Browsing Posts published in December, 2013

Masahiro Tanaka has become the story of baseball’s off-season. The 25-year-old Japanese ace has until January 24th to sign with a MLB team or else he’ll return to Japan. Tanaka signing with a MLB team is forgone conclusion and make no mistake about it; he’s about to cash in. Many conservative estimates peg a six-year, $120 million contract (plus a $20 million posting fee to Tanaka’s old team, the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles). Since Tanaka is essentially Japan’s first ‘free agent’, he’ll likely receive more years and a higher annual value. In the past, MLB teams submitted bids to the posted player’s Japanese team. The highest bidder received the rights to negotiate a contract with the posted player. That model has been replaced with essentially a ‘free market’ system where all 30 MLB teams could negotiate with Tanaka and pay the fee to his former club. Many teams, including the Yankees, have built their off-seasons around Tanaka. Needless to say, Tanaka has all of the leverage under this new system.

Shelling out a nine figure contract for a player who has never thrown a pitch in the MLB is very risky. Hell, shelling out nine figures for any player is risky. So what exactly is the winning bidder going to get in Tanaka? Here’s a summary of the videos I’ve watched and scouting reports that I’ve read…

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Masahiro Tanaka was officially posted on Thursday morning and teams did not waste any time. Sources indicate that the Yankees are already in talks with Tanaka’s agent, Casey Close, who also represents Derek Jeter and Mark Teixiera. The Yankees will have a lot of competition for the skilled, 25-year-old right handed pitcher. Given the recent success of Yu Darvish, many are expecting ace-like performances right away from Tanaka. However, comparing the stats of some of Tanaka’s fellow statesmen may indicate what we can expect in his first season…

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Last week, we detailed an argument why the Yankees should wait until next season to tap the free agent starting pitching class. Today, we’ll detail each of the potential free agent options and whether they’ll be a fit. Before we dig into the potential free agents, the Yankees currently have approximately $127 million committed to the 2015 roster. After arbitration hearings, this amount will likely rise to $140 million. To put this in perspective, four players (A-Rod, Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia, and Jacoby Ellsbury) account for nearly $90 million. Derek Jeter, Brett Gardner, David Robertson, Alfonso Soriano, and Hiroki Kuroda will be free agents.

Needless to say, the Yankees will have plenty of holes to fill in the rotation. Here are some intriguing 2015 free agents that can be added to the rotation..

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The New York Jets (7-8) finish their season with one more divisional showdown. The Jets, 24-13 winners last week against the Cleveland Browns, will look to avenge their Week 13 loss against the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins flat out dominated the Jets, beating them 23-3 and vaulting themselves back into the playoff picture. With a home win on Sunday, the Dolphins will capture the sixth and final AFC playoff spot.

The New York Jets played with a lot of heart and emotion last week as they won their final home against the Cleveland Browns. There have been rumblings about Rex Ryan’s job status. Fox NFL Insider Jay Glazer believes that Ryan will be fired after the season and communicated this decision to his team on Saturday night. Ryan’s defense delivered a huge effort and rookie quarterback Geno Smith delivered a huge effort by accounting for three total touchdowns. Smith delivered two touchdown passes to unheralded wide receiver, David Nelson and added one on the ground with a 17-yard scamper late in the fourth quarter. Smith’s touchdown fired Rex Ryan up more than usual. Ryan was fist pumping and jumping up and down on the sideline. Let’s see if Ryan and Smith can build on this performance and carry this momentum to Miami.

The Jets were great at home, posting a 6-2 record, but struggling mightily on the road, losing six of seven contests. The Jets will attempt to play spoiler for the Dolphins, but the linemakers peg the Dolphins as a solid home favorite. NFL Odds are in Miami’s favor as they opened as a solid seven-point home favorite against their AFC East foes. Rex Ryan’s team has not won two games in a row this season and given his impending dismissal, I have a hard time thinking the Jets will win this game. Ryan Tannehill had a big game against the Jets in Week 13 and I expect another one with a lot on the line.

Prediction: Dolphins 24 Jets 10

There’s no denying that the Yankees need to add impact starting pitching. The 2014 Yankee rotation will be led by Hiroki Kuroda, CC Sabathia, and Ivan Nova, which isn’t enough to withstand the grind of a 162 game season. To fill out their rotation, the Yankees could turn to either the free agent market or pick from uninspiring internal options. The Yankees are obviously interested in Japanese RHP Masahiro Tanaka, who may or may not be posted by the Rakuten Golden Eagles of the Nippon Professional Baseball league. Changes in the posting system, namely capping the maximum posting bid at $20 million, have made Rakuten rethink posting Tanaka. In fact, Rakuten has made Tanaka a generous contract offer in hopes of keeping its ace. 

Given the uncertainty surrounding Tanaka’s posting status, this year’s free agent starting pitching market hasn’t taken shape. This year’s ‘Top’ remaining free agent pitching options include Ervin Santana, Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez, AJ Burnett, and Bronson Arroyo. All five of these pitchers have obvious blemishes and would not provide more than a middling middle of the rotation option. Next year, however, potentially presents one of the best free agent classes in recent memory. Of note, Cy Young Award winners Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer could hit the open market. Established AL East options should as Jon Lester, Justin Masterson, Jake Peavy, and James Shields will be available. Finally, a few decent options from the NL Central, Homer Bailey, Johnny Cueto, and Yovani Gallardo will also be available. 

In Part I of this article, we’ll breakdown each of the available 2014 free agent options to see whether or not they’re a fit for the Yankees. Part II will address the 2015 free agent class. More after the jump..

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The 8-18 New York Knicks are in serious trouble. Just one season after winning 54 games, the Knicks are devoid of any championship talk or aspirations. On the surface, it’s just a matter of time before owner James Dolan axes  head coach, Mike Woodson and replaces him with assistant coach, Herb Williams. However, such a move would essentially end the Knicks’ season and may push impending free agent, Carmelo Anthony out the door. In addition, the lack of suitable replacements on the open market make axing Woodson a premature move. The Knicks could turn to ex-Knicks Larry Johnson or Allan Houston to take Woodson’s spot on the bench, but neither guy has skill or experience to take over the team. 

While it’s easy to blame a coach for a team’s slow start, Carmelo Anthony and co. can’t deflect all of the blame. Melo is averaging 26.4 points per game and 9.1 rebounds per game, but his poor showing percentage (44.3%) and low assist total (2.9 APG) aren’t getting it done. JR Smith is starting to play better, but Woodson did not have Smith’s services for the first five games of the season. Add in Tyson Chandler’s 20-game departure due to a broken leg and the injuries sustained by Pablo Prigioni and Raymond Felton have rendered the Knicks without a point guard. Still, if the Knicks continue to lose games, Woodson won’t be around to see all of his guys return. 

More times than not, coaches are saddled with the blame for failing to meet expectations. They receive credit and failure based on their team’s performance. Under certain circumstances, the coach should be given a chance to turn things around. Woodson, winner of 54 games last season, should coach the Knicks for the entire season. Axing Woodson now will just lead to turmoil during a season when the team must rebound and prove it can retain the talents of Carmelo Anthony. 

Let’s start with a little comparison:

  • Player A (Career): 24-12, 4.39 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 9.0 K/9
  • Player B (Career): 32-42, 3.53 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 9.2 K/9

Player A is former LHP Boone Logan, who signed a three-year, $17.5 million deal with Colorado. Player B is the Yankees newly signed LHP Matt Thornton who signed a two-year, $7 million deal.

The 37-year-old Thornton will take over Logan’s role as the lefty specialist for a fraction of the cost. Fans may remember Thornton as a member of the Chicago White Sox bullpen from 2006 through the early part of 2013. The White Sox were unsure of what they wanted to do with Thornton so they moved him in and out of various bullpen roles. In 2010, Thornton flamed out in his bid to win the closer’s job, so he’s strictly a situational specialist. Thornton was a member of the Red Sox for the majority of the 2013 season, but was left off the post-season roster. 

Alike most aging pitchers, most of Thornton’s numbers are declining. Over the last three seasons, his K/9 has fallen from 9.5 to 7.3 to 6.5. Despite a drop in strikeouts, Thornton was very good against lefties last year, allowing just 19 hits and three walks in 89 plate appearances. Thornton will hopefully record some big outs and build the bridge to the next Yankee lefty specialist, Cesar Cabral. After striking out six hitters in 3 2/3 innings last season, Cabral will be waiting for his shot to become a full-time member of the bullpen. The signing of Thornton will hopefully make this transition much smoother in the short term. 

Yesterday, the Yankees and free agent 2B Brian Roberts agreed to a one-year, $2 million deal (plus incentives). The 36-year-old switch hitting second baseman spent his entire 13-year career with Orioles and was best known for his production from 2004 through 2009. During this six year span, Roberts averaged 101 runs, 12 HRs, 35 stolen bases, and a .290 batting average. However, a multitude of injuries have derailed his career and Roberts has only played 192 (!) games over the last four (!) seasons. Abdominal, hip, hamstring, and concussions have unfortunately plagued Roberts. Roberts appeared in 77 games last year, hitting 8 HRs and driving in 39 runs. Roberts has had more success as a right-handed hitter. Last season, he put a .284/.327/.441 slash against LHPs. Roberts is an excellent defender, boasting a career .987 fielding percentage. He only made one error in 540 innings last season. 

As of now, this is purely a low-risk, high reward move. The Yankees could choose to platoon Roberts and Kelly Johnson at second base and utilize their attractive platoon splits. The Yankees need a healthy Roberts to make this possible which has been anything but a sure bet recently.

 

The 6-8 New York Jets season effectively ended last week with a 30-20 loss to the Carolina Panthers. Once again, quarterback Geno Smith looked befuddled by the blitz and had a hard time completing passes to open receivers. In fact, only six of Smith’s 15 completions went to wide receivers. Despite his troubles throwing, the Jets were able to run for 153 yards against Carolina’s top ranked run defense. The Jets will look to once again establish the run against Cleveland’s eighth ranked run defense.

The 4-10 Cleveland Browns have once again had a rough season. Cleveland has played five different quarterbacks throughout the season and will likely add another during next year’s draft. Last week, Cleveland dropped a heart breaking 27-26 decision on the road to the New England Patriots. New England scored 14 unanswered points in the final two minutes to sneak away with the win.

The lone bright spot of Cleveland’s offense has been wide receiver, Josh Gordon. Gordon, who leads the NFL with 1,447 receiving yards, has been a dynamic play maker. Gordon missed the first two games of the season due a suspension, but has performed with a multitude of quarterbacks under center. Tight end Jordan Cameron has also enjoyed a breakout season, catching 75 passes for 848 yards and 7 TDs. Both Gordon and Cameron will look to take advantage of a Jet defense that has been suspect in recent weeks.

Despite New York’s home field advantage, many are expecting a tight game in the Meadowlands. According to current NFL odds, the Jets are favored by just one point. The small spread can be attributed to Smith’s lack of consistent play, the inconsistencies of the Jet defense, and Cleveland’s dynamic play makers. Cleveland does not have much of a running game, which is the Jets strength, but Cleveland can beat teams with Gordon and Cameron. 

I like Cleveland in this game. Their play makers are far superior to the Jets and Cleveland’s defense is good enough to stop Geno Smith. 

Prediction: Cleveland 21 New York 17

Many players change hats during the free agency. However, not many former ‘top prospects’ leave their first team at the age of 28. Free agent  RHP Joba Chamberlain agreed to a one-year, $2.5 million deal with the Detroit Tigers. Detroit also inked closer Joe Nathan in free agency so Joba is expected to compete for a 7th or 8th inning role. Joba was terrible last season, posting a career worst 4.93 ERA in 45 appearances. Still, many wonder what ‘may have been’ if Joba’s role was clearly defined when he first joined the Yankees in 2007. During the second half of the 2007 season, Joba captivated New York with his 100 MPH fastball and devastating slider out of the Yankee bullpen. During his six season in pinstripes, the Yankees weren’t sure whether they wanted to utilize Joba as a starter or reliever and this may have led to his inconsistencies. Randy Levine once called Joba the Yankees ‘answer to Josh Beckett’, which seems comical now. 

Even though he became an afterthought at the end of his Yankee career, I’ll always have fond memories of Joba. Joba’s infamous ‘bug game’ in Cleveland will always have a special spot in baseball history. No one could question his heart or determination as he delivered passionate arm pumps after recording big outs. Don’t forget about ‘Joba Rules’, either. Alike Phil Hughes, maybe a change of scenery will help resurrect Joba’s career. 

Joba wasn’t the only member of the Yankee bullpen to leave. LHP Boone Logan agreed to a three-year, $16.5 million (!) contract with the Colorado Rockies. Logan was known as a lefty specialist with a plus fastball who struck out 202 batters in 176 innings as a Yankee. Despite a high strikeout rate, Logan’s inconsistencies drove Yankee fans insane. Logan also had issues with his left elbow during Spring Training and he had bone spurs removed in October. During his four seasons in pinstripes, Logan’s appearances greatly varied year-to-year. Logan went from 51-to-64-to-80-to-63 appearances which displays erratic usage by Joe Girardi. We don’t know if the Yankees made him a formal offer, but Colorado definitely paid a premium since the allure of left-handed, strikeout artists are rare, regardless of their inconsistencies.