The Yankees headed into the weekend only 3½ games back in the wild-card race, even with the chaos surrounding them. When you list the enormous number of things that have been stacked against them this season, you marvel as to how this could be.
At the trade deadline, general manager Brian Cashman tried to get the Phillies to trade him Michael Young, who would have been plugged in at third base, and Carlos Ruiz, who would have stabilized the catching corps and provided some pop with his bat. Didn’t happen, though it could during the waiver process this month.
Cashman got some offense when he acquired Alfonso Soriano from the Cubs, and he got Derek Jeter back from a season-long ankle injury, though Jeter doesn’t look like the same player. Cashman also tried to move Phil Hughes to the Braves for a piece or two to add to the farm system, figuring he had David Phelps coming back to a rotation that includes Hiroki Kuroda, CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, and Ivan Nova.
And, oh yeah, there’s Alex Rodriguez.
We can only think about how George Steinbrenner would have handled all of this if he were alive. Hal Steinbrenner has become somewhat of a bottom-line guy, hellbent on getting under the $189 million luxury-tax threshold. The Boss probably would have ordered Cashman to make deals at all costs. The thought of the Red Sox acquiring Jake Peavy would have likely sent him through the roof. None of this would have been acceptable.
What would he have done with A-Rod? That’s the one I’m not sure about.
The Yankees, however, are obviously in better financial shape if the book is thrown at Rodriguez, an announcement that could come down Monday. If he gets a lifetime ban, and if all or part of that $86 million owed to him goes away, the Yankees will again be in good position to add players in the offseason.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter correctly predicted that if Major League Baseball allows the Yankees to take A-Rod’s payroll hit off the books, they could be in position to eventually sign Matt Wieters away from Baltimore.
It would be hard to see a scenario in which the Yankees wouldn’t benefit from a Rodriguez suspension, such as saving $25 million if he gets banned for 2014.
“The one thing the Yankees don’t have, they don’t have those guys in the minors that can come up and make an impact for them,” said an American League executive. “They won’t have that for a couple of years. So, if they’re going to do a Red Sox-type rebuild, they have a disadvantage. Where Boston has a number of pitchers and positional prospects ready to make an impact, the Yankees don’t. So, they still have to make their impact through free agency and possibly trades.”
The Yankees are also dealing with Sabathia. One of the prevailing thoughts concerning why he hasn’t been effective is because he’s gotten too “skinny.”
Some players just perform better carrying more weight. Sabathia seems to be one of them. Some think such a theory is silly, that Sabathia is merely showing wear and tear after being a workhorse for so many years. But doesn’t it make some sense?
“The weight loss has created a balance problem for him,“ said one talent evaluator. “He’s all over the place. He’s learning how to pitch in that body, a body he’s really never had. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with him other than that. Sometimes you pitch at a certain weight all your life and then someone has the brilliant idea that you should lose weight because it’s putting stress on your knees, you do it, and then you’re dealing with something else.”
Kuroda, whom the Yankees lured back with a one-year, $15 million deal after his one-year, $10 million contract in 2012, has indicated he may go back to Japan. The Yankees may have to offer one year at $20 million for 2014.
Mariano Rivera is retiring, which means setup man David Robertson, or someone else, will man the closer role for the first time in 15 years.
Robinson Cano is a free agent this offseason, another negotiation possibly helped if they don’t have Rodriguez’s salary. Curtis Granderson is a free agent, as well.
Nobody has more to do than Cashman this offseason.
Yet nothing says this season is over. Normally, a team couldn’t have endured injuries to Jeter, Rodriguez, Granderson, and Mark Teixeira and still be a wild-card contender. But the fact is, the Yankees are. Which is why Cashman never gave up acquiring veteran players.
Waiver deals may loom large if the Yankees can defy some pretty big odds and still make the playoffs.
Ricciardi deserving of another chance
In asking general managers which former GM they miss the most, J.P. Ricciardi got the most responses, and many believe Ricciardi will be a head man again, whether it’s taking over for Sandy Alderson when he wants to step down with the Mets, or with another team.
Ricciardi, who lives in West Boylston, has aided the Mets’ rebuilding effort, including the deal with the Giants for Zack Wheeler, and the R.A. Dickey trade with the Blue Jays, in which the Mets obtained righthander Noah Syndergaard, who could be with the parent club in 2014.
Ricciardi, who was part of the “Moneyball” troika with Paul DePodesta and Billy Beane, and is now the Mets’ player development guy, enjoys a good reputation in the game. While things weren’t always to his liking when he was GM of the Blue Jays, consider what did go well:
■ He acquired Jose Bautista from the Pirates for Robinzon Diaz.
■ He acquired Edwin Encarnacion from the Reds, as well as Josh Roenicke and Zach Stewart, for Scott Rolen.
■ He got Marco Scutaro from the A’s for Kristian Bell and Graham Godfrey, and made Scutaro his full-time shortstop.
■ Ricciardi signed A.J. Burnett, who went 38-26 with a 3.94 ERA in 80 starts for the Blue Jays. Ricciardi also signed B.J. Ryan, who was an All-Star closer until he got hurt; and Frank Thomas, who hit 26 homers and knocked in 95 runs in 2007.
■ Ricciardi also picked off some decent under-the-radar guys such as Scott Downs, Brian Tallet, Jesse Carlson, and Shawn Camp, and also landed Lyle Overbay, Troy Glaus, and Bengie Molina, and did it with an average payroll of about $67 million at a time when the Yankees and Red Sox were spending three or four times as much. Ricciardi had winning seasons in four of eight years.
■ As a longtime area scout in New England, Ricciardi helped sign Mike Bordick and Royals reliever Tim Collins.
Ricciardi was in Toronto when money from ownership wasn’t abundant, as it appears to be now for Alex Anthopoulos, who was hired by Ricciardi. Ricciardi was never able to go above and beyond to grab an amateur player, and had a very limited international budget to go along with a middle-of-the-road payroll, a huge disadvantage in the AL East, where Tampa Bay was able to play with the big boys in Boston for part of Ricciardi’s tenure. He was criticized for giving Vernon Wells and Alex Rios big contracts, but he also suffered devastating injuries that derailed some seasons that looked promising.
Apropos of nothing
1. With GM Jack Zduriencik in Boston with the Mariners at the trade deadline, it reminded us of the deal he turned down from Theo Epstein and the Red Sox. Epstein offered Daniel Bard, Justin Masterson, Nick Hagadone, Jed Lowrie, and Josh Reddick for Felix Hernandez. Zduriencik said no. Breaking it down, Masterson has become a No. 2 starting pitcher; Hagadone is a decent lefthanded reliever; Lowrie has been a productive middle/corner infielder when healthy; and Reddick hit 32 homers last season but has come down to earth this season. Bard was a premier setup man until his throwing issues.
2. Blue Jays CEO Paul Beeston’s son David is special counsel to the Red Sox and Fenway Sports Management.
3. I had one GM rate the farm systems: 1. Twins; 2. Red Sox; 3. Cubs.
4. There’s a nice data/scouting mix going on in Houston. Scouting wins out, but the data work the Astros are doing is extraordinary, and even some old-timers are buying into it. The Astros are definitely the 21st century team, and look for GM Jeff Luhnow and his staff to be very successful.
5. Tampa Bay righthander Chris Archer reminds me a little bit of Oil Can Boyd. Very animated on the mound. He also prepares a little differently, throwing 10 pitches off the mound the day before he starts, and then immersing himself that day in meditation and visualization techniques. “I just close my eyes and go through all the hitters,” Archer explained. “Not really specifically the hitters, but I do a third-person point of view, so I see myself executing a pitch. And I also do a first-person point of view, where I’m actually inside my own body doing it and feeling it. So, I see myself do it, then I actually do it.’’
6. This offseason, the Red Sox will have veteran starters John Lackey, Jake Peavy, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Felix Doubront, and Ryan Dempster, not to mention Franklin Morales and Alfredo Aceves. They have youngsters Steven Wright (not really a youngster), Brandon Workman, Drake Britton, Allen Webster, and Rubby De La Rosa knocking on the door. Do the Red So trade one of their veterans, and if so, whom? Seems there’s a big decision to make with Lester. Give him an ace deal or deal him? The Red Sox are more likely to keep him, but at what cost? With Peavy, the Red Sox can allow their young pitchers to develop, but look for one of the veterans to go in a package where the Red Sox could solve another need.
7. A Red Sox player told me that Aceves named his son, Apollo The First Aceves.
8. Since 2000, the Pirates and Padres lead with 39 trade deadline deals, followed by the Red Sox (37), Cubs (36), Dodgers (35), Yankees (31), White Sox (29), Rockies (29), Royals (28), Reds (27), and Giants (27). The fewest? The Twins and Angels with 15.
Updates on nine
1. Tim Lincecum, RHP, Giants — Could be a big fish that goes in a deal during the waiver period. Some teams like Lincecum as a valuable bullpen piece down the stretch. The Giants weren’t offered anything good enough at the deadline, but given his salary ($22 million) and the fact he’s in the final year of his deal, the Giants may want to cut bait shortly.
2. Carlos Ruiz, C, Phillies — It would appear Ruiz could be involved in a waiver deal with catching at a premium. We mentioned the Yankees’ interest earlier, but he may not make it through the National League, where the Cardinals and others would have interest.
3. Justin Morneau, 1B, Twins — The Twins believe they had enough interest in Morneau that if he continues to hit well and shows power, he could be moved to a contender in a waiver deal. Exactly who would claim him first remains to be seen. The Blue Jays might step in for a claim, but the Rays, Orioles, and Indians might have some interest.
4. Raul Ibanez, DH, Mariners — GM Jack Zduriencik believes he can convince Ibanez to stay in Seattle and be part of the middle of their order next season. Ibanez, who will be a free agent in the offseason, has moved his family to Seattle and likes it there. Zduriencik also said he would love to bring back Kendrys Morales, who is a Scott Boras client and free agent-to-be who has fit well. The one player up in the air would be Michael Morse, who will be a free agent but who maybe hasn’t convinced the Mariners they should stick with him. Morse could be the one Zduriencik tries to move in a waiver deal. The Yankees, Orioles, and Red Sox would likely have interest.
5. Hunter Pence, OF, Giants — Pence will be a free agent but he really wants to stay in San Francisco, and in his conversations with GM Brian Sabean expressed his desire to not be traded. Sabean told him the truth — that if something knocked their socks off they would move him — but nothing materialized. Could be another movable part during the waiver period, but the Giants plan to make him a qualifying offer and then try to re-sign him long term.
6. Bartolo Colon, RHP, Athletics — Certainly one of the reasons GM Billy Beane made a bid for Jake Peavy was the uncertainty of whether Colon, 14-3 with a 2.50 ERA, would be free of extra punishment in the Biogenesis case. Colon served a 50-game suspension last season and appears to have dodged further discipline. Jonny Gomes, who was a member of the A’s last season, spoke of how devastating it was to not have Colon to start a playoff game. “He was having a great season and we depended on him for those big games, big starts, and then he was suspended. It really hurt our team,” said Gomes. The A’s were eliminated with Travis Blackley on the mound.
7. Melky Cabrera, OF, Blue Jays — Cabrera was put on trade waivers on Friday, and the Jays would like to see what kind of haul he could bring. While Cabrera is named in the Biogenesis scandal, he, like Colon, has served his 50-game suspension and doesn’t appear to be in further jeopardy. Cabrera, a good defensive outfielder with an excellent arm, has been meek at the plate, hitting .279 with three homers and 30 RBIs with a .682 OPS a season after testing positive. Cabrera has a year left on his deal.
8. Ervin Santana, RHP, Royals — Given the surge the Royals went on before the deadline, there was no way GM Dayton Moore was going to deal Santana, whether free agency was pending or not. Santana has had a big year and would be a target for the Royals to re-sign. There’s always the waiver period, but it sure looks like he’s in Kansas City to stay. As one GM put it, “He might be the biggest target going in August. Doubt he gets too far, though.”
9. Placido Polanco, 3B, Marlins — Polanco is 37 and has lost some in the field, but he remains a possible target for teams such as the Red Sox and Yankees, who need a veteran presence and a guy who can still hit from the right side, where he was hitting .349 vs. lefties entering the weekend.
From the Bill Chuck files: “In July, with the bases empty Mike Napoli hit .378; with runners on he hit .130, striking out 21 times in 46 at-bats.” Also, “The Braves led the majors with a July .343 RISP average, followed by the Tigers at .342. Unbelievably, the Pirates were at .210.” . . . Happy birthday, Paxton Crawford (36), Bob Howry (40), Troy O’Leary (44), John Farrell (51), and Roger Clemens (51).
Nick Cafardo can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.