The following 40-man roster players have less than five years service time and are out of minor league options. That means they must clear waivers before being sent to the minors, so the team would be at risk of losing them in attempting to do so. I've included players on multiyear deals. This list was compiled through MLBTR's sources. Next, we'll take a look at the NL East.
Carpenter is a lock for a bullpen spot. On Friday, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said of Varvaro, "Who knows? It's so early. If we had to break Spring Training today or tomorrow to start the season, I'd count on him. He'd be one of the guys in the bullpen," talking to MLB.com's Spencer Fordin. Gearrin is among a host of pitchers competing for two other spots in the pen; he told Mark Wiedmer of the Chattanooga Times Free Press in February his shoulder was 100% after being shut down for the final two months of the 2013 season.
Pena will serve as the Braves' primary utility infielder, and Schafer will be the fourth outfielder.
Beyond Steve Cishek, A.J. Ramos, and Dunn, the Marlins' bullpen picture is "extremely muddled," wrote Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald recently. As for the rotation, Turner looks like the team's fourth starter, with Hand, Tom Koehler, Kevin Slowey, and Brian Flynn in the mix for the last spot, according to MLB.com's Joe Frisaro. Spencer noted that Hand could land in the bullpen if he doesn't crack the rotation.
Jones was signed to be the team's primary first baseman. Bogusevic, acquired from the Cubs for Justin Ruggiano in the offseason, seems to have a leg up to become the team's fourth outfielder.
Young's spot on the team is secure. Tejada is the starting shortstop, though the Mets seem to be considering upgrades such as Stephen Drew or Nick Franklin. In the event they acquire someone, the Mets could entertain trading Tejada or just put him in a reserve role.
Torres is a lock for the Mets' bullpen, wrote Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com a week ago.
Detwiler will be on the Nationals' pitching staff in some capacity, either as the fifth starter or a member of the bullpen. Lobaton, Blevins, and Clippard are secure.
Mayberry and Frandsen were given guaranteed arbitration contracts, noted Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer in February, giving them a leg up on bench jobs. Yesterday, Gelb wrote that Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. "continues to dangle Mayberry this spring in trade talks." Mayberry is competing with Darin Ruf for a bench spot. A week ago, Chris Branch of The News Journal took a look at the Phillies' backup infield situation. Freddy Galvis is a near lock to make the team, with Frandsen battling Ronny Cedeno, Andres Blanco, Cesar Hernandez, and Reid Brignac for the one remaining spot.
Five days ago, Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News termed Lincoln to be "likely a favorite" for a bullpen spot, because of his option situation as well as past big league success.
Click here to read a transcript of this week's live chat, hosted by MLBTR's Steve Adams.
Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette spoke with reporters today, including MLB.com's Britt Ghiroli, and covered a host of topics, beginning with Manny Machado. The standout third baseman called his $519K salary for the 2014 season "disappointing" last night, but Ghiroli reports that Machado will also receive a $100K bonus for winning a Platinum Glove award -- an award being the best defensive player, regardless of position, in the league. Here's more on Machado and the Orioles...
- Duquette told Ghiroli and others today that the team visited the idea of a long-term deal for Machado last year, but talks didn't come to fruition. Those talks weren't resumed this spring, as the focus has been on getting Machado healthy. The third baseman said to Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com (Twitter link), however, that he likes the idea: "I’d be up for it, I’m open to it. Nothing has come up yet."
- Duquette added that there is no progress to report on extension talks with J.J. Hardy, Chris Davis or Matt Wieters. Hardy told Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun that it's been 17 days since his agent even had discussions with the Orioles' front office (Twitter link). He's set to hit free agency next winter, while Davis and Wieters are controlled through 2015. Machado, of course, is under control for much longer and cannot become a free agent until the 2018-19 offseason.
- The market for Ervin Santana has become "interesting," per Duquette, who alluded to the fact that other teams are beginning to show interest due to various injuries in camp. Most notably, the Braves have begun to show interest in Santana after an MRI showed ligament damage in Kris Medlen's right elbow.
- Ghiroli wrote last night that top prospect Jonathan Schoop is impressing the Orioles both on and off the field with his relentless work ethic and his constant desire to pick the brains of veteran players to learn something new. Schoop added a good deal of muscle this offseason and is making a strong case to open the season as Baltimore's second baseman. However, he'd never be here if his baseball coach at age 13 hadn't slapped him on the back of the head and pulled him off a soccer field, Schoop recalled. The now-6'2", 228-pound Schoop had decided to try focusing on soccer, believing himself to be too small (he was 5'4" at the time).
Braves right-hander Kris Medlen received his MRI results Tuesday and consulted with team doctors before GM Frank Wren addressed the media. David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution was on-hand as Wren revealed to the public that the MRI showed "some involvement in the ligament." However, MRIs on patients that have already undergone Tommy John surgery are difficult to read, and Medlen will therefore undergo further tests and meet with Dr. James Andrews to get another opinion before determining if surgery is required.
While Wren wouldn't comment on specific names, he admitted that the team is exploring the starting pitching market for additional help. O'Brien reports that the Braves have definitely reached out to Ervin Santana as one possibility. Wren called the Braves' mounting pitching injuries "worrisome," though the team believes Brandon Beachy's biceps tightness to be routine for players who have undergone elbow surgeries in the past (per O'Brien's Twitter).
Santana threw a two-inning simulated game yesterday and may wait a day or two before signing, Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes reported last night. In that report, he added that financial concern is the main deterrent for the Braves, whose primary competition is the Orioles and Blue Jays. Baltimore has offered a one-year, $13MM deal plus incentives, while Toronto is offering one year and $14MM without incentives. The Twins have offered a three-year deal reported to be in the $30-33MM range, but Santana's preference is a one-year deal, as he could essentially guarantee himself roughly that amount over two years by signing for roughly $14MM for this season and getting a qualifying offer next offseason.
The potential loss of Medlen would be a devastating blow for a Braves rotation that already lost Tim Hudson to free agency and could be without Mike Minor for the early portion of April. Atlanta was projected to have a rotation of Medlen, Minor, Beachy, Julio Teheran and Alex Wood to open the season, with Gavin Floyd eventually slotting in once recovered from Tommy John surgery. Now, they may have to turn to Freddy Garcia, David Hale and other internal candidates, which would be less than ideal for a team expecting to contend in 2014.
The Angels have released left-hander Mark Mulder, tweets Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. Mulder's comeback attempt was cut short by a freak injury in which he ruptured his Achilles tendon during agility drills.
The former All-Star signed a minor league deal with the Angels in January that would have allowed him to earn as much as $6MM in incentives. Mulder was a workhorse from 2001 to 2005 for the Athletics and Cardinals, averaging 211 innings per season with a 3.65 ERA. However, shoulder issues limited him to just 106 innings from 2006 to 2008, his last year in the big leagues. He had worked as an analyst with ESPN since 2011.
Aaron Steen contributed to this post.
New Cardinals prospect Aledmys Diaz participated in team drills with the club on Monday but will return to Mexico next week to receive a work visa that will allow him to compete in Spring Training games, writes Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. GM John Mozeliak said the club will have Diaz focus on shortstop rather than trying to carve out a utility role. However, asked about the overlap between Diaz's contract and that of fellow offseason signee Jhonny Peralta, Mozeliak simply said, "Jhonny Peralta is our shortstop. We think he's really good."
Here's more from baseball's Central divisions...
- The Post-Dispatch's Rick Hummel writes that the Cardinals were Missouri native Max Scherzer's dream team growing up. Scherzer told Hummel he always envisioned playing for the Cards as a kid, and he had the chance to do so when St. Louis drafted him in the 43rd round out of high school. However, Scherzer honored his commitment to Mizzou and now doesn't think about his old Cardinals aspirations: "The thing is that now I’ve gotten to the big leagues and I’m in this position, it’s really hard to still dream about that when you’ve got this clubhouse and you look around and see Miguel Cabrera. You see the talent here. This clubhouse can win and it’s so much fun. This is my dream now, playing with the Tigers."
- Left-hander Chris Capuano told Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press that the Twins showed some early interest in him, but that interest seemed to dry up after the team re-signed Mike Pelfrey in December (Twitter link).
- Indians manager Terry Francona spoke with reporters, including Zack Meisel of the Northeat Ohio Media Group, and said that he would be lying if he knew what the team's third base plans were this coming season. Reports have pegged Carlos Santana as uncomfortable at the position to date. Francona also said he thinks David Murphy will be an excellent addition to the team, adding that Cleveland was able to get him due to a down year in 2013: "If he would've had his normal year, he probably wouldn't have been as available."
- Phil Coke has struggled this spring, and this could be a big week for him, writes MLB.com's Jason Beck. The Tigers can cut ties with Coke this week and only owe him $316K of the $1.9MM the two sides agreed to in arbitration. However, Beck expects Coke to hang around at least until the end of Spring Training; Detroit would only owe him $475K were they to cut him at that point. Detroit made a similar move with Brennan Boesch last spring, and Casey Crosby's return from injury gives the team another left-handed option out of the bullpen. MLive.com's Chris Iott also expects Coke to hang around beyond Wednesday's deadline.
Here are today's minor moves from around Major League Baseball...
- The Phillies announced that they've outrighted right-hander Michael Stutes off the 40-man roster after he cleared waivers. Stutes, 27, posted a 4.58 ERA with 4.6 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9 in 17 2/3 innings for the Phils last season. He's posted a 4.01 ERA with 7.6 K/9 and 4.2 BB/9 in 85 1/3 career innings but struggled since a solid rookie campaign in 2011. Philadelphia's 40-man roster now stands at 39.
- The Angels have outrighted catcher John Hester and left-hander Robert Carson to Triple-A Salt Lake, according to the club's transactions page. The 30-year-old Hester got just one plate appearance in the Majors in 2013 after batting .212/.287/.329 in 95 PAs the previous season. Hester has a career batting line of .282/.346/.457 in nearly 1300 Triple-A PAs. Carson, 25, posted an 8.24 ERA in 19 2/3 innings with the Mets last season but has a 3.45 career ERA in 60 Triple-A innings. The Halos had claimed him off waivers in October.
- Michael Olmsted, who was released by the Brewers just yesterday, has agreed to terms on a minor league deal with the Red Sox and will be in minor league camp with the team upon completion of a physical, according to Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish (Twitter links). The 26-year-old struggled with command and posted a 5.82 ERA in his first taste of Triple-A last season but has a 3.02 career ERA in the minors as a whole to go along with a gaudy 11.1 K/9 rate and a serviceable 3.7 BB/9 rate.
In an interesting piece for Sports Illustrated, Richard Deitsch posed a range questions to a group of five outstanding baseball writers -- Jay Jaffe of SI.com, La Velle Neal III of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, Joel Sherman of the New York Post, and Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle -- who represent different aspects of the baseball media sphere. Here are some more links from the day:
- Cubs outfielder Nate Schierholtz could be had via trade, reports Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (via Twitter). The "progress" of Ryan Kalish makes that a possibility, says Morosi. Schierholtz is owed $5MM this year before qualifying for free agency. As Moroso mentions, the Tigers are a club that could hypothetically be interested in Schierholtz given the injury to Andy Dirks.
- The Cardinals introduced new infielder Aledmys Diaz today, as the Associated Press reports (via the Boston Herald). Though the Cuban was brought in for a relatively meager $8MM guarantee over four years, Cards GM John Mozeliak says that the team is "very confident that [Diaz] can be an offensive middle infielder, especially a shortstop." Mozeliak said the club would exercise patience with its new addition, who has not played competitively for some time.
- Though the Mariners' additions of Corey Hart and Logan Morrison over the offseason raised some questions about incumbent first baseman Justin Smoak, manager Lloyd McClendon says that Smoak will remain the starter, MLB.com's John Schlegel reports. It seemed more recently that things were headed in that direction, but McClendon's statements today would make a trade of Smoak a surprise at this point. "Will other guys play first? Yeah," McClendon said, "But Smoak is my first baseman."
- The independent Suger Land Skeeters have invited former NBA star Tracy McGrady to their spring camp, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. At 34, McGrady is working to build up arm strength and develop an off-speed offering.
Here's a quick look in at the American League East:
- With Red Sox outfielder Grady Sizemore progressing towards cracking the team's Opening Day roster, WEEI.com's Rob Bradford provides the details of his incentive-heavy contract. If Sizemore breaks camp, he would earn a $250K bonus and draw a $750K base salary. He can, as previously reported, boost the total value to $6MM if he were to hit all incentives. Here's how: $250K each for reaching 60, 90, 120, and 150 days in the big leagues; $250K for each increment of 25 plate appearances from 225 to 500; and a slate of award bonuses (including $50K for being named AL Comeback Player of the Year).
- Orioles third baseman Manny Machado says that his $519K contract for 2014 is "disappointing," reports Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun. Of course, with less than two years of service, Machado had little choice in the matter. The two sides have yet to discuss the possibility of an extension, though Connolly says there are "indications" that talks could take place once the health of the 21-year-old's left knee is more certain. Machado maintains that he would "love to be an Oriole forever," noting that his only wish is "to be treated fairly."
- The Yankees have drawn significant trade interest in backstop Francisco Cervelli, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. Among the teams giving the catcher a look is the White Sox. Though the out-of-options, 28-year-old Cervelli figures to have the inside track on the reserve role for New York, the club has several other viable options to back up Brian McCann (as MLBTR's Steve Adams recently explained).
The Braves are indeed very interested, with financial concerns the main limitation. Meanwhile, the Royals have put in a call on Santana. The Blue Jays and Orioles have standing offers out, Rojas adds.
2:21pm: O'Brien hears from a person connected to the Royals that the Braves may now be making a run at Santana (Twitter link). In addition to Medlen's injury, Brandon Beachy left today's Spring Training start with biceps tightness.
10:17am: The Braves haven't completely ruled out Santana in the event of a serious Medlen injury, writes MLB.com's Mark Bowman, but the financial and draft pick costs are definite factors. Atlanta would very much like to strengthen its crop of top prospects, and sacrificing the No. 26 selection in the draft would go against that thinking.
9:19am: Over the weekend it was reported that Ervin Santana has completely changed course and is now seeking a one-year deal with an eye toward a lucrative multi-year deal next offseason. With one-year offers of $13MM plus incentives and $14MM without incentives from the Orioles and Blue Jays, respectively, there appear to be a pair of clear favorites for Santana.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports provides some updates on the Santana sweepstakes this morning, noting that the Blue Jays' players are lobbying for Santana to come to Toroto. Santana has many friends on the club, including countrymen Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Reyes. One source told Rosenthal that several Jays players got together and texted Santana a picture of themselves holding a poster that read, "Come to Toronto."
One potentially game-changing factor to the Santana market could be the severity of the injury to Braves right-hander Kris Medlen, who left Sunday's Spring Training game with a forearm strain. David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution touched on the topic this morning, wondering if the Braves could consider expanding their budget to bring him into the fold. Rosenthal writes that the Braves will get the results of an MRI on Medlen today. The draft pick loss wouldn't be as big for the Braves as some teams around the league, as Atlanta would surrender the No. 26 selection after already having received the No. 32 selection for losing Brian McCann to free agency. That forfeiture, however, would be the most significant of the specific teams mentioned in Rosenthal's piece.
Rosenthal also has some specifics on recent offers made to Santana; the Orioles' last three-year offer was believed to be in the $27MM range, while the three-year offer from the Twins was in the $30-33MM range. That offer was still on the table as of last night. However, as Rosenthal notes, Santana could earn nearly that much over the next two seasons by taking $14MM or so in 2014 and receiving a qualifying offer following the season, as next year's QO could jump to the $15-16MM range.
The Diamondbacks have outrighted left-handed reliever Santos Rodriguez to Triple-A Reno, the club announced via press release. The move opens roster space for Oliver Perez, whose signing was announced by the club earlier today.
Arizona had claimed Rodriguez back in January from the White Sox. He was a mainstay on Baseball America's list of Chicago's top 30 prospects from 2009-13. Last year, Rodriguez was stellar at the Double-A level, posting a 2.35 ERA (with 25 strikeouts against 14 walks) in 23 innings. He struggled at Triple-A, however, putting up a lackluster 7.30 mark with 36 strikeouts and 27 walks in 24 2/3 frames.
Here are some minor moves from around the league...
- The Angels have signed righty Joe Martinez to a minor league pact, per the club's official transactions page. The 31-year-old Martinez made a pair of appearances for the Indians last season, allowing one run in five innings. He has a 5.82 ERA in 55 2/3 career innings between the Giants, D'Backs, Pirates and Indians and a 4.75 ERA in 548 Triple-A innings.
- Right-hander Brandon Erbe has signed a minor league deal with the Rockies, according to the team's transactions page. Erbe, 26, ranked as the game's No. 27 prospect heading into the 2007 season, per Baseball Prospectus, but 2010 shoulder surgery has stalled his once-promising career. The former third-round pick has thrown just 45 minor league innings over the past three seasons as he's battled back from a torn labrum.
- The Blue Jays signed right-hander Radhames Liz to a minor league contract, Baseball America's Matt Eddy tweeted this weekend. The 30-year-old was once among the game's Top 100 prospects, per BA, but hasn't pitched in the Majors since 2009. Liz has spent the past three seasons pitching for the LG Twins in the Korea Baseball Organization and led the league in strikeouts last season with 188. However, Shi Davidi of Sportsnet reported (via Twitter) that he'll begin the season rehabbing a knee injury. Liz had a 7.50 ERA in 110 1/3 Major League innings with the Orioles from 2007-09.
- Brewers senior director of media relations Mike Vassallo tweets that the club has released right-hander Michael Olmsted. Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel spoke with manager Ron Roenicke about the decision to release the 6'6", 282-pound right-hander. Roenicke said they simply wanted to give Olmsted a chance to get an opportunity elsewhere rather than releasing him later in the spring. Olmsted posted a 5.88 ERA in 59 2/3 innings between Double-A and Triple-A for the Brew Crew last season, but the 26-year-old has an excellent 3.02 ERA with 11.1 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9 in his minor league career.
The Yankees heavily invested in the free agent market, yet the team still has some notable holes as it tries to celebrate Derek Jeter's final season by returning to the playoffs.
Major League Signings
- Masahiro Tanaka, RHP: Seven years, $155MM (Plus $20MM release fee).
- Jacoby Ellsbury, OF: Seven years, $153MM. $21MM vesting option for 2021.
- Brian McCann, C: Five years, $85MM. $15MM vesting option for 2019.
- Carlos Beltran, OF: Three years, $45MM.
- Matt Thornton, LHP: Two years, $7MM.
- Brendan Ryan, SS: Two years, $5MM. $2MM mutual option for 2016.
- Hiroki Kuroda, RHP: One year, $16MM.
- Derek Jeter, SS: One year, $12MM.
- Kelly Johnson, IF/OF: One year, $3MM.
- Brian Roberts, 2B: One year, $2MM.
- Total spend: $503MM
Notable Minor League Signings
- Andrew Bailey ($1.975MM if he makes the roster, team option for 2015), Scott Sizemore, Robert Coello, Zelous Wheeler
Trades and Claims
- Acquired RHP Kyle Haynes from the Pirates in exchange for C Chris Stewart
- Acquired cash considerations from the Giants in exchange for LHP David Huff
- Brett Gardner, OF: Four years, $52MM. $12.5MM club option for 2019 with a $2MM buyout.
- Robinson Cano, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez (162-game suspension), Phil Hughes, Boone Logan, Joba Chamberlain, Lyle Overbay, David Huff, Chris Stewart, Vernon Wells, Travis Hafner, Kevin Youkilis, Jayson Nix
After missing the postseason for just the second time in 19 years, it wasn't a surprise that the Bronx Bombers went on an old-fashioned Yankees spending spree. Between signing new free agents, re-signing a few of their own free agents and extending Brett Gardner's contract, the Yankees spent over $555MM on player salaries this offseason. To put it in perspective, when Forbes Magazine released its annual team valuations a year ago, seven entire franchises weren't valued as worth $555MM. When the Yankees decide to spend, they don't take half measures.
The Yankees ended up with five --- Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, Masahiro Tanaka, Hiroki Kuroda and Carlos Beltran --- of the top 12 players on Tim Dierkes' list of the offseason's 50 best free agents and were known to be in contact with several other major names, from Shin-Soo Choo to Jhonny Peralta to several free agent pitchers and, of course, Robinson Cano. GM Brian Cashman worked quickly to identify the players he wanted, as the Yankees reached agreements with all of those players (save Tanaka) by the end of the Winter Meetings.
It's hard to argue with the results. McCann's presence instantly turns one of the league's worst catching situations into one of its best; Beltran's still-powerful bat is a fine replacement for the departed Curtis Granderson; Kuroda's return helped solidify the rotation; Ellsbury adds speed and defense to the Yankee outfield, plus his addition allows the club to shift Alfonso Soriano to a more regular DH role (with Beltran and Jeter also seeing some time at designated hitter) and Ichiro Suzuki's declining bat is now relegated to the bench.
The one signing that took a bit more time was Tanaka, as first the new posting rules between MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball had to be established. Then, the Yankees had to outbid the Cubs, Diamondbacks, White Sox, Dodgers and Astros in order to land the 25-year-old right-hander with a seven-year, $155MM contract that ranks as the 18th-largest deal in baseball history. That contract (plus the $20MM posting fee the Yankees paid to the Rakuten Golden Eagles) represents a huge investment in a pitcher who has yet to appear in a Major League game, yet given Tanaka's impressive scouting reports and his status as the best starter on the market, he was seen as a must-have for a Yankee club that needed rotation help.
The one signing that New York didn't make, however, was the one that many thought was a foregone conclusion when the offseason began. The Yankees simply weren't prepared to offer Cano more than seven years (at $175MM), and thus Cano made his stunning move to the Mariners that left the Yankees with a big hole at second base. While the team is still looking for infield help, right now it looks like newly-signed veteran Brian Roberts will man the position with the re-signed Brendan Ryan and roster holdover Eduardo Nunez also in the mix.
Another notable non-move was choosing to forgo signing an experienced closer to replace Mariano Rivera, as David Robertson will get a clear shot at the ninth-inning job. Veteran setup man Matt Thornton was signed to add some left-handed experience to the young relief corps and Andrew Bailey was signed to a low-risk minor league deal to see if he can stay healthy and revive his career.
Maybe the biggest "need" for the Bombers this offseason was getting some of Alex Rodriguez's contract off their books, and the Yankees got their wish when A-Rod's 211-game suspension was only partially reduced to 162 games after his lengthy appeal. The suspension saved the Yankees around $22.13MM in payroll for 2014, though A-Rod's absence leaves the Yankees thin at the hot corner. Newcomer Kelly Johnson will get the lion's share of games at third, though since Johnson has only played 16 games as a third baseman (all last season in Tampa Bay) during his eight-year career. Minor league signing Scott Sizemore could be an under-the-radar boon at either third or second if he's able to stay healthy, as he's missed virtually all of the last two seasons recovering from two separate left ACL tears.
The Yankees settled a bit of long-term business by signing Gardner to a four-year, $52MM extension. Gardner would've been eligible for free agency following 2014 and he was the subject of a few trade rumors in the wake of the Ellsbury and Beltran signings, but now it seems he'll be wearing the pinstripes though at least the 2018 season. Such extensions are pretty rare for the Yankees, as the team usually doesn't explore new deals with players, managers or even front office staff until their current contracts are up. The Gardner deal could be a sign that even the Yankees are taking note of the rising costs of free agent contracts, and since Gardner was a player they liked and wanted to keep anyway, it made sense to extend him now and possibly get a bit of a discount if he has a big 2014 campaign.
Two major pieces of the Yankees' puzzle were put in place before the offseason even began. Manager Joe Girardi was re-signed to a four-year, $16MM extension that will keep him in the Bombers' dugout through the 2017 season, a move that broke the hearts of Cubs fans and rewarded a manager who arguably did his best work in 2013 by squeezing 85 wins out of an injury-riddled roster. Jeter was sure to pick up his player option for 2014 anyway but in early November, that $9.5MM option was shelved in favor of a one-year, $12MM contract that Hal Steinbrenner negotiated himself.
Jeter's new deal carried some extra luxury tax complications, which might've been an early sign that the Yankees were going to abandon their plan to stay under the $189MM payroll threshold. The Yankees had been positioning themselves to get under the $189MM mark for the last two years in order reset their mounting luxury tax payments but, as Steinbrenner and Cashman always claimed, that $189MM target would only be kept if the team could remain competitive. Since the Yankees don't abide by missing the postseason, they will head into 2014 with another $200MM+ payroll (hat tip to Cot's Baseball Contracts for the info).
For all of the hundreds of millions the Yankees spent this winter, most of that money was spent to simply replace departing stars, and not necessarily to fix other problem areas. Beltran for Granderson is essentially a wash when Granderson is healthy, and while Tanaka is presumed to be an upgrade over Andy Pettitte, don't forget that the retired southpaw delivered 3.2 fWAR last season. While McCann and Ellsbury are big improvements on the Yankees' 2013 catchers and the Suzuki/Vernon Wells outfield platoon, those additions could be offset by the losses in the bullpen and at second base.
Cano's departure leaves the Yankees with one of the shakiest infield situations of any contending team. The hope is that Jeter and Mark Teixeira can stay healthy and regain some semblance of their former productivity, but that's a tall order for two players who combined for only 32 games last season. While Ryan or Nunez could spell Jeter at shortstop, the Yankees don't have anyone on the roster who can realistically replace Teixeira for a lengthy stretch if his wrist injuries continue to bother him. Roberts' health is also hardly a given considering his injury problems over the last few seasons.
The addition of a player like Stephen Drew could solve a lot of these infield questions. Drew could step in at shortstop if Jeter was hurt, and since he has expressed a willingness to move to second or third base, he would provide the Yankees with an stable everyday option at either spot. The Yankees did make Drew an offer early in the offseason but pulled it back to focus on other signings, while Drew passed up on the deal (believed to be for two or three years) since he felt he could find a longer-term deal. In hindsight, the Yankees missed out by not landing Peralta earlier in the winter, as they were simply outbid by the Cardinals.
C.C. Sabathia, Tanaka, Kuroda, Ivan Nova and one of Adam Warren, Michael Pineda or David Phelps will comprise New York's starting rotation. While there's at least a bit of uncertainly surrounding all of the candidates, Sabathia's status is the Yankees' biggest concern, as the 33-year-old is coming off the worst season of his Major League career. Sabathia has gotten into terrific shape and returned to his old offseason throwing program in an attempt to return to his old form, though if he continues to decline, it will be a huge blow to both the Yankees' playoff hopes and to their future payroll plans (given how Sabathia is still owed $76MM through 2016, plus $20MM more in 2017 if his option vests).
Nobody can replace Rivera, yet it's surprising to see that the Yankees didn't pick up one veteran arm to provide some closer for Robertson if he struggles. Bailey may not appear until after the All-Star break, while Thornton fits better as a setup man or even as a specialist against left-handed batters. Joel Hanrahan has been on the Yankees' radar, though he's coming off elbow surgery himself. Beyond Roberts, Thornton and Shawn Kelley, New York is going with a young bullpen that includes some promising arms (Preston Claiborne, former top prospects Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos and the losers of the fifth starter competition) but no proven experience.
If I had to guess, the Yankees still have a few more moves up their sleeves before Opening Day. They added Wells and Lyle Overbay last March and I'd expect similar veteran additions to join the roster this spring to give the team some depth in the bullpen and especially around the infield, particularly at first.
Deal Of Note
Of all the Yankees' major signings, the McCann contract seems to have the fewest question marks, which is somewhat surprising considering New York is committing $85MM to a catcher through his age-34 season. A big-hitting catcher is hard to find, however, and the Yankees simply couldn't go through another year getting barely replacement-level production from behind the plate. Francisco Cervelli, Chris Stewart, J.R. Murphy and Austin Romine combined for only 0.9 fWAR/0.1 rWAR over a combined 202 games last season --- McCann delivered 2.7 fWAR/2.2 rWAR in 102 games. It's very possible that McCann improves on his performance, as he'll stay healthier by getting some DH days and his left-handed power swing is a great fit at Yankee Stadium. Signing McCann also kept an All-Star catcher away from two AL rivals in the Rangers and Red Sox, both of whom were interested in McCann's services.
McCann's presence also turns the Yankees' catching pool from a weakness into potential trade bait. Stewart was dealt to Pittsburgh and it's possible that at least one more of Cervelli, Murphy or Romine could be sent elsewhere for infield help. The Yankees could even trade top prospect Gary Sanchez if they wished to strike a bigger deal, though the rough plan seems to be to groom Sanchez as McCann's eventual replacement, with McCann shifting to DH in a few years' time.
It's often said that Jeter personifies the Yankees, and that may be especially true in 2014, though not in the way that either Jeter or the team hopes. A healthy Jeter can still perform at a league-best level, though it's anyone's guess as to whether he'll be able to stay off the DL and produce at his usual standard --- the same could be said of the Yankees as a whole, as they'll need to rely on much better health from several key players return to contention.
An argument could be made that despite all the struggles and injuries last year, the Yankees still won 85 games, so they're not far away from getting back to the postseason. It's worth noting that Cashman doesn't buy that argument, as he saw his club's 2013 record as a fortunate overachievement and thus felt it necessary to spend big. With how much of that money went towards reloading instead of actually adding talent, however, it's possible the Yankees may have only bought themselves a "real" 85-win talent level (by Pythagorean record standards) and could still fall short in the tough AL East.
Photo courtesy of Kim Klement/USA Today Sports Images
As the Braves await the results of today's MRI on Kris Medlen's right forearm, many have speculated that the team could turn to Ervin Santana in the event that Medlen is out for a significant period of time. However, David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution writes that he doesn't expect Atlanta to make a panicked move in the event of a serious injury to Medlen. If Medlen is on the DL, O'Brien expects Atlanta to open the season with Julio Teheran, Brandon Beachy, Alex Wood, Freddy Garcia and David Hale, with Mike Minor stepping into one spot once he's ready to go in mid-April, and Gavin Floyd eventually taking another. He adds that Josh Beckett's name "does nothing" for any member of the Braves organization to whom O'Brien has mentioned it. Here's more on their rotation and the NL East...
- As if Medlen's injury wasn't enough, Beachy left his start for the Braves today due to tightness in his right biceps, writes O'Brien. Beachy described the injury as "dull tightness" and has experienced it in his other two Spring Training starts. However, it got better as he threw harder in his last start, and today he says it worsened. Braves doctors told Beachy before the game that it was ok to try to pitch through the tightness. He wouldn't commit to being ready for Opening Day when asked by O'Brien, but said he thought the tightness was normal following a pair of surgeries. Following the rough start, Beachy told FOX Sports' Jon Morosi that he tried to throw harder again today but wasn't able to increase his velocity (Twitter link).
- ESPN's Buster Olney covers the Braves' rotation in the intro to his daily blog post (ESPN Insider required and recommended). Olney spoke to one evaluator who said, "It's just impossible to see Atlanta taking on significant money, and they seem to be reluctant to give up any prospects of value..." suggesting that a major acquisition isn't likely. That evaluator wondered if they might be interested in out-of-options hurlers like Zach Britton (Orioles), Vance Worley (Twins), Sam Deduno (Twins) or Franklin Morales (Rockies) should they pursue outside help.
- The Mariners are again doubling down on the number of scouts they have at today's Mets game, tweets Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com. Rubin adds that Seattle's scouts have "been religiously attending Mets games." New York has been said to have interest in displaced Seattle infielder Nick Franklin, so Mariners scouts could be trying to determine a fair asking price.
- Jeff Manship has impressed the Phillies thus far in Spring Training, writes Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Philadelphia was the only club to call Manship prior to his agreement to a minor league deal in early September, the right-hander told Gelb. Manship says he's enjoying the competition this spring and is excited to have a shot at earning a rotation spot for the first time in his five trips through a big league camp. Manship has allowed one run with six punchouts and one walk through seven Spring Training innings to date.