We are now in the last few days of 2016 and it is likely that the Yankees will not acquire any new players before the first day of the new year. There is a rumor that David Robertson and Jose Quintana could be traded to the Yankees from the White Sox, but that possible trade would take a lot of top prospects from the Yankees and is probably not close to happening.
Looking back on the last year of Yankees baseball, when the team missed the playoffs for the third time in the last four seasons, the number one highlight was the emergence and historic performance from Gary Sanchez.
The last time the Yankees had a position player prospect come on to the scene from their minor league system and make an impact anywhere close to the one Sanchez did was Greg Bird in 2015. However, the only reason he was called up was because Mark Teixeira was injured for the last two months of the season.
After making his debut on August 13, Bird was very productive as he had 11 homers, 31 RBI, a .261 average and a .526 slugging percentage while playing very good defense at first. Bird had to miss the 2016 season because of surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder, but his performance in 2015 has led to him going into spring training as the regular first baseman.
Bird should be able to be a productive first baseman in his first full season but his future is somewhat of an unknown since he is coming off of surgery and has only played two months. The last rookie Yankees position player who progressed from the Yankees minor league system to play a close to a full season and make a real impact before Bird and Sanchez was Brett Gardner back in 2009.
In 2009, Gardner played in 108 games, drove in 23 runs, stole 23 bases and had a solid .270 average. He made his debut in 2008 but only played in 48 games. He has been a productive outfielder for the Yankees since then and was named an All-Star in 2015 and his career high in steals is 49.
Before Gardner, Robinson Cano came up through the minor league system after being signed by the Yankees as an amateur free agent as a 17-year-old and made his debut when he was 22 in 2005. When he was a rookie, Cano finished second in Rookie of the Year voting with 14 homers, 34 doubles, 62 RBI and a .297 average. Cano was an All-Star and received a Silver Slugger award in his second campaign after finishing with an outstanding .342 average with 15 homers, 78 RBI and a .525 slugging percentage.
Francisco Cervelli, who signed as an amateur free agent in 2003 out of Venezuela and made his debut as a 22-year-old in 2008, was solid and essentially split time with Jorge Posada in 2010 and had some decent years as a backup. Besides those three, the Yankees haven’t had significant production from a position player that they have developed in the last 10 years. This is what makes Sanchez’s production all the more important and significant.
Sanchez made his debut in September of 2015 when he was 0-2 in two at-bats in two games but would exceed his rookie limit in the 2016 season after playing regularly after being called up on August 3. He lost a competition with Austin Romine to be the backup in spring training but it was for the best because he was able to work on his defensive weaknesses with the Triple-A Scranton RailRiders.
Sanchez was called up for one game in May when he went 0-4 but during that game on August 3 he got his first MLB hit off of Hansel Robles in a game against the Mets. He ended the 2016 season with an very impressive stat line of a .299 average with 60 hits, 12 doubles, 34 runs scored, 20 homers, 42 RBI and a .657 slugging percentage.
He finished 2nd in Rookie of the Year voting to Michael Fulmer and surely would have finished first if he would have been called up a month and a half to two months sooner. However, very few players in baseball history have put up the kind of stats that he had in only two months of the season, which makes him finishing second in the voting very impressive and noteworthy and makes him the story of the year for the Yankees.
After becoming the everyday catcher on the 3rd he went on a four-game hitting streak, which included three doubles, and in the seven games after being called up he went 10 for 29 (.345) with one homer, four RBI and seven runs scored.
On August 10, in the middle of one of his hot streaks, he went 4-5 with his first MLB home run. On August 16 against the Blue Jays, Sanchez had his first of three two homer games. On August 22, Sanchez was named AL Player of the Week after hitting four home runs with a .523 average (12-21). After playing his 23rd career game on August 27, he became the first player in MLB history with at least 11 homers and 31 hits in that many games.
Another milestone that he set was on August 29 was winning his second consecutive Player of the Week, and on September 3 MLB named the Yankees prized catcher the Player of the Month and Rookie of the Month. He is the only Yankees catcher to ever named Rookie of the Month or Player of the Month.
“It feels great to win the award, but the reality is that the focus is to keep winning games right now,” Sanchez said through a translator. He had a team first attitude through all of his success, which is a positive.
He has always been known for his hitting ability but he has been able to improve his skills behind the plate and his success at throwing out runners at second. He had a 41 percent caught stealing percentage, which is a very solid number and was much better than what Brian McCann had.
He was always a highly rated prospect but he admittedly had some struggles earlier in his minor league career because of attitude issues, which he has overcome. He credits the birth of his daughter for his transformation from a player “going through the motions” to one who is now praised for his work ethic.
On September 21, in a game against the Rays when he was 3-4 with 5 RBI, he slugged his 18th and 19th homers in his 45th career game, which made him the fastest player to reach that mark in the modern era. His ability to improve his mindset, work ethic and overall skill set and to not go through the motions anymore has caused him to improve all around and the give the Yankees a potential All-Star at the catcher position.
The Yankees have re-signed Cito Culver, who was selected by the Bronx Bombers with their first round pick in 2010 (32nd overall) and has spent his whole career in the team’s minor league system.
He is a 6-0 infielder who reached Triple-A Scranton for the second consecutive season in 2016. Culver earned the longer promotion to the RailRiders this season after performing much better for the Trenton Thunder than he did in 2015.
He was one of 14 players who were drafted in the first three rounds in 2010 who qualified for minor league free agency in the beginning of November because they signed a minor league Uniform Player Contract in 2010. Those 14 players had not been released from the terms of the UPC.
According to Baseball America, teams can renew a player’s UPC six times before the player is either declared a minor league free agent or his team adds him to the 40-man roster. Culver had not been added to the 40-man since being drafted and had already had his UPC renewed the maximum of six years, which lead to his release.
However, he had not been signed by another organization in the last month an a half so the Yankees decided to sign him again. The move to resign him makes sense because he is reliable and versatile defensively while providing depth at second, shortstop and third in in case of a injury at the major league level. It seems that he could be used as a short term fill in but another higher acclaimed prospect would deserve the chance if needed for an extended amount of time.
In Culver’s 32 games for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders between the 2015 and 2016 seasons, he has a .276 batting average and a .333 on-base percentage. That’s a decent average in a small sample size at the highest minor league level.
He would be a much higher rated prospect and would have moved faster through the minor league levels if he could do more on offense besides hit for a decent average. He strikes out at a rate that is much too high for a middle infielder and he doesn’t hit for any power. Those are the factors that have really held him back.
In 93 games at Double-A Trenton this year, he struck out 98 times (while walking 30 times), which is an average of more than one a game. He did show signs of improvement at Trenton this year with his .252 average in 93 games after having an inept .199 average in 106 games in 2015.
A stat the proves that he does not hit for any significant power is that in the 2015 and 2016 season combined he hit four homers and collected 81 RBI. Most of his RBI came at Double-A Trenton this year when he had 40. Highlights from previous levels include hitting .355 in 16 games for High-A Tampa in 2013 and hitting eight homers for Low-A Charleston in 2013, which was the most he has slugged at any level.
His overall numbers in his seven seasons in the team’s various minor league affiliates are a .232 average in 730 games with 116 doubles, 27 homers, 254 RBI, 293 walks, 708 strikeouts and a low .308 on-base percentage. The positive for Culver is that his offensive numbers at the highest level are better than his overall stats.
In his second and third minor league seasons he received accolades for his defense. He was rated the best defensive infielder and best infield arm in the Yankees system after the 2011 season when he played with short season Staten Island in the NY Penn League. In 2012, when he was 19 and played at Low-A Charleston, he was rated the best defensive infielder and best infield arm once again.
Culver, whose given first name is Christopher, is known for for his defense. He was drafted as a shortstop out of Irondequoit High in Irondequit, which is a suburb of Rochester, NY. He has played various positions in the infield the last two seasons to make him more versatile and valuable defensively. According to Pinstriped Prospects, he played all four infield positions last year with the majority of his playing time coming at second base and shortstop.
Culver was all set and committed to play baseball at the University of Maryland out of high school but after being drafted with 32nd pick, which is the supplemental A section of round one, he signed a contract that was reportedly with $954,000 with the Yankees.
He dreamed of playing in the Bronx when he was a kid who grew up a fan of the Yankees and has a chance at making that dream a reality this season.
“That was something I’ve always wanted to do since I was a little kid,” he said to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.
Even though he is somewhat of a disappointment after being a high draft pick and not making it to the majors yet, he is still young at 24 and can continue to improve.
“I really like the way he goes about his business,” said RailRiders outfielder Ben Gamel, (who was traded this offseason) the Yankees’ 10th-round pick in 2010 who played his first six MLB games in May. “He plays the game the right way. It’s not an easy game.”
An attribute that is sure to help Culver as he continues to work towards his goal of getting called up to the Yankees is that he has a real passion for baseball.
“I love playing baseball,” Culver said. “I play it every day, I watch it every day, I think about it 24/7. It’s who I am. It’s ingrained in me.”
The Western New York native has overcome adversity in multiple ways. A major obstacle that he had to get through was when his father tragically burned his family’s house on fire in order to try to kill Cito’s mother (his father’s estranged wife) on March 22 (Easter), 2008. This was when Cito was a sophomore in high school. HIs father, Christopher Culver, is still in prison serving a nine-year sentence.
After the incident Cito said that his sisters and his mother became even closer. He was drafted only two years later when he was 17 and found it hard to adjust to living on his own for the first time. He added that it was tough to deal with the stress and pressure of being away from his family but would rely on his new Yankee teammates.
“My teammates; I grew up in the system with Ben Gamel and Mason Williams and Tyler Austin and Aaron Judge,” he said. “What wonderful teammates and even better friends. They helped a bunch.”
Another minor obstacle that he has overcome was growing up in the Rochester area where there are long winters, which is not conducive to baseball. Not many elite baseball players traditionally come out of upstate NY and he is one of them.
The former All-Greater Rochester Player of the Year in 2010 as a senior will keep trying with determination to make his debut at some point this season in the infield with the Yankees.
On Monday, the Yankees signed infielder Ruben Tejada to a minor league contract with an invitation to major league camp. He is most known for his years with the Mets as he was drafted by them in 2006 and then made his debut in 2010 and spent the first six years of his career with the Metropolitans.
On March, 15 of 2016, the Mets placed Tejada on waivers and released him the next day. After clearing waivers, the 27-year-old from Panama, signed a one-year contract worth $1.5 million with the St. Louis Cardinals. He ended up playing in 23 games for the Cardinals last season and 13 games for the San Francisco Giants.
Tejada was expected to take over for the injured Jhonny Paralta at shortstop but Tejada sustained an injury of his own in the final spring training game before the season, which put him on the disabled list. This caused him to become a back-up at third, shortstop and second in the games he appeared in. After not having much success, he became a free agent at the end of May after declining his outright assignment.
The Giants signed him on June 13, and he was in their minor league system until being called up on June 29 when he started at third for the injured Matt Duffy. Out of his 13 games that he appeared in with the Giants, he started at third in nine of those while committing two errors. He also only had five hits in his 32 at-bats (.156) before being designated for assignment to make room for starting pitcher Matt Cain.
He played for Panama’s national baseball team in the 2009 World Baseball Classic and the 2013 World Baseball Classic qualifying tournament.
Tejada, who is known for his defense and versatility in the field, idolized Yankee great shortstop and future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter as well Omar Vizquel, who is one of the best defensive shortstops of all time. Tejada will now get to appear at the same shortstop position for the Yankees that Jeter did.
His best season came in 2012 as a 22-year-old. He was the team’s starting shortstop after Jose Reyes signed with the Miami Marlins in the offseason. Tejada played in 114 games and had a career-high 464 at-bats. He had a solid .289 average with one homer, four steals, 25 RBIs, 26 doubles and 134 hits.
Tejada also played 964.2 innings at shortstop in 2012 and had a very good .974 fielding percentage, and in 2014 when he played 939.1 innings at short he had an even better .984 fielding percentage (eight errors).
After sustaining a strained right quad in 2013 and missing much of the season, his average declined in both 2014 and 2015. In the 2015 season, he had a 23 doubles, 28 RBI and a .261 average. That season he played in 81 games at short (.982 fielding percentage), 19 at third (.962 fielding percentage) and 13 at second (1.000 fielding percentage). However, what he is most remembered for is what happened in the 2015 National League Division Series.
The last play of his career with the Mets was when he broke his leg as a result of Chase Utley’s overly aggressive slide into second. Tejada’s career has trended downward since then. Utley’s hard slide into second when Tejada was trying to turn the double play caused him to be out for the rest of the playoffs and led to new rules governing how players are allowed to slide into second.
The Yankees have Starlin Castro and Didi Gregorius as starters at second and shortstop, respectively, but Tejada could serve as a valuable back-up infielder because he can reliably play second, short and third. Based on last season, Castro and Gregorius will perform better than the average shortstop and second baseman on offense, which can make Tejada a useful back-up middle infielder who can also play third when Chase Headley gets a day off. Joe Girardi likes his back-up players to be able to play different positions on defense and that is exactly what Tejada does.
The diminutive Ronald Torreyes performed well overall last season as the backup infielder in his first season with the Yankees. It seems imminent that there will be a competition between Tejada and Torreyes for the backup infielder spot in spring training. Torreyes played in 72 games last year, had a .258 average and had a .978 fielding percentage. He started games at third (27), shortstop (11) and third (nine).
There is no risk in this move because if he outperforms Torreyes then Tejada will likely be the backup infielder and if not then Tejada will probably request to be waived. Tejada could be the favorite because he is the veteran and has started.
It is currently unknown who will for sure be in the Yankees bullpen beyond the recently signed Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances and Tyler Clippard, but there is one pitcher who pitched well in his two months with the team last season who should be a relief pitcher again.
Adam Warren should be in the bullpen instead of the rotation this season because the Yankees inability to get the back end of the bullpen many times last year proved how much they need a strong middle relief. Right now on the official depth chart on the Yankees website they have him as a rotation candidate, which means that he will go into spring training as a candidate for one of the two open spots in the rotation.
Warren was selected by the Yankees in the 4th round of the 2009 draft as a starting pitcher out of the University of North Carolina. He pitched in the minors from 2009-2011, spent the 2012 season with Triple-A Scranton except for 2.1 innings with the Yankees and then spent the 2013 through 2015 seasons with the Yankees.
The 6-1, 29-year-old, who was born in Birmingham had his most successful season in 2014 when he pitched exclusively out of the bullpen. He had an impressive 2.97 ERA in 69 games (78.2 innings) in 2014 with a 1.106 WHIP, 76 strikeouts, 24 walks, 23 holds and three saves. He showed he could excel in multiple roles in the bullpen, and improved his stats from the previous year when he was not a starting pitcher for the first time.
In 2015, the righty threw a career-high 131.1 innings since 17 of his 43 appearances were as a starting pitcher. Warren ended up starting the season in the rotation and then was moved back to his bullpen at the end of June. He ended the 2015 season with a solid 3.29 ERA in his 43 games with a very good 1.16 WHIP, a 2.8 WAR, 104 strikeouts, 39 walks and 10 homers allowed. These are solid overall stats but they were improved by the games he pitched in relief.
He made 14 starts to begin the season (and three from the middle to end of September) and had a 3.59 ERA those appearances, which is a quality ERA and about equals that of a No. 3 or 4 starter, but the Yankees have other younger candidates for the No. 4 and 5 spots in the rotation who are capable of that ERA. He has also proven that he can excel in the bullpen as he did last season when he returned to the Yankees.
Before the 2016 season, Warren and Brendan Ryan were traded to the Cubs for Starlin Castro. This was a great trade overall for the Yankees because Castro played well as he had a .270 average, a .734 OPS, 21 homers, 70 RBI, 29 doubles and 156 hits in his first full season as a second baseman, and the Yankees got Warren back at the trade deadline when they traded Chapman to the Cubs.
General Manager Brian Cashman wanted Warren back because even though he had struggled with the Cubs he knew he had pitched well under Joe Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild in the past and he thought he would improve the bullpen after trading away Chapman and Andrew Miller.
When interviewed after being traded back to the Yankees, Warren blamed not really knowing his role with the Cubs for his subpar performance. It could also be that reuniting with Rothschild helped him pitch like he had in previous seasons. In 29 games with the Cubs, Warren made one start, threw 35 innings, had a 5.91 ERA, a 1.43 WHIP and had 27 strikeouts and 19 walks, which is a high strikeout to walk ratio.
However, after coming to the Yankees just before the trade deadline, his performance was much better than it was during his 29 games with the Cubs. He pitched in 29 games with the Yankees in the last two months (30.1 innings) and had an improved 3.26 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 0.4 WAR, six holds, four wins, 25 strikeouts, 10 walks and 11 earned runs compared to 23 with Chicago.
He makes sense for middle relief because of his drastic improvement in the last two months of this season helping to make the bullpen a strength when it was an unknown after losing Miller and Chapman. In some ways having a very effective middle relief can be just as important as a dominant closer because if the lead is blown in the 7th or 8th the closer will not pitch in the game.
Tyler Clippard is another pitcher who was not on the Yankees in the first half of the season but excelled with the Yankees in August and September. With the Diamondbacks in 40 games last season he had a 4.30 ERA but with the Yankees in 29 games he produced more like he did when he was an All-Star in 2014 as he had a 2.49 ERA with 26 strikeouts in his second tour with the Yankees.
It is likely but somewhat of an unknown if Clippard and Warren can both produce like they did towards the end of the season, which is why Warren should be in the bullpen. Unless the Yankees acquire an established middle relief pitcher, which seems unlikely, everyone in the bullpen besides Chapman, Betances and Clippard would be in their 1st or 2nd year.
It would be ideal to have Warren in the bullpen and only moved to the rotation in an emergency because that is where he is most valuable. If Warren is in the bullpen once again then the team’s bullpen can be top three in the league and will be a definite strength. The UNC product combining with Clippard to pitch the 7th would mean that young pitchers like Johnny Barbato, Chasen Shreve and Nick Goody’s role wouldn’t be as important.
According to Brooks Baseball, Warren relied on his fourseam fastball (93 mph) and slider (88 mph), while also mixing in a circle change (85 mph), knuckle curve (80 mph) and sinker (93 mph) this season. Many relief pitchers use a fastball and slider but his ability to throw three more pitchers makes him different.
Late on Wednesday, it was reported by Ken Rosenthal that the Yankees had signed the free agent elite closer Aroldis Chapman to a five-year, $86 million contract. He has an opt out after the third year, a full not trade clause in the first three years and for some reason has a partial no trade clause in the last two years to all of the California teams.
Every since the Yankees traded Chapman to the Cubs before the trade deadline for top shortstop prospect Gleyber Torres and three other prospects the Brian Cashman had been interested in signing him again. When Chapman played for the Yankees in the first half of the season after his 30-game suspension for domestic abuse the previous October, he proved that he could excel playing in New York as he had a 2.01 ERA in 31 games (31.1 innings) with 20 saves, 44 strikeouts, 20 hits allowed, only eight walks and an excellent 0.894 WHIP.
Including his time pitching with the Yankees and Cubs last season, Chapman had a great 1.55 ERA (1.42 WHIP), with 40.5 percent strikeouts and 8.1 percent walks in 58 innings pitched. According to River Ave Blues, he walked 11.7 percent of batters faced from the 2013 through the 2015 seasons, which means that based on his 8.1 percent walk rate last season his control is getting better and this trend could be here to stay.
The Cuban Missile has been an All-Star in four out of his six full seasons and his stats in his seven seasons overall are a 2.08 ERA in 383 games (377 innings) with 182 saves, 1.88 FIP, 19 homers allowed, 636 strikeouts, 201 hits allowed and a very good 0.92 WHIP. In 2012, when he was an All-Star and finished eighth in Cy Young voting, he had an outstanding 1.51 ERA in 68 games (71.2 innings) with 122 strikeouts, 23 walks allowed, a 1.55 FIP and a 0.809 WHIP, which is the lowest of his career.
Chapman’s five-year contract is the first five-year contract for a reliever since the Blue Jays gave B.J. Ryan a five-year deal that they regretted in 2005. Chapman, who has a fastball that can go up to 105 mph and a very good slider, is a much better pitcher than Ryan but the signing could be a little risky because Chapman would break down three or four years from now since he throws faster than everyone else. He is the only pitcher who can throw 105 mph in all of Major League Baseball.
He does have character issues as the Yankees were able to acquire him for much lower rated prospects based on his domestic abuse where he choked his girlfriend in a domestic incident. Also, in 2012, Chapman was arrested after being clocked going 93 mph on a suspended license. Hopefully he will not have another incident similar to his previous ones. The domestic violence incident is not defensible, but he has served his punishment and if the Yankees didn’t sign him another team would have.
Chapman was the best reliever available this offseason and Brian Cashman was intent on upgrading the bullpen. The bullpen that the Yankees have now, if their current pitchers perform like they did last year, is likely better overall than it was in the first half of last season when they had Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances and Chapman pitching the last three innings Now, in addition to Chapman and Betances, they also have Tyler Clippard and Adam Warren as proven commodities.
They also have a situational lefty, Tommy Layne, who is 32 and had a solid 3.38 ERA in 29 games (16 innings) after coming over from the Red Sox. Young relief pitchers who have come up through the system and spent some time in the majors last season who could be in the bullpen on Opening Day include Johnny Barbato, Nick Goody, Ben Heller, Chasen Shreve and Jonathan Holder.
Signing Chapman and not Kenley Jansen, who could have made sense because his stats are not that much different and Jansen will likely break down later than Chapman, meant that the Yankees will not lose a first round draft pick like they would have if they signed Jansen. The team is now trying to develop as many high draft picks as possible.
The signing of the 6’4″ Cuban lefty who will be 29 in February means that Dellin Betances will go back to pitching in the eighth inning. It is possible that Betances could be an effective closer but he has been one of the best set up men in the American League the last three seasons as he was an All-Star in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
Having Chapman in the 9th inning means that Joe Girardi will be able to put Betances, who throws a high 90s fastball and a knuckle curve, into the game in the 7th or 8th inning depending on matchups and who else is available. In the 2014 season, when Betances was a set up man the whole season and a rookie, he had a 1.40 ERA in 70 games (90 innings) with a career-high 135 strikeouts, a career-low 24 walks, a 1.64 FIP and an outstanding 0.778 WHIP.
This past season, after Andrew Miller & Chapman had been traded, the 28-year-old struggled as the closer. He had an excellent 2.05 ERA on September 5 but at the end of the season his ERA climbed all the way up to 3.08. He allowed 10 runs in his final nine games, which means he might be better suited for the 7th and 8th innings right now. He also would make a lot of sense to replace Chapman if he opts out of his contract in three years.
Derek Jeter, who is the best shortstop in Yankees history, will have his #2 retired and get a plaque in Monument Park on May 14, which is Mother’s Day. He played his final game with the Yankees at the end of the 2014 season after a career that saw him go to the All-Star game 14 times.
Before their game against the Houston Astros, Mr. November will become the 22nd player in the illustrious history of the Yankees to have his number retired. He played a franchise record 20 seasons with the Yankees and they were all at a high level except his final farewell season.
The Yankees will now not have any single digit numbers left since Billy Martin (#1), Babe Ruth’s (#3), Lou Gehrig (#4), Joe DiMaggio (#5), Joe Torre (#6), Mickey Mantle (#7), Yogi Berra & Bill Dickey (#8) and Roger Maris (#9) all have their numbers retired. They are all in the Hall of Fame except Martin and Jeter will be too in the first year that he is eligible (2020).
Jeter finished his career with four Gold Gloves, the Rookie of the Year award in 19963,465 hits (6th all-time), 1,923 runs scored (11th all-time), 260 homers, 1,311 RBIs, 358 steals, a .310 average, 544 doubles and a .377 on-base percentage. He also finished in the top 10 in MVP voting eight times. In only his third season away from the Yankees, he deserves to have a day at Yankee Stadium dedicated for him where his family and former teammates will be able to support him on the field and he he will be able to give a speech to address everyone at the stadium and watching on TV.
Captain Clutch retired in 2014 with a winning percentage in games that he played in of an excellent .593 and five World Series championships. He is known as a player who would do anything that it took to win on the defensive and offensive side. Jeter tops the Yankees all-time list in hits, games played (2,747), doubles, stolen bases, at-bats (11,195), singles (2,595) and hit-by-pitches (170). While Jeter was playing during his 20-year career, he was always the most popular Yankee and his jersey or shirt would be worn by fans more than any other player’s.
He will be the last member of the Core Four to have their number retired. Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte had their numbers retired in 2015 and Mariano Rivera, who has the most saves in MLB history, had his number retired in 2013 while he was still playing and was given a plaque in Monument Park in August of last season.
Bernie Williams, Jeter’s longtime teammate for 11 seasons, also had his number retired during the 2005 season. He is one of the great Yankee outfielders and helped the team win four World Series titles but the reason he isn’t included in the Core Four is because he wasn’t still on the team when they won the World Series in 2009.
On Sunday, the Yankees signed veteran outfielder Matt Holliday to a one-year and $13 million contract. They did this after not signing a single Major League free agent in the offseason last year.
Holliday will primarily be the designated hitter in the 2017 season but could also see time in the corner outfield spots as a backup to as of now Aaron Judge and Brett Gardner. Holliday will essentially be replacing the spot Brian McCann had on the roster before he was traded to the Houston Astros for two pitching prospects.
There are many positives to signing the 36-year-old native of Stillwater, Oklahoma, who made his debut in 2004, to a one-year contract for next season. The first obvious positive is that it is for only one more year and he shouldn’t have much of a drawback from last season since he was able to hit 20 homers and drive in 62 runs at 36 years old.
It wouldn’t make sense to sign a player like him to a multi-year contract because it is not known when his stats will really start to decline. There were rumors of signing Edwin Encarnacion, which wouldn’t have made sense because even though he is coming off of an excellent 42 homer and 127 RBI season, he is already 33 and wanted a five-year contract. The Yankees are looking to stay young with short term contracts for older players until the offseason of 2018 when Bryce Harper and Manny Machado (among others) are free agents.
Another plus is that his swing is made for Yankee Stadium, so playing in the Bronx could help improve his power numbers. He can be counted on to provide veteran leadership and can also be relied on to get on base at a consistent rate since he has a career .382 on-base percentage.
Holliday had a low .322 on-base percentage last season, but had a remarkable .394 on-base percentage in 73 games in 2015 when he was an All-Star and in 2014, when he was 34, he had a .272 average with 20 homers 90 RBI and a .370 on-base percentage.
Ever since trading McCann the Yankees were likely going to sign someone in their 30s to be the designated hitter, and it would have been a mistake for the Yankees to sign a primary designated hitter to a multi-year contract, which is why this one-year contract is ideal. Holliday will be able to possibly help the Yankees reach the playoffs this season after the team missed the postseason in 2016. He also might be able to help Judge become a more patient hitter at the plate, which could help the team for years to come.
Holliday is a seven-time All-Star, a four-time Silver Slugger winner and finished second in MVP voting in 2007 when he was 27. He has previously played for the Colorado Rockies, Oakland Athletics and the St. Louis Cardinals. He was traded from Oakland to St. Louis in the middle of the 2009 season and had been with the Cardinals ever since.
In 2007, he led the National League with his .340 average. In 2013, Holliday finished third in the National League with his 103 runs scored. In 2012, the last time he was an All-Star before the 2015 campaign, he had a great all-around season with a .295 average, .379 ob-base percentage, 27 homers, 102 RBI, 36 doubles and 75 walks.
For his career, the slugger has a very good .303 average with 295 homers, 1153 RBI, 448 doubles, 1,995 hits, 744 walks, 1,104 runs scored and a .515 slugging percentage. He will have hit his 300th homer and 2000th hit in the early part of next season. His 295 homers are the 12th most among active players, and his 1,995 hits are 11th most among active players.
The first impact move that the Yankees made during the offseason was trading Brian McCann to the Houston Astros. They obviously need to add two or three starters since Hal Steinbrenner has said that he expects to have two rotation spots open to begin spring training. This means that it is unknown who will be in the rotation after Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia.
A move that the Yankees should make that involves their bullpen is acquiring an elite closer so that Dellin Betances can go back to being an elite set up man. Betances broke down and was much less effective during the end of last season and it’s possible that that might not happen if he is pitching primarily in the eighth inning instead.
He was outstanding in the first five plus months of the season as he had an ERA of 2.05 and a WHIP of 0.94 before his appearance on September 5, which was his 64th game of the season, but his results were much worse after the 5th of September. After allowing eight earned runs combined from June through the first two games of September, he allowed 10 earned runs in his final nine games of the season.
Betances struggled with his control as he walked eight batters in September, which came after allowing eight walks combined in April, May and June. He was an All-Star for the third season in a row this season after being an elite set up man during the first half of the season while Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman were still on the team. The 28-year-old who grew up in New York City had a 3.08 ERA after finishing with a 1.50 ERA while still having a very good WHIP of 1.123 and striking out 126 batters, which was the most in the American League among relief pitchers. Betances primarily throws a nasty 12-6 curveball (85 mph) and a fourseam fastball (98 mph)
As of now, the primary set up men behind Betances are Tyler Clippard, Tommy Layne, Chasen Shreve and Richard Bleier. The veteran Adam Warren could be in the rotation or the bullpen, and other young pitchers who could open the season in the bullpen are Jacob Lindgren, Jonathan Holder, Nick Goody, Ben Heller and Johnny Barbato. There is not much proven major league success beyond Betances, Clippard and Warren if he ends up in the bullpen, which is why the Yankees should sign a veteran closer and another relief pitcher to lengthen the game and add to the depth of the bullpen.
The Yankees are rumored to be interested in signing Chapman, who they traded to the Cubs on July 25 for top shortstop prospect Gleyber Torres, Billy McKinney, Rashad Crawford and Warren. Chapman, who regularly throws 100 mph or faster, had a outstanding 2.01 ERA in 31 games (31.1 innings) with 44 strikeouts, eight walks and an outstanding 0.894 WHIP with the Yankees this season before they traded him to the Cubs. During his 28 games with the World Series champion Cubs, the Cuban Missile had a 1.01 ERA with 46 strikeouts in 26.2 innings.
He is a proven commodity in the league as he has performed at an elite level in his last five seasons. Chapman was an All-Star with the Reds in every season besides his rookie season and he pitched well enough last season to be an All-Star but didn’t pitch in the first month of the season because of his suspension for domestic abuse. Chapman has recorded between 33 and 38 saves in every season since 2012, his ERA has been at 2.54 or below in all those seasons, he recorded an astounding 122 strikeouts for a reliever in 2012 and his low in that span was 90 strikeouts this past season and his WHIP has been between 0.809 and 1.146 in every season.
Another proven commodity at the closer spot who is currently available is Kenley Jansen. The native of Curacao started in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization as a 16-year-old catcher and made his debut as a relief pitcher for the Dodgers when he was 22 in 2010. Jansen is coming off of his best season of his career as he was an All-Star for the first time after finishing with a 1.83 ERA in 71 games (68.2 innings) with 47 saves, 104 strikeouts, 11 walks, 35 hits allowed and a remarkable 0.670 WHIP. Jansen also has the ability to be effective in more than one inning, which is a plus if some other relievers aren’t available or are struggling.
Jansen has been the Dodgers closer since the 2012 season and has had an ERA of 2.76 or lower in every season since then. In 2014, he had a 2.76 ERA, which is a good bit higher than his ERA from this season, but he did have 101 strikeouts and 44 saves. The pitches that he throws are a cutter (94 mph), slider (83 mph) and sinker (95 mph), according to Brooks Baseball.
Jansen and Chapman both made their major league debuts in 2010. Jansen turned 29 in September and Chapman will be 29 in February. Chapman’s ERA in his seven seasons in 2.08 and his WHIP is 0.992 and Jansen’s ERA in his seven seasons is 2.20 and his WHIP is 0.893. Their stats are similar and the Yankees couldn’t really go wrong with either one.
An advantage to signing Jansen instead of Chapman would be that he likely would not command as high of a contract as Chapman (he is rumored to want a $100 million contract for five years). Another positive for Jansen is that he doesn’t regularly throw 100 + mph like Chapman does, which means that he will be able to keep his fastball at the mid 90s velocity that his is at longer than Chapman’s velocity will stay over 100.
The Yankees traded for the flame-throwing righty on December 14, 2014. They traded infielder/outfielder Martin Prado and pitcher David Phelps to the Miami Marlins for Eovaldi, Garrett Jones and Domingo German.
In the 2014 season with the Marlins, he had a mediocre 4.37 ERA and his 223 hits allowed were the most in the National League. However, the Yankees traded for him because he set career highs with 32 games started and 199.2 innings pitched and his average fastball velocity was the second fastest in the National League.
He showed positives and some negatives during his two seasons with the Yankees but didn’t show enough improvement in his secondary pitches to make the Yankees want to keep him while he recovers from Tommy John surgery.
On August 16 of this season it was announced that he would miss the rest of the 2016 seasons and likely all of the 2017 season due to a torn flexor tendon and partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow. The Yankees announced that he had undergone his second Tommy John surgery a few days later.
In the 2015 season, he led all MLB starting pitchers with an average fastball velocity of 96.6 MPH. His velocity didn’t lead to much more success than he had in 2014. His ERA of 4.20 was better than the 4.37 he had the previous season but his 1.45 WHIP was worse than his 1.33 WHIP from his last season with the Marlins. His fastball averaged 97.1 in the games that he appeared in this season.
In 2015, he missed the month of September because of elbow inflammation and the month of August raised his ERA and WHIP as he allowed three runs or more in four of his last five starts and allowed five hits or more in three of those five starts. That performance in August was disappointing because in nine starts between June 20 and August 7 he allowed two runs or less seven times while giving up two walks or less in six of those starts. He showed how dominant he can be during that stretch when he locates his pitches and throws his secondary pitches where he wants them to go.
Eovaldi was able to develop a split-fingered fastball with the help of Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild, which helped him improve during that nine start stretch and for periods of the 2016 season. In addition to the splitter, according go Brooks Baseball, he relied on his fourseam fastball (98), slider (87) and cutter (94). He rarely mixed in his curve ball.
Eovaldi entered the 2016 campaign fully healthy but allowed five and four runs in each of his first two starts. He allowed three and zero runs in his last two games in April and his next two months alternated between pitching well overall and not deserving to be in the rotation.
In May, he opened the month by allowing six runs in five innings on 10 hits against the Red Sox but pitched well the rest of the month as he allowed two runs or less in four of his next five starts. However he wasn’t able to continue that momentum into July and his first start in August.
The 26-year-old Houston native, who grew up in the same town as Nolan Ryan, gave up a combined 31 earned runs in 30.1 innings in six starts, which caused the Yankees to move him to the bullpen. It is not acceptable for a starting pitcher to allow four runs or more in six straight starts, which included five or more in five of those starts.
He would go on to make eight more appearances with the Yankees before his season ended. Eovaldi made three appearances out of the bullpen after his awful start on August 1 and combined to pitch 7.2 innings while allowing three hits and striking out four. The bullpen is where he might make sense after he recovers from Tommy John surgery since has some trouble with his non fastball and slider pitches.
In his first start after returning to the rotation he performed well as he limited the Baltimore Orioles to one run in 5.1 innings but was progressively worse in his next three starts. He allowed two, three and four runs in his last three starts and in his final start, against the crosstown rival Mets, he gave up four runs on five hits (two homers) and two walks.
It’s unfortunate that he was not able to truly pitch well for a consistent amount of games while with the Yankees because his velocity is elite and he has solid secondary pitches when everything is going well. The splitter that he developed did help but it would not have made sense for the Yankees to keep him while he recovered from Tommy John surgery during all of the 2017 season.
Another reason that he would make sense for the bullpen is that a pitcher with his fastball velocity should be able to have more strikeouts than he does, and it is possible that concentrating on two pitches will help lead to more strikeouts. He will be most remembered for lighting up the scoreboard with 100 plus mph pitches, his very good month of May this season and his very good month of July plus last season.
On Thursday, the Yankees traded veteran catcher Brian McCann to the Houston Astros for right-handed pitching prospects Albert Abreu, 21, and Jorge Guzman, 20. The opening day roster will look much different and younger than it did last July as the Yankees now not have veterans Carlos Beltran, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and McCann. (The Yankees have interest in reacquiring Beltran to be their designated hitter.)
The Yankees traded McCann because Gary Sanchez will now be the starting catcher next season as a result of his historic beginning of his career when he hit 20 homers in the last two months of the season and play very good defense. That would have left McCann as the DH, which could have worked, but the Yankees will now likely be able to have a DH with a higher average with possibly as many homers as McCann would have had. The defensive shifts have really lowered his average because he basically always pulls the ball to the left side.
Abreu is the more well known prospect who could be in the Bronx sooner than Guzman. Before the trade, Abreu was the Astros’ No. 7 ranked prospect after spending 2015 at Single-A Quad Cities and High-A Lancaster. The 6-2, 175 pound right hander pitched in 24 games last season and made 16 starts, but 21 of those games and 14 of the starts were with Quad Cities.
He had a 3.72 ERA overall with 115 strikeouts and 58 walks with a 1.298 WHIP but his two starts and one relief appearance at the end of the season with High-A brought up his ERA and WHIP. In 90 innings with Quad Cities, he pitched out of the bullpen and as a starter. He had two wins, four saves, a 3.50 ERA, a solid 1.233 WHIP, 104 strikeouts and 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings.
Abreu’s ERA was a little high for a top prospect like him, but he has shown signs of developing into a reliable starter. His fastball topped out at 99 mph last season, which is a real improvement from the 87 – 91 that he threw when he first signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2013.
He has three pitches besides his fastball and once he can consistently improve those secondary pitches he will improve even more. Abreu is still young and might be able to have more success developing his off speed pitches with the pitching coaches that the Yankees have in their minor league system than the ones that the Astros had.
Guzman is a year younger than Abreu and is a 6-2, 182-pound righty who was born in Las Matas de Santa Cruz, Dominican Republic. In his second pro season, he threw in seven games in the Gulf Coast League and six games with Greenville of the Appalachian League, which is one level below Single-A.
He is a flame-thrower just like Abreu as his fastball tops out at 101-103 mph, but he has better control when his fastball is between 97 and 99, according to JJ Cooper. With the Astros Gulf Coast League affiliate he had a 3.12 ERA in seven games (four starts) with 25 strikeouts, 10 walks and an excellent 0.808 WHIP.
His ERA was higher in the Appalachian League, but ERA doesn’t tell that much in rookie level. With Greenville, he had a 4.76 ERA in six games (four starts) after striking out 29, walking seven and allowing 25 hits. The 25 hits that he surrendered in 22.2 innings are far too many, but on the other hand he did really improve his control from 2015.
In 2015, Guzman walked 30 batters in 55.1 innings pitched in his first season as a pro and had a very high 1.681 WHIP. However, this past season, he walked 17 batters in 40 innings pitched and had a much improved 1.150 WHIP.
He might be a better relief pitcher than starter since his two best pitches are his fastball and slider and his change is only developing. He has time to improve his change, but since he has two plus pitches and wasn’t able to throw more than five innings in a game last season he will likely be more effective in the bullpen.
In the 2017 season, he will probably either begin in the Appalachian League with the Pulaski Yankees or step up a level with the Low-A short season Staten Island Yankees. In 2017, Abreu will likely be sent to the High-A Tampa Yankees after proving that he can pitch well against Single-A competition last season.
It already makes that the Yankees made this trade based on the emergence of Sanchez, but the one downside is that McCann has hit 20 homers or more in nine consecutive seasons, and it is possible that being the DH would have helped him improve on his power numbers. However, his caught stealing percentage last season was very low and his decline in average and RBIs from earlier in his career is likely due to how baseball has changed with shifts in recent years.
If the two prospects that the Yankees received can blossom into one member of the rotation in Abreu and one seventh or eighth inning reliever in Guzman then this trade will be a win for the Yankees in many ways.
The Yankees will also now not have to pay the $23 million that is left of McCann’s contract over the next two years. McCann would have been an expensive back up catcher and part-time designated hitter.
“Getting the additional money to play with on our end gives us a lot of choices in the trade and free agent market,” Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman said. Cashman will now concentrate on improving the rotation, adding a designated hitter who can also play another position and getting an impact relief pitcher.