Final Roster Spots: Utility Infielder

Throughout the day, I will be looking at the battles for the final spots on the Yankees roster: the last reliever, the battle for CF, and the utility infielder fight. I started with the 7th reliever, and will now continue by looking at the utility infielder role.

When the preseason started, most Yankees fans assumed that the UI role would come down to a battle between Cody Ransom and Angel Berroa. Although many hoped that they would go out and sign a veteran with a solid bat to fill that role, Brian Cashman’s reputation of skimping on the end of the bench made that unlikely. Alex Rodriguez’s injury and Derek Jeter’s involvement in the WBC changed the landscape a bit, as Ransom was given the starting #B job and Ramiro Pena looked good at short in Jeter’s stead. Before we dig into the spring stats, let us take a look at some praise for Pena:

“When I first saw him three years ago, you could knock the bat out of his hands,” said one veteran scout whose primary assignment is in the minor leagues.

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Final Roster Spots: 7th Reliever

Throughout the day, I will be looking at the battles for the final spots on the Yankees roster: the last reliever, the battle for CF, and the utility infielder fight. I’ll start with the 7th reliever.

As of now, it seems clear that Mariano Rivera, Brian Bruney, Damaso Marte, Jose Veras, Edwar Ramirez, and Phil Coke will make the opening day roster barring injury. It was assumed for most of spring training that the Yankees would carry a long reliever to fill that final slot, with Dan Giese, Alfredo Aceves, and Brett Tomko being the candidates. However, Joe Girardi suggested this afternoon that the battle for the final relief spot is more complicated than that:

So it looks like Joe Girardi may not take a long reliever after all.
This morning at 8:30 a.m., Girardi talked about the competition between Brett Tomko, Dan Giese and Alfredo Aceves, discussing the importance of today’s game since all three were pitching.
But when someone asked Girardi if the rest of the bullpen was pretty much settled, the manager said something interesting.

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Why I Do Not Trust Unnamed Scouts

A classic tool for sportswriters to resort to when looking to fill some column space is to find a major league scout and ask him to just riff on a bunch of players. To be fair, Mark Feinsand did so on his blog, where pretty much any content goes. However, reading the things the scout said reaffirms for me the validity of the general movement away from pure scouting towards statistical analysis. Here are some of the highlights:

On Derek Jeter:

“Jeter is the No.1 guy on the club no matter how you look at it. He makes that team go. He can play for my team any day. He has the damndest inside-out swing I’ve seen in my life. He’s a smooth player. He doesn’t have a lot of time left at shortstop, but he’s what he should be – a captain. He’s the leader of this team and has the greatest makeup of any player ever. He’s the consummate professional.

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Yankees Trade Jason Jones for Charles Nolte

The press release, per Abraham,

The Yankees announced today they have acquired minor league RHP Charles Nolte from the Minnesota Twins in exchange for RHP Jason Jones. Jones was taken by Minnesota in the 2008 Rule 5 Draft and offered back to the Yankees. Instead of Jones being returned to the organization, the Yankees and Twins agreed on the two-player trade.

Nolte, a 24th-round pick by Minnesota in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, was 4-3 with one save and a 2.05 ERA in 44 relief appearances with the Single-A Beloit Snappers in 2008 (70.1IP, 63H, 26R, 16ER, 35BB, 75K, 1HR). The 6-3, 200 lb. right-hander is a San Diego, Calif. native and attended San Diego State University.

Jason Jones was not going to make the Minnesota Twins right out of spring training, but they liked him enough to want to hold on to him. The Yankees have absolutely no use for Jones. He wouldn’t be able to secure a starting spot at either Trenton (where he’s been for 2 years) or Scranton.… Click here to read the rest

NY Observer: Jeter May Not Be A Hall of Famer

Allen Barra from the New York Observer wrote today to do some Derek Jeter questioning. We’ve seen a lot of this recently, mostly centered around his defense at shortstop. While Parra gives us a healthy amount of that, he also throws some of this in:

This will be Jeter’s 14th season (not counting 1995, when he only played 15 games), and judging from the blogs and radio call-in shows, Yankee fans are assuming that he is a walking Hall of Famer, but I don’t necessarily think that’s true. If he pulled a Thurmon Munson, I think he’d get in. His credentials are pretty good. In 1,985 games, he has a batting average of .316, and that’s always the first thing they look at. He has 206 home runs, a very good total for a middle infielder, and has been in double figures every season since 1996, when he got the starting job. He’s driven in more than 100 runs only once (1999 with 102), but batters who hit first or second in the order aren’t expected to have 100 RBI seasons: they’re expected to score runs, and Jeter has had more than 100 runs scored in 11 of 12 seasons, from 1996 through 2007, missing the mark just once, in 2003 when he played only 119 games (a full season would have projected him to at least 110).

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The Johnny Damon Contract

When the Yankees grabbed Johnny Damon from the Red Sox after the 2005 season, the general consensus among fans and insiders was that it was a good move in the short term, but that Damon would not be worth the 52 million he was getting by the end of the deal. It seemed like another instance of the Yankees buying a big name, while the Red Sox smartly avoided sentiment and made the prudent business decision.

However, standing here before the last season of the deal, RLYW takes a look at the contract and finds that only an awful season will keep the deal from having been worth it. Being that meeting even his worst projections would make him about worth his paycheck this season, it is likely that the Yankees will have gained positive value from Johnny Damon. Meanwhile, CF in Boston has been a revolving door, with neither Jacoby Ellsbury nor Coco Crisp filling the void left by JD.… Click here to read the rest

The Boss To Be At Home Opener

From Newsday:

George Steinbrenner is expected to be at the new Yankee Stadium for the season opener on April 16, a person with knowledge of the situation told Newsday Thursday.

Steinbrenner, who is 78 and thought to be in frail health, has not been seen in New York since he attended last summer’s All-Star Game at the old Yankee Stadium.

“I spoke with him and he said he is going to be there,” the person said. “I doubt he will be at the welcome-home dinner. But he said he is coming to the opener.”

The person said he recently sat with Steinbrenner at two exhibition games in Tampa and found him “very enthusiastic, fully engaged in the game, his players, his manager. To me, he was really terrific.”

Steinbrenner is essentially confined to a wheelchair. “He can’t walk; he has two football knees,” the person said. “He can barely stand.”

Steinbrenner, who made a tearful farewell to the old stadium while riding with one of his daughters in a golf cart last July, is not expected to make a public appearance at the game.

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