And now we wait…
Will Gerrit Cole wear the famed Pinstripes or will he find refuge in a Southern California town? I think the vast majority of the Yankees Universe want the long and anticipated addition of Cole to happen although I do not have the stats to show it. With no slight to Stephen Strasburg, an elite pitcher, Cole is the best available free agent pitcher on the market.
By now, we know the Yankees are targeting a major free agent for what feels like the first time since Masahiro Tanaka. When the Yankees were courting Masa, they went out of their way to show him the Yankees experience. GM Brian Cashman showed a ‘no holds barred’ approach during his recent meeting with Cole and agent Scott Boras, bringing along Manager Aaron Boone, Pitching Coach Matt Blake, and former Yankee great Andy Pettitte. Of course, I temper this knowing that they also brought along Team President Randy Levine, not exactly one of my favorites. Despite Levine’s presence, it is clear the Yankees mean business.
Last year, with free agents Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, Yankees fans were mixed and, in retrospect, there was no apparent strong interest from the team other than the obligatory dinners in New York. At the time, so many fans were saying Harper and Machado were “luxuries”. I still take exception to that word. When you haven’t won a championship in a decade, no player is a luxury. Still, I get it. The Yankees were able to get great production from a cheaper alternative in the form of David John LeMathieu. Hats off to the Yankees for identifying a great player without having to pay in excess of $300 million. There’s no doubt in my mind, if the Yankees had paid either Harper or Machado, we wouldn’t even be here talking about Cole despite the Yankees obvious need for an elite starting pitcher. Sure, the Yankees can afford it, but I don’t think they’d be considering the estimated $250-$280 million it will take to land Cole if they had paid $330 million to Harper or $300 million to Machado. In retrospect, it seems the Yankees had their eye on the prize (Cole) last year, a clear need and not a luxury.
The Yankees have been connected to Cole for a very long time. They drafted him in the first round of the 2008 MLB Draft (28th overall), but we all know Cole did not sign, opting to attend UCLA after graduating from Orange Lutheran High School, a comprehensive private Christian co-educational college preparatory high school in Orange, CA despite his childhood status as a Yankee fan.
Photo Credit: William Perlman, The Star Ledger
Even after the Pittsburgh Pirates selected Cole as the first overall pick in the 2011 MLB Draft and signed him, there was always talk that connected Cole to the Yankees. It was apparent the Yankees had a continued interest in him over the years. It reached the epitome a couple of years ago when there was strong speculation the Yankees were going to acquire Cole from the Pittsburgh Pirates. For a few days during the 2017-18 off-season, it felt like it was a done deal, but it never came together and the Pirates subsequently dealt Cole to the Houston Astros in January 2018 for what seemed like a lighter return than the Yankees could have offered (Pirates received Michael Feliz, Jason Martin, Colin Moran and Joe Musgrove). I know, the most rumored Yankee name was Clint Frazier, a player over-valued by most Yankee fans and a player the Pirates did not need at the time. I am convinced the Yankees could have found the right mix of players to entice the Pirates, but we’ll never really know unless former Pirates GM Neal Huntington decides to write a ‘tell-all’ book.
When ESPN’s Jeff Passan tweeted the other day the Yankees had ownership-level approval to go after Cole, it sent a wave of excitement through the Yankees Universe. After initial excitement, the realist in me knows that nothing is done until Cole’s signature is on the dotted line. There’s still time for the Los Angeles Angels or Los Angeles Dodgers, or some other team, to make a ridiculous offer. We know Cole is going to get more money than any free agent pitcher in history regardless of where he signs. David Price of the Boston Red Sox holds the highest contract value for a pitcher with $217 million, and Zack Greinke of the Houston Astros is the average annual value (AAV) leader at $34,416,667. Once Cole signs, he should be tops in both categories.
I want Cole as a member of the New York Yankees, but I am concerned about the potential he does not sign until late January. The Yankees have an urgent need for an elite starting pitcher, particularly with the looming free agencies of James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka next fall, and good starting pitchers are starting to come off the board rapidly. If the Yankees only signed someone like Madison Bumgarner, I’d be happy with the off-season, but there’s no question the drop-off from Cole to Bumgarner is huge. The longer this goes on, the less likely someone like even MadBum is available. There’s the trade route, but I’d say that I am hot and cold about a guy such as Corey Kluber. I know when healthy, he is one of the game’s best but he will also turn 34 early next season. Cole is 29 and won’t turn 30 until next September. I want a pitcher in his prime, not one that is riding the tail end of it.
Yankee fans have loved to talk about Luis Castillo of the Cincinnati Reds and Lucas Giolito of the Chicago White Sox, but both of those teams are improving with solid young teams and would be foolish to part with their potential aces. People like to laugh about the failed attempts of the White Sox to land premium free agents, other than the recently signed catcher Yasmani Grandal, but their farm system is ready to produce great young talent for the Major League team and they are on the cusp of winning. Once they start to win, they’ll become a more attractive destination for premier free agents. Giolito is such a big part of the coming force, same with Castillo in Cincy.
If the Yankees do sign Gerrit Cole, we can drop the narrative that Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner is cheap. If he was cheap, we would have been the team chasing guys like Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles (with no offense to the Texas Rangers as those guys will help them break in their new stadium) and not an elite talent like Gerrit Cole. Yankee fans are short-sighted (sorry, but, generally speaking, we are). Thankfully, the Steinbrenner Family and GM Brian Cashman have the long-view in mind. If Cole signs, we will be rewarded for their patient approach.
I’d like to see the Yankees bring the Cole negotiations to an end next week. I know it’s not the Scott Boras way, but it seems like the two sides can get together to produce numbers that work for both sides. I am hopeful for quick resolution so the Yankees can move on to other pressing needs.
If Cole does become a Yankee, I think Luke Voit should give up #45. Voit has no other connection with the number other than his short tenure with the Yankees. He was #40 in St Louis and as we know, he’s not getting that number. Frankly, there’s been some good numbers come available recently (namely 22, 30, and 33) and there are a couple that might be available in the coming days (18 and 28). If I was Voit, I’d take 22, 28, or 30. Those seem like better “power” numbers for a muscular first baseman anyway. Personally I like 22, even if I couldn’t stand the last guy who wore it and still harbor resentment against a certain Texas right-hander that once wore the number. Surprisingly, I think of former Yankees center fielder Jerry Mumphrey when it comes to number 22.
The Winter Meetings begin tomorrow in San Diego. I doubt we’ll see much activity on Sunday. Many are traveling, including Aaron Boone. By next Thursday, we’ll know if this has been truly the most active off-season in recent memory or if it is another case of all talk and no action. Up to this point, it has been more active. It feels like there are a few major moves ready to break so we’ll soon see. I am sure the days will fly by next week as we wait with anticipation. Sadly, when Thursday arrives and the meetings conclude, there may be a few Yankee prospects headed to other camps courtesy of the Rule 5 Draft. I think we’ll lose the defensively gifted infielder Kyle Holder among the possibilities. The Yankees will be in the market for an infielder if Didi Gregorius signs elsewhere (looking more and more like he is going to join Joe Girardi in Philadelphia). His departure will make Tyler Wade or Thairo Estrada as the likely choice to make the roster as backup shortstop behind Gleyber Torres. It seems like the Yankees will bring another body in Spring Training to strengthen the competition. So, I am expecting a minor trade or signing for an infielder at the very least.
We also need another strong arm for the bullpen with the potential departure of Dellin Betances. Betances, like Gregorius, is rumored as a potential option for Girardi and the Phillies. I guess that would be better than Dellin going cross-town to join the Mets. If Dellin leaves, I’d personally prefer to see him to go the Los Angeles Dodgers. My preference, however, is for Dellin to stay. I think of the free agents (Brett Gardner, Didi Gregorius, Austin Romine, and Betances), Dellin is the one I want to stay the most even if he is still recovering from the Achilles injury. But at this moment in time, from the outside looking in, it appears the only probably returnee will be Brett Gardner. I love Didi, but I’ve accepted the Yankees will be moving on. I just hope the Yankees extend D.J. LeMahieu if they decide to let Didi walk. As a pending free agent, I’d hate to be back searching for a quality second baseman again like we were after Robinson Cano left if LeMachine leaves after next season. The matter is moot if the Yankees were to acquire Francisco Lindor, but I think the Dodgers are a more likely destination for the Tribe’s ultra-talented shortstop. I liked the job Austin Romine did for the Yankees, but I think the team goes with the cheaper Kyle Higashioka to back up Gary Sanchez. Higgy also seems like a perfect student for catching coordinator Tanner Swanson with his superior framing skills. I’d hate to see Romine join his father’s old club (Red Sox) so I am hopeful if he leaves, he goes home to sunny Southern California.
I wonder if we’ll hear about the next destination for former Yankees bench coach Josh Bard. He left his position with the Yankees in November to pursue jobs closer to his Colorado home, but I’ve not heard any updates. It seems weird that his departure has been so quiet and that he did not have an immediate job to go to. I am glad to see the elevation of infield/quality control coach Carlos Mendoza to bench coach. He has been a very loyal employee of the Yankees organization for a long time and it’s good to see recognition for the excellent work he has done. Hopefully his partnership with Boone will be as strong as the Boone-Bard connection (or better).
Photo Credit: AP
Lastly, we’ll hear tomorrow who has been elected to MLB’s Hall of Fame by the Modern Baseball Era Committee. The candidates are Dwight Evans, Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Don Mattingly, Marvin Miller, Thurman Munson, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, Ted Simmons and Lou Whitaker. Sadly, I’ve come to the realization that it is probable neither Munson nor Mattingly will receive at least 75% of the vote. It’s sad for me. Growing up watching Munson, he was such a wonderful player to follow and admire before his tragic death at age 32. To me, he was the heart and soul of those championship clubs in the ‘70’s. Contrary to Reggie Jackson’s words, I always felt that Thurman was the straw that stirred the drink. He was easily my favorite player as a kid. I always wondered if the 1981 World Series would have had a different outcome if Thurman had lived. His passion to be the best was so strong. I keep hoping that they’ll elect Thurman to the Hall, but, disappointingly, I do not think it will happen. I hope I am wrong. It would be great to see the former Yankees captain join another recent Yankees captain for the induction ceremony next summer in Cooperstown, New York.
Photo Credit: Yahoo Sports
Buckle up, the Winter Meetings are about to start. This should be fun.
As always, Go Yankees!
Biggest month of the off-season begins in 3, 2, 1…
From a baseball off-season perspective, it’s always good to put the Thanksgiving weekend in the rear view mirror. Generally, there are not too many transactions in November and while there were a few free agent signings and trades this year, the heart of the off-season begins as the calendar page rolls into December.
Like many fans, I continue to hold out hope the Yankees sign one of Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg. Realistically, I do not feel the Yankees will be the highest bidder for either pitcher. There’s probably a better chance they go for a guy like Madison Bumgarner if they dip into the free agent pool at all or better yet, make a trade for a young starter with strong upside. My only concern is that Cole and Strasburg can be had for money (something which the Yankees have even if they are bumping up against the highest luxury tax tier) whereas a trade would cost young, talented prospects. I am not trying to “prospect hug”, but if you don’t have to trade Deivi Garcia, Luis Gil, Luis Medina, Albert Abreu or another top pitching prospect, why do it? I’d rather the Yankees part with cash than young players who could one day help the Yankees. Ultimately, I do feel GM Brian Cashman will do the right thing for the organization or at least I can hope. I am sure new pitching coach Matt Blake is helping the analytics team scour organizational pitching in search of the next Shane Bieber.
Matt Blake, Yankees Pitching Coach
The Yankees over the last few years have shown us they operate within a certain budget and when given the choice, they’ll make financially conservative decisions over spending “stupid money”. As much as I like Cole and Strasburg, I cannot see the Yankees handing out $200 million plus contracts for either pitcher. It kind of reminds me of back when the Yankees were negotiating with Ron Guidry one year and held him to $900,000 because George Steinbrenner didn’t think pitchers were worth a million dollars per year. I am sure Hal Steinbrenner knows how much he wants to pay for a pitcher and there is a line he is unwilling to cross. My guess is Cole signs with the Los Angeles Angels and given that he has not yet returned to Washington, Strasburg goes home to San Diego. Money outweighs playing at home, sure, but for both, I think their home town teams will be the victors with the most green.
Max Goldstein took a lot of heat for writing on article on Elite Sports NY yesterday entitled “New York Yankees should pursue Zack Wheeler and Alex Wood”. He provides very compelling reasons for why it’s the more likely outcome for the Yankees given their recent history. Whether or not I’d like that result is irrelevant. It simply stands as a strong possibility. If Wheeler and Wood were to become Yankees, I’d certainly support them. I want Gerrit Cole as much as anybody but the realist in me knows that we need to keep a very open mind regarding the potential actualities for the starting rotation. We are most likely not going to get the big ticket purchases and have to be prepared for players of value and potential.
I am also prepared to lose Didi Gregorius, Dellin Betances, and Austin Romine. There’s been talk lately that both Didi and Dellin, and possibly even Romine, could join Joe Girardi in Philadelphia. I hate to be petty, but I’d hate to see that happen. If Didi leaves, I’d prefer to see him go back to Cincinnati. As for Dellin, I’d rather see him join the Los Angeles Dodgers than the New York Mets. I continue to believe that Romine goes to the Los Angeles Angels, like Gerrit Cole. Of the three, I think the loss of Betances will hurt the most. The recent reports about the Yankees’ interest in Kansas City’s Tim Hill or Oakland’s Blake Treinen seem to indicate the Yankees are looking for Dellin’s replacement rather than simply looking to bolster the pen. Didi Gregorius has been one of my favorite Yankees. He was the perfect guy to replace Derek Jeter, and his personality is so enjoyable. I strongly believe 2020 will be a bounce back year for him and I hope it is in Pinstripes. While I know Gleyber Torres is a more than capable shortstop, my preference would be to keep him at second and bring Didi back. If Didi leaves, D.J. LeMahieu can be a free agent next year and we could be back searching for a second baseman next off-season like we were when Robinson Cano left. The Yankees could potentially swing a rumored trade for Francisco Lindor and Corey Kluber that would solve the shortstop/second base debate while addressing the starting rotation. No doubt I’d take Lindor over Sir Didi any day of the week regardless of how much I like the latter. However, I don’t think the Lindor/Kluber trade will happen, at least not with the Yankees.
I am not against the Yankees re-signing Austin Romine. I think he’s been a very good backup for the Yankees and the pitching staff loves him. In my opinion, another team will pay him more than the Yankees are offering and they’ll give him a better line for a starting job. While Gary Sanchez is the undisputed starter for the Yankees, the need for two quality catchers in today’s game is very important. We’ve seen the Atlanta Braves spend to bring in Travis d’Arnaud, who enjoyed a career resurgence with the Tampa Bay Rays last year, to pair with Tyler Flowers following the retirement of Brian McCann. The Washington Nationals brought back Yan Gomes to pair with Kurt Suzuki. While I think Kyle Higashioka can be that guy, we don’t really know until he proves he can be. I can see the Yankees bringing in catching competition for training camp to see where the chips fall. The depth behind Higgy is not good. The organization’s best catching prospects, Anthony Siegler and Josh Breaux are a couple of years away.
In a perfect world, I’d love to see Gregorius, Betances, and Romine all return to the Yankees next season, while bringing in Cole and Strasburg. Sadly it will not happen and we need to be prepared for none of them to be Yankees.
A controversial topic lately, at least among the Yankees fan base, is if the team should introduce alternative road uniforms. I think the majority, based on what I’ve seen, prefer to remain with the traditional uniforms without exception. While some like the all black uniforms the Yankees wore last year in Los Angeles against the Dodgers, there’s probably no chance the topic is even under discussion or consideration with the Steinbrenner family. For me, I have always loved these road uniforms worn by Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth.
Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth
There’s no way I’d ever want the Yankees to mess with the home uniform but for the road, who cares? The most important representation is the interlocking N-Y on the baseball cap. I hate the traditionalist mindset that says, ‘we do it because that’s the way we’ve always done it’. Change is good. I don’t want names on the uniforms so maybe that part of me is a traditionalist, but I have no objection to change for the better.
Following the release of Greg Bird by the Yankees, it seems that his best course to get back to the Major Leagues is to sign a minor league deal with a training camp invitation. Perhaps some team will offer him a major league contract but I doubt it. Every MLB team had a chance to claim him on waivers and chose not to. Granted, as a free agent, he’ll come more cheaply than he would have if claimed off waivers, but Bird has much to prove. He needs to find a team that is willing to be patient with him. I wish him the best, and while I will miss his swing, I won’t miss his injury reports. I truly hope he has better luck staying healthy with his next destination. I think my biggest fear is that he goes to the Boston Red Sox and becomes the player we always thought he would be.
Monday is a big day with the 8 pm Eastern deadline for teams to tender contracts to their arbitration-eligible players. A couple of former Yankees are among the list of potential non-tender candidates…Brandon Drury and John Ryan Murphy. I wouldn’t be opposed to a reunion with either player. I know both have underperformed since leaving the Yankees but I liked both when they were here and I continue to hold the optimism they could succeed in the right environment. I’d like to see what new catching coordinator Tanner Swanson could do with Murphy.
A week from Sunday is the start of Baseball’s Winter Meetings in San Diego, CA. No doubt San Diego would love to dominate the local headlines with a Strasburg signing during the Meetings. It feels like this year’s meetings should be more active than last year. The off-season so far has been more active even if the Yankees have been relatively quiet. I guess we’ll soon find out. Time will tell if Hal Steinbrenner intends to deliver us a few Christmas presents early.
I hope everyone had an enjoyable and memorable Thanksgiving! It’s a beautiful time to spend with friends and family.
As always, Go Yankees!
A Week of Surprises for the Yankees…
The biggest news of the week was the release of Jacoby Ellsbury which was met with celebration by most Yankee fans. It’s probably the most united I’ve seen the Yankees fan base on Social Media for a very long time. I know that I’ve been anti-Ellsbury for quite some time, but I’ll admit that I do feel badly for Ellsbury the man even if I wasn’t fond of the player. I do wish him much success going forward even if I am excited about the Yankees’ decision to move on and allow the roster spot to go to a talented young prospect who might actually help the team one day.
When the Yankees signed Ellsbury to the seven-year deal for $153,000,000 in the 2013-14 off-season after losing free agent Robinson Cano to the Seattle Mariners, it felt wrong. It seemed like every year, Jacoby Ellsbury, while a member of the Boston Red Sox, was missing time with injuries. Sure, he had the one great year in 2011 but he was never able to replicate it. When he became a free agent, the Red Sox made no public attempt to retain the player. I liked Ellsbury when he was on the field, but sadly, that was the challenge. He was a huge risk from the moment he signed that mega-deal.
It’s been two years since Ellsbury put on a Yankees uniform and I figured it was only a matter of time until the Yankees made the decision to cut their biggest mistake in recent memory. On Wednesday, before the 8 pm deadline to finalize the 40-man roster, I read Ellsbury’s contract was not covered by insurance for 2020. As soon as I read that, I knew the Yankees would be releasing Ellsbury so I wasn’t surprised when it happened. I had reached the point where I didn’t really care if Ellsbury was healthy for 2020 and capable of providing at least what he gave the Yankees in 2014, I knew I didn’t want him on my team. The Yankees need a center fielder with Aaron Hicks sidelined after Tommy John surgery, but there’s no way I wanted Ellsbury competing for playing time (not that I actually believe he’ll be ready).
Frankly, missing two years of Major League Baseball is a long time. Last Spring, we saw an unsuccessful attempt by Troy Tulowitzki to make a comeback after missing so much time. Tulo had heart and wanted to be a Yankee, yet he couldn’t make it. If Ellsbury does try to sign with a team, I think he’ll stay close to his Scottsdale, AZ home. The San Francisco Giants, seemingly forever in search of outfielders, train in Scottsdale and appear to be a logical destination. But I could see any one of the teams who train in Arizona as possibilities if they are willing to take a chance. From my perspective, Ellsbury should retire. But ultimately, he’s not a Yankee and I am happy regardless of Ellsbury’s next job in or out of baseball.
After releasing Ellsbury, the Yankees have taken severe public relations heat when word spread they do not intend to pay Ellsbury his salary for 2020 due to the use of non-approved doctors for his rehabilitation. Including the 2021 buyout, the Yankees owe Ellsbury a total of $26,142,857. There’s a fight with the MLB Players’ Union looming as Ellsbury is expected to file a grievance, but the Yankees must feel they have a legally defensible argument to make this decision. I am not sure how this will play out. I am certainly not making assumptions that the Yankees will not be paying any of the monies owed to Ellsbury or that his 2020 salary will not count for luxury tax purposes. Either he’ll win his grievance or the Yankees will fold to public pressure. I am not sure the cost of victory is worth it in the long run even if $26 million is a helluva lot of money for any team including the Yankees. The top available free agent, Gerrit Cole, shares the same agent (Scott Boras) as Ellsbury. I don’t think Boras would let the contentious situation with Ellsbury affect his negotiations to get Cole the most money even if the highest offer was from the Yankees. However, I’d prefer the Yankees not engage in a battle with the game’s best and most feared agent.
|Photo Credit: John Minchillo, AP|
In the flurry of moves to finalize the 40-man roster, the Yankees also announced they had designated Greg Bird and Nestor Cortes, Jr for assignment. Bird was a bit of a surprise given the long leash the Yankees have given him over the course of his Yankees career. I was frustrated with Bird’s inability to stay healthy but I thought the Yankees would give him another shot next Spring. There’s a chance he clears waivers and the Yankees re-sign him to a minor league deal so it’s not necessarily the end of his time in Pinstripes until it is. Cortes, Jr was a nice guy to have last season with his variety of arm angles and overall effectiveness as the long man for Chad Green’s opening assignments. But, unfortunately for him, he is disposable and not as valuable as the pitchers the Yankees needed to protect (Deivi Garcia, Nick Nelson, Miguel Yajure, Luis Medina, Brooks Kriske, and Luis Gil). I think there’s a greater chance, if they are not dealt away in trades, that Bird clears waivers than Cortes, Jr. Somebody will take a chance on him. A rebuilding team in need of a fifth starter could view him as a good option.
In retrospect, it appears the Yankees should have let former pitching coach Larry Rothschild go after the 2017 season when Joe Girardi was fired. While Rothschild has a solid reputation in baseball as a good pitching coach and baseball man, there are indications modern analytics may have passed him by. While he was seemingly receptive toward analytics, it appears that he didn’t fully understand how to apply them to certain pitchers. Word was leaked the Yankees had to go around Larry last season to work with James Paxton which led to the pitcher’s turnaround after a disappointing start. You can’t help but wonder what Sonny Gray could have done with a pitching coach like new coach Matt Blake. There’s part of me that believes Gray lacks the mental toughness necessary to succeed in New York, but on the other hand, he is a pitcher with talent as he showed last year in Cincinnati. I guess we’ll never know but I am optimistic about what Blake can do with current Yankee pitchers. The poster child for me is Michael King. We know King has the talent and by all accounts, he is one of the most prepared pitchers in the organization and he has history with Blake. He might not be the most talented pitcher but he might be the smartest (somewhat like David Cone in my mind). Not that I am expecting King to win a rotation spot next Spring, but I think he’ll be one the first names called when the Yankees need rotation help. He has a chance to be Blake’s first major success story with the Yankees.
Speaking of coaches, CONGRATULATIONS! to the Yankees for their hire of Rachel Balkovec as a minor-league hitting coach. Earlier in the day, the Chicago Cubs made news with the announcement of their hire of Rachel Folden as a hitting instructor for one of their minor league affiliates. Then came word about the Yankees and Balkovec. Balkovec, only 32, has two master degrees in human movement, and she served as the Minor League strength and conditioning coordinator for the St Louis Cardinals in 2014-15. She also served time in minor league strength and conditioning roles with the Houston Astros.
Regardless of whether Balkovec or Folden was the first female hired for minor league coaching positions (Balkovec apparently signed her contract on November 8th which allegedly would make her the first), I think it is great for Baseball. Dillon Lawson, the Yankees’ organizational hitting coordinator is quoted in The New York Times as saying, “It’s an easy answer to why we chose Rachel for this role. She’s a good hitting coach, and a good coach, period.” It seems like we are in the midst of a change in organizational philosophy with the release of so many organizational coaches and the hiring of new age instructors like Balkovec, Blake and catching coordinator Tanner Swanson. I am happy the Yankees are on the cutting edge of change. Welcome to the Yankees family, Rachel!
Back to players, many are surprised that Brett Gardner has not re-signed with the Yankees yet, particularly since he signed so quickly last off-season. I am not reading anything into it. I think it is only a matter of time until the two sides come to an agreement. I don’t really envision Gardy wearing any uniform other than the one he has always worn.
As for the other free agents, there seems to be increasing talk about Didi Gregorius going to Philadelphia Phillies to join up with Joe Girardi. It would allow the Phillies to move Jean Segura out of the shortstop position which would improve their team. I’d hate to see it, but I do view this as a very strong possibility for Sir Didi. I personally hope the the Yankees can at least sign Didi on a short-term deal to allow him to rebuild his value as I truly believe he’ll be closer to his pre-Tommy John surgery version next season than the post-surgery version who struggled after his return to the field. Like Gregorius, I am also hopeful the Yankees can retain Bronx native Dellin Betances. I am not ready for either player to leave yet, even if it means the Yankees cannot grab the biggest fish on the free agent market.
As for the big fish, there’s no doubt I’d love to have Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg on the Yankees. But redistributing the money to cover other roles, I’d be okay if the Yankees were to acquire someone like Corey Kluber of the Cleveland Indians. My primary goal this off-season is to improve J.A. Happ’s spot in the rotation. Of course that means dealing Happ (and including a good prospect or two to make it happen), but I feel it’s critical to get better. I’d love a pitcher that is capable of being the team’s ace to take pressure off James Paxton and Luis Severino, but they need another pitcher that is capable of standing in the same room with Paxton, Severino, and Masahiro Tanaka. We’re not getting Lucas Giolito (the Chicago White Sox have shown they are ready to take it to the next level with the serious cash they’ve thrown at Jose Abreu and Yasmani Grandal). Similarly, I don’t feel the Yankees will be able to pry Luis Castillo away from the Cincinnati Reds. Yet, I am sure there is a pitcher out there destined for Pinstriped success and I am sure Brian Cashman will find him, whoever he may be.
Even if the Yankees make a competitive offer for Cole, I can’t really see them waiting until late January or early February to see if they are successful in landing the prized pitcher. I think they’ll make the move for the best available option sooner rather than later. I’ll be a bit disappointed if Robbie Ray is the best we can do, but I am more than willing to see how this plays out. There’s always the chance that Cash shocks us all with a surprise acquisition.
I am not really expecting much baseball news for the next week or so with the Thanksgiving holiday upon us. While this off-season has seemingly been more active than last year (at least for the Atlanta Braves and Chicago White Sox), there probably won’t be much happening until the Baseball Winter Meetings in San Diego, CA next month (December 8-12). On a side note, as much as I love California, I prefer for the Winter Meetings to be in the Eastern time zone.
Although we probably won’t see it until next off-season but I’d like to see the Yankees extend Aaron Boone. When Boonie was named the Yankees manager, it was reported that his contract was for three years with an option for a fourth. Next season will be Year 3, and while there’s no doubt in my mind the Yankees will pick up the option for 2021, I’d rather see Boone given certainty and financial security for the years ahead. The first manager to win 100 games in his first two seasons and a guy who has shown continual improvement, there’s not really anybody I’d rather see at the helm than Aaron Boone. His playoff exit last year was at the hands of the cheating, lying, trashy organization known as the Houston Asterisks. With bench coach Josh Bard apparently out, we’ll see how Boone meshes with new bench coach Carlos Mendoza although I am excited about the pairing. I do believe we’ll see World Series success with Boone in charge.
I get that Derek Jeter should be unanimously selected to the MLB Hall of Fame Class of 2020, I am not going to get worked up if he is not. I have no doubt he’ll gain entry with greater than 98% of the vote and it’s a certainty we’ll be celebrating the induction of the former Yankees shortstop into Cooperstown next summer. So, despite whatever the final vote may be, I’ll be happy to see Jeter’s placement among the greatest ever to play the game. I am hopeful the Veterans Committee selects Thurman Munson to go into the Hall with Jeter.
As always, Go Yankees!
Off-Season Prep for 2020 is Underway…
I think I can speak for the entire Yankees fanbase when I say that we miss Yankees Baseball. We are in the part of the off-season where there is talk and speculation but not much action. Things should start warming up next week. Not that there will be signings and trades, but the General Manager meetings will be held Monday through Thursday in Scottsdale, Arizona. The groundwork for the future trades could be laid and of course there could be finalization of the new deal for Brett Gardner. When you get all the GM’s together in one place, anything can happen. Let the alcohol flow! After a couple of shots, maybe Jacoby Ellsbury would look attractive to somebody. I’d love for a rival GM to wake up from a drunken stupor one morning, screaming “WTF! How did we end up with Ellsbury???!!!” Sadly, it won’t be that easy to get rid of Jacoby but I’ll always hold out hope. Fortunately, we are only one season away from the $5 million buyout and the end of Ellsbury’s time in New York.
The biggest news for the Yankees this week was the appointment of Matt Blake as the new pitching coach, replacing the fired Larry Rothschild. Blake, 33, had been promoted last Tuesday to Director of Pitching Development for the Cleveland Indians. Two days later, he was the newest member of Aaron Boone’s staff. Blake has been with the Indians for four seasons and was, prior to his promotion, the Assistant Director of Player Development. Before joining the Indians in late 2015, Blake was a pitching coordinator for Cressey Sports Performance in Hudson, MA. He began his career as a pitching coach for a Boston area high school (Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School in Sudbury, MA) in 2009. In 2010, he served as an area scout for the Yankees before moving on to Cressey. He served as the pitching coach in 2015 for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox, a collegiate summer baseball team in the Cape Cod Baseball League.
Blake is a native of Concord, New Hampshire and graduated from the College of the Holy Cross with degrees in psychology and philosophy. He was on the Holy Cross baseball team for all four years.
While I think we have to recognize that most of us are not qualified to assess who is or is not a good pitching coach, I like the hire. I know everybody wanted the sexy pick of David Cone. Me too. I thought Cone or Andy Pettitte would be good choices, but conversely, I know that just because Cone was a very good pitcher and a great broadcaster does not mean that he would have been a terrific pitching coach. Also, the pitching coach job would have required Cone to take a pay cut. Frankly, I am glad that we’ll continue to hear Coney on YES Network broadcasts with Michael Key. I suppose he could always pursue coaching jobs elsewhere if he is so inclined but for now, I like his presence on my TV screen for games.
The Yankees have evolved into one of Baseball’s most advanced analytic teams. They’ve sunk huge costs into acquiring some of the best available analytic minds to support VP, Assistant General Manager Michael Fishman and his team of analysts. The word is Blake is very good at taking analytics and breaking it down into laymen’s terms for pitchers to understand and how to apply them. I know the Yankees didn’t wake up one morning and say ‘hey, let’s steal Blake from the Indians!’. They did their research, and multiple members within the Yankees organization had the opportunity to meet with Blake. The consensus of the greatest minds in the organization was the hiring of Blake as the next pitching coach. That’s good enough for me.
I do think the Yankees should join the recent trend in MLB to hire an assistant pitching coach. The unknown about Blake is that he has never played or coached at the Major League level. I am not saying he can’t do it, but I think two voices on the coaching staff for the pitchers is smart. I personally like RailRiders pitching coach Tommy Phelps. He has good knowledge and experience with many of the high level prospects and we know that he has done good work with the Major League pitchers sent down for additional instruction, with Chad Green representing the most recent example. Who knows if Green’s rebound was because of Phelps or was based on a plan developed by Larry Rothschild, but I do know that Phelps is highly respected and would make a good partner for Blake.
Speaking of Larry Rothschild, it didn’t take him long to find new employment. One day after the Yankees hired Blake, the San Diego Padres announced their had re-assigned their pitching coach of 17 years, Darren Balsey, to other duties within the organization and had hired Rothschild to be their next pitching coach. I think everyone expected Larry to follow Joe Girardi to Philadelphia, but all things considered, I think landing in San Diego is an ideal opportunity for him. I was a little surprised when Girardi went with Bryan Price as his pitching coach. Not that I think Price is a bad coach, but as a recent manager, I am sure he has aspirations to manage again, and I can’t help but think there could be potential for conflict with Girardi who we know can be hard-headed at times. Maybe I am reading too much into that, but at this state of his career, Rothschild is content with serving as a pitching coach until retirement calls his name. He’ll now get his opportunity to help break in another rookie manager (Jayce Tingler) and will be charged to help develop one of the best pitching prospects in the game in MacKenzie Gore. I don’t get the hate directed at Rothschild by Yankee fans. While I think it was time for the Yankees and Rothschild to part ways, I realize that Larry did many things right and there was much we were unable to see from the outside looking in. I am appreciative for the years he gave the Yankees. The Padres are a young, analytics-driven team, and they chose to go with experience. Good for Larry. I wish him the best for his new opportunity.
It was reported the Yankees and Brett Gardner’s camp are talking and it should result in a new deal soon. I am in favor of bringing Gardy back, however, I do not feel the Yankees should spend more than $8-$10 million on a one-year contract. Maybe throw in some incentives for a couple more million. But to expect Gardy to replicate his 2019 season (enhanced by the alleged juiced baseball) is asking too much. The Yankees need a starting center fielder next year and I hate seeing Gardner’s name automatically written in while Aaron Hicks recovers from Tommy John surgery. The guy will be 37 in August. I think he is best served as the team’s fourth outfielder with random starts rather than every day. The Yankees need to field the best players in 2020, not swim in sentimental waters. I’ve seen some Yankee fans suggest Gardy’s number should be retired when his playing days are finished. Sorry, while he has been a good Yankee for a long-time, he is not a Hall of Fame level player and never has been. I value Gardy’s leadership but I believe he is overrated in the eyes of many fans. I am not sure if the center field should be Mike Tauchman or maybe someone who is not in the organization right now, but I think the Yankees will go with the best man for the job and not simply pay for past performance.
I know the Yankees will be okay if Didi Gregorius leaves, but I’ll be sad. I like his left-handed bat and I think he’ll rebound for a stronger 2020 season as he gets further away from TJ surgery. The Yankees are still a championship-level team with Gleyber Torres at short and D.J. LeMahieu at second, but I think Didi still has much left in the tank. I know, I am making these statements after saying the Yankees shouldn’t stay with Gardy for sentimental reasons. But unlike Gardy, I think the best years can still be ahead for Didi. There’s growing speculation that Didi’s original team, the Cincinnati Reds, are interested in bringing him back. I guess if Didi does leave, I’d rather see him go to the National League so the Reds would probably be best-case scenario. But minus his bat, the Yankees will need to find another left-handed hitter to sandwich between Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. I am not sure if lefties like Mike Ford, Mike Tauchman, or (gasp!) Greg Bird can be that guy or if Brian Cashman will have to go for outside help. Also, unless the Yankees sign LeMahieu to an extension, there could be an infield void after next season. I’d hate to go back to rolling out guys like Brian Roberts and Stephen Drew to fill in at second base like we did when Robinson Cano left. If you say Tyler Wade, then we obviously have differing opinions about the player.
A much speculated target for shortstop has been Cleveland’s Francisco Lindor. Granted, he is not a left-handed bat but clearly he’s one of the best players in the game today. He is only 25 and would fit nicely into the Yankees lineup as a replacement for Gregorius. If the Indians move Lindor, it will only be for a huge haul so we’d have to expect to lose some very talented and promising players. Another suggestion is Corey Seager if the Los Angeles Dodgers acquire Lindor. I’d be fine with either Lindor or Seager at shortstop (using Aaron Boone’s favorite word, “obviously”). But honestly, I wish the Yankees would just re-sign Gregorius and save the trade bullets for an ace. A package of Lindor and Corey Kluber would be awesome, but the price tag would be outrageous. Nevertheless, I am sure you’ll be able to see Cashman in conversation with Chris Antonetti, Cleveland’s President of Baseball Operations, and/or Mike Chernoff, the Tribe’s GM, next week. You never know what can happen in Baseball.
I am cautiously optimistic about Thurman Munson’s presence on the 2020 Modern Era Committee ballot for Hall of Fame consideration. The results will be announced on December 8th. I’ve always said that Jim “Catfish” Hunter is the reason I became a Yankee fan, but it didn’t take long for Thurman to become my favorite player. The others on the ballot are Don Mattingly, Dwight Evans, Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, Ted Simmons, Lou Whitaker, and former MLBPA head Marvin Miller. Mattingly was my favorite player after Munson. While I think both players are Hall of Fame-worthy, if I had to pick one, I’d say it is time for Thurman to get his deserved recognition as one of the game’s all-time greats. I loved the passion and intensity of that guy. He was the AL Rookie of the Year in 1970 and the AL MVP in 1976. Even though the Yankees were swept in the World Series that year, it was not because of Munson who hit .529 (9 for 17) in the series. He was the heart and soul of two World Series championship teams in 1977 and 1978. Thurman’s death in 1979 remains one of those “I know exactly where I was when I heard the news” moments in my life. I was devastated and it’s sad that we didn’t get to see what Thurman could have done past age 32. I know there was speculation at the time about Thurman’s desire to get closer to home and perhaps sign with the Cleveland Indians, but it would have been hard to see him in anything other than Pinstripes. He was truly one of the Yankee Legends despite his premature departure and deserves his place among the other greats. I hope this is the year.
As always, Go Yankees!
|Photo Credit: Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images|
Chapman Agrees to Extension w/Yanks…
Aroldis Chapman had the right to opt out of his contract on Saturday night but in the end, he agreed to a one-year extension worth $18 million (in addition to the remaining 2 years/$30 million left on his current contract). So, the opt out did not happen and the Cuban Missile, thankfully, did not launch into Free Agency.
As I wrote yesterday, I was prepared for Chapman to leave. I felt the Yankees would be fine with or without him but you can argue the Yankees would be better served by using Chapman’s money toward a frontline starter. Prior to the news of Chapman’s extension, word spread that Washington Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg had opted out of his contract. Strasburg gives the Free Agency Market two top starters and frankly, I’ll be disappointed if the Yankees do not try to sign either Strasburg or Gerrit Cole.
Honestly, the realist in me knows that the Yankees will not sign either Strasburg or Cole, and the Chapman extension has nothing to do with it. But until they sign, I’ll carry hope that one of them is a Yankee before the next season starts. Supposedly, agent Scott Boras and the Nationals are set to begin negotiations today but we’ll see. The Lerner family is capable of making Strasburg a very rich man but the question is will they? I thought they’d do what it takes to keep Bryce Harper last year rather than let him walk away to a division rival but I was wrong. Granted, they didn’t need Harper to win the World Series, but in Strasburg’s case, he is one of the game’s best and as we know too well, pitchers do not grow on trees.
|Photo Credit: Thomas B Shea, USA TODAY Sports|
Last year, the Yankees lost out on Patrick Corbin because their offer was blown out of the water by the Nats. It would be very ironic (and poetic) if the Yankees snatched Strasburg away from Washington. Pitcher to pitcher, I’d much rather have Strasburg over Corbin. So it is possible that this could work out to the best possible case scenario for everyone who wanted the Yankees to sign Corbin last year.
Anyway, sorry for the digression, let’s get back to Aroldis Chapman. I am glad he’s a Yankee today. I don’t blame him for the ALCS exit on the walk-off homer by Jose Altuve. Losses never come down to a single play. There are plenty of other things the Yankees could have done differently to change the outcome. You can’t pin the blame on one guy. Even the great Mariano Rivera was human at times. Chapman turns 32 in February so he’ll be a free agent again at age 35. I suspect that’s when the Yankees and Chapman part ways but for now, he’s the team’s closer and I am happy about the outcome. In a way, I do feel bad for Zack Britton who deserves the opportunity to close but he represents great insurance for the health of Chapman. Chapman, to go with Britton, Adam Ottavino, Tommy Kahnle, and Chad Green, ensures the Yankees will have a top bullpen in 2020.
Welcome back, Chappy! We’re glad you decided to stay with us for another run or two or three at October.
Stephen James Strasburg turns 32 in July. In 2019, he was 18-6 for the Nationals with 3.32 ERA. His K/9 was 10.81, HR/9 1.03, and WAR 5.7. He made 33 starts, good for 209 innings of work. It’s easy to salivate about a potential starting rotation of Strasburg, Luis Severino, James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, and Jordan Montgomery (sorry J.A. Happ, don’t let the door hit you on the way out).
I probably still want Gerrit Cole over Strasburg. He’s a little younger (won’t turn 30 until September). He had a brilliant 2019, going 20-5 with 2.50 ERA which should pay off with the AL Cy Young Award. His K/9 was a career best 13.82, HR/9 1.23 and he had the higher WAR at 7.4. The number of starts and innings were similar to Strasburg’s totals…same number of starts with 3 1/3 more innings. But regardless of whether it is Cole or Strasburg, either would look fantastic in Pinstripes.
All of this just means that I should probably begin looking for my Zack Wheeler Yankees jersey.
|Photo Credit: Twitter via @Wheelerpro45|
There’s a name that Bryan Van Dusen of The Greedy Pinstripes has been pushing for months. German Marquez. He’ll only be 25 heading into next season and he has a wealth of talent and potential. He regressed in 2019 (like the entire Rockies team) but remains arguably the best pitcher on Colorado’s starting staff. I’ve long admired Jon Gray but at this point, there’s no question Marquez is the better pitcher. He was 12-5 last season with 4.06 ERA (give the guy a break, he pitches at Coors Field). His K/9 was 9.05, HR/9 1.50 (again, Coors Field), and WAR 3.4. This guy is on clear path to replicating the numbers produced by Cole and Strasburg, and he’s five years younger than Cole. I didn’t think the Rockies would be willing to part with their young ace, but after a very disappointing season in the Mile High City, they need more than just help in the rotation. The Yankees have the pieces that could help a Rockies rebuild and Marquez would fit nicely in the Bronx. Rumor has it that former Rockies do very well in the Bronx. If the Yankees do acquire Marquez, Van Dusen deserves much credit for continuing to shout his name. Marquez is one of a select very few number of pitchers that I’d consider giving up Deivi Garcia for. Luis Castillo of the Cincinnati Reds is another.
If the Yankees are looking to add to the bullpen, particularly if Dellin Betances leaves (I hope not), it won’t include Tony Watson, who has long been a Cashman target. Watson exercised his player option with the San Francisco Giants yesterday which will most likely keep him in the City by the Bay for another year. Granted, he had a disappointing 2019 season but he remains one of the better lefty relievers around. I know, he’s 34 and he’s recovering from a broken wrist suffered in September but he’s a good guy to have in the pen.
On the same day that Strasburg opted out of his contract, the Nationals dropped the hammer on two guys that helped bring the first World Series championship to Washington since 1924 yesterday (the same day as their victory parade). The team declined the options for first baseman Ryan Zimmerman and catcher Yan Gomes. While Zimmerman was expected (he’s simply not a $20 million/year player anymore), I was a little surprised about Gomes even if he didn’t have a great season statistically-speaking. I’ve seen more than a few people suggest the Yankees should go after him to back up Gary Sanchez. While I am comfortable going into 2020 with Kyle Higashioka as the backup, I’ll admit that it would be intriguing to have Gomes. He did very well with the great pitching staffs in Cleveland. As much as I want Gary Sanchez to have a healthy, monster season next year, the hard truth is that whomever backs him up will see plenty of playing time. Gomes should be given consideration, in my opinion, if the price is right.
Are the Mets really considering their former manager, Terry Collins, as Carlos Beltran’s bench coach? That’s funny. No disrespect to Collins, who I think is an excellent baseball guy, but it just seems odd that he’d take a coaching position with the Mets after being fired as their manager a couple of years ago. Carlos Beltran recently said that Collins was the best manager he had played for, a group that includes Joe Girardi, Bruce Bochy, and A.J. Hinch.
The five-day exclusive negotiating period for teams and their own free agents will officially end tomorrow so let the Hot Stove League begin! For Yankee fans, we’ll see the names of Cole and Strasburg ad nauseam until we don’t (meaning they sign somewhere).
Buckle up, this should be fun.
As always, Go Yankees!
|Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports|
The Hot Stove League is open for business…
The 2019-20 Baseball Off-Season or rather the Hot Stove League has officially begun. While the Washington Nationals and their fans celebrate the World Series championship, the rest of us are left to wonder what could have been. For years, we pointed to 2019 as our championship year. It’s disappointing it did not happen but on the bright side, the window has not closed and the Yankees will be back in 2020 to make noise in October.
I don’t have an off-season plan. I’ve already read plenty of great ones so no need for me to develop a fictional wish list that has no bearing on what Brian Cashman will actually do. My views are more what I’d like to see in the coming months.
But first, I’d like to extend a birthday wish to Daniel Burch, the Co-Founder and Head Writer of The Greedy Pinstripes blog. Happy Birthday, Daniel! I hope it’s a tremendous day for you, KariAnn, and your family. Enjoy, my friend! Speaking of Daniel, if you haven’t already, you should read his response to Hal Steinbrenner’s recent remarks and his off-season plan that was posted yesterday. It’s an excellent read and right on point. It followed a great off-season plan presented by the other Co-Founder of The Greedy Pinstripes, Bryan Van Dusen.
Now back to baseball. I always head into the off-season with great anticipation and optimism. It’s the chance to add enhancements to the team for its run next year. I do not believe in complacency and feel that you should constantly be looking for ways to improve the roster. We saw what complacency delivered for the Boston Red Sox last year. Granted, a number of their guys had career years the year before so a fall was inevitable but it certainly didn’t help that they made no effort to better their defense of their championship. It resulted in a disappointing, lost year for Boston. Not that I didn’t enjoy seeing Boston down and their fans quiet, but my point is simply that complacency never wins.
I know that going into 2020, I do not want a staff of starters capable of only going five or six innings, with a few bullpen games mixed in. We saw the results of a tired pen in October, even with the rest they were given in the regular season’s final month. Like many fans, I want the Yankees to sign Gerrit Cole (or Stephen Strasburg if he opts out). But realistically, I doubt the Yankees sign either. Unlike last year, when I was very hopeful the Yankees would sign either Manny Machado or Bryce Harper, I do not hold the same belief about this year’s premier free agents. Not that I don’t want them, just rather I think the Yankees stick to their current business model and show financial constraint. As a Plan B, I’ve certainly warmed to the idea of someone like Zack Wheeler. I’ve long admired Madison Bumgarner but I share the belief that he’ll probably end up with the Atlanta Braves. I think someone like Hyun-Jin Ryu would be a tremendous addition but I can’t believe the Los Angeles Dodgers will let him get away. But then again, I never thought former Dodger Hiroki Kuroda would finish his MLB career as a Yankee.
Regardless of who the Yankees add to the starting rotation (correction, IF they add), there’s no room for J.A. Happ in my opinion. If there’s a move I am very hopeful for, it’s the ability to trade Happ and his contract, even if the team has to cover part of the salary and attach a prospect or two, to another team before the season starts. Last year was a very disappointing one for Happ and at 37 years old, he’s not going to get any better. The Yankees also cannot rely upon Domingo German, who remains on administrative leave for domestic violence. It’s likely he’ll serve a significant suspension next season and even then, I am not so sure I want the man, if the domestic violence accusations are true, on the roster regardless of his 18 wins. I reserve judgment until we know more about his case but at this point, German does not have my support. I know, I was able to forgive Aroldis Chapman and maybe that turns out to be the case with German once we know more. We’ll see but he’s not someone we can count on as we know it today.
I think it is more probable the Yankees will acquire another starter in trade rather than through free agency. I don’t know who they should target. I’ve certainly seen the name of Lucas Giolito come up plenty and I’d be glad to have him, but we’ll have to see how this plays out over the course of the off-season. Personally, I think the Chicago White Sox would be foolish to part with their young ace given the burgeoning young talent in their system. No doubt Brian Cashman and his analytics team have uncovered multiple names they’d love to target.
|Photo Credit: Charles Rex Arbogast, AP|
As of this writing, the following Yankees are free agents: Edwin Encarnacion, Austin Romine, Didi Gregorius, Cory Gearrin, Dellin Betances, CC Sabathia (retired), Brett Gardner and Cameron Maybin.
I’ve seen many people say that Dellin will be back. While I don’t think he’ll let the ridiculous words of Yankees President Randy Levine from a few years ago influence his decision, the fact remains as long as he is free to choose, it’s very possible that he goes elsewhere. I’d hate to see the Bronx native leave and he’s been such a huge part of the bullpen in recent years despite the lost 2019 season. I had assumed he’d sign a one- or two-year deal with the Yankees to rebuild value, but that may not be the case if another team offers him the right amount of money. This morning, Randy Miller of NJ Advance Media for NJ.com made his predictions for likely landing spots and he has Betances signing with the Houston Astros. Honestly, that makes me sick to the stomach. I really do not want to see Dellin in Houston or Boston. I suppose if he must leave, I’d prefer he goes to Philly to join up with Joe Girardi. But of the above-listed free agents, the one I want back the most is Dellin. I hope he and the Yankees are able to come together on a deal to keep him at home in the Bronx.
|Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac, Getty Images|
I think Brett Gardner will be back on another one-year deal. At this point in his career, he’s not getting anything more than one-year deals from the Yankees. If another team were to offer him a multi-year contract, I’d support the Yankees’ decision to let him walk away. I don’t want to de-value what Gardy meant to the Yankees in 2019, but my stance on all players is that I’d rather cut bait a year early than a year too late. But none of it really matters as I expect Gardy to be back in 2020.
Didi Gregorius is a tough one. I love the guy. His personality matches his strong defensive ability and I think, a year removed from Tommy John surgery, his bat will rebound next season to its previous form. It’s hard to envision Didi not with the Yankees. He has meant so much to them since Derek Jeter retired. However, I can easily see the Yankees making Gleyber Torres the everyday shortstop and giving D.J. LeMahieu a permanent spot at second base, his strongest position. It would allow the Yankees to reallocate the money it would take to re-sign Didi to other needs. If the money is re-directed to sign a guy like Gerrit Cole, it would be hard to argue keeping Gregorius in Pinstripes. If he leaves to sign with the rumored favorites, the Milwaukee Brewers or Cincinnati Reds, I’ll be sad but life goes on. Didi has been a great Yankee and as they say, change is inevitable and nothing lasts forever.
Randy Miller has Austin Romine going to the Los Angeles Angels. I can easily see that one coming true. It makes sense for the Southern CA native to go home, and there’s some excitement building in Orange County with Joe Maddon’s appointment as the team’s manager. If the Angels can sign Gerrit Cole and GM Billy Eppler is able to make a few other moves to bring in more talent to support Mike Trout, there’s some reason for optimism for the Angels. I don’t expect the Angels to be competing for the World Series next year, but they’ll be a fun team. I’ll hate to lose Romine but his loss is inevitable, especially if he is given the opportunity to start elsewhere. I’ve enjoyed Romine as the backup catcher but I don’t see him coming back under any circumstances. It’s a great opportunity for Kyle Higashioka and hopefully he’s doing everything possible this winter to prepare himself for the backup role behind Gary Sanchez. Eventually Anthony Siegler and Josh Breaux will be making noise, but for now, Higgy is the best option.
I can see Cameron Maybin coming back on a reasonable, cost-effective deal. I doubt the Yankees try to bring back Cody Gearrin or Edwin Encarnacion (after paying the $5 million buyout rather than $20 million salary for next season). CC, as we all know, is now content to wait for the call to the Hall of Fame.
I had assumed the Yankees would try to sign D.J. LeMahieu to an extension this off-season but upon further thought, I agree with the assessment that LeMahieu holds the overwhelming advantage in negotiations after his brilliant 2019 debut in Pinstripes. The Yankees are better off waiting to see how he performs in 2020. The risk is that he’ll be a free agent after the season but the current Yankees business model looks at the long-term view and will not overpay players like they once did with Jacoby Ellsbury. I know I’d like to see LeMahieu stay in Pinstripes beyond next season but for now, we’ll have to wait.
I don’t think the Yankees need to lock up Gleyber Torres on an extension this off-season but it should be a priority in the next couple of off-seasons. The prime extension target this off-season should be Aaron Judge. Do what it takes. Keep this man in Pinstripes for the duration of his career. Say what you will about the injuries but when healthy, the guy is one of the best in the game.
Today is the day we find out whether or not Aroldis Chapman opts out of his contract. It is assumed that he’ll opt out if he and the Yankees are unable to agree upon an extension. I’ve said all along that I am prepared for Chapman to leave. I’d love to have him back as the team’s closer next year but the Yankees are paying him top dollar. If it is not good enough and they are unable to agree on the dollars for additional year(s), then let him go. Zack Britton is certainly a capable closer who has proven to be the best in the game when fully healthy. I’d have no reservations about him being the Yankees’ closer. The Yankees would need to add other parts to the bullpen, like signing free agent reliever Will Smith, but I am confident the Yankees will be fine with or without Chappy.
Congratulations to Carlos Beltran. For as much as I hated to see him leave his job as a special advisor for the Yankees, I am happy he’ll get his first managerial gig with the New York Mets. Granted, not crazy it’s the Mets, but there are only so many managerial jobs and you have to start somewhere. I had hoped the San Francisco Giants, one of his former teams, would show interest, but it’s clear Beltran has an East Coast preference for family reasons. It’s kind of funny that Beltran will be butting heads with Don Mattingly and Joe Girardi in the NL East. When Beltran didn’t get the manager job with the Yankees, I had hoped he would be a part of the coaching staff. It obviously didn’t happen but Beltran was still able to bring his influence to the team. I wish him the best of luck in Queens and I hope everything works out for him despite the Wilpon family.
I miss Yankees baseball. Is it February yet?…
As always, Go Yankees!
Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated
Preparing for the 2019-20 Hot Stove League…
While many continue to watch the World Series, except for an occasional check-in, the 2019 MLB season ended for me last weekend with the ALCS. It’s hard to get enthused about either the Houston Astros or the Washington Nationals. Sure, the Nationals as a first time participant are a nice story but I don’t really care to see either team win the World Series so let’s just get this over so that we can move on to the Hot Stove League.
It’s hard to not wonder what could have been if the Yankees had taken a better hitting approach against the Astros. Oh well, it was not meant to be. Time to move on and hope the Yankees make a stronger run in 2020. The window remains wide open. This is certainly not the last we’ve heard from this core group of Yankees.
Photo Credit: The New York Post
As much as I would like Gerrit Cole leading the Yankees’ starting rotation next season, the reality is it will never happen. Cole’s agent, none other than the infamous Scott Boras, will ensure that his client becomes very wealthy this winter. I just don’t see Hal Steinbrenner’s willingness to write a blank check. It seems as though this will end like the Patrick Corbin negotiations. The Yankees will host Cole for a visit at Yankee Stadium, they’ll toss him a token offer, and he’ll leave empty handed. Some team is going to throw stupid money at him and it won’t be the Yankees. You can talk all day about how the Yankees can afford it, but that’s not the point. The Yankees are not going to devote so many dollars to one player. They have in-house financial decisions to make. Last off-season they locked up Luis Severino and Aaron Hicks. Granted, both players missed considerable time during the regular season so you can question the wisdom of the moves, but in Severino’s case in particular, he still represents the future. An extension for Aaron Judge seems appropriate this off-season. I feel Gleyber Torres too but I think the Yankees will wait a season or two before securing the long-time services of the young burgeoning superstar. Judge can be a free agent after the 2022 season so the urgency is beginning to develop for him. Torres can’t be a free agent until after the 2024 season.
The Yankees need an ace. I think Sevy can be that guy, but last year showed you can’t put all your eggs in one basket. James Paxton has shown at times he can be an ace but he needs to show sustained excellence over the course of a long season. I think a very strong #1 starter, followed by Sevy, Big Maple, and Masahiro Tanaka would make for a championship caliber rotation. The question is who the #1 starter would be. Names will develop in the coming weeks. I keep seeing Yankee fans pining for Lucas Giolito but there’s no way the Chicago White Sox, with their abundance of blossoming young talent, will part with their young ace. If they did, they’d need quality, major league-ready talent in return, not prospects years away from the Show. I think there’s a better chance the Yankees could get the Cincinnati Reds to part with Luis Castillo, but even then the price tag will be very high. On the free agent front, Madison Bumgarner certainly represents an option. I am intrigued what he could do on a highly competitive team. I really feel the Yankees would re-energize him so I’d be happy if they were able to land him. I don’t know where Cashman’s search for starting pitching will lead. None of us do. Inevitably, he’ll surprise us. I just don’t want another season of missed opportunity and Cashman’s statements that he tried. Love or hate Houston, Astros GM Jeff Luhnow, has shown the willingness to pull the trigger when it matters. He has two World Series appearances in the last three years to show for it. It’s not that I want Brian Cashman to make stupid decisions or saddle the Yankees with another Jacoby Ellsbury contract albatross. But there are times you have to spend more than you want to get what you need.
The news that Aaron Hicks will miss the next 8-10 months due to Tommy John surgery left me wondering why the Yankees ever brought him back for the ALCS. Sure, the home run was great but in the end, it didn’t matter. I would have preferred to have Hicks for the majority of the 2020 season if he could have had the inevitable surgery earlier. The news about Hicks brought immediate speculation the Yankees have to re-sign Brett Gardner. I felt the Yankees and Gardner would come together on another one-year deal before the Hicks news and I still feel the same, but I don’t think the vision that he’ll be no more than the fourth outfielder has changed. I think Mike Tauchman has a better chance to be the regular starting option in center field with the possibility that it could be someone not currently on the roster. I really wish Estevan Florial was closer to readiness, but he’s not. I am sure the Yankees’ analytics team is at work trying to discover the next Mike Tauchman, a centerfielder who is undervalued in his current organization but blossoming with hidden talent.
I am not sure what I think about the “reports” that the Yankees could move Giancarlo Stanton to the Los Angeles Dodgers or Angels, if they can find the right mix of dollars to part with the slugger. I like Stanton and I feel he’s received unfair treatment from the Yankees fan base. Maybe there’s some validity to the criticisms he has received, but I still think he has the Dave Winfield-like ability to carry a team on his back. I’d like to see him stay with the Yankees, and have the opportunity to show he’s “the man” in October. I like Mike Tauchman but there’s no way in the World I’d take him over Stanton in left field. Stanton needs our support, not the unfair hate directed his way. If he does get traded, I’ll be disappointed, but I will enjoy watching baseball in sunny Southern CA with the Angelino kid crushing pitches in front of his hometown fans.
Photo Credit: UPI.com
Not that I think reunions are in store, but two former Yankees quietly became free agents in recent weeks. Chasen Shreve, part of the deal that brought Luke Voit to New York, is a free agent. Giovanny Gallegos has blossomed in the St Louis Cardinals’ bullpen so I doubt the Cards regret their decision to part with Voit, but I do feel bad it didn’t work out for Shreve. Same in San Diego with former Yankees prospect Bryan Mitchell. He was the prospect attached to Chase Headley in the successful contract unload a few years ago. I always liked Mitchell and had really hoped he would thrive in San Diego. He didn’t, and now he’s a free agent. Both are young enough (28 and 29, respectively) to be reclamation projects. Hopefully, for both, they’ll find better success with their next organizations.
Speaking of former Yanks, it was a surprise to see Joe Girardi land in Philadelphia. Granted, all signs started pointing in that direction over the last week or so, but before the Phillies fired manager Gabe Kapler, I felt strongly that Girardi would be the next manager for either the New York Mets or the Chicago Cubs. I never saw him as a Philly guy. I do think he’ll be better for that team than Kapler (okay, that was a statement of the obvious). It’s cool that his bench coach, Rob Thomson, is already in place. There’s been some speculation if he’ll take any of the current Yankee coaches who served under him (bullpen coach Mike Harkey, a close friend, and pitching coach Larry Rothschild). I think Rothschild gets unfair criticism but I’ve long wanted David Cone as the pitching coach so I’d be okay with Rothschild’s departure if it meant getting Coney back in the pinstripes. My absolute favorite for pitching coach is Andy Pettitte but I am not convinced he is ready to leave Texas yet. A dark horse hope for pitching coach would be former San Francisco Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti. He was the pitching coach for three World Series champions over the past decade and he oversaw Madison Bumgarner’s greatest days as a Giant. Anyway, back to Girardi, I think he’ll do well for the Phillies. He’ll have to learn the NL style of play. I know, he has one year of NL managing under his belt but that was a long time ago. For Girardi’s sake, it is a good thing that his former and future bench coach, Thomson, had a one year head start. I am glad that Girardi avoided the mess known as the Wilpon’s.
Good hire by the Boston Red Sox when they named former Tampa Bay Rays executive Chaim Bloom as their new head of operations. Assistant GM Brian O’Halloran will be promoted to GM to work under Bloom’s leadership. I wish I could criticize this move by Boston but I think they made the best possible hire if Bloom is allowed to truly run the show. I feel the New York Mets erred when they selected Brodie Van Wagenen as their GM over Bloom last year. It seems as if more and more teams are going the “chief baseball officer” route. I really wish the Yankees would promote Brian Cashman to chief baseball officer, and promote Tim Naehring to GM. Love him or hate him, Cash deserves the promotion in my opinion.
It’s funny. Last season, I could hardly wait for the World Series to be over and for the free agency period to open in November. I won’t hide the fact that I wanted either Manny Machado or Bryce Harper and was so anxious to see if the Yankees would sign one of the talented young superstars, or grab the best free agent starter in Patrick Corbin. It was a long winter that led to none of the above in Pinstripes. This season, I think I am more passive. I am not really looking forward to free agency this year like I was last year. I am very interested in seeing the moves that Brian Cashman and company will make, but not with the same excitement. What will be will be. I was never against the DJ LeMahieu signing (I knew he was better than advertised) but I never dreamed he’d be as valuable to the Yankees as he was. It only shows that we need to allow any moves time to marinate. We don’t need big splashes. We need a clubhouse full of the right mix of players to bring the 28th World Championship to the Bronx.
As always, Go Yankees!