Just think, final month without Baseball…
Outside of the big December splash which brought the second iteration of “Mike” Stanton to Pinstripes and a plethora of reliever signings in MLB, it is has been an extremely quiet off-season. Sadly, it does not give us much to write about except for speculation and thoughts of wild-ass trade propositions.
Soon, Baseball Training Camps will be buzzing with activity. In many cases, players are already on-site in Florida and Arizona, ready for the arrival of pitchers and catchers in a few weeks. Gone are the days when players ate pizza and drank beer all winter long (now reserved for us, the fans), arriving at training camp to get in shape. We’re ready (for baseball, in addition to beer and pizza) and I am sure the Yankees players are too (the baseball part). But is GM Brian Cashman ready? That’s the million dollar question.
|Photo Credit: New York Daily News (Andrew Savulich)|
I keep saying that I find it hard to believe the Yankees will go into camp with rookies at both second and third bases. Then again, we rip another daily page off the calendar and there have been no changes to the current 40-man roster. I want a solid Plan B in place for third base. I feel that we are covered at second. The odds-on favorite is obviously Gleyber Torres (GLAY-burr, for those of you scoring at home) even if he has to spend the first couple of weeks at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to delay MLB service time. Backup support is in the form of Tyler Wade and Ronald Torreyes, with improved play expected of the former. The wild card is non-roster invitee Jace Ryan Peterson. Someone from that group, most likely Torres, is going to step up and provide a major contribution at second base. Third base is my concern. I like Miguel Andujar. His bat appears to be Major League ready even if his defensive skills haven’t quite caught up. I am not opposed to starting Andujar at third, but what’s Plan B? What if Andujar is not ready for the challenge? Trades are rarely made in April or May with limited seller motivation. I wouldn’t want to see Torreyes as the long-term alternative (he is better served in the utility role). Torres could probably be looked at as a fallback plan but I prefer the converted shortstop at second over third. The perfect scenario for me is the return of Todd Frazier. But short of that, I want a decent veteran for backup support or someone who could platoon with Andujar, assuming the Yankees do not bring back a starting option like Frazier.
At this point, I’ve given up the idea of adding another top starter for the rotation. Yu Darvish would look outstanding in Pinstripes. But at $20 million plus per year, he’s simply not affordable in Hal Steinbrenner’s budget. Even if the Yankees made room, I am not sure that $20+ million annually is the route to go for a thirty-something pitcher on an extended multi-year contract. The Free Agent Class after the upcoming season is the most fruitful in years and the Yankees are expected to be players. But before jumping in the free agent pool in a big way, the Yankees need take care of their own. The one player that they should re-sign to a contract extension next off-season is Didi Gregorius. If he delivers a season comparable to last year, he’ll have the right to make very high demands during contract negotiations. Hopefully, the Yankees do not wait until Didi becomes a free agent after the 2019 season to try and lock him up.
It is a certainty that Hal Steinbrenner will not go hog wild with payroll next year even if he is successful in resetting the luxury tax penalties in 2018.
I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again. I would trade Brett Gardner. Look, I love the player and what he has meant to the Pinstripes. Unless Brian Cashman proves that he is indeed the Miracle Worker (i.e., trade of Jacoby Ellsbury), the most marketable redundant player is Gardy. I get it, you can’t replace his intangibles in the clubhouse but others have to step up. Moving Gardy’s contract would give the Yankees budget room to bring back Todd Frazier and possibly a lesser starting pitcher to add to the training camp mix. They’d still have plenty of room for July acquisitions without fear of breaking the $197 million luxury tax threshold. You’d have Aaron Hicks and Jacoby Ellsbury to cover center, and Clint Frazier for left field on the days that either Aaron Judge or Giancarlo Stanton are at DH. I’d prefer Gardy over Ellsbury, but face it, Ellsbury is not going anywhere. That’s a very solid outfield without Gardner’s presence. The Yankees are not going to re-sign Gardner next off-season when he becomes a free agent. There is too much outfield depth and talent in the Yankees farm system to devote eight figures to a guy in his mid-thirties. So knowing that this is most likely his last year in the Bronx, I’d make a move now to free up some dollars to help the positions of need.
I’ll be preaching for the return of Todd Frazier until he signs somewhere. Pinstripes, Please!
‘Deja Vu, All Over Again’ as the great Yogi Berra would say…
The ‘Alex Rodriguez will replace Aaron Boone as Yankees manager’ jokes were running rampant yesterday when it was announced that A-Rod has signed on as part of ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball team replacing Boone. A-Rod obviously has a history of replacing Boone considering that he took Boone’s place in 2004 when Boonie injured his knee during a pickup basketball game and was subsequently released. My thought was that Boone should never leave his Playmate wife. Otherwise, A-Rod, after he moves on from J-Lo (c’mon, you know it’s inevitable), might be there to replace Boone once again. Seriously, I think A-Rod is a good addition to the ESPN team. Matt Vasgersian will replace Dan Shulman as the play-by-play announcer, joining A-Rod, in for Boone, Buster Olney and holdover Jessica Mendoza. A-Rod will continue working for FOX Sports during the post-season and World Series as well under the unique talent-sharing arrangement. Give A-Rod credit for rebuilding his image. Time will tell if it helps his case for induction into the Hall of Fame, but all things considered, it can’t hurt.
With the majority of the top free agents still available as we bear down on the end of January, the biggest off-season winners for their decisions have to be Giancarlo Stanton, for using his no-trade clause to navigate a trade to the Bronx, and Masahiro Tanaka, for his decision not to opt-out. I’d also have to say that the Justin Upton’s choice to sign a five-year deal for $106 million with the Los Angeles Angels (including a full no-trade clause) to waive his opt-out was not far behind. Otherwise, it’s hard to believe that the best free agent contract signed so far has been the three-year, $60 million deal that Carlos Santana took from the Philadelphia Phillies to be their new starting first baseman. When players like Yu Darvish and J.D. Martinez eventually sign, I am sure that they’ll break the $100 million barrier but I don’t recall a time when the majority of the top ten free agents were unsigned at this point in the off-season.
With suppressed prices, I hope this does not lead to the Yankees signing third base types like Yunel Escobar, Cliff Pennington, or Darwin Barney. I may want veteran help at third but I guess my sights remain aimed a little higher. Todd Frazier, come home.
|Photo Credit: Associated Press (Seth Wenig)|