Well, the New York Yankees have had a weird off-season and it just keeps getting weirder. As we walk through the trades the Yankees made in January, I just keep hearing warning bells ringing that tell me that unless almost everyone who had an injury or a downturn in their career last year encounters a significant upward surge than this team looks worse on paper then the one which won 84 games last season and missed out on the post-season. Unless they give their manager Joe Girardi the right tools to work with, he doesn’t have a hope of turning this team into a winner.
We left the story in January with the Yankees trading Manny Banuelos for Chasen Shreve and David Carpenter which we concluded was one of the few sensible moves they have made in the close season so far.
Most moves since then, once again, involve tinkering with the infield and the relief pitching but before we talk about that let’s look at the smaller moves they made in other parts of the line-up. It will be less painful to deal with it in that order.
The Yankees brought in a trio of players who will be given the once over in Spring Training but are not likely to set the world alight. These are RF Slade Heathcott, OF Robert Hernandez and C Eddy Rodriguez.
Heathcott has been with the Yankees since being drafted by them in 2009. He looked a good prospect until a knee injury in 2013 and a recurrence of the same in 2014. He has spent sometime on the Yankees 40-man roster but he is now on only a minor league deal and unless he performs well beyond expectations in Tampa, he will be hoping that there is a spot for him on the Scranton-Wilkes Barre Railriders.
Hernandez is a converted pitcher who as an outfielder fared well in Venezuelan Winter Ball and so the Yankees will take a look at him. He last played in the U.S. in the Cubs farm system in 2009 (as a pitcher). His prospects are no better and perhaps a little worse than Heathcott’s.
Rodriguez split time between Tampa Bay and Boston organisations last season, where he played at the triple-A level, delivering very poor batting figures. He only has 5 major league at bats in his career so far and that is not likely to change.
Finally, Eury Perez who joined the Yankees at the tail-end of last season and achieved little of note was placed on waivers. He was claimed by the Atlanta Braves and may fair better back in the National League.
It is not too long ago that the Yankees signed Gonzalez Germen from the Mets in exchange for cash considerations. Without even making it to Spring Training, he was designated for assignment which resulted in him being traded to Texas in exchange for more of those cash considerations. I don’t know who of the Rangers or the two New York teams ended financially better off by this bizarre shuffling of the cards but it makes no sense to me.
The reason that the Yankees had to be rid of Germen was the signing of another relief picture in exhange for, yes you guessed it, cash. The incomer is Chris Martin, a right-hander, and the greenbacks are headed down Colorado way.
Martin has a chequered health record to say the least with long periods out of baseball because of a torn labrum and his career major league ERA of 6.89 does not inspire much confidence. Maybe this 28 year old is a late blossomer but I don’t think this one is going to end well.
The Yankees have clearly been scouring around pretty deeply for pitching possibilities because towards the end of the month, they signed Scott Baker, who is another with a pretty difficult journey through baseball and a career that has never really bounced back from Tommy John surgery. 2014 was his best season for a long time (he didn’t play at all in 2012) when he moved between starting and relieving in Texas where he ended the season 3-4 with a 5.47 ERA. It shows how little depth the Yankees have for starters that although we have listed him here as a reliever, he probably has more of a chance of making in the Bronx if he can out-perform Chris Capuano in the Spring (or if one of the many ?s comes up injured) and makes the 5 spot in the rotation his own before Ivan Nova is ready to return.
Which just leaves us to deal with the nightmare we call the ‘infield’? Dare you enter…?
So you’ll remember how the Yankees let Martin Prado go because they thought that the best option at second base was to let the young pair of Rob Refsnyder and Jose Pirela battle it out for the role and they didn’t need a good fielding, experienced, hot-bat in reserve for security. So much so that they were willing to pay the Miami Marlins to take him and his .316 batting average.
Well, it seems there must have been more to the story (surely) than the Yankees have been telling us because on the 16th of the month, the Yankees brought back Stephen Drew on a $5 million contract with built-in incentives for additional plate appearances.
Yes, that Stephen Drew. Stephen Drew who batted .176 for the Boston Red Sox in the first half of last season and then came over to New York because it was thought that all he needed was a change of scenery. Yes, that Stephen Drew, who then proceeded to bat .150 in 155 plate appearances for the Yankees. The same Stephen Drew who struck out 75 times in 300 plate appearances (271 At Bats) last season. The same Drew who frequently look disorientated when caught between bases or playing the field. That Stephen Drew.
Perhaps he has a family relationship with the Steinbrenners which is not immediately obvious.
Once Refsnyder and Pirela led the field for second base in the new season but it now seems the role is Drew’s to lose and we want to offer him incentives to spend more time at the plate. i would pay him to stay away.
And then speaking of people who are the current holders of particular spots in the Yankees line-up let’s move on to Alex Rodriguez, who is, of course, the Yankees starting third baseman. Sorry, shouldn’t that sentence say Chase Headley!?! Well, no, not if you believe what A-Rod has apparently been telling his friends to tell the press.
And then there’s a little matter of the Yankees getting ready to block A-Rod’s bonuses for reaching home run targets:
and the fact that the players’ union is going to go out and fight for A-Rod’s rights (yes, the same union he was going to sue a while back).
Yes, folks, the circus is back in the Bronx and Spring Training isn’t even here yet…