Category: Uncategorized

All Talk and No Action…

Credit:  Rich Schultz, Getty Images

Moving on to the Next Round?…

The Baseball off-season continues to move at a snail’s pace. Of course, things will change as we get past the Thanksgiving holiday and move into December and closer to the Baseball Winter Meetings.

In the meantime, we continue to pick apart every little thing that happens ad nauseum.  We learned this week that Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner not only supported GM Brian Cashman’s decision to sever ways with former manager Joe Girardi, he agreed with it and it has been something that they’ve had talks about for the past several years. Of course, that leads me to believe that it was Steinbrenner’s call and there are details that we may never really know. We do know there were perceived communication issues and that Girardi had failed to connect with the clubhouse, particularly over the last couple of seasons. Given how vocal both Cashman and Steinbrenner have been about the Girardi situation, it seems like there are more issues at play than just communication and connectivity to players. Steinbrenner implied that the Yankees would have made this decision even if the Yankees had won the World Series.

Although Girardi lasted a decade in the Bronx, he’s now been fired twice by ownership groups that gave scathing departing remarks. Girardi was NL Manager of the Year for the Florida Marlins in 2006, yet he was fired after the season. Then-owner Jeffrey Loria almost fired Girardi on the spot during an August game when Girardi told Loria to stop heckling the home plate umpire. Girardi may have done a decent managing job for the Yankees but you have to think that future teams will take a more cautious approach when/if considering him for managerial openings. I don’t know Girardi so I cannot attest to his personality beyond what I’ve seen during his pre- and post-game interviews but there’s something there, if I was an owner, that would give me pause about Girardi. I have no hard feelings against the man and I hope that he gets another opportunity in MLB but it was clearly time for a change.

Credit:  John Raoux, Associated Press

Upon the conclusion of the GM Meetings in Orlando, Florida, this week, GM Brian Cashman resumed his managerial interviews.

Former Yankee Hensley “Bam Bam” Meulens was in the Bronx on Thursday. I really like Meulens. I know that a lot of people have scoffed at the guy and he has no managerial experience, but I like his communication style (handles himself very well in interviews) and he is clearly a guy that knows baseball and relationships.  He is fluent with multiple languages including a little bit of Japanese which gives him the ability to talk directly to the majority of players without the assistance of interpreters. He enjoys a great relationship with shortstop Didi Gregorius, whom he managed in the WBC Classic. Meulens has been part of three World Series championships in San Francisco.

Credit:  ESPN Internet Ventures

Cashman also spoke with former Yankee Aaron Boone on Friday. Boone is best remembered for his home run to the beat the Boston Red Sox in the 2003 American League Championship Series, a year before the Sox finally ended the Curse of the Bambino. It was Boone’s 2004 knee injury, suffered in a pre-season basketball game, that led the Yankees to their acquisition of Alex Rodriguez and the drama that ensued. Boone, as everyone knows, comes from a family rich in MLB tradition, with a grandfather, father and brother that were all Major Leaguers. There’s  no doubt he is an intelligent guy but like Meulens, no managerial experience, and unlike Meulens, no coaching experience.

I think either Meulens or Boone could do a good job if they are surrounded by the right coaches. I kind of like the idea of using either Al Pedrique or Eric Wedge as the new manager’s bench coach. I would not be disappointed to see Rob Thomson return to that role. It appears that Los Angeles Dodgers third base coach Chris Woodward is next up for a managerial interview. I don’t really know much about Woodward so I don’t have any opinions about him.  At this point, I clearly prefer Meulens and Boone over him. Not sure if Woodward will be the last of the candidates before we start Round 2 or if there will be more guys paraded through the Bronx.  The next round will feature a trip to Florida to meet with the Steinbrenner family.  I’d probably take the candidates by Trinity Memorial Gardens in Trinity, FL. If the ground rumbles (the Boss turning over in his grave), you know the candidate is probably not the one.

I am anxious for the Yankees to make a decision, but I understand they are under no pressure to hurry and can afford to take their time. Outside of Shohei Otani, they do not figure to be big players in Free Agency despite the greedy nature of us, the fans. CC Sabathia has already said that he’d return despite not knowing who the next manager will be. So, for now, we wait…

All Rise for the Judge!…

Congratulations to Aaron Judge for being named AL Rookie of the Year, as expected, and his second place finish in the AL MVP voting. I expected the AL MVP vote to be much closer than it really was. Jose Altuve took 27 of 30 first place votes with only two going to Judge. There was some outrage from the media but the class exhibited by Judge was so professional and heartfelt (as we have come to expect with the big slugger). After Altuve won, Judge tweeted: “M-V-P!!! Nobody more deserving than you!! Congrats on an unforgettable 2017!! @JoseAltuve27”. Judge makes me proud that he is a Yankee every day.

Credit:  SI.com

Yankee Dreams extinguished…

The Yankees lost a long-time farmhand and one-time top prospect when outfielder Mason Williams signed a minor league free agent deal with the Cincinnati Reds. I am sorry that it never worked out for Williams in Pinstripes. I had very high hopes at one point that never came to fruition. Hopefully, for his sake, the change of scenery helps him achieve some the success that had once seemed inevitable for the talented 26-year-old.

Credit:  Jim McIsaac, Getty Images

Another former Yankees prospect, a few years removed from the organization, pitcher Manny Banuelos, has signed a minors deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers. It doesn’t seem like that long ago when Williams and Banuelos were the top prospects with the Yankees. Of course Banuelos was part of the Killer B’s (the trio of Banuelos, Dellin Betances and Andrew Brackman).

The only Killer B that made it was Betances. Like Williams, I hope that Banuelos can find success in Chavez Ravine. He has failed to impress the Atlanta Braves and the Los Angeles Angels so maybe fourth time’s a charm. I really liked Banuelos as a young prospect and had hoped to see him achieve MLB success.

And we continue to wait. Go Yankees!

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Hearing Crickets at Yankee Stadium…

Waiting for breaking Yankees news…

We are moving into Day 3 of the GM Meetings but not much is happening in the Yankees Universe.

Managerial interviews were suspended while GM Brian Cashman participates in the Orlando, FL meetings.  But we do know that Hensley Meulens, currently the bench coach for the San Francisco Giants (formerly their hitting coach in the most recent season), will be interviewed when Cashman gets back to New York.  Meulens has managed Team Netherlands in the WBC Classic several times and the former Yankee has a good relationship with shortstop Didi Gregorius (both guys are from Curacao).  Meulens, like Didi, speaks multiple languages.  He is thought very highly of by the Giants organization and many believe that he is being groomed to eventually replace manager Bruce Bochy.

 

Aaron Boone is also thought to be on the candidate list but no word when he’ll interview.  The latest name to be added to the list is Los Angeles Dodgers third base coach Chris Woodward.

The interest expressed by YES broadcaster John Flaherty and the very recently retired Carlos Beltran do not appear to be gaining any traction.  Among the potential candidates with no prior managerial experience, Beltran does seem to be a viable option.  He wants to manage one day and his leadership was evident during his time with the Yankees.  Perhaps he should take a coaching job first, but I’ve always believed that managerial experience is not necessarily a prerequisite for the right person.  The Boston Red Sox took a chance on a first-time manager with Alex Cora, but they ensured that Cora had a wealth of experience when former Brewers manager Ron Roenicke was named as his bench coach.  Beltran enjoys a good relationship with the New York media which is one of the requirements for the job.  He wouldn’t be my first choice as manager, but I wouldn’t object if he is hired.

Credit:  Noah K Murray, USA TODAY Sports

The word is that Cashman has not yet reached out to everyone that he wants to talk to.  I still find it hard believe Cashman didn’t already have a plan when he made the decision to part ways with Joe Girardi.  Girardi, by the way, showed up at the GM Meetings yesterday as part of the MLB Competition Committee.  That must have been very weird for him, especially if he encountered any of the representatives for the Yankees.  I am sure that he and Cashman didn’t go grab a beer together after the day’s activities were over.

I thought it was interesting that the Yankees had asked for and were denied permission to speak with Oakland A’s manager Bob Melvin.

Even though a new manager has not been named, I was glad to see that the Yankees will be bringing back pitching coach Larry Rothschild for the 2018 season.  I’d like to see RailRiders manager Al Pedrique on next year’s coaching staff given his strong relationships with the Baby Bombers.

Credit:  Jackie Shear, The Trentonian

Cashman did indicate this week that the future in the outfield is Aaron Hicks and not Jacoby Ellsbury.  With no apparent trade talks in play, it looks like Ellsbury will once again be Baseball’s highest paid pinch-runner. Hopefully things change and Cashman is able to use to cash to entice another team to take Ellsbury.  At this point, it would be addition by subtraction even if the Yankees have to pay the freight (a bulk of the remaining monies due on Ellsbury’s contract).  Cashman also stated that Gleyber Torres could make a run at the third base job next Spring.  That talk leads me to believe there will be absolutely no attempt to re-sign Todd Frazier.  We didn’t really expect Frazier to return but until he actually signs with another team, there’s always hope.  Unfortunately, those are odds that I’d never take despite how great the Toddfather fit with the Baby Bombers.

The Yankees did have one free agent signing this week.  Well, it was a minor league free agent signing that may never have an effect on the Major League roster.  They signed former Phillies prospect, catcher Chace Numata, 25.  The organization has lost some catching depth through free agency this off-season and of course the Yankees parted ways with the great Erik Kratz.  Numata has never advanced above Double-A for the Phillies.  He was selected in the 14th round of the 2010 MLB Draft.  For AA-Reading this year, Numata batted .249 with 4 HRs and 28 RBIs in 84 games.  Even though Numata might not ever make it to the Bronx, the Hawaiian native will play a valuable role in the development of Yankees pitching prospects in the upper levels of the farm system.

The Cincinnati Reds have signed lefty Joe Mantiply to a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training.  Mantiply spent the 2017 season with the Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.

Entering the off-season, my favorite managerial candidate was Dave Martinez, formerly bench coach for Joe Maddon in Chicago and my favorite general manager choice was Alex Anthopoulos, formerly an executive for the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Martinez was hired by the Washington Nationals as their new manager, replacing Dusty Baker, while the Atlanta Braves this week hired Anthopoulos as their new GM (with President John Hart rumored to have a lessened voice in the organization).  I had thought Anthopoulos would have been a great choice for the Yankees if they had decided to make a change.  I think both guys will do very well with their new jobs.

Earlier it had been reported that the Boston Red Sox had interest in trading for Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton but it sounds as though Stanton does not want to play in Boston.  The Los Angeles Dodgers are now rumored as a possible destination.  The Dodgers certainly have the financial strength to absorb Stanton’s contract but the human cost to acquire him will be huge.  You can be assured that Marlins CEO Derek Jeter is not going to give Stanton away.  Stanton, protected by Cody Bellinger and Justin Turner, would be very scary in the Dodgers lineup.  But I wouldn’t rule out the Red Sox until if/when a trade for Stanton actually happens.

How many more days until Spring Training?  I’m ready.  Go Yankees!

Thinking Baseball on Football Sunday…

I may be a Minnesota Vikings fan and looking forward to seeing how the team performs today against the Washington Redskins with Teddy Bridgewater standing on the field for the first time in 15 months, albeit in a backup role…for the moment. But truth be told, I am more interested in the moves that can be made to continue the growth and development of the 2018 New York Yankees.

Ohtani or Otani?…

I’ve spelled it both ways but I guess I’ll go with Otani moving forward. I continue to see it spelled either way and I don’t have Ohtani/Otani on speed-dial to clarify.

Credit:  Getty Images

The Associated Press reported that Shohei Otani held a news conference on Saturday. Otani’s words included, “The other day I met with team officials and stated my intentions. My request was met with warm words of support, so I hope to do my best in America from next year on.” While it would be financially wiser to wait until he turns 25 to enter Major League Baseball (when he could be a free agent with no restrictions), Otani wants to raise the level of his game now rather than wait. “I am not a complete player yet, and I want to go to an environment where I can continue to get better”.

Otani apparently had a desire to go to MLB straight from high school but instead opted to sign with the Nippon-Ham Fighters with assurances that he could play a two-way role for the team. While he would like to continue hitting and pitching, it sounds like he is a realist and wants to see what situations are available to him in the United States. “Just before I turned professional, I didn’t imagine I would be able to do both, but since then, the fans have encouraged it,” Otani said. “That has left me with a strong desire to keep doing it…not only for me, but for them.” The DH role seems to tilt the scales in favor of the American League and the big market endorsement opportunities ($$$$) seem to favor the Yankees.

The Yankees remain the frontrunners but until he is formally posted and signs a contract with a MLB team, it’s anybody’s guess where he’ll ultimately end up. I hope he is a Yankee and that the presence of Hideki Matsui and Masahiro Tanaka in the organization are deemed as huge positives for him. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe cites the Toronto Blue Jays as a possible  dark horse destination for Otani but, seriously, the Blue Jays do not bring the honor and prestige of MLB’s most-storied franchise.

My off-season goal remains to see the headline, “Yankees to sign Otani”, followed closely by “Yankees trade Ellsbury”….

Eric Wedge…Seriously?

The second name on GM Brian Cashman’s interview list was the former Indians and Mariners manager.  Ummm, next please. I do not want to see the former backup Red Sox catcher as Manager of Baseball’s greatest franchise. I don’t buy the ‘third time’s a charm’ logic for the two-time managerial loser. This name reinforces to me that I want someone with connections to either the Yankees or to the city of New York and its surrounding region as the next skipper.

Aaron Boone is another name receiving much attention and he’ll most likely be included on the interview list in the not-so-distant future.

With the GM Meetings on tap for this week, starting Monday, it will be interesting to see if Cashman is able to continue with the interview process or if he has to take a brief pause. The big name agents will be present at the meetings to begin dialogue for potential signings leading up to next month’s Winter Meetings. So even though there probably won’t be any significant trades or signings this week, the groundwork is being laid. Perhaps Cashman spends just a day or so at the GM Meetings before excusing himself and leaving his chief lieutenants to represent the Yankees.

I don’t know the Yankees time frame, but I am hopeful they resolve the managerial search by Thanksgiving so the team knows its leadership as we head into the very busy and vital December trading/signing period.

Albert Abreu, Ace or Bullpen Duty?…

I personally like Yankees prospect Albert Abreu, the young 22-year-old right-hander acquired from the Houston Astros in the Brian McCann trade, as one of my favorites in the farm system.  But scouts seem mixed regarding whether he is the next Luis Severino or is deemed to be a more valuable component to add to the bullpen mix. Of course, it was only last off-season the same question was being asked about Severino. I prefer to see Abreu start, but opportunity will play a major role. If the Yankees sign Otani, the Yankees rotation seems fairly solidified with Otani, Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray and Jordan Montgomery. That’s already considering young arms like Chance Adams and Justus Sheffield (plus Domingo Acevedo) are waiting in the wings. But I can never think of a season off the top of my head where a team’s sixth or seventh starter didn’t play a key role at some point in the season. Abreu must take advantage of any opportunities that he is given. He’s one of the arms that I’ll be paying close attention to next Spring.

Credit:  Zachary Lucy, Four Seam Images via AP

Brian McCann may have picked up a World Series ring, making his acquisition a huge win for the Astros, but the Yankees did very well picking up Abreu and RHP Jorge Guzman for the former Yankees catcher. I’ve seen a number of pro-Astros articles that claim a huge Astros victory for the trade, but in time, I think the Astros and their fans will rue the day they let Abreu and Guzman go.

Where will the path lead Giancarlo Stanton?…

I know that it’s been written on this site that the Yankees should go after Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton, but it’s not going to happen on Hal Steinbrenner’s watch. With the team committed to getting under the payroll cap to reset luxury tax penalties, I don’t see the Yankees parting with the young prospects that it would take to acquire Stanton or committing the necessary dollars to take on Baseball’s largest contract. Yes, Yankee fans can dream but it is not going to happen for the Pinstriped faithful.

So, where does Stanton go? There is talk that early conversations are being held with the Boston Red Sox. I fully expect the Red Sox to add a big bat this off-season but I’d be surprised if they went after Stanton. It’s scary to think of Stanton in that lineup, but the Red Sox will need big dollars for their young, cheap talent like Mookie Betts and Chris Sale. Betts made just $950,000 last year and is now arbitration-eligible. The Red Sox have Sale for two more years  and will need lock him up on a long-term deal to avoid losing him through free agency. Those are two guys who will command a healthy chunk of Red Sox payroll over the next few years. I think it is more likely the Red Sox pursue someone like free agents first baseman Eric Hosmer or outfielder J.D. Martinez to help fill the void when David Ortiz retired after the 2016 season. Nevertheless, it’s within the realm of possibility for Boston to get “greedy”. After all, Sox owner John Henry has to feed the beast, otherwise known as the Red Sox Nation.

Another team mentioned for Stanton is the St Louis Cardinals. I don’t see the Cardinals ponying up the cash to take on Stanton’s contract, let alone the prospects that it would take. While it now looks like a very prudent financial decision, they let their franchise player, Albert Pujols, one of the all-time Cardinal greats, depart through free agency a few years ago over money.

The other two teams mentioned as possible destinations are the San Francisco Giants and the Philadelphia Phillies.

It will be interesting to see how this develops over the course of the off-season even if we are forced to be bystanders as Team Hal looks at the bigger picture and of course the bottom line.

Well, let’s see what this week brings. Go Yankees!

Early November in the Yankees Universe…

Mr Cashman will see you now…

The Hot Stove League has been open for a few days but for the most part, it’s been all quiet on the Eastern Front (a/k/a The Bronx).

The managerial interviews have begun with Yankees bench coach Rob Thomson taking the first at-bat. He must have fouled off a bunch of pitches because he apparently met with GM Brian Cashman for six hours this week. I should be fully supportive of Thomson for manager. He’s a company man who has been with the Yankees organization for 28 years. He brings promises of communication and trust in the players and has tried to give assurances that he would not be “more of the same”. Yet, for some reason, I cannot fully embrace his candidacy. I’d like to see him stay in the organization and I am certainly not opposed to his inclusion on the coaching staff for the eventual new manager. But he’s not really my ideal choice for manager.

Credit:  Associated Press

A new name surfaced yesterday in former Yankee Aaron Boone. It’s unknown when/if he will interview with Cashman. Given that I’ve been supportive of other broadcasters getting the job, like Jerry Hairston, Jr and Mark DeRosa, you’d think I would support the possibility of an ex-Yankee. Yet, I was ‘ho-hum’ when I saw his name. I am appreciative of his home run to win the 2003 American League Championship Series, but he’s not really someone that I can envision in the job. Perhaps he is someone I would grow with in time if he is the one. We’ll see.

David Cone and John Flaherty are also names that received heavy ink in New York publications this week. Between the two, Coney would be the better option to me with no offense to Flaherty.

The Miami Marlins have confirmed that manager Don Mattingly will return for the 2018 season so that effectively removes his name from consideration. As a huge Mattingly fan, even today, I did not really want to see Mattingly back in the Yankees organization as its manager. Managers are so heavily second-guessed and I didn’t want to see Mattingly tarnish his great Yankees legacy in any way.

I think the best tweet I saw about the managerial search yesterday came from MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand: “Something to keep in mind re: Yankees managerial search.  This is a chance for Cashman to interview several people to get a feel for them in a different role. Many will interview, only one will get the job. Don’t get caught up in any one name.”  So, as the saying goes, trust the process. I have the trust in Brian Cashman that he’ll make the right decision. His legacy is heavily invested in the next hire with the Yankees on the cusp of something great. Gene Michael was widely recognized as the chief architect of the 90’s dynasty but this potential run belongs solely to Cashman and his chief lieutenants (backed by the Steinbrenner family, of course). All things considered, Cashman can’t afford to make the wrong choice.

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, no, it’s Ohtani!…

I have been trying to avoid getting excited about the possibility of adding Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani but the ‘Ohtani to America’ (or should we just call it the ‘Ohtani to Pinstripes’) movement took another step in the right direction. Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reported that Japanese news reports are stating the Nippon-Ham Fighters have announced they will post Ohtani this off-season. All I want for Christmas is Ohtani in the Bronx! I am still trying to be cautiously optimistic but it would be very exciting to have him join the strong cast of Baby Bombers.

The Yankees can offer Ohtani the second highest signing bonus at $3.25 million. They trail only the Texas Rangers who can offer $285,000 more than the Yankees. The Rangers can also offer no state income tax. But I am hopeful the promotional opportunities will be greater for Ohtani in New York. He stands to make a great deal of his income through endorsement deals. Also, when you look long-term, the Yankees can offer more lucrative dollars and stability for future contracts. Faced with the impending free agency of Japanese ace Yu Darvish last summer, the Rangers chose to deal Darvish to the Dodgers rather than make a strong effort to re-sign him. Granted, Darvish didn’t exactly have a stellar finish to his season but it reinforced to me that if you want long-term security, New York is a better place to be than Texas. Plus, the Yankees have the legacy of Japanese greats Hideki Matsui and Masahiro Tanaka.

Shohei Ohtani (top right) / Credit:  Koji Watanbe, Getty Images

Farewell to a Pitcher and a Catcher…

It was tough to see the loss of former Blue Jays and Phillies great Roy Halladay this week to the tragic plane crash in the Gulf of Mexico near Tampa, FL. When he played, he was the definition of “the” true ace for me. I had always hoped the Yankees would find a way to acquire him when he played for the Blue Jays but recognized that intra-division trades of superstars rarely happen. Still, he was marvel to watch pitch despite his domination of the Yankees. His loss was felt and I am deeply saddened by his untimely departure.

A lesser known baseball player also died this week but it was equally as sad. 17-year-old Daniel Flores, a catcher out of Venezuela the Boston Red Sox had signed in last year’s International Draft for $3.1 million signing bonus, succumbed to cancer in Boston. Flores was rated as the fifth best prospect in the Red Sox system according to MLB.com. Prior to the draft last year, Flores was ranked as the second best International prospect behind shortstop Wander Franco (who signed with the Tampa Bay Rays). By comparison, the Yankees top signing, outfielder Everson Pereira, was ranked fourth. According to scouting reports, Flores would have been a brilliant defensive whiz behind the plate. It’s unfortunate he is unable to reach his dream to play at Fenway Park but hopefully his signing bonus provides long-term security for his family and loved ones.

May both men rest in peace.

No Gold Glove Awards but a few Silver Sluggers…

Congratulations to Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez for winning their first Silver Slugger Awards. These were easy calls and it would have been a great travesty if either player had been omitted. Now, we await the results of AL Rookie of the Year and AL MVP which should bring more hardware in Judge’s direction. Individual awards are nice but we really need to get these guys a World Series championship!

Today is Veteran’s Day. For all veterans everywhere, thank you for your service. We remember you today and always…

In closing, as always, Go Yankees!

Disliking Off-Season Inactivity…

Baseball is such a rush. It starts in February when pitchers and catchers report, and then slowly builds over the course of the next eight months, reaching the adrenaline rush of the post-season, capped by the exhilarating World Series. Then, nothing. We can only wait and watch as the Yankees beat writers jump from one potential story to another without yielding much fruit.

Things will pick up in a few weeks as we approach the Winter Meetings, but for now, we just have to sit around wondering when the Yankees will give us an indication who they might be considering for the job to lead the 2018 Yankees.

Without much to really think about, here are some of my random thoughts…

Alex Rodriguez, Just Say No…

I can honestly say that I have no desire to see Alex Rodriguez named as Yankees manager. I do not dispute A-Rod’s baseball knowledge and I know that he’s been a positive influence on the younger players during Spring Training but neither of those attributes qualify him as a Major League manager. This is a man who was suspended an entire year for PED use after he had already been implicated with earlier use of performance-enhancing drugs. I was glad to see A-Rod’s time as an active member of the Yankees end and I have no interest in watching him don the pinstripes again (outside of brief Spring Training appearances).  As it is, I am tired of the daily “J-Rod” updates.  If Alex became the Yankees manager, those daily sightings of Jennifer Lopez and A-Rod would only worsen.  I lived through the Bronx Zoo of the 1970’s.  I am not willing to entertain the thought of The Bronx Zoo, Part II. So count me among those with no interest in seeing A-Rod become manager of the Yankees.

Jake Cave, Member of the 40-Man Roster…

It took awhile and included a detour through Cincinnati, but Jake Cave finally earned a spot on the Yankees 40-Man Roster when he was added on Monday.

Cave was drafted by the Yankees in the 6th Round of the 2011 MLB Draft out of Kecoughtan High School in Hampton, VA.  He was left unprotected when he became Rule 5 eligible after the 2015 season and was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds.  He started 2016 Spring Training very hot for the Reds but by the end of camp had cooled considerably.  In the end, the Reds opted to keep a 30-year old outfielder (Jordan Pacheco), who was released by the Reds in June 2016, over the then-23 year old Cave. At the time of his return to the Yankees, Reds manager Bryan Price offered the following comments:  “He was and is a terrific young player, and we all saw him as a big-leaguer. There was just some limitations on how much playing time I thought I could get him over the course of this year. My big concern was the history with Donald Lutz and Neftali Soto, guys that have come up and really not played much at a very young age and how they were able to deal with that and when they returned to the minor leagues how they performed afterwards, and I would hate to see that happen to Jake as a guy who really got limited playing time early in the season and how that would have affected his long-term development.”

Cave returned to the Yankees but rather than sulk, he continued to work on his craft.  He was left unprotected again in 2016 but was not selected in that year’s Rule 5 Draft.  His performance in 2017 exceeded expectations as he finished with 20 home runs and 56 RBI’s at AA/AAA combined.  His batting line was .305/.351/.542 with .893 OPS in 103 total games.  His hard work has been acknowledged by the Yankees and he’ll get an opportunity to go to the Major League Camp with the Yankees in February for the first time.

Cave profiles as a fourth outfielder but he is clearly a success story among Yankees prospects.  With guys like Cave and Billy McKinney chomping at the bit, the Yankees need to clear out Jacoby Ellsbury and/or Brett Gardner to make way for the younger guys. I’d hate to see Gardner go but it is Clint Frazier’s time for left field.  Aaron Hicks is a better center fielder than Ellsbury.  So, I’d prefer to see Hicks and Frazier in the starting outfield with Aaron Judge, and guys like Cave and/or McKinney backing them up.

The Yankees also added reliever Nick Rumbelow to the 40-man roster. Rumbelow had Tommy John surgery in 2016 and missed part of the 2017 season with his recovery. After pitching briefly for the Double-A Trenton Thunder, he was lights out for the Triple A-Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. In 17 games (covering 29 innings) for the RailRiders, Rumbelow was 5-1 and had a sterling 1.12 ERA with 5 saves. He struck out 30 batters, while walking only 8.  Rumbelow, like Cave, is a success story.  He was released by the Yankees in November 2016 (free to go anywhere like Nathan Eovaldi did when he signed with the Tampa Bay Rays).  Rumbelow opted to re-sign with the Yankees on December 15, 2016 and we’re glad he did.

The Yankees still have a number of Rule 5 decisions to make but these were a couple of easy ones.  I have no doubt the Yankees will be forced to leave quality talent unprotected for this year’s Rule 5 Draft.  GM Brian Cashman, between his managerial interviews and negotiation of a new contract, has his work cut out for him.

Free Agency is Upon Us…

Free Agents became available to talk to other teams on Monday afternoon. Most forecasts show the Yankees to be very limited players in the FA arena as they attempt to avoid MLB’s competitive balance tax and reset future penalties for going above the payroll threshold.  Sadly, the Boston Red Sox were able to do that this year, so they’ll be more aggressive this off-season. During the press conference yesterday to announce new Red Sox manager Alex Cora, Dave Dombrowski, President of Baseball Operations, was asked if the luxury tax would be limitation. He responded, “No, I do not”. The same question was posed to Red Sox owner John Henry and he replied with, “Well, (Dombrowski) answered the question. He said he could go over.”  I would not be surprised to see the Red Sox go hard and heavy after Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer.

Most forecasts that I have seen only show the Yankees signing Japanese two-way star Shohei Otani and CC Sabathia. Without too many moves necessary, I’d be very happy to see the Yankees acquire Otani. There is uncertainty with the current dispute in negotiations between MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball for a new posting agreement. However, Otani took a step in the positive direction by hiring Creative Artists Agency (CAA) to represent him if he is posted and made available to MLB teams this off-season.

I am not overly excited about the anticipated return of Chase Headley to third base for the 2018 season. The question will be whether Gleyber Torres or Miguel Andujar will be ready. I doubt either one breaks camp as the starter but it could happen sooner rather than later.  Headley runs too hot and cold for me. I’d prefer to see greater consistency out of the position to protect the big bats in the lineup. I’d love to see the return of Todd Frazier, but the timing is not right and the Yankees are not in a position to offer a free agent multiple years at third base. For the short-term, we’ll have to deal with Headley.

Dueling Airwaves…

It was funny yesterday that both Yankees GM Brian Cashman and former Yankees manager Joe Girardi were giving interviews at the same time. It’s tough listening to Girardi as he really sounds like a guy who wanted to be a part of the next great Yankees dynasty. I am surprised that the Washington Nationals didn’t make a run at Girardi with their World Series-caliber roster. But then again, the Nats aren’t known for spending cash on the managerial position and perhaps they were too far down the road with new manager Dave Martinez.

At this point, it appears that Girardi will sit out a year (perhaps taking a broadcasting position) and will emerge as a viable managerial candidate in the 2018 off-season.

The more Cashman talks about communication as a primary reason that Girardi was not re-hired and in particular his relationship with the younger players, it leads me to believe that there are reasons at play that we will never know. Maybe one day when Cashman retires and writes his memoirs.

I don’t know about you, but I am ready for some genuine Yankees news. These quiet days leading up to the Baseball Winter Meetings next month are tough. I am getting a little tired of watching Houston Astros show up on Saturday Night Live or Carlos Correa discussing how he decided to propose to his girlfriend immediately after the World Series had ended on the Jimmy Kimmel show. Justin Verlander’s wedding pics in Italy are nice, but I want to know about our guys.  It is time to get the Yankees back in the news.

As always, Go Yankees!

Ready, Set, Go!…

The Hot Stove League Begins Play…

There is always a quietness about the days that follow the World Series unless of course you’re a fan of the World Series champion.  Teams have five days following the conclusion of the World Series to exclusively negotiate with their own free agents.  It’s rare to see much activity and unlike the NFL and other sports, there is not a flurry of immediate activity when the free agents become free to talk to other teams.  So, I guess that puts us in the calm before the storm…the days and weeks leading up to the Baseball Winter Meetings next month in Orlando, Florida.  The meetings will be held from Sunday, December 10th through Wednesday, December 13th.  The annual Rule 5 Draft will be held on Thursday, December 14th.

The two biggest opt-out clauses this off-season belonged to Justin Upton of the Los Angeles Angels and Masahiro Tanaka of the New York Yankees.  This week, the Angels announced they had signed Upton to a new 5-year deal, apparently worth $106 million.  Then on Friday night, Masahiro Tanaka announced that he would not opt out of his contract and will remain with the Yankees.  His current contract has three more years, through the 2020 season, at $67 million.

Credit:  Jim McIsaac, Getty Images

As a Yankees fan, the latter situation is more relevant to me.  I am very glad that Tanaka decided to remain in New York.  There had been strong speculation that if Tanaka opted out, the Yankees would not aggressively pursue him.  Three more years at $22 million plus per year is not chump change and it would have been hard for Tanaka to capture more dollars.  Maybe more years but the partial tear of his UCL and the associated risk of eventual Tommy John surgery would have most assuredly scared teams away.  Regardless of the risks, the starting rotation for the Yankees is stronger with Tanaka in it than not.  He did have an inconsistent 2017 regular season and there was a brief stretch that he looked absolutely awful but he rebounded with a strong finish.  He was dominant in the post-season.

So, the front of the Yankees rotation in 2018 will feature Luis Severino, Tanaka, Sonny Gray and Jordan Montgomery.  There’s a chance the Yankees bring back CC Sabathia on a one-year deal if the two sides can come together on a mutually beneficial contract.  But regardless of what happens with Sabathia, the Yankees have Chance Adams and Justus Sheffield, among others, gnawing at the door for opportunities.  There had been a fear at one time that the 2018 would be a total rotation rebuild situation but now it appears to be a strength before the off-season strategy even begins.

With the Yankees trying to make a very strong effort to get under the salary cap this year and reset the luxury tax penalties, it is unlikely the Yankees will pursue any high-priced free agent talent.  It’s unfortunate that third baseman Todd Frazier will most likely not return, but with another year remaining on Chase Headley’s contract and the near-readiness of prospects Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar, there simply is no room for the Toddfather.  Bummer.  He was a great fit for the Yankees.

Credit:  Adam Hunger, USA TODAY Sports

There seems to be stronger speculation this off-season that the Yankees could actually move Jacoby Ellsbury.  They’ll have to eat a good portion of what’s left on his contract but regardless of the cost, this is a move that has to happen.  I do not see the Yankees parting with Brett Gardner, and of course Aaron Judge owns right field after his spectacular season.  So the Yankees have to make room in the outfield for Aaron Hicks and Clint Frazier without even considering promising young talent like Billy McKinney or Jake Cave.  The most likely team with interest (assuming the reports are true) are the Seattle Mariners.  The Mariners would allow Ellsbury to return to his native Northwest (he’s from Oregon).  The primary problem for the Mariners would be the heavy financial commitments they have invested in other players, most notably Robinson Cano.  Therefore, the Yankees would probably have to pay a very significant portion of Ellsbury’s contract to move him to Safeco Field.  Hopefully, GM Brian Cashman can figure this one out so that Ellsbury doesn’t become baseball’s highest paid pinch-runner again next year.

Other guys that are vulnerable to potential trades appear to be Chase Headley, Starlin Castro, Austin Romine, and Dellin Betances.  With the disappointing end to his 2017 season, the value for Betances is down which probably enhances the potential for him to stay with the team (why try to sell the four-time All-Star while his value is low) but I don’t think the Yankees would hesitate to include him in a deal if it makes sense for the team.  The Yankees also seem to be at the crossroads for making a decision about who backs up first baseman Greg Bird.  With 40-man roster spots at a premium, it would seem that a choice needs to be made between Tyler Austin and Garrett Cooper.  My preference probably leans toward Austin due to his versatility to play the outfield.

The Yankees lost a valuable prospect last year in the Rule 5 Draft when the San Diego Padres kept catcher Luis Torrens on the MLB roster all season.  I expect this year’s Rule 5 Draft to be equally painful if not more so.  It’s certainly a testament to the strength of the farm system but it is still difficult to see talented young prospects depart.

Credit:  Alex Gallardo, AP

Now that Tanaka has made his decision to stay in the Bronx, the biggest immediate problem facing the Yankees is finding a new manager to replace the dismissed Joe Girardi.  I am surprised the Yankees have not announced a new deal for GM Brian Cashman since his current deal expired at the end of October, but it doesn’t seem like Cash is going anywhere.  Neither the team nor Cashman have tipped their hand to show potential managerial candidates but it does seem like the team is looking at outside alternatives.  The question is how much they’ll prioritize actual managerial experience.  If they want experience, then former Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus seems to be the best possible option.  He was drafted by the Yankees in the 48th Round of the 1987 draft, although he never played for the Major League team.  I can still remember the sense of loss when he was taken by the Colorado Rockies in the November 1992 Expansion Draft.  Nevertheless, he is a Connecticut guy who grew up in close proximity to New York (even if his childhood team was the Boston Red Sox). He was criticized for being out-managed in the 2014 ALDS when the Detroit Tigers lost to the Baltimore Orioles and like Girardi, has a tendency to lean heavily on his veterans. But by all accounts, he is a player-friendly manager (good communicator) and would interact well with the media. For guys who lack managerial (or coaching) experience, Jerry Hairston, Jr seems to stand out.  I also like Mark DeRosa of the MLB Network.  I have no idea who the Yankees will ultimately choose but you have to believe that Cashman had someone in mind when the decision was made to part ways with long-time manager Girardi.

Credit:  Corey Sipkin, NY Daily News

I am ready for the craziness that will ensue over the next six weeks before we settle into the Winter hibernation that precedes the opening of Spring Training camps next February.  The Yankees are a team on the rise and the moves made this off-season will contribute toward the team’s success (or lack thereof) as we move forward.  No pressure, Brian Cashman.  The goal is simple…bring the Yankees’ 28th World Series Championship to New York City now.  Teams like the Houston Astros, Cleveland Indians, Boston Red Sox and the Los Angeles Angeles of Anaheim are not going to sit idly by.  The job is to do it better so that we can celebrate on the streets of New York this time next year.

Go Yankees!

Houston Astros, 2017 World Series Champions…

Credit:  Wally Skalij — LA Times

2017 World Series

Astros 5, Dodgers 1…

Astros Win Series, 4-3

In the words of the former Yankees manager Joe Girardi, it’s not what you want. Sadly for me and those who were pulling for the Los Angeles Dodgers, it was a very long night. From the second consecutive horrific start by Yu Darvish to Cody Bellinger shattering Aaron Judge’s post-season strikeout record, it was a forgettable night for the Dodger Blue as the Houston Astros claimed their first ever World Series Championship.

Credit:  Robert Gauthier – LA Times

This should have been a special and magical season for the Dodgers. Their start to the season created much talk about surpassing the tremendous accomplishments of the 1998 Yankees, then came the extended losing streak. They rebounded but in the end, they were just another World Series loser. It was a good Dodgers club, but not quite good enough.

As for me, I am kind of tired of the Houston Astros after losing two seven-game series in a row to them…first the Yankees in the ALCS and now the Dodgers in the World Series. Plus, word started popping last night that Yankees third base coach Joe Espada has decided to join the Astros as their new bench coach (replacing Alex Cora who will become the new manager for the Boston Red Sox). I guess it was just adding salt in the wound.

Nevertheless, congratulations to the Astros for the championship! It was a hard-fought win for them and the city of Houston.

The Astros controlled the game from the start. It took three pitches for Houston’s George Springer, leading off the game, to double into the left field corner off Dodgers starter Yu Darvish. Alex Bregman reached base on an error, making it to second on first baseman Cody Bellinger’s throwing error. Bellinger had moved toward second in front of the second baseman in shallow right to scoop up the grounder, but his throw back to first sailed past Darvish. It probably would have been easier for second baseman Logan Forsythe to make that play. 

Credit:  David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG

While Bregman advanced to second, Springer scored the game’s first run. Bregman stole third to put himself in prime scoring position.  It played to perfection when Jose Altuve grounded out to first, with Bregman racing home to score the second run for the Astros. Darvish settled down and retired the next two hitters to get out of the inning and finally bring the Dodgers to bat.

The Dodgers looked like they were going to answer the bell in the bottom of the 1st. Chris Taylor led off for the Dodgers with a double to deep right center. Corey Seager struck out swinging, but there was still hope with the heart of the Dodgers batting order coming up. Justin Turner was hit by a pitch when he took a ball off his forearm, the first of four batters that Astros starter Lance McCullers, Jr would plunk. Cody Bellinger struck out for the second out. Yasiel Puig was next and he, like Turner, was hit by a pitch, on the arm, to load the bases. The reinvigorated Joc Pederson came to the plate, flashing a smile, with the chance to bring momentum back to the Dodgers. Unfortunately, he grounded out to second baseman Jose Altuve for the final out.  No runs for the Dodgers. A missed opportunity for them.  In retrospect, one of the game’s key moments.

Yu Darvish was back out on the mound for the 2nd inning but he would not survive.  He started the inning by walking Brian McCann. Marwin Gonzalez doubled to the right field wall, with the slow-footed McCann moving to third. Josh Reddick grounded out to second for the first out. Then, in one of the game’s critical moments, McCullers, who should have been an easy out, hit a slow grounder between first and second. The only play for the Dodgers was to throw out McCullers at first. McCann was able to easily jog (sorry, it is hard to use the word “run” when it comes to the former Yankees catcher) home to pick up an RBI for McCullers. George Springer was next and he put an exclamation point on the Astros’ early performance with a two-run homer high over the center field wall. The Astros led, 5-0. 

Credit:  Wally Skalij – LA Times

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts came out and pulled Darvish in favor of Brandon Morrow. It may have been the final Dodger appearance for Darvish, a free agent to be. Morrow struck out Alex Bregman to end the inning but using one of your best relievers in the second inning is not exactly a blue print for success.

The Dodgers looked like they had another opportunity in the bottom of the 2nd. Logan Forsythe started things with a single to left. Austin Barnes grounded out to third (great defensive play and throw by third baseman Alex Bregman), but Forsythe was able to advance to second to put himself in scoring position. Kike Hernandez pinch hit for Morrow and was hit by a pitch (ball grazed his shirt but it would have been Ball 4 anyway). Runners at first and second. But it was not the Dodgers’ night. Chris Taylor lined a shot directly to shortstop Carlos Correa and the Astros were able to double Forsythe off second to complete the double play. Again, no runs for the Dodgers and yet another missed opportunity.

Clayton Kershaw took over for the Dodgers in the top of the 3rd inning. Kind of makes you wonder why the Dodgers didn’t go to Kershaw sooner but he did his job, retiring the Astros in order. There was still time for the Dodgers to claw their way back into the game. In the bottom of the inning, Corey Seager led off with a single to center over Jose Altuve’s head. I tried to think of a humorous line about that but I came up short. Justin Turner was hit by a pitch for the second time, this time under his left shoulder blade, and the fourth hit batter by McCullers. 

Credit:  Wally Skalij – LA Times

After McCullers struck out Cody Bellinger, Astros manager A.J. Hinch removed him and brought in Brad Peacock. Yasiel Puig flied out to center but Seager was able to tag and move to third. Two outs for Joc Pederson with a runner just 90 feet away. Pederson went down swinging.  Still no runs for the Dodgers.

Meanwhile, with Kershaw pitching strongly, the Dodgers had their next chance in the 5th. Corey Seager took a one-out walk and moved to second when Justin Turner singled to left. Alex Bregman dove for the ball and knocked it away from Carlos Correa, allowing the ball to roll into left field. The Astros pulled Brad Peacock and brought in Francisco Liriano. Cody Bellinger hit a fielder’s choice to Jose Altuve and the Astros were able to force Turner out at second with Seager moving to third. 

Credit:  Wally Skalij – LA Times

Another pitching change which brought Chris Devenski in to face Yasiel Puig. Devenski won the battle when Puig lined out to first for the final out.

The Astros were able to load the bases in the top of the 6th against Kershaw on only one hit but Kershaw was able to get out of the jam unscathed.

In the bottom of the 6th with Charlie Morton taking over the mound for the Astros, Joc Pederson singled to center…a hit that would have been more useful in his earlier at-bats. Logan Forsythe walked and the Dodgers looked like they might be in business. After Austin Barnes popped out to Carlos Correa in shallow left for the first out, Andre Ethier, pinch-hitting for Kershaw, singled to right on a roller past Jose Altuve, scoring Pederson. Forsythe moved to second.  A home run now, and it would have been a one-run game. Unfortunately, like the earlier innings, the Dodgers couldn’t move the runners. Chris Taylor struck out and Corey Seager grounded out to short. It had seemed like it might be a big inning for the Dodgers but all they had to show for it was a single run. 5-1, Astros.

From there, Morton shut down the Dodgers, retiring the next nine batters in order. When Corey Seager hit a grounder to second baseman Jose Altuve who, in turn, threw the ball to first baseman Yuli Gurriel in the bottom of the 9th, the Houston Astros were World Series Champions.  

Credit:  Luis Sinco – LA Times

I am happy for Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann. For them, it was good to see the elusive World Series championship come their way.  It might be the final hour for Beltran’s career so if it is the end, he gets to go out the right way.

Credit:  Jason O Watson, Getty Images North America

George Springer was rightfully named the Series MVP.  His five home runs tied a World Series record and he was seemingly at the heart of every big Astros rally in this series.

Credit:  Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG

For as much as I ripped Yuli Gurriel for his offensive gestures directed at Yu Darvish and his subsequent 2018 suspension for same, it was a very nice touch by Gurriel to tip his cap to Darvish when he came to the plate in the bottom of the 1st inning.

Credit:  John McCoy, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG

The first pitches for the game were thrown by Dodgers legends Sandy Koufax and Don Newcombe, with Steve Garvey and Rick Monday on the receiving ends, respectively. It was a very nice moment for the Dodgers and their fans.

Credit:  David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG

Now, the MLB season is over and the Hot Stove League begins. Time for the Yankees to find a new manager and begin preparations for the path that hopefully leads to the 2018 World Series championship.

Odds & Ends…

Now that the World Series has ended, Masahiro Tanaka has three days to decide if he’ll opt out of his contract. So, we’ll know by Saturday where we stand with the right-hander. I am hopeful that either he decides not to opt out or that he and the Yankees are able to come together for an extension. I would prefer to see Tanaka stay.

Credit:  Anthony Causi, New York Post

It looks like the Yankees have found their replacement for former VP of Player Development, Gary Denbo, who recently departed to join Derek Jeter in Miami. Kevin Reese, most recently Director of Professional Scouting for the Yankees, will apparently take Denbo’s former role. There has not been an official announcement yet by the Yankees but it is expected shortly.

The New York Mets did not retain hitting coach Kevin Long when Long’s contract expired so there are rumors that Long could return to his former role as hitting coach for the Yankees. Nothing against Alan Cockrell or Marcus Thames, but I’d like to see Long back in Pinstripes. He is one of the many rumored names for potential Yankees manager. I do not really want to see him as the manager, but as part of the coaching staff, he’d be a great fit.

The coming days should be interesting for the Yankees and the managerial search. I find it very hard to believe that they did not have a specific choice or choices in mind when they made the decision not to retain Joe Girardi. So I don’t buy they are in the process of gathering names. I think they’ll go with an outsider rather than someone with immediate Yankee connections but we’ll see. Things should become more transparent as we move forward.  I would not be at all surprised if the new manager is Jerry Hairston, Jr.  

Credit:  USA TODAY Sports

Have a great Thursday! It was a wonderful season and a successful one for the Pinstripers.  They are only going to get better.  Go Yankees!