Inbox: How will Eovaldi fare in AL?
Beat reporter Bryan Hoch fields fans' questions
Nathan Eovaldi led the National League in hits allowed last season. How is that going to translate to the American League?
-- Joe A., Pekin, Ill.
Good question. The Yankees don't view Eovaldi as a finished product by any measure, but they're intrigued by his age (he'll be 25 in February) and a live arm that ranked fourth this past season among all starters in average fastball velocity (95.7 mph), according to FanGraphs.com. That big arm is an obvious strength, but it can also work to his detriment, as scouts have noted a tendency to try to blaze his way out of tight spots.
Eovaldi gave the Marlins innings (199 2/3) but just 142 strikeouts, so he needs to improve on missing bats, especially now that he will be working in Yankee Stadium. On the positive front: the Yanks' number-crunchers didn't miss the fact that Eovaldi's FIP (fielding independent pitching) was 3.37, which looks a whole lot sharper than his 4.37 ERA. Could the Marlins' defense have been to blame for some of those hits? Perhaps, so working in front of Chase Headley and Didi Gregorius on the left side should be a plus.
Observers have said that Eovaldi must learn to pitch inside more and stop leaving his offerings over the middle of the plate. That'll be a project for pitching coach Larry Rothschild this spring, but the Yanks believe Eovaldi's potential ceiling is worth the gamble. When his slider and curve are working, he's tough, and the Yanks need to make that a regular thing.
"He's got a great gift, no doubt about that," Brian Cashman said last week. "It's just about trying to harness that gift into consistent success."
Why are we hearing nothing about Max Scherzer? Are the Yankees a dark horse to sign him?
-- John P., via Twitter
You never want to say never with this team and a big free-agent prize, but at the moment there's no smoke connecting Scherzer and the Yankees. Cashman and team president Randy Levine have both strongly indicated that Scherzer's expected market -- potentially in excess of $200 million -- is going to be too rich for the Yanks to get involved.
"The chances of us bringing in a guy for six [years] and $25 million or over, in my opinion, is virtually none," Levine said last week. Cashman went a step further, telling NBC that "I don't think Yankee fans will be looking at Max Scherzer."
Could that just be posturing, setting up the Yankees to make a late run at Scott Boras with fistfuls of cash? Some would like to believe that, but Jack Curry of the YES Network traced the dollars to provide a good point -- because of luxury tax penalties, a $28 million annual salary to Scherzer would be more like a $42 million dent in the team's bottom line. Even for the Yankees, that's a number that has to make them swallow hard.
With Headley and now Garrett Jones in the fold, is Alex Rodriguez just a part-time DH?
-- Ty B., Madison, Wis.
The Yankees' actions in the last few weeks have given muscle to the idea that they are not going into 2015 counting on production from A-Rod. For a variety of reasons -- last year's suspension, his age, the two bad hips -- whatever they can squeeze out of Rodriguez seems to be viewed as a bonus. He's the great unknown going into '15.
It's still likely that Rodriguez will grab a glove in the spring and play some third base as a backup for Headley, but the Yanks figure to give Jose Pirela time there, too. Rodriguez should also take some reps at first base, though Jones is now second on the depth chart there behind Mark Teixeira.
Where does that leave Rodriguez? For the moment, he could be in a platoon for DH at-bats with Jones, and the Yanks are going to send Jones' left-handed power up against righties at Yankee Stadium. While A-Rod was productive against righties during his short season in 2013, he hit just .200 (10-for-50) with a .585 OPS against lefties.
If the Yankees do not sign a second baseman like Asdrubal Cabrera, could you see both Rob Refsnyder and Pirela making the roster?
-- Mike B., Bayside, N.Y.
Assuming the Yankees plan to start the year with a 12-man pitching staff, there aren't any injuries and A-Rod is on the roster, they'd probably have to pick one or the other. They've got some pretty solid roster locks for the bench in Jones, John Ryan Murphy, Brendan Ryan and Chris Young, plus Rodriguez.
This reminds me of those weeks in December 2005 when Bubba Crosby was supposedly in line to be the starting center fielder. The Yankees were talking in September about how Refsnyder should get a crack at the starting second-base job in '15, and that's definitely on the table right now, though it doesn't seem to be an absolute lock. Pirela provides more versatility and could get a spring look at multiple positions.
"It's a competition right now that exists on the current roster, and I'll evaluate any other opportunities that legitimately present themselves," Cashman said last week. "But clearly if Spring Training started today, that would be the competition."
That wasn't exactly a slam-dunk endorsement. It was around this time last year that the Yankees gave $2 million to Brian Roberts, and there are a couple of free agents who fit the mold of looking for a bounce-back deal -- Cabrera, who has fallen quite a bit from his All-Star days with the Indians, and Stephen Drew, who would be open to returning as a second baseman.
What is the Yankees' plan to hire Kevin Long's replacement? We have not heard much on the club's plans to hire a new hitting coach since early November.
-- Remy C., Chicago
After that initial round of interviews, the Yankees hit the pause button on their searches to replace Long and first-base coach Mick Kelleher, preferring instead to focus on the moves they needed to make in the free agent and trade markets. With a lot of that activity now complete, we can expect to see the Yanks make some progress on the coaching front soon.
The New York Post reported on Monday that Jeff Pentland has been internally discussed as a candidate; Pentland was the Marlins' hitting coordinator last season and has a connection to Joe Girardi. James Rowson, who served as the Yanks' hitting coordinator in 2014, has interviewed and is still thought to be in the mix. Once they hire a hitting coach, they'll decide if they also want to bring in an assistant.