In two weeks, the doors of Yankee Stadium will open…
Ready or not, Opening Day is a scant fourteen days away. On Thursday, March 28th, at 1:05 pm EDT, Masahiro Tanaka will fire the first official 2019 pitch at Yankee Stadium against the Baltimore Orioles and we’ll be off to the races for 162 games PLUS (heavy emphasis on the ‘plus’). The Orioles have announced RHP Alex Cobb will get the Opening Day nod over Dylan Bundy and Andrew Cashner.
Cobb signed with Baltimore as a free agent in late March last year and it showed with disastrous April results. He lost his first three starts with 13.11 ERA and 2.83 WHIP. A 6.03 K/9 pitcher for the year, he was unable to strike anyone out in two of those first three games. With the benefit of a full training camp, Cobb should be more prepared for his second season in Birdland. Steamer projects a 9-13 record in 31 starts with 4.89 ERA (4.50 xFIP) and 1.6 fWAR. Hopefully we won’t have to wait long to hear Michael Kay’s first “There it goes! See ya!” of the new season. I don’t think any of the Orioles pitchers strike fear in the hearts of the Yankees, and it should be a good opportunity to get the season started on the right foot.
It was reported this week the MLB Players Association and MLB have agreed upon the elimination of the waiver trading deadline in August which makes the July non-waivers deadline a hard date for player trades. This year’s trading deadline is Wednesday, July 31st. In theory, it should spark more trade activity in July than in years past and will force teams to make earlier decisions about whether they are buyers and sellers. I am probably most concerned about potential injuries in August and the need to fill unplanned vacancies from within the organization. Depth at certain positions can be weak so it will force organizations to work harder to cover depth at all positions in the off-season which I suppose is an intended consequence. The change is effective this year.
Another change is the expansion of roster size from 25 to 26 players in 2020 with a maximum of 13 pitchers. On September 1st of 2020, the expansion of rosters will be reduced from 40 to 28 players and no more than 14 pitchers. At face value, I am glad to see the addition of a bench spot for another position player. The transition of the game to deeper bullpens has left bench roles perilously thin. Hopefully the addition of a player will help keep guys fresher for the long season. While the change is not effective this year, the potential 26th men at the present time are Clint Frazier and the expected loser of the first base competition, Greg Bird.
The new MLB-MLBPA deal is expected to be announced today.
Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, other changes include the three-batter minimum for pitchers although a start of a new inning would allow a pitching substitution. I think back a couple of years and wonder what it would have been like if the Yankees had been forced to use Tyler Clippard for at least three consecutive batters on days when he simply didn’t have it. I can see a pitcher coming into a game with an inability to throw strikes and suddenly the bases are loaded…or worse. I get the pace of play implications but I guess the traditionalist in me would like to see the game decisions in the hands of the managers. Silly me. There’s also a new $1 million bonus for the winner of the All-Star Home Run Derby. Makes me wonder if it will influence a lower paid guy like Aaron Judge to participate. I know Judge makes most of his money through endorsements right now but I am sure that a way to pick up an extra mil is enticing for some.
It was a bummer that last night’s Spring Training game against the Philadelphia Phillies was not televised. Although the game ended in a 5-5 tie, it was Bryce Harper’s first Phillies start against the Yankees. If for no other reason, I am looking forward to the regular season so that every game is televised. Harper was booed unmercifully by the Yankee fans at Steinbrenner Field or so they say since I didn’t actually see it. I don’t really get it. It’s not Bryce’s fault that he is not a Yankee. The Yankees chose not to pursue him in free agency despite the wishes of the fans. Bryce is on record saying the Yankees never reached out to him despite his childhood love for the Pinstripes. If Bryce historically crushed Yankee pitching, then maybe that’s a reason to boo him but he has been largely ineffective in his short body of work facing the Yankees. I would have liked for the Yankees to sign Harper but they didn’t and we must move on. I know I am very excited to see what Year 2 brings for Giancarlo Stanton. Regardless of whether you preferred Harper over Stanton, I think Stanton is going to be more relaxed this year and will more closely resemble the player that dominated baseball in 2017 for the Miami Marlins.
Back to the first base competition, I thought it was funny when it was reported yesterday that Aaron Boone was wearing a Luke Voit t-shirt in the clubhouse. Boone also commented that Voit batting cleanup (as he did last night) could carry into the season, adding that he could see Voit anywhere from third to sixth in the order. In other words, it is Greg Bird and not Voit who should be making living accommodations in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area.
Jose Canseco, shut up! Your fifteen minutes of fame came and went. Let it go, Cheater. Alex Rodriguez owes you nothing.
|Credit: Getty Images|
For those of you who are New York Jets fans, my apologies for the Anthony Barr situation but I am glad it worked out the way it did. Granted, Barr, a linebacker, is not a superstar level player but I like his role in Minnesota’s defense. I’ve been a lifelong Vikings fan. I think Barr is capable of so much more and I hope the Vikings use Barr as an edge rusher like the Jets intended to do. For those of you not following, Barr had agreed to a free agent deal with the Jets on Monday, only to renege the next morning and subsequently sign an extension to stay in Minneapolis. I had been dreading NFL free agency, fearful of losing Barr. The Vikings had done a good job of signing their young core players despite the massive overpay for QB Kirk Cousins, but Barr had remained unsigned. With salary cap implications, it appeared Barr would be wearing a different uniform this Fall. For a few hours earlier this week, the Jets fans thought he’d be wearing hunter green and white. For all of Minnesota’s free agents, Barr was the one I wanted to keep. Jets fans were unhappy about his change of heart but I was truly grateful. It kind of reminded me of the time David Wells had a change of heart after agreeing to a two-year deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks and signed with the Yankees on a napkin. There may not have been a napkin involved with Barr but the impact is the same. Glad he’s on my team.
As always, Go Yankees!
Trading Deadline May Bring More New Faces…
I am not sure which time is more important today…4 pm Eastern when the Non-Waiver Trading Deadline ends or 7:05 pm Eastern when the New York Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles get after it on the Yankee Stadium turf. This is always one of my favorite days of the year and there is generally a flurry of activity. Whether or not our favorite team decides to play remains to be seen but I am sure it will be thrilling to the finish. Then, let’s go out and beat the Orioles.
Friggin’ Boston won last night, unfortunately. The Philadelphia Phillies took the Red Sox into extra innings before Blake Swihart won it with a walk-off ground rule double in the bottom of the 13th inning, scoring Eduardo Nunez with the winning run. So, the Yankees begin play tonight six games behind the Red Sox in the AL East. Boston also plugged a hole at second base last night when they acquired the hard-nosed Ian Kinsler from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to fill in for the injured Dustin Pedroia. Thanks for nothing, Billy Eppler.
I was very surprised with yesterday’s moves by the Yankees. After the dust settled, the Yankees had replaced reliever Adam Warren with a better swingman pitcher, Lance Lynn, and they were able to do it without adding payroll. The news of Adam Warren’s trade to the Seattle Mariners struck first. Maybe I am not so surprised that Warren was traded (we eventually have to make room for Tommy Kahnle, and A.J.Cole, though seldom used, has proven valuable in long relief). However, I was surprised the Yankees traded him to the Seattle Mariners, a team the Yankees are likely to face in a Wild Card elimination game if they are unsuccessful in catching the Red Sox. The Yankees seem to be on a mission to rebuild the bullpens for both the Orioles and the Mariners. Warren, a free agent after the season, will join former Yankee James Pazos in the Mariners pen. David Phelps is also a Mariner but he’s on the disabled list after undergoing Tommy John surgery earlier this year. To the Yankees’ credit, they didn’t trade Phelps to the Mariners but Pazos and outfielder Ben Gamel were ‘roster-crunch’ deliveries to the Great Northwest. Warren was not flashy but it always seemed like the guy did his job. I will miss his consistency in the pen. For Warren, the Yankees acquired more international bonus pool money. You can’t blame GM Brian Cashman for looking ahead to the future while making his ‘right now’ moves.
Later, the Warren trade became clearer when the Yankees swung a deal with the Minnesota Twins for starter Lance Lynn. The cost was first baseman Tyler Austin (which explains why the Yankees acquired first baseman Luke Voit from the St Louis Cardinals) and minor league pitcher Luis Rijo. Lynn (7-8, 5.10 ERA) does not excite me as a starter but I recognize he fills a void as the rotation’s sixth man. Lynn has also started two games against the Boston Red Sox this year and fared well both times. In his most recent game last Friday, Lynn held Boston to two runs over six innings but did not factor into the decision (a game the Twins lost 4-3). On June 20th, Lynn was the winner when he held the Sox to only one run (none earned) and three hits with five innings of work. Lynn walks too many guys (62 batters in 102 1/3 innings or 1.632 WHIP, Yikes!) but maybe Cashman is right that Lynn’s stuff plays up in the bullpen. We’ll see. I am a little sad to see Tyler Austin go. The guy loved being a Yankee and I had felt he should have been the one to get the call when Aaron Judge was placed on the DL. I will miss his attitude on the team even if he never really delivered the results that warranted his place on the roster. Maybe he was never given enough of a chance. Regardless, I hope he prospers in Minneapolis when he gets his opportunities. A good guy that I am sorry to see leave.
I am not sure what today will bring. With the Yankees so close to the luxury tax threshold, I honestly do not see any major moves of significance. If the Yankees do make a trade or two, they’ll most likely have to shed some payroll as the team needs money for September callups and any other necessary roster additions between now and the end of the season. So, as much as Yankees fans would love it, there’s no scenario where I see the Yankees making the bold decision to shed high level prospects for the great Bryce Harper. If there’s anything about this afternoon’s deadline that excites me, it is the end of the ‘Harper to the Yanks’ rumors. Team Hal is not going to pay (prospects or money) to bring Harper to New York regardless of how we may feel.
I do think the Yankees will pick up a bat today. I was sorry to see the Cincinnati Reds trade outfielder Adam Duvall to the Atlanta Braves because I thought Duvall would have fit nicely in the Bronx. More than likely, we’ll see a reunion with someone like former Yankee Curtis Granderson, which clearly does not exactly excite me. He is a wonderful character guy, one of the best, great for the clubhouse. But the skills have faded with age. I’d prefer to see a player with a greater ceiling added.
I am keeping my expectations low for today. I’d love for Brian Cashman to shock the World but I don’t think it is going to be that kind of day. I think 2 pm will come and go quietly for the Yankees.
The Yankees acquired RHP Sonny Gray a year ago today. It will be interesting to see if he is still a Yankee at the conclusion of the day. Happy Anniversary…don’t let the door hit you on the way out. If the Yankees do somehow pry Chris Archer from the Tampa Bay Rays (improbable if you ask me), I think it is a certainty Gray will be wearing a different uniform tomorrow.
As for other transactions, the acquisition of closer Roberto Osuna by the Houston Astros was shocking to say the least. Osuna has been a brilliant closer (the Yankees certainly have not been able to hit against him), but for a team that is so concerned about character, the addition of a player who has missed the majority of the season due to a 75-game suspension for violating MLB’s Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse policy, it is alarming. I was saddened to see Ken Giles leave Houston since the Yankees seem to do so well against him but I guess we’ll have better opportunities now with the Blue Jays pen. From a talent-standpoint, Osuna was probably a great addition for Houston but you wonder what it will do to clubhouse chemistry. Osuna is eligible to return next week.
Okay, I will go ahead and dream a little…
It’s not going to happen but like Manny Machado, it is certainly fun to think about.
If anything, the flurry of Yankees activity over the past week has freed up some good numbers. 26, 29, 43, 45. Lately it has seemed like the last guy on the roster always gets 38. If I was A.J. Cole, I’d trade in 67 quickly before a newcomer snags one of the lower numbers. Or I wouldn’t blame Miguel Andujar for cashing in his pitcher’s number 41 for a more appealing one like 26. Chasen Shreve was unable to keep his number 45 with the St Louis Cardinals, thanks to some guy named Bob Gibson. Shreve opted for Luis Severino’s number. I had to wonder if it was a nod to Sevy.
To go off topic, I am very glad to see the Minnesota Vikings re-sign wide receiver Stefon Diggs, the recipient of the Minneapolis Miracle catch last fall in the play-off game against the New Orleans Saints. When the Vikings paid huge money in the off-season to free agent quarterback Kirk Cousins, I was fearful there would be severe ramifications on other spots on the roster. Since then, the Vikings have signed key players to extensions like LB Eric Kendricks and DE Danielle Hunter, among others. The Vikings still need to find a way to secure LB Anthony Barr, but the nucleus of the its core is in place. A few years ago, wide receiver was such a troublesome spot for the Vikings. They failed miserably a few with former first round pick Cordarrelle Patterson and there were no apparent bright spots on the horizon. Now, Diggs and Adam Thielen have developed to give the Vikings a great catching duo, one of the best in the NFL, for Cousins, and the three will be in place at least through the 2020 season. Vikings EVP-Football Operations Rob Brzezinski is a master with the salary cap. He doesn’t get enough credit and recognition for his value to the Vikings. Diggs’ five-year extension is expected to be worth around $14 million per year. I am very glad to see the Maryland product back in the fold. Like the Yankees, the Vikings are a good, young team with lots of promise.
Let’s see what this day and Brian Cashman have in store for us. Wins both on and off the field would be nice. We don’t want much. Total domination and annihilation of the American League is fine.
A Day Off and the O’s Before the Big Weekend…
The Yankees begin the new week with a day off in advance of a couple of games with Zach Britton’s old team, the Baltimore Orioles. But it is hard not to look ahead. A four-game showdown with the Boston Red Sox is looming right around the corner with the first game in Boston on Thursday, August 2nd, the 39th anniversary of the death of the late great Thurman Munson.
First, kudos to J.A. Happ for his impressive Yankees debut. I thoroughly enjoyed how calm and controlled he was on the mound. His experience and leadership should prove invaluable for the Yankees over the coming weeks. It was hard not to compare Happ’s debut with Nathan Eovaldi’s first game as a Red Sock. Nasty Nate pitched a shutout, but I’ll gladly take Happ’s six innings of three hit, one run ball. With the 6-3 win over the Kansas City Royals, the Yankees took three of four for their first series win since taking two of three from the Toronto Blue Jays in early July.
Photo Credit: Getty Images (Mike Stobe)
The Yankees (67-37) kept pace with the Red Sox and are 5 ½ games back in the AL East. The Red Sox host the Philadelphia Phillies for two games at Fenway Park starting tonight. They’ll have Wednesday off before the Yankees come to town. Hopefully the Yankees at least capture a split of the series in Boston, but of course three of four or a sweep would be even better. My primary goal this week is for the Yankees to not lose any further ground to the Red Sox and hopefully pick up a game or two.
Hats off to GM Brian Cashman for putting in some overtime this weekend. After Saturday night’s trade that sent relievers Chasen Shreve and Giovanny Gallegos to the St Louis Cardinals for first baseman Luke Voit and $1 million in international bonus pool money, Cash sent minor league lefty Caleb Frare to the Chicago White Sox on Sunday for an additional $1.5 million in international bonus pool money. This has been a breakout year for Frare at Double-A but unfortunately it came in the same year as his Rule 5 eligibility. So, you can’t fault Cashman for moving Frare for something rather than risk losing him for nothing. Frare, who turned 25 earlier this month, struggled with control earlier in his career after lost time due to Tommy John surgery a few years ago. Last year, he walked 52 batters in 62 2/3 innings for High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton. This year, with 44 2/3 inning pitched (primarily for Trenton), he has only walked 15. At Double-A, Frare held hitters to 27 hits and 4 earned runs over 43 2/3 innings with 57 strikeouts. This was good for an 0.62 ERA and 0.94 WHIP. Frare made a believer of Trenton manager Jay Bell who, last month, said, “He does so many things well”. Tough to lose a quality left-hander but it’s the price to pay for a stocked farm system and roster crunch in advance of this year’s Rule 5 Draft in December.
The next couple of days should be interesting to say the least. I am not really expecting Brian Cashman to make any bold moves, but you can never underestimate the Wizard. The Yankees continue to be linked to Chris Archer but if the price is Justus Sheffield, no thanks. I think the Yankees will pick up a bat, but it won’t be a big name. You never know, a reunion with Curtis Granderson is certainly possible. The Grandy Man is not going to scare anyone at this stage of his career, but he is certainly capable of helping to hold the ship until Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge are back in action. An interesting name to me is slugger Hunter Renfroe of the San Diego Padres. The 26-year-old is only hitting .233 this year (lifetime .239 hitter) with 7 dingers and 26 RBIs but he did swat 26 home runs last year for the Padres. Another name that has come up is San Francisco Giants (and former Pittsburgh Pirate) outfielder Andrew McCutcheon. I don’t see that one happening unless the Giants pay down his contract and they are a team looking for salary relief, so it doesn’t seem to make sense. Nearly every Yankees fan would love to see Bryce Harper in pinstripes by tomorrow but that’s another move that will not happen. I expect any moves made to be fairly minor in the grand scheme of things. I do not envision the trades of Sheffield, Albert Abreu, Estevan Florial or Clint Frazier. We’ll see. Brian Cashman is certainly capable of shocking the World…or standing pat. With a portion of the international bonus pool money received, the Yankees yesterday signed 16-year-old RHP Osiel Rodriguez from Cuba. The Yankees had been linked to Rodriguez since the current signing period opened earlier this month and they finally signed him for $600,000. Despite his youth, Rodriguez is already 6’3” and 205 lbs. Per MLB.com, “One of the top pitchers on the international market this year, Rodriguez is the latest in a long line of Cuban stars chasing the big league dream. The right-hander’s fastball has been clocked at 97 mph and the pitch usually hovers in the low- to mid-90’s. There is some concern about a drop in velocity at times, but evaluators attribute the decrease to normal fatigue or being overworked on the showcase circuit. A strike-thrower, Rodriguez has a good mound presence and demeanor. He changes his arm slot and throws several different pitches at different angles, which has proven to be both a blessing and a curse as far as scouts are concerned. Evaluators love his “big arm”, but the club that signs him might ask the teenager to refine his approach and focus on only three pitches. He has an unorthodox – sometimes described as a ‘violent’ – delivery, but it has not impacted his pitchability.” Welcome to the Yankees Family, Osiel! We’re very pleased to have you on our side.
Lastly, my condolences to the friends and family of Minnesota Vikings offensive line coach Tony Sparano who died last week at age 56. The Vikings are a young and exciting team and I had been looking forward to Sparano’s leadership of the offensive line to provide support for new Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. Sparano, to me, had seemed overqualified to be an assistant coach but I was so grateful that he was part of Coach Mike Zimmer’s staff. The Vikings replaced Sparano in-house by moving Tight Ends coach Clancy Barone to the O-Line as Co-Offensive Line Coach along with Andrew Janocko, who was elevated from his role as Assistant Offensive Line Coach. Senior Offensive Assistant Todd Downing, the former Raiders offensive coordinator who joined the Vikings in February, will take over tight ends. I think Mike Zimmer made the best possible moves for his staff but clearly there is no replacing what Tony Sparano meant to the Vikings. He will be missed. God Speed, Coach Sparano. May you rest in peace.
It will be a tough day today with no Yankees baseball, but enjoy it anyway. As always, Go Yankees!
With the help of a Walker…
Neil Walker makes his much anticipated debut in a Yankees lineup today in the only Spring rematch of the American League Championship Series against the Houston Astros…and the game is not televised…ugh! With no offense to the Cleveland Indians and the Boston Red Sox, this is one Spring game that could be a preview of coming attractions for October. Obviously, the outcome of this game decides nothing but I look forward to the Yankees-Astros battles over the course of the coming season. Hey, H-Town, we’re coming for you…
|Photo Credit: AP (Kathy Willens)|
As it stands, based on the comments floating out of camp, it appears that Tyler Wade has the advantage to start at second base for the Yankees against the Toronto Blue Jays on March 29th. His at-bat yesterday against Pittsburgh Pirates closer Felipe Rivero was epic. After Rivero sent Wade backwards into the dirt with a high and inside pitch, Wade battled back and worked a hard-fought walk. Last year, I have no doubt he would have struck out in that situation, allowing Rivero to get inside his head. Time and again, Wade is making the plays to show that he belongs. Given how much corporate executives raved about him over the winter and his subsequent performance this Spring, it’s easy to see why his name will be on the Opening Day roster. Walker’s flexibility to play multiple positions will most certainly keep his bat in the lineup even if Wade becomes the starter. Both Danny Espinosa and Adam Lind paid the price for the Walker signing as evidenced by their releases, but I think the remaining player most adversely impacted will be Ronald Torreyes. It is interesting and perhaps telling that Walker’s debut against the Astros will feature him at first base rather than second base. Have bat; will travel. Walker is ready to help wherever he is need in the infield except for shortstop and catcher. But something tells me he’d play those positions if they let him.
I remain very high on Brandon Drury. At the beginning of training camp, so many jumped on the Miguel Andujar bus after his series of home runs, but based on the signals I was reading, the organization feels that he needs more time to work on his defensive game. Also, given the many signs that there is mutual interest between the Yankees and Manny Machado, it makes you wonder about Andujar’s future in the organization. It seems like he is destined to be trade bait at some point. Nevertheless, for now, I am excited about Brandon Drury’s presence at third base even if Andujar or maybe Machado takes his job at some point in the future.
Joel Sherman of The New York Post recently ran an article which detailed how highly Drury is thought of by the Arizona Diamondbacks. They didn’t want to trade him but it was the only way they could land Steven Souza Jr from the Tampa Bay Rays to replace slugger J.D. Martinez who, as we know, left via free agency to sign with a certain team in Massachusetts. In his column, Sherman quotes D-Backs manager Torey Lovullo saying Drury might hit 30 home runs this year. Admittedly, that might be a bit too optimistic, but I like the potential of the player. The quote by Lovullo that stuck out with me is: “A great competitor, a great teammate. Cares on a pretty impressive level about being the absolute best he can be every single day. The Yankees got a special player. Very quiet. Very intense. But very attentive.” I feel strongly that Drury is going to be a significant contributor for the 2018 Yankees. Frankly, I’d love for him to play so well the Yankees decide they don’t need Machado.
|Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Jonathan Dyer)|
It was disappointing to see Chance Adams’ reassignment to Minor League Camp on a down note. It wasn’t a great spring for him. He pitched in three games for a total of 4 2/3 innings, departing with 0-1 record and 11.57 ERA. 9 hits…ouch…6 runs…ouch…3 walks…ouch. In my eyes, both Justus Sheffield and Albert Abreu represent stronger future rotation possibilities. I am starting to side with those who believe that Adams’ future lies in the bullpen. It wasn’t only this Spring, there were signs last year in Triple A that started making me question his future as a starter. With all sincerity, I hope he proves me wrong. But that’s up to him, not me.
I like Jordan Montgomery but realistically, if the price is right, I’d still sign Alex Cobb. Pitching, pitching, pitching…you can never have enough.
Manager Aaron Boone is going to have so many options when he writes up his lineups depending upon matchups, but I really liked yesterday’s Aaron Judge-Giancarlo Stanton-Gary Sanchez sequence against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Sanchez, of course, killed it with 5 RBI’s. I am convinced that El Gary can be “the beast” in the batting order all season long. Best hitter on the team in my opinion. Then again, there are no weaknesses, top to bottom. Boone could use a Power Ball machine to determine his batting order and not be wrong. Okay, that approach might be a little too much, but how many first-time managers are handed the keys to a Lamborghini? Poor Ron Gardenhire was the most experienced manager hired in the off-season and he was given a Ford Pinto. For Boonie, life is good.
I’d take $84 million guaranteed too…
With my apologies to those of you who are Jets fans, I am glad that QB Kirk Cousins signed with the Minnesota Vikings. Of course, I say that as a lifelong (long suffering?) Vikings fan. Perhaps Minnesota overpaid for a QB with a losing record, but I like Cousins as the team’s new field general. I have greater faith in him than I did the three Vikings quarterbacks who departed via free agency. Case Keenum. Great guy, but was it him or the system? Could be a one-season wonder. Maybe not, but I’d rather have the guy who is coming off three consecutive 4,000 yard seasons. Sam Bradford. Love the arm, but the dude can’t stay healthy. Teddy Bridgewater. He looked like the future star of the organization until the devastating knee injury. Do we really know if he can successfully make it back? For a team that is Super Bowl-caliber, the Vikings couldn’t take the chance. Bridgewater could blossom for the Jets and provide them with the QB they’ve been lacking. From a character standpoint, you’d be hard-pressed to find many better than Bridgewater. I think the Jets made the right move to sign him. I really hope that he realizes the greatness that seemed destined for him in Minnesota. There’s no doubt he has championship-quality drive and determination.
During the press conference yesterday in Minneapolis to announce the signing, Cousins sounded a bit like Brian Cashman talking about Aaron Boone in his description of how the city and team “checked all the boxes”. I kept anticipating some type of “expect to be great” line in Kirk’s speech but he did “check the boxes” for me by mentioning Super Bowls (plural). Works for me. Congratulations to Kirk and his family. I wish him much success and happiness in the Twin Cities. Now, just bring me the Super Bowl, I means Super Bowls, that I’ve waited all my life for!
|Photo Credit: Star Tribune (Elizabeth Flores)|
But, back to baseball. Go Yankees!
|Photo Credit: Kevin C Cox, Getty Images|
Red Thunder Gets No Rest…
Now that we don’t have Gerrit Cole rumors to fuel our days, it looks like we’ll be hearing more and more about Yu Darvish until he finally signs somewhere.
John Harper of The New York Daily News floated a trade possibility this morning. In his scenario, the Yankees would send Jacoby Ellsbury and Clint Frazier to the San Francisco Giants for second baseman Joe Panik. By including Frazier, Harper figures the Yankees could get the Giants to pay $12-$13 million annually of what’s left on Ellsbury’s contract. In his line of thinking, the trade would open the pathway for the Yankees to sign Darvish so he basically views it as an Ellsbury/Frazier swap for Darvish/Panik.
|Photo Credit: Lance Iversen, USA TODAY Sports|
I am not sure that I’m crazy about the trade idea but if the Yankees were willing to send Frazier to Pittsburgh for Cole, they’d be willing to move him to bring in Yu Darvish.
If the Yankees carried a fifth outfielder on the roster to start the year (assuming Ellsbury and Frazier are dealt), it would most likely be Tyler Austin, who could back up first and the corner outfield spots, or Billy McKinney, an outfielder who did work at first base during the Arizona Fall League.
Panik’s presence would allow the Yankees to take their time with Gleyber Torres or move him to third base as once planned. A native New Yorker, Panik, 27, hit .288 with 10 home runs and 53 RBIs for the Giants in 2017. He was eligible for arbitration for the first time this year and settled with the Giants last week for $3.45 million. He can be a free agent in 2021. His lefty bat would play well in Yankee Stadium.
No one is going to take Ellsbury in a straight one-for-one swap, even with boatloads of cash included. So as much as I’d hate to lose Frazier, this is probably a trade that I’d make so long as I knew that I could sign either Darvish or Alex Cobb for the starting rotation.
In an unrelated rumor, Jim Bowden is saying that the Milwaukee Brewers are interested in signing third baseman Mike Moustakas if they could trade Travis Shaw to the Braves, Mets or Yankees. I’m never too excited about adding an ex-Red Sock, but Shaw had a breakout year for the Brewers in 2017 with 31 home runs and 101 RBIs. He batted .273/.349/.513. He is a left-handed bat and will turn 28 in mid-April. Not sure what level of interest the Yankees might have, but it bears watching. It would certainly cause much angst in the Red Sox Nation.
|Photo Credit: Jim Davis, Globe Staff|
Congrats Hideki Matsui…
According to The Japan Times, former Yankee (and Yomiuri Giant) Hideki Matsui has been elected to the Japanese Hall of Fame. At 43 years and 7 months, Matsui is the youngest entrant to the Japanese HOF, eclipsing former Dodgers/Mets pitcher Hideo Nomo, who was 45 years and 4 months at the time of his election.
Before heading to the United States to join the Yankees, Matsui won three Central League home run titles (1998, 2000, and 2002) and he was MVP of the CL in 1996, 2000, and 2002.
This was Matsui’s first year on the Japanese ballot and he garnered 91.3% of the vote. He was joined by former Hanshin Tigers star Tomoaki Kanemoto and former Yomiuri Giants manager Tatsunori Hara.
In his prepared statement, Matsui thanked his mentor, former Yomiuri Giants skipper Shigeo Nagashima. “Day in and day out, (Nagashima) checked my swing, and those days formed the cornerstone for me as a baseball player.”
|Photo Credit: Kyodo|
Hideki’s father, Masao, attended the announcement ceremony on his behalf. Hideki is in New York and was unable to attend.
Congratulations to the great #55 for the well-deserved honor!
Stanton and Judge who?…
Aaron Hicks caused quite a stir on Instagram this weekend when he posted a workout pic that shows he is more than capable of holding his own in the Yankees outfield. I was a little shocked when I first saw the pic and there were plenty of people who questioned whether or not it really was A-A-Ron (it is). Justin Diamond (@justindiamond) had the best tweet: “Sweet baby Jesus. @AaronHicks31 you on the juice this off-season?”…
Wow, what a football game!…
As a lifelong Minnesota Vikings fan, I’ve endured my share of disappointment over the years. The Vikings have found more unique ways to lose big games than any NFL team that I can think of. Well, outside of the Buffalo Bills. Yesterday’s NFC Playoff game against the New Orleans Saints was a game of atonement for me.
The Vikings jumped out to a 17-0 lead in the first half and I was getting congratulations from a number of friends. As a Vikings fan, I knew it was way too early to start getting excited. Plus, Drew Brees is still one of the game’s great quarterbacks. Sure enough, a couple of plays in the second half shifted the momentum to the Saints. The Vikings lost the lead and then re-captured it with less than 2 minutes to go. I was fearful that the Vikings had left too much time on the clock for Brees and Company and unfortunately I was right. Brees led the Saints to a field goal to re-capture the lead at 24-23 with 25 seconds left. Starting on their own 25 after a touchback on the kickoff, the Vikings moved to their 39 and faced a third down with 10 seconds left and no time outs. I was resigned to the agony of defeat when Vikings QB Case Keenum hit WR Stefon Diggs for a 61-yard touchdown to win the game. The Vikings won the game, 29-24. It was such an incredible feeling…something like Aaron Judge hitting a game-winning home run in the bottom of the 9th.
|Photo Credit: Pioneer Press|
I am not sure what will happen next week in Philadelphia as the Vikings take on the Eagles for the NFC Championship but I am enjoying the ride. The Eagles are the only thing that stands between the Vikings and playing this year’s Super Bowl at US Bank Stadium in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota. So regardless of whether they win or lose, the Vikings are going home. I just hope it is with a game still be played.
Lastly, We Remember…
Today, we remember the late great Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. Actually, he is thought of every day, but today is officially his day. He had so many great words over the course of his life, but I’ll leave this post with one: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Thank you, Dr King, for making a difference. We are a better country because of you and would have been even greater if you hadn’t been taken from us prematurely. We are forever grateful for you and your efforts to make this a better World for all of us.
Never forget MLK Jr…
|Photo Credit: Brad Penner, USA TODAY Sports|
And Thus Endeth the Cole Rumors…
The trade rumor that wouldn’t go away…did. The Pittsburgh Pirates finally traded their so-called ace to the Houston Astros for a package that included reliever Joe Musgrove (a speculated middle-of-the-rotation starter type), third baseman Colin Moran, reliever Michael Feliz, and minor league outfielder Jason Martin. Moran, former Major Leaguer B.J. Surhoff’s nephew, was the Astros’ seventh-rated prospect according to MLB.com.
If the Yankees did, in fact, offer Clint Frazier, Chance Adams, and Miguel Andujar to the Pirates, Pittsburgh GM Neal Huntington didn’t stop until he could find a much worse package for Steel Town. In reality, the trade shows that GM Brian Cashman never offered the much talked about packages for Cole. It’s been said that he may have only offered Clint Frazier OR Chance Adams. The Yankees were clearly not as high on Cole as the Astros were.
I’m glad the page can finally be turned. I am in favor of adding a starting pitcher only if it upgrades the current starting rotation. After completion of the one-year contracts for all the arbitration-eligible players, the Yankees have approximately $22 million left before they hit the luxury tax threshold (which is, of course, a hard “salary cap” in the Hal Steinbrenner Universe) of $197 million. The Yankees will not use all of that money so to say that they have $22 million left to spend is a bit of a misnomer. They need to set aside $2 million in case CC Sabathia hits his bonus milestones and there’s no way that Team Hal will bring payroll (AAV) tightly against the threshold. He’ll want a buffer and of course there needs to be enough room to play at the trading deadline. Only the Yankees truly know how much money they have left to spend.
If the Yankees did sign a free agent pitcher like Yu Darvish or Alex Cobb, it is a certainty that the contract of Brett Gardner or David Robertson would be moved to make room. With the money the Yankees would have to include with Jacoby Ellsbury if they could entice him to waive his no-trade clause, I don’t think moving him would provide enough salary space for a big ticket purchase. They’d have to find a team willing to take at least half of his current salary and honestly I don’t think that team exists.
Chris Archer, we’re coming for you. With Cole out of the picture, the pitcher most likely to draw top speculation as the guy targeted for the Yankees, it is the talented 29-year-old righthander of the Tampa Bay Rays. Of course, it’s possible that we could start hearing Michael Fulmer’s name again but both men continue to carry high price tags. If he doesn’t get a viable role for the 2018 Yankees (i.e., trade of Gardner or Ellsbury to make way), Frazier would look very good in Detroit’s outfield.
Even despite the current stagnant free agent market, I don’t think either Mike Moustakas or Todd Frazier will accept a one-year “pillow” contract regardless of what happens between now and training camp. I like the left-handed bat of Moustakas but I think he’ll eventually end up with the St Louis Cardinals.
At this point, there is not really much left to do for the Yankees except make preparations to to start training camp in a month. Now that long-time coach Rob Thomson (annual organizer of training camp) is in Philadelphia, third base coach Phil Nevin and others will have to step up and deliver for new manager Aaron Boone. I am looking forward to the results of their preparation and organization as they host the members and challengers for the 2018 New York Yankees.
Go ahead, underestimate Didi Gregorius…
The MLB Network has been reviewing their top ten lists at each position, but they blew it for shortstops. The omission of Didi Gregorius is wrong. There’s no way that I’d trade Didi for half of the guys on this list:
Tim Beckham over Didi is a joke. Trevor Story was struggling to hold his job last season and it’s only a matter of time until Rockies top prospect Brendan Rodgers pushes him out of the way.
That’s fine. Pitch to Didi like you think he’s an afterthought in the Yankees lineup and let’s see what happens.
Congratulations to Tyler Austin…
Tyler Austin proposed to his long-time girlfriend, Stephanie Dana, over the weekend and she said yes. Hopefully this is a sign that 2018 is shaping up to be a fantastic year for the young Yankees first baseman/outfielder. Congrats to Tyler and Stephanie!
The New York Mess…
The Mets are really going to sign free agent first baseman Adrian Gonzalez? It makes me appreciate every day that I am a Yankees fan. Nothing like pushing a young, promising first baseman (Dominic Smith) out of the way for an aged ‘has-been’. Jon Heyman’s argument is that A-Gon only costs the minimum and there are questions about Smith’s conditioning. Viable arguments but I am glad that A-Gon is on their team and not mine.
|Photo Credit: Orange County Register|
Life as a Minnesota Vikings fan has not been as rewarding as life as a Yankees fan, but the best Vikings team in years takes the field today against the New Orleans Saints in the NFC playoffs. The winner moves on to the NFC Championship to play the Eagles in Philadelphia. I am hopeful and optimistic that the Vikings will be the ones traveling to the City of Brotherly Love.
The Vikings will feature three active QB’s behind starter Case Keenum. Sam Bradford, who missed the majority of the season with a knee injury, was activated for today’s game. He’ll be joined by fellow QB’s Teddy Bridgewater and Kyle Sloter. With Keenum, Bradford, and Bridgewater all potential free agents after the season, I was very glad to see the Vikings waive backup TE Kyle Carter rather than Sloter to free up a spot for Bradford. Bradford was the starting QB in the season opener when the Vikings beat the Saints. My hope is that all three backups need to do no more than hold clipboards while Keenum continues his season of rejuvenation.
And as always, Go Yankees!
|Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports|
Yankees 13, Tigers 4…
Watch out, the Yankees have the runs! Seriously, it was great to finally have a breather. The tone was set early when Gary Sanchez blasted the second longest home run this year (493 feet) as the Yankees throttled the Tigers.
Aaron Hicks got the party started in the first inning with a one-out single, a grounder up the middle. Enter El Gary. Boom! He blasted a moon shot that flew over all rows in the left field stands and bounced off the back wall just under the LED board that shows pitch count. The home run was two feet short of the home run Aaron Judge hit on June 11th against the Baltimore Orioles. Aaron Judge, moved down in the order to clean-up, worked a walk off Tigers pitcher Matthew Boyd. Didi Gregorius, the road warrior (has hit in 16 of his last 19 road games), lined a double to right-center. Judge advanced to third. The Yankees picked up their final run of the inning when Tyler Austin lofted a sacrifice fly to center which scored Judge. 3-0, Yankees.
|Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports|
With Masahiro Tanaka cruising, the Yankees picked up more runs in the third. Aaron Judge led off with another walk. Didi Gregorius hit an infield bouncer toward third that glanced off the leg of the pitcher, Matthew Boyd, as he attempted to field the ball. Didi was awarded a hit. Tyler Austin lined a solid fly that dropped in left, scoring Judge. Didi moved to second. After Chase Headley lined out to center, Todd Frazier ripped the ball down the line to the right field corner. Both Judge and Gregorius scored. The Toddfather safely slid into third ahead of the outfield relay. The Tigers pulled Boyd and brought in reliever Warwick Saupold. Ronald Torreyes, the little man always coming up big, lined a sacrifice fly to right, and Frazier slid into home under the throw from the outfield. The Yankees led, 7-0.
The Tigers finally got on the board in the bottom of the 3rd. James McCann led off with a liner to center to reach first. Two outs later, Ian Kinsler hit a long fly that bounced off the warning track in center for a double. McCann scored on the play.
The Yankees loaded the bases in the 4th with a single (Gary Sanchez) and two walks (Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin) but couldn’t score. With Warwick Saupold still on the mound, they broke through with more runs in the 5th. Todd Frazier lined a single to left. Ronald Torreyes chopped a hit through the left side for single. Brett Gardner hit into a fielder’s choice to first baseman Miguel Cabrera, Cabrera off first, threw to second to erase Toe. Gardy was too fast for the Tigers to get the ball back to first. Runners at the corners. Aaron Hicks hit an infield grounder toward first that Miguel Cabrera couldn’t field cleanly. It was ruled a fielder’s choice with Hicks safely reaching base. Frazier scored on the play while Gardy took second. After Gary Sanchez struck out, Aaron Judge ripped the ball to left to score Gardy. The Yankees had increased their lead to 9-1. It was the end of the day for Saupold. I was sorry to see him go. The Tigers brought in Drew VerHagen and he got the Tigers out of the inning by inducing Didi Gregorius to ground out to second.
The 7th inning brought more runs for both sides. I am sure that Sonny Gray was feeling slightly envious of the run support Masahiro Tanaka was getting. Brett Gardner led off the 7th with a triple, a long fly to right that Alex Presley couldn’t catch up to. Aaron Hicks followed with a shot into the right center field stands and the Yankees had added to their lead, 11-1.
|Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports|
In the bottom of the inning, the Tigers finally broke through against Tanaka again. John Hicks, pinch-hitting for Miguel Cabrera, doubled to left. Nicholas Castanellos homered to right, just a few rows up in the stands and it was 11-3. Following a coaching visit to the mound by pitching coach Larry Rothschild, Andrew Romine hit a ball down the left field line similar to the ball that John Hicks had hit, but Gardy’s throw to second was ahead of the runner for the out. A ground out by James McCann ended the inning and the game for Masahiro Tanaka.
Chasen Shreve replaced Tanaka in the 8th. He retired the Tigers despite a double by Jose Iglesias to push the game to the 9th. With Tigers reliever Jeff Ferrell pitching, Tyler Wade, pinch-hitting for Ronald Torreyes, reached on an infield single to short thanks to his speed out of the box. Following line outs by Brett Gardner and Aaron Hicks, Gary Sanchez hit his second home run, a blast to right. It was 13-3 Yankees. The homer was El Gary’s 25th of the year. He is only 5 homers of the team record shared by Jorge Posada and Yogi Berra (twice). All this from a man who missed a month of the season. I think he likes the third hole in the lineup.
Shreve finished up the 9th to protect the bullpen. There was a bit of comedy with Nicholas Castanellos at bat (easy to say when the Yankees are holding a 10-run lead). Castanellos hit a fly to center. Jacoby Ellsbury tried to catch the ball on a slide but the ball got past him and rolled to the wall. Brett Gardner retrieved it and threw to the cut-off man, Tyler Wade, who threw home too late to get Castanellos. Inside-the-park home run and the second HR of the night for Castanellos. Andrew Romine followed with a high fly ball that took Brett Gardner to the wall but Gardy made the catch to end the game. The Yankees win!
The Yankees (67-57), who picked up a 1/2 game during Monday’s day off thanks to a Red Sox loss, couldn’t make up any ground on Tuesday as Boston pounded the Cleveland Indians, 9-1. It was an interesting game for the Red Sox as starter Doug Fister gave up a lead off home run to Francisco Lindor and then held the Indians hitless for the duration of the game. Not bad for a bargain basement pickup. The Yankees trail the Sox by 4 games. The battle for third place in the AL East continues to swing back and forth between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Baltimore Orioles. The Rays beat the Toronto Blue Jays, 6-5, to move back into third. They are 6 1/2 games behind the Yankees. The O’s fell to the Oakland A’s, 6-4. They are 7 games back of the Yankees. No change in the Wild Card standings as the Yankees continue to lead the Minnesota Twins by 2 1/2 games.
I had no problem with Manager Joe Girardi’s decision to pinch-hit for Aaron Judge in the 7th inning. Judge had four at-bats. He walked three times and had the RBI single. He also scored two times. It was a productive day for him and it was time for the MLB-record for strikeouts in consecutive games to end at 37. Girardi denied pulling Judge to end the streak but regardless of whether or not he did, I thought it was the right thing to do.
|Credit: Carlos Osorio-Associated Press|
The two-run home run masked an otherwise tremendous start by Masahiro Tanaka (9-10). This is the pitcher the Yankees need down the stretch. His final line was 7.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 4 SO which qualified as a quality start but it was better than that. Nice job, Masa!
|Credit: Carlos Osorio-Associated Press|
It was a very productive night for Gary Sanchez, including the two home runs, and Aaron Hicks, with his dinger. They had 4 and 3 RBI’s, respectively. Every Yankees starter reached base by either hit or walk. We needed this. Hopefully the Yankees will continue to hit and drive in runs during this road trip.
Have a great Wednesday! The Yankees can take the series today with a win. Go Luis Severino and Go Yankees!