The Yankees are saying that they have reached their spending limit for the offseason and consider themselves out on free agent shortstop Stephen Drew, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said last week that the Masahiro Tanaka signing represented the team’s final big splash of the winter, and thus far the organization has been proceeding as though that is the case. Their stance toward Drew has been chilly at best, as the club does not want to commit to a multi-year deal with the 30-year-old infielder, who also has Draft compensation attached because the Red Sox gave him a qualifying offer.
Drew’s name has popped up in connection to the Yankees because of their uncertainty at multiple infield positions. Shortstop Derek Jeter played in just 17 games last year, second baseman Brian Roberts has missed 445 games over the last four seasons and the Yankees are tentatively planning on a third base platoon that will involve Kelly Johnson and Eduardo Nunez.
The New York chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America is holding its annual awards banquet tonight in Manhattan, and in addition to all of the major award winners from the 2013 season (MVPs, Cy Youngs, Rookies of the Year, etc.), there will be some Yankees flavor to the event.
Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte are being honored with the Toast of the Town award, while David Robertson will be on hand to pick up the Good Guy Award, as voted upon by the chapter’s members. It promises to be a star-studded event, and you can take a peek at the full lineup here.
Here’s Robertson talking with MLB Network about the event and more…
Now, because we’re long overdue for one, here’s a brief run-down on what’s happening in Yankee-land — just in case you’ve tuned out for what turned out to be a very, very busy week:
- Hey, Masahiro Tanaka is a Yankee! It’s hard to imagine you missed that story, but just in case, the price tag was seven years and $155 million, plus the $20 million posting fee to the Rakuten Golden Eagles. Tanaka can opt out after the fourth year of the deal, and said in Japan that his goal is to win a World Series. The Yankees had the top bid, and thus secured the player.
He’ll slide behind CC Sabathia and could be the Yankees’ No. 2 or No. 3 starter to open the season. A brief scouting report, based upon things we’ve heard in our travels: great command, a fastball in the low-to-mid 90′s that can ramp up a few miles per hour more when he gets in tight spots, and a devastating splitter that looks like a fastball before it falls off the table. It’s a true strikeout pitch. You’ll also see a slider, changeup and curveball from him.
He’s been throwing his bullpens with Major League balls to help the adjustment process, and pitching coach Larry Rothschild has been busy watching video of Tanaka’s starts for Rakuten. Tanaka will wear uniform No. 19, so that Chris Stewart jersey you bought last year can be recycled at last. Derek Jeter sounds pumped about the signing, essentially saying that pitching is the key to the kingdom.
- Joe Torre is going into the Hall of Fame with a Yankees cap. Since he’s being enshrined for his managerial career, it’s not like there was much of a debate here. Still, it’ll be good to see the skip get his day in Cooperstown. His speech should be a memorable one.
- Brian Cashman said that much of the heavy lifting is complete, but don’t be surprised if the Yankees make a few extra moves before getting down to Tampa. The bullpen and third base are two of their main areas of concern; they’re comfortable going with what they have, but will pull the trigger on something that makes sense. Third base right now is going to be some mix of Kelly Johnson, Eduardo Nunez, Scott Sizemore, Dean Anna and whoever else they can take a look at this spring. The bullpen could use another arm to get the ball to Robertson in the ninth.
Gary Sanchez and Mason Williams cracked the list of MLB.com’s Top 100 prospects. They had three in the Top 100 last year, as Tyler Austin dropped off the list. … Left-hander David Huff was sold to the Giants. He came off the 40-man roster to make room for Tanaka. … Hockey is happening at Yankee Stadium. Good weather for it. … Rupert Murdoch is preparing to take majority control of the YES Network, with the Steinbrenners retaining a 20 percent stake. … And I’ve got to bust out a suit tonight. That’s twice in a week, which is a lot for me.
The Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes are officially underway. CBS Sports reported that Tanaka has touched down in the Los Angeles area and is preparing to meet with as many as a dozen teams by Friday, a group that is expected to include the Yankees.
The Dodgers, Angels, Cubs, White Sox and Diamondbacks are among the other teams reported to be in the mix for Tanaka, who will likely command a contract in excess of $100 million. Any club signing the 25-year-old right-hander would also be responsible for paying a posting fee, capped at $20 million, to the Rakuten Golden Eagles.
Tanaka has been identified as the Yankees’ top priority at this time, continuing an offseason of heavy spending in which they have secured free agents Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran. Teams may negotiate with Tanaka until Jan. 24.
The Yankees are seeking to upgrade a starting rotation that is currently comprised of CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova in the first three spots. A group of candidates including Michael Pineda, David Phelps and Adam Warren would then compete to fill out the final two slots.
I need to pack up the ornaments and stow the Christmas tree away for another year; space is, as always, at a premium when you live in New York City. This is a long way of saying that I know we’ve got some catching up to do, closing the book on the holidays and trying my best to stop writing 2013 on all of my checks.
Here’s what’s cooking:
We’ll have new Hall of Famers to celebrate this afternoon at 2 p.m. ET, but I wouldn’t expect any of them to be wearing Yankees caps in Cooperstown. Mike Mussina has a strong case and I think that he’ll eventually get in, as voters consider the fact that he won 270 games while pitching in the American League East in a performance-enhanced era of slugging. All that time, his strongest supplements seemed to be either Mountain Dew or something covered in chewy nougat.
There’s plenty of analysis of his pitching career in the link I posted, so let me just share an anecdote here. Remember when Joe Girardi tried to ban sweets from the clubhouse in 2008? No one howled louder, or more often, than the Moose. I remember him sneaking in a few Krispy Kreme doughnuts and devouring them at his Yankee Stadium locker with satisfaction, something that still makes me laugh to this day. I believe the voters will eventually come around on Mussina, but not on the first ballot.
Who’s on third? I don’t know.
No, really. I don’t know. If we time-warped to April right now, I suppose the Yankees would have to go with Kelly Johnson at third base, but that’s a depth chart that still looks very much incomplete. They’d like to find someone to platoon with Johnson, and Mark Reynolds would make a lot of sense for that (Michael Young, I suppose, but less so). That market seems to have been slow-moving. I don’t expect Alex Rodriguez’s suspension to be completely thrown out by independent arbitrator Fredric Horowitz, not with the fireworks of last month, but I also wouldn’t be surprised to see it be knocked down from 211 games to a lower number. That announcement could come any day now.
Gardner scores a Thurman
Brett Gardner is among those who will be receiving Thurman Munson Awards on Feb. 4 in New York; former Yankees David Cone and Jim Kaat are also on the list. In this awards and dinner season, you’ll also want to consider attending the New York BBWAA dinner on Jan. 25.
In case you missed it, former Yankees pitcher Darrell Rasner spoke to WFAN’s Sweeny Murti this week about his experiences pitching with Masahiro Tanaka. The Q&A is definitely worth your time. You can expect the Tanaka sweepstakes to heat up very soon, though I suspect the bidding might go all the way down to the Jan. 24 deadline.
I never knew I needed to have an 1989 Topps Jake Taylor card, but I do.
And a friendly reminder, as I stare out the window and consider if it’s worth upgrading to a North Face jacket: Yankees pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training on Feb. 14.
I had a nice chat with Mark Teixeira recently for a holiday feature about his childhood Christmas memories, a story you can read here. Of course, we also talked a little baseball. Here are some of the highlights:
On the Yankees’ offseason so far:
“I’m really happy with the moves. We had plenty of holes to fill, unfortunately, but when you can go get Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran before Christmas – even guys like Brian Roberts and Kelly Johnson, I think can be huge pickups for us. I’ve played against Brian for 11 years; I’ve played with Kelly in Atlanta, so I know what kind of quality guys they are. They’re going to fit in great with our clubhouse. I think they’re going to do a great job on the field as well. I’m really excited.”
On his rehab from right wrist surgery:
“I’m close to 100 percent. I feel like I’m healed. I wish I was a little bit looser; my wrist is going to be tight for a while because of the way the surgery was performed. They had to kind of tighten everything up to make it secure. It’s still a little bit tight, but that’s why I’m doing rehab every day and doing exercises every day. I’ll start swinging a bat in January and that will also help loosen it up.”
On if there are any doubts about being ready for Opening Day:
“I don’t have any doubts. I have to prove to myself that I’m 100 percent and I hope I’ll be 100 percent next month. You won’t really know until you go out and play that first game in Spring Training. When someone throws a 95 mph fastball in on your hands, if I can turn on that pitch and have no tightness or no pain, then I know I’m OK.”
On his Yankees wishes for 2014:
“I would love for us to round out our pitching staff, both in the starting rotation and the bullpen. If we add a couple more pieces, I think we go into 2014 with a great shot. I know Cash has worked really hard and I give him a lot of credit for what he’s done so far. I wouldn’t mind unwrapping a present after Christmas with a couple more guys on the pitching staff and we’ll be ready to roll.”
On expecting the ’14 Yankees to be a championship-caliber club:
“That’s obvious. Even based on last year, I don’t think anybody’s expectations have changed. I’d be remiss to talk about the last time the Yankees didn’t make the playoffs, what happened in that next season. Hopefully that happens again. I’m very confident that we’re going to go into the season with high hopes and we’ll see what happens.”
The Yankees have had a busy two days here at the Winter Meetings, but thus far they have not been able to cross the finish line on any deals. General manager Brian Cashman is hopeful that they will leave Walt Disney World with at least one player in the fold, but he also understands that it is just as likely they’ll be able to continue conversations once the team contingent returns to New York.
Here’s a rundown of quick hits from yesterday’s coverage:
- Plenty of teams are calling about Brett Gardner. The Yankees are listening, but not shopping him. Cashman said he has also received calls on Ivan Nova, Gary Sanchez and J.R. Murphy. The Yankees like having two players who could patrol center field in Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury.
- The Yankees are moving on from Robinson Cano. Joe Girardi acknowledged that Cano wasn’t happy batting second last year. Cashman said that for $240 million, he would have done the same thing.
- Joe Torre is about to have his number retired. New Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson took a good-natured swipe at his former team.
- The Yankees have checked in with free agent third baseman Mark Reynolds. Cashman said he could see a right-handed batter platooning with Kelly Johnson at third base, but the Yankees also could play Johnson at second base or in the outfield.
- A starting pitcher is more likely to be signed via free agency than acquired by trade. The top free agent starters are currently judged to be Matt Garza, Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez. Like the rest of the league, the Yankees are waiting for clarity on the Masahiro Tanaka situation. Girardi named David Phelps, Adam Warren, Michael Pineda and Vidal Nuno as rotation candidates.
- The Yankees asked the Reds about Homer Bailey, and were told no.
- Cashman refused to speak to the Carlos Beltran situation, as Beltran’s contract is still not official. Speaking in general terms, Cashman said that the Yankees like the flexibility of a power switch-hitting combination like they’ve been accustomed to with Bernie Williams/Jorge Posada or Nick Swisher/Mark Teixeira.
- Having a healthy Teixeira back at first base upgrades the Yankees, Cashman said. He still sees question marks at second base, third base and shortstop, though Joe Girardi said that Derek Jeter is “having a normal offseason” and “feels great.”
- Girardi said that he is “not sure” how Ichiro Suzuki will be used. The Yankees would move Ichiro, who is due $6.5 million in 2014. The Giants aren’t a fit.
- The Yankees are looking for bullpen help, both righties and lefties. They’re in touch with Boone Logan. Girardi sees David Robertson, Shawn Kelley and Preston Claiborne in the pen right now.
- Michael Pineda is coming in healthy and will compete for a rotation spot. Gil Patterson saw him a month ago in the Dominican and reported that Pineda is “in great shape,” Cashman said.
- Manny Banuelos, if healthy, is expected to be at Triple-A.
The Yankees have crossed the finish line on another one of their big signings this evening, officially announcing that Jacoby Ellsbury will be wearing pinstripes. It’s a seven-year, $153 million deal through the 2020 season with a club option for the 2021 season (and yes, it’s a bit funny seeing those years in print).
There will be a press conference on Dec. 13 at Yankee Stadium. I wondered if they might parade Ellsbury in front of the national media contingent at the Winter Meetings, but we’ll be reassembling in the Bronx instead.
Here’s the official word from the Yanks:
The New York Yankees today announced they have signed outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury to a seven-year contract extending through the 2020 season with a club option for 2021.
Ellsbury, 30, owns a .297 (865-for-2,912) career batting average with 476 runs, 155 doubles, 65 home runs, 314RBI and 241 stolen bases in 715 games over seven Major League seasons, all with the Boston Red Sox (2007-13). Since 2008, he ranks third in the Majors with 232 stolen bases, trailing only Michael Bourn (280) and Rajai Davis (245). His .995 career fielding percentage (1,734 total chances, eight errors) is the best such mark among Major League outfielders since 2007.
In 2013, he batted .298 (172-for-577) with 92 runs, 31 doubles, nine home runs and 53RBI in 134 games. He was caught stealing just four times and led the Majors in stolen bases for the second time in his career (also 2009, 70SB) and the American League for the third time (2008, 50SB). In 16 playoff games, he hit .344 (22-for-64), leading all postseason players in hits and runs (14) en route to winning his second career World Series Championship with Boston (also 2007).
The left-handed batter hit .321 (212-for-660) in 2011, setting career highs in games played (158), runs scored (119), doubles (46), home runs (32) and RBI (105) en route to winning the American League Comeback Player of the Year Award and being ranked second in AL Most Valuable Player Voting. He also won the Silver Slugger and Gold Glove Awards and was selected to the AL All-Star team.
Ellsbury is a .301 (40-for-133) batter with 26 runs, 11 doubles and 17RBI in 38 career postseason games.
A native of Madras, Ore., and believed to be the first-ever Native American of Navajo decent to appear in a Major League game, Ellsbury was originally selected by Boston in the first round (23rd overall) of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, with his first game played for the Yankees in 2014, Ellsbury will become the 218th player to appear in a game for both the Yankees (since 1903) and Red Sox (since 1901).
Now there are three guarantees for the Yankees rotation, as Hiroki Kuroda has joined CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova. Kuroda’s contract is for one year and $16 million, representing a $1 million raise over last year’s salary.
Here’s the Yankees’ official press release.
The New York Yankees today announced they have signed right-handed pitcher Hiroki Kuroda to a one-year Major League contract, extending through the 2014 season.
Kuroda, 38, went 11-13 with a 3.31 ERA (201.1IP, 74ER) in 32 starts with the Yankees in 2013. He made nine scoreless starts, the most such starts among all American League pitchers and second-most in the Majors behind only the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw (10).
Kuroda is one of just four American League starters to post sub-3.33 ERAs in each of the last two seasons (3.31 in 2013 and 3.32 in ’12), joining the Mariners’ Felix Hernandez, the White Sox’ Chris Sale and the Angels’ Jered Weaver. Since joining the Yankees prior to the 2012 season, he has tossed at least 7.0 scoreless innings in 14 of his starts, tied with Kershaw for most in the Majors over the two-year stretch.
Prior to joining the Yankees in 2012, Kuroda spent his previous four seasons with Los Angeles-NL (2008-11), going 41-46 with a 3.45 ERA (699.0IP, 268ER) in 115 games (114 starts). Among pitchers who changed leagues during the 2011-12 offseason, his 16 wins in 2012 were tied with the Pirates’ A.J. Burnett for second-most in the Majors behind only Washington’s Gio Gonzalez (21).
A native of Osaka, Japan, Kuroda became the fourth Japan-born player and third such pitcher to appear in a Major League game for the Yankees, joining outfielder Hideki Matsui (2003-09), left-handed pitcher Kei Igawa (2007-08) and right-handed pitcher Hideki Irabu (1997-99). Since Kuroda’s Yankees debut, right-handed pitcher Ryota Igarashi (2012) and outfielder Ichiro Suzuki (2012-13) have also played for the club.
Over his six Major League seasons, Kuroda has gone 68-70 with a 3.40 ERA (1,120.0IP, 423ER) in 180 career appearances (179 starts). He has made at least 30 starts and tossed more than 180.0 innings in five of his Major League campaigns (all but his injury-shortened 2009 season).
Among all Japan-born pitchers ever to play in the Major Leagues, his 3.42 career ERA is the lowest all-time among pitchers who have made 75-or-more career starts or pitched at least 500.0 innings, while his 68 wins and 840 strikeouts trail only Hideo Nomo’s career totals of 123 wins and 1,918 strikeouts.
Originally signed by the Dodgers as a non-drafted free agent on December 18, 2007, Kuroda spent 11 seasons (1997-2007) pitching for the Hiroshima Toyo Carp of the Japanese Central League. In 271 appearances (244 starts) for the Carp, he went 103-89 with a 3.69 ERA (1,700.1IP, 697ER).
Did everyone forget that the Winter Meetings are coming up next week down in Florida? Should I cancel my flight? The Hot Stove is in a full-blown boil, and I honestly cannot remember a 48 to 72 hour period of so much frenzied activity and player movement in December.
If you thought the fun was over on Friday, then Carlos Beltran and the Yankees had something to say about it, agreeing to a three-year, $45 million pact that finally dresses the switch-hitter in pinstripes. Beltran’s arrival comes nearly a full decade after he offered his services to the Yankees at a reduced rate, only to join the Mets when the Bombers said they were sticking with Bernie Williams as the center fielder.
The deal comes as a direct result of Robinson Cano’s decision to accept a 10-year, $240 million pact from the Mariners. Cano finally scored the decade-long deal he coveted and wasn’t going find from the Yankees, who finished with an offer that is believed to have been seven years at $175 million.
I was surprised. I do believe that Cano wanted to stay with the Yankees, and I don’t think he linked up with Jay-Z and this Roc Nation Sports venture to establish his brand in the Pacific Northwest. He will probably talk about all of that at some point in the future, but few people would leave $65 million on the table. He had made it clear that there would be no hometown discount, and the Yankees weren’t budging. So, Seattle it is.
This was a day that started by watching the sun come up over Connecticut, strangely enough. Brian Cashman was on the roof of the Landmark Building in Stamford, practicing his rappelling once again for Sunday’s upcoming ‘Heights & Lights’ holiday event. Cashman checked his cell phone a few times and ducked behind a storage room to make a few calls, but he said that he hadn’t been briefed about any of the developments between Cano and the Mariners.
Twitter filled in the gaps: the Cano deal was reportedly on late at night, reportedly off during breakfast, then reportedly finalized before lunch. Cashman shrugged during the coffee and donut hours — the Yankees had made their proposal and felt comfortable with it, and if it was not good enough, they still had offers out to other free agents. Some of those balls in the air would find their way to the Bronx.
“Everybody is replaceable,” Cashman said. “That’s a team concept. Some people are harder to replace than others, no doubt about it. I don’t think anybody would have the attitude that anybody is going to make or break your future, but you certainly can invest for good reason into players that can try to make your future brighter. That’s what we’re trying to do with Robbie amongst others. If it’s not to be, it’s not to be, and we’ll continue to do business as we have and try to collect as many great players as we can.”
Cashman had said that the Yankees were “on the one-yard line” with more than three players, shaking his head when asked to identify them. We can fill in the gaps: Hiroki Kuroda (one year, $16 million), Kelly Johnson (one year, $3 million) and Ellsbury (seven years, $153 million, still not official). Somewhere in the middle of all this, Curtis Granderson became a Met.
Now Beltran is in the Bronx, and there’s more to come. The Yankees want to add another starting pitcher, bullpen help, support for the left side of the infield and – oh yeah – a second baseman.
No one should be surprised to hear free agent Omar Infante’s name pop up for that last need. No, he’s not Cano – players of that caliber are few and far between. But the Yankees intend to move on, and what’s more, they already appear to be well on their way.
So, yep, I’ll keep that flight to Florida. I want to see what happens next.
Mariano Rivera has moved rather seamlessly into life as a retired player, and along with that comes the freedom to serve as an armchair general manager.
The former Yankees closer voiced his reaction to the free-agent signings of catcher Brian McCann and outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, and as he told MLB.com, they’ll help the Yankees in 2014. But Rivera still wants to see some movement on the mound.
“They have made good moves,” Rivera said. “I want to see pitching. I want pitching. Offense is good, but we need pitching. But those two players will be two great acquisitions, two good players, and hopefully they do it here in New York.”
On the pitching front, the Yankees have no sure things in the rotation beyond CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova. They’ve made Hiroki Kuroda an offer to return, and are monitoring developments with Japanese star Masahiro Tanaka. David Phelps, Adam Warren and Michael Pineda are among the others in the mix. They also need bullpen help.
Rivera also touched on the situation with Robinson Cano, pointing out that he had several opportunities over his career to leave the Yankees via free agency (remember, the Red Sox even made a serious bid for his services). Rivera stayed in New York, and he is hoping that Cano does the same.
“I chose to stay home because I grew up here,” Rivera said. “The New York Yankees are the best organization there is in sports, period. Hopefully Cano does the right thing, but I want him to be happy. Whatever he does, I want him to be happy.”