Offseason Recap as Spring Training Begins

Warmer days ahead.
Warmer days ahead.

Pitchers and catchers report for the Yankees today (finally), meaning this long offseason is finally over. Although it lacked any impact roster additions, this offseason was undeniably interesting. Whether it be preparing for the $189M budget in 2014, losing key cogs like Nick Swisher and Russell Martin, bringing in an old rival (Kevin Youkilis), or Alex Rodriguez‘ PED allegations resurfacing, Pinstripe Pundits had this offseason covered with analysis of all things Yankees. Take a look back at a select few of our features highlighting the winter’s transactions and most fascinating topics:

The Yankees brought back Hiroki Kuroda on a one-year deal.

Kuroda received a significant raise, but it was undoubtedly merited. The one year deal provides the flexibility the front office needs to meet the $189 million budget for the 2014 season, while remaining competitive. Kuroda backed up CC Sabathia superbly last season, and will be counted on to do so again.

After Russell Martin departed for Pittsburgh, Chris broke down the internal and external catching candidates. We now know the Yankees are staying within the organization for 2013.

Clearly, neither catcher can hit. Chris Stewart has a good defensive reputation and seems to be good at framing pitches; but, he would definitely be miscast as a starting catcher. Francisco Cervelli on the other hand, has never really impressed with his defensive skills. Given Austin Romine’s lost 2012 season, expecting him to be productive at the major league level would be very wishful thinking. He just needs to focus on getting reps in AAA for now.

We learned A-Rod needed hip surgery as the Winter Meetings commenced. This, of course, was well before we found out about Rodriguez’ connection to Biogenesis.

Alex Rodriguez will undergo hip surgery in January to repair a torn labrum, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post. This procedure will be on his left hip, not the same right side that he had repaired in 2009. A-Rod won’t be ready for the start of 2013, with a rehab timetable of 4-6 months. I would lay my money on the latter given his age, so hopefully sometime around the all star break.

Andy Pettitte rejoined the Yanks.

With Kuroda and [now] Pettitte back in the fold, the 2013 rotation is going to look a whole lot like the 2012 rotation, and that’s not a bad thing.

Another Yankee legend, Mariano Rivera, is back for 2013.

As expected, Mariano Rivera will be back with the Yankees in 2013 on a one year contract. The agreement pays Mo $10 million in base salary, with performance incentives. Rivera will regain the closer position he lost after blowing out his knee in Kansas City. Rafael Soriano did a phenomenal job filling in, but will not be back next season as he is testing the free agent waters.

The offseason was quiet, so Chris pondered, what if the Yankees stood pat?

It’s still very early in the offseason, but based on what we’ve seen, Brian Cashman has been unwilling (or unable?) to pay for players to fill the obvious voids on the roster. So what would happen if they continued to exercise extreme frugality and didn’t bring in anybody to fill the holes? How would the team look if they went entirely with what they have at the moment?

Chris broke down the Jesus Montero-Michael Pineda swap from the previous offseason from a different perspective:

In 1970, George Akerlof wrote a Nobel Prize winning essay about asymmetric information entitled “The Market for Lemons: Quality Uncertainty and the Market Mechanism.”  The primary example he used in his essay was the market for used cars. The “lemons” refer to defective cars not known to be defective until after they’re bought. The takeaway was that if someone is selling his or her car, there’s probably something wrong with that car. This explains why the retail value for cars drops as soon as they leave the showroom.

You can probably see where I’m going with this. So was Michael Pineda a lemon? It certainly looks like it.

The Ichiro deal, in sheer performance terms, made absolutely no sense.

What bugs me the most about this deal is the fact that the Yanks let Russell Martin get away for not much more. The Yankees couldn’t shell out the 2 years and $17M Martin received from Pittsburgh instead of giving this bad contract to Ichiro? Bizarre, to say the least.

I wondered about how much Robinson Cano is truly worth as he enters his contract year.

There isn’t a question that Cano will beat Ian Kinsler‘s 5 year $75M deal from Texas, a record in terms of AAV for second basemen. The real debate: could Cano get money and length comparable to guys like Mark Teixeira and Prince Fielder?

Chris explained how the Yankees staff will sorely miss Martin’s pitch framing ability.

Although pitch framing metrics are still in their infancy, most reports agree that Martin excels at framing pitches. According to Mike Fast’s well documented studyfrom last year, he’s been bested only by pitch-framing god Jose Molina over the past few years. It’s estimated that the Yankees prevented about 31 runs in 2012 due to pitch framing.

Just how much will the Yankees miss Swish?

Sure, Yankees fans are disgruntled about Swisher’s lack of postseason production, but that’s not how teams evaluate players. General Managers buy players for the regular season performance, not perceived ability in the clutch. Remember, you have to get to the playoffs first. Say what you want about his postseason struggles, but Swisher has been an integral part of the Yankees’ road to October since 2009. Losing and replacing him with a lesser caliber player, Ichiro, only makes it more difficult to return to the playoffs going forward.

Before Mike Morse was traded to Seattle, I contemplated what he would cost the Yanks.

What would Morse cost the Yankees? The Nationals are interested in rotational depthand bullpen help. After losing lefty reliever Sean Burnett to the Angels in free agency, there could be a match with the Yanks in the form of Boone Logan. Unfortunately, that’s certainly not enough of a return for Morse. I could see the Yankees dangle Joba Chamberlain in addition or instead of Logan, considering he’s a free agent to be after 2013 (as is Morse, by the way). As for starting depth, Washington would probably be interested in David Phelps, but I doubt the Yankees’ willingness to include him. Perhaps Adam Warren, or even a project like Dellin Betances may be attractive to Washington.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia would have been a good trade target, if he wasn’t on the Red Sox.

Looking at the Red Sox’ current catching situation, theoretically there is a trade match. Boston signed David Ross this offseason, while already having Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ryan Lavarnway on the roster. Plus, if they can seal the deal with Mike Napoli, they’ll have four guys who can catch (although Napoli is being brought in to play first base).

The Yankees hoarded bad right-hand batting outfielders to compete for a roster spot.

Add another warm body to the hoard of right handed batting outfielders – today, Juan Riverajoined the Yankees on a minor league contract, and will compete with Matt DiazRuss CanzlerThomas NealMelky Mesa, and Zoilo Almonte for a spot on the bench and DH platoon.

Some minor news about A-Rod came out…but there isn’t anything the Yankees can do about it.

I can’t believe what I read this morning – three columns suggesting the Yankees may find an easy way out of 70-85% of Alex Rodriguez‘ remaining contract. All the Yankees need is a doctor to declare him physically unable to play anymore, which would kick in the Yankees’ insurance policy. Simple, right? Come on.

Chris broke down the acquisition of Travis Hafner.

The Yankees have added another bat to the pile of fringy DH types in Travis Hafner. Hafner is best remembered for being one of the league’s most feared hitters with the Indians in the mid aughts before injuries derailed his career in recent years. The general perception is that Hafner’s washed-up, but he’s actually hit very well whenever he’s managed to stay on the field.

Would the Yankees ever hold a fire sale?

Picture this worst case scenario for the Yankees: 10 to 15 games behind the division pace in mid-July. Injuries, underwhelming performance, and improved rivals set the Yankees in a seemingly insurmountable hole. The odds of a late season comeback look slim, and the Yankees are poised to miss the postseason for the first time since 2008, and just the second time since 1995.

Did the Yankees foolishly allow Baltimore to have its best DH options?

To be honest, I think I’d rather see a Chris Dickerson/Russ Canzler platoon (in New York not in Baltimore) than what we’re looking at right now. Given the team’s internal options, you would think the Yankees could have found some other way to keep these guys on the roster. If the Yanks had passed on Hafner, they could have kept both of Dickerson and Canzler with just one 40-man casualty. Francisco Rondon, who has been inexplicably kept around as the team’s 4th string LOOGY, comes to mind. Obviously the Yankees have access to more information and scouting reports than I do regarding these players, but it’s a little hard to grasp why they would just let these guys go given their weakness at DH and lack of outfield depth.

Lastly, Chris analyzed the the league’s PED testing policy:

Generally speaking, players should never expect that they won’t be tested. The only time a player could potentially fall through the cracks would be after his mandatory, in-season test. At this point, he just has to dodge whatever remains of the 1,400 random tests. The issue is that he would have no idea whether any given test is his one mandatory test or one of the 1,400 random tests (I’m assuming MLB wouldn’t disclose this information to the player). Using some basic probability, I decided to figure out just how likely it was that a player would be tested again once he’s been subjected to 2 tests—one at the start of spring training and one at some point during the season.

Thanks for reading this winter, and stay tuned for further analysis as opening day is right around the corner.

Photo by U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michelle Kapica [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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