Ken Rosenthal is reporting that the Yankees are “optimistic” about signing a one-year deal with Mariano Rivera this week. Along with Pettitte and Ichiro, that would make the third old-timer the Yankees are supposed to lock up before the Winter Meetings.
Each of the deals is defensible in and of themselves, but it is striking how much of a play-for-2013 kind of plan this seems to be for the Yankees. This is a team in need of a long term plan, especially on offense, but as of now they’ve really got nothing going that will help them contend in 2014. It’s still November so there is no sense getting all worried about it, but it will be interesting to see if the Yankees do anything that helps them beyond next year.
As for Rivera specifically: a no-brainer to bring him back, especially with Rafael Soriano poised to get a big, multi-year deal elsewhere. We always say that Rivera is going to lose his mojo eventually, and a year after tearing his ACL is as good a candidate as any to be that time, but if there is anyone who has earned the right to die on the field of battle, it’s Mo.
The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.
In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.
The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.
Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”
It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.
It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.