Sunday, January 26, 2014

Why the Yankees Need Stephen Drew....and He Needs Them

After a few months layoff, we're back! Hopefully you enjoyed your holidays with your family and friends. While the weather here in the northeast has been nothing short of miserable, the MLB Hot Stove is keeping us warm here at Florio Facts. Most recently, we have seen the Yankees complete another major deal, signing Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka to a 7 year contract. This comes after fortifying one third of the lineup, with the signings of catcher Brian McCann and outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran. As it stands today, the Yankees lineup looks something like this:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. SS Derek Jeter
  3. RF Carlos Beltran
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. DH Alfonso Soriano
  6. C Brian McCann
  7. 3B Kelly Johnson
  8. 2B Brian Roberts
  9. LF Brett Gardner
A remarkable improvement, just on paper, of a lineup which included only Soriano and Gardner at the end of last season and featured the likes of Chris Stewart, Vernon Wells, Travis Hafner, Lyle Overbay and Brendan Ryan in everyday roles. While Johnson and Roberts are no slouches at the plate, the Yankees can still improve their infield with the acquisition of free agent INF Stephen Drew. Drew, younger brother of JD, played the 2013 season with World Series Champions Boston Red Sox. Drew remains, by far, the best infielder remaining on the market and arguably the best after Robinson Cano. The interest by both parties in each other is a hazy mystery, with some writers saying the Yankees are both interested in Drew and not interested. Signing Stephen Drew makes sense for the Yankees and for Drew. Here's why.

  1. Johnson should be a Super Sub: I like the Kelly Johnson signing for his versatility. Joe Maddon played him all over in Tampa Bay last season and Johnson averages about 20 home runs over a full season, which translates well to Yankee Stadium. Kelly Johnson's innings at third base, though, are limited. While he can likely be passable defensively, he's best suited playing around the diamond. At the plate, he's a left handed Mark Reynolds who'll K often, but for a one year deal, low-risk and decent reward. The Yankees would be much better off rotating he, Drew, Roberts, Ryan and Jeter around 2B/SS/3B.
  2. Roberts is no picture of health: Brian Roberts has had a rough go of it since 2010 (almost like Drew himself). Between his bodily injuries and struggling to shake off post-concussion symptoms, he went from one of the elite 2B's in the league to essentially an Orioles cheerleader from the bench. He was able to play 2B everyday August and September last year and put together a .254/6 HR/31 RBI line in 60 games post-AS break. While finally having a normal offseason for the first time in 4 years will help, expecting even 130 games out of Roberts is a long stretch. 
  3. No other options: Brendan Ryan is a bench/late inning/UTIL guy at the most. Eduardo Nunez isn't the answer either. Dean Anna is intriguing, but if he couldn't break through for the offensively starved Padres, he's no guarantee to do it in New York. And no, Corban Joseph and Ronnie Mustelier aren't answers either.
  1. No Internal Threats: See bullet point three, above. All the Yankees top INF prospects are at Rookie Level or A Level. You're not going to see Eric Jagielo in the Bronx anytime soon. Drew will play everyday at either 2B or 3B and likely get a large number of games at SS too to keep Cap'n Jeter healthy.
  2. A Job for Next Year: (This could be #4 above as well) Mark Teixiera is the only guarantee for the 2015 infield. Jeter, Roberts and Johnson have contracts up for next year. Drew would return to his natural SS position with the Yankees trying to push Jeter to DH if he wants to play beyond this year.
  3. Who else is going to sign him? Look around the league. Who will legitimately spend $10-$15 million a year on Stephen Drew to play SS? Boston is a fit, but Bogaerts and Middlebrooks are cheaper, healthier and likely to put up bigger numbers. Houston isn't going to spend that money on offense. Neither is Minnesota. Arizona has too many young SS' as it is. I doubt Cincinnati is going to spend $ with Zack Cozart around. Miami sure isn't spending $ on him. Neither is Pittsburgh or they would have signed him. That leaves the Mets. If the Mets haven't done it by now, they're not going to. 
  4. Drew's 2013 is a mixed bag: He hit righties well, but only hit .196 (.196!!) against lefties. He hits at home, but only .222 on the road. He hits well in Fenway and Camden Yards, but struggled at Yankee Stadium, in Toronto and Tampa. BUT: He hit much better after the All-Star Break, hitting .277 with an OPS .115 higher than the first half. Plus, Drew would likely hit 7th in a standard Yankees line-up; his best stats from 2013? When he hits 7th. 
Drew has a mixed bag from 2013; Sure he stayed healthy, but at the cost of not hitting until the playoff run (a good time to turn it on, I guess) and not hitting lefties. If he doesn't mind playing different positions, the Yankees are the best fit for not only this year, but moving forward. The Yankees need to make two more moves: a veteran RHP reliever and another INF. Stephen Drew qualifies and should be wearing the pinstripes come Spring Training next month.

All stats from Baseball Reference.

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Tanaka is Finally a Yankee

Masahiro Tanaka has been all everyone has talked about since the off season has started. The top pitchers on the free agent market haven't signed anywhere and it's January. The reason was because of Tanaka. Tanaka was the number one pitcher on the market and he hasn't even thrown a pitch in the major leagues yet. The Yankees obviously think he is going to be an ace giving him 155 million over seven years. Everyone loves to downgrade the NPB or the Nippon Professional baseball League. I'm not saying its the MLB because it's not, but it's not triple a either. There are a lot of talented players in the NPB and his stuff translates over well. His fastball is low-to mid 90s and he has a Kuroda-esque splitter and slider that sits in the low-80s. All plus pitches according to scouting reports. Now needless to say Tanaka is not the savior of this team. He is a HUGE piece. Only 25 years old but a bit of an unknown especially for the amount of money they are giving them. Two of the biggest keys to this team are the guys coming back i.e. Teixeria, and Jeter. There is not one stable place on the Yankee infield. The pitching is even bigger because of Sabathia, Tanaka, and the fifth starter. The fifth starter is the biggest wild card because if Michael Pineda is healthy, he could be a huge part of the rotation. He has shown promise while with the Marniners, but he has to be healthy. David Phelps is a guy I personally love but more as a jack of all trades kind of guy. I would like to see Adam Warren as a short reliever, along with maybe Mark Montgomery or Chase Whitley compete for a spot in the pen as well. But today is all about Tanaka as it should be. 7 years 155 is a lot for a guy who has never pitched in the MLB, but for a guy like Tanaka it's worth the risk for the possible return.

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