Category: New York Yankees

Sonny Gray Trade? Hold, Please…

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And We Continue to Wait for Gray’s Departure…

I had two wishes for Sunday and neither one materialized for me. Sonny Gray is still a Yankee and the New England Patriots are headed to the Super Bowl. Some sports days really suck. Well, I guess it could be worse. It wouldn’t be fun to be a New Orleans Saints fan today but aside from their pain, yesterday was quite forgettable all things considered. Nevertheless, today is a new day and another opportunity to rip the Pinstripes off Sonny Douglas Gray. Please, Brian Cashman, work your magic and make it happen.

The hang up with the Cincinnati Reds appears to be their desire to sign Sonny, a free agent after the season, to an extension. Reports indicate the Reds have until later today (the conclusion of a 72-hour window) to see if they can get Sonny to put pen to paper.  MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch is reporting the deadline is sometime this evening.  Until the deal is finalized, there is a chance it could break down and the Yankees would need to pivot to other opportunities to unload young Mr Gray.

Jon Heyman’s tweet yesterday that ended with “…or keep him” was rather jarring to me. Look, I want Sonny Gray to do well at his next destination. I hope the dude recaptures the luster he once had in Oakland and puts himself into Cy Young consideration in future years. But, and that’s a very BIG but, I do not want him on the 2019 New York Yankees. I’ve seen enough shades of Gray at Yankee Stadium.

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Photo Credit: AP (Julie Jacobson)

Despite Great American Park not being known as a pitcher’s park, Cincinnati seems to have everything that would appeal to Sonny. It’s approximately 275 miles from his home in Nashville, Tennessee. It’s a young team that has added some interesting pieces this off-season with Tanner Roark, Alex Wood, Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp. They have Joey Votto and a sound closer in Raisel Iglesias. A quick check of the current Reds roster shows that his old Oakland number and the number previously worn in Cincinnati by Aroldis Chapman (54) is available. The pitching coach is Derek Johnson who happened to be Sonny’s pitching coach at Vanderbilt. Cincinnati is considered a less-pressurized small market but a team with some history and tradition. I am sure that Yankees manager Aaron Boone could give some great insight into life in Cincinnati. Oh, wait a minute, Sonny has not heard from the Yankees since the off-season began. Scratch a talk with Boonie. The Reds offer a rotation that would not put any undue pressure on Gray.  He could be the best starter or he could be the worst. It’s really up to him and I think Reds fans will be more forgiving than us.

Cash, get the Gray trade closed! We have faith in you.

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I still don’t get why there is resistance among the fanbase for Adam Ottavino to be the first Yankee to wear the number 0. I am not sure if it is because “0” is not really a number, the fact no Yankee has ever worn the number or a preference for Derek Jeter to be the one to last wear a single digit number. Maybe there are other reasons but I really have no reason to believe Otto should not wear the number. Give it to the man. He’s a native New Yorker and he’s going to wear the Pinstripes proud.

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Emily Waldon of The Athletic recently reported the Yankees will attend a showcase for RHP Rookie Davis and LHP Adam Libertore on January 31st. Libertore, a 31-year-old former Dodgers reliever who was cut last August, does not really interest me, but I’d like to see the Yankees bring back Davis for an opportunity to kick start his career again. Davis was part of the deal that originally brought Aroldis Chapman to New York. Davis was one of four Yankees who went to Cincinnati, and he probably had the most success which really isn’t saying much since none of them panned out for the Reds. Davis underwent hip surgery in October 2017 and missed most of 2018 on the disabled list.  Davis appeared in seven games for the Reds in 2017 with six starts. The numbers were awful: 1-3, 8.63 ERA, giving up 38 hits, 23 earned runs, and 7 homers in 24 innings pitched. However, he was once a bright prospect and will only be 26 in late April.  Not sure if anything is there, but why not. I wouldn’t bring him in on a Major League deal but a minor league contract to allow him to rebuild value works for me assuming it works for him.

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Photo Credit: Cincinnati Enquirer (Zach Buchanan)

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr Day so let’s honor and remember one of the greatest men in American history. He may be gone but his voice is heard loudly today and will continue to resonate through many tomorrows to come.

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As always, Go Yankees!

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Yankees Close to Sonny Gray Trade…

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Noah K Murray)

Right-hander Appears Headed to Cincy…

It has not yet been finalized but it appears the Yankees are finally close to trading right-hander Sonny Douglas Gray to the Cincinnati Reds. Hopefully there are no last minute snags and this one gets pushed across the finish line.

For Gray, he’ll get a chance for redemption with Cincinnati, which is less than 300 miles from his Nashville, Tennessee home. The Reds have been one of MLB’s most active teams this off-season, having already rebuilt their pitching staff with the acquisitions of Tanner Roark from the Washington Nationals and Alex Wood, formerly of the Los Angeles Dodgers. They’ll join holdovers Anthony DeSclafani and Luis Castillo to provide the Reds with a solid starting rotation. Maybe not good enough to win the NL Central over the Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee Brewers or St Lous Cardinals, but they’ll be better. Gray will also reunite with his pitching coach at Vanderbilt, Derek Johnson, who was named the Reds’ pitching coach in November. Maybe Johnson can do what Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild was unable to do.

While I wanted Gray to leave, there is some sadness that it did not work out for him in New York. I think all of us were excited when the Yankees acquired him from the Oakland A’s in the summer of 2017. We thought he was the missing ace that could be paired with Luis Severino to provide the Yankees with two young stars atop the rotation. Unfortunately, it was never meant to be and now Gray gets a change of scenery that will hopefully benefit him and help restore some of his luster as he heads into his walk year at the age of 29. I wish him the best and I do hope that he pitches more like the ace he once was in Oakland.

The Yankees will reportedly receive second base prospect Shed Long from the Reds. The 23-year-old Long, only 5’8” and 184 lbs, is rated as Cincinnati’s seventh best prospect per MLB.com. He is recognized as an excellent lefty hitter who has worked hard to bring up his defense to at least average. He spent last year in Double A with the Pensacola Blue Wahoos where he hit .261/.353/.412, .765 OPS and 120 +wRC+, with 12 home runs and 56 RBIs. Long has a little speed in those short legs, picking up 19 steals in 25 attempts. I probably would have preferred catching prospect Tyler Stephenson but the Reds resisted the Yankees’ attempts to pry him loose. Regardless, Long is a legitimate prospect and presumably will begin the year with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. His defense leads to speculation that he may need to be moved to a corner outfield position but all reports indicate he is working hard to improve his defensive game.

Photo Credit: Cincinnati Enquirer (Kareem Elgazzar)

The Yankees will also apparently receive a competitive balance draft pick and a lesser minor league player. I doubt the second minor leaguer will be much but I will be anxious to see who the Yankees draft next summer with the draft pick.

Many fans are calling this a heist for Yankees GM Brian Cashman. I guess my expectations are a bit more tempered. I need time to see how this plays out. There’s a good chance that Gray recaptures his magic in Ohio and until the prospects reach the Show, they’ve proven nothing.

Since Long was on the Reds’ 40-man roster, the trade does not free up a spot for newly signed reliever Adam Ottavino. My hope is that we’ve reached the end of the line for RHP Luis Cessa, but the realist in me believes it will be RHP Ben Heller who continues to recover and rehab from last summer’s Tommy John surgery. The Yankees would hold out hope Heller goes unclaimed so that they can outright him to Triple A, but if I was a team with roster space, I’d make a claim to add Heller.

Now that Gray is nearly out of the picture, Jonathan Loaisiga and Domingo German represent the insurance for CC Sabathia in the starting rotation. The Yankees also are bringing non-roster invitee RHP Drew Hutchison to Spring Training. There’s still time for Cashman to find another arm to bring to camp which is the current expectation.

Let’s hope Cashman can seal the deal with the Reds today so that we can move on.

The upcoming week looms big for the Yankees. On Tuesday, the latest Hall of Fame selections will be announced. Leading the charge is the legendary Mariano Rivera who will make the Hall on his first ballot as the greatest Closer in Major League history.

Photo Credit: Newsday (Thomas A Ferrera)

I am not setting myself up for the expectation that Mo will be unanimously voted in even though he should be. While he has appeared on all publicly revealed ballots, I expect someone to exclude him on the undisclosed ballots. While we may want Rivera, my favorite Yankee during his playing days (sorry Derek Jeter fans), to be unanimous, the bottom line is the guy will be a Hall of Famer. I don’t care about the final voting results as long as they ensure Rivera will be Cooperstown, New York this summer. Hopefully Mike Mussina will be there as well even if he has to wear an Orioles cap. I’d prefer he wears a Yankees cap but there is no dispute he was a great pitcher in Baltimore, his original team. I know I always hated it when the Yankees faced him. Generally-speaking, it did not go well for the Yankees.

Today is a big football day with the AFC and NFC Championship Games. It’s time for some disappointment in Boston so hopefully Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs punch their ticket for the Super Bowl and send the New England Patriots home for the off-season. On the NFC side, I’m pulling for the Los Angeles Rams although it won’t be a disappointment if the New Orleans Saints advance. My only hope for today is a Boston loss…and for the Gray trade to be finalized.

As always, Go Yankees!

A Week Closer to Spring Training…

Less Than a Month for the Road to Tampa…

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner but for pitchers and catchers when it arrives, it will mean they’ve reported to Spring Training in Tampa one day earlier. Very appropriate considering our love for America’s favorite Pastime. Flowers and chocolates for the loves in our life? No, grab a glove and bat and let’s get after it! I know that I am anxious to see the guys back at Steinbrenner Field so that we can talk about baseball activities as opposed to this dreadful offseason of rumors and rare free agent signings (or as I like to call it, the roller coaster of hope).

The Yankees were busy last week collecting former Colorado Rockies. I like DJ LeMahieu and was surprised his signing was met with much negativity among the fan base. Maybe it’s because I live in Denver, Colorado but I saw firsthand how much DJ meant to the Rockies and their fans. He has such a strong reputation for being an excellent fielder and is very highly thought of by his teammates, and we know he hits for average even if he didn’t accumulate power numbers at the hitter’s friendly high altitude of Coors Field. Even if the Rockies didn’t make DJ an offer, I know the fans and his teammates were disappointed to see DJ leave. For the Rockies, it’s well known that they are saving their pennies for Nolan Arenado. Despite the trade rumors that surfaced late in the week, the Rockies still hope to hang on to their franchise player who can be a free agent after the upcoming season. I feel that we need to give DJ a chance. He wants to win as much as anybody and he seems excited to be a Yankee even if it wasn’t his childhood dream. There’s other infield moves that I might have preferred but I still think LeMahieu is an outstanding addition.

Photo Credit: MLB.com

Later in the week, the Yankees signed former Colorado reliever Adam Ottavino, another fan favorite. I’ve never been a very big fan of the Rockies, kind of hard when your favorite NL team is the Los Angeles Dodgers, but I know that whenever Ottavino was giving an interview, I’d listen. He is well spoken and offers great insight into baseball anytime he talks. He is frequent guest on MLB Network and always makes himself accessible to the media. After his disappointing 2017 season which included his omission from the playoff roster, he didn’t sulk. He took office space in Harlem to build an indoor pitching facility and reinvented himself which led to a highly successful campaign this past year. The native Brooklynite maintains his home in NYC with an apartment in Manhattan and seems such a natural fit to pitch for the Yankees. My hope going into the off-season was for the Yankees to sign at least two of Zach Britton, David Robertson, and Ottavino. While I would have liked to have seen D-Rob return, I can’t say that I am disappointed he has been replaced by Otto.

Ottavino’s signing means the Yankees need to make room on the 40-man roster before the trade can be made official. The flurry of Sonny Gray trade rumors are intensifying which seems to imply the Yankees will be looking to trade Gray for prospects rather than proven MLB talent that might occupy 40-man roster space. It was kind of funny yesterday when Jack Curry of the YES Network fell for a false tweet by the fake Jon Heyman to send out a report Gray had been traded to Cincinnati for a player to be named later and cash. By all accounts, the Yankees are still talking with the Padres and Giants in addition to the Reds. I’ve quit trying to  speculate who the Yankees might get in a Gray trade. I am sure that GM Brian Cashman will acquire the best possible talent. There’s been some talk a reliever like Tommy Kahnle or Jonathan Holder could be included to sweeten the pot, but I’d hate to sell Kahnle low as I feel he’ll be closer to his 2017 version this year. Holder was the breakout arm last season and as a young cost-controlled pitcher, he carries too much value in terms of both cost and talent to trade (unless you are convinced Stephen Tarpley and other minor league arms are ready to ascend to the Bronx). I’d prefer to see Holder and Tarpley as the last men in the pen, aside from long relief/spot starter which I anticipate to go to Jonathan Loaisiga if Gray is traded. It’s very possible that a Gray trade could go down this weekend or early next week. The Yankees should be in position to make Otto’s signing official by Monday or Tuesday so you’d think Gray will be gone before then, although I’d have no problem, personally, in severing ties with Luis Cessa.

Jon Heyman, the real one I think, is reporting the Gray trade is expected to happen this weekend. Per his tweet on Twitter this morning: “Yankees and Reds are getting closer on a Sonny Gray trade. Teams are talking about two prospects and a draft pick going for Sonny. One of 2B prospect Shed Long and C prospect Tyler Stephenson may go. Giants, Braves, Brewers are on periphery. A deal should happen this weekend.” I liked a tweet yesterday when the commenter said that if he saw Sonny Gray was traded for a shed, he wouldn’t blink an eye. I know, I feel the same way but it would be nice to get a value return.

Congratulations to Brian Cashman for at least getting a young prospect for outfielder Tim Locastro who was designated for assignment when LeMahieu was signed. Locastro was traded to Arizona for 17-year-old LHP Ronald Roman of the Dominican Republic.  Roman had been signed by the Diamondbacks last summer as an international signee and is set to make his professional debut this year in the lower levels of the farm system. Could not really find any information on him. He’s a lottery ticket, for sure, but you can’t win if you don’t take a chance.

Back to the bullpen, the Yankees have certainly built what should be the premier pen in the league. But we know that even the best of bullpens give up a few runs now and then. I like the Yankees’ chances in the late innings, but there will be breakdowns. We can’t expect perfection but all things considered, I’d rather take my chances with the Yankees’ pen over any other team in Major League Baseball. I am surprised the Boston Red Sox have not done anything to fill their holes in the bullpen. I still think they’ll eventually get Craig Kimbrel back. I know the Sox don’t want to pay Kimbrel’s current asking price but I’d still be surprised if they let him walk away. I really thought they’d snare one of Britton, Robertson or Ottavino and I am so glad it did not happen. Given Otto’s relatively affordable contract of 3 years for $27 million, I was even more surprised the Sox didn’t make a play for him despite carrying MLB’s highest payroll. If the Red Sox do lose Kimbrel, I’d expect Dave Dombrowski to make a trade to bring in a proven closer unless they are convinced Tyler Thornburg is healthy and ready to pitch at the level he did a couple of years ago for the Milwaukee Brewers. Thornburg had 13 saves for the Brewers in 2016, with 2.15 ERA after being named their closer midway through the year. He had thoracic outlet syndrome surgery in 2017, and wasn’t really able to do anything last summer  after his return (5.63 ERA over 24 innings) before being shut down early in September. I am sure the Red Sox will figure out their current bullpen mess but it’s clear they do not value the importance of a super bullpen like the Yankees do. If I ran the Sox, I’d probably sign Dallas Keuchel and move Nathan Eovaldi to the pen. No doubt Keuchel’s asking price is dropping.

As it stands right now, I like the current composition of the 2019 Yankees and certainly believe they have the talent to take down the Red Sox. There are other moves the team could make to improve the roster but if they don’t, this is still a damn good team. I am so ready to watch the baseballs flying in Tampa and seeing Aaron Judge’s grin as he arrives at Steinbrenner Field. It’s almost time for the Yankees fan base to reunite and cheer for MLB’s best team.

As always, Go Yankees!

Thoughts After the LeMahieu Signing…

DJ LeMahieu Signs 2-Year Deal w/Yankees…

The Yankees caught everyone by surprise on Friday when it was reported they had signed former Colorado Rockies second baseman DJ LeMahieu to a two-year contract worth $24 million, pending a physical. I knew the San Francisco Giants were interested in LeMahieu and were willing to move Joe Panik if necessary and the Los Angeles Dodgers had long been mentioned as a favorite but I hadn’t really given any thought to DJ as a Yankee. So, when I first heard the news, I was a bit underwhelmed.

This, in no way, means I do not recognize LeMahieu is a very good baseball player. He is. I guess going into the off-season, I felt the Yankees had a tremendous opportunity to substantially improve their club at a time when the Boston Red Sox are struggling with the pains of a very high payroll. I don’t want to beat the Red Sox, I want to crush them. I had felt if the Yankees could sign Patrick Corbin and Manny Machado and/or Bryce Harper, they’d be the clear most powerful team in the AL East. As we know, the Yankees expressed interest but did not play in the Corbin negotiations when other offers exceeded their comfort zone. Now, it appears the Yankees are out on both Machado and Harper.

I’ll remain on Team Machado until he signs with another club. Even Ken Rosenthal, while he believes the Yankees are no longer “in” on Machado, will only believe he’s not going to be a Yankee when he pulls up another jersey at an introductory press conference. To me, Machado is missed opportunity. A large number of fans are quick to say Machado was merely a ‘want’ and not a need. Okay, I get it. But how often are young (very young) superstars available for only money? And how many of those young superstars have always wanted to be Yankees? I guess we’d like to think everyone wants to be a Yankee. But that’s a rather narcissistic view. Both Harper and Machado are players who wanted to wear the famed Pinstripes and it’s disappointing, to me, that neither dream will come true.

Setting aside Machado and Harper, the Yankees ARE an improved team. I like the infield with LeMahieu at second and Gleyber Torres at shortstop over Troy Tulowitzki at short and Gleyber remaining at second even though I didn’t really want to see Gleyber sliding back and forth. I am not convinced Tulo can stay healthy and I certainly do not want to pin any hopes on him. LeMahieu, on the other hand, can play a vital role for this team.

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kelley L Cox)

Down the stretch last year, Colorado’s great third baseman Nolan Arenado was quoted as saying this about LeMahieu: “If fans knew how much we appreciate DJ and saw how much we care for him and how important he is to this team, they’d realize what a big factor he is. He sets the standard for us. We go where he goes, really.” That’s very high praise from one of the game’s true superstars. Charlie Blackmon is also on record making similar comments. I listened to an interview with Blackmon a few days ago and he was still expressing hope the Rockies would re-sign LeMahieu despite the team’s acquisition of Daniel Murphy. It appears the Rockies intend to play Murphy at first, assuming they figure out what do to with Ian Desmond, and open second base for competition between a couple of young players. The Rockies hold aspirations of competing with the Dodgers for the NL West title and LeMahieu would have helped their cause.

While I probably would have preferred Marwin Gonzalez for his ability to play shortstop and left field, it’s hard to find fault with the defensive prowess LeMahieu brings to the team. He may not have much power but he’s certainly not going to disappoint you with his bat. He has a batting title to his credit (NL, 2016) and has appeared in a couple of All-Star games. He has won three Gold Gloves, including the past two years. He has also been the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year at second for the last two seasons and in 2013.

Infield defense was a huge concern prior to LeMahieu’s signing so his presence is much needed and as it stands right now I am glad he’s a Yankee. If Tulo shows anything at shortstop, the Yankees have the option of moving LeMahieu to third with Miguel Andújar shifting to DH and Giancarlo Stanton playing left field which eases some doubts I have with the dependence on Brett Gardner as an every day option in left field. To sign Machado now would probably mean the end of the Yankees career for Didi Gregorius, a free agent after the upcoming season. I want Didi back as the team’s starting shortstop so maybe all things considered, the LeMahieu signing is a blessing.  

Photo Credit: Instagram via @sirdidig18

Like Tulo, LeMahieu will have to find a new number. The number 9 he wore in Colorado is retired for the late Roger Maris. The Yankees retired the number for Maris in 1984, a few months after they had traded Graig Nettles, the last to wear the number, to the San Diego Padres.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

The fringe players are slowly coming off the 40-man roster. RHP A.J. Cole was claimed by the Cleveland Indians on waivers yesterday.  He had been designated for assignment to make room for Tulowitzki. I thought the Yankees might be able to pick up a lower-ranked prospect for Cole but it was not to be. Yesterday, to make room for LHP Zach Britton, infielder Hanser Alberto was waived and almost immediately claimed by Britton’s former team, the Baltimore Orioles. Once the LeMahieu signing becomes official, the Yankees will need to make another move so Luis Cessa, Ben Heller and Tim Locastro are probably the most vulnerable unless the Yankees finally move Sonny Gray for prospects (I’d prefer MLB talent in return). I like Heller despite his current recovery from Tommy John surgery (which means he can’t provide any immediate help) but would prefer to see the exit of Cessa over Heller.

The Yankees are always slow to announce their non-roster invitees for Spring Training but the list is building:

LHP Rex Brothers

LHP Danny Coulombe

RHP Drew Hutchison

OF Billy Burns

OF Matt Lipka

I don’t see any great upside with these players but Scranton/Wilkes-Barre needs some help after the losses they’ve suffered in the last few months so they represent organizational depth. Brothers is a one-time Colorado Rockie and teammate of Tulo, LeMahieu, Tommy Kahnle and, cough-cough, free agent reliever Adam Ottavino.

Lastly, while I was glad to see the Yankees agree with all of their arbitration-eligible players on new contracts for the upcoming season except one, I was disappointed the one player is Luis Severino. I don’t like the arbitration process which requires the team to tell an arbitrator the entirety of the player’s faults to build their case for the lower salary. If Dellin Betances leaves via free agency after the season, I will look back to the contentious hearing he had with the team a couple years ago and the poor choice of words by Yankees President Randy Levine after the decision in the team’s favor as a reason for his departure. I know, Dellin’s final decision will most likely be based on money but he surely has the negative feelings in the back of his mind regardless of his love of wearing the hometown Pinstripes. I think what bothers me more about Sevy’s case is how close the two parties are. Severino wants $5.25 million while the team offered $4.4 million. It seems like there was room for compromise. The two sides can continue to negotiate so I hope there is resolution before the actual arbitration hearing is held. We need to build Sevy up to be the ace he is destined to be, not tear him down.

I was very glad the Yankees settled with new starting pitcher James Paxton for $8.5 million. I want Paxton’s experience to be very positive from the start. By all accounts, he is very excited about pitching for the Yankees. In reading and listening to Zach Britton’s words about re-signing with the Yankees, it is very clear how he and his family were treated by the Yankees played a very strong factor in his decision to return. I want Paxton fully appreciate his first year in the Bronx too.

Pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training a month from tomorrow. I am anxious to see Tampa and Steinbrenner Field buzzing with Yankees again. There’s no doubt Manager Aaron Boone will carry greater confidence and preparedness into camp this year with a year under his belt. I am convinced he’ll be much stronger this year and that bodes well for the team.

Good times in the Yankees Universe.

As always, Go Yankees!

All Systems Go for CC Sabathia…

League Championship Series - Houston Astros v New York Yankees - Game Three

Getty Images-Elsa

Yankees Lefthander Cleared for Action…

The latest medical updates for CC Sabathia show he has been cleared to resume baseball activities which is good news for everyone but most notably CC himself. Artery blockages of the heart are a serious matter, especially for a large guy who isn’t even 40 yet. A happy and healthy CC Sabathia is the greatest concern. Baseball is secondary. I am excited Sabathia will be able to embark on his final year of his magical career with the gift of good health.

Nevertheless, it does allow the Yankees to continue fielding offers for Sonny Gray. As helpful as some people think Gray might be to the Yankees this year, my stance to rid the roster of his name has not changed. I think the Yankees can find other options for the sixth man role that do not entail paying the long man/spot starter $9 million for the year.

In his recent comments, GM Brian Cashman said, “When it developed (Sabathia’s angioplasty in December which involved placement of a stent in a blocked heart artery), it slowed down my conversations with intent because we had to see how this played out first.” Cashman went on to say, “Once he has these follow-up appointments, I’ll be in a much better position to either fully engage the conversations we’ve had or continue to slow-walk it while we make sure CC’s health is taken care of, that is first and foremost.”

Based on the latest reports, it seems safe that Cashman can get San Diego Padres GM A.J. Preller on the phone for further talks. It would be nice if the Yankees could get someone who can assist at the Major League level right now as opposed to a bucket of prospects. If the Yankees do go for prospects, I sure wouldn’t mind getting catcher Luis Torrens back. But for someone who could help now, Padres closer (and one-time Yank) Kirby Yates could certainly help fill the void left by David Robertson who departed for the not-so-greener pastures of Philadelphia. Well, I take that back, D-Rob did get plenty of green in Philly, to the tune of $23 million. Anyway, Yates would look nice in the Yankees bullpen if the team decides not to pay the clearly better option (Adam Ottavino) which might help the likelihood the Yankees re-sign Dellin Betances after the upcoming season.

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The leader of The Greedy Pinstripes, Daniel Burch, posted this comment on Twitter yesterday:

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Daniel perfectly summed up how I feel about the Manny Machado situation. I’ve probably been on Team Machado much stronger than either Daniel or Bryan Van Dusen (they both seem to prefer Bryce Harper which certainly makes sense), but I am just as tired of the situation as Daniel is. I am ready for the endless debate about Manny and Bryce Harper to end. There’s no doubt I want at least one of the two 26 year old superstars and will be disappointed if neither one of the generational talents come to the Bronx. But honestly, I want this to end even if it means neither player dons the Pinstripes this summer. I’d really like the Yankees to move on to other areas of roster improvement. If the Yankees do not get Machado, we still need a strong backup option for shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. Sure, Gleyber Torres can slide over and it is possible that Tyler Wade could step up to be the player we need, but I want another strong defensive option heading into Spring Training. I’ve long said Marwin Gonzalez would be a perfect fit for the roster with his versatility. In addition to his ability to play around the infield, the majority of his time last year was spent in left field. He would be a great option to spell Brett Gardner. Nothing against Gardy, but he is better served in moderation and not overly exposed every day at this point in his career. Gonzalez can play short, he can play third. Even though he’s never played the position, I bet you could toss him a catcher’s mitt and he wouldn’t embarrass himself. The point is the guy’s versatility. Plus, he is a team guy with championship experience. If not Gonzalez, I’d better happy with the return of Adeiny Hechavarria’s glove. Josh Harrison doesn’t return excite me despite the Yankees’ interest in the player over the years.  But if the Yankees decide for an encore engagement with Neil Walker, so be it. Let’s not pin our hopes on Wade as the backup plan. I guess you could say we need a backup to the backup to see how this plays out in Spring Training.

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There really isn’t much more the Yankees need to do to improve. Machado or Harper would make them better, but regardless, the Yankees will be ready to compete for the AL East Championship by the time the Baltimore Orioles arrive at Yankee Stadium in late March.  The Yankees have not won the AL East since 2012 but it’s time to take back what is ours. It’s kind of sad that the only AL East team NOT to win the AL East since the Yankees last won are the Tampa Bay Rays. The Orioles, Blue Jays, and of course the Red Sox have hoisted the flag since the Yankees last dominated the AL Eastern Division. Boston, as we unfortunately know, has won it for the last three consecutive years.  Enough is enough.  I am tired of the Wild Card and want to ensure we enter October with a multiple-game series and are not faced with another ‘do-or-die’ one game or go home situation. The Red Sox will be strong, maybe not 108 wins strong, but they’ll be no pushover, especially if they figure out a good solution for the back end of their bullpen. The Rays aren’t going away anytime soon with their talented pitching staff, even if they can’t get anybody in the St Petersburg-Tampa area to watch them play. We also know there’s a beast being born in Toronto with the riches of young talent, like Vladimir Guerreo, Jr and Bo Bichette, rapidly working their way to the Show. We may not see it in 2019 but the Blue Jays loom as a serious threat on the horizon. Our opportunity is now. I know I am tired of talking about Machado and Harper, but dammit, they’d help.

Spring Training is a little more than a month away. With Boston feeling the pain of their payroll and the need to lock up some of their young superstars within the next couple of years, the Yankees have a golden opportunity to eliminate the gap in talent between the teams. Hal, it’s only money. Lord knows you are making more and more every year. Remember what it was like to hoist the Commissioner’s Trophy in 2009?  You can have that feeling again. We want you to be sprayed with Champagne. We’re only thinking about your best interests so go ahead and spend a little and bring World Series Championship #28 back to the Bronx. Happy Yankee fans like to spend money.

This post kind of embodies where I am at with Machado. I keep trying to get him out of my head yet I inevitability circle back around to him. Please, let this end soon. If it is Machado or Bust, I am getting dangerously close to Bust. But you know, Manny would look really good in Pinstripes…

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As always, Go Yankees!

Zach in the New York Groove…

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Andy Marlin)

Yankees to re-sign LHP Zach Britton…

The old Ace Frehley song seems so appropriate. With some slight alteration, …Zach’s back, back in the New York groove!

I was very pleased to see last night’s news. I don’t know who broke the news first, but it was a Jeff Passan/ESPN tweet that caught my attention. It’s always fun to see a story break on Twitter. First, it’s a random tweet or two and then it’s an avalanche. I wasn’t really expecting major news on a Saturday night but I’ll gladly take it.

The Yankees and Britton’s agent, Scott Boras, were able to get creative with the structure of the deal. It is essentially a three-year contract with an option for a fourth year. The Yankees must guarantee the fourth year after the completion of the 2020 season. If they do not, Britton has the right to opt-out  or he can choose to complete the third year. The contract pays $13 million per year, which guarantees Britton $39 million if he does not opt out. The fourth year, if exercised, would pay $14 million, bringing the total value to $53 million. If Britton is traded during the contract, he’ll get an assignment bonus of $1 million according to Ken Rosenthal.

I am excited to know Britton will be returning to join Aroldis Chapman and Dellin Betances at the back end of the Yankees bullpen. I’ve heard the complaints about his control but he got progressively better after the deadline trade that brought him to the Bronx from Baltimore. I think with a full spring training (he was unable to participate last year with the Orioles) and the further distance from the surgery on his right Achilles tendon in December 2017, he’ll be much closer to the elite reliever we saw in 2016 when he was electric for the Birds. In ’16, he was 2-1, 0.54 ERA in 69 games, converting all 47 save chances he was given. Britton set an American League record with 60 consecutive saves from October 1, 2015 through August 21, 2017.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Rob Carr)

After joining the Yankees last summer, Britton was 1-0 with 2.88 ERA in 25 games, with 21 strikeouts. Although he got a late start to the 2018 season, he had the best groundball rate for any pitcher in MLB with at least 40 innings (73.0%).

The off-season assumption had been Britton would leave for a closing opportunity despite his late season comments about wanting to win more than collecting saves. Early in the off-season, he was connected to the St Louis Cardinals, Philadelphia Phillies and Boston Red Sox, but surprisingly in the end, the Yankees’ primary rival for Britton’s services was the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Brian Cashman was able to beat his former chief lieutenant, Angels GM Billy Eppler, by offering more guaranteed money. The Cardinals took themselves out of the running by signing Andrew Miller and the Phillies, as we know, snagged David Robertson. The Red Sox are feeling the pain of high payroll and are waiting for prices to fall. I think eventually Craig Kimbrel’s asking price will come back into their range. There’s no way he is going to get $100 million regardless of his track record.

When season ended, I had wanted the Yankees to get one of Britton, Robertson or Adam Ottavino. After D-Rob moved on, I was hopeful for at least Britton or Ottavino but now that Britton is back in the fold, I want Ottavino too. I am excited about the potential of guys like Tommy Kahnle (if he can return to 2017 form), Stephen Tarpley, Domingo Acevedo, Chance Adams and others, but Ottavino would truly cap a return to a super bullpen, perhaps the best in Major League Baseball. With continued questions in the starting rotation, this is a must.

With no further moves, the 2019 Yankees are looking very good. Still need a strong defensive shortstop to back up Troy Tulowitzki. Adeiny Hechavarria or Jose Iglesias, come on down! Actually, this could be a great opportunity for Hanser Alberto to make the Show. But imagine this team if they can sign Manny Machado and Adam Ottavino. I’d call that a very successful off-season. Regardless of what happens, I feel better about the team today than I did yesterday morning. I was worried that the holes in the bullpen would be filled with lesser talent. I guess one should never underestimate Brian Cashman and his ability to get Hal Steinbrenner to loosen the grip on his wallet.

Photo Credit: ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

Once Britton takes his physical and the contract is finalized, the Yankees will have to make another roster decision. RHP A.J. Cole lost his seat at the table with Tulo’s signing. Next up appears to be Luis Cessa, Ben Heller or Joe Harvey if the Yankees can find a suitable trade partner as those guys have some value. Heller, who underwent Tommy John surgery last April, might be the most vulnerable despite my preference to see Cessa go. Tim Locastro appears safe for now but things could change if Machado signs with the Yankees.

There’s been some talk about first base and the Yankees’ intent to go into Spring Training with Luke Voit as the starter. I don’t mind first base competition between Voit and Greg Bird. I know a few of us are getting tired of Bird’s inability to take advantage of opportunities due to a variety of injuries but I also know I am not ready to give up on Bird’s talents (apparently neither are the Yankees). I liked the energy Voit brought to the team but conversely I enjoy Bird’s sweet swing. My only hope is the better player gets the job and the other backs him up. At this point, I can’t say if it should be Voit or Bird. The competition begins in earnest next month so we’ll soon see. First base is a position I’ll be watching closely when the Grapefruit League games begin but I am cautiously optimistic we’ll be pleased with the outcome, whatever it may be. May the best man win.  Ready, set, go…

Photo Credit: AP, via NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

As always, Go Yankees!

The Winds of Rumors…

Machado and Harper Remain Free…

Many people, albeit none of the true baseball experts, had anticipated the free agent signing of Manny Machado on January 3rd or 4th and it did not happen. I had been very skeptical of any news yesterday but in defense of those who did strongly believe and had “sources”, I don’t necessarily think they were wrong. Shit happens. Things change.

Recently, The Greedy Pinstripes reported an impending trade of Sonny Gray. I’ve seen comments making attacks because the trade did not happen. The post was made on the TGP site on December 10th. We subsequently found out later in the month CC Sabathia had heart surgery the next day (December 11th) to place a stent in an artery to clear a blockage during an angioplasty procedure. There’s no doubt the development of the news of CC’s health reached the Yankees’ front office at the time they were contemplating a potential trade of Gray. Maybe there was never an impending trade but I feel strongly there may have been. The trade was reconsidered when the Yankees realized they needed a backup plan for Sabathia.

Photo Credit: New York Post (Bill Kostroun)

GM Brian Cashman said as much yesterday on a conference call with the media after the announcement of the signing of shortstop Troy Tulowitzski to a one-year deal. “The CC circumstance certainly has given us pause because we want to make sure we are covered and protected,” Cashman said during the call. “When it developed it slowed down my conversations with intent because we had to see how this played out first.  Once he has these follow-up appointments, I’ll be in a much better position to either fully engage the conversations we’ve had or continue to slow-walk while we make sure CC’s health is taken care of, that is first and foremost.” Based on these words, there is no doubt in my mind that Cashman pumped the brakes on trade talks involving Gray. Having a stent placed in a heart artery is a serious matter, especially when you are only 38 years old. Life is more important than the game of baseball (with no offense to those of you who may believe otherwise).

I am not excited about Gray’s presence on the roster but to have the belief Sabathia will be fine by Spring Training is foolish thinking. All things considered, I’d rather have Gray on the roster as opposed to relying upon Domingo German, Jonathan Loaisiga, Chance Adams, and others to fill the void if CC is not ready to go. Of the bunch, I probably have the most trust in Loaisiga but until he can prove the ability to stay healthy, I am not going to place 100% trust in the man. I wanted Gray gone as much as anybody but based on the present roster configuration, I’d rather go into the 2019 season to see how Gray performs. He’ll certainly have a chip on his shoulder with something to prove. He has the talent. If he could become the Sonny Gray of old, that’s one helluva Number 5 starter. At worst, it is a great bullpen option for a long man/spot starter.

This leads me back to the current Machado rumors which failed to come to fruition this week. Everyone seems to be attacking those who cited “it’s happening” and I think that’s wrong. Just because Machado didn’t sign last week does not mean he won’t eventually sign with the Yankees. Maybe he never gets an “official” offer from the Yankees and signs elsewhere. Oh well, shit happens. I have no doubt Machado’s agent, Dan Lozano, has bounced numbers off Cashman during telephone conversations to give the team an indication of what it would take to bring Machado to the Bronx even if no formal offers have been made. Orioles blogger Dan Clark has been one of the biggest “Machado to the Yankees” proponents.  Either Dan has a very strong source to back his belief or he is pulling one of the biggest troll jobs in recent memory. Either could be true. But I am not going to attack Clark. He has his reasons for his claims. We need to see how this plays out but even if Machado signs elsewhere, it does not necessarily mean Clark was wrong. He acted on information made available to him. He believed it to be true (or not) at the time of his posts.  Shit happens. Things change. If Machado signs with the White Sox or Phillies or another mystery team, it won’t be Clark’s fault.

As for Bryce Harper, it seems to me and a lot of people he’ll resume his career with the Washington Nationals next season. The Los Angeles Dodgers seem intent on going no more than 5 or 6 years which seemingly takes them out of the picture since the Nats are known to have a 10 year deal on the table. Eventually, Bryce’s decision will come down to what’s more important…years or AAV…and where he wants to play. If the Yankees are not in play, it seems to me that Washington would be more attractive to Bryce than Philly if the dollars are the same or nearly equal. The NL East is going to be a very competitive division next season. Derek Jeter and the Miami Marlins had better just grab some popcorn and watch the show from their cellar position.

Troy Tulowitzki is officially a New York Yankee. While I have my reservations about the oft-injured shortstop, Cashman proclaimed him as the team’s starting shortstop during yesterday’s conference call. He’d better hedge that bet. I am glad it potentially means Gleyber Torres stays at second base during the absence of Didi Gregorius but I do still feel we need someone like Adeiny Hechavarria in reserve. I am down on Tyler Wade even if the Yankees continue to believe in him. Wade can change my mind but he has to prove it. Until he does, I want better.

Watching some of the tweets on Yankees twitter, I had to chuckle when Reggie Jackson suggested Number 22 for Tulo. He first said, “I’m thinking #22 is available? Rocket wore it when he was here.” A few minutes later, he said, “Oops ! I missed that one forgive me on that on Tulo. A senior moment ! Ha !” Don’t worry, Reggie, we’ve all forgotten about Jacoby Ellsbury.

Photo Credit: New York Post (Robert Sabo)

I still think Number 12 makes the most sense for Tulo. Tyler Wade has even offered to give it to him free of charge. The assumption is Wade will take Neil Walker’s #14 if Tulo takes #12. Personally, I am intrigued with the number 72 since it contains the numbers of both Mickey Mantle and Derek Jeter. That’s why I loved the Mantle/Lou Gehrig number Ronald Torreyes previously wore with 74. Hey, the Yankees are running out of numbers. We have to get creative. I feel bad for the 2219 Yankees. They’ll be wearing triple digits on their backs.

To make room for Tulo, the Yankees designated RHP A.J. Cole for assignment. This was an inevitable move although I had thought outfielder Tim Locastro might have been set loose. Someone will grab Cole on waivers so hopefully Cashman can move him for cash or a player to be named later to get something. The Yankees also signed CF Billy Burns to a minors deal. Burns, 29, is nothing more than a depth piece for Triple A. The Atlanta native was originally drafted by the Washington Nationals and has spent time in the A’s and Royals organizations. More than a few people have referred to him as 2019’s Shane Robinson. I really hope that Burns does not see the amount of time in the Bronx that Robinson, now in the Phillies organization, saw last year.

The Cincinnati Reds have made former Yankees prospect Caleb Cotham an assistant pitching coach. The 31-year-old Cotham was traded by the Yankees, along with Eric Jagielo, Rookie Davis, and Tony Renda, in the December 2015 trade with the Reds that originally brought Aroldis Chapman to New York. Cotham, like Sonny Gray and current Reds pitching coach Derek Johnson, has connections to Vanderbilt. Best of luck in your new career, Caleb!

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Tom Pennington)

Let’s forget the trade rumors for awhile and enjoy the weekend! I am fine if I don’t hear the words Machado or Harper for the next 48 hours.

As always, Go Yankees!