Spelling relief: A-R-O-L-D-I-S…

The Yankees at the end of the year…

On the last day of 2015, we can finally put the one game play-off loss to the Houston Astros in the rear view mirror.  It happened in a prior year; not this year.  It’s time to move into 2016 mode, and hope for the best is yet to come.

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Justin Lane/EPA

I am still trying to fully understand the trade for Aroldis Chapman but I have warmed to it considerably since my initial (poor) reaction.  I still believe in MLB’s investigation of his domestic violence incident back in October, and remain willing to accept whatever punishment MLB deems appropriate.  But the thought of a bullpen featuring Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Chapman is very exciting.

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Getty Images

While I realize the Yankees have not formally named their closer, it’s a virtual certainty that it will be Chapman.  Miller is obviously much better suited (both mentally and physically) to slide back into a setup role.  There is no doubt he has been one of the best setup guys in baseball the last couple of years.  Hopefully, this means less reliance (and as a result, more endurance) on Betances.  With Chapman at the  back end of the bullpen, the trade of Justin Wilson to the Detroit Tigers makes much more sense than it did at the time of the trade.  I do think the Yankees will be able to get more out of Chasen Shreve, James Pazos and/or Jacob Lindgren, and in the long run, they’ll be better off for it.

Both Betances and Miller have opined on the Chapman trade, but I have not seen any comments by Chapman himself.  I am looking forward to hearing his words and thoughts about joining the Yankees.  I think those words will go a long way toward setting the perception of him in New York.  I always remember how rocky Randy Johnson’s start in the Bronx with the media was and it never really got any better.  Chapman would be best served by watching how Alex Rodriguez carried himself in 2015 when the court of public opinion is against you.

I am disappointed that Eric Jagielo’s career with the Yankees didn’t work out.  But the reports of his questionable glove and potential necessary move to first, along with his injury history, made his departure more palatable.  Perhaps he becomes the next great thing at third since, well, Todd Frazier, but it was not meant to be with the Yankees.  I remember having very high hopes for Eric Duncan, but that one never worked out either.  Rookie Davis had a great year in the Yankees’ farm system, and you have to love the name.  But I had not heard of the pitcher prior to this year.  The Yankees were right to package the four prospects into the trade for Chapman.  With prospects, there is no certainty.  With Chapman, he’ll be a force in the bullpen once he’s served any potential suspension.  It was a trade the Yankees had to make.

I still respect the Dodgers for walking away from Chapman, but equally, I do not blame the Yankees for taking a chance.  I believe in redemption, and Chapman deserves the opportunity to prove that the incident in October is not something that will ever repeat itself.

As for Miller, I really hope that he is not moved for a starting pitcher.  As much as I recognize the Yankees need another starter, I am hopeful that it does not require the loss of Miller.  Granted, he’s only been a Yankee for a year, but his attitude is commensurate with his physical ability…and his height (6’7”).

As for a starter, I still think the Yankees should pay the money and go out and sign Wei-Yin Chen.  He’d provide the stabilizing force for the starting rotation, and would be someone that the Yankees can count on to take the ball every 5 days.  He doesn’t carry the injury risk like the other starters, and is a proven veteran pitcher.  He is only 30 years old so it’s not like the team would be paying for a pitcher past his prime.  A young, controllable pitcher would be nice, but it’s not exciting like teams would be crawling other themselves trying to unload young, talented pitchers with amazing upside.

If a player is to be moved, I would probably favor Brett Gardner.  I am optimistic about Aaron Hicks, and feel that he is capable of being more than a fourth outfielder.  Among Slade Heathcott and Mason Williams, and others, I think the Yankees can find their replacement for Chris Young.  As with anybody, I would prefer to see Ellsbury go, but that’s not going to happen with his contract.  So that makes Gardner the makes attractive trade chip.  At some point in 2016, I fully expect Aaron Judge to make his major league debut and begin his stranglehold on right field.  With Judge slated for right in the not-so-distant future, and Ellsbury locked into center, left field is the best spot for Hicks.

In addition to the need for a starting pitcher, I am still concerned about a backup third baseman.  I wonder if Dustin Ackley will play some third in spring training to see if he can make the transition.  With Jagielo gone, there’s not really any immediate help on the way from the farm system.  I would have loved to have seen the Yankees sign the disappointing Will Middlebrooks but he opted for Milwaukee.  If the season starts with Greg Bird in AAA, that means regular third baseman Chase Headley may have to provide some back up for Mark Teixeira at first.  This puts more pressure on the Yankees to find a back up third base solution.  I guess the other option is to begin Brian McCann’s transition to first base as the back up, freeing up catcher for Gary Sanchez for the days that McCann doesn’t catch.

For a team that has largely been quiet this off-season, the Yankees should be commended for adding a new second baseman (Starlin Castro) and closer (Chapman).  But there is still much work to be done before the team heads to Tampa for spring training.  Hopefully Hal Steinbrenner does not allow GM Brian Cashman to take any vacation time in January because we’re expecting him to be working 24/7 to improve the 2016 Yankees.  If the Yankees expect to compete with Houston, or with the recharged Boston Red Sox, or World Champion Kansas City Royals, or any of the other AL competitors, they’ll need to do more.  The most common phrase that I expect to hear in January in the offices of MLB general managers is, “Brian Cashman on Line 1”.  Now is the time to make the team better.

Have a very Happy and safe New Year!

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—Scott

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