Much Ado, Machado, About Nothing…

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Photo Credit: Jeff Roberson-Associated Press

Manny Machado and the Pinstriped Dreams Vanish…

After waiting all off-season with the hope that Manny Machado would wear the famed Pinstripes, it was not meant to be. C’est la vie. I’ve heard people say they can’t believe Hal Steinbrenner was outbid by the small market San Diego Padres. But that would imply the Yankees made a bid which they apparently did not.  I can’t blame the Yankees for passing on a 10-year, $300 million deal. Manny’s a great player but he’s not the best player in baseball. I don’t blame Hal Steinbrenner or the Yankees for passing on Manny at that price. I thought he made sense in the low 200’s or on a short-term deal with high AAV but not $30 million per year for the next ten years. He’s not exactly Alex Rodriguez in his prime.

Best case scenario, if he was not coming to the Yankees, was for Manny to sign with the West Coast Padres. I am glad that he’s out of the American League and away from any Northeastern city. I didn’t really want to see him go to the Chicago White Sox or the Philadelphia Phillies. It is kind of funny that Machado will have to visit Yankee Stadium this year. The Padres will be in New York on Memorial Day, May 27th, for three days. There’s no doubt Machado will receive more than a few Bronx cheers. Even though the Yankees never really made a formal offer, I expect the home crowd to treat Machado something like Oakland did when their former star Jason Giambi returned to Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum wearing Pinstripes for the first time, only worse.

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Photo Credit: Associated Press

While I feel Manny would have made the Yankees better, they are still a very, very good team. I am fully anticipating a dog fight with the defending champion Boston Red Sox again this season and would have liked every conceivable advantage or edge over the Beantown Bunch, which Machado certainly would have provided. But, he’s not here, and we move on. In the AL East, I feel the Yankees are the better team but I’d be foolish to think the Red Sox are going away, even if nobody likes their bullpen on paper.  At the end of the day, the Yankees bullpen might not be as great as everyone thinks (there will be the inevitable bumps in the road) and the Boston pen might not be as bad. Regardless of what happens, I am sure the Yankees and Red Sox will be jockeying for position deep into September.

The most attractive free agent on the market, Bryce Harper, remains available but the Yankees have never been connected to him this off-season at any point like they were with Machado (much to the chagrin of the Yankees fan base). Not only is Harper an excellent player, he has that star quality about him (the “it” factor). Bryce is deserving of a contract equal to or greater than the one Machado received from the Padres. Given that Giancarlo Stanton’s huge deal with the Miami Marlins a few years ago (13 years for $325 million) was an extension, Machado’s contract is considered the most lucrative free agent contract in MLB history. Still, I am sure Harper’s agent, Scott Boras, has every intent to beat the dollar value of Stanton’s deal. While it would make sense for Harper to receive a 10-year, $325 million contract, I’ll take the over with the involvement of Boras. Perhaps Bryce signs a deal for $330 or $335 million or even a little higher. I’d argue that even these dollars make sense for the Yankees. They can certainly afford it while still paying its pending free agents and extending other young players as they reach arbitration like they did with ace Luis Severino. The Yankees are not exactly tapped out on capital like the Chicago Cubs apparently are.  I am not getting my hopes up about Harper or any last-minute play by the Yankees but signing him does make sense to me.  Drop Harper in the batting order between Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton and let’s go. I’d love to see what that lineup could do to the American League.

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Photo Credit: Katherine Frey

The Steamer projection for Harper in the 2019 season is 34 home runs and 93 RBIs with a batting line of .267/.399/.528 and .927 OPS. His WAR is projected at 4.8, which is well below guys like Mike Trout (8.5) and Mookie Betts (7.2) but above Stanton (4.4) and Judge (4.6). Steamer projects Harper to have the second best wRC+ (Weighted Runs Created Plus) at 148, trailing only Trout (180). I don’t need to lay out Brett Gardner’s projected stats to say those numbers would represent a huge upgrade in left field. Probably the only way that Harper doesn’t make sense is if the plan is play Stanton in the field more this year. All I know is we need a better option than Brett Gardner.  It would be wonderful if Clint Frazier shows that he is up for the task and can stay healthy. I’d love for him to grab the position from Gardy, who fits this roster best as its fourth outfielder. Given the players in camp right now, Frazier is the best option. The downside, if Frazier misses any time with injury, there’s not much in the way of a backup plan other than start Gardy every day or play Stanton in the field (which is always a risk for a player that carried the injury label until his huge 2017 NL MVP season).

The current players on the projected 25-man roster that scare me the most are Frazier (for health concerns), Troy Tulowitzki (health concerns, rust, age regression), Greg Bird (health concerns, inability to hold sustained success), and Luis Cessa (not very good, self-explanatory). If Tulo is not up to the task and shows that he cannot recapture past success, the Yankees can easily move Gleyber Torres to shortstop and insert DJ LeMahieu as the starting second baseman. The downside is the lack of a strong utility player under that scenario. The best roster option appears to be Tyler Wade who, to date, has not really shown much at the Major League level. I had hoped for a strong glove-first signing like Adeiny Hechevarria but the New York Mets scooped him up a few days ago. Maybe Wade can prove to be the guy or perhaps Thairo Estrada can show something in camp now that he’s healthy. If Bird fails, I am not too concerned. I think Luke Voit will hold his own at first base. The ideal scenario, to me, is for Bird to outperform Voit and get his left-handed bat into the lineup. For as critical as I’ve been of Bird, there’s no question he has a beautiful swing.  Bird has the talent to succeed even if we’ve grown impatient waiting for it to happen but Voit is no slouch and I do feel that he’ll build off his successful late season run last year and not turn out to be the latest incarnation of Kevin Maas. I am not crazy about going into the season with Cessa as the designated swingman in the bullpen. I’d prefer for Jonathan Loaisiga to overcome the health concerns that engulf his potential and have him break camp as part of the Opening Day roster. I’ve seen enough of Cessa and I’m ready to move on. While I think Cessa could be better in short relief, I don’t really want to see him as the team’s emergency starter. Since he’s out of options, Cessa either must make the team or pack his bags. Despite his faults, he would be claimed on waivers by another team. I’d prefer a trade to at least get something for him. The Yankees are expected to made trades for additional bonus pool money so it’s possible Cessa could be part of that quest. It wouldn’t break my heart.

I am enjoying the Danny Farquhar story like everyone else but it seems to me his only hope to make the Opening Day roster is to outperform Tommy Kahnle.  Farquhar is a short reliever so he’s not an option for the last bullpen spot (long man/spot starter) which presently appears to be Cessa. With nothing against Farquhar, I really hope Kahnle proves during spring training that he can be the dependable reliever he was in 2017. Sure, if Kahnle is a disaster again like last year, let Farquhar take his job but I really hope that’s not the case. I’ve been a Kahnle fan since his early days in the Yankees’ farm system and I’d really like to see him be a valuable and contributing member of Baseball’s best bullpen.

As tough as it was to see former Yankees great Jorge Posada in Marlins camp wearing their new gear, I am grateful Carlos Beltran is in Yankees camp. He has so much to offer the young players. I can’t help but think top prospect Estevan Florial benefits the most from Beltran’s presence and that’s a wonderful thing. Clint Frazier is certainly another player who would be wise to pick Beltran’s brain. Beltran may not have the Yankees pedigree like Posada, but he’s an invaluable resource and the game is better with his involvement in any capacity.

Beltran

I am really looking forward to Saturday’s exhibition opener against the Boston Red Sox in Fort Myers, FL.  The downside is that we’ll see names like Ryan Lavarnway, Billy Burns and/or Matt Lipka but at least it will be “Yankees” on the field playing the game of baseball as opposed to us watching videos of PFP or the coaches playing fungo with the infielders on practice fields.

Lastly, I was saddened to see the passing of former Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers great Don Newcombe yesterday. The Dodgers announced Newcombe died Tuesday morning at age 92 following a lengthy illness.  Newcombe was MLB’s first black pitcher to win 20 games. He accomplished the feat in 1951, after winning 17 and 19 games the preceding two years (including earning NL Rookie of the Year honors for the 17-win campaign in 1949). He helped the Dodgers win the World Series in 1955 but his greatest season was the next year when he finished 27-7 with 3.06 ERA. He had 12 complete games and 5 shutouts. He won the NL Cy Young and MVP Awards that year, but lost the deciding Game 7 of the 1956 World Series to the Yankees, giving up two early home runs to Yogi Berra. For his career, “Newk” was 149-90 with 1,129 strikeouts and a 3.56 ERA over a 10-year MLB career.  Missed two seasons in the early 1950’s to serve our military in the Korean War. He was a great Dodger and a better man. May he rest in peace.

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Photo Credit: Luis Sinco-Los Angeles Times

As always, Go Yankees!

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