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February 27, 2014

Rumor Roundup

An Infield Fix for the Yankees?

by Daniel Rathman

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Yankees could trade a catcher for an infielder or reliever
Yes, you read that correctly: The team that gave Chris Stewart 340 plate appearances behind the dish last year now has a surplus at the catcher position. According to George A. King III of the New York Post, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman is considering parting with one of his homegrown backstops for depth at a shallower position.

The Yankees still lack a surefire starter at second base and third base, despite having signed Brian Roberts, Brendan Ryan, and Kelly Johnson and acquired 40-man-roster casualty Dean Anna from the Padres earlier this offseason. Derek Jeter’s health is a question mark entering his last big-league season, and Eduardo Nunez flopped badly when pressed into extended duty in 2013, coming in at 0.2 wins below replacement.

Likewise, in the bullpen, the Yankees have lost Mariano Rivera to retirement and Boone Logan to free agency, and their only significant addition was Matt Thornton, who is qualified to supplant the latter but not the former. Recent pickup Andrew Bailey won’t be available until midseason, and while the Yankees have a few non-roster invitees who could compete for big-league jobs, there is no direct replacement for David Robertson, who is sliding into the ninth-inning role vacated by Rivera. The Yankees have considered converting prospects like Manny Banuelos into relievers, at least in the short term, to fill the openings in manager Joe Girardi’s bullpen.

But King believes that Cashman could try to solve those roster issues internally by trading Francisco Cervelli, J.R. Murphy, or Austin Romine. Murphy, the organization’s no. 3 prospect and a possible major-league regular, might be the most sought-after piece in negotiations. Cervelli will either be traded or serve as the primary backup to newcomer Brian McCann, because he is out of options. The soon-to-be-28-year-old served a 50-game suspension last year for his ties to the Biogenesis clinic, but he has hit well for a backup catcher in his 623 career major-league plate appearances.

King noted that the Astros, Giants, Tigers, Twins, and White Sox had scouts in attendance at the Yankees’ exhibition game against Florida State University on Tuesday. The White Sox were previously linked to trade talks for former Rays backup Jose Lobaton, who has since been traded to the Nationals. Cashman’s targets could include Gordon Beckham from Chicago or Rickie Weeks from the Brewers, if Milwaukee turns to Scooter Gennett as its everyday second baseman.

Brian Dozier is all ears if the Twins want to discuss an extension
And why wouldn’t he be? The second baseman broke out for 18 home runs and 3.5 WARP in 2013, his first full big-league season, so he might be wise to rake in some guaranteed dough at a high point in his value.

Brian Dozier told Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press that he wants “to stay [in Minnesota] forever,” but his agent, Damon Lapa, has not yet heard from the Twins about the possibility of a long-term extension. As Berardino pointed out, the Twins tend to go year-to-year with their controllable players, and since Dozier has only one year and 100 days of service time, there is no rush to lock him up. The 26-year-old won’t reach arbitration until after the 2015 season.

PECOTA is bearish about Dozier’s chances to replicate his 2013 effort, which came on the back of a more disciplined approach. One source of pessimism comes from his splits—namely, a .336 TAv against southpaws that hid his dismal .232 showing against righties. Dozier’s performance against opposite-handed pitchers was so strong that, on balance, he was a quality regular. But any backslide in that department that isn’t matched by an improvement versus righties would eat into his value.

Regardless of the handedness of the pitcher he’s facing, Dozier remains almost exclusively a fastball hitter. He slugged .302 when putting a changeup in play last year, and well south of .300 on both curveballs and sliders. Pitchers seemed to catch on to that slowly, but the percentage of fastballs that Dozier saw declined every month from July through September. During Dozier’s torrid August, when he slugged 19 extra-base hits in 141 plate appearances, he was just about the textbook definition of a dead-red hitter.

The Twins would do well to see how Dozier adjusts to pitchers in 2014, now that the book is out, before committing to him as their long-term solution at the keystone.

Juan Rincon might attempt a comeback
Remember Juan Rincon? The right-hander last pitched in the majors in 2010 and last saw extended time in 2009, when he filled up the box score in all the wrong ways.

Four years later, Rincon is still only 34, young enough to get himself back into playing shape and find a team willing to let him try his hand in the majors again. CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweeted on Wednesday that he’s doing just that.

A Venezuelan who signed with the Twins in 1996, Rincon has spent the bulk of his career in the American League Central, where he also pitched for the Tigers and (briefly) for the Indians. He washed out of the league with the Rockies, spent 2011 in independent ball, latched on with Triple-A Salt Lake City in the Angels organization in 2012, and returned to the independent circuit in 2013. He posted a 3.26 ERA and 43-to-19 K:BB ratio in 47 innings for York in the Atlantic League last year.

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Daniel's other articles. You can contact Daniel by clicking here

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