tanaka faced hit a weak single to center. Tanaka ended the fifth inning with a swinging strikeout on a 3-2 count. To begin the top of the sixth, he struck out Ben Revere, who had a .305 average with 22 steals last season, with his signature splitter. Also in the sixth inning, Tanaka was able to strike out Domonic Brown, who had 27 homers and 83 RBI in 2013, with a high inside fastball. Tanaka’s ability to strike out Revere and Brown proves that he could be able to live up to the expectations since they are established major league players.
In the seventh inning, Dean Anna, who could be a back-up middle infielder if he has a great spring, made a web gem caliber play at shortstop. A grounder was hit in the hole between short and third and he put enough on his throw to just barely throw out the runner at first. This is the type of play that Derek Jeter has made many times in his career.
Dellin Betances and Ceasar Cabral were the two pitchers that came in after Tanaka for the Yankees. Cabral could be the second lefty after Matt Thornton in the bullpen and Betances, who was switched from starter to reliever last season in AAA Scranton, could be a set-up man to David Roberton. Betances, the 25-year-old from Brooklyn, needed 30 pitches to record 1.2 scoreless innings.
Austin Romine, who is competing with Francisco Cervelli to be Brian McCann’s back-up catcher, had this to say about Tanaka’s splitter: “I’ve never seen a ball move like that before. It’s special.” Some have called Tanaka’s split fingered fastball the best in the world.
This spring training game was unusual because the expected first three starters in the rotation each pitched. Joe Girardi said that this was pitching coach Larry Rothschild’s idea. Today’s game was definitely a big deal in Japan because Kuroda, Tanaka and Ichiro all appeared for the Yankees. The YES broadcast even showed a monitor that was only focused on Tanaka.
Even though the Bronx Bombers scored four runs, what will be remembered from this game is that Sabathia, Kuroda and Tanaka all appear to be on the right track early in camp.
On Sunday, according to Jack Curry of the YES Network, outfielder Brett Gardner has signed a four-year, $52 million contract extension to stay with the Yankees. The deal includes a 5th year club option for $12.5 million or a $2 million buyout. This deal starts in 2015.
Gardner will now avoid free agency and will be 35 at the end of this contract. If the Yankees would have offered him a qualifying contract after the season it would have been $1 million more than the average value of the contract that he currently has.
Gardner was drafted by the Yankees in the third round out of the College of Charleston in 2005. He made his debut with the Yankees in 2008, stole 26 bases when the team won the World Series in 2009 and stole a career-high 49 bases in 2011. In 2013, he hit a career-high 10 triples and 147 hits, had a .273 batting average, hit 33 doubles, and stole 24 bases.
Trade rumors circled Gardner earlier in the season, but after signing Masahiro Tanaka the Yankees don’t need as much pitching help. It was also thought he might be traded for second or third base help. The Yankees obviously like being able to have speedsters Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury in the bullpen for years to come.
This deal is slightly risky because if Gardner losses any of his speed he will not be a valuable player anymore. Gardner, who will not primarily be playing center field this year based on the signing of Ellsbury, does not produce the power numbers of a typical corner outfielder.
However, if the speed that he has shown so far in his career stays for the next three years, he will be able to continue to make up for his power with his defensive ability and his ability to hit doubles, triples and to wreak havoc on the basepaths. He has played 145 games or more in three out the past four seasons, so his durability is definitely a plus for the team.
In other player news, the Yankees have signed injured free agent Andrew Bailey to a minor-league deal. The deal is a minor-league one since he had shoulder surgery after only pitching in 30 games last season. The last game that he appeared in last season was on July 12. He had a a 1.76 ERA at the end of May, but struggled after that to finish with a 3.77 ERA.
He could be healthy in August after rehabbing from surgery, which means that he could be similar to a trade acquisition before the August 31 trade deadline (players have to have gone through waivers unclaimed to be traded in August). If he regains his previous form, he could be the set-up man to David Robertson, and even pitch the ninth inning to give Robertson a day off. Bailey was also injured in the 2012 season leading to a horrible 7.04 ERA, but Bailey had a 1.84 ERA, 26 saves and 91 strikeouts during his rookie season for the Oakland Athletics in 2009. His WHIP for his career is an outstanding 1.06.
Bailey, who was the AL Rookie of the Year in 2009, was one of the best relief pitchers in baseball during his three seasons with the Athletics.
Derek Jeter will have a highly anticipated press conference about his retirement at the end of the 2014 season, at George M. Steinbrenner Field at 11:30 a.m, this morning on the YES Network. Today is also the day that position players report to Yankees camp in Tampa, but this press conference by the 13th captain in team history will have many more stories written about it.
He will likely have to address why he announced his retirement on Facebook. This is because Jeter has never been into social media as it has become more and more popular over the last few years. Jeter will also probably get many questions about if he will embrace a similar farewell tour to the one that his longtime teammate, friend and future Hall of Famer, Mariano Rivera, had last season. The timing of the announcement surprised many people, so he might reveal why now and if he thinks he can repeat his performance from 2012.
Derek Jeter has meant a lot to the Yankee over his career that started in 1995, and most fans and players around baseball respect the way he has played the game and acted off of the field. Retiring after this season will hopefully mean that he will be able to go out after a productive season similar to the way that Rivera did. Unfortunately, the Yankees missed the playoffs in Rivera’s final season, so after the spending spree that brought the team Masahiro Tanaka, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran, Jeter definitely wants to go off into the sunset with his sixth World Series.
Derek Jeter, the best shortstop in MLB history, has announced he is retiring at the end of the season
Derek Jeter, who is the best shortstop in Yankees’ history and has always carried himself the right way on and off the field, announced today on his Facebook page that he will be retiring at the end of the season. It will truly be an end of an era because the Core Four of Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Jeter all will have retired.
Jeter is the Yankees’ career leader in games, hits and stolen bases, and will be a first ballot Hall of Famer. He is also second in doubles and third in runs scored. He is one of the best clutch baseball players in MLB history and can be considered the best shortstop of all-time. He has played the 37th most games in MLB history and could overtake Mel Ott for 26th place if he stays healthy.
Hal Steinbrenner, as George Steinbrenner’s son and the current principal owner of the Yankees, knew Jeter well and remarked about how much Jeter will be missed by the organization and the fans. “He is unquestionably one of the greatest Yankees ever. He has meant so much to fans, the organization, my father and out family,” Steinbrenner said.
He hit his first career homer on opening day in 1996 in his first season as the starting shortstop and hit a homer at Yankee Stadium for his 3,000th career hit. Going into the 2014 season, Jeter currently has 3,316 hits (10th place), and if he can repeat the amount of hits he had in 2011, he will finish with the sixth most hits in MLB history. Also, Jeter has the 13th most runs scored and if he scores as many runs as he did in 2011 he will overtake Stan Musial for 9th place.
He is the model that every young baseball player should follow. He did not showboat on the field, he always acted like he had been there before, he has always treated the media with respect, he was able to make all of the routine plays (as well as perfecting the jump throw into the hole) and went out of his way to help young players. Numerous players have either chosen to wear No. 2 because of him or have chosen to be a shortstop because of Derek Jeter.
Since Jeter’s rookie season in 1996, Jeter has had his Turn 2 Foundation. “Turn 2′s mission is to create and support signature programs and activities that motivate young people to turn away from drugs and alcohol and “Turn 2″ healthy lifestyles. Through these ventures, the Foundation strives to create outlets that promote and reward academic excellence, leadership development, and positive behavior.”
Jeter always treated the higher-ups in the organization with respect as he was known for calling his long-time manager Joe Torre, Mr. Torre, and calling George Steinbrenner, who was the owner of the Yankees from 1973-2010, Mr. Steinbrenner. Torre, who is close to Jeter, had very complimentary remarks about Jeter’s character.
“You want your daughter to marry (him). He’s just a standup guy that’s got a great deal of character, which unfortunately there is not a whole lot of those people around anymore,” Torre said.
I will now go into some of his many memorable plays throughout his Hall of Fame career that were either clutch, prove that he does anything that it takes to win or a combination of the two.
The first one was in 1996 (when I was in the beginning of my baseball fandom) during the ALDS round of the playoffs against the Baltimore Orioles. Jeter, during his rookie season, hit a solo homer in the bottom of the eighth that tied the score at four. A 12-year-old Jeffrey Maier reached over the wall in right and snagged the ball helping Jeter get credit for the homer. This homer turned out to be critical in helping the Bronx Bombers win the game. The Yankees went on to win the game and their first of four championships in five seasons.
A second memorable play was when Jeter made his “flip play” in Game 3 of the 2001 ALDS. This play helped the Yankees win their first of three consecutive games after being down 2-0. After Shane Spencer missed both cut-off men in trying to get Terrence Long out at home, Jeter appeared out of nowhere to flip the ball to Jorge Posada just in time to get Long out at home. The Yankees ended up getting the 1-0 win. This play displays that Jeter has always made winning plays.
A third memorable play was Jeter’s walk-off blast off of Diamondbacks closer Byung-Hyun Kim to win Game 4 of the 2001 World Series. As a result of his vintage homer to right field, the Yankees were able to tie the series at two, and earn Jeter the nickname Mr. November. This is because this was the first time that baseball had ever been played during November. The Yankees would lose the series after it went back to Arizona, but this was yet another time that Jeter came through with a homer when they team needed it.
A fourth memorable play was the epic Jeter dive into the stands during a regular season game on July 1, 2004 against the rival Boston Red Sox. It was a 3-3 game in the 12th inning with runners on second and third with two outs. He sacrificed his body as his momentum took him to crash into the seats after catching Trot Nixon’s line drive near the foul-line. He removed from the stands with a busted chin and other scrapes on his face.
A fifth memorable play was the aforementioned 3,000th hit. He had been struggling leading up to this milestone, but Jeter had a game against David Price and the Rays on July 9, 2011 that only he could have had. He was 5-for-5 and his 3,000th hit was a deep homer to left field. The whole team predictably mobbed him at home plate to congratulate him. Jeter is the fist Yankee in their storied history to reach 3,000 hits. After he already had his 3,000th hit, Jeter was impressively able to get the game winning single in the eighth inning.
There will never be another player quite like Derek Jeter. He is a role model to kids, is one of the greatest winners in the history of sports, he plays the game the right way and is an athlete with one of the most endorsements. It would be a fitting ending to a Hall of Fame career if Jeter is able to win his sixth World Series in his final season.
“Hello! My name is Masahiro Tanaka. I am very happy to be a Yankee.” That was what Tanaka said in English to open his press conference at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday afternoon. He will likely be the No. 3 starter, following CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda, after signing seven-year, $155 million contract on Jan. 22.
After having under a 2.00 ERA in each of the past three seasons for the Rakuten Golden Eagles in Japan, the Yankees will need Tanaka to have a successful season in his first season. The Yankees are counting on him having an ERA in the low to mid 3.00 range and picking up about 15 wins. Tanaka, who is 25, had a remarkable 1.27 ERA last season and struck out 183 batters while only allowing 32 walks. An adjustment period is expected during April, based on the new hitters, new mound and new ball, but he should be able to have success based on how Bobby Valentine and others have supported him.
In order to get to his press conference in the Bronx, he paid $195,000 to rent a 787 Dreamliner for himself, his pop star wife, his toy poodle and few others in his entourage to get to JFK Airport in style. It took him more than eight hours to get from where he lives in Japan to Naruta Airport based on snowy conditions. He needed such a big plane for not many people apparently because there were not many at the airport. His grand entrance into NYC definitely lives up to his $155 million contract.
There were 200 reporters at the press conference. This was the largest press conference that the Yankees have had for a new player since Hideki Matsui’s in 2003. This is partly because of all of the Japanese media that were in attendance.
The rest of what Tanaka told the media was through his interpreter. Tanaka’s number one goal with the Yankees is to win the world championship. He first came to NYC in high school, and Tanaka remarked that it was very cloudy. He said that there is a lot of sunshine this time so he has a good impression of New York. When he first came to New York he notably ate sushi that he bought at a grocery store nearby.
Tanaka would not comment if another team offered more money. This caused Hal Steinbrenner, Brian Cashman and Randy Levine to smile in approval. He wanted to pitch in the MLB to see where he could get to with his ability. He looks forward to exploring and learning more about NYC. He liked the draw of the rich history and tradition of the Yankees. He is used to the spotlight based on pitching in the World Baseball Classic as well in important games for the Rakuten Golden Eagles.
Cashman thought it helped that the Yankees had been on TV so much in Japan because of Hiroki Kuroda, Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui. The Yankees have scouted Tanaka since 2007. Tanaka added that when he spoke to Matsui before signing with the Yankees, he didn’t tell him much, but said that New York is a great city.
Matsui, who is still involved with the team and lives in NYC most of the year, Ichiro and especially Kuroda, should be able to help Tanaka with his transition. Kuroda, who is a pitcher who has pitched well in his first two seasons with the Yankees, and had ERAs between 3.07 and 3.76 in his four seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers, should be able to help him with his adjustment to pitching with the Yankees and to MLB hitters. He will also be able to help him adjust the constant media scrutiny.
Brett Gardner was awarded for his charitable efforts at last night’s 34th annual Thurman Munson Awards at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City. The Awards remembers the late, great Yankees captain and catcher, Thurman Munson, who played for the team for 11 seasons, which included two World Series championships, before tragically dying while trying to land his plane at the Akron-Canton Regional Airport during the 1979 season.
The AHRC New York City Foundation, which assists children and adults with disabilities, benefits from the Thurman Munson Awards Dinner. “The AHRC New York City Foundation is a not-for-profit organization that support programs enabling children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities to lead richer, more productive lives, including programs of AHRC New York City.”
In Gardner’s speech at the gala, he talked about the significance that Munson’s picture has. “It was a picture of Thurman on the field completely dirty,” Gardner said. “I can’t help but think that that picture is placed there for a reason. It is not necessarily to show the young kids that walk in and out of that door this is the way to play the game, but is also to show the young kids that walk in and out of the door this is how you are supposed to live your life. I know that a lot of the young kids that come in an out of that complex, some of them 16 or 17 years old coming over from the Dominican or Puerto Rico or maybe Venezuela or Mexico for the first time, and they see his picture there. As something that has been there a long time, I don’t know if you have been inside those hallways, but it is something that you will really find special.”
According to Bryan Hoch, Gardner makes frequent visits to ailing children at the New York-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital during the season. It is outstanding that Gardner takes time out of his day to do this. He was also honored based on his success on the baseball field for the Yankees this past season.
Gardner has also been in the news recently because he gave his opinion on the major Jacoby Ellsbury signing. He said he was “surprised” at first, but that only makes sense because they have similar playing styles and Gardner was coming off a successful season. Gardner had 24 steals, 10 triples and a career-high 33 doubles last season. Gardner will look to improve on his 24 steals and .273 average.
“I look forward to playing beside him and learning from him and got a feeling he knows a thing or two about some pitchers – especially in our division – and pushing each other and getting the best out of each other,” Gardner said at the Munson Awards (according to Matt Ehalt of ESPNNY). “Go in, play hard, and I’ve played left field before and I’ve played center field, and I’m sure if they needed me I could slide over and play right field, too. Whatever it takes to help the team win and I’m sure they’re going to put our best team on the field.”
Gardner should definitely be able to learn from Ellsbury about when to be more aggressive when stealing bases. Ellsbury had 52 steals last season, and a career-high 70 steals in 2009, so he should definitely have some words of wisdom for Gardner, who is talented but less accomplished than Ellsbury.
This is great to hear from Gardner because he is willing to play any position that will help the team the most. Jacoby Ellsbury, who signed a seven-year, $153 million contract in December, will be the everyday center fielder. The best decision would be to have Gardner play left, Alfonso Soriano be the Designated Hitter and then Carlos Beltran would round out the outfield as the right fielder. Based on the speed of Gardner, Ellsbury and to a lesser extend Beltran, this outfield has the potential to be the best defensive trio in the league.
After much speculation, the 25-year-old Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka has officially joined the rotation of the New York Yankees. As of January 21, he was reportedly down to the Chicago Cubs or the Yankees. Tanaka has signed a seven-year deal that is worth $155 million. The contract includes an opt out clause after the fourth year.
Hideki Matsui, who played outfield for the Yankees for seven seasons and was MVP of the 2009 World Series, reportedly called Tanaka on the Yankees behalf to try and recruit him, according to the YES Network. Tanaka will be the third current Yankee from Japan, joining Ichiro Suzuki and Hiroki Kuroda. The other four players from Japan that have played for the Yankees are Hideki Irabu, Kei Igawa, Ryota Igarashi.
His stats while playing for the Rakuten Golden Eagles of the Nippon Professional Baseball, which is Japan’s version of Major League Baseball, are outstanding. In seven seasons, starting at age 18, he compiled a 99-35 record, 1,238 strikeouts, only 275 walks and 53 complete games. Two seasons that stand out are this past season and his 2011 season. In 2011, he had a 19-5 record, an unbelievable 1.27 ERA in 226.1 innings and 241 strikeouts. This past season, Tanaka had 24 wins without a loss, matched his outstanding 1.27 ERA from 2011 (he will not come close to this ERA in 2014), only allowed 168 hits in 212 innings, while striking out 183 batters and only walking 32.
If Tanaka can have about a 3.20 ERA and 15-17 wins that would be a great first season away for the Yankees. He will have to adjust to a smaller baseball, a different strike zone and more talented hitters in the American League. However, since he is 25, he will be a key piece this season as well as in the future because CC Sabathia will turn 34 in July and Hiroki Kuroda is likely in his last season before he retires.
The concern with Tanaka is that he averaged 190 innings a year and threw 160 pitches in nine innings in the championship series this past season. Only about five players in the history of MLB have thrown as many pitches as Tanaka has in their first seven seasons, but if he turns out to be similar to Yu Darvish, the last Japanese import, he will be a great asset for the Yankees.
Scouts have said that he might be better than Darvish, and Tanaka throws a split-fingered fastball that Bobby Valentine has said is the best in the world. (Valentine was the manager of the Mets when the Yankees beat them in the World Series in 2000.) If this is true, then that will definitely translate. Valentine’s word can be believed because he managed in Japan’s Pacific League from 2004-2009 (part of Nippon Professional Baseball), which means that he managed against Tanaka for his first three seasons. Tanaka also has a slider, a four-seam fastball that has late movement, a two-seam fastball and a 71.5 MPH change up in his arsenal.
He should slot third in the pitching rotation behind CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda, and ahead of Ivan Nova. If Michael Pineda makes the rotation and pitches like he did in the 2011 season when he was an All-Star as a rookie for the Mariners then that will make the rotation even deeper. This acquisition is great news for the Yankees because they couldn’t go into the season with question marks in two spots of their rotation. The Yankees need Sabathia to bounce back from his sub-par season that saw him finish with a 4.78 ERA. He should be able to based on his previous stellar pitching. It will be important for him to increase his velocity a little from where it was last season.
The Yankees have had the best off season in baseball and they needed to make the signings that they have since they missed the playoffs last season. They will not be below the $189 million threshold as a result of this signing, but they saved A-Rod’s contract for this season and contending for the World Series is more important than those monetary benefits.
Here is a video of Tanaka showing off his many plus pitches during a game last season for the Golden Eagles:
The Yankees have avoided arbitration in bringing back four players from last year’s team. Brett Gardner, David Robertson, Ivan Nova and Shawn Kelley are four players that were expected to return, and they were all signed to reasonable contracts.
Brett Gardner was signed to a one-year, $5.6 million contract, David Robertson was signed to a one-year, $5.21 million contract, Ivan Nova was signed to a one-year, $3.3 million contract and Shawn Kelley was signed to a one-year, $1.765 million. The Yankees also avoided arbitration with back-up catcher Francisco Cervelli in signing him to a $700,000 contract. Cervelli will be the back-up to Brian McCann, which is the perfect role for him.
These contracts bring the Yankees closer to the $189 million luxury tax threshold that the Yankees have said that they want to get under, but if they do end up signing Masahiro Tanaka that likely will not occur. According to Joel Sherman, Gardner, Robertson, Kelley, Nova and Cervelli cost the Yankees $16.58 million and took their payroll to $170.058 million.
It was important that Kelley was brought back to the Bronx Bombers because they are obviously without the retired future Hall of Famer, Mariano Rivera, so his strikeouts at the back end of the bullpen will be important. The 29-year-old had a 3.67 ERA before the All-Star break and a 5.68 ERA after the All-Star break (4.39 ERA for the season), which proves that the Yankees should slightly reduce his workload by a few games next season. In six games in September, Kelley had an unacceptable 16.20 ERA.
However, he did show signs in much of the middle of the season of being able to be a reliable relief pitcher based on being able to use his slider to get strikeouts. In his first 32.1 innings, through July 12, Kelley had an impressive 48 strikeouts. The main negative for Kelley is that he allowed 23 walks in 53.1 innings, but that will not be so much of an issue if he can continue to record strikeouts at the rate he did last season.
Ivan Nova is a pitcher who will be critical for the Yankees in the 2014 campaign. Nova is coming off a season where he had a very good 3.10 ERA, nine wins and 116 strikeouts. He would have had more wins last season if the Yankees gave him more run support. He had a great bounce back season after posting a 5.02 ERA in 28 starts during the 2012 season. Nova, who was super for much of the season, had 12 starts where he allowed two runs or less.
Nova relies heavily on his four-seam fastball as well as a circle changeup, slider and a 12-6 curveball that fools batters. He missed time last season because of being on the 15-day DL as a result of inflammation in his triceps and being demoted to AAA Scranton for a short stint, but in his first start back on June 23 he only allowed three runs in 6.2 innings.
David Robertson finished last season with an outstanding 2.04 ERA and 77 strikeouts in 66.1 innings. He is poised to be the one to take over the closer position from the great Mariano Rivera. Robertson has been able to Houdini his way out of many jams in the past few seasons as the set-up man to Rivera, so that experience should help him in the ninth inning. The Yankees could still use a reliable relief pitcher who has experience being successful in the eighth/ninth inning such as Grant Balfour.
Brett Gardner, who likely be the starter in left field with the acquisitions of Carlos Beltran and Jacoby Ellsbury, hit .273 last season with 52 RBIs, 24 steals and 10 triples. He hit .310 with nine RBIs during the month of September. Beltran and especially Gardner and Ellsbury should combine for a lockdown defensive outfield since Gardner and Ellsbury are two of the faster players in baseball. It would make sense if Gardner hits ninth and Ellsbury hits leadoff because Gardner knows how to get on base and will be able to be in scoring position for Ellsbury.
This is a recent interview that Derek Jeter did with Harold Reynolds on MLB Network. He reflected on A-Rod’s suspension and said it would be odd not having Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte or Jorge Posada not playing with him for the first time this season.
Alex Rodriguez has had his 211-game suspension reduced to 162-game ban, by the independent arbitrator Fredric Horowitz, which will mean that he will not be able to play in the entire regular season or in the playoffs. After the 162-game suspension was announced on January 11, Alex Rodriguez announced that he would take the suspension to federal court and has said that he still intends on coming to spring training.
A-Rod is not technically banned from spring training, and he will be able to show up because under the Joint Drug Agreement and the Collective Bargaining Agreement his representatives believe that nothing prevents him from showing up. He will file an injunction, which does not have much of a chance of reversing the suspension, so he would want to be in shape and ready for the season.
The Yankees would have every right to put him on a field with minor leaguers since he would not really deserve to train with major league players who can help the team this season. He is basically all about himself and if he does end up going to spring training it would be because he wants all of the attention that he can get.
Some have said that A-Rod’s suspension should be similar to the 65 games that Ryan Braun received, but the 60 Minutes piece basically proves that he deserves a more lengthy ban. Bosch does not seem like a very credible individual since he and his clinic supplied the drugs to many athletes, but it does seem like the is telling the truth in this interview. A-Rod initially lied about taking steroids while he was with the Texas Rangers, and then when he went on Mike Francesa’s show on WFAN he repeatedly lied about taking any banned substances or obstructing any evidence.
Here is what Anthony Bosch, A-Rod’s supplier of banned substances out of the Miami based Biogenesis Clinic, said on 60 Minutes:
As of now, two players who will likely see most of the time at third base this season will be Kelly Johnson and Eduardo Nunez. This combination could work for the Yankees, and they likely would not be much worse than what A-Rod would have produced. They will definitely not give the Yankees as many distractions as A-Rod would have.
In 44 games last season, A-Rod hit a career low .244, only had 19 RBIs and can’t nearly move like he used to. Even though he had hip surgery that caused him not to play until after the All-Star break, the banned substances that he has been taking clearly didn’t work for him last season.
Nunez played 14 games last season at third base, which equaled 120 innings, and only committed two errors. He previously played 83 innings at third in 2010 and 285.1 innings at the hot corner in 2011. Based on how he played third last season he should be reliable defensively. He is not gold glove caliber, but he will not hurt the team, can make difficult and routine plays and has the ability to help with his bat. He had a .260 average, 28 RBIs and 10 steals in 90 games last season, and in the last 14 days of the season (42 at-bats) he hit .310 with two homers and five RBIs.
Johnson, who played last season with the Tampa Bay Rays, only hit .235 last season but slugged 16 homers in 118 games last season. He hit a career-high 26 homers for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2010, and Yankees Stadium’s short left field porch should benefit him. Last season, Johnson played 16 games at third, starting 12, while making one error and getting 31 assists. He has proven that he can produce in the AL East since he has played parts of the last three seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays and Rays.
The Yankees have also made the signing of Brian Roberts official. Roberts, the longtime productive yet often injured second baseman of the Baltimore Orioles, will be using the roster spot that that Yankees will not be using on A-Rod. He has averaged just 48 games per season since 2010, but he has been healthy since the end of last season. He has a one-year, $2 million dollar contract, and in the last 14 days of last season (42 at-bats), Roberts hit .310 and hit four homers.
The Yankees will be able to use the $27.5 million that they will not be paying A-Rod this season on signing Masahiro Tanaka (or another starter) and a relief pitcher. It has been reported that Tanaka wants to play for the Dodgers or Yankees, and it seems like the Dodgers are going to give their ace, Clayton Kershaw, a record setting deal in the next couple weeks, according to Buster Olney. This could be beneficial for the Yankees.