Tagged: Kelly Johnson

The Yankees are hoping that Stephen Drew can produce on offense like he did in 2013

Stephen Drew playing second for the Yankees.

Stephen Drew playing second for the Yankees.

On Tuesday, it was announced that the Yankees had re-signed infielder Stephen Drew to a one-year, $5 million contract. The 31-year-old is entering his 10th season and played his first six seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks and then played for the Oakland Athletics and Boston Red Sox. He will likely be the starting second baseman to begin the 2015 season with Rob Refsnyder or Jose Pirela being the back-up.

In 46 games with the Yankees last season after being traded from the Red Sox for Kelly Johnson, Drew hit only .150 with three homers and 15 RBIs. Before being traded to the Yankees he played in 39 games for the Red Sox, and his season totals in his 85 total games came to seven homers, 26 RBIs, 14 doubles, a .237 OBP and a very low .162 average.

However, he did not have a spring training or play in the first two months of the season because a team would have had to give up a first-round pick if they had signed up earlier as a result of his qualifying offer, so he could produce stats similar to his career averages. He has a .256 average in nine seasons, which is significantly higher than what he produced last season.

He was the Red Sox shortstop when they won the World Series in 2013, and he hit .253 with 13 homers, 67 RBIs, six steals, 29 doubles, a .333 OBP and a .443 SLG percentage to go with his reliable defense at short (.984 Fielding% + only eight errors). His best season came in 2008 when he was 25 and in his third campaign with the Diamondbacks. He had career-highs of 152 games, a .291 average, 21 homers, 44 doubles and 91 runs scored. The Yankees would take anything between the season he produced in 2013 and 2008.

Refsnyder likely would have had the edge over Pirela if the Yankees did not re-sign Drew since he has more upside and is already better offensively, but since Drew is back Refsnyder will be able to compete with Pirela in spring training to either be the back-up second baseman or the starting second baseman with Triple-A Scranton. Pirela is a 25-year-old utility infielder without much upside while being able to contribute something on offense and defense. Two more months playing with the RailRiders could be beneficial for Refsnyder since the 77 games he played there last season and the only ones he has played above Double-A.

Refsnyder was a right fielder during his stellar tenure at the University of Arizona, and he will only be entering his third season playing second base. He greatly improved defensively last season as he committed 12 errors across two levels and only three of those came at the more challenging Triple-A, but in his first season playing second in 2013, he had 25 errors combined in two levels of A ball. He could use some more fine tuning at Triple-A to improve his defense.

The Yankees can’t really lose from this deal because if Refsnyder is flawless on defense in spring training and continues to hit like he did last season at Double-A and Triple-A (.318 with 14 homers) and if Drew doesn’t hit at all, Refsnyder could start the season at second and the Yankees could eat Drew’s contract. However, a scenario with a higher probability is that Drew shows some of his previous form on offense and his usual solid defense, which would lead him to start at second and Refsnyder to try to improve with the big club or in Scranton.

One other possible benefit of having Drew as the second baseman to start the season is that he will be able to be a veteran presence for the young Did Gregorius at shortstop. Gregorius, who was acquired earlier in the offseason in a trade with the Diamondbacks, has never spent a full season in the major leagues. Drew was a starting shortstop for eight seasons and played 122 games or more in five of those seasons, which proves that he could help Gregorius improve offensively and to a lesser extent defensively because Gregorius is already an elite defender.

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Chase Headley’s return to the Yankees on a four-year deal helps the team in many ways

Chase Headley playing third base.

Chase Headley playing third base.

Chase Headley, who was acquired at the trade deadline last season, was re-signed by the Yankees to a four-year, $52 million contract. He is a 30-year-old third baseman who hit .243/.328/.372 last season in 135 games with the San Diego Padres and Yankees, but in 58 games with the Yankees after being traded, he hit a much better .262/.371/.398 with six homers, 17 RBIs and eight doubles.

He played in 77 games with the Padres and 55 with the Yankees and had almost the same amount of homers (7 and 6) and doubles (12 and 8) in 22 fewer games. His average while playing for the Yankees was also much better than when he played in the National League with the Padres. The Yankees had to resign Headley because he proved that he was able to improve his stats while playing under the bright lights and he makes and his return entails that the defense in the infield will be elite at first base, shortstop, third and catcher.

He was productive with the Yankees and liked being in New York City. He makes their defense much better than it would have been without him. Headley also admitted that he took a discount to stay with the Yankees, which proves that he appreciates that the Yankees traded for him last July and desperately wants to play in the playoffs. Stats that prove how important bringing back Headley is for the Yankees are that as a Yankee, he was 7th in OPS, 11 in slugging, 7th in times on base and 5th in OBP among all third baseman. He is an elite defender and is an abover average hitter for a third baseman.

His signing also ensures that Alex Rodriguez will have little value to the Yankees in 2015. If A-Rod is healthy and somewhat productive, he should get at-bats at DH and will possibly be a back-up first baseman. Headley, who hit 31 homers and drove in 115 runs in 2012 when he finished fifth in MVP voting and won a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger award, has not come close to having a season like that since, but his chances at repeating his success from 2012 are improved this upcoming season based on how he played after the All-Star break and the increased protection that he has in the Yankees lineup.

The Yankees will be dramatically improved defensively as well as to a lesser extent on offense at the second base, shortstop and third base positions in 2015. Martin Prado is now slated to be the everyday second baseman, and he should be much better than Brian Roberts, who was the primary second baseman last season. Didi Gregorius isn’t better than Derek Jeter in his prime, but he has much more range than Jeter had the past few seasons and even had a better OPS than Jeter did last season. Yangervis Solarte and Kelly Johnson played third before Headley’s arrival, and they don’t combine to be nearly the player that Headley is. The infield defense will prevent more runs from scoring than last season, which will be important based on the pitching staff that the team will have.

Another benefit to Headley and the Yankees agreeing on a deal is that Rob Refsnyder will be able to get some more seasoning at AAA-Scranton to improve his defense at second base and then can get called up in June. Refsnyder is an elite second base prospect who hit .297 with 24 homers and 142 RBIs in three minor league seasons, but he really started to make everyone pay attention to him last season when he .318 with 14 homers, 63 RBIs and nine steals while playing 60 games at AA Trenton and 77 games a AAA Scranton. Refsnyder has to improve his defense, and he did last season as he nine errors for Trenton but only three while playing for Scranton.

He played outfield in college, and that versatility will make him valuable at either second or outfield since it is likely that Carlos Beltran will miss some time next season because of injury. The Yankees envision Refsnyder as their second baseman of the future, and with Headley’s return and Prado’s move to second, he will not feel the pressure in spring training of starting the season at second.

Headley can definitely be productive until his contract ends when he is 34. His ability to make the routine and Gold Glove caliber play at third shouldn’t decline and his overall stats could even improve if he doesn’t get injured again. “I enjoyed my time last year in pinstripes probably more than I have ever enjoyed playing the game,” Headley said on Yankees Hot Stove. “I am going to be a great teammate to all of my teammates. Obviously when you lose Derek Jeter there is no replacing him. I think we have a chance to be a really good defensive club and that is getting more and more important in today’s game.”

Headley thinks that coming to New York and having dangerous hitters around him made him a better hitter. He said that a major reason that he signed with the Yankees is that he wants to win and the Yankees offer him a better chance to do so than the Padres ever did. He proved to have a flair for the dramatic as he hit a walk-off hit in extra innings in his very first game as a Yankee. He will try to give fans many more moments like that during the years to come.

The next move that the Yankees need to make is adding a dominant starter. They reportedly don’t want to give Max Scherzer the contract that he wants, but that could change.

Nuno, Teixeira and Johnson led the Yankees to a 6-0 win over the Red Sox

Kelly Johnson

Kelly Johnson

The Yankees beat the Boston Red Sox 6-0 at Yankee Stadium on Friday night for their second win in a row. This is the second time in their last 20 seasons that the Yankees have won six of their first eight games against the Red Sox. The first time was in 2012.

In the past three games, the offense had an impressive .284 average and six homers. Kelly Johnson had a .333 average and one homer in the past three games. The Yankees were led offensively in Friday’s game by Johnson’s two RBIs and Brian McCann’s two RBIs.

Vidal Nuno had his best start of his up and down campaign. He only allowed two hits and struck out five in his 5.2 innings pitched after allowing four and eight runs in his last two starts. He picked up his first win at Yankee Stadium in his 16th start of his career.

Nuno lowered his ERA from 5.88 to 5.42 as a result of getting his pitches to go exactly where he wanted them to and having his fastball average at least 90 MPH for the first time in his short career.

“He located the ball extremely well tonight,” Girardi said. “He bounced back. That is what you need guys to do. He fights. He goes out and competes. You know that he is not going go be intimidated by the situation and he gives you all he had.” Nuno said that he tried to get quick outs and help the team win.

Derek Jeter, who turned 40 on Thursday, had two hits and a run scored by the end of the third inning. He hit his 3,390th hit of his Hall of Fame career in the third inning and scored his 1,903rd run in the first inning after Mark Teixeira hit a sacrifice fly.

It appeared that the Yankees would score at least a run in the third inning, but Red Sox starter Brandon Workman got Teixeira and Carlos Beltran out with the bases loaded. Luckily, the missed opportunity did not end up hurting the Yankees in this game.

In the fourth inning, Kelly Johnson hit his two-run homer to deep right center to drive in McCann to make the score 3-0. Brett Gardner made it back-to-back homers as he hit a homer to right for his seventh of the season. Gardner hit eight homers all of last season. The last time that the Yankees hit back-to-back homers was back on May 2 against the Tampa Bay Rays.

McCann, who was brought in to drive in runs and hit homers while taking advantage of the short porch in right, is starting to show more of his power. He gave the Yankees two insurance runs in the eighth inning as he hit a long two-run homer into the upper deck in right. Teixeira, who was one of three Yankees to have two hits, scored on McCann’s homer.

Dellin Betances came in after Nuno was taken out of the game, and he threw 1.1 innings while striking out two, allowing one hit and one walk. He is on track to be the first set up man All-Star on the Yankees since David Robertson in 2011. Betances now has a 1.39 ERA and 74 strikeouts in only 45.1 innings. He has remarkably struck out 43.5 percent of the batters he has faced.

Adam Warren pitched a perfect eighth inning. He was able to strikeout the dangerous David Ortiz with a 95 MPH to end the inning.

The Yankees hit three homers in one game for the first time since May 17. Hitting three homers in a game doesn’t happen all the time, but this could be a sign that the Yankees will start hitting with more power.

Johnson has hit all five of his homers at Yankees Stadium, and he has hit better recently as he has had more playing time with Yangervis Solarte’s struggling. Johnson’s playing more could be beneficial because he definitely has power as a result of slugging 16 homers in each of his past two seasons and a career-high of 26 homers in 2010.

The Yankees are two games behind the first place Toronto Blue Jays. In Saturday’s game at 7:15 p.m., Masahiro Tanaka (11-2, 2.11 ERA) will pitch for the Yankees and Jon Lester (8-7, 3.14 ERA) will get the start for Boston. Tanaka, who is coming off his second loss of his career, will look to get his second win against Boston.

 

Davis’s sac fly in the ninth off of Shawn Kelley overshadowed Tanaka’s solid first start at Yankee Stadium

Shawn Kelley pitching for the Yankees last season.

Shawn Kelley pitching for the Yankees last season.

Shawn Kelley‘s two earned runs in the ninth inning came after Masahiro Tanaka’s seven strong innings in his first start at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees lost 5-4  as result of going 1-6 with runners in scoring position and grounding into two double plays.

The Yankees continued their pattern of not hitting well with runners in scoring position to begin the season. With the offense that the Yankees have, even though Mark Teixeira is injured, they should be able to win games when the starter allows three runs. However, Brian McCann and Jacoby Ellsbury both went 0-4, McCann grounded into a double play and Yangervis Solarte’s double play ended the game.

In the second inning, Carlos Beltran hit his first homer as a Yankee, and after Miguel Gonzalez retired McCann and Alfonso Soriano, Kelly Johnson hit his second homer as a Yankee, to make the score 3-2. The Yankees scored a run in the fourth, but based on Beltran hitting a double to right to leadoff the inning, they should have scored at least two. There were no hits after the double, and Beltran scored as a result of a groundout to the shortstop by Soriano.

Once again, in the eighth inning, Brett Gardner hit a double to leadoff the inning, but the Yankees were unable get a hit to drive him home. After Gardner was sacrificed to third by Derek Jeter, McCann and Ellsbury both were not able to get a clutch hit.

Tanaka gave the Yankees all they could have asked for in his pressure-filled first start at home. After allowing a three-run homer to Jonathan Schoop in the second, Tanaka only allowed three hits in the next five innings. In seven innings pitched, the 25-year-old had an impressive 10 strikeouts, seven hits and only one walk. It is a positive sign that Tanaka was able to rebound from a rocky beginning of the game in front of the home fans just like he did in Toronto.

Kelley, who is the closer with David Robertson on the 15-day disabled list, allowed two runs and four hits in the ninth. He came in with the score tied at three, but in the non-save situation, Chris Davis’s sacrifice fly that scored Schoop ended up being the game winner.

The Yankees scored a run in the ninth off of a sac fly, but they had a chance to tie or win the game, but Solarte, who has been a revelation so far, could not come through with a clutch hit when the team needed one.

It would make sense to have Matt Thornton pitch in the ninth inning with Robertson out because Thornton has experience closing games. He had a combined 23 saves in his tenure with the Chicago White Sox, and Kelley has rarely pitched in the eighth or ninth inning previously in his career.

The state of the Yankees without Alex Rodriguez for the 2014 season

Alex Rodriguez

Alex Rodriguez

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.

Brian Roberts and Matt Thornton can be important pieces for the 2014 Yankees

Matt Thornton on photo day in 2011.

Matt Thornton on photo day in 2011.

On Tuesday, December 17, the Yankees made two signings in Brian Roberts and Matt Thornton that have the potential to fill areas of need. The Yankees have agreed to a low risk high reward $2 million, one-year deal with Roberts, who is going into his 14th season.

Since the Yankees lost the ineffective Joba Chamberlain to the Detroit Tigers and the reliable Boone Logan to a three-year contract with the Colorado Rockies, the Yankees needed to acquire another arm for their bullpen. They signed Matt Thornton to a  two-year, $7 million contract that was first reported by Jack Curry. Thornton is the second player that the Yankees have signed this offseason who has previously played for the Boston Red Sox. Jacoby Ellsbury, their new $153 million center fielder, played the first seven seasons of his career in Boston.

Thornton is coming off a season where he had a 3.74 ERA while appearing in 40 games for the Chicago White Sox and 20 games for the Red Sox. He had his highest ERA and WHIP since (3.74/1.43) his outlier season of 2007 when he had a 4.79 ERA and 1.50 WHIP at age 30 (Walks and Hits divided by Innings Pitched). Thornton, from 2008-2010, while playing for the White Sox never had an ERA above 2.74 or a WHIP above 1.07. He has also averaged better than a strikeout per inning for his career as he has 582 strikeouts in 568.1 innings.

The 37-year-old lefty from Michigan is showing signs of declining with age based on his 2013 season, but when you compare his stats from last year to Logan’s he is not really that much of a downgrade. Logan had a 3.23 ERA in 39 innings with 50 strikeouts and Thornton who pitched better in the second half last season with Boston had a 3.74 ERA in 43.1 innings and 30 strikeouts. However, Thornton is much more deserving of his 3.5 million annual salary than Logan is with his 5.5 million annual salary.

If Thornton could pitch like he did in 2012, when he had a 3.46 ERA, pitched 65 innings in 74 games while striking out 53 batters and only walking 17, then he would be a steal. He will be the primary lefty in the bullpen. Another potentially useful lefty that the Yankees have is Ceasar Cabral. The Yankees could use one more reliever with the ability to close since right now, in addition to Thornton, they have Shawn Kelley, Preston Claiborne and Cabral to combine with David Robertson in the bullpen.

In regards to Brian Roberts, the whole story with him is if he can stay healthy. He has spent his whole career as a productive second basemen for the Baltimore Orioles, when not on the disabled list. In the past four seasons, he has only played in a combined 192 games. Between 2010 and 2013, Roberts missed a substantial amount of games due to an abdominal strain, a concussion, recovery from the concussion the following season, right hip surgery and right hamstring surgery. However, in 2009, which was his last healthy season, he had a .283 average, 56 doubles, 16 homers, 79 Runs Batted In and 30 steals. Those are great numbers that prove that he can help a team in a variety of ways.

If Roberts can stay healthy he would form a formidable second base combination with Kelly Johnson, who was signed a few weeks ago. Johnson has hit 16 homers in each of the last two seasons, but is not known for being nearly as reliable defensively as Roberts is. Roberts is known for being a defensive player and an offensive catalyst. He played well to conclude the 2013 campaign since in his final 22 at-bats he hit .364 with two homers and five runs scored.

A benefit to signing Roberts and Thornton to relatively cheap contracts, and not getting one of the more expensive second basemen like Omar Infante, is that the Yankees will have more money available to potentially sign Masahiro Tanaka.

Multiple Japanese newspapers are now reporting that Tanaka will not actually be posted. The Rakuten Golden Eagles, who own his rights until 2015, are now not going to permit major league teams to bid for him. The Yankees will likely now become more interested in Ervin Santana, Matt Garza and Ubaldo Jimenez. They haven’t been interest in them so far based on the salaries that they would command. They could still trade Brett Gardner, even though they have said they don’t want to trade Gardner, or Ichiro Suzuki for a starting pitcher.

Brian Roberts in 2008.

Brian Roberts in 2008.

Robinson Cano has left for greener pastures after signing a 10-year, $240M contract with Seattle

Robinson Cano will not be wearing a Yankee helmet anymore.

Robinson Cano will not be wearing a Yankee helmet anymore.

The biggest free agent of this offseason, Robinson Cano, is now on the Seattle Mariners. It is hard to believe that the Mariners have signed Cano after their owner exploded and ended the meeting after Jay-Z, who was representing his first high profile baseball player, demanded a contract of 10 years and $252 million. The previous offer that the Mariners had on the table was an eight-year, $200 million deal with assurances that they would go up to nine years and $225 million.

The contract that he ended up signing with the Mariners is for 10 years and $240 million. This means that since last night and this morning they were able to negotiate one more year and $10 million less to settle on the current contract. This proves that the Mariners were all in on making a huge splash and signing their first impact free agent in about a decade. Free agent hitters have often spurned the Mariners because its location allows less marketing opportunities and Safeco Field, which is one of the best stadiums in baseball, gives pitchers the advantage because of its dimensions. The Mariners have also not made the playoffs since 2001. However, Cano obviously could not refuse that contract offer. He now has Jay-Z and CAA to handle his marketing.

The offer that the Yankees had given Cano was a seven-year deal worth between $165-$170 million. They are now proving that they care about getting below the $189 million luxury-tax threshold for next season while fielding a competitive team based on the signings of Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury and Kelly Johnson. Cano, who is 31, is the best hitting second baseman in baseball, has slugged more than 25 homers in each of the past four seasons and has been named to the All-Star team five times. He had also averaged an impressive 160 games played in the last five seasons, which the Yankees will hopefully be able to get out of Ellsbury. Cano was not worth bringing back for more than seven years.

It is hard to blame Cano for accepting $70 million more from the Mariners, but this proves that he values money much more than chance to win every single year. Jay-Z was able to seal the deal after it appeared that as of last night he might have been leading Cano to accept less money by causing the Mariners owner to “explode” last night. Cano was not worth giving a 10-year contract based on recent long-term ones that haven’t worked out.

The Yankees will now likely concentrate on signing Omar Infante who is now the best second baseman on the market. It has been reported that the Yankees have offered Infante an unknown contract as back-up for Cano, so now they obviously need to make the deal. Infante, who is 31, has played eight of his 14 seasons with the Detroit Tigers, is coming off a season where he hit 10 homers, drove in 51 runs and hit .318. He would be able to platoon with Johnson at second base. Johnson hit a combined 32 homers in the past two seasons.

The money saved from not giving Cano the contract that he wanted will be able to go to adding starting pitching, which is needed since they only have CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Hiroki Kuroda. Kuroda, who had a 3.31 ERA last season after having an All-Star worthy first half of the season, will be returning on a one-year contract worth $16M. The deal was finalized on Thursday night. They also need another very reliable relief pitcher and a third baseman.

Providing that Kuroda does not suffer a drop off at age 39 and Sabathia bounces back from last season, the Yankees should be able to count on their top three starters.