Category: MLB

Is Status Quo enough?…

Waiting for Spring…

This is the time of year when there is not much activity in the way of baseball news.

Soon, MLB teams will be preparing for the journeys to Florida and Arizona (ala the Boston Red Sox infamous “Truck Day”).  There is still a number of free agents searching for new homes, but the Yankees have not engaged any players in known, substantive talks.

I remain convinced the Yankees need to bring in a veteran arm to compete with the young talent that will be auditioning for the two open spots in the rotation.  Jason Hammel remains available and that’s the arm I feel the Yankees should bring to camp.  But there are others.  I know that he’s not the pitcher he was earlier in the decade, but I liked San Diego’s move to sign Trevor Cahill.  A reliever for the Chicago Cubs, Cahill will get an opportunity to start again for the Padres.  Who knows if he’ll be successful or will ever be the starter that he once was, but the Padres are taking the chance.

Regardless of who the Yankees bring in, it’s a certainty that there will be a Scranton/Wilkes Barre shuttle for starters as well as relievers.  I have no doubt that names like Jordan Montgomery and Chance Adams will make their major league debuts in 2017.  The likelihood of Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia staying healthy all season long is remote.  This is why I feel that it is a very good idea to bring in a stable, consistent veteran influence like Hammel.

GM Brian Cashman would make the trade for Jose Quintana of the Chicago White Sox today if the price was right, but odds are it will be too high for the Yankees (leading to Cashman’s statement that it is 99% the Yankees will not be adding a pitcher before heading to Tampa).  I still expect the Houston Astros to pony up the prospects necessary to pry Quintana from the White Sox.  There’s no doubt Quintana would great in the Yankees rotation, but the time is not right.

There is a genuine concern that Masahiro Tanaka will have a great season and opt out of his deal next fall.  Without Tanaka, the Yankees rotation is looking very scary unless the young arms make major advancements during the season.

Here’s how the Top 3 rotations currently stack up in the AL East:

Baltimore Orioles:  Chris Tillman, Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy

Boston Red Sox:  Chris Sale, David Price and Rick Porcello

New York Yankees:  Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, and CC Sabathia

Tampa Bay Rays:  Chris Archer, Alex Cobb, and Jake Odorizzi

Toronto Blue Jays:  Marco Estrada, Aaron Sanchez, and Marcus Stroman

Clearly, Boston is the class of the division, with the Blue Jays not far behind.  There’s talent with the Orioles and Rays rotations.  The Yankees clearly hold the most questions heading into the season.  This is even more reason to shore up the back end of the rotation.

It’s tough thinking about giving up top prospects to bring in a much needed top starter.  The Yankees need an ace to pair with, or potentially replace, Tanaka.  2B/SS prospect Gleyber Torres seems to have that “It” factor that separates the great players from the good ones.  OF prospect Clint Frazier is guaranteed to be a hit in the Bronx if he gets the opportunity with a huge personality that matches the talent.

Hard decisions will need to be made as the team prepares for World Series contention within the next couple of years.  For now, Cashman needs to ensure that he gives Manager Joe Girardi the best possible arms for 2017.  It may be the best move is no move, or it may be bringing in a veteran arm or two to compete.  Either decision is a hard one.  It is time for the young guys to step up their game…

—Scott

Youth Movement is great, but…

When is there too much youth?…

The Yankees continue to be linked to the Chicago White and their latest ace-in-waiting Jose Quintana in the rumor mill but like many, I do not expect, nor want, the Yankees to give up the top prospects it would take to bring him back to New York. At the risk of being a “prospect-hugger”, I want to see Clint Frazier, Gleyber Torres, James Kaprielian and others succeed in the Bronx.


Credit: Mark J. Rebilas, USA TODAY Sports

Without getting into the analytics for why the Yankees should or should not pursue a particular pitcher, I think the best move would be to sign one of the remaining free agent pitchers (why not roll the dice, it’s only money). Or perhaps GM Brian Cashman should focus on an ‘under the radar’ trade for an arm with potential that doesn’t carry the current media focus like Quintana.

Of the remaining free agents, I would pursue either Jason Hammel or Doug Fister. Neither pitcher is flashy and both slot in at the back end of the rotation but both are capable of delivering 10+ wins which, for a #4 or #5 starter, is not bad. Fister has been the model of mediocrity for a couple of seasons and Hammel benefited from being part of a World Series caliber staff to garner his highest career victory total last year. For the back end, I want starters who can keep the team in games. Watching Luis Severino go winless in his starts was brutal. I’d easily take the dependablity and reliability of Hammel or Fister over another ‘0-fer’ performance by Sevy.

If Severino shows in spring training that he is capable of making the necessary adjustments and can be the 2015 starter version versus the 2016 bullpen-only guy, great, put him in the rotation. But that’s not a bet I’d take in Vegas.

I want to limit the ‘see if they can grow into the role’ opportunities in the rotation to no more than one. The certainties in the rotation are Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia. After that, it is a plethora of young arms. I’d prefer to see Luis Cessa succeed because I admire his attitude on the mound so he’s my favorite to add. But the stress is much greater if we have to rely upon Cessa AND Severino, Chad Green, Bryan Mitchell or Adam Warren without a strong backup plan.

If Pineda continues to struggle or if Sabathia gets hurt or further regresses, the rotation will collapse if they have to be carried by unproven prospects. I want nothing more than to see Jordan Montgomery, Dietrich Enns, Chance Adams, and Justus Sheffield get their chances. I also think Albert Albreu was a great addition. But none of those quality arms will be ready in April 2017.

It is imperative for the Yankees to bring stabilization to the rotation. If healthy, Hammel or Fister would help provide it. What is the risk in bringing in a proven veteran to compete with the kids?…

 — Scott

Nova fires back to Pittsburgh…

But at least it wasn’t for BIG money…

Good for Ivan Nova to get his new contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates.  All things considered, I am still glad that he is an ex-Yankee.  Even though the Yankees are in desperate need of help in the starting rotation, I wasn’t looking for a reunion with the right-hander.

One headline I saw did strike me as odd.  It basically said that Nova had signed but not for big money.  3 years, $26 million.  Maybe it’s just me, but $26 million is definitely “big money”.  Okay, if Nova pitches for Pittsburgh like he did after the trade from the Yankees last year, he’ll be a bargain.  But still, receiving more than $8 million per year is still a heck of a lot of money for a historically inconsistent pitcher.

But the more telling headlines are about how great Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage is.  The so-called “Pitch Doctor” is getting the credit for Nova’s turnaround performance in Pittsburgh last year.  The underlying tone of the message is that the Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild is inadequate.  If Searage is so great, perhaps the Yankees should find a way to pry him from the Pirates.

I know that Rothschild has a good reputation, but at some point, someone has to be held accountable for the inconsistencies of the Yankees starters.  Masahiro Tanaka rebounded to have a very solid 2016 campaign but the work put up by Michael Pineda continues to be frustrating to say the least.  Luis Severino was dreadful as a starter.  I can’t say that I’ve ever looked at Rothschild as an “amazing” coach.  It would be nice to have one of those for a change.

Kevin Long is an excellent hitting coach.  Yet, when Yankees hitters couldn’t hit, he lost his job and now flourishes in Queens.  He remains better than the Yankees current array of hitting coaches.  I personally felt that Long was a better hitting coach than Rothschild is a pitching coach.  Long was held accountable and so too should Rothschild.  The Yankees have too much at stake with their young, unproven starters to fail miserably because they didn’t have the right guy at the helm.

–Scott

Words create such a reaction…

Don’t say it!…

As soon as I saw the words that Aroldis Chapman had claimed overuse by Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon, I knew it would go viral.  Within minutes, the internet was flooded with stories saying Chapman had slammed Maddon.

Given that Chapman has spent time in New York (and Chicago), one would think that he would know the importance of choosing his words wisely.  In Cincinnati, he probably could have said those words, generating a few chuckles from the reporters, and never another word.  But in New York, everything is magnified.  I personally do not think Chapman meant any harm with the words nor does he hold any ill will towards Maddon and the Cubs.  He qualified his comments by saying that he was to be ready to do his job.  Maddon unnecessarily responded to the comments by saying that he had to win and Chapman always said yes.

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Credit:  Jamie Squire, Getty Images

I do not blame either man.  In the play-offs and particularly the World Series, you leave it on the field.  Whatever it takes.  Was it foolish to bring Chapman into a game with the Cubs up by 5 runs in the 7th inning of Game 6.  Sure, but we weren’t in Maddon’s shoes.  How much did he trust his other relievers?  Did he sense a potential shift in momentum?  Was Chapman simply his best option?  That is Joe Maddon’s decision…not ours.  I felt Chapman was overused and didn’t blame him for the breakdown in Game 7 based on his workload over the preceding couple of nights.  Joe did what he had to do and so did Chapman.  The end result was the first World Series championship in 108 years for the Cubs.  So if Maddon overused Chapman, so be it.  They can cry about it as they collect their World Championship rings.

To me, this is not a red flag.  I know that Joe Girardi will be selective in his use of Chapman and I think the pitcher’s presence on the Yankees is a mutual fit.  I am glad he’s back.  I am sorry for his prior domestic violence issues and while I don’t like what he did, I believe the man is capable of correcting his behavior and deserves the second chance.  I always believed in giving Steve Howe second chances and I got burned on that one, but still, I think Chapman has carried himself well during his time in New York and Chicago.  I look forward to seeing those 105 mph fastballs flying from #54 on the Yankee Stadium mound.

While I like the job Tyler Clippard did in pinstripes, he is clearly not Andrew Miller.  So even with Chapman, the Yankees bullpen is noticeably inferior to last year’s No Runs DMC.  I’d like to see the Yankees pick up another reliever to pair with Clippard as the bridge to Dellin Betances.  I’d like to see the return of former Yankee Boone Logan but would certainly accept other options.

There’s is definitely still work to be done for the bullpen but I can’t begin to say how much better I feel having Chapman back in the fold.

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Credit:  MLB.com

Say it isn’t so…

I was so saddened to hear that Yankees beat writer Mark Feinsand was leaving the New York Daily News this week.  It’s funny how we take the beat writers for granted and we grow to really appreciate the work they do day in and day out.  With Feinsand, I loved his columns, tweets, and podcasts.  He was always so insightful.  But it was a surprising sense of loss when I heard he was leaving the Daily News.

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Credit:  Corey Sipkin, New York Daily News

I don’t know what’s next for Feinsand but I hope it involves the Yankees.

I don’t follow the Brooklyn Nets so admittedly I don’t know much about Feinsand’s replacement, Mike Mazzeo, but I am looking forward to his work.

Congratulations to Feinsand for his terrific work at the Daily News and best of luck in his next endeavor!

—Scott

Bring on the High Heat…

Sanchez had better get extra padding for that mitt…

Before the Yankees re-signed closer Aroldis Chapman, there was very little talk of what they SHOULD do.  Now that Chapman is back in the fold after his brief hiatus to win a World Series championship with the Chicago Cubs, the naysayers are out in full force.

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Credit:  ESPN.com Illustration

For me, I am glad Chapman once again anchors the back end of the bullpen.  If the Yankees had not paid him the record-setting 5 year, $86 million contract for a closer, the Miami Marlins were fully prepared to step in and pay him a million more.  Like him or not, Chapman was going to get his money.

I know the current Baby Bombers Implementation Plan is in full effect and there are cheaper alternatives available.  As great as Kenley Jansen is, he would have cost the Yankees their first round draft pick in the 2017 MLB Draft (then Number 17, but now Number 16 thanks to the Colorado Rockies’ signing of OF, SS, or 1B? Ian Desmond, thereby forfeiting their higher draft selection).  In terms of dollars, in addition to the draft pick, Jansen would have cost nearly as much as Chapman.

Free agent and former Kansas City Royals closer Greg Holland is still available but he carries more questions as he attempts to come back from injury.

A reunion with former Yankees closer David Robertson was a possibility but the Chicago White Sox have shown they demand premium plus in trades.

Signing Chapman did not cost a draft pick or talent…only money which the Yankees have.

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Credit:  www.drewlitton.com

Chapman does carry the negative stigma of domestic violence but I do believe in second chances.  He has not been convicted and by all accounts no one was seriously injured (or worse).  I hope and pray it was a wake up call for Chapman.  After 20 years of a Saint in the closer’s role for the Yankees, it’s unfortunate we have to deal with these issues.  But give the man a chance for redemption.

I did not believe that Dellin Betances was suited for the closer’s role.  My suspicions proved correct when we saw Betances stumble in September after the trades of Chapman and Andrew Miller.  It may have been fatigue but I felt it was more mental.  Betances is a great setup guy, perhaps one of the best in the game.  Being a great bridge does not necessarily equate to  being a great closer.

There is no doubt I would have preferred a reunion with Andrew Miller over Chapman but that was not going to happen.  The Cleveland Indians recognize they have one of the most versatile and dependable relievers in baseball and possibly one of the most selfless guys you can ever hope to meet.  But he is Cleveland property for the next few years under a very reasonable contract.  If Cleveland was amenable to trading Miller, they would want no less than the premier talent they paid to acquire him.  OF Clint Frazier is either first or second on any given Yankees top prospect list and P Justus Sheffield is a future mainstay in the rotation.

So regardless of the other options, I am glad that #54 found his way back to the Bronx.  The trio of Tyler Clipart, Betances and Chapman may not be ‘No Runs DMC’ but they’ll be close.  The Yankees still need other bullpen upgrades (I personally would like to see another reunion with the potential signing of lefty Boone Logan) but regardless of what happens, the pen will be a strength in 2017.

Next year’s going to seem like a Holliday…

After talk the Yankees would use the DH role to cycle through its position players as a form of rest, I was glad to see the Yankees make a short-term investment in former St Louis Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday.  Any way you slice it, Holliday will be a major upgrade over the now departed Alex Rodriguez.  Last year, the Yankees offense was largely dependent upon two major underachievers, Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira.  This year, the center of the lineup features Holliday and rookie sensation Gary Sanchez.  If the Yankees can get meaningful production out of new first baseman Greg Bird and right fielder Aaron Judge, this could be a very good offense.

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Credit:  Google Images / STL Sports View

I am still a proponent of trading Brett Gardner.  I feel strongly the team needs to open up left field for other young talent and allow Holliday an occasional start.  The Yankees clearly need another starter in the rotation so if Gardner can bring in a solid #5, I’m all for it.

I think P Jason Hammel would be a good signing for the rotation but if that doesn’t happen, I am hopeful GM Brian Cashman gets creative in adding another piece.  I would much rather see the team’s young talent fighting for only one rotation spot; not two.  I am not convinced Luis Severino can be an effective starter but we know that he can be a very effective reliever.  I would rather see Adam Warren and Bryan Mitchell in swing roles, serving as the long men out of the pen.  It would be much better for Luis Cessa and Chad Green to fight each other for a rotation spot than handing it to both of them.

The heavy lifting is done for the 2017 roster but the coming weeks should bring continued improvement.  No major signings or trades are expected but just little tweaks to keep this team in contention while it looks ahead to brighter days in 2019.  This is what Brian Cashman gets paid to do it, and so far, he’s been doing it well…

–Scott

 

 

 

Roll camera, on your mark, ACTION!…

The Dawn of the Baseball Winter Meetings…

This week is always the most eventful one of the entire off-season.  A flurry of activity followed by relative silence as we head into the holidays.

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Credit:  AP Photo/Seth Wenig

Before the meetings start later this evening, the Yankees have already lost one option with Houston’s free agent signing of former Yankee Carlos Beltran.  I had mixed feelings about his possible return to New York.  He was arguably the team’s best hitter last season but he is also 40 years old.  For a team that has aggressively gotten younger, adding “old” does not necessarily make sense.  There is no guarantee that Beltran will be as good as last year, and it’s a near impossibility that he’d be better.  Going with older veterans, I’d rather sign either Matt Holliday or Mike Napoli to a short-term deal that keeps the Yankees on the right path toward World Series contention in 2018 or 2019.

Back in the old days under George Steinbrenner, I am sure that both Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista would be Yankees by now.  Of the two, I’d prefer Encarnacion but I don’t feel the Yankees should lock up huge long-term dollars for either player even if it would severely weaken the Toronto Blue Jays in the short run.  In a couple of years, they’ll just be over-paid, under-producing aging veterans.  We’ve seen enough of those in recent seasons.

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Credit:  Reuters/Ray Stubblebine

There are unofficial reports that the Los Angeles Dodgers have a deal in place with starter Rich Hill so that’s one less option on the pitching front.  A deal with Jason Hammel probably makes the most sense.  I like Hammel as a reliable, back of the rotation guy.  He would be a good complimentary piece to Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda as the team looks to fill other pitching spots with youth.  I would probably take a chance with either C.J. Wilson or Tyson Ross if given the opportunity.

It’s possible that GM Brian Cashman can uncover a quality arm via trade but it’s a virtual certainty the team won’t be involved in the Chris Sale sweepstakes.  Sale alone would not make the Yankees an immediate World Series contender and he would cost the best quality of the farm system to acquire.  So, the Yankees need to stay the course as they continue to add the pieces for future success.

I was disappointed to see minor league hitting coordinator James Rowson leave the organization.  I am happy to see him return to the major leagues as the hitting coach for the Minnesota Twins, however, I thought he would have been a better hitting coach for the Yankees than current hitting coach Alan Cockrell or assistant hitting coach Marcus Thames.  When the Yankees had dismissed Jeff Pentland last year, I was hopeful that Rowson would get the job.  It was not meant to be.  I think he’ll be a good addition to Paul Molitor’s staff in Minneapolis and should help former Yankee and current Twins’ co-catcher John Ryan Murphy to hit again.

I remain hopeful the Yankees re-sign pitchers Nathan Eovaldi and Jacob Lindgren* as they recover from Tommy John surgery.  Granted, neither pitcher will help in 2017 but I would really prefer to see them stay.

Let’s hope this week brings good news for Yankees fans…

—Scott

 

*Several hours after this post, the Atlanta Braves announced they’ve signed Lindgren to a one year deal that will allow them to retain rights to Lindgren if they add him to their 40-man roster.

The Calm before the Storm…

Can I have my cake and eat it too?…

Thanksgiving Week is generally the calm before the storm as the Hot Stove League usually doesn’t begin percolating until we get closer to the December Winter Meetings.  No offense to catcher Jason Castro, but his signing with the Minnesota Twins was not exactly major news.

The trade of Brian McCann happened as expected.  I didn’t really anticipate any frontline prospects in the trade so all things considered, I was pleased with two young pitching prospects even if they are both projects at this point.  It would have been nice for a return that represented immediate help for the major league roster, but there’s nothing wrong with stockpiling quality arms.  While it is possible that neither Albert Abreu nor Jorge Guzman ever see the big leagues, the potential is there even if it is a few years away.

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Credit:  Ben Sandstrom and MiLB.com

While I hope for the eventual arrival of top Yankees “born” prospects James Kaprielian, Jordan Montgomery, Dietrich Enns, and Ian Clarkin, it’s fun watching the progress of the newcomers (Justus Sheffield, Dillon Tate, and others).  So, it will be nice to see Abreu and Guzman in the mix.

I was very impressed with the Arizona Fall League performance by SS prospect Gleyber Torres.  Named the MVP of the AFL season, he has clearly shown that he is the future of the Yankees infield.  Didi Gregorius has been a very capable replacement for the retired Derek Jeter but at some point, he is going to be hearing Gleyber’s footsteps.  Well, either he or second baseman Starlin Castro.

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Credit:  Tim Holle / Brevard County Manatees

For my off-season wish list, it probably starts with the hopeful signing of former Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman, who graciously brought Torres to New York through the trade with the Chicago Cubs in July.  The news reports yesterday that Chapman is interested in rejoining the Yankees was very nice, but such a teaser.  It will be a disappointment if he signs elsewhere.

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Credit:  Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press

While I’ve heard the Yankees are in the mix for Carlos Beltran, along with the Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros, I would probably prefer to see the Yankees go with someone like Cleveland’s Mike Napoli for the 1B/DH role.  Napoli has been such a great clutch performer in his career.  It’s not to say that Beltran hasn’t been, but at this point, I am not really interested in 40-somethings on the roster occupying space with no upside.  Napoli is getting older but at least he’s younger than Beltran (even if only by 4 years or so).  Obviously, I would take Jose Bautista or Edwin Encarnacion over Napoli but I don’t think the Yankees will be in the market for those players due to the dollars involved.  But I am hopeful that the Yankees can find protection in the lineup for catcher Gary Sanchez.

I remain hopeful for the trade of veterans Chase Headley and Brett Gardner.  I am not sure who’d replace Headley as prospect Miguel Andujar is not ready, but I am sure that Cashman can find other options.  If the Yankees could get rid of Jacoby Ellsbury, I’d want Gardner to stay but unfortunately, Ellsbury is not going anywhere.  Therefore, it makes sense to move Gardner to free up room for younger players.  With Aaron Judge slated for right field, guys like Aaron HIcks, Mason Williams, Tyler Austin, and others need opportunity.  The most logical spot is left field.

The next few weeks should be interesting…

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Happy Thanksgiving to all!  Be safe and enjoy the time with your families.

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—Scott