Pondering Thoughts of Opening Day…

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“Did Andujar hit another home run?”…

 There’s no doubt it is fun to watch Miguel Andujar hit home runs in nearly every at bat (so it seems). But…c’mon, it is Spring Training. I put as much stock in Andujar’s home runs as I do the fact that neither Aaron Judge nor Giancarlo Stanton have gone yard. It is very early and the hurlers are still working on their pitches and not necessarily using strategy or attacking hitters like they would in the regular season. Plus, many of the Spring pitchers are guys who will never see a MLB roster in 2018 (if ever). In other words, keep expectations in check. When it is show time, you know Judge, Stanton and Sanchez will be leading the homer parade.

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Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)

Since many are starting to project Opening Day lineups, I’ll toss in my own.

C-Gary Sanchez

1B-Greg Bird

2B-Tyler Wade (although I could buy into Danny Espinosa for the short term)

SS-Didi Gregorius

3B-Brandon Drury

LF-Brett Gardner

CF-Aaron Hicks

RF-Aaron Judge

DH-Giancarlo Stanton

These are safe choices but decisions I fully expect Manager Aaron Boone to roll with on March 29th. If Gleyber Torres shows that he is ready by the end of the month, then I think he breaks camp with the Yankees as the starting second baseman. Otherwise, he’ll begin the season in Triple A to fine tune his game. I’ve become convinced that service time will not factor into the decision. The Yankees want to field the team that gives them the best chance for success from the very first game of the season. When Gleyber is ready, he is the man at the second. For me, he’s the most exciting talent at the position since Dontcha Know Robinson Cano.

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Photo Credit: Newsday (Thomas A Ferrara)

I feel confident, at this point, that the Opening Day roster will feature 25 guys currently in camp with the Yankees. In other words, I do not see any further trade activity or free agent signings before the start of the regular season. The Yankees have a huge advantage over the Boston Red Sox in terms of in-season flexibility. Boston is maxed out on payroll and they have a weak farm system. There will be no major acquisitions by the Red Sox at the trading deadline. The Yankees, on the other hand, have the ability to make huge moves dependent upon need, with salary room and cupboards overflowing with prospects. The Yankees have the talent, today, to hang with the Red Sox, if not potentially creating separation in the AL East Standings. Identifying mid-season weaknesses and seeking impact upgrades should allow the Yankees to explode past the Red Sox if all goes according to plan (which, of course, it never does). Nevertheless with all things considered, I’ll take my chances with the Yankees against the Beantown Bunch.

If I was Orioles GM Dan Duquette, I’d be on the phone to Brian Cashman. “Say Brian, I’ve been watching that Andujar kid.  You still interested in Manny?”. I know that Orioles owner Peter Angelos hates the Yankees but a chance to grab a young third baseman with a lethal bat and perhaps a top pitching prospect, among others, for a guy that will wear the Orioles uniform for the final time on Sunday, September 30, 2018 against the Houston Astros at Camden Yards (barring a trade by the deadline).

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While I think the Yankees will spend to sign (or if they successfully trade for him, re-sign) Manny Machado, I do not expect a big splash in the 2018-19 free agent market. I’ve seen some suggest that the Yankees will sign both Machado and Bryce Harper. That’s not happening. The Yankees have a large chunk of the roster comprised of pre-arbitration guys who are still making minimum wage or barely over. This list includes (in alphabetical order):

Albert Abreu

Domingo Acevedo

Miguel Andujar

Tyler Austin

Greg Bird

Jake Cave

Luis Cessa

Brandon Drury

Thairo Estrada

Clint Frazier

Giovanny Gallegos

Domingo German

Chad Green

Ben Heller

Kyle Higashioka

Jonathan Holder

Aaron Judge

Jonathan Loasiga

Billy McKinney

Jordan Montgomery

Gary Sanchez

Luis Severino

Gleyber Torres

Ronald Torreyes

Tyler Wade

 You could cut this list down to just Greg Bird, Chad Green, Aaron Judge, Jordan Montgomery, Gary Sanchez, and Luis Severino. That’s six players who will see significant increases in their pay over the coming years as they enter into arbitration. This is on top of the current arbitration players like Didi Gregorius who will command top dollars on the open market in the not-so-distant future. If Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner has taught us anything, he is not going to be frivolous with money. I can’t see committing Giancarlo Stanton-like money (or more) to outside free agents when the Yankees will have to pay their own young stars one day. I am more excited about the prospect of Estevan Florial eventually becoming the starting center fielder than the possibility of spending a half-billion dollars to bring Bryce Harper to the Bronx. Don’t get me wrong…I love Harper…but I think he is an excess luxury for a team with so many young talented hitters. I would rather see the dollars invested in upgrading the starting pitching and retaining our young superstars.

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I don’t envy Aaron Boone for the decision he’ll have to make at third base. As a Vikings fan, I am watching their off-season with interest as the team does not have a quarterback signed beyond the young unproven Kyle Sloter. The big question is whether the Vikings will try to re-sign Sam Bradford, Teddy Bridgewater or Case Keenum, or attempt to go after a big fish like Kirk Cousins. While I’d like Cousins on my team, I recognize the team needs to re-sign its own young stars. This is not unlike the Yankees. Yesterday, Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer, talking about the QB situation, said that the team has to make the right call for its next QB. Otherwise, it could cost him his job. I don’t think the third base competition between Brandon Drury and Miguel Andujar will cost Boonie his job, but Sports is big business. The financial considerations have to make as much sense as the ability of the players. So, my philosophy for free agency is the same in the MLB as it is in the NFL, “take care of your own”. It doesn’t mean that there won’t be new guys or that we shouldn’t get rid of guys who are simply filling a roster space. I just want to see the ‘tried and true’ players get their due.

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Photo Credit: MLB.com

One final note: I would like to see more Domingo German and less Luis Cessa, please.

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Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)

Go Yankees!

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