Soon, very soon…
We are less than a month away before pitchers and catchers report to Tampa. Sitting in Denver, I still have a few more snowstorms to go before America’s favorite pastime returns, but I am excited and looking forward to the upcoming season. The Yankees are still a couple of seasons away from being a serious World Series threat, but the season should be fun nonetheless.
There are a lot of big if’s with this year’s squad. Can Aaron Judge make the necessary adjustments at this level? Can Jacoby Ellsbury ever be the player he once was in Boston? Can he stay healthy? Will Brett Gardner be traded? Will Chase Headley be traded? Will Starlin Castro be moved to third base? Will Gleyber Torres show that he’s ready for major league action sooner rather than later? Will Didi Gregorius sustain last year’s success and show continued improvement? Will Greg Bird restore the great promise that he showed in late 2015? Will Gary Sanchez continue to show that he is arguably the best Yankee or at least show the Yankees were right in sending Brian McCann to Houston? The list goes on and on, and that’s without even getting to the pitching staff.
During the recent Winter Warm-up in the Bronx, James Kaprielian sounded like a future ace. I have long been a fan of Kaprielian’s and have looked forward to his arrival at Yankee Stadium. Last year’s injury that caused him to miss most of the season was a significant setback, but as a college player, Kaprielian is not that far away. If he can show success at Scranton/Wilkes Barre this year, there’s no doubt he’ll be making his major league debut later this summer. I would not be disappointed if Kaprielian surprisingly grabbed a rotation spot out of spring training.
Credit: Mark J. Rebilas, USA TODAY Sports
I remain hopeful that Ian Clarkin can be a future rotation piece, even at the back end. With the influx of other prospects via last summer’s trades, Clarkin’s name is rarely mentioned. But he is another one that I have hoped would achieve the big leagues. Drafted as the 33rd player in the 2013 MLB Draft, Clarkin missed part of last season with a knee injury. He is still only 21 years old so I am hopeful that he’ll bounce back for future success.
The Yankees will have a number of young arms competing for the open rotation spots, but I’d still like to see them bring in a veteran for competition. Same with the bullpen. I am supportive of the return of Boone Logan and would like to see him back in pinstripes.
Other teams are making minor moves. I liked the Miami Marlins’ acquisition of pitcher Dan Straily from the Cincinnati Reds. I remember a few years ago, I was on a flight from Portland to San Francisco. There was a guy behind me on the plane that was raving about his son, a pitcher who happened to be the minor league strikeout leader at the time for an Oakland A’s farm team. It was Straily’s dad. Straily has been through a few major league organizations since that time, but at least Miami is making moves.
I also thought the Boston Red Sox signing of former Philadelphia Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick was a sound move. Who knows if Kendrick will ever be the pitcher he once was with the Phillies, but you don’t know if you don’t try.
By not signing any veteran pitchers, the Yankees are clearly saying that they want youth to take the final rotation spots. If this team is truly dedicated to the youth movement and realistically won’t be in World Series contention for at least two seasons, I do not understand holding onto Brett Gardner. He is 33 (will be 34 this season). Speed does not age well. If the Yankees had a shot for the World Series this year, I’d say hold him. But that’s not the case. Granted, we do not know the packages that GM Brian Cashman has turned down and perhaps he has only been offered less talent. But I firmly believe in identifying undervalued assets to take advantage of potential over proven performance. There are surprises every year, but again, you don’t know if you don’t try.
Most likely, at this point, Cashman is right that no further moves will be made. I think it’s a mistake but hopefully the top young prospects will prove that the best move was no move.
I can hear those pitches popping in the catching mitts. Soon, very soon…