|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Al Bello and Christian Petersen), via CBS New York|
Trading January for February…
It was another quiet week in the Yankees Universe, but fortunately, it puts us one week closer to Spring Training.
Many feel that the Yankees are good with the present makeup of the 40-man roster as the gates of Steinbrenner Field prepare to open but I remain convinced that the Yankees will add either a strong starting pitcher or a veteran to solidify third base. It would be great to add both but I don’t see how that’s economically feasible for a team trying so hard to stay under the $197 million luxury tax threshold.
I thought the Washington Nationals have done a tremendous job with their infield bench. First, they signed first baseman Matt Adams, the long-time Cardinal who spent most of last year in Atlanta, to back up first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. Then, they re-signed 2B/3B Howie Kendrick who can plug into a corner outfield position as well. Either one of these players would have been useful for the Yankees. I like the idea of pairing a veteran with the youthful Miguel Andujar at third. Granted, I would love to see the return of Todd Frazier or even the signing of Mike Moustakas, but the Yankees can afford to lower their sights for another guy that could help Andujar with his transition to the MLB level. Eduardo Nunez is probably not the answer, due to his questionable defense and injury history, but there are other guys that could fit the bill without blowing the budget. Josh Harrison, carrying a cap hit of $10.25 million, is probably the guy that comes to mind but his acquisition would probably prevent the addition of a starting pitcher who is better than any of the current starting five.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images North America (Joe Sargent)|
The Toronto Blue Jays have been fairly active in trying to rebuild their post-Jose Bautista outfield. Earlier this week, they signed former Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson to fill a platoon role. Then, yesterday, they traded for St Louis Cardinals outfielder Randall Grichuk who became expendable when the Cardinals acquired former Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna, particularly given the breakthrough of outfielder Tommy Pham for the Cards last year. Grichuk has some thump in his bat, even if he hasn’t been consistent. He is expected to be the starter in right field, replacing Bautista. I don’t know much about the younger pitching prospect that the Blue Jays sent to St Louis (Connor Greene), but I am glad to see reliever Dominic Leone depart the AL East. In a setup role for the Blue Jays last year, Leone stranded 42 of 54 base runners which ranked fourth among AL relievers. He held righties to .211 batting average and was even stingier with lefties at .183. The Grandy Man may not be the player he once was, but he is still one of the game’s best gentlemen. I’m sure that he’ll be a positive influence on the young Jays. He didn’t do much for the Los Angeles Dodgers last year after the late season acquisition (.161 batting average with 7 home runs in 112 at-bats), but he can still provide occasional pop. I can still remember his grand slam against the Yankees last August in what would prove to be his last at-bat for the New York Mets.
|Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)|
It’s inevitable that the Boston Red Sox and free agent outfielder J.D. Martinez come together at some point this off-season. I find it highly unlikely that the Arizona Diamondbacks bring back Martinez due to monetary constraints and there doesn’t seem to be much competition with Boston for the outfielder’s services. The latest reports indicate the Red Sox have offered 5 years at $125 million but agent Scott Boras is on record seeking a 6 or 7 year deal for his client. Teams have wised up and understand how detrimental the latter years can be for extended length contracts given to thirty-something players. If the Red Sox are truly offering $25 million per year, I think Martinez would be smart to consider it. At a winter function for the Red Sox yesterday, former Red Sox great Pedro Martinez explained, “The main reason why Mookie (Betts) and those guys miss (David Ortiz) more is because they were getting better pitches to hit on an earlier count because of his presence. Everybody knew they wanted to attack Mookie and those guys to get them out early before they get to David because David was one of those guys who was really special.” Martinez could be that guy for the Red Sox, which is why I feel that Boston will eventually get the deal done even if it gives them a $200+ million payroll.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Christian Petersen)|
The most talked about situation for the Yankees is Jacoby Ellsbury and his contract. By all indications, Ellsbury has no desire to waive his no-trade clause and is focused on competing with Aaron Hicks for the starting center field role. Many Yankees fans, including myself, feel that it would be best for Ellsbury to drop the NTC and allow a trade. The pro-Ellsbury fans attack us, saying that Ellsbury is a better player than we are giving him credit for. I don’t think anyone disputes that Ellsbury is still a good player. He just doesn’t fit the 2018 Yankees. At this point, it is clear that Aaron Hicks has the upper hand and it would take an injury to Hicks (always a possibility) to clear a path to consistent playing time for Ellsbury. But even then, he’d have to fight Brett Gardner for time and Gardy probably has the edge. It does not make sense to pay a fourth or fifth outfielder $22 million per year. If the Yankees were successful in getting another team to take on half of what’s left of Ellsbury’s deal, that’s still significant money that could go toward a starting pitcher and/or veteran third baseman. That’s why I think it is best to move Ellsbury if you can. He can be a very useful player for another team. Seattle was mentioned as the primary trade target until they acquired second baseman Dee Gordon from the Miami Marlins with the intent to convert him to center field. Then, the San Francisco Giants were heavily mentioned by Yankees fans. But they acquired Andrew McCutchen from the Pittsburgh PIrates and are bumping up against the luxury tax threshold themselves. Some have mentioned the Colorado Rockies in a trade of bad contracts for IF/OF Ian Desmond, but I don’t think the Rockies are as down on Desmond as Yankees fans would like to think. A trade to a Cactus League team seems to make the most sense given that Ellsbury makes his home in Scottsdale, Arizona. Personally, I think the Yankees will be stuck with Ellsbury until the dollars left on his contract reach a point that Hal Steinbrenner is comfortable cutting bait. That means at least another season or two. It stinks because it will most likely keep Clint Frazier at Triple A if he is not traded for a starting pitcher. I am a fan of Red Thunder and I’d like to see him in the Bronx, not Moosic, PA. He’s ready, even if it means that team leader Brett Gardner is the odd man out.
|Photo Credit: SI.com|
Maybe next week is finally the week we get some actual news in the Yankees Universe. Yeah, right…probably not. Oh well, Spring Training will soon be here. I am ready and anxious to see 1 Steinbrenner Drive thriving with Yankees fans in the stands watching Yankees greats on the field.