A time to reflect…

Saving the best dance for last…

After a ho-hum drive to the trading deadline, it was a fun ride after the Yankees disposed of their top relievers and their best bat.  The release of Alex Rodriguez signaled the opening of the youth movement, which had technically already begun with the trades for Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro.  Yet, it wasn’t until catcher Gary Sanchez arrived that the magic was re-inserted into Yankee Stadium.  With Sanchez, Aaron Judge, and Tyler Austin as the opening act in August, the team thrust themselves back into post-season contention.  For a time, it seemed as though it might work, but a brutal September schedule brought an end to those aspirations.  Still, for the Yankees to be in contention as late as September 29th, it was an improbable ride.

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The Baby Bombers gave Yankees fans reason to be optimistic again.  Judge’s stay was short-lived due to injury but it gave the Yankees a chance to see other guys like Mason Williams.

I am not foolish enough to believe that Luis Cessa or Chad Green are the next great aces in baseball, but both achieved some success at the major league level and are posed to compete for jobs next spring.

It’s clear that the off-season strategy should involve getting a high caliber bat, a starting pitcher and help for the relief corps.  I am not convinced that Dellin Betances can be a frontline closer but as a set up guy, he’s among the best.  The Yankees would be wise to re-secure the services of former closer Aroldis Chapman in free agency.  I prefer Chapman over Dodgers closer and free agent to be Kenley Jansen because Chapman is just a freak of nature…and he’s shown he can have success in New York.  Chapman should be the team’s top target so that they can shorten games and take pressure off the starting rotation.

MLB: New York Yankees-Workouts

Feb 18, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman (54) works out as the pitchers and catchers arrive for spring training at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Credit:  Kim Klement, USA Today Sports

I am not sure who’s out there for starting pitching but I’d prefer not to invest big dollars in a 36 year old like Rich Hill who has reinvented himself as a top starter.  Young, controllable talent will come at a very steep price, and there’s not really much available through free agency.  The Yankees would be wise to see what they could get for Michael Pineda but after his disappointing 6-12 season, the return would be minimal.  Actually, the Pittsburgh Pirates should be all in for a Pineda trade.  Struggling Yankees pitchers always seem to pitch like aces in Pittsburgh.

The only obvious starters in the rotation for next season are Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia.  It could also be the final years as Yankees for both pitchers.  Tanaka can opt out of his contract after next season and Sabathia’s long-term and at times onerous contract finally reaches it conclusion.

A year lost to injury probably removes James Kaprielian as a rotation option next year.  Hopefully, other guys like Jordan Montgomery and Justus Sheffield will have a chance to show what they can bring.

GM Brian Cashman has his work cut out in trying to restructure the team’s pitching.

As for offense, I am sure that we’ll hear names like Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista.  But neither name really excites me.  I am hopeful that Aaron Judge can play to his potential and that Gary Sanchez shows that his hot start was not a fluke.  Greg Bird will be the team’s starting first baseman with the retirement of Mark Teixeira and barring competition from Tyler Austin.  It would be nice if the team could find a new third baseman, and perhaps trade Brett Gardner.  Moving both Chase Headley and Brian McCann would be a huge win.

The Yankees need to make some off-season moves to put the team in better position for 2017 but it will be difficult without sacrificing some of the quality prospects they acquired over the last couple of months or their own homegrown talent.

I don’t see any obvious answers other than to let Cashman continue to piece together his hope and vision for the coming years.

I am thankful the Yankees gave us a few months of excitement after the up and down start.  I feel better about the team as it enters this off-season than I did last year.  It’s unfortunate that the team was unable to make the playoffs but realistically, this team was not ready for October success.  Hopefully the current Cashman path has the Yankees on a collision course for next October.  Time will tell.  It should be an interesting off-season.

8

Farewell to #16…

A week ago, I woke up on Sunday morning to the dreadful news that Miami Marlins’ ace Jose Fernandez had perished in a boating accident.  At first, I didn’t want to believe and had hoped it was just another internet hoax.  But sadly, it was true.  When I thought of pitchers the Yankees should try to trade for, I always thought of Fernandez.  Aside from being one of the best pitchers in baseball, his enthusiasm and team spirit were always at the forefront.  His personality would have captured New York.

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Credit:  Getty Images

It was probably unlikely the Yankees ever could have secured Fernandez as the price tag would have been very high but it was fun to think about.  Now, we’re left only with thoughts of what could have been.  For his short time in the majors, he made a mark.  When the Marlins made the decision to retire his number even though he had only been in the majors a few years, it was the right thing to do.  If Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball, Fernandez was in the same room.

Watching Marlins manager Don Mattingly break down while talking about Fernandez was hard to see.  Sometimes life doesn’t seem fair, and the world would have been a much better place had Fernandez been able to take the field for his scheduled start last Monday against the New York Mets.  He will be missed.  His loss is felt all across Major League Baseball, and he will not be forgotten.  In various parts around the world, there are young boys who idolized Fernandez.  Undoubtedly, some of those young men will one day make their MLB dreams come true.  Through them, Fernandez will continue to live on.

Rest in peace, Jose…

New York Mets v Miami Marlins

MIAMI, FL – SEPTEMBER 26: Miami Marlins leave their hats on the pitching mound to honor the late Jose Fernandez after the game against the New York Mets at Marlins Park on September 26, 2016 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)

—Scott

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