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Is No News Good News?…
It’s been very quiet in the Yankees Universe this week. By all accounts, the Yankees’ talks with the Pittsburgh Pirates for starter Gerrit Cole have cooled. Rightfully so if the Pirates are continuing to ask for top prospects in return. The Cole rumors have been like the Yankees long-standing desire for Oakland’s Sonny Gray that was finally consummated last summer. Rumors that stick around for years until they may or may not happen. At this point, I don’t see a trade for Cole but of course things could change if the Pirates lower their demands.
How does the saying go? Sometimes the best trade is the trade never made.
This week, a few sources were indicating the Yankees have interest in free agent Yu Darvish. I’ve liked Darvish for a long time but of course he bombed in the World Series with the Los Angeles Dodgers when he was tipping his pitches. There’s also no way the Yankees can fit him into the budget unless they move other salary (i.e., Jacoby Ellsbury). I don’t see Darvish coming to the Bronx. I thought it was interesting that the Houston Astros talked to Darvish since they used him as a punching bag on their way to a World Series championship. But trying to fit a Darvish contract into Team Hal’s budget would sacrifice greater areas of need on the team and would potentially limit what the Yankees could do next July at the tradling deadline.
There doesn’t seem to be any movement with talks about Arizona’s Patrick Corbin or Detroit’s Michael Fulmer. Fulmer would be the ideal candidate but he’s cost-prohibitive if the Tigers continue to ask for a ‘Chris Sale’ type of return.
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Chris Archer continues to show up on lists as a possible target for the Yankees. I’d certainly be happy with Archer but getting the Rays to trade within the division is probably comparable to trying to get the Orioles to trade Manny Machado to the Yankees. Okay, that might not be the right comparison because I think the hatred of O’s owner Peter Angelos toward the Yankees probably runs a little deeper than other clubs. If we bring up names within the division, it should include Toronto’s Marcus Stroman. I love Stroman and I think the native New Yorker would be an ideal fit in the Bronx. Stroman, 26, is in his second year of arbitration and is projected to make $7.2 million this year (he made $3.4 million in 2017). He won’t be a free agent until the 2021 season. As he gets more expensive, the Blue Jays will probably be more motivated to move the player, especially since they are entering a rebuild phase and need more young talent. Stroman would fit into the chemistry of the Yankees and showed good rapport with Aaron Judge through tweets last fall. But as long as the Blue Jays think they have a shot for a Wild Card, they won’t trade Stroman. I watch Josh Donaldson as the barometer. As long as the Blue Jays keep the 2018 free agent-to-be on the roster, they refuse to admit rebuild. But once he goes, the environment might be right to grab Stroman who would be worth the high cost.
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I was glad to see the Tampa Bay Rays trade third baseman Evan Longoria to the San Francisco Giants yesterday. Longoria has long been a Yankees killer (seemingly coming up with key hits at the worst moments for the Pinstripers), but Mike Axisa of River Ave Blues was quick to point out that Longoria batted .231/.290/.375 against the Yankees over the past three seasons. As Axisa noted, Longoria is a declining player signed for big money so his departure probably hurts rather than helps the Yankees in the AL East. I think Longoria will be rejuvenated in San Francisco (playing in a packed AT&T Park is substantially different than playing in the sparse Tropicana Field). The Longoria trade removes another third base suitor which indirectly helps the Yankees as it removes options for free agents Mike Moustakas and Todd Frazier (hopefully driving down their asking prices to the point that the Yankees are able to sign one of the players). Sentimentally, I’d prefer Frazier but the Moose Tacos bat is better.
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The AL East took a different look yesterday with the Longoria trade and the announcement that Orioles closer Zach Britton had torn his achilles tendon in an off-season workout (he will most likely miss the first 4-6 weeks of the season). If the O’s are successful in trading Machado out of the division, it will be an indication that they are ready to move into rebuild phase. The latest AL East moves continue to show further separation between the Yankees and Red Sox and the rest of the division.
Back to Ellsbury, I would love to see the Yankees trade the aging, overpaid, under-performing outfielder. His presence prevents the Yankees from aggressively improving other areas of the team. I laugh when I see some of the “Ellsbury for (Player X)” suggestions, which are at times ridiculous. Ellsbury for Madison Bumgarner…yeah, right. Personally, I’d be happy with Ellsbury’s departure for no return. It is just a matter of how much money (and potentially prospects) the Yankees have package with him to get another team to bite. The Yankees either need to make room for Clint Frazier or trade him. He has nothing left to prove in the Minor Leagues.
The free agent market has been slow to develop this year, but things seem to be breaking. Cleveland’s Carlos Santana signed with the Phillies earlier in the week, and Cleveland countered by signing the Mariners’ Yonder Alonso to be their new first baseman. Up to this point, the free agent signings have primarily been directed at bullpen relief.
The Yankees are running out of time to make some noise before Christmas. I expect next week to be very quiet so if the Yankees do nothing this week, there probably won’t be any activity until January. On the bright side, we are moving closer to Spring Training. I have already bought my Giancarlo Stanton jersey so I am ready.