|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Al Bello and Christian Petersen), via CBS New York|
Trading January for February…
It was another quiet week in the Yankees Universe, but fortunately, it puts us one week closer to Spring Training.
Many feel that the Yankees are good with the present makeup of the 40-man roster as the gates of Steinbrenner Field prepare to open but I remain convinced that the Yankees will add either a strong starting pitcher or a veteran to solidify third base. It would be great to add both but I don’t see how that’s economically feasible for a team trying so hard to stay under the $197 million luxury tax threshold.
I thought the Washington Nationals have done a tremendous job with their infield bench. First, they signed first baseman Matt Adams, the long-time Cardinal who spent most of last year in Atlanta, to back up first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. Then, they re-signed 2B/3B Howie Kendrick who can plug into a corner outfield position as well. Either one of these players would have been useful for the Yankees. I like the idea of pairing a veteran with the youthful Miguel Andujar at third. Granted, I would love to see the return of Todd Frazier or even the signing of Mike Moustakas, but the Yankees can afford to lower their sights for another guy that could help Andujar with his transition to the MLB level. Eduardo Nunez is probably not the answer, due to his questionable defense and injury history, but there are other guys that could fit the bill without blowing the budget. Josh Harrison, carrying a cap hit of $10.25 million, is probably the guy that comes to mind but his acquisition would probably prevent the addition of a starting pitcher who is better than any of the current starting five.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images North America (Joe Sargent)|
The Toronto Blue Jays have been fairly active in trying to rebuild their post-Jose Bautista outfield. Earlier this week, they signed former Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson to fill a platoon role. Then, yesterday, they traded for St Louis Cardinals outfielder Randall Grichuk who became expendable when the Cardinals acquired former Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna, particularly given the breakthrough of outfielder Tommy Pham for the Cards last year. Grichuk has some thump in his bat, even if he hasn’t been consistent. He is expected to be the starter in right field, replacing Bautista. I don’t know much about the younger pitching prospect that the Blue Jays sent to St Louis (Connor Greene), but I am glad to see reliever Dominic Leone depart the AL East. In a setup role for the Blue Jays last year, Leone stranded 42 of 54 base runners which ranked fourth among AL relievers. He held righties to .211 batting average and was even stingier with lefties at .183. The Grandy Man may not be the player he once was, but he is still one of the game’s best gentlemen. I’m sure that he’ll be a positive influence on the young Jays. He didn’t do much for the Los Angeles Dodgers last year after the late season acquisition (.161 batting average with 7 home runs in 112 at-bats), but he can still provide occasional pop. I can still remember his grand slam against the Yankees last August in what would prove to be his last at-bat for the New York Mets.
|Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)|
It’s inevitable that the Boston Red Sox and free agent outfielder J.D. Martinez come together at some point this off-season. I find it highly unlikely that the Arizona Diamondbacks bring back Martinez due to monetary constraints and there doesn’t seem to be much competition with Boston for the outfielder’s services. The latest reports indicate the Red Sox have offered 5 years at $125 million but agent Scott Boras is on record seeking a 6 or 7 year deal for his client. Teams have wised up and understand how detrimental the latter years can be for extended length contracts given to thirty-something players. If the Red Sox are truly offering $25 million per year, I think Martinez would be smart to consider it. At a winter function for the Red Sox yesterday, former Red Sox great Pedro Martinez explained, “The main reason why Mookie (Betts) and those guys miss (David Ortiz) more is because they were getting better pitches to hit on an earlier count because of his presence. Everybody knew they wanted to attack Mookie and those guys to get them out early before they get to David because David was one of those guys who was really special.” Martinez could be that guy for the Red Sox, which is why I feel that Boston will eventually get the deal done even if it gives them a $200+ million payroll.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Christian Petersen)|
The most talked about situation for the Yankees is Jacoby Ellsbury and his contract. By all indications, Ellsbury has no desire to waive his no-trade clause and is focused on competing with Aaron Hicks for the starting center field role. Many Yankees fans, including myself, feel that it would be best for Ellsbury to drop the NTC and allow a trade. The pro-Ellsbury fans attack us, saying that Ellsbury is a better player than we are giving him credit for. I don’t think anyone disputes that Ellsbury is still a good player. He just doesn’t fit the 2018 Yankees. At this point, it is clear that Aaron Hicks has the upper hand and it would take an injury to Hicks (always a possibility) to clear a path to consistent playing time for Ellsbury. But even then, he’d have to fight Brett Gardner for time and Gardy probably has the edge. It does not make sense to pay a fourth or fifth outfielder $22 million per year. If the Yankees were successful in getting another team to take on half of what’s left of Ellsbury’s deal, that’s still significant money that could go toward a starting pitcher and/or veteran third baseman. That’s why I think it is best to move Ellsbury if you can. He can be a very useful player for another team. Seattle was mentioned as the primary trade target until they acquired second baseman Dee Gordon from the Miami Marlins with the intent to convert him to center field. Then, the San Francisco Giants were heavily mentioned by Yankees fans. But they acquired Andrew McCutchen from the Pittsburgh PIrates and are bumping up against the luxury tax threshold themselves. Some have mentioned the Colorado Rockies in a trade of bad contracts for IF/OF Ian Desmond, but I don’t think the Rockies are as down on Desmond as Yankees fans would like to think. A trade to a Cactus League team seems to make the most sense given that Ellsbury makes his home in Scottsdale, Arizona. Personally, I think the Yankees will be stuck with Ellsbury until the dollars left on his contract reach a point that Hal Steinbrenner is comfortable cutting bait. That means at least another season or two. It stinks because it will most likely keep Clint Frazier at Triple A if he is not traded for a starting pitcher. I am a fan of Red Thunder and I’d like to see him in the Bronx, not Moosic, PA. He’s ready, even if it means that team leader Brett Gardner is the odd man out.
|Photo Credit: SI.com|
Maybe next week is finally the week we get some actual news in the Yankees Universe. Yeah, right…probably not. Oh well, Spring Training will soon be here. I am ready and anxious to see 1 Steinbrenner Drive thriving with Yankees fans in the stands watching Yankees greats on the field.
|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!
Prize Fight between Betances and Levine called off…
The Yankees avoided an off-the-field fight yesterday when they signed all of their arbitration-eligible players to one-year, non-guaranteed contracts, including Dellin Betances who lost his fight at the arbitration table last year. It sparked angry (and, in my opinion, unnecessary and ridiculous) words from Yankees Team President Randy Levine. This year, Betances gets the $5 million he sought a year ago when Levine said that “five million dollars goes to elite closers, people who pitch the ninth inning and have a lot, a lot and a lot of saves.” Personally, I think Betances will rediscover the magic and will resume his role as one of the elite setup artists in baseball. He is worth the money, regardless of what Levine may think.
|Photo Credit: Anthony J Causi, New York Post|
I was glad to see the Yankees stayed a couple of dollars shy of the $29.4 million total projected by MLB Trade Rumors. Not that MLB Trade Rumors is the foremost authority, but they were fairly accurate in their projections.
Here are the actual one-year settlements for the arbitration-eligible players:
Didi Gregorius, $8.25 million
Sonny Gray, $6.5 million
Dellin Betances, $5.1 million
Adam Warren, $3.315 million
Aaron Hicks, $2.825 million
Tommy Kahnle, $1.3125 million
Austin Romine, $1.1 million
Chasen Shreve, $825,000
Total: $29.2275 million
Gregorius accepting $750,000 less than his projected amount of $9 million was the difference-maker in bringing the total for all players under $29.4 million. Gregorius has one more year of arbitration before he hits free agency. I really hope the Yankees look to lock him up on a new long-term deal next off-season rather than wait for him to hit the free market. Same with Sonny Gray.
Yu had me at…
Following the Yankees’ ‘did they or didn’t they’ make an offer to free agent pitcher Yu Darvish is funny. Earlier in the week, Michael Kay reported on his show the Yankees had offered Darvish a 7-year contract for $160 million. On Twitter, Darvish responded “They don’t give me offer yet”. Darvish subsequently clarified his position with “Sorry guys. My mistake. Actually they did make offer the numbers are not correct.”
|Photo Credit: Getty Images|
Nothing against Darvish, I like the pitcher, but I wouldn’t want to devote in excess of $20 million per year to the pitcher even if the Yankees could somehow find a way to move Jacoby Ellsbury and his heavy contract or trade someone like Brett Gardner or David Robertson. Yesterday, Dodgers Nation posed a question to their fan base if they wanted the Dodgers to re-sign Darvish. The immediate reaction was negative, with many lingering feelings of disappointment and resentment over the awful World Series performance given by Darvish. Not that I feel a couple of poor (very poor) starts should define Darvish, but the October Stage is not made for everyone. It was a red flag that Darvish might not be a guy who can elevate his game when the stakes are at their highest. If money was no object, then I’d gladly be willing to accept Darvish on the team. But in the grand scheme of things for a team trying to stay under $197 million, the money is better served in other areas.
Please Keep Numbers 29 and 77 Ready…
We are now only a month away before pitchers and catchers report to training camp in Tampa, Florida. With so many free agents still available, it would seem that we’ll be playing exhibition games before some big names know what jerseys they’ll be pulling on. I continue to preach for the Yankees to re-sign Todd Frazier to a two-year deal to take third base and provide backup support at first for Greg Bird. Of course, I’d also trade Brett Gardner despite his leadership qualities and status as the most tenured Yankee to open up a significant role for Clint Frazier. So, my views are obviously ‘Up goes Frazier(s)’.
|Photo Credit: Brad Penner, USA TODAY Sports, via Reuters|
I thought we’d see more baseball activity last week than we did. Admittedly, it seems like I feel that way every week yet we continue to hear crickets. Yes, the Mets re-signed Jay Bruce but the off-season continues to move along very slowly. I don’t believe owners are guilty of collusion. I think this year has been a wakeup for owners who do not want to give extended contracts to guys and end up with ‘Jacoby Ellsbury-like’ situations on your hands. Plus, you have the added factor that MLB’s two biggest spenders are furiously trying to keep payroll under $197 million. I am hopeful the current sluggish market conditions bring quality third base help to the Yankees.
R.I.P. to a Legendary Sportcaster…
I am very sad to hear the news of the passing of retired sportscaster Keith Jackson. Growing up in the 70’s, he was the premier voice of College Football and so many other top sporting events to me. His style and grace were legendary qualities. So many times in my life I’ve said “Whoa, Nellie!”, thanks to Jackson. He passed away Friday night in the Los Angeles area, where he made his home. Farewell, Keith. May you rest in peace. Heaven has gained a tremendous Angel and we will miss you.
|Photo Credit: LA Times|
Have a great long weekend, Yankees family! Go Yankees!
We may want it all but…
We’re the mighty Yankees. We should have every available superstar, right? To listen to some fans, that seems to be the case. But in reality, this is a business and the magical figure of $197 million to reset luxury tax penalties may as well be a hard and fast salary cap. Team Hal will do whatever it takes to stay under that mark.
It’s nice that free agent pitcher Yu Darvish has narrowed his choices to six teams, including the Yankees. But in the grand scheme of things, it means nothing. The Yankees are not going to pursue Darvish at this point given the pitcher’s desire for a contract in excess of $20 million per year annually.
Yesterday, Michael Kay reported on his show that the Yankees had previously offered Darvish 7 years at $160 million but had given him a short window (48 hours) to accept. When Darvish didn’t bite, the Yankees allegedly pulled the offer. No offense to Michael (he’s one of my favorites), I struggle with the thought the Yankees really made that type of offer with the current roster construction and cost. If the Yankees really did make that level of offer and Darvish did not accept, he was foolish in this stagnant market.
I really liked Yu Darvish when he first came to the United States and had been hopeful the Yankees would sign him before he was snagged by the Texas Rangers. But now, while I agree he is an upper echelon pitcher, I don’t feel that he’d be the right fit. The primary reason is money. The reality is that the Yankees will keep 2018 payroll below the $197 million threshold. Even if the Yankees moved contract(s) to make room, I don’t think it would be the wisest path to add a multi-year, greater than $20 mil per year, contract for a pitcher on the wrong side of 30. If Darvish was the missing piece to guarantee a World Series, it would be one thing but he’s not. The only thing that I like about a Darvish signing is that he wouldn’t cost multiple top prospects like a trade for Gerrit Cole would. The reality is that arms like Justus Sheffield and Albert Abreu could be out-performing Darvish in the big leagues within the next few years.
While Manny Machado would look great in Pinstripes, the reality is that he will not be part of the 2018 Yankees. At the moment, the Arizona Diamondbacks appear to be the frontrunner…if the Baltimore Orioles decide to trade their very talented third baseman. The D-Backs, if they acquire Machado, would move him to his position of preference (shortstop). While I think Machado should stay at third (for the sake of his surgically-repaired knees), you wonder if shortstop becomes Machado’s top priority when he hits the free agent market after the upcoming season. If so, the Yankees will not be in play given the team already has a strong shortstop. Didi Gregorius, the unsung hero of the 2017 Yankees, is not going anywhere.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images|
I am not opposed to the Yankees filling second and third bases with Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar, respectively. I just don’t feel the Yankees would entrust two critical positions to rookies at the same time.
GM Brian Cashman is talking like Torres could break camp as the starting second baseman but it makes the most sense to keep him at Triple A for the first few weeks to delay his MLB service time and push his free agent eligibility back a year. Hal Steinbrenner, the accountant, is never going to go hog wild with payroll, even if he is successful in resetting luxury tax penalties this year. Unlike his father, he will always be concerned about the bottom line. I am comfortable with Tyler Wade and Ronald Torreyes covering second until Torres is ready. I buy into the opinion that we didn’t see the real Wade last year and he could be more like the player he was for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders this year. Training camp will be very critical for him. But, really, there’s no question second base belongs to Torres regardless of what Wade is able to accomplish.
As for third, Andujar, if he isn’t traded, will be watched very closely at training camp as he attempts to disprove the perspective that his defensive game hasn’t caught up with his bat. Another name that has been suggested, Kyle Holder, seems to be a stretch. Holder is 23 but the highest he has played was at High A Tampa last year. It would be very difficult to make that type of leap for the defensive wizard. He’s not a power bat but in the Yankees lineup, he would not need to be. Realistically, I think Holder is still a season or two away. My opinion remains that the 2018 Yankees third baseman is not presently on the roster. But if I am wrong and Andujar heads north to the Bronx with the big league club in late March, so be it. I’ll be a fan and supporter.
I was glad to see the Yankees settle two of their potential arbitration cases yesterday when they signed Tommy Kahnle and Aaron Hicks to one-year contracts for $1.325 million and $2.825 million, respectively. With today’s deadline to exchange arbitration figures, it’s possible that we could see other signings. The other arbitration eligible players are Didi Gregorius, Dellin Betances, Sonny Gray, Adam Warren, Chasen Shreve and Austin Romine. The Yankees want to avoid contentious battles like the one with Dellin Betances last year, even though they won. Of the players, I’d really hate to see Gregorius or Gray go to arbitration. They are such huge keys for the upcoming season. The worst way to start the year would be for them to go into a room to hear about their faults from the team’s perspective.
My general sense is that the Yankees will make at least one other significant move before training camp but it’s equally possible that ‘what you see is what you get’ with the current roster. I expect other non-roster invitees beyond infielder Jace Peterson but it’s hard to classify any of those as “significant”.
Let’s see what today brings…
To Trade or Not To Trade…
Just when you thought that things couldn’t get any crazier with the Gerrit Cole trade rumors, they took another wild curve today when it was reported that the Houston Astros had acquired Cole from the Pittsburgh Pirates. Some sports reporters were saying the trade was imminent and MLB Trade Rumors posted their usual ‘to acquire’ headline with Houston Astros to acquire Gerrit Cole. But minutes later, the news of false reports circulated and it was announced that a trade was not imminent and the teams were not close. Huh, what?…
So, as I type this post, Cole is still a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates. I think.
My position remains that the Yankees should not trade for Cole. When the rumors of the potential Astros trade began swirling, there were reports that the Yankees had shut down any further discussions with the Pirates. I like Cole and I think the Yankees, through coaching and environment, could bring out the best in the talented pitcher. But at this point, I do not feel that he is worth the cost of Clint Frazier, Miguel Andujar and a top pitching prospect. However, I do not want to see Cole go to Houston. The strong only get stronger. Cole on that pitching staff would be scary. Dallas Keuchel, Justin Verlander, Cole, Lance McCullers, Jr and Charlie Morton (with Brad Peacock and Colin McHugh on standby). The Astros pitching staff would certainly be more formidable than the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays, other teams that have very strong staffs.
I think the Yankees should reserve any decisions for pitching additions until the July trading deadline. They’ll be looking at pro-rated salaries (helpful to meet the goal to stay under $197 million) and will have a much better idea of needs. For me, it’s sign Todd Frazier to a two-year deal and let’s see everyone next month in Tampa.
I’d love to add Yu Darvish or Alex Cobb but those two are not considerations as long as #22 is occupied. The Yankees could gain so much flexibility with payroll if they could move Jacoby Ellsbury, even if it includes paying as much as $15 million per year on what’s left. But it’s tough when Ellsbury seems content to collect his paycheck as the team’s fifth outfielder and no desire to relinquish his right to veto any trade.
The Yankees obviously have a very strong bullpen. I like some of the younger names with potential like Cody Carroll, Ben Heller and Jonathan Holder. This could open some flexibility to trade a more established name later in the season. Someone like David Robertson, whom I would hate to see go, if the Yankees feel they are not going to re-sign him after the season or Dellin Betances who most certainly will be traded at some point if/when he re-establishes his value. Sellers will be more desperate at the trading deadline and the Yankees will have greater strength with potential trade bait.
I think the official position of this website is ‘Get Chris Archer Now!’…
Photo Credit: Chris O’Meara-AP
I am not quite on the ‘Chris Archer or Bust’ train but if I see any indication that the Tampa Bay Rays might be willing to trade him, I wouldn’t be opposed to jumping on the bandwagon. I personally love Marcus Stroman, a native New Yorker, who would fit seamlessly into the Bronx. But admittedly, the chances the Toronto Blue Jays would trade a star pitcher to the Yankees are more remote than even the Rays.
Unless the Yankees can clearly upgrade their starting five, it’s better to stand pat and make air reservations for Tampa.
See ya, Cito…
It’s tough to see former top prospects leave the organization. Granted, when they leave on their own, they were unable to make their mark. Such is the case for former top draft pick Cito Culver. The shortstop was drafted in the first round (32nd pick) of the 2010 MLB Draft. Unfortunately, the bloom faded and Culver could never hit for average. He did manage 12 home runs last year in Triple A but carried a .223 batting average. The organization obviously has many better second base/shortstop types so Culver was never going to realize his dream in Pinstripes. Instead, he has signed a free agent contract with the Miami Marlins who seem to be collecting Yankees prospects. It’s a minor league deal that does not carry an invitation to MLB spring training. I wish Culver the best and hopefully he can insert his name into the picture of the rebuild currently underway on Team Jeter.
Two other former Pinstriped first-round draft picks signed elsewhere in recent weeks. Dante Bichette, Jr (2011) signed with the Colorado Rockies organization and Slade Heathcott (2009), who spent last year in the San Francisco Giants organization, signed with the Oakland A’s. It is kind of sad when you look back over the past decade of Yankees first-round picks and only Clarke Schmidt (2017), Kyle Holder ( 2015), and Aaron Judge (2013) are still part of the Yankees family. Granted, guys like James Kaprielian and Blake Rutherford were parts of major trades last summer but it does show the ratio of first round draft position to MLB team success (with the original team) is very small.
Angel in the Infield…
While you can argue that the big offseason winners so far are the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (signing of Shohei Otani and infield rebuild with acquisitions of Ian Kinsler and Zack Cozart) or the New York Yankees (the trade for the NL MVP), the biggest winners, to me, are the international prospects freed from the Atlanta Braves organization after being penalized by MLB. They retained their bonuses from the Braves but then were free to sign with new teams and new bonuses. Considering a few of these guys (or more) will eventually wash out, the lyrics of “money for nothing and chicks for free” from that old Dire Straits song echo through my head. Notwithstanding the risk, the Yankees finally signed one of the former Braves prospects when they inked SS Angel Rojas for $350,000. Rojas had received $300,000 from the Braves during the 2017-18 signing period. Welcome to the Yankees family, Angel!
Yanks on Fire…
MLB.com recently posted this pic. If this doesn’t get you fired up for the return of baseball next month, nothing will…
Manny Reasons to make a trade…
I haven’t given a lot of thought to the talent the Yankees might consider offering for Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado (primarily because I don’t think the O’s will trade him to the Yankees for obvious reasons). But to acquire Machado now rather than wait until after the season to try and sign him through free agency, would you offer a package of Dellin Betances, Chance Adams, Thairo Estrada and Miguel Andujar? I don’t know but it’s one that I would have to think about. I gotta admit that Machado looks pretty good in Pinstripes…
Thank you to the New York Yankees for extending the protective netting at Yankee Stadium. The team issued the follow release on Wednesday:
Expanded Netting to be installed at Yankee Stadium for 2018 Season
The New York Yankees today (Wednesday, January 10th) announced details regarding the additional protective netting that will be installed at Yankee Stadium for the start of the 2018 regular season. Increased coverage will include partially retractable netting attached to the roofs of both dugouts and stationary netting extending beyond the far ends of the dugouts toward the foul poles.
During the design and engineering process, the Yankees consulted with the architecture firm Populous along with netting company Promats Athletics.
Netting attached to the roofs of both dugouts will extend to a height of nine feet above each dugout during games. The bottom portions of these nets will be upwardly retractable by up to three feet, allowing fans the opportunity to fully interact with players during batting practice when the protective batting cage is being employed around the home plate area of the field. Prior to the start of the game, the nets will connect to the dugout roof, where they will remain in place throughout the game.
Beyond the dugout, netting will extend to Section 011 on the first-base side and Section 029 on the third-base side. The netting in these locations will rise to eight feet above the playing field (approximately 5.5 feet above the wall surrounding the field of play), and will remain in place from the start of batting practice through the end of the game. These sections of netting may be removed for soccer matches or other events held at Yankee Stadium.
Dyneema fiber Ultra Cross 1.2 mm-wide knotless netting — the same as was used for Yankee Stadium backstop netting in 2017 — will be utilized for all netting in the 2018 season. Additionally, all netting will be “field green” in color to minimize its visible impact for those in attendance and viewers watching on television.
Installation will begin in February, and will be completed in time for the Yankees’ scheduled 2018 home opener on Monday, April 2 vs. the Tampa Bay Rays.
In addition, a similar protective netting system at George M. Steinbrenner Field is being installed and will be operational for the start of Yankees spring training (Tuesday, February 13).
The fan experience at the Stadium is important but the safety of the fans is the greatest concern. This is an excellent move by the Yankees.
Sooner or later, this off-season has to get busy, right? Waiting…
The Cole Hard Truth…
I wish the Yankees would put the Gerrit Cole rumors to rest. Yesterday, it was reported that the Houston Astros had interest in Cole as a possible acquisition target. Fine, let the ‘Stros pay the high price for the talented but inconsistent starter. But no, the New York Daily News had to run a story that ‘Gerrit Cole to Yankees seems inevitable’ despite the interest from Houston.
For me, the ship has sailed. I was once enamored with the idea of adding Cole, but as time has passed, I see greater value with Jordan Montgomery in the starting rotation and guys like Clint Frazier and Chance Adams part of the organization. I would still like to see the Yankees create an opening for Frazier through the trade of either Brett Gardner or Jacoby Ellsbury (somebody take Ellsbury, please!) but Red Thunder can play a huge role on the 2018 Yankees if given the opportunity.
The Yankees have the money to add a proven third baseman and move forward to training camp with a solid starting five of Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray, CC Sabathia, and Jordan Montgomery. Chance Adams, Justus Sheffield, and Albert Abreu headline the list of talented pitching prospects that can be plugged in if necessary at some point during the season but there are other arms in the organization that can help. Chad Green was told to report to training camp as a starter. He’s certainly an option (although my preference is to keep him in the ‘pen), and Adam Warren is always on standby. Let’s keep any bullets for a trade to use in July when the team assesses its needs for the duration of the season without having to further deplete the great farm system that Cashman and Company have built.
Speaking of a proven third baseman…
I know that Todd Frazier just wants to play baseball and would like to know where he is going to spend the upcoming season. But his words to the New York Post yesterday read like a veiled plea to the Yankees. According to the Post article written by Kevin Kernan, Frazier said “It’s going to be a new, revitalized me. I want to prove that I’m worth it. I want to be prepared and be the leader I can be on the field. I know whatever team I do fit with, they’re going to get the best Todd Frazier they are ever going to have because I want to play better. I want to get my average up. I have a lot of goals set for myself. Whenever we figure out what team we are going to go with, it’s going to be a lot of fun because I’m going to get these guys going as much as I am going to get myself going.”
It’s that last sentence “…I’m going to get these guys going…” that strikes a chord with Frazier’s leadership qualities and the strong influence he plays in the clubhouse.
In the Post article, Frazier goes on to say “We’ve had contact with the Yankees, my agent, Brodie (Van Wagenen) has done a great job. I love playing for the Yankees. It was such a fun time for me. We just came up short. We had a really good squad, and they are going to be really good again.” Reading between the lines, he is clearly saying that he can help the Yankees get to the next level. Of course, the article also implies that Frazier would gladly join the New York Mets for the right opportunity, but clearly Frazier recognizes that this is a great time to be a New York Yankee.
“I would love a multi-year deal, but I am not closing the door on anything. I’m prepared for anything.” Brian Cashman, that’s a message for you.
Can Van Wagenen and Cashman find common ground to bring the Toddfather back to the Bronx? I can’t speak for others, but I would love to see it. There are no guarantees that Manny Machado will be wearing pinstripes in 2019. Josh Donaldson is on the wrong side of his prime. Granted, Frazier is only a year younger than Donaldson, but Frazier has shown that he can excel as a Yankee. I would really like to see what Todd could do with an entire season at Yankee Stadium. I remain hopeful that the Yankees can find a way to bring Frazier back.
Goodbye, Home Run Derby…
I’ve never been a Trenton Thunder game so I’ve never had the good fortune watch Derby, a 9-year-old Golden Retriever, in action retrieving baseball bats. Yesterday, the Yankees Family was greatly saddened to learn the news that Derby had died over the weekend from cancer.
The Trenton Thunder will celebrate Derby Day on Friday, January 26th, which would have been Derby’s tenth birthday. They’ll share a special tribute video and are encouraging fans to participate through social media.
Derby was the son of the late Thunder Bat Dog, Chase That Golden Thunder, who passed away from cancer in 2013. Derby’s son, Rookie, began full-time bat retrieving duties for the Thunder in 2016. So, the spirit of Derby and his father Chase will live on through Rookie at Arm & Hammer Park in Trenton, NJ.
Farewell, Derby. Thanks for a job well done! You’ve left a piece of yourself in the heart of the Yankees Universe.
Oakland Athletics with Pinstripes showing…
Former Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders manager Al Pedrique, now first base coach for the Oakland A’s, will see a number of familiar faces in Arizona next month. Of course, he’ll see the guys involved in the Sonny Gray trade…Dustin Fowler, Jorge Mateo and James Kaprielian. But he’ll also see former Yankees first-round pick Slade Heathcott, who signed as a minor league free agent. Heathcott spent last year in the Giants organization. Injuries and an inability to hit with success in the upper levels of the minor leagues have plagued Heathcott, now 27. Hopefully, the clean slate in Oakland works to his advantage.
Go Yankees! Speaking of training camp, I read yesterday that Evan Longoria has already reported to the San Francisco Giants training facility in Scottsdale, AZ. Wow, baseball will be back before we know it. Pitchers and catchers have a little more than a month before they have to report to Tampa. We’ve been treated to the training videos of Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez, but I am looking forward to watching these guys in action at Steinbrenner Field. Soon, young Grasshopper…