Author Archives: Brad Vietrogoski

Ryan Madson, Anybody?

Ryan Madson

(Syndicated from An A-Blog for A-Rod)

The reliever market has all but dried up with a handful of days remaining until the start of Spring Training.  The top remaining names are all part of the “coming back from arm injuries” brigade, guys like Rafael Betancourt, Andrew Bailey, and Joel Hanrahan.  Another name in that group that may be closer to pitching in game action than any of them is Ryan Madson.  Madson hasn’t pitched since 2011 after having elbow surgery in April of 2012, and appeared to be a shell of his former self in a short stint with the Anaheim Angels’ Triple-A affiliate last year.  But he reportedly held a public workout for teams last Friday, and if he looked OK there he could be a sneaky great buy-low bullpen option.**

** (Turns out he did look pretty good, at least according to Jerry Crasnick.  He had Madson hitting 93 on the gun, which is a major improvement over where his velocity was last year.  

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Yanks Need To Stay Aggressive With Their Outfield Prospects

Trenton Thunder OF 2013

The double whammy of Alex Rodriguez dropping his lawsuits and Masahiro Tanaka being introduced to the press all but a put a bow on the 2013-2014 offseason.  In a few short days it’ll be back to baseball. The focus will shift back to the diamond and the gaggle of new players that will be gracing it in Yankee pinstripes this season.  The outfield is arguably the most revamped part of the roster, with Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran taking over for Ichiro Suzuki and Vernon Wells, Brett Gardner shifting back to left field, and a full season of Alfonso Soriano to look forward to.

The regular 4-man outfield rotation is set, which could leave very little playing time for Ichiro as the 5th outfielder and even less for Zoilo Almonte as the emergency 6th.  With this boost in outfield depth, it may seem like the Yankees have reason to pump the brakes on developing their group of top outfield prospects.  …

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Don’t Sleep On The Importance Of Ivan Nova

Nova vs BAL

Before January 22nd, Ivan Nova was a, perhaps THE, critical part of the starting rotation for 2014.  The Yankees’ top 2 starters were older and both coming off varying degrees of tough seasons.  CC Sabathia was downright bad for most of 2013 and Hiroki Kuroda stumbled to the finish line after another heavy workload.  With a bunch of unproven back end guys behind him, Nova was going to be expected to carry a much bigger portion of the rotation load if one of the top 2 faltered again or got hurt, and he was going to have to pitch really well if the Yankees were going to have any chance of making it back to the postseason.

After January 22nd, and the addition of Masahiro Tanaka to the rotation, it’s almost as if Nova has become an afterthought.  Tanaka has cast a much brighter glow over the entire rotation, turning Sabathia into a fit, trim former ace ready to bounce back and reclaim his title, Kuroda back into the reliable #2 he’s really always been, and making the 5th starter competition much less important than it was on January 21st.  …

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Signing Stephen Drew Makes Even More Sense Now

(Syndicated from An A-Blog for A-Rod)

The Yanks appear to be all done with the Major League free agent market now that we’ve entered the final week of the offseason before pitchers and catchers report.  Per Adam Rubin’slatest report, they might want to rethink that strategy and make a move for Stephen Drew.

According to Rubin, Scott Boras is looking for a multi-year deal with an opt-out clause after the 1st year for Drew.  That’s enough to scare off the Mets, and the rest of MLB already hasn’t been quick to jump at Drew thanks mainly to the draft pick forfeiture that comes with him.  Drew makes a ton of sense for the Yankees for baseball reasons, not so much on business reasons.  This opt-out clause could actually work to their advantage in reducing some of that business risk on the deal.

The Yanks only have to give up a 2nd round pick to sign Drew right now because they’ve already sacrificed their other ones for their previous signings.  …

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Imagining A World Where Brian Roberts Is Healthy And Productive

Brian Roberts Slide

Don’t tweak a hammy there, bro

Between all the moves the Yankees have made this offseason and the players they have returning from injuries, the one position where they really downgraded is second base.  That was an inevitability when their former second baseman happened to be the best second baseman on the planet, and the team’s attempts to replace Robinson Cano have been pretty lame.  Plans for a true platoon at the position have fallen by the wayside as a result of their equally lame attempts to find an adequate starting third baseman, and when Spring Training starts the Yanks will open camp with 36-year-old Brian Roberts penciled in as the everyday man at second.

I say penciled in because we’re all familiar with Roberts’, ahem, diverse injury history over the past 4 years.  Jokes about his eventual DL trip(s) have become a staple across each and every comment section in the Yankosphere and justifiably so.  For whatever reasons, Roberts has been unable to shake the injury bug and stay on the field.  …

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What Is Preston Claiborne’s Ceiling?

Claiborne vs MIN

On Monday, I took a quick peek back at Preston Claiborne‘s 2013 season.  He became the latest homegrown reliever to graduate to the show last year and as we all know now that graduation resulted in some very mixed results.  Long story short, Claiborne started off like a house on fire in May and June, pitched pretty well in July, then fell apart in August and September.  All together it added up to a 4.11/4.14/3.88 slash line, 19.6% K rate, 6.5% BB rate, and 0.2 fWAR in 50.1 IP.

Despite my multiple suggestions that the Yankees need to go out and acquire another relief pitcher, including the latest one from a few days ago, they seem prepared to head to camp with what they’ve got and sort out the back end of their relief corp in Spring Training.  That leaves Claiborne as the unofficial “7th Inning Guy” right now, at least I’m assuming it does since he was the 4th of the 4 guys Joe mentioned by name when asked about the bullpen last month.  …

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No Shortage Of Questions About The Batting Order Right Now

Joe Girardi

As the focus shifts from the hot stove season to the start of spring training, the talking points are shifting along with it.  Case in point, Buster Olney’s ESPN article yesterday about the toughest lineup decisions facing teams as they prepare for the 2014 season.  The article is Insider only, but the important part for the purposes of this blog was the one on the Yankees and their slight dilemma of where to bat Brett Gardner.  Olney’s case for hitting Gardner 2nd is a sound one.  Gardner’s speed and patience are a great fit at the top of the lineup where they can be used to wreak havoc on the basepaths with Jacoby Ellsbury, and he has shown a knack for getting on base (.352 career OBP).  The Yankees best bet to set the table for the middle of their lineup would probably be to use Ellsbury and Gardner as a 2-headed leadoff monster.

Of course, no discussion about the top of the Yankee batting order would be complete without mentioning Derek Jeter, and Olney correctly points out that Jeter’s legend and resume will factor heavily into Joe’s decision on where to bat him.  …

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The Yankees And Fernando Rodney: A Match Made In Necessity

Fernando Rodney 2013

With the Super Bowl and the NFL season now in the rearview mirror, the focus really turns towards baseball season and the rapidly approaching pitcher and catcher report dates.  Yankee pitchers and catchers are less than 2 weeks from reporting to the ST complex in Tampa, and while the team has more than enough catchers to fit their needs, they still lack bullpen depth.  There’s no shortage of cheap, quad-A types getting an invite to camp to compete for a spot, but in their heart of hearts I think both Cash and Joe would like to have another proven Major League arm in the mix.

Yesterday, Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe ran his usual Sunday MLB round-up article, and at the very end of it he connected the Yankees to free agent reliever Fernando Rodney.  It’s admittedly a very loose connection, more of a suggestion than anything, as Cafardo only said that “a team like the Yankees may pluck Rodney, or someone of his ilk, to ensure they have another closer in case Dave Robertson breaks down or isn’t up to the task.”  This isn’t much different than the other rumors we’ve heard about Rodney and the crop of similar relief FAs in regards to the Yankees, but looking a little closer at both sides’ situations, there may be a greater match than people realize.…

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What’s Ichiro Going To Do This Year?

Ichiro K vs BAL

I don’t mean in terms of production. That I can already anticipate. Every projection system out there has Ichiro Suzuki pegged as a below-average hitter again this year, hardly a shock when you consider his .281 wOBA last year and the age at which he’ll play this season (40). The title of the post is more in reference to how Joe plans on using Ichiro this season and how much he plans on using him.

The Yankees’ efforts to trade Ichiro have cooled down considerably from a few months back. Unless a team suffers multiple injury casualties to their outfield in spring camp, chances are they won’t be able to move him before the start of the season. He’s most likely ticketed for the Opening Day bench and a role as the 4th outfielder, but with Alfonso Soriano around and a much better offensive option on days where Jeter or Teix is DHing, Ichiro almost becomes the 5th outfielder. Joe simply can’t afford to play him as a regular 4th outfielder when he’s downgrading offensively at shortstop or first base.…

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