Home for the Holidays…

Glad my favorite NFL team is 4-0…

The playoffs have started but it clearly feels as though baseball is over for me this year given the Yankees are home for the holidays.  I’ve picked up the mantle for the Los Angeles Dodgers given they are my favorite National League team, but of course, it’s just not the same.  Realistically, I don’t think anyone is beating the Chicago Cubs in the NL this year.  They seem to be the team of destiny.  In our lifetime, we’ve seen the end of the Curse of the Bambino and now it seems the end of the Cubbies’ World Series drought is near.

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On the AL side, I thought the Boston Red Sox would emerge as the premier team.  But two games into the AL playoffs has shown a short 5 game series is anybody’s to win.  The Red Sox are not playing like the team that completely destroyed the Yankees in Boston a few weeks ago.  I have no doubt the Red Sox can sweep the next three games to win their series against the Cleveland Indians but obviously they do find themselves in a precarious situation with no room for error.  I have been quietly surprised and pleased by Cleveland’s performance.  Tito Francona has long been one of my favorite managers (Don Mattingly is the other) and he is showing why in this series against his former team.

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Credit:  Jake Roth, USA Today Sports

The Texas Rangers quietly had the best year in the AL, but they have absolutely no pitching answer for the devastating bats in the Toronto Blue Jays’ lineup.  Right now, the odds are in favor of a Blue Jays-Indians American League Championship Series.  I thought we’d be looking at Red Sox-Rangers but I guess that’s why they play the games.

Fortunately, the quick start by the health-challenged Minnesota Vikings gives me something to think about other than baseball and the absence of America’s favorite team.

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Credit:  Jerry Holt, TNS

Excuse me, can I have that chair?…

With spots on the 40-man roster at a premium, it wasn’t a surprise to see the recent moves to free up space.  While Blake Parker and Kirby Yates did well, at times, during the season, they are replaceable parts.  It didn’t take the Los Angeles Angels long to snatch up both players.  The Yankees also cut ties with Eric Young, Jr but that was no surprise as his only role was speed for September (filling the Rico Noel role from a year earlier).  No doubt there are more moves to be made.  I am glad to see the Yankees protect young guys like catcher Kyle Higashioka who could have been lost without a spot on the 40-man roster.  Tough decisions for GM Brian Cashman.

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Credit:  Reinhold Matay, USA Today Sports

When you are trying to protect young talent, the 40-man roster suddenly feels so limiting.  I am sure there will be some losses of quality talent in this year’s Rule 5 draft.  It is always hard to see lost prospects achieve major league success elsewhere (Jose Quintana of the Chicago White Sox comes to mind).  Last year saw the Yankees lose a couple of guys, like outfielder Jake Cave, but fortunately none stuck on their respective major league rosters and were returned.  I don’t think they’ll  be so lucky this year.

I am thankful that Alex Rodriguez will not be filling one of those seats this off-season.  As much as Brian McCann would like to stay, I think the Yankees need to find a way to move him and his salary.  I would prefer a more consistent bat at DH but even if the Yankees don’t go outside for help, they have a plethora of young outfielders.  Greg Bird will most likely replace Mark Teixeira at first which means the Yankees need to find a place for Tyler Austin.  With so many outfield options, DH might be the best spot for the young slugger who could then spell Bird at times.

With such a youthful roster, guys like Chase Headley are suddenly looking very old.

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Credit:  Noah K Murray, USA Today Sports

I remain hopeful that the Yankees will pursue a proven closer like Aroldis Chapman (my preference) or Kenley Jansen in the off-season.  With Dellin Betances moving back into the primary setup role, the Yankees bullpen could return to its status as one of the game’s best which would relieve pressure on the starting rotation.  I just don’t see any great starting pitching options available in the trade market which wouldn’t cost multiple top prospects.

As much as I would love to have one of the impending free agent bats in Toronto, I think the cost would be too great for the team at this point in time.  I like the strategy of acquiring a young players with upside like Aaron Hicks even if that one didn’t exactly pan out…yet.  That’s exactly what the Blue Jays did when they acquired Jose Bautista from the Pittsburgh Pirates and I think that one turned out well for the acquiring team.

I don’t think I’ll be ready to proclaim the Yankees as a World Series contender come Spring, but hopefully the team continues to make the moves to set up the Yankees for a run in 2018 and beyond.  A strong base for sustained success is unquestionably the best path over any quick fixes.

Now is the time when Brian Cashman truly earns his paycheck…

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Credit:  Corey Sipkin, New York Daily News

—Scott

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