Premature End to Promising Season for Yankees…

Photo Credit: AP (Julie Jacobson)

On the bright side, greater things await the team next year…

It was a disappointing end to a promising season. I know, we should be grateful for a season that saw the Pinstripers win 100 games and advance through the Wild Card game to the AL Divisional Series. Unfortunately, the Boston Red Sox were the better team. They won 108 games over the course of the season, and did not run into the roller coaster ride that we felt at times as Yankee fans. I did feel the Yankees had the talent to beat the Red Sox but, for whatever reasons, it was not meant to be. So, congratulations to the Boston Red Sox and their fans.

The days following the ALDS loss have been difficult. I couldn’t bring myself to watch or listen to the MLB Network or ESPN the next day. It’s always hard when your favorite team’s season is abruptly ended. But if there is a takeaway, I hope that the bitterness of the loss motivates Yankees leadership to make the necessary enhancements to turn this team from very good to great. For several years, we’ve looked at 2019 as the arrival of the latest and greatest edition of Yankees championship baseball. 2017 was a little premature but it gave us a glimpse of what this team could do. Maybe it set expectations for 2018 higher than they should have been, but at this point, 2018 is water under the bridge. Time to look ahead and get excited about the future which will very soon be the present.

Everybody is writing posts about what the Yankees should do. Ultimately, those are the decisions that Hal Steinbrenner, the Steinbrenner Family, and the Yankees executive management team must make. We can say what we’d like for them to do, but if any of us feel that we could do a better job than Brian Cashman and Company, we’re delusional. I can say what I think the Yankees should do and will below, but these are really just personal wishes that may or may not come true. I trust Brian Cashman to make the right decisions.

We know going into the 2019 season the starting pitching staff will be led by Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka. I fully expect Severino to make the necessary adjustments this winter to ensure greater consistency next season. I don’t think Sevy wants to settle for being a good pitcher. He wants to be one of the best in the game. I’ve been saying for months the Yankees should part ways with CC Sabathia, but now that the season is over and I’ve had time to re-think the position, the Yankees should try to sign CC on a one-year deal to bring him back as their fifth starter. There are some young, talented pitchers in the organization, like Justus Sheffield, Chance Adams, Mike King, Albert Abreu, Jonathan Loaisiga and Domingo German, but let them battle for the sixth man position. We know that the five-man rotation you start the season with is rarely the rotation you have at the end. I think the chance of injury increases significantly each year with Sabathia, but his value in the clubhouse cannot be dismissed. I think one or more of those young pitchers will have their opportunity to shine at some point next season, but let’s break camp with the ball in CC’s hand at the back end of the rotation. For the other two spots, I’ve held the third position, like many Yankee fans, for lefty Patrick Corbin. He seems destined for the Bronx. It will be a major disappointment if the Yankees are unable to sign him. For the fourth position, I’d try to re-sign J.A. Happ. We should get Jordan Montgomery back sometime in mid-2019, but these rotation “problems” (i.e., too many starting pitchers) have a tendency of working themselves out. Clearly, Corbin is a higher priority than Happ so if I can only have one, I’ll take the Arizona Diamondback.

In the bullpen, we may be potentially losing both Zach Britton and David Robertson. Sentimentally, I’d like to see the Yankees re-sign Robertson. I hated the years he was away with the Chicago White Sox. I really enjoyed getting him back into Pinstripes. There’s no doubt Aroldis Chapman is the undisputed Closer for the Yankees, but it’s nice to have a proven top closer in reserve for those times when/if Chappy goes down or not available. I’ve never been a fan of Dellin Betances closing games, despite his late season success. I prefer to keep the big guy in the primary setup role where he excels. If both Britton and Robertson leave, there’s no doubt Chad Green moves into a later inning role unless the Yankees sign a guy like Andrew Miller (which, as much as I hate to say it because I love the guy, would be a mistake given Miller’s recent history of injury struggles and ineffectiveness). I really liked having Britton on the team. Down the stretch, he was great. I have as much confidence in him closing games as I do Chapman or Robertson. Unfortunately, I think some team will throw too much money at him to be their primary closer so I think the odds of Britton’s return are very slim to non-existent.

I don’t want to trash Giancarlo Stanton and don’t feel that he should be judged solely on his performance in the ALDS, but if I could trade Stanton to the Los Angeles Dodgers and sign Bryce Harper, I’d do it. Realistically, I don’t think it will happen and I am convinced Stanton is here for the long haul regardless of the opt-clause in his contract. I think Stanton will be better next year after a year in the Bronx.

Miguel Andujar is everybody’s choice for AL Rookie of the Year. Well, at least among the Yankees Universe any way. No offense but the Yankees need to improve their defense at third. Many have called for moving Andujar to left. I’d support it. He has a very strong arm and I think his defensive flaws would not be as exposed in left as they are at third. Moving Andujar to left opens a spot in the lineup for everybody’s favorite free agent, Manny Machado. Not only is Machado a great young superstar, but his bat in the lineup would go a long way toward helping to solve the Yankees’ ongoing RISP problems. For the year (with the Baltimore Orioles and Los Angeles Dodgers), Manny hit .297/.367/.538 with .905 OPS. He slugged 37 homers and drove in 107 runs. It is assumed that he’d be willing to move back to third for the Yankees, and he’d greatly improve the team’s defense at the position. Unfortunately, I think the Philadelphia Phillies will be very aggressive in trying to sign Machado so if the Yankees want him, they’ll have to work hard to make it happen.

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Gary A Vasquez)

I am not ready to give up on Gary Sanchez. I have no interest in the ‘dump Sanchez, trade for J.T. Realmuto’ arguments. I fully expect El Gary to work on his game during the off-season and come back much stronger, with a chip on his shoulder, next season. We know what his bat is capable of when it’s right. I think he will be improved defensively as well. I would not make any changes with the catching position. I am fully in favor of Austin Romine returning as El Gary’s caddy.

I really enjoyed the late season work of Luke Voit at first base. But there’s no way I’d go into training camp next Spring simply handing Voit the job. Greg Bird, while he didn’t deserve to start after his demotion, should be given every opportunity to compete with Voit. If the Yankees encounter a surprising chance to upgrade the position (someone like Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt), they should do it. In the end, I think Voit will be the team’s first baseman but until the regular season starts, I think it should be open competition to decide.

Right field, second base, and shortstop are firmly set so the only other position that could be potentially upgraded, excluding those I’ve mentioned above, would be center field. To trade or not to trade Aaron Hicks. That is the question. I don’t have a center field solution. Estevan Florial is not ready yet. I’d probably prefer to see Hicks stay, but I’d have no problem if the Yankees decide to trade him to improve other areas so long as they identify a strong option to replace him.

Brett Gardner has been a great Yankee but the team should not exercise his option. Some have mentioned declining the option and then re-signing him for less money, but he is a fourth outfielder at best at the stage of his career. I guess it really boils down to whether or not the Yankees think Clint Frazier can stay healthy. Plus, the albatross contract (Jacoby Ellsbury) should be back next year ready and, gulp, healthy. If there is one player that I’d love to see the Yankees dump regardless of the dollars lost, it would be the King of the DL. Sadly, I think we’re stuck with him for now and his presence could very well spell the end of Gardner’s time in Pinstripes.

Photo Credit:  USA TODAY Sports (Adam Hunger)

When Aaron Boone was named manager of the Yankees, I had really wanted him to hire an experienced bench coach. I would have loved to have seen Rob Thomson stay in the role, but I get his reasons for leaving after he was passed over for the manager’s job after years of service in the organization. Given Boone’s inexperience, I had really felt that he would have benefited from a seasoned manager serving as his bench coach (much like the role Ron Roenicke played for Boston’s Alex Cora). Boone opted for “smart and confident”, foregoing experience, when he went with Josh Bard. Bard is working his name to the short list for potential managers and he may very well turn out to be one of the game’s best eventually, but I think an experienced bench coach would have been better for Boone this past season. Next season, both Boone and Bard will be stronger for this season’s experience so maybe there’s no need to make any changes with the coaching staff. I trust Boone enough to know that he’ll reflect upon this season and identify areas of improvement to make the necessary corrections. There’s no doubt that Brian Cashman and his team will be working with Boone in the off-season too. I don’t think we’ll see the same level of bullpen management (or if you will, mismanagement) next season. Boone continues to have my support.

I am anxious to see what Brian Cashman has in store for us. He knows that this team is very capable of being great and does not need too many tweaks to position themselves among MLB’s elite. I am sure that we’ll feel a sense of loss for those players who depart via free agency or trade, but when the 2019 season rolls around, the Yankees will be ready to play. I am excited and I think the team is well positioned to go deep into October next year. I am convinced the Yankees will be improved while the Red Sox, after career years from multiple players, will regress.

I am looking forward to hearing what Aaron Boone and Brian Cashman have to say in their press conferences later today. I am so ready for the Hot Stove League to begin. But first, we still have some baseball left even if the beloved Yankees are at home with their families. Nonetheless, I am anxious to hear the first words for the 2019 blueprint when Boonie and Cash took the podium at Yankee Stadium. Then we have to wait a couple of weeks before Operation Win 2019 World Series begins with full steam.

For now, it is the NL and AL Championship Series, with the NL kicking things off tonight. The only team left in the playoffs that interests me are the Los Angeles Dodgers. If the Dodgers lose the NLCS to the Milwaukee Brewers, I probably won’t be watching the World Series. Credit to the Brewers for acquiring the most valuable outfielder from the Miami Marlins (Christian Yelich) last off-season. It’s been a magical season for them. I think the Dodgers will prevail but the Brewers certainly have a good chance for altering the outcome. I really hate the Houston Astros but I am hopeful they are the AL representative in the Fall Classic. I am so ready for the end of Boston’s season now, not later. So, my picks for the World Series are a repeat performance by last year’s participants, the Los Angeles Dodgers versus the Houston Astros, with the same outcome.

As always, Go Yankees!

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