About Brien Jackson

Born in Southwestern Ohio and currently residing on the Chesapeake Bay, Brien is a former editor-in-chief of IIATMS who now spends most of his time sitting on his deck watching his tomatoes ripen and consuming far more MLB Network programming than is safe for one's health or sanity.

Offseason questions: Should Hughes get an extension?

It’s hard to believe this, but Phil Hughes will be eligible for free agency just one year from now. It doesn’t really seem possible given how young Hughes is, and how much development he still has left ahead of him, but assuming he plays in the majors for all of 2013, he’ll have a full six years of service time accrued at the end of the year, making him eligible to hit the open market. Unfortunately, that puts him right in the middle of the Yankees’ financial crossroads.

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Ichiro wants to stay a Yankee

My guess is that, if the Yankees had their druthers, Ichiro Suzuki would be their starting right fielder when Openin Day rolls around this spring. According to Joel Sherman, that would be just fine with Ichiro himself. Sherman reports that someone close to Ichiro told him that the Japanese superstar loved his time in New York, particularly “playing in a professional, winning atmosphere.” He also expresses doubt that money would be an impediment to a deal if the Yankees want him back, noting that Ichiro deferred money on his last contract to make staying in Seattle possible.

On the other hand, Sherman also noted that the Giants are likely to have a lot of interest in acquiring Ichiro, and that they tried very hard to trade for him back in July. He also expresses skepticism that the Yankees would really have both Ichiro and Brett Gardner starting in the outfield, as they’re still a team built around power. My guess is that, thanks to the difficulties of complying with ownership’s austerity dictates, that won’t really be an issue now. After all, if the Yankees were that hungry for power, they wouldn’t essentially be letting Nick Swisher just walk away, would they? The free agent is market is also pretty thin on power hitting lefties, so unless the Yankees can swing a trade for Justin Upton, I’m pretty sure they’ll be just fine giving Ichiro another shot after the way he played in pinstripes this year. Continue reading Ichiro wants to stay a Yankee

Scouting Otani

Shohei Otani is the new shiny object on the international free agent radar, so of course the Yankees have been linked to him. Like most amateur free agents, I don’t really know anything about him (he’s 18 and he throws hard), but if you’re a Baseball America subscriber you can head over there and read Ben Badler’s scouting report on him. A sampling:

Otani has great arm speed and arm action with a loose, easy delivery. His fastball sits around 92-96 mph and has touched 98 (he hit 99 according to a video online, though BA could not find a scout who could confirm a reading above 98). Pitching every fifth day, Otani’s fastball may sit in the lower end of that range, but his power arm is a major draw for scouts. Some scouts liked the life on Otani’s fastball, though others thought it flattened out, which contributed to him getting hit against Canada.

Scouts were mixed on Otani’s offspeed pitches. His best secondary offering is his tight slider that he throws around 82-85 mph. He also mixes in a splitter and a big, slow curveball that so many Japanese pitchers seem to throw. The one area where scouts consistently said Otani needs work is on his command, as he’s prone to bouts of wildness and isn’t as advanced in that area compared to the U.S. high school pitchers who went in the first round in the draft this year.

Otani is an unusual case, bcause unlike most Japanese players he has announced his intention to skip playing in NPB and sign directly with a Major League franchise. That means he won’t be subject to the posting system, but it presents a different set of logistical challenges in its own right. For one thing, just because Otani has advised them not to doesn’t mean an NPB team won’t draft him, and if they do MLB teams won’t be able to negotiate with him until March. Additionally, as an amateur free agent, he’ll be subject to the spending limits imposed by the new CBA. The Yankees have already spent almost all of their allowance, and the clock on that doesn’t reset until July 2nd. To sign him before that, the Yankees would have to pay a penalty in terms of taxes and loss of ability to sign future prospects. I doubt they’ll do that, but considering that the amateur signing pool will begin to be scaled to a team’s record starting this season, it would certainly make sense to do that, as odds are that the Yankees won’t be able to sign any top international amateurs without exceeding the spending pool anytime soon.

Update: The Nippon Ham Fighters did indeed select Otani with the first overall pick in the NPB draft, so MLB teams won’t be able to negotiate with him until April. Continue reading Scouting Otani

Offseason questions: Who’s in right?

For a team that feels as though it could be about to undergo some big changes, the Yankees have surprisingly few holes in their projected lineup for 2013. Six regular position and four pitchers who made multiple big league starts remain under team control, and you’ll probably see some of the team’s own free agents return to fill a few of those spots. So, “blow it up!” media histrionics aside, why is there a distinct feeling that things are going to be different in The Bronx when pitchers and catchers report in four long months?

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Banuelos to miss all of 2013

Brian Cashman is giving an interview on WFAN, and while much of the conversation is very similar to the interview he did on ESPN Radio Sunday, the Yankees’ general manager did confirm that Manny Banuelos, the team’s top pitching prospect, will miss the entirety of the 2013 season following Tommy John surgery. That’s not a surprise, obviously, but the Yankees arent even going to hint that he could make an early return, apparently.

Banuelos, who was all the rage after a strong Spring Training performance in 2011, struggled with walking batters after being promoted to Double-A that season, and then missed almost all of 2012, first with a back injury and then with an elbow injury. The latter problem was originally diagnosed as being non-structural and the Yankees were hoping to have him pitching in winter ball, but announced that he would indeed need Tommy John surgery during the last week of the regular season.

(h/t to Rob Abruzesse for alerting me to the interview) Continue reading Banuelos to miss all of 2013

Red Sox nearing two year deal with Ortiz

Via Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston, the Red Sox and David Ortiz are apparently in the process of “finalizing” a two year contract for their designated hitter. The two year term has apparently been agreed to by both sides, and they’re also reportedly close on the amount of money involved. I confess, I had really hoped that Ortiz, who hit .318/.415/.611 with 23 home runs in just 383 plate appearances this year, would be a Yankee in 2013, but if the Red Sox have indeed agreed to give him a two year contract you can pretty much forget about him going anywhere else. Alas, my dream of seeing Big Papi attacking the short porch for the good guys is probably dead now. Continue reading Red Sox nearing two year deal with Ortiz

Could Brian McCann be available this winter?

The Yankees don’t technically have a starting catcher lined up for the 2013 season, and there may be a late arrival to the radar for said job. According to Buster Olney, the Braves aren’t guaranteed to bring Brian McCann back for the 2013 season, and could look to trade him to free up payroll space. McCann, a former All-Star who had a dreadful 2012 season and just had shoulder surgery a week ago today. he’s expected to be ready to play next year, but the Braves may not be feeling as good about his $12 million option now as they once were.

Olney speculates that the Braves could attempt to negotiate a lower salary with McCann, but that seems unlikely to work, given that McCann would be eligible for free agency if the Braves were to buy out his option. That leaves picking up his option and trading him as the most likely means to a move, and here the question becomes what the Braves would want in return. McCann is coming off of his worst big league season, having hit just .230/.300/.399 (86 wRC+), but that was definitely an outlier. He’s had a wRC+ of at least 119 in every season from 2006-11 with the sole exception of 2007, and hit .270/.351/.466 in 2011. He’s also pretty well regarded for his work behind the plate, especially his pitch framing skills. He will be coming off of shoulder surgery, however, and would only be under the control of the acquiring team for one season.

It’s obviously hard to get a gauge on what teams might do in terms of making trades, but if the Braves really are interested in getting rid of McCann’s salary, he could be a perfect fit for the Yankees as they continue to try to develop their catcher of the future. Continue reading Could Brian McCann be available this winter?

Offseason questions: Will the Yankees trade A-Rod?

I’ll be taking a closer look at the biggest questions facing the Yankees in the offseason over the coming days, and I figure there’s no better place to start than with the unexpected topic that’s come to dominate the early offseason. Following the Yankees pitiful offensive performance in their nine postseason games and the benching of Alex Rodriguez in seven of them, the once unthinkable possibility of the Yankees trading their third baseman has dominated the media discussion around the team. There was even a “report” by Keith Olbermann than the Yankees had worked out a deal to send Alex to Miami, but that was quickly shot down, and the Marlins have since traded Heath Bell to Arizona. Yet, the possibility of A-Rod being run out of town unceremoniously continues to be discussed incessantly, so is it possible that there may be something brewing here?

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