Category: Dailies

Ready, Set, Stall…

The Most Boring Off-Season Ever…

It’s kind of funny to say that this has been one of the slowest Hot Stove Leagues in recent memory, especially when your team acquires the best slugger on the planet, but I can’t remember the last time the majority of the top free agents were unsigned in January.

The Yankees never figured to be big players in the free agent market, given their desire to keep the ‘Alex Rodriguez-freed’ payroll under the luxury tax threshold of $197 million for reset purposes. But then the Los Angeles Dodgers made their big salary relief trade with the Atlanta Braves which gave them the same opportunity as the Yankees to reset their luxury tax rate so you have baseball’s two biggest spenders on the sidelines.

My personal hope is that the slow free agent market leads Todd Frazier back to Pinstripes where he belongs. Of course, rumors circulated yesterday that the Yankees had been back in touch with the Baltimore Orioles about third baseman Manny Machado. I am not convinced the Orioles would trade their best player to the Yankees despite his impending free agency, but conversely, I am not sure the Yankees should give up some of their best prospects for a guy they could sign as a free agent next fall. I wouldn’t want to give the O’s the bullets to reload. But then again, if the O’s make a trade this winter, they’ll bring in quality talent from somewhere. As long as Machado is on the table, it probably keeps any potential deal with Todd Frazier on ice (no pun intended for those of you in New York and New Jersey).

Mark Prior has found his way to the Los Angeles Dodgers as their new bullpen coach, replacing Josh Bard who decided to take a seat on the Yankees bench next to new manager Aaron Boone. The Yankees’ one-time top draft pick (he didn’t sign in 1998) and former Chicago Cub was most recently the minor league pitching coordinator for his hometown San Diego Padres. Prior attempted to make the transition to a relief pitcher in the Yankees organization during the 2011 season but could never capture the potential that was once promised to him through a series of arm injuries. I hope that he finds greater success with his coaching career.

Some teams have been very active with minor league contract signings carrying training camp invitations, but until yesterday, the Yankees had been quiet. It changed when they signed former Atlanta Braves infielder Jace Peterson to a minor league deal on Friday. Peterson has a high pedigree (he was once a first-round draft selection for the San Diego Padres) but he’s never been able to hit in the Major Leagues. He found his way to the Braves for the 2015 season but underwhelmed the team as its starting second baseman that year. The career .234 hitter was released by the Braves last month when he was non-tendered in advance of arbitration. I can’t see him as more than training camp fodder and help with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, but you can never have enough competition for Major League jobs. Good luck to Peterson as he attempts to find his place with his third MLB organization. New coaches, new scenery….who knows, crazier things have happened. In a bit of irony, Peterson made his MLB debut during the 2014 season when former and now current Padres third baseman Chase Headley was placed on the DL. Peterson seems like this year’s Pete Kozma signing to me. If he could only hit, he looks like a version of Austin Romine’s brother Andrew with an ability to play multiple positions.

Jace, just a note, please don’t scratch the big guy…

Photo Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Post ran an article a couple of days ago indicating that GM Brian Cashman is prepared to go into the season with youngsters at second and third, meaning Gleyber Torres (or Tyler Wade) and Miguel Andujar. I still find it difficult to believe that the Yankees would entrust both critical positions to youth and inexperience (at the MLB level) at the same time. The Post article included Cashman’s words “if the market changes, we’re prepared to adjust” which shows that this is just a waiting game and Cashman is hoping for prices to fall.

I am excited about Gleyber Torres and the future of second base in his hands. I’ve seen so many say that he should open the season as the starting second baseman. For as much as I love the guy, the Yankees MUST delay the start of his MLB service time to pick up an additional year before he hits free agency.  That only means that he’ll spend a few weeks in Moosic, PA focusing on solely the nuances of second base before hitting the main stage in the Bronx. It will be well worth the wait for so many reasons. At this point, it’s just fine-tuning but for a guy coming off Tommy John surgery, even a position player with his non-throwing arm, a few weeks in Triple A would be beneficial. In the interim, Ronald Torreyes and Tyler Wade deserve the opportunity to keep the position warm for Torres.

Photo Credit: Andrew Savulich-NY Post

The guys over at NJ Advance Media for NJ.com do a great job covering the Yankees. Randy Miller posted a column today featuring a scout’s take on top Yankees prospects. It is well worth the read. As a huge fan of pitching prospect Albert Abreu, I thought the scout’s take on the young right-hander was excellent: “I love him. You’re going to like this kid. I saw him in the Fall League. He was throwing 91-97. He sat 94. He’ll show you a plus curveball at times that is tight with depth. His changeup needs some refinement, but it has a chance to be a plus pitch in the future. He’s aggressive. He gets swings and misses. He’s pretty good with a good body. And he’s a good makeup kid. His delivery gets out of whack at times and it affects his stuff. When he stays square and direct to the plate and he’s working downhill, he’s good. I give him a chance to be a No. 3 starter, a middle-of-the-rotation type guy. If everything comes, he has an outside chance to be a No. 2 starter. Based on what I’ve seen, I like him better than Chance Adams.” I know that Justus Sheffield is going to be a great Yankee, but the scout’s last line about Abreu is the very reason that I’d gladly give up Chance Adams in a trade for a proven MLB starting pitcher. I am very high on Abreu and I am excited about his future in pinstripes.

It’s such a great time to be young and a Yankee for so many of these guys. Who wants to join?…

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Go Yankees!

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‘Much Ado About Nothing’ in the Yankees Universe…

Continuing to hear (frozen) crickets at Yankee Stadium…

We’ve made it into the New Year, but it’s still as quiet as a mouse in the Yankees Universe.

I cannot say that I have any bold predictions for the coming year. While I firmly agree that Michael Fulmer would be a substantial upgrade in the starting rotation, I feel that he is cost-prohibitive. Allegedly, the Yankees made an offer in December that included Clint Frazier, Tyler Wade, Thairo Estrada and a couple of minor league pitchers. One of the pitchers was assumed to be Chance Adams. The Tigers did not feel that package was sufficient for Fulmer. Many speculate that it would take the inclusion of Gleyber Torres to motivate the Tigers to make a deal. Sorry, that’s not happening. With no offense to Fulmer, the Yankees should not hand over the farm system to the Tigers to bring the young ace to the Bronx.

During the Winter Meetings, Tigers GM Al Avila made the following analogy: “Let’s say you have an asset. Your house. And somebody likes it. You don’t have it for sale. But if somebody says, ‘Man, I really like your house’ and they keep pursuing you about your house, at some point, you might end up selling it.” With no motivation to sell, the Tigers can afford to demand overpayment for their “house”. They would expect a return that gives them significant pieces that would make them “a much better organization going forward”. In my opinion, the cost is too great and until the Tigers are motivated to make a deal, it is in the best interests of the Yankees to pass.

Like many, I feel that the infield represents a greater need than starting pitching. I like the suggestion of Ian Happ of the Chicago Cubs. But to make a move, the Cubs would want help for their starting rotation which means that any deal would start with Jordan Montgomery and other top pitching prospects in the Yankees organization. Happ can play multiple positions and has power, but he’s exactly the versatile kind of guy that Cubs manager Joe Maddon loves. Like the Tigers, the Cubs would have to be blown away to make a deal. If the Yankees could find a reasonable package that makes sense for both teams, I’d be in favor of a deal. However, I suspect the Cubs want more, much more.

My not-so-bold prediction is that we will not see either Fulmer nor Happ in pinstripes anytime soon.

Giancarlo Stanton is going to find out that playing for the New York Yankees will bring media scrutiny like he’s never seen before. Yesterday’s headlines were blazing that Stanton spent New Year’s Eve surrounded by 30 women at famed Miami nightclub, LIV at Fontainebleau. The media immediately singled out Brazilian model Mariana Santana as an object of Stanton’s attention although a Stanton rep quickly dismissed it, saying “The story isn’t accurate. He said he’s not dating her and they were not at LIV together.” The days of living under the radar as a Miami Marlin are over.

Credit:  Seth Browarnik, startraksphoto.com

ESPN is apparently targeting Alex Rodriguez to replace Aaron Boone as a member of its Sunday Night Baseball team. It would be a great move by ESPN if they can pull it off, but Fox Sports would be foolish to let A-Rod get away. If A-Rod keeps this up, he’ll soon be the highest paid guy in his second career, just like he was during his first career.

When Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre manager Al Pedrique left to join the coaching staff for the Oakland A’s, I wondered who would take over as the leader for the young Baby Bombers. The question has been answered as Double A Trenton Thunder manager Bobby Mitchell, the 2017 Eastern League Manager of the Year, has been elevated to the top minor league managerial position for the Yankees. High A Tampa Yankees (now the Tarpons) manager Jay Bell will take over for Mitchell with the Thunder. We wish both men the very best in their  new roles as they help usher the next generation of Baby Bombers into the Bronx.

Did David Cone really turn 55 this week? How did that happen?…

Mike Mussina seems to be moving up slightly in the Hall of Fame voting. The latest results, with 37.5% of known ballots (according to Hall of Fame tracker Ryan Thibodaux), show that Moose has crept up to 73.0% (leaving him two percentage points shy of the minimum required for induction. I really hope the momentum continues to push Mussina upward to carry him past the minimum threshold. Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, and Vlad Guerrero appear to be locks with greater than 90% of the known votes. Edgar Martinez and Trevor Hoffman are also in good position. As it stands, this should be a record-breaking number of inductees. With no disrespect to the others, Moose is the only one that matters to me. The others certainly deserve their place in Cooperstown but the 2018 Class will not feel complete, to me, unless it features the guy from Montoursville, PA.

Credit:  Sabo, NY Daily News

Maybe we’ll actually hear some Yankees news today. Maybe not. We’ll see what the day brings. Go Yankees!

The Year of Pinstripes & Champagne…

Welcome to the New Year, Yankees Family!

2017 and falling one game short of the World Series is a distant memory. We’ve turned the page, and it is time to look onward and upward. To each of you, I wish a most joyous and highly successful New Year, both personally and professionally, and it’s one, for all os us, that I hope consummates in the 28th World Championship for the New York Yankees.

Credit:  Jed Jacobsohn, Getty Images

As we head into the New Year, I am not quite sure why the Yu Darvish rumors persist. I don’t have anything against Darvish. I’ve long liked the pitcher, but I don’t see how he fits. The Yankees may like Darvish but it doesn’t mean that they should sign him. Earlier in the off-season, MLB Trade Rumors projected the next Darvish contract at 6 years and $160 million. While prices will begin to drop for the stagnant free agent market, I’d be surprised if Darvish gets anything less than $20 million per year. That figure alone would take the Yankees past the $197 million luxury tax threshold.

There’s speculation that the Yankees could move Jacoby Ellsbury to make some room, but you and I both know that the Yankees have to pay a huge chunk of that onerous contract to get any team to bite. And, oh yeah, there’s the little issue that you need Ellsbury’s consent too. Even if the Yankees could move Ellsbury and pick up, say, $10 million in annual salary relief, it wouldn’t make sense to sign Darvish as it would leave very little room for experienced quality infield help and potential trading deadline moves.

So, let’s kill any talk of Yu Darvish. There’s no chance he’ll show up in Pinstripes.

Same for the Gerrit Cole rumors. The Pittsburgh Pirates know what the Yankees are willing to offer and there has been no deal. The Yankees are not going to sweeten the pot beyond the rumored names. Those talks appear to be dead and I do not see any chance of resuscitation.

At this point, starting pitching is not really a need. Sure, there are questions about the rotation but name a team that doesn’t have questions with at least one starter. The odd man out if the Yankees were to acquire another starting pitcher would be Jordan Montgomery. To me, the only real reason that you’d make a trade is if you have the belief that this is the year the UCL tear in Masahiro Tanaka’s elbow will finally require Tommy John surgery. CC Sabathia surely won’t make all of his 2018 starts but with guys like Chance Adams, Justus Sheffield and Albert Abreu waiting in the wings, there is hope and promise on the horizon. While I’d hate to lose Chad Green out of the bullpen, the Yankees have told him to come to Spring Training as a starter. So, when in need of spot starts, Green and Adam Warren are more than capable of the challenge.

The Yankees can reassess their starting pitching needs in July and make decisions accordingly.  No Cole. No Darvish. Let’s move on.

I remain very hopeful the Yankees can move Jacoby Ellsbury (please!). The real question is how much of the contract the Yankees have to absorb to make it happen and how much prospect talent they need to include. In reality, no team will make a trade for Ellsbury as long as the free agent market continues to offer guys like Lorenzo Cain, Carlos Gomez, and Austin Jackson. Ellsbury may be better than all except for Cain, but it will take an environment of desperation for teams in need of a quality centerfielder to act on a possible Ellsbury trade.

If the Yankees believe strongly that Miguel Andujar can be the answer at third base, they should make a lower level free agent signing for someone like Eduardo Nunez to ease the transition. I’ve said that I wouldn’t want rookies on both sides of Didi Gregorius but the  Yankees have Tyler Wade and Ronald Torreyes to hold down second until Gleyber Torres is ready. Realistically, the Yankees will start Torres at Triple A for at least 20 service days to push his free agency back a year. That’s a move that they have to make for the long-term best interests of the organization. While Wade/Torreyes man second base, it would be helpful to have a veteran covering third or at least provide support for Andujar.

With pitchers and catchers scheduled to report to Tampa by February 13th, there’s not really much left to be done for GM Brian Cashman. With the holiday season behind us, the coming weeks will be about finding value and bargains. I still expect the addition of a veteran third baseman but nothing major. I am resigned to the fact that we won’t see the return of the Toddfather nor will we be celebrating Moose Tacos in the Bronx. Nevertheless, I am confident that whomever runs out to third base at the start of the game at 3:37 pm EDT on Thursday, March 29th at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Canada will be the right decision.

Here is the MLB Network’s projected Yankees lineup:

Brett Gardner, LF

Aaron Judge, RF

Giancarlo Stanton, DH

Greg Bird, 1B

Gary Sanchez, C

Didi Gregorius, SS

Aaron Hicks, CF

Miguel Andujar, 3B

Ronald Torreyes, 2B

Personally, I kind of like putting Bird between Judge and Stanton to break up the righties, but that’s for Aaron Boone to decide, not me. The above lineup, with or without experienced help at third, is very solid…particularly once the Gleyber Show arrives.

Credit:  Andrew Savulich, New York Daily News

It’s going to be a great New Year in the Bronx! I am excited and look forward to the upcoming season, and hold strong dreams of a victorious October.  Let’s stain those Pinstripes with the Bubbly!

Go Yankees!

And Now We Wait…

Credit:  Kevin Hagen, for The Wall Street Journal

The Dawn of a New Year…

The expiration date for 2017 is rapidly approaching. Soon, we’ll flip the calendar to 2018 and await the arrival of the latest Bronx Bombers in Yankee Stadium.

As expected, the end of the year has been very quiet for the Yankees after their acquisition of slugger Giancarlo Stanton earlier this month. Gerrit Cole is still in Pittsburgh and Yu Darvish remains on his free agent tour.

In the words of both Yankees GM Brian Cashman and President Randy Levine, there is still work to be done. At this point, we’ll see what January brings. Honestly, I am tired of the Gerrit Cole rumors and wish the Yankees would end the speculation by saying there will be no deal. Same for the Darvish rumors. The Yankees are not going to sign him. I feel badly for guys like Clint Frazier who continue to twist in the wind wondering what the new year will bring for them and where they should report for Spring Training…Tampa, Florida or about 45 miles south via I-275 to Bradenton or some unknown destination.

With no deal in place for free agent slugger J.D. Martinez, the Boston Red Sox are starting to show up in rumors for a possible trade with the Baltimore Orioles to acquire Manny Machado. While you’d think the same intra-division challenge would face the Red Sox as it does the Yankees, Orioles GM Dan Duquette is a former Red Sox general manager and he used to work with current Red Sox President Dave Dombrowski years ago in the Montreal Expos organization. I’d really hate to see Machado go to Boston. Of course, the rumors could be Red Sox-originated to apply pressure on Martinez who appears to have limited options in the stagnant free agent market.

One year after signing the most lucrative contract in history for a MLB reliever, Aroldis Chapman’s annual salary has been eclipsed by former Chicago Cubs closer Wade Davis. While the contract signed by Davis with the Colorado Rockies is only for three years, the average annual salary is $17.33 million whereas Chapman only makes a paltry $17.2 million. Chapman still holds the mark for most total contract compensation but it’s crazy how much relievers have been getting this off-season. The Rockies are using the Yankees formula of building a super bullpen (they previously signed Cleveland Indians reliever Bryan Shaw and re-signed their own Jake McGee to join holdovers Adam Ottovino, Chris Rusin and Mike Dunn). If unsuccessful, they should be able to trade relievers for a stable of quality prospects.

For the San Diego Padres, what’s old is new again. After re-acquiring their former third baseman, Chase Headley, they’ve re-signed two former starting pitchers, Tyson Ross and Chris Young. Maybe free agents Andrew Cashner, Alexi Amarista, and Cameron Maybin should check in with Padres GM A.J. Preller.

Congratulations to Yankees GM Brian Cashman for being named as Baseball America’s 2017 MLB Executive of the Year!

Credit:  Reinhold Matay, NY Post

I felt bad for Yankees manager Aaron Boone yesterday. His beloved USC Trojans lost the Cotton Bowl to the Ohio State Buckeyes, 24-7, in Dallas, Texas. As an Iowa Hawkeyes fan, I have no love for the Buckeyes so I was disappointed to see Boonie’s team lose.  Hopefully, 2018 will be much more victorious for Boone’s “favorite” teams.

Jon Heyman of Fan Rag Sports Network reported yesterday that Giancarlo Stanton’s decision to join the Yankees will cost him an additional $29 million in taxes on the balance due for his contract if he decides to live in one of the five boroughs of New York. That’s a huge financial commitment on Stanton’s part to join the young and hungry Yankees. He can lessen his tax burden by living in New Jersey, but c’mon, if you are 28 and single, you gotta live in the City!

I am not a New Year’s Resolution kind of guy so I’ll leave it to others. Pete Caldera, staff writer for NorthJersey.com, has offered his 2018 New Year’s resolutions for the Yankees. It is worth checking out.  I think he nailed it.

Not that I want to promote other sites, but Bronx Pinstripes ran a great story on Justus Sheffield and his path to Pinstripes yesterday that’s worth the time to read. I was already excited about Sheffield’s potential and this only fires me up more. I love Cody Carroll’s quote that Sheffield is “like a closer that starts”. Some guys have great stuff and some guys are just winners. Sheffield is a combination of both.  Excellent work by BP’s Dom Muccilo.

I don’t know about you, but I am very anxious to see Tampa’s Steinbrenner Field humming. Baseball can’t get back soon enough. Happy New Year to Everyone! It’s going to be a fantastic year for the Yankees and their fans…

Go Yankees!

Is Total Domination by the Yankees Asking Too Much?…

The Yankees, most likely, have made their final moves for 2017… 

Granted, we only have a couple of days left but it’s been all quiet in the Yankees Universe.  Rumors continue to swirl and the Yankees are always linked to, seemingly, everybody.

Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reported today that the Yankees continue to eye free agent pitcher Yu Darvish. Regardless of the cost, that one makes no sense to me. The money it would take to sign Darvish would erode the remaining dollars under the luxury tax threshold of $197 million. There’s no way that Darvish will settle for $5-$10 million in annual compensation at this point in his career when he should command more. The pitcher needs to rebuild value after his disastrous World Series performances for the Los Angeles Dodgers, but at the end of the day, teams look at his body of work and not a couple of ill-fated starts with accusations that he was tipping his pitches.

Credit:  Associated Press

Yesterday, TGP’s Bryan Van Dusen made the argument that the Yankees should stand pat with their starting pitching staff. To a degree, I concur but ultimately GM Brian Cashman is on record saying the Yankees want to acquire another starting pitcher. There are questions about every starter in the Yankees rotation and Cash obviously has more information and insight into each pitcher that we are not privy to. So, from my perspective, while I may believe another starter is not necessary, the powers-that-be feel otherwise so our opinion is irrelevant.

I don’t really want to give up Clint Frazier, Chance Adams, and/or Miguel Andujar in a trade for Pittsburgh’s Gerrit Cole. I am a little frustrated that Frazier’s current predicament is a direct result of an outfield glut hurt by the presence of Jacoby Ellsbury and his massive contract. In a perfect world, I’d trade away both Ellsbury and Brett Gardner to make way for the younger guys. I want to see room made for Frazier but equally I’d like to see Billy McKinney and Jake Cave get opportunities. McKinney can hit and he showed last year why he was once a top draft pick.

I am a fan of Chance Adams but the presence of Justus Sheffield and Albert Abreu give me comfort the Yankees have other young viable starters on the immediate horizon.

I recognize that not every Yankees prospect has a future in Pinstripes. There is great value in prospects as trading chips for contending teams. I am prepared for a trade for a proven Major League starting pitcher. I may not like it, but it is the cost of doing business for a team that is prepared to win NOW. I am not sure who will be the fifth starter for the Boston Red Sox at the start of the upcoming season since Edwin Rodriguez is recovering from knee surgery (Steven Wright perhaps?) but the Red Sox still have arguably the best staff in the division with a front four featuring Chris Sale, David Price, Drew Pomeranz, and Rick Porcello. The Toronto Blue Jays are probably not too far behind with Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, J.A. Happ, Marco Estrada and Joe Biagini. Admittedly, both of those teams have injury concerns. With the Red Sox, it is David Price who has struggled both mentally and physically in Boston. For Toronto, it is Aaron Sanchez who missed most of last year with right middle finger issues. Sanchez is the latest example of a young starter who threw a career high in innings pitched the preceding year, only to follow up with an injury plagued season. I am not saying that Luis Severino is going to get hurt but he did pitch a career high with innings pitched last year including the play-offs. Many experts have forecasted some regression in his 2018 performance. If either Boston or Toronto are able to overcome their injury concerns, they will be very formidable. If the Red Sox add a power bat like J.D. Martinez, they’ll be tough to beat. So, if Brian Cashman feels that we need to add starting pitching, I am not going to argue with him.

For what it is worth, Bob Klapisch is currently reporting that the Yankees are “nowhere” on a possible deal for Gerrit Cole and have never been close in talks with the Pittsburgh Pirates. As Klapisch tweeted today: “NYY rotation is set for now”.

My biggest concern heading into 2018 is second and third base. I am ‘all in’ for making Gleyber Torres the starting second baseman or going with Tyler Wade/Ronald Torreyes to start until Torres is ready. Third base troubles me the most. I am not convinced that Miguel Andujar is ready (offensively, yes, but I feel that his defensive skills are lacking). I prefer Torreyes as the utility player and not in a dedicated starting position so he is not really who I want at third base day in and day out.

I’d love to see the return of Todd Frazier but I am not optimistic at all. Everyone talks about the Yankees signing Manny Machado after the 2018 season as a free agent, but I really feel that if the Chicago Cubs or St Louis Cardinals make the investment to acquire Machado this off-season (which could very well happen), they’ll make very strong efforts to sign Machado to a new deal. It is easy to say the Yankees should just sign Frazier or Mike Moustakas to a one-year deal, but in reality, the market will dictate otherwise. The Yankees need a hedge for 2019 if Machado (or someone like Josh Donaldson) is not an option. I’d be a proponent for a two-year deal for Frazier. I really like what he brings to the team with his play and attitude. It is infectious. He may not hit for average, but he’ll give you some bombs and will play a great third base. Plus, he’ll keep the clubhouse loose in the pressurized New York environment.  Trade him next year if the team is successful in signing Machado. But regardless of my preferences, I’d like to see the Yankees get experienced help at third base to ease the transition we’ll face at second. Poor Didi Gregorius if he has to play with rookies on both sides.

Credit:  Seth Wenig, AP

All indications are that 2017 will end quietly for the New York Yankees. We’ll soon see what 2018 has in store for everybody’s favorite team.  Exciting times in the Bronx.

Go Yankees!

Let’s Get Back to Baseball at Yankee Stadium…

The Holiday Season Slowdown…

As the final days of 2017 burn away, there’s not much happening in the Yankees Universe…at the moment. Granted, this has been one of the quieter off-seasons for all MLB teams with so many unsigned free agents. I know, we already got our shiny new toy (Giancarlo Stanton) but there is still work to be done.

Credit:  Stan Grossfield, Boston Globe

The Yankees finally announced the one-year, $10 million deal for CC Sabathia this week. Realistically, I am expecting some regression from Sabathia at this point (it would be hard to replicate last year’s statistics considering he turns 38 in late July), but he means so much to the clubhouse. I always thought Mike Mussina finishing his career with a 20-win season was the best way to go (short of winning a World Series championship). I doubt Sabathia’s knee will allow him the former but he certainly has a shot at the latter. The value of veteran leadership is understated. I don’t think Matt Holliday gets enough credit for his “behind-the-scenes” work with Aaron Judge last season. With new coaches on board, Sabathia brings a wealth of consistency and mentorship that would otherwise be missing. I am not trying to sell the other team veterans short, but Sabathia has been such a leader in the clubhouse and a guy that the team loves. I am glad to see him back in Pinstripes.

Speaking of Mussina, I think it is a travesty that he currently trails Roger Clemens in the Hall of Fame voting. According to MLB Network, with 27.9% of the votes completed, Clemens currently has 71.6% (75% is needed for induction into the Hall of Fame). Mussina trails Clemens by nearly a percentage point (70.7%).  Granted, Clemens has the better stats but he also cheated. Moose played the game cleanly and spent his entire career in the highly charged AL East. I feel that Moose deserves a spot in the Hall of Fame ahead of Clemens. It’s inevitable that Clemens and other Steroid-users like Barry Bonds will eventually make the Hall but I’d prefer that it takes a few more years.

Brendan Kuty of NJ.com is reporting that a reunion between the Yankees and third baseman Todd Frazier is unlikely. With the Sabathia signing, the projected Yankees payroll currently stands at $178 million. Frazier made $12 million in 2017. The Yankees still desire to add a cost-controlled pitcher and need room for trading deadline additions and roster call-ups.  This is where the pain of Jacoby Ellsbury’s contract really hurts. I remain hopeful that the Yankees can move Ellsbury. One writer recently suggested that the Yankees pay all but $15 million still owed to Ellsbury (which equates to nearly $53.5 million including $5 million buyout in 2022). The writer (I do not recall who) correctly stated that Ellsbury, still a good player, should be worth at least $5 million per year for another team. He doesn’t steal as many bases as he used to and he’s always an injury risk whenever he takes the field, but if healthy, he can help a team. Of course it has to be a team that he’d waive his no-trade clause for. I keep watching the San Francisco Giants and hoping their efforts to acquire Cincinnati’s Billy Hamilton fail. An additional $5 million for payroll would certainly help the Yankees achieve their objective of adding another pitcher while bringing in quality veteran talent at third. I remain hopeful the Yankees can find a way to bring Frazier back but the optimism has faded.

While the Yankees are the early favorites to sign 2018 free agent-to-be Manny Machado, there is no certainty that he will sign with the team. As such, I think a two-year offer for Frazier makes sense if the Yankees can find the payroll room to stay under the luxury tax threshold of $197 million. If the Yankees do sign Machado next year, Frazier is still a valuable roster component, especially if he can play more first base during the upcoming season. If the Chicago Cubs or St Louis Cardinals make a trade with the Baltimore Orioles for Machado, there’s a good chance one of those teams could entice Machado to sign a long-term deal. The cost to acquire Machado, even with just one year left on his contract, will be high so any team parting with the level of talent necessary to acquire the premium player will make every attempt to lock up Machado. Pulling the trigger on such a deal would indicate some willingness or optimism on the receiving team’s part that they could sign Machado. There is no guarantee that Miguel Andujar will be successful at the Major League level or defensively-speaking, that he is even ready. With youth at second base (should Gleyber Torres win the job as expected), I feel that it is too risky to have MLB inexperience at third base too for a team with heightened expectations.

More Cash for Cash…

By now, we all know that GM Brian Cashman has received a 5-year extension worth approximately $25 million. Even the most fervent Cashman critics have acknowledged the good job that Cash has done to rebuild the Yankees farm system. If I owned the team, I would re-structure the front office to model the Chicago Cubs arrangement with Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer. Under that structure, Cashman would become President, Baseball Operations.  Randy Levine’s title (President) would be realigned to show his status on the business side of Operations. Actually, he wouldn’t have a job if I owned the team, but I guess that’s another matter. With Cashman’s promotion, I would appoint Tim Naehring as Executive Vice President, General Manager. Naehring would get the job since he is currently viewed as Cashman’s right-hand man although an argument could certainly be made for either Jean Afterman or Damon Oppenheimer.  

I hate seeing good people like Billy Eppler and Gary Denbo leave the organization for “better” opportunities and feel that there are ways to reward current Cashman underlings.

2017 Pinstripe Bowl Champions…

Congratulations to the Iowa Hawkeyes for their 27-20 victory over Boston College in the 2017 Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium yesterday. I have been a lifelong fan of the University of Iowa (perhaps even longer than I’ve been a Yankees fan which dates back to my childhood). It was weird seeing a football field placed in the middle of Yankee Stadium, but for my Hawkeyes, it was their first bowl win since 2010. The Hawkeyes finished 8-5 this year, however, it did include a victory over Ohio State which was the highlight of the season for me.  

I can’t really think of a better way to end the year than for one of my favorite teams to win within the confines of the home of my favorite MLB team. Beating Boston was a bonus. Nice job, Hawkeyes!

Credit:  Bryon Houlgrave, The Register

Now that the Hawkeyes have won their bowl game on hallowed grounds, it is time to bring back the baseball diamond to Yankee Stadium.

I can’t believe the calendar page is getting ready to turn to 2018 but the new year brings great hope and optimism for Yankees fans.  I am ready for training camp. We’re only about a month and a half away before pitchers and catchers report. Tampa will soon be rocking with excitement! Now  batting, Number 27 (sorry, this never gets old)…

Credit:  CBS2

Go Yankees! 

‘Twas the Day Before Christmas…

Coming Soon:  Salinas & Cabello, playing at a stadium near you… 

The more I read about the two international prospects signed by the Yankees, OF Raimfer Salinas and C Antonio Cabello, the more excited I get. These are the guys that will be viewed as the new Baby Bombers when Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez and others will be the “thirty-something” players on the roster.

Antonio Cabello (l) and Raimfer Salinas (r)

Per MLB.com:

RAIMFER SALINAS

Salinas will turn 17 next week. He’s 6’0” and 175 lbs, and was born in San Felix, Bolivar, Venuzuela. Salinas bats and throws right-handed.

Scouting Report: “For now, Salinas might be best known for his bat, but the rest of his tools are not far behind. In fact, there’s a belief the young outfielder has the potential to be a legitimate five-tool player and an impact player in the near future. For starters, scouts like Salinas’ body frame and its potential. He’s also a sound defender and his plus arm is already an asset. Salinas is already a decent runner, whether it’s on the basepaths or roaming the outfield, and there’s a belief he will get faster. At the plate, Salinas has shown an advanced approach and good bat speed. He’s been able to hit to all fields while also showing some home run power. Salinas’ overall tools package could land him in the middle of the lineup one day as a possible run producer. Scouts like his makeup and his overall confidence in his abilities.”

Salinas is ranked sixth on MLB.com’s list of Top International Prospects.

ANTONIO CABELLO

Cabello turned 17 last month. He’s 5’10” and 160 lbs, and was born in Puerto Ordaz, Bolivar, Venezuela. Cabello bats and throws right-handed like Salinas.

Scouting Report: “Cabello could be the most athletic prospect on the international market this year. The teenager is known primarily as a catcher, but Cabello could also play second base and center field. He has a strong body and has been clocked at 6.45 seconds in the 60-yard dash. Cabello also hits in games and his makeup is considered off the charts. He has built a reputation as a tough and hard-nosed competitor who hates to lose. Fellow Venezuelan catcher prospect Daniel Flores* might be a better defender, but Cabello has also earned praise as a good receiver with solid catching and throwing abilities. Cabello has been praised for his ability to block balls and a quick release that gives him a chance to throw out even the best of potential basestealers. Cabello is still working on fine-tuning his overall offensive game, and like most prospects his age, he is working on his approach against secondary and offspeed pitches.”

*Sadly, Daniel Flores, signed by the Boston Red Sox, died in November due to complications from treatment for cancer. Flores was the highest rated 2017 international catching prospect.

Cabello is ranked eighth on MLB.com’s list of Top International Prospects.

These were great signings by the Yankees. It will be a few years before they potentially start making noise for advancement to the Bronx but as the saying goes, ‘the future is so bright, I’ve got to wear shades’…

Moose Call…

Randy Miller of NJ Advance Media for NJ.com posted a good story this morning reporting the early results of 2018 Hall of Fame Voting. Presently, 101 votes out of an estimated 416 votes have been made (24.3%). The results show that it is very likely that Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, and Vlad the Great, Vladimir Guerrero, are blazing their path to Cooperstown. These three have 95% or better of the votes cast so far.

I do not dispute any of the above three. They are all Hall-worthy and I am glad to see the odds are on their side for next year. The votes that really bother me come down to former Yankees pitchers Roger Clemens and Mike Mussina.

Mike Mussina, who strongly deserves a place in the Hall of Fame in my opinion, has received 72 of 101 votes (71.3%). This is Mussina’s fifth time on the ballot. 75% is needed for induction. Roger Clemens, suspected of PED use, has the same number of votes as Mussina. That’s so wrong. I don’t care what numbers Clemens put up, he cheated.  Mussina played the game right and was good from beginning to end of his career. Moose was 270-153 in 537 games played, with 3.68 ERA. He struck out 2,813 batters in 3,562 2/3 innings pitched with 1.192 WHIP. Unlike Clemens, Moose does not need to make any apologies for his career. I am hopeful that the remaining voters provide Moose with the necessary 75%.

Credit:  Joy R Absalon, US Presswire

Clemens can rot in Texas.

That right hand is going to get sore…

Phil Nevin appeared on the MLB Network on Friday. The new Yankees third base coach is looking forward to training camp. “We’ve got a good group of guys. We’re energetic, really excited about getting going. The conversations we’ve all had as a group, we’re all excited about it. We’re all going to work well together. I think that’ll feed down into the players and create excitement amongst them as well.”

For Yankees fans, Nevin is best remembered as the first pick of the 1992 MLB Draft by the Houston Astros. The year the Astros bypassed a young shortstop out of Kalamazoo, Michigan by the name of Derek Jeter. He had an unremarkable overall career, with a few very good seasons with the San Diego Padres. Nevin accumulated 208 home runs. In the 2018 season as the third base coach, he’ll slap the hands of Yankee players on home run trots more than 208 times.

Credit:  Zimbio

I was kind of surprised that Yankees manager Aaron Boone didn’t name someone like Nevin as his bench coach, opting for the inexperienced Josh Bard. The San Francisco Giants apparently were ready to name Nevin as their bench coach had current bench coach Hensley Meulens gotten the Yankees managerial job. Nevin served as a Triple A manager from 2014 to 2016. During the MLB Network interview, he talked about how much he likes working third base and his perception that it is the closest thing to being on the field as a player.

Welcome to Pinstripes, Phil!

Now batting, Number 27…

Looking ahead to the 2018 schedule, there are a few dates that stand out. The Miami Marlins come to Yankee Stadium for two games in April (Monday, April 16th and Tuesday, April 17th). The Yankees will also visit Marlins Park on Tuesday, August 21st and Wednesday, August 22nd. It will be interesting to see how the Marlins fans react to the introduction of Giancarlo Stanton. Given the current adverse feelings toward Marlins ownership, I suspect that Stanton will get a rousing ovation.

Credit:  SunSentinel

The Yankees also visit Citizen’s Bank Park in Philadelphia, PA for three games with the Phillies beginning Monday, June 25th. The game will feature a reunion with former Yankees bench coach Rob Thomson, now the bench coach for new Phillies manager Gabe Kapler. It will be odd to see Thomson wearing Philly red.

The toughest stretch of the schedule appears to be very early. From Monday, April 23rd through Thursday, May 10th, the Yankees play 17 games against the Minnesota Twins, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Houston Astros, Cleveland Indians, and Boston Red Sox. None of those games will be easy. The Yankees also have series against the Washington Nationals, Texas Rangers, Angels and Astros later in May. We will find out very quickly how strong the 2018 Yankees will be.

A Heller of a Good Time…

Here’s a shout out to Yankees reliever Ben Heller for his recent humanitarian trip to Guatemala with Forever Changed International. It was exciting to watch Heller’s daily tweets  (@BenHeller21) about helping the poverty-stricken youth of Guatemala. His last tweet from the trip read: “Thanks for following our trip and for all the support! I never expected to fall in love with these kids as much as I did – it was definitely a life changing experience. If you are interested in supporting them more, or going on a trip yourself – foreverchangedinternational.org

Thanks for making a difference in the lives of so many, Ben!

To all of the Yankees family, here is our wish for a very Merry Christmas and a most joyous Holiday Season! 

Go Yankees!