Yankees Sign Neal Cotts

Via Matt Eddy, the Yankees have signed LHP Neal Cotts to a minor league contract. Cotts, 31, had pitch surgery last year and did not appear in 2010. He had Tommy John surgery in 2009 and hasn’t appeared in a major league game since May of 2009. Cotts has spent his career in the Cubs organization and thus worked with, new Yankee pitching coach, Larry Rothschild.

While the Yankees are looking for a lefty reliever, it is unlikely Cotts is that guy. It’s more likely that Cotts will fill the role that Royce Ring did last year and reside mostly in Scranton.

Notes: Pitching Coach, 40-Man, Albaladejo

Notes (some more important than others) from around Yankeeland today:

Larry Rothschild was named the Yankees 2011 pitching coach. Rothschild most recently was the Chicago Cubs’ pitching coach from 2002-2010 and 1997 World Series-winning Florida Marlins.

Brian Cashman is quoted as saying: “Larry will be a welcome addition to our pitching staff. He comes with an impressive resume as a former Major League manager and a world champion pitching coach. He has a great reputation with his players, who know they can trust him and rely on him to put them in a position to succeed.”

Joe Girardi adds that Rothschild “brings a wealth of invaluable experience to our team and to our pitching staff. He’s a championship pitching coach, and I’m excited to add Larry’s abilities to our staff. He is above all else an excellent teacher, who brings a professional attitude and a keen sense of preparation to his craft. I’m very much looking forward to working with him moving forward.”

Oh and Rothschild also mentions he thinks A.J. Burnett “can be a very effective Major League pitcher.” Well at least now we know dude’s got balls and goals.

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The Yankees released RHP Jonathan Albaladejo today after the reliever asked the club for his release after the Yomiuri Giants expressed interest. Good for the big fella, he earned a big contract after his work in AAA. Of course, well all remember him as the guy Cashman traded this dude for. The release frees up a 40-man roster spot, of which there are now 30 taken.

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In minor league moves, Dellin Betances, Brandon Laird, and Ryan Pope were all added to the 40-man roster today in order to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft. Also, the Yankees acquired, former 1st round pick, Cody Johnson from the Braves for cash. Quick stat on him, via Mike Axisa, 49.9% of his 1,813 career plate appearances have ended with a homer, walk, or strikeout. Damn. Johnson will start 2011 with AA Trenton.

Yanks Make Offer to Jeter

Via Jon Heyman, the Yankees have officially offered Derek Jeter a 3-year, $45 million contract. He is expected to turn it down just because that’s how these things go. Making progress.

Notes: Depaula, Miranda

Yes there haven’t been posts for a while, but that’s just because I don’t think it’s necessary to report every time the Yankees and Jeter have a hiccup because we all know the deal will get done. Anyways, onto the news:

According to Melissa Segura, the Yankees will sign Domincan RHP Rafael DePaula later today. The bonus is said to be around $700,000. After lying about his age and identity, DePaula was suspended for a year but was cleared by MLB’s verification process earlier this year. The 19-year-old DePaula is 6’3″ and his fastball has touched 97 in workouts. Here’s some video.

The Yankees also traded Juan Miranda to the Diamondbacks for Justin Upton RHP prospect Scottie Allen. This move not only frees up a 40-man roster spot (for someone like Cliff Lee or Jesus Montero) but Allen is probably the best the Yanks could’ve gotten for Miranda. Once considered the Yankees’ future first basemen, Miranda really fell off the radar once Mark Teixeira was signed. According to Joel Sherman, Allen has an improving fastball (88-93) and is developing an above-average curveball. He has good arm action which speaks to his command and control. Plus, dude’s only 19.

And to sum up everything else that’s happening in Yankeeland: Jeter wants more years and money which makes Randy Levine angry but not really. Will they work it out…(yes). Justin Upton was made available and he has every GM in baseball drooling, however the Yanks might or might not get him. Huge asking price. And King Felix won the Cy Young.

Notes: Lee, Jorge, Jeter, Gold Gloves

A few notes from Yankeeland today:

Brian Cashman and some other Yankee brass members flew to Lee’s home in Arkansas to speak to the lefty today. While they did not make an offer, at least not yet, the Yankees wanted to reach out to Lee as they did with CC. When Cash spoke to CC, he told him the Yanks didn’t go after Santana the year before because they were waiting for Sabathia. This made CC feel wanted and people believe Cash could be using the fact that they were willing to give up Jesus Montero for Lee in the same way. While a deal won’t be getting done in the next few days, look out for this one.

Jorge Posada underwent the same surgery on his knee that CC Sabathia recieved earlier this offseason and Brian Cashman has informed him that he will have to battle it out with Jesus Montero in Spring Training for the starting job. It is likely that Jorge will be the Yankees’ primary DH in 2011.

And finally the Yankees and Derek Jeter are starting to make some progress, as talks have begun heating up. The two are still miles apart, but they are getting closer and an offer will most likely be made shortly.

Oh and in-case you missed it, Teixeira, Jeter, and Cano all took home Gold Gloves this past week. Gold Glove voting isn’t anything meaningful, the voters basically find the best hitter and if he can field decently, he gets it. Jeter should not get the award but the issue that bugs me more is Brett Gardner. By UZR, Gardner was the best fielder (not just outfielder) in the entire major leagues. Does he get any recognition for it? No.

Top 10 Yankee Prospects For 2011

It seems like every time after, right before, or in the middle of the season people start publishing lists of their top 10 Yankee Prospects. Well, now its my turn. Here’s my list of the pinstripes of tomorrow:

1. Jesus Montero, C, 20

This one should surprise no one. Jesus is the Yankees’ best hitting prospect since Derek Jeter and should rank within the top three prospects in all of baseball this year. Montero’s been described as having “the best bat in the minor leagues” and this year, he’ll be taking it to the show. While Jesus is a clear number one, it begins to get a bit cloudy from here on out.

2. Manny Banuelos, LHP, 19

ManBan started in the Arizona Fall League Showcase and received a glowing report from Keith Law for his performance. Banuelos ranges from the low to high 90s with his fastball, and compliments it with a nasty change and good curveball. What really sets him apart though is his demeanor and his free and easy delivery. Though there have been questions about his height (only 5’10”), the kid’s only 19 and is a lefty. He has future-ace written all over him.

3. Gary Sanchez, C, 17

The second coming of the second coming, Sanchez has been repeatedly compared to Jesus Montero due to his insane bat and not-so-stellar defense. What has been more un-noticed though is that some people actually think Sanchez could be better then Montero. Gary hit .353/.419/.597 in the Gulf Coast League as a 17-year-old. He was then promoted to Staten Island where he had a .759 OPS. Bottom line: kid can mash. Plus he has the potential to improve behind the dish. Lookout.

4. Dellin Betances, RHP, 22

It’s all there physically for Betances. He’s got a plus, plus fastball and nasty secondary pitches. The huge (6’8″) Brooklyn native definitely looks the part of an ace and the only thing holding him back is his injury history. Dellin is a Tommy John survivor, but returned last year to put up career highs in 3 very essential categories: IP (85.1), K/9 (11.4), and BB/9 (2.3). If he can stay healthy and retain good control, he’s definitely going to be a number one.

5. Austin Romine, C, 21

The last of the Yankees big-time catching prospects and the battery mate to Banuelos in the AFL showcase game, Romine’s got the stuff to catch in the bigs. Austin’s bat isn’t other-worldly like those of Jesus Montero and Gary Sanchez, but he can still hit pretty good. Unlike Montero and Sanchez though, the kid’s above-average behind the dish. A lot of people view him as either the Yankees’ future starting catcher, or very good trade bait.

6. Andrew Brackman, RHP, 26

The final Killer B of this list, Brackman had never put up great numbers for the Yanks before ’10. However in 2010, Andrew shot off the line and pitched so well that he earned himself a promotion to the show during September. While Girardi (annoyingly) never put Brackman in a game, it was a good reward for a kid who’s worked hard. Brackman’s got the stuff to be a solid #2 or #3 starter in the show as long as he can retain his command.

7. Slade Heathcott, CF, 21

The 2009 first-round pick by the Yankees put up decent numbers in his first season in pro-ball, but the Yankees project him much higher then that. Physically, he very much resembles Brett Gardner. Unlike Gardner however, Slade’s predicted to develop much more power and could turn into a good 5-tool outfielder.

8. Hector Noesi, RHP, 24

The lone Yankee rep on the Futures World team, Noesi has great fastball command, however he is lacking a real put-away secondary pitch. He’s struggled a lot with his curveball, but it definitely could be improved. A lot of people view him sort of as an Alfredo Aceves type pitcher or trade bait.

9. Adam Warren, RHP, 23

Kid has great control to go along with rising velocity. Highlight of the 2010 season came when he struck out 15 (!!) in one game for AA Trenton. Posted a 2.66 FIP in A Tampa and Trenton combined. Possible 2 or 3 starter but a sleeper prospect for sure.

10. Brandon Laird, 3B/LF, 23

Laird is an interesting case because he is learning to play multiple positions. As a third basemen, he holds almost no value to the Yankees other than maybe a power bat off the bench. However, he is trying to learn to play the outfield in order to make himself more versatile and claim a solid bench job for the Yanks. Plus, dude can rake! Laird won the Eastern League MVP despite getting bumped up to triple-A near the end of the season. He hit .281/.336/.482 with 25 HRs and 102 RBIs overall. Named the Yankees’ Minor League MVP by alg_jesus_montero.jpeg. Hopefully can become a utility player for Yankees, if not: excellent trade bait.

KLaw on ManBan

oPQ5zFsy.jpegA quick note from Keith Law in his latest blog post (insider required). Law mentions Manny Banuelos’ outing in the Arizona Fall League Talent showcase. He writes:

“… a ridiculous changeup that had plus arm speed and hard, late fading action, and he touched 94 as well. I don’t see much physical projection with Banuelos, who is already pretty maxed out physically (unless he gets taller — he is just 19), but his feel for pitching and fastball command are extremely advanced and tightening his curveball would give him three above-average or better pitches too.”

In other words, we got ourselves a plus-pitching prospect. If you didn’t catch Manny’s outing (on MLB Network and MLB.com) you definitely missed out. The 19-year old was throwing extremely well and looked calm as ever on the hill. Scouts who said that he had a major-league demeanor were right. Gotta love them killer B’s: Banuelos, Brackman, and Betances. The future is bright.

Yanks To “Overpay” On Jeter

derek-jeter-yankees-lou-gehrig-franchise-hits-record-27aad5c4a3b89e4c_large.jpegVia a report by Wallace Mathews of ESPN.com, the Yankees are prepared to offer Jeter the big-bucks. While they have yet to make an offer to Jeter, as well as all their other free agent targets, “the Yankees are going to overpay him,” said a source with intimate knowledge of the discussions. “The question is, how much[?]”

It was reported that the deal will be for three years, $45-60 million. That’s $15-20 million a year, about what was expected. Locking up the captain is one of the Yankees’ top priorites this winter, as well as signing Mo, and pitching depth Cliff Lee.

“What If?” – Cano/Kemp Trade

matt-kemp1.jpegThis is the first post in our “What If?” series. We will be taking a look at past rumored deals and ask what if they went through? What would the Yankees look like today? What would be different?

Beginning in the 2006-2007 offseason, there was a lot of speculation towards a potential Robinson Cano for Matt Kemp deal between the Yankees and Dodgers. The Yankees were desperate for outfield help with Bernie William and Gary Sheffield leaving, Hideki Matsui’s legs going away, and don’t even get me started on Bubba Crosby. After the ’07 season it made even more sense when Joe Torre and Don Mattingly put on Dodger blue. Cano had a very close relationship to both men and people speculated it was the kind of thing they wanted to maintain. It didn’t help things when Cano had a down-year in ’08, hitting .271/.305/.410.

To all of us at the time however, this seemed like the usual “one young player for another young player” deal and it sort of felt like it was just going to go away within a few weeks. However, it hung around for a while and didn’t actually get cut-off until after the 2008 season.

But what if it had gone through? What if Robby had gone to LA and Kemp to the Big Apple? Well let’s talk about the very simplest of details first: uniform numbers. Robby currently wears #24 but switched after ’06 from 22. Had he been shipped to LA, he probably would be sporting the double-twos whereas either Kemp or Joe Giardi would have to pick another number. But on to the more pressing matters…

The Yankees would be without a second basemen and would probably have to turn to the free agent market for help. Lets say this deal goes down after the 2007 season, when the rumors reached their climax. The best free agent second basemen that year were Luis Castillo, Jerry Hairston Jr., Kaz Matsui, and Mark Loretta. Now, it doesn’t take much to realize how bad those four would pan out. Castillo probably would’ve been the most appealing out of that bunch, and well, yeah…not even gonna go there. Hairston still had some good years in him and probably could’ve been productive over there at second. As for Kaz and Loretta, they were at the end of their primes and have both become wash-ups since then. Clearly, none of these players come even close to what Robby has given the Yankees and what he will continue to do in the future.

While the trade would’ve left a void at second, the Yankees outfield would’ve been much stronger for the time-being. They would have Damon in left, Kemp in center, and Abreu in right. That is a damn good outfield, however, it isn’t built for the long-haul. Abreu seems to be done now with ’08 being his last real productive year. Damon, as we all know, was a great contributer for the Yankees, who cut him loose after the 2009 season and at the right time. Kemp too has had his struggles, hitting only .249/.310/.450 this past year.

This star-studded outfield would also have many negative effects besides aging players too. With Melky Cabrera in center, the Yankees definitely had a hole, but that weakness had a silver lining, and its name is Brett Gardner. When Cabrera began to struggle, the Yanks slotted in Gardner, and vice-versa. If the Yankees had Johnny, Matt, and Bobby, it’s very unlikely that Gardner would get a real shot in the outfield and thus 2010 could’ve been a much different year for the Yankees in left field.

Having Kemp in the outfield also means different stories for the rest of the fielders we know and love today. Swisher was acquired after 2008 in hopes of having him as the everyday first basemen, but switched to the outfield once Teixeira came aboard. Before him, Xavier Nady was the rightfielder after having been acquired before the 2008 trade deadline. The Yankees got Nady because of the problems in their outfield which wouldn’t of been there had they had Kemp. No Nady, means the Yankees probably would’ve gone hunting for a new rightfielder come the 2008-2009 offseason. Do they still get Swisher? Maybe, maybe not. We easily could’ve wound up with Brad Hawpe or maybe even Bobby Abreu for at least one year too many. Curtis Granderson also wouldn’t of been acquired because there would be no gap for him to fill. The Yankees’ outfield today would probably look as follows: Johnny Damon in left, Matt Kemp in center, and Brad Hawpe in right. Not pretty.

So who won this deal? Obviously the Yankees did. They were able to upgrade their outfield to the point where it stands today as one of the best in the bigs. Plus, they were able to do so without giving up the best second basemen in baseball. That is a win by any standards.

Yanks Make Contact With Lee’s Agent

cliff-lee-rangers-apjpg-776aa8da8a7821e9_large.jpegA person familiar with the conversations between the New York Yankees and Cliff Lee has informed the Associated Press that the Yankees have indeed made contact with Lee’s agent. Speaking under anonymity, the official says that the Yankees called Lee’s agent, Derek Braunecker, and informed him that they would be back in touch with their first offer for the left-hander.

It was first reported yesterday that the Yankees’ opening bid for the ’08 AL Cy Young winner would be placed sometime Sunday or Monday and these reports confirm that the offer is imminent.

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