According to the multiple members of the international scouting community, the world champions will be serious bidders on Cuban defector Adeinis Hechavarria when the Office of Foreign Assets Committee (OFAC) allows him to sign with MLB clubs.
MLB sent a letter to teams on Jan. 22 telling them Hechavarria and other Cuban defectors have not been "unblocked" by OFAC. OFAC has to verify his age, identity and residency -- in this case, Mexico. It is believed OFAC might have everything done next week.
"The Yankees have been on him for a while," said a scout who saw the 21-year-old shortstop work out recently in the Dominican Republic. "Two weeks ago, about 50 scouts watched him work out and the Yankees were there. They also have seen him in smaller workouts."
Because the Red Sox gave 19-year old shortstop Jose Iglesias $8 million, industry sources expect the right-handed-hitting Hechavarria to command a $7 to $8 million signing bonus.
"Maybe more because his bat is better than Iglesias'," a scout said.
Hechavarria, who defected in Mexico last year, played short for the Cuban Junior National team two years ago.
"There has been a lot of interest," said agent, Bart Hernandez, without mentioning teams. "He is a legitimate player with a chance to be a real good one."
Though the Yankees view the 6-foot, 170-pounder strictly as a shortstop, others believe he could travel the same path the Rays' B.J. Upton took: shortstop to impact center fielder.
"He is a very good athlete and runs real well," the scout said. "I don't see him as a shortstop, I think he has a chance to be a center fielder in the mold of B.J. Upton. His throwing actions at short are kind of long."
The Yankees aren't strangers to the Cuban player pool. They struck gold with Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez, bombed on Adrian Hernandez and Andy Morales, were disappointed in Jose Contreras -- who was traded 1½ years into a four-year $32 million deal -- and the jury remains out on Juan Miranda.
They were interested in hard-throwing lefty Aroldis Chapman last year, but he signed with the Reds.
According to a scout, Hechavarria would be a first-round pick in MLB's amateur draft. But . . .
"Is he a can't-miss major leaguer?" the scout asked. "I don't know."
The Yankees and Jeter are expected to agree on a contract following the season that will keep the captain in pinstripes for at least four years.
⇒ Brett Gardner joined the informal workouts at the minor league complex yesterday and told reporters he has been working on bunting the ball more in order to utilize his speed.
"I've just been hitting a lot, been bunting a lot," Gardner said. "I've been working on that a lot more and trying to bring that back into my game."
The speedy 26-year old, who will get first crack at left field and can play center, also plans to drill in right field.
"You never know what might happen," Gardner said. "It's never a bad thing being able to play some different positions well. I just need to continue to work on that and where they want to put me, I'll be happy."
If healthy, Johnson can make big impact with Yanks in 2010
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com
With the start of Spring Training just around the corner, the time has come to start sizing up the 2010 Yankees, piece by piece. MLB.com will go around the horn and break down each area of the Yankees, continuing with the designated hitter and bench positions.
NEW YORK -- Though Nick Johnson's teams ultimately didn't sniff the postseason in 2009, it would be difficult to pin the early winter upon his shoulders. In at least one statistical category, he did his job better than almost everyone in the game.
Johnson's .426 on-base percentage followed only Joe Mauer of the Twins and Albert Pujols of the Cardinals in the Majors, and those two players eventually won the MVP Awards of their respective leagues. For Johnson, it opened the door to a contract opportunity with the Yankees.
"I'm really happy to be back and put the stripes back on, and to be with a great organization," Johnson said. "It's all about winning. That's something that I want to get back to doing."
After splitting last year between the Nationals and Marlins, Johnson is heading back to where it all began for him, agreeing to a one-year, $5.5 million contract with the Yankees in December.
When word filtered to the 31-year-old that the Yankees had interest in him serving as their designated hitter in 2010, replacing Hideki Matsui, Johnson made sure to let his agent know that the opening would be his No. 1 choice of destination.
"There's nothing like playing in New York," Johnson said. "Right field is inviting and it's short. I saw all the home runs on TV, but you can't really go up there thinking about that. I need to get on base, and if you pop one, you pop one. I'm not going to be going up there just swinging for the fences."
A career .273 hitter who spent his first three years with the Yankees before being traded to the Expos in December 2003 for Javier Vazquez, hitting -- and walking, with a 17.8 percent base-on-balls percentage, best in the Majors last year -- has never been the issue for Johnson.
The concern has been keeping him on the field, as his career has been plagued by numerous injuries. After seeing the results of an extensive physical examination, the Yankees believe that operating as a full-time designated hitter will help Johnson stay in the lineup, with only limited fill-in chances at first base headed his way.
"It's clear to dream about what he does and what he can provide if he stays healthy," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. "Certainly, at the same time, I recognize and can't ignore the risk that comes with his trying to stay on the field and stay healthy. This was a decision that I was willing to make, recognizing that there's risk that comes with it because of his health history."
Projecting Johnson as batting in the No. 2 hole, between Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira, the Yankees know that he won't run nearly as well as his predecessor in that lineup spot, Johnny Damon. Yet the thinking is that Johnson will be on base so much, Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez can't help but drive him in.
"The big attraction here was how nicely he actually fit the two-hole," Cashman said.
The Yankees' bench should appear younger than it did during the 2009 postseason, with several veterans having shifted to other locations.
With Jose Molina apparently moving on as a free agent, the backup catcher role is likely going to be entrusted to Francisco Cervelli, who hit .298 with one home run and 11 RBIs in 42 games over two stints with New York last year. Cervelli, who will be 24 by Opening Day, clicked well with the veteran members of the pitching staff and drew rave reviews for his defensive skills.
Ramiro Pena appears to be a front-runner to lock up a job as a utility infielder, coming off a rookie campaign in which he played 69 games at the big league level, making starts at third base, shortstop and second base. Pena, 23, made the 2009 Opening Day roster despite not having experience above the Double-A level, hitting .287 with six doubles and 10 RBIs in three stints.
The Yankees signed 35-year-old outfielder Randy Winn to a one-year, $1.1 million contract in January to compete with Brett Gardner for playing time, and Winn could fit as a switch-hitting fourth outfielder while serving as a mentor for Gardner, who is trying to prove he can be an everyday big leaguer.
"We signed [Winn] so we'd make sure we have depth and make sure that we have competition," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "If someone gets hurt, we have enough people to fill the spot. He's been an everyday player for a long time. We're comfortable with him in that spot."
For other reserve outfielders, New York also plans to consider Jamie Hoffmann, a former hockey prospect who was a Rule 5 Draft selection from the Dodgers, and non-roster invitee Marcus Thames, a former Yankee with eight years of big league experience and a .243 career batting average.
Other players who could compete for reserve roles include infielder Kevin Russo, who hit .326 in 90 games at Triple-A last year; non-roster catcher Mike Rivera, a .244 lifetime hitter who played the past four years with the Brewers; and Greg Golson, a speedy defensive standout who was acquired from the Rangers in a Minor League trade back last month.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
Disgruntled because he's still without a job this late into the offseason, Felipe Lopez fired agent Scott Boras according to ESPN's Jayson Stark. He is now represented by the Beverly Hills Sports Council.
There hasn't been many rumors about the 29-year-old Lopez this offseason, except for some interest from the Cardinals. He hit .310/.383/.427 for the Diamondbacks and Brewers last season, better across the board than Orlando Hudson's .283/.357/.417 line for the Dodgers. Lopez also outperformed him defensively at second base, posting a 7.6 UZR/150 compared to Hudson's -3.3 mark. The Twins gave the O-Dawg a one-year, $5MM deal last week.
"Never seen a payroll on a ring" "Leave the gun, take the cannoli "
Free-agent infielder Felipe Lopez has fired his agent, Scott Boras, and signed on with the Beverly Hill Sports Council, a source told ESPN.com Friday.
The 29-year-old Lopez was reportedly disgruntled over still finding himself without a team, just days before the beginning of spring training.
Lopez batted .310, with a .383 on-base percentage, last season for the Diamondbacks and Brewers. The only other free agent on the market this winter who matched or beat him in both of those categories was Matt Holliday.
The Cardinals are the only club known to still have interest in Lopez, who was also on Colorado's shopping list before the Rockies signed Melvin Mora.
Pitchers and catchers report next week, but Johnny Damon still doesn't have a home for the 2010 season. ESPN's Buster Olney hears that "at least one team which might have extended an offer has no expectation that [Damon] would actually take a two-year offer; rather, part of the negotiation with that team is that he would take only that one year."
Olney says that executives involved in the negotiations expect Damon to eventually accept a one-year deal worth $7MM with some deferred money, so his people can say he turned down a two-year deal. Meanwhile, Drew Sharp of The Detroit Free Press wonders if Scott Boras is just using the Tigers to create a market for Damon when one doesn't exist.
If Damon has in fact received a two-year offer worth $14MM from the Tigers, I can't see how he could turn that down at this point.
Carl Crawford wishes that the baseball culture would allow for some smack talk.
Nothing mean. Nothing vicious, necessarily. Crawford is a genial and positive personality who doesn't wake up pining to say something bad about your mom. But what became apparent, in the day that an ESPN camera crew and I watched Crawford go through one of his brutal offseason workouts, is that he loves competition, loves the idea of putting up his best effort against your best effort and then letting the chips fall where they may. David Dreyfus put together a tremendous package of the Crawford workout that will air at 12:30 p.m. ET on "Baseball Tonight" on Sunday; some of those elements will be repeated during the spring training preview shows that will air on Sunday night.
When Crawford played football and basketball in high school, the culture of those sports allows for smack talk -- one player telling another how he plans to beat him, how he is beating him, how he just beat him. See Bird, Larry, vs. McDaniel, Xavier.
If Crawford had his way, then it would be acceptable, within baseball etiquette, for him to step in the box against someone like a CC Sabathia and tell him that he is about to get a hit. And it would be OK for Sabathia to go back at Crawford verbally. All in the name of good, tough competition. Nothing really personal -- and just enough to relieve anybody of the misconception that guys like Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Crawford don't want to beat your brains in when they're in the middle of competition.
Crawford had played very little organized baseball at the time he was drafted by the Rays, and having been taught by coaches who drilled in him the idea that you could always get better, and never settle, he wanted to do extra work, practice as intensely as possible. But in his first seasons in professional baseball, some veterans would get on him. "You're making us look bad," said one, after Crawford zoomed past teammates during a spring training sprint.
But through the course of his major league career, Crawford worked through those voices and basically decided that he was going to do everything he possibly could to be as great of a player as he possibly can be. He is devoted to the pursuit of excellence. Which is why he gets up at 5:30 a.m. in the offseason, starting not long after the baseball season ends, and begins at 8 a.m. a series of gut-wrenching sprint work and weight work.
"Why limit yourself?" he asked that day.
If you get a chance, check out the show or the online video, and you'll see that Crawford does not limit himself.
Mark Simon of ESPN Research has more on Crawford:
Some areas in which Crawford excels that you might not be aware of …
Areas of strength in 2009 (Inside Edge)
OPS against non-fastballs
Top 7 percent
BA with 2 strikes
Top 12 percent
BA against fastballs
Top 19 percent
BA against fastballs away
Top 25 percent
Areas of weakness in 2009 (Inside Edge)
Chase pct. with 2 strikes
Bottom 7 percent
SLG against high fastballs
Bottom 20 percent
• Crawford was on second base 24 times last season when a single was hit. He scored on 20 of them. That level of success is very impressive compared to MLB average.
• He stole 30 bases in 31 attempts during the first two months of the 2009 season, but was caught 15 times in his next 45 attempts.
From "The Fielding Bible" (written prior to 2009 season):
"Crawford is the best left fielder playing today. He has great range and takes good routes on balls in all directions. He judges line drives well and gets good jumps, catching liners hit in front of him, that most left fielders would let drop.
"His only weakness on fly balls is that he sometimes loses track of how far away he is from the wall. He often jumps when he doesn't have to, causing him to miss an occasional ball he should catch. With average arm strength and accuracy, Crawford puts himself in a good position to throw by charging grounders. He won his 2nd Fielding Bible Award in 2008."
• Crawford subsequently won his third Fielding Bible Award in 2009. The Fielding Bible is voted on by 10 baseball folks, including Peter Gammons and ESPN's Rob Neyer. Crawford scored 99 of a possible 100 points, the closest they've ever had someone be to unanimous.
• He rated first in the Runs Saved stat for left fielders, both for 2009, and for the three-year period from 2007 to 2009. He also rated first in their "plus-minus" stat which basically tells you how many plays he'd get to that the average player wouldn't. He scored a plus-32 last season, and a plus-55 for the last three years.
• One area that Crawford improved upon from 2008 to 2009 was his arm. Baseball Info Solutions had him saving three runs with his arm over the 2006-2008 period, combined. He had six runs saved with his arm in 2009. That comes from throwing out five baserunners last year, as opposed to two combined in 2007 and 2008.
• Crawford excelled at catching shallow fly balls last season. He rated a plus-26 in 2009, up from plus-10 in 2008. By their measures, that's a big jump. The only outfielder in baseball who had a comparable level of improvement to Crawford on shallow fly balls last year was Michael Bourn.
"Never seen a payroll on a ring" "Leave the gun, take the cannoli "
1. Heard this: While a two-year offer might be on the table to Johnny Damon, at least one team which might have extended an offer has no expectation that he would actually take a two-year offer; rather, part of the negotiation with that team is that he would take only that one year. Seriously, it's been a long time since we've seen machinations at this height.
The current expectation among some executives involved in the negotiation is that Damon will eventually accept a one-year deal with the Tigers for something around $7 million, with some deferred money, and his camp will indicate he turned down a two-year deal.
3. Tim Lincecum settled his arbitration case and signed a two-year, $23 million deal -- a smart move for both the pitcher and the team. Both sides had to consider the worst-case scenario; if the Giants had lost the case, a new arbitration benchmark would have been set, and if Lincecum had lost the case, he would not have gotten the first mega-payday of his career. Both sides can walk away feeling good about this.
Katie Sharp of ESPN Research looked at the question of why a team might not have invested in a five-year deal in Lincecum: "Perhaps they were concerned about Lincecum's workload and its effect on his ability to maintain his pitching dominance in the coming years. Consider the decline in his fastball since his MLB debut in 2007: Not only did his fastball velocity decline by nearly 2 mph from 2007-08 to 2009, but he also used [his fastball] far less in 2009, as the pitch was much less effective in generating swings-and-misses and much more hittable last season compared to his first two seasons in the majors."
Lincecum's fastball (Inside Edge)
Avg. velocity (mph)
Lincecum dropped in the first round of the draft because of concerns about his body and whether he would hold up -- and I think this is a perception that he could be fighting his whole career, right up to the point he becomes eligible for free agency. I hear it from rival evaluators all the team: They worry whether Lincecum will be able to maintain a high level of performance.
5. Brett Gardner has added bunting to his arsenal, writes Anthony McCarron. Which is great, but begs a question, along the same lines as what you could ask after news came out that Daniel Murphy is being tutored by Keith Hernandez: Why wasn't this happening before? It would seem like bunting would have been a great tool for Gardner throughout his journey to the majors, because of his speed.
7. Frank Thomas took the high road on the day he announced his retirement. It was the best possible answer from him; he doesn't need to say anything else. He will be voted into the Hall of Fame, and others who I assume he thought cheated will struggle to do so, and Thomas will be in a position to let that turn in history speak for him.
• Happy birthday to my Dad, Ed Lincoln, who, along with the rest of our clan got great news yesterday -- doctors are extremely pleased with the progress of Amelia Lincoln, my sister, after her first round of chemo. The notes and good wishes for her from here and other corners have been a great source of help and comfort.
And today will be better than yesterday.
"Never seen a payroll on a ring" "Leave the gun, take the cannoli "
A very familiar face and important cog in the Yankees’ universe won’t greet the players in Tampa this week when spring training camp opens. The Post has learned that legendary athletic trainer Gene Monahan will miss his first spring training in 48 years due to what a person with knowledge of the situation termed a "significant illness that possibly could sideline him for the beginning of the regular season."
Monahan has taken a medical leave of absence and is in the New York area undergoing treatments that are expected to last for the next couple of weeks.
Anthony J. Causi/New York Post
Monahan and catcher Jorge Posada.
The Yankees had no comment on the situation.
Monahan, whose age isn’t listed in the Yankees’ media guide but is in his 60s, is the longest-tenured head athletic trainer in the major leagues.
Assistant trainer Steve Donohue will fill in for Monahan. The Yankees haven’t decided who will assist Donohue while Monahan is out.
A few weeks ago, Javier Vazquez caused a minor stir when he told a reporter that he wasn’t sure how much longer he would play. Now there’s a newer story dealing with the same issue, but this time Vazquez makes it clear that he’s not planning to retire any time soon.
“I have other interests outside of baseball,” he said according to the transation. “But I’m not developing anything because my goal is still to play.”
Vazquez has never indicated he would retire in 2010, he just doesn’t want to play well into his late 30s. The only way this could affect the Yankees would be if Vazquez retired after this season — eliminating the Yankees potential to cash in on a potential Type A or B free agent — but his most recent comments make that seem unlikely.
File this one under the “what took so long” category: Brett Gardner, the likely leftfielder going into 2010, has spent this offseason /www.nydailynews.com'developing his bunting skills. I’m mean, what’s the point of having a speed guy with little power work on his bunting game as he climbed the ladder in the minors? “Now it’s just a matter of being comfortable enough with it,” said Gardner, “not to be scared to do it in a game and have confidence that I’m going to put it where I want it. Not only can it be a tool to get on base, but it keeps defenses honest and can bring the corners in and maybe I can shoot some balls by them.”
Better late than never, I guess.
Posted on Saturday, February 13th, 2010 at 5:00 pm in Asides.
"Never seen a payroll on a ring" "Leave the gun, take the cannoli "