Yankees Looking Ready to Compete for Last Place

Expensive and aging veterans look like they might lead the Yankees to the franchise's first losing season in many years - and possibly even to the cellar of the AL East.

This winter has been brutal for Yankees fans.  First, the fanbase had to come to grips with the fact that Derek Jeter was no longer a baseball player.  To kickoff the winter, Cashman traded popular backup catcher Francisco Cervelli for left-handed reliever Justin Wilson.  Then, three of the time's most important players in 2014 - David Robertson, Brandon McCarthy, and Shane Greene - all found themselves in different uniforms within a week.  While Shane Greene was traded for a new shortstop, the young Sir Didi Gregarious (yes, he was knighted), Robertson and McCarthy were two fan favorites who followed Robinson Cano's example and departed the Bronx. 

Jon Lester, whom many fans wanted the team to pursue, signed with the Cubs.  Yankees officials insist they do not intend to sign Max Scherzer, although many sources are skeptical.  The only positive news of late, besides that the team has not been quiet on the International free agent market, is that the team is in a strong position to sign Chase Headley.  Strong position, not yet signed.  Yes, that is the best the team has right now.

So, where do they stand right now?  Last year's team went 84-78, good enough for second place in the weak AL East.  That, however, is where the closest thing to good news ends.  For starters, the team, according to run differential, should have gone 77-85, and both the Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox have overhauled their teams and look ready to contend in 2015, the former adding Josh Donaldson and Russell Martin and the latter adding Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval, and others.  The rest of the division is locked and loaded for the season, with no indications of slowing down; meanwhile, the Yankees have not improved in the slightest.

It looks like the plan for the Yankees is to put Headley at third if possible and use Prado as a superutilityman, although primarily at second; if Headley does not return, Prado will play third and Jose Pirela and top prospect Rob Refsnyder will battle it out for playing time at second.  Aging and fragile veterans Carlos Beltran and Mark Teixeira are expected not only to remain healthy, but also improve on their (relatively disastrous) 2014 campaigns.  All this comes in addition to a pitching staff headlined by injury risks Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, CC Sabathia, and Ivan Nova; should they all remain healthy, this could be one of the best rotations in baseball, especially if Sabathia learns to adapt to his slower fastball than he did the last two seasons.  But if there is one thing you cannot count on in baseball, it is health.

The 2013 Yankees were a bad team.  The 2014 Yankees, despite half a million dollars in investments, did worse.  As of now, 2015 is shaping up to be the team's first losing season in many, many years.

The Yankees End Hibernation with Big Day

The Yankees have acquired young SS DIdi Gregorius from the Diamondbacks, as well as signing lefty reliever Andrew Miller.

Earlier today the Yankees ended their offseason hibernation by pulling off a sudden three-team deal with the Diamondbacks and Tigers, sending Shane Greene to Detroit and receiving Didi Gregorius from Arizona, and then following that up by signing top reliever Andrew Miller to a four-year deal.  While not exactly blockbuster moves, these intriguing deals vastly change the outlook of the team.

Most obviously, the Yankees have finally filled the hole at SS left by the retirement of Derek Jeter.  Gregorius, only 24-years-old, played 80 games last year and 103 the year prior, and although a glove-first player, has put together a career line of .243/.313/.366.  Additionally, he's under team control until 2020, has experience also at the other infield positions, and, since he is still so young, has time to develop his bat.  In short, he's cheap, under team control, and has lots of room to grow. 

To acquire him, however, the Yankees had to send 26-year-old starting pitcher Shane Greene to the Tigers.  At the surface, this seems a big loss for the Yankees.  He is a young, cost-controlled pitcher who had a solid rookie season - a 5-4 record, 3.78 ERA with a 3.73 FIP, striking out over a batter an inning.  That said, Brian Cashman could be selling high on the young righty, like he did with Solarte; Greene's minor league track record is not nearly as good, and there is a good chance he simply does not pan out.  Additionally, now that the Yankees have a young and inexpensive SS, that could potentially open up more money for the team to re-sign Brandon McCarthy, or even make a run at Max Scherzer, Jon Lester, or James Shields.  Cashman has filled a glaring hole and given the team some flexibility at the same time.

Also today, the Yankees agreed to a 4-year, $36M contract with elite lefty reliever Andrew Miller.  Most importantly, he brings to the 'pen a high-powered lefty that the team lacked in 2014, as well as possibly replacing Robertson in the late innings, should the former closer depart.  It must be noted, however, that the Yankees are still in on their closer, should the asking price come down; following in the footsteps of the AL champion Kansas City Royals, Cashman would prefer to build a late-inning monster with Betances, Miller, and Robertson (along with Kelley, Warren, and minor leaguers Lindgren and Webb) that would effectively shorten the game to 5-6 innings and pick up the slack for a weak offense and injury-prone pitching.

So....all in all, what does this mean for the Yankees?  Ultimately, Cashman today filled some holes, improved the team, and above all, gave himself additional flexibility heading into the Winter Meetings.  Is the team still flawed?  Certainly.  There is still work to be done.  But today was a good first step for the New York Yankees.

Breaking Down the Yanks - Where are they now?

Brian Cashman has been busy with charity work this winter - such as here, where he participated in Sleep Out for homelessness awareness - but has been asleep at the wheel of the New York Yankees, or so it has seemed to many.

Alright, I'm not going to bore you with stuff you already know - this Yankees team is very flawed, projects to be finish the season in the cellar of the AL East, and yet this front office appears to do absolutely nothing.  As of right now, I cannot explain what is going inside the organization, and I doubt anybody can, but there are some things we can do - namely, take a look at the roster and figure out exactly how this team appears to be shaping up.  And so we begin with the starting lineup:

CF Jacoby Ellsbury (L)

LF Brett Gardner (L)

3B Martin Prado (R)

C Brian McCann (L)

1B Mark Teixeira (S)

RF Carlos Beltran (S)

DH Alex Rodriguez (R)

SS Brendan Ryan (R)

2B Robert Refsnyder (R)

So, how does this lineup look?  The answer is, not very promising.  Ellsbury and Gardner will run circles around opposing teams at the top of the order - I wouldn't be surprised if they combine for 70+ steals next season), but after that is a lot of uncertainty.  Martin Prado, while a good player, is not the ideal #3-type, averaging only 13 HR and 70 RBI per 162 games.  McCann needs to show that 2014 was a fluke - not an easy task for a catcher on the wrong side of 30 - and Beltran and Teixeira have been plagued by injuries.  Brendan Ryan is one of the most inept players with the bat in the entire sport.  Robert Refsnyder will just be a rookie, so there is a chance that his amazing 2014 in AA/AAA will not translate to the Major League level, and thus he cannot be counted on yet.  And let's not even get started with Alex Rodriguez; literally any positive production from the guy is a bonus at this point - two bad hips, coming off a season-long suspension, and a magnet for controversy.

All in all, not a group that inspires confidence.  Now let's take a look at the pitching options:

CC Sabathia

Masahiro Tanaka

Michael Pineda

Shane Greene

Ivan Nova (will not return until May)

David Phelps

Chase Whitley

Talent-wise, a safer bet than the lineup.  But injuries are certainly an issue here.  Will Sabathia be able to overcome surgery and somehow figure out to pitch without an effective fastball.  Can Pineda stay on the field?  Will Tanaka's shoulder give out?  If all of these three don't pan out, we might see a staff headlined by Shane Green and Ivan Nova (who has injury issues of his own); and while Shane Greene showed this season that he can pitch at a Major League level, I'm not exactly ready to trust him to lead the pitching staff of a team that plans on contending in the playoff hunt.  A lot of potential is found in the rotation, but also a lot of potential for failure.

While I would love to give a detailed description of the bullpen, the fact of the matter is there is almost nothing to go on at this point.  Assuming Robertson doesn't re-sign, Betances will close, and Shawn Kelley and Adam Warren will set him up.  Newly-acquired Justin Wilson will be around.  Jacob Lindgren and Tyler Webb, among other minor leaguers, also have a chance of making the roster.  How good is this group?  You have as good a guess as I do, but given Girardi's track record, I'm not overly concerned about the bullpen.

And as of now, that is the roster.  What can we make of this?  First off, chances are this team will not be playoff-bound unless several players have major comeback seasons and the team as a whole stays rather healthy.  Secondly, we can assume Brian Cashman is not done this winter, despite the team's relative quietness, as he always has some trick up his sleeve at the Winter Meetings.  Rumors have linked the Yankees with both Jon Lester and Max Scherzer, and they are leading candidates for both David Robertson and Andrew Miller.  Is the team looking to sure up its bullpen and, as Kansas City did this year, cover for the team's weaknesses by virtually shortening the game to 5-6 innings with an elite 'pen?  Or do they plan on signing multiple mid-tier guys, like Brandon McCarthy, Hiroki Kuroda, and Jed Lowrie?  Make a massive splash on the international market with Yoan Moncada, Yoan Lopez, and others?  Point is - the Yankees have been extraordinarily quiet, we have absolutely no idea what plans are in the works.

River Ave U's Countdown to Christmas - 12/2 - Double Trouble

Today is Tuesday, December 2.  The number 2 is a rather big deal today - it is obviously the 2nd day of December, Tuesday is the second day of the work week, and, notsurprisingly, two sets of twins in the world of sports celebrate birthdays today - hockey players Rich and Ron Sutter (born in 1963) and basketball players Jason and Jarron Collins (born in 1978).

I'm not going to pretend to provide any sort of analyses of these players, as I do not actively follow the NBA or NHL, but I would like to give a shoutout to these two sets of retired athletes.

River Ave U's Countdown to Christmas - December 1

December - it's a busy time of year, especially for sports.  The NBA and NHL are in full swing, while the NFL playoff races are heating up as the season reaches the home stretch.  Even baseball gets in on the action with the Winter Meetings, which often forms the busiest part of the offseason, when most free agents sign and many trades occur.  Needless to say, the month of December offers plenty of opportunity for SportsBloggers to write about their passions.

But I want to start something a little different here.

In addition to regular, news-style posts, I'd like to start what might be called an Advent Calendar - a post every single day, about something completely unrelated to sports in today's world, or at the very least, typical news stories.  Instead, from now until Christmas, we should spend some time looking beyond, whether to sports around the globe, some sports history, little-known charity work by big-name (or, better yet, little-known) athletes.  Call attention from our daily whirlwinds of sports, and remind us all, just a little bit, of the bigger picture.

But, more than anything else, I don't want this to be just me; I want all my fellow bloggers, of all religions, to join in.  Yes, even if you don't celebrate Christmas.  Because the spirit of Christmas does not limit itself to Christians, but rather, invites all to celebrate the joys of simply being human and living on this great planet we call Earth.  And so, I invite you all to join me this Holiday Season, as we celebrate the world and spread Christmas cheer.

Yankees Offseason Report - December 1st

The A's have traded Josh Donaldson.  The Blue Jays have traded Brett Lawrie and signed Russell Martin.  The Red Sox have signed Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval and look to be trading Yoenis Cespedes (and potentially other one or more of their nine outfielders).  And the Yankees have......well, they did trade their backup catcher for a relief pitcher, but besides that........nope, still nothing.

Let's face it, the Yankees were not a good team last season; winning 84 games and coming in second in the division was a miracle in and of itself.  But, while the logical thing would be for Brian Cashman to make some moves, so far all he has done is trade Francisco Cervelli for Justin Wilson, while their AL East rivals, the Red Sox and Blue Jays, have already started wheelin' and dealin' and signing free agents, making both of their offenses projected to be two of the best in baseball.  And meanwhile, the Yankees have seemingly been priced out of Chase Headley (refusing to go beyond three years), possibly priced out of David Robertson (again, refusing to go beyond three years), and have not heard much about Brandon McCarthy; the only time they've been in the news for a Major League free agent, when some reports indicated that they either offered a contract to or even signed Max Scherzer, it turned out to be nothing but rumor on a slow news day.Granted, the Yankees have been linked to international free agents, such as shortstop Yoan Moncada and starting pitcher Yoan Lopez, both of whom are projected to be top-of-the-line players down the road.  These are not bad decisions, and in a farm system as, well, lackluster as the Yankees (although not as bad as often thought), these two players would virtually add two #1 picks to the organization simultaneously.  But for next year?  So far, the Yankees have been in hibernation.

On This Day in 2027: Yankees Sign Aging OF Giancarlo Stanton

The 2027-2028 offseason began in earnest today as the Yankees announced the signing of former Marlins OF Giancarlo Stanton to a three-year, $42M contract, with a team option for 2031.

Despite his advanced age - he turned 39 less than two weeks ago - Stanton looks to bolster a weak Yankees lineup that, although filled with names from the dynasty of 2018-2022, has the past three seasons failed to produce, a major reason that Yankees have not finished above third place since the AL East title of 2024.  Although he has seen his numbers decline over the course of his 13-year contract with Miami, Stanton still put together a respectable .285/.342/.516 split with 32 HR and 89 RBI in 154 games last season, numbers which would have led the Yankees in all categories.  There are, however, concerns that he can no longer play the outfield on a regular basis after multiple surgeries on both knees and one hip in each of the past three winters; even with the DH in play in the AL, he will still have to play RF at least some of the time, as the Yankees need the DH slot to rotate their aging veterans.  Fortunately for the Yankees, many experts at ESPN expect his bat to more than make up for his poor defense, especially from moving from the spacious Marlins Park to hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium.

Initial reports indicate that, pending a physical, the Yankees will hold a press conference on the third of December.

(November 18, 2027)

It is fairly obvious that this article is a joke.  That said, it hopefully does illuminate the problems facing the Yankees organization right now, the past few seasons, and for the foreseeable future.

Yankees Start Offseason On the Wrong Foot

tarting this offseason, the Yankees were operating from two premier positions of strength - catching depth and relief pitching.  Common sense dictates that, if the Yankees were to make a move, it would be at the expense of one of these positions, but the trade would bring in a new shortstop, or starting pitching, or a power bat.

What they did instead, however, could honestly go down alongside Tyler Clippard-for-Jonathan Albaladejo as one of Cashman's biggest "What were you thinking?" trades.

Now, I'd like to note that this is nothing against Justin Wilson - he is a fine young lefty relief pitcher who has shown both inconsistency in the strike zone and a remarkable ability to strike out both righties and lefties, who had a relatively down year in 2014, posting a 4.20 ERA in 2014 but striking out 61 in 60 innings.  No, this has to do with the fact that he has become literally the most redundant player in the Yankees organization.

The Yankees do not lack for relief pitchers, even if closer David Robertson bolts via free agency.  Dellin Betances had one of the best years for a relief pitcher in years, dominating literally everybody en route to a 3rd place Rookie of the Year finish and striking out a record-breaking 135 batters in 90 innings.  Sabermetrics reveal that Shawn Kelley did not pitch as poorly as his 4.53 ERA would make it seem.  Jacob Lindgren "The Strikeout Factory" and Tyler Webb wait in AAA and likely will compete for spots on the Opening Day roster.  Chase Whitley and Jose Ramirez showed potential this season and could be factors next year.  Adam Warren looks to build on a breakout 2014 campaign.  And let's not forget, somehow the Yankees have always had strong bullpens, despite having a mostly-revolving door every year since Joe Girardi became manager in 2008.

In addition to creating even more redundancy in the bullpen, the Yankees have also removed one of their biggest strengths, and that is the fact that their backup catcher would be a starter on most teams.  This gave the Yankees flexibility when the injury bug hit, as they were comfortable to play McCann at first and have Cervelli handle the catching duties for over a week while Teixeira nursed a reaggravated wrist.  Murphy does not exactly inspire much confidence in me, although he does have greater potential (and honestly, probably could have been traded for something better), and I would rather play Gary Sanchez, who has not appeared above AA, than Austin Romine on even a semi-regular basis.

In the end, might this prove to be a good trade for the Yankees?  Of course - we can't know for sure yet.  But for now at least, the Yankees have crippled their flexibility on the trade market, as the team will be more hesitant to move Murphy or Romine to acquire, for example, a shortstop.  We are not even halfway through November yet; there are 98 days until Pitchers and Catchers report for Spring Training - there was absolutely no need for the Yankees to rush to pull the trigger on this deal just yet.

In Defense of Being a Yankees Fan

Why do you root for your favorite sports team?  Is it because you live in the city where they play?  Because your parents followed the team, and you were born and raised watching the games and following their teams?  Is it because you were watching the playoffs in your college dorm and fell in love with one of the teams, for whatever reason?

Everybody has their own fan backstory.  Each is one-of-a-kind, unique to every fan, and sharing them is a great way to bring fans of all backgrounds together.  And the best part is, nobody questions them - since it's all personal, the emotional attachment we all have to our different teams is what makes watching the games and interacting with other fans as much fun as they are.

Well, that's almost true.  There is one fanbase that, time and time again, you're questioned - no, challenged - "Them?  Why do you root for them?"  One fanbase where, no matter who you are or what you do, you are always misunderstood: the New York Yankees.

At first glance, this seems ridiculous; the most popular team in the country is also the misunderstood?  But the night of the AL Wild Card game, something got me thinking.  Somebody posted on Yik-Yak, an "anonymous local-area twitter" very common on college campuses, that he, a diehard Yankees fan, wanted to congratulate the Royals on their exciting Wild Card win and wished them luck in the playoffs."  A rather innocent post, in my opinion, one among many about that game.  And yet, somebody commented back to him something along the lines of, "Why do you #@&!*@#% root for that piece of #@#!^ team?  Why don't you root for the Royals or another exciting team all the time?"

Although I did not post that, the comment bothered me - what difference does it make to you what team I root for?  Why do you care?  And that got me thinking about how there really is a lot of Yankees hatred around these days.  For example, anyone who follows the popular Facebook page MLB Memes will know that there are more posts mocking the Yankees than any other type of post, and every single picture or status update, no matter what it is about, will always have at least one comment of "Yankees suck," and it will always be among the top-liked comments.  Heck, there's even a musical titled "Damn Yankees" that centers on beating the New York Yankees.  Make no mistake about it, baseball fans love to hate the Yankees.

To an extent, it makes sense, as it comes with the territory: the Yankees often spend ludicrous amounts of money, especially to sign the best free agents; despite relative financial responsibility in recent years, the team still has this free-spender reputation and will still occasionally use its financial strength.  Understandably, this angers the fanbases that these players used to play for (although, amusingly, most fans would love for their team to be in a position to do the exact same thing).  No, my issue is not about hatred towards the team, but hatred towards the fans.

Let's start with the stereotypical Yankees fans, who look like this:

Your stereotypical so-called Yankees fans

They are loud, obnoxious, and ignorant, who flash their money with their arrogant New York attitudes, and respond condescendingly with "But we have 27 rings!" to every criticism.  Right here, let me clear the air - these types of "Yankees" fans, we hate them too; we call them annoying bandwagon fans who identify with the team but do not follow baseball much, if at all.  They know little about the team, and even their main "comeback" is wrong, as any diehard fan knows, the Yankees have 26 World Series rings and 1 World Series pocketwatch.  These are not fans; but unfortunately, they are the people who fill the seats at Yankee Stadium, because true fans simply cannot afford the sky-high ticket prices.

That said, as with all stereotypes, there is some truth behind it, even with real fans.  Yes, Yankees fans are loud, obnoxious, and often arrogant, and very passionate about our team; we have, after all, the Bleacher Creatures.  But that is because we are New Yorkers, not because we are Yankees fans.  New Yorkers are loud and obnoxious by nature.  We walk fast, we talk fast; we jaywalk, stare down taxis while crossing against the light, and cram ourselves onto subways packed like sardines.  We have tourists and send them off to Times Square so they're out of our way, because no New Yorker ever goes near Times Square.  We complain about the very good, because we demand everything to be perfect, because we are the best city in the world and thus deserve perfection.  It's not an opinion, it's a fact.  That is who we are; that is New York.

New Yorkers hate coming in second in anything: we must have the best pizza, the most delicious bagels, the most popular and longest-running plays, the greatest economy, the most beautiful and well-attended churches.  And that extends to our sports - we don't want good sports teams.  We demand the best teams, and we wil go to the ends of the Earth to make them.  That doesn't mean that we stop following if the team is not doing well - on the contrary, 2013 and 2014 were two of the most interesting seasons in recent memory for fans - or that we ignore a Yankees-free postseason.  We engage with other fans, and we enjoy the games, even if our team isn't playing.

The thing is, if we don't win the final baseball game of the postseason however, and bring home another championship, we consider the season a failure for the team, and expect changes to be made.  And our attitude is, if that makes us hated throughout the baseball world...so what?

Being the villains is what makes New York baseball so much fun.