Decision-Time for Joe Girardi…

Getting ready for 2017…

This has been an interesting week for the Yankees.

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Credit:  Butch Dill, USA TODAY Sports

Masahiro Tanaka, Chasen Shreve, and Jordan Montgomery combined to threw a no-hitter on St Patrick’s Day as the Yankees defeated the Detroit Tigers, 3-0.  Tanaka has been stellar this spring, and looks to be a potential Cy Young candidate if he keeps it up.  Jordan Montgomery had some early struggles in camp, but he has been coming on strong lately and might have inserted his name into the competition for the last two rotation spots.  It was a great game for the Yankees even if spring games do not really matter.

Gary Sanchez and Greg Bird have continued to show that they will be a big part of the Yankees offense this year.  It’s great to see that Bird has rebounded from last year’s injury.  With former Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira’s knack for ice-cold starts to new seasons, I am anxious to see if Bird can fly early in the new season.

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Credit:  Matt Rourke, AP

James Kaprielian gave a great performance in his only spring appearance before being sent down to minor league camp for re-assignment.  He pitched two scoreless innings in Thursday’s game.  I know that Kaprielian still has much work ahead of him, but I am cautiously optimistic that we’ll see him at the major league level in September.  It would help set him up as a prime candidate to replace CC Sabathia in the rotation next year.

Gleyber Torres is another that has really impressed me.  He has shown leadership and ability beyond his years and despite never having played above High A ball, he has stood shoulder to shoulder with his major league peers.  He is only a year or two away.  The team will be substantially improved once he is ready.

I really feel bad for Robert Refsnyder.  All things considered, I’d choose him over Ronald Torreyes for the utility spot on the team.  But Refsnyder just doesn’t have the necessary defensive skills.  The Yankees have Ref on the trading block so it’s possible that a move could be made within the next couple of weeks.  While I would hate to see him go, I would be very excited for him if a trade opens up a starting role for him.

I feel bad for manager Joe Girardi.  He has some very difficult decisions ahead.  Too many talented guys to narrow the list to just 25 but he has to do it anyway.  Deserving guys will be on the outside looking in.

Here’s my prediction for the Opening Day roster:

Starting Line-up

C: Gary Sanchez

1B: Greg Bird

2B: Starlin Castro

SS: Didi Gregorius

3B: Chase Headley

LF: Brett Gardner

CF: Jacoby Ellsbury

RF: Aaron Judge

DH: Matt Holliday

 

Bench

1B: Chris Carter

OF: Aaron Hicks

UTILITY: Ronald Torreyes

C: Austin Romine

 

Starting Rotation

1-RHP: Masahiro Tanaka

2-RHP: Michael Pineda

3-LHP: CC Sabathia

4-RHP: Luis Severino

5-LHP: Bryan Mitchell

 

Bullpen

LHP: Tommy Layne

RHP: Ben Heller

RHP: Chad Green

RHP: Adam Warren

RHP: Tyler Clippard-Setup

RHP: Dellin Betances-Setup

LHP: Aroldis Chapman-Closer

For my roster, I couldn’t find room for Jon Niese.  He has not pitched badly, but I feel other guys have proven themselves.  To add Niese to the roster would require dropping someone from the 40-man roster.  Given the Yankees just signed Ernesto Frieri to a minor league deal with invite to major league camp, it would make more sense to open the spot on the 40-man for Frieri if/when he proves that he can still be an effective major league reliever.  Niese wasn’t going to start for the Yankees so relief is his only opportunity.  To me, there are too many equal arms or better.

I would love to remove Jacoby Ellsbury from the roster, but I don’t have $90 million to burn so it looks like we’re stuck with him and can only hope for the best.  I am also looking forward to Chase Headley’s future as an ex-Yankee whenever that day may be.  I will be paying very careful attention to the development of prospect Dustin Fowler (center field) and Miguel Andujar (third base).  When those guys are ready, it will be time to find a way to unload Ellsbury and Headley.

It has been very exciting to watch the Yankees perform this spring.  As I type this post, they are 16-5, the best spring mark in the MLB.  The Baby Bombers have excelled, time and again.  There’s a strong sense of excitement and energy that did not exist at this point last year.  I am not predicting a World Series championship or even an AL East title, but the Yankees should be very fun to watch this year.  Better days are truly ahead.

—Scott

The March to Opening Day…

How will the Yankees “manage” potential change?…

Will Joe Girardi be the Yankees manager this time next year?  As the manager enters the final year of his contract, the expectation is that he’ll re-sign with the Yankees in October or November.  But anything is possible.  The Steinbrenner family might have a change of heart and decide that a change is needed.  Girardi has held the job for a long time (this will be his 10th season as Yankees skipper).

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Credit:  AP Photo/Kathy Willens

I get frustrated with Girardi at times.  He’s never been one of my favorite managers.  I had greater confidence in Joe Torre’s ability to lead.  Among current managers, I hold Don Mattingly and Terry “Tito” Francona in highest regard.

Mattingly was my favorite player so sentimentally that’s probably why he is my favorite manager.  In 2008, when the Yankees hired Girardi over Mattingly, I did think it was the right decision given Mattingly’s lack of managerial experience at the time.  Mattingly was not able to succeed in Los Angeles for the Dodgers, but I’ve felt he has continually improved each year.  Today, I’d easily take Mattingly over Girardi.  My only reservation with hiring Mattingly as Yankees manager (assuming the Yankees could pry him from Miami) is preservation of his Yankees legacy.  Managers are hired to be fired or so the saying goes.  I wouldn’t want my final memory of Mattingly in pinstripes to be him walking away after being fired.

I have admired Francona since he was manager of the Boston Red Sox.  I had great respect for the champions he built and of course he was responsible for ending The Curse of the Bambino, along with then general manager Theo Epstein.  I doubt that Francona would ever leave the Cleveland Indians (by his own choice).  The Yankees could have hired him after he was fired in Boston but they did not express any interest.  Francona has history with the Cleveland Indians franchise (pre-dating his time in Boston), and after taking the team to the World Series last year, he is very beloved in the city.

If the Yankees do decide to make a managerial change at the end of the season, I just don’t see any overwhelming candidates who could do a better job.  Mattingly would be great, but he is under contract, so it would take a trade to make it happen.  I am not enthused by simply elevating one of the coaches (Rob Thomson or Tony Pena).

This situation bears watching over the course of the season.  I think the odds are much better that GM Brian Cashman, also in the final year of a contract, re-signs with the Yankees than Girardi.  Time will tell.

Let the competition be Judged…

The Yankees have various degrees of competition at certain positions this spring.  The most obvious is the two open spots in the pitching rotation behind Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia.  The early leaders, in my opinion, are Luis Severino and Bryan Mitchell.  But there is still time for Chad Green, Luis Cessa, and perhaps Adam Warren to state their case.  I am anxious and excited for Jordan Montgomery and James Kaprielian but it does not appear to be their times yet.  Kaprielian has the higher ceiling but he won’t make an appearance at Yankee Stadium, barring injuries, until September at the earliest.  Montgomery could show up sooner and might be the first or second option if someone gets hurt.

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The competition at first base evaporated somewhat when Tyler Austin broke his foot.  Greg Bird clearly holds the advantage over Chris Carter despite the latter’s 41 home runs last season.  Unlike Carter, Bird is good defensively (even if he’s not on par with former first baseman Mark Teixeira’s glove) and hits for average.  As Bird has shown this spring, he still has his power following last year’s injury.

Right field was also a speculated position of competition.  Most assume that Aaron Judge will get the job, but technically, he is in competition with Aaron Hicks.  Judge has a much greater upside, but he did strike out 42 out of 84 times late last season.  If he is not able to make the necessary adjustments at the big league level, it could open the door for Hicks to take the job.  I personally hope it does not happen.  I am hopeful that Judge figures it out at this level like he has at every level thus far.

The flaming red hair is left on the barbershop floor…

Kudos to OF Clint Frazier for cutting his bushy red hair this week.  While I personally feel that the Yankees current hair policy is outdated, I thought it was a good move by Frazier to cut his hair after a talk with Manager Joe Girardi.  Girardi felt that the hair had become a distraction.  It was a mature statement by Frazier in saying that he loved playing for the organization more than his hair.

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Credit:  AP Photo/Kathy Willens

Frazier won’t break camp with the Yankees, but he’ll be there soon enough.  This is all part of his maturation into a dynamic young future star outfielder for the Pinstripers.

There’s other baseball on TV…

I should probably watch the WBC more but I’ve never been into it.  Still, I fully understand the importance of placing Baseball on the World Stage and should reconsider my complacency.  I guess I am just get tired of seeing the Dominican Republic or Japan always win the competition.

Regardless, it was fun to see the USA defeat Columbia, 3-2, on a run-scoring single by Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles.  Yankees reliever Tyler Clippard picked up the win.  The game featured a very strong start by Jose Quintana for Columbia.  The rumors continue to swirl about Quintana’s future and the Yankees remain one of the potential destinations.  His WBC performance yesterday did nothing to dispel those rumors.

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Credit:  Logan Bowles, USA TODAY Sports

Have a great weekend, everyone!

—Scott

A Preview of Coming Attractions?…

The Bryce is Right…

With Bryce Harper’s free agency still a few seasons away, I am surprised that there is so much discussion about his future (potentially) in pinstripes.  So much can happen between now and 2019.

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While the Yankees do not have a true superstar at any position except maybe Closer, there’s a wealth of outfield prospects.  Aaron Judge has a history of first failing and then massively succeeding at each level.  With the initial underwhelming big league performance behind him, the expectation is that he’ll grab right field for years to come.  There’s other help on the way for the outfield.  With so many talented infield prospects headlined by shortstop (second baseman?) Gleyber Torres, it has been mentioned that shortstop Jorge Mateo’s future is in centerfield.  Clint Frazier, a centerfielder, will most likely be moved to a corner outfield position.  If each player performs to his respective potential, a trio of Judge, Mateo, and Frazier is very, very solid.

The Yankees also have other young talented outfield prospects.  Mason Williams, although injuries have not been his friend.  Dustin Fowler is aggressively raising his stock in prospect rankings.  Blake Rutherford was a steal in last year’s draft and seems destined for greatness.  Billy McKinney is an over-looked, unappreciated talent but he’s opened some eyes this spring.

At face value, Outfield does not appear that it will be a weakness for the team anytime soon.  Well, maybe as long as Jacoby Ellsbury is starting in center, but that’s another matter.

Over the last few years, Owner Hal Steinbrenner has evolved the organization from its free-spending ways to financial conservatism.  Although the Yankees consistently have one of the highest payrolls in baseball, the payroll has stayed fairly level for a number of years.  There’s a genuine opportunity for the Yankees to get under the luxury tax threshold next year.  Signing Harper is going to cost a lot of money.  Giancarlo Stanton may currently hold baseball’s most lucrative contract, but Harper will surpass Stanton and not by a close margin.  Harper could legitimately be baseball’s first $500 million man.  More than likely, it will be around $400 million but still, that’s a huge financial commitment for anyone.

Attendance has declined at Yankee Stadium the past few years.  With no true superstars in an every day role, the Yankees need players who can not only perform on the field, but can draw fans to the Bronx.  Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge may soon have that dual ability, if the former does not already have it.  But signing Bryce Harper, a childhood Yankees fan, would be huge for attendance.  His lefty bat, among a sea of righties, would be huge.  He’ll only be 26 when he hits free agency so a lengthy obligation would not look as ugly at the end as it did for Alex Rodriguez.

I am a proponent for the Yankees to sign Harper.  At some point, the Yankees will have to make a trade for a frontline starting pitcher (or two) and they’ll need to use talented top prospects to make it happen.  They can deal from outfield (and infield) strength and bring the necessary help for the rotation.  With Masahiro Tanaka’s looming opt-out after the season, the Yankees will need to make trades to supplement the infusion of youth if they are to achieve the championship dreams in a couple of years.

Harper in pinstripes would put the team closer to Championship #28 while boosting gate attendance to help subsidize his enormous contract.

The starting rotation competition…

As the battle for the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation continue, there are some early favorites.  I think it’s a given that Luis Severino will take the fourth spot.  The team wants him to succeed as a starter.  Last year was a disappointment as Severino arrived at training camp in bulked up physical condition and was not able to effectively throw his change up with the same velocity.  He has worked this off-season to reduce bulk and to recapture the touch he previously had with the change-up, his third pitch.  He may have been winless in starts last year before finding success in the bullpen late in the season, but he deserves another chance.  If he is able to throw his three pitches effectively, the results this year will be much better.

Luis Severino

Most experts are predicting Chad Green as the other starting option.  I know that he had a few good starts last year, but I can’t say I am convinced.  I would prefer to see Bryan Mitchell in the rotation over Green.  I also like Luis Cessa, but I agree that his ceiling is not that great.  I’d love to see Jordan Montgomery excel but I think he needs at least another year in the minors before he is ready.  Jon Niese is certainly an option but it’s curious that he has yet to make a spring appearance.

Regardless of who wins the starting spots, it’s a certainty that more than two will have the opportunity to start over the course of the season.  I fully expect to see Chance Adams and Dietrich Enns at some point, and September will most likely see James Kaprielian’s first major league start (if it doesn’t happen sooner).

Mayans MC, Santo Padre Charter

Okay, this is a bit off-topic but I am excited about the upcoming Sons of Anarchy spinoff series, Mayans MC.

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The latest Kurt Sutter offering will film its pilot this month.  There has been no announcement that the FX Network has picked up the series for its fall lineup, but it’s hard to imagine that they would not.  The creative team has slowly been announcing its cast members.  With each announcement they give a little deeper insight into the show’s storyline.  Set in the same mythology as the Sons of Anarchy, the new show will pick up life post-Jax Teller and will be set on the Mexican-California border.

Here is the synopsis released by FX:

Set in the aftermath of Jax Teller’s death at the end of SOA’s seven-season run in 2014, Mayans MC will focus on the struggles of Ezekiel “EZ” Reyes, a prospect in the Mayan MC charter on the California/Mexico border. EZ is the gifted son of a proud Latino family, whose American dream was snuffed out by cartel violence. Now, his need for vengeance drives him toward a life he never intended and can never escape.

When I first heard about the potential new series, I had hoped that Emilio Rivera would be part of the project.  His character, Marcus Alvarez, President of the Northern California charter of the Mayans MC, was one of my favorite characters on Sons of Anarchy.  With the casting announcements, the character that will be President of the featured charter (Santo Padre) is cousins with Alvarez and the press release indicated that he lived, for a time, with Alvarez.  This gives a possible tie-in to Sons of Anarchy as the character most likely had some interaction with the rival MC.  A nice setup for possible flashbacks.

The casting choices have been exemplary.

  • Felipe Reyes (father of the protagonist):  Edward James Olmos
  • Angel Reyes (brother of the protagonist, full patch member of the MC):  Clayton Cardenas
  • Esai “Taino” Ossorio (President of the Mayans MC, Santo Padre charter):  John Ortiz
  • Michael “Riz” Ariza (Vice President of the Mayans MC):  Antonio Jaramillo
  • EZ Reyes (the protagonist, a prospect of the MC):  JD Pardo
  • Johnny “El Coco” Cruz (full patch member of the MC):  Richard Cabral

There are still critical roles to be announced.  The setup features conflict with the Cartel so villains will be needed, with through regular cast members or through guest starring roles.  There’s also a love interest that EZ Reyes seeks to protect so that will be a key hire.

I am looking forward to the show and hope it’s as successful as its predecessor but in its own right.  Marcus Alvarez, now credited as National President and Founder of the Mayans MC, (Emilio Rivera) will be an awesome bridge between the two series.

Have a great weekend!

There’s baseball activity at Steinbrenner Field…

Yankees Baseball is back!

Okay, it’s only spring training but it’s great to see the Pinstripers take the field again.

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Credit:  Butch Dill, USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, the Yankees won their spring training opener over the Philadelphia Phillies, 9-4, at Steinbrenner Field.  The game featured a monster home run by right fielder Aaron Judge that bounced off the scorecard.  Bryan Mitchell and Luis Cessa, in competition for rotation spots, both pitched two innings of scoreless, no-hit ball.  Granted, spring training games mean absolutely zilch at this point but after a winter that saw Boston gain the premier pitcher in the American League (Chris Sale) and a NFL championship, it is time to turn the page.

The spring opener also featured a triple by Clint Frazier, scoring two runs in the eighth inning.  Jacoby Ellsbury didn’t play (the only regular not in the starting lineup), but I couldn’t help but wonder how much better Frazier would look in centerfield than Ellsbury.  Patience, young Grasshopper, patience…

It’s early, but Matt Holliday’s veteran influence on the team is showing.  When Holliday first arrived in the Major Leagues with the Colorado Rockies, he had guys like Todd Helton and Larry Walker to look up to.  He has said that his former teammates Mark Sweeney and Todd Greene were also crucial to his development both on and off the field.  Holliday comes from a baseball background.  His father, Tom, was a long-time assistant coach with Miami (FL), Arizona State, Oklahoma State, Texas, NC State, and Auburn.  Tom Holliday also served as head coach of Oklahoma State from 1997-2003.  Matt’s brother Josh is the current head coach of Oklahoma State.  Matt understands the value of mentorship and is setting the example that will be replicated and paid forward by the current Baby Bombers for years to come.

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When it was the announced the Yankees had signed free agent slugging first baseman Chris Carter, there was some question where he would fit in.  The Yankees already have Matt Holliday at DH, with plans to rotate other players through the role as a form of rest.  At first, the Yankees have starting favorite Greg Bird and last year’s boy wonder junior in Tyler Austin.  One sportswriter (I do not remember who) wrote that these things have a way of working themselves out.  Subsequently, Austin broke his foot and will be lost for six weeks.  This certainly opens the door for Carter to make an impact at first, even if he isn’t the starter (and is a sub-standard fielder).  But, man, those long home runs are going to look beautiful in Yankee Stadium.

Early Season Loss…

I guess there’s a reason the Yankees try to avoid going to arbitration with their players.  It is never a joyous process.  When the Yankees offered $3 million for Dellin Betances but he wanted $5 million, the gap was too wide for compromise.  It set the stage for a contentious arbitration battle between player and team.  After Betances had to sit through 90 minutes of hearing about his faults, the arbitrators ruled in favor of the team.  Betances is certainly worth $5 million but that’s not how the process works.  He’ll eventually get his money.  It would have been best if the two sides had said nothing following the arbitrators’ decision, but Yankees team President, bad hair and all, had to hold a press conference to berate the agents for Betances.  It was a very poor decision by Levine, an experienced labor attorney.

It’s possible that Levine’s actions will make future contract negotiations with Betances and his agents very difficult and may eventually lead to Dellin’s departure.  I am not a fan of Levine, and feel the team would be better served promoting GM Brian Cashman to President, Baseball Operations, and hiring a new general manager.

Off-Topic:  Mayans MC…

As a fan of the TV series Sons of Anarchy, I am excited that a pilot spinoff series about SOA’s rival motorcycle club, the Mayans, is currently in development.  The pilot episode will be filmed in March.  FX has not announced that Mayans MC will be part of its fall lineup but that’s the hope.

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After months of only hearing that SOA creator Kurt Sutter was writing the new Mayans MC series with Elgin James, and that Sutter would direct the pilot episode, the casting decisions are starting to be announced.

The first name was Edward James Olmos who will play the father of the protagonist, a young prospect in the Santo Padre Chapter (Mexi-Cali border) of the Mayans MC.  Olmos’ character, Felipe Reyes will have at least two sons.  The lead character is Ezekiel “EZ” Reyes (the prospect) and will be played by JD Pardo.  The other son, Angel, will be played by Clayton Cardenas, and is a full-patch member of the MC.

The President of the Santo Padre Chapter is Esai “Taino” Osorio, who will be played by John Ortiz.  The Osorio character has history with original SOA character Marcus Alvarez who was the president of the Northern California chapter of the Mayans (played by Emilio Rivera).

I am excited for this series and hopeful that it reaches its goal of making the fall TV lineup.  The casting decisions, so far, have been excellent, and I am looking forward to seeing who they cast in the female roles (primarily the woman that EZ Reyes loves).

After the misstep with The Bastard Executioner, I am glad to see Sutter return to the genre and world that has served him so well.  There will never be another show like Sons of Anarchy, but hopefully the Mayans MC can make its own mark.

—Scott

Sticks and Stones may break my bones…

Some words are better left unsaid…

I was disappointed that the Yankees could not reach agreement with Dellin Betances before proceeding with the arbitration hearings.  It’s never good when a player has to sit in a room to hear about his faults.  It’s hard to walk away without some residual adverse impact.  Once it was determined there was no common ground, the Yankees cannot be faulted for allowing the arbitration to proceed.  It is just a very unfortunate situation.

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Credit:  Andrew Savulich, The New York Daily News

The Yankees, based on prior arbitration cases, were probably fairly confident they would prevail.    The gap of $2 million may not have seemed to be great, but in terms of the dollars it could eventually cost the Yankees on new deals with Betances or the precedent it would have set could have been very costly in the grand scheme of things.

Yet, it was absolutely out of line for Yankees President Randy Levine to gloat after the arbitrators announced Betances would be paid the Yankees offer of $3 million rather than his request for $5 million.  Levine’s comments that Dellin’s $5 million request was “over the top” and “not based on reality” were unnecessary and ultimately inflammatory.  If Betances had any lingering hard feelings before, they’ve multiplied.  Given Levine’s extensive background in Labor Law, I am very surprised that he’d make those type of comments.  The words do seem out of character for a Labor attorney.  I’ve never been a big fan of Levine’s but it’s hard to dismiss his accomplishments which included work at the U.S. Department of Justice during the Reagan administration, former Labor Commissioner for New York City, and MLB’s chief labor negotiator during the negotiations for the 1996 MLB Labor Agreement.

So, maybe that’s why the unnecessary words that Levine spoke yesterday hurt even more.  He, more than anyone, should have known better.  There was no value in attacking Dellin’s attorneys, and the long-term impact is only harmful.  If Dellin eventually walks away when free agency arrives, we’ll be able to look back at this day as the first nail in the coffin.

There are some guys in the Yankees executive management team that you want to keep away from talking to the media.  Yankees co-owner Hank Steinbrenner is one, but you can certainly add Levine to the list.  Levine has been the Yankees president since 2000 but maybe it’s time to bring in a younger, more open-minded replacement.  If I owned the Yankees, I would probably promote Brian Cashman to President, Baseball Operations, hire a new general manager, and show Levine the door.

Goose being Goose…

Every spring, Rich “Goose” Gossage shows up and makes statements that sound like he’s been smoking too much weed in Colorado.  His remarks in training camp that he cannot be compared to “one inning” closers like Aroldis Chapman and Mariano Rivera was absurd to say the least.

Nevertheless, I felt Brian Cashman’s comments were perfect when he said that he had more important things to think about like drinking his cup of coffee and working on his tan.  That’s exactly how I take anything Goose has to say.

I loved the guy when he was the Yankees closer, and he was arguably my favorite Yankee (after the unfortunate loss of the beloved Thurman Munson).

Goose is only trying to draw reactions with his words.  He played during a different time, and it’s very hard to compare the challenges he faced in the 70’s and 80’s to modern times.  The game has evolved.  Despite nearly 500 more career innings than Rivera, Goose had barely more than half of the total career saves.  Goose was a great Yankee for 6 years.  Rivera was a great Yankee for 19 years.  Rivera’s number (42) would have been retired even if MLB hadn’t retired the number league-wide for the great Jackie Robinson.  Last time I checked, Goose’s number (54) is neatly placed on the back of current closer Aroldis Chapman.

Goose just needs to enjoy his time in Florida before he hops on a plane to travel back to his favorite Cannabis shop in Colorado Springs…

–Scott

If at First you don’t succeed…

He has swing and miss ability!…

My first thought hearing the news (allegedly, as there has been no official announcement yet) that the Yankees signed free agent first baseman Chris Carter was the team had captured last year’s strikeout leader.  Great if the signing was for a pitcher, but not so great when it is a hitter.

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Credit:  USA TODAY Sports

Still, for a team with questions at first base, the signing makes some sense.  It’s not a given that Greg Bird will pick up where he left off in 2015 given that he missed most of last year due to injury (playing only in the Arizona Fall League).

The other first base candidate (Tyler Austin) was completely off the Yankees’ radar last off-season.  He had a surprisingly good year to recapture prospect status and came up with some big hits in the Bronx at the end of the year.  But he is not the second coming of Don Mattingly, Tino Martinez, Jason Giambi or Mark Teixeira.

Carter will end many innings with strikeouts, but the potential for the big smash to win games is there.  He provides help from the bench if Bird captures first with a strong Spring performance or is there for a platoon if necessary.  He also provides insurance at DH for Matt Holliday who has spent a fair amount of time on the DL over the last few years.

For only $3.5 million (and one year), Carter is a good investment.  He can play his way into a new contract with the Yankees or the parties can decide to part ways at the end of the year which fits with Hal Steinbrenner’s desire to get under the luxury tax threshold next year.

We’ve been spoiled by great first basemen over the years, but I didn’t enjoy the various Teixeira ailments that plagued the team in recent years.  I am hopeful that Bird grabs the position and runs with it.  Carter will be there for insurance.

 

Wanted:  Starting Pitchers…

I had been hopeful the Yankees would sign a veteran pitcher to bring to camp but it doesn’t look like it will happen.  Jason Hammel had been my choice, but he recently signed with the Kansas City Royals as they attempt to recover from the devastating passing of Yordano Ventura.  Doug Fister is still out there, but I don’t think he’ll be coming in for the Yankees.  So, it looks like the Yankees will fill the two open spots in the rotation with in-house candidates.  Clearly, they have to be hoping for a rebound by Luis Severino who failed miserably as a starter last year (finding success only in the bullpen).  But with off-season work with Pedro Martinez, maybe Sevy can show he is capable of becoming a good starter at the major league level.

I would love for James Kaprielian to take the other spot, but I recognize that he is not ready yet.  He’ll need more time in the minors and might get a chance later in the year.  Luis Cessa and Chad Green will be given every opportunity, but Jordan Montgomery is quickly becoming my favorite.  Last year, he pitched to a 2.95 ERA in 19 starts with AA Trenton, and then 0.97 in just 6 starts with AAA Scranton/Wilkes Barre.  At 6-6, he is a formidable presence on the mound with the pitches to match.  His time may be now.  Severino and Montgomery have the potential to make the back end of the Yankees rotation quite strong, which would certainly help the question marks that exist in the front end.

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Credit:  Jason Farmer/Scranton Times Tribune

It’s exciting that baseball is almost back.  Pitchers and catchers will report on Valentine’s Day (that must have made a bunch of wives and girlfriends very happy) so we’re only days away.  It seems like it wasn’t that long ago Aroldis Chapman was on the mound winning a World Series.  It will be good to see him back in blue (well, a darker shade of blue than we last saw him in).  The excitement of spring training and the limitless possibilities it brings is fun.

Welcome back, Yankees!

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Sad Day for Detroit and all of Major League Baseball…

On a final note, my deepest sympathy and condolences to the Detroit Tigers, their fans, and the family of their late owner Mike Ilitch who passed away yesterday.  He was great for the Tigers and for the city of Detroit.  He will be missed.  It’s unfortunate that he was unable to see a Tigers championship or the opening of the new Little Caesars Arena for his other team, the Detroit Red Wings.

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Credit:  MLB.com

—Scott

Bats and Balls may break my bones, but words will never hurt me…

Unforgiven…

Yankees Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner created some waves this week when he said the domestic abuse allegations regarding closer Aroldis Chapman should be forgotten.  When I heard the words, I did not feel that Steinbrenner was condoning Chapman’s actions, but rather he had admitted his guilt, paid his dues, and has since held good behavior.

Aroldis Chapman

I do not think any of us will ever condone or “forget” Chapman’s domestic violence offense.  His actions were inexcusable but I agree that he deserves a second chance.  Granted, I am the same guy that kept supporting second chances for Darryl Strawberry and Steve Howe.  But realistically, Chapman does deserve a chance for redemption.  If there had been subsequent reports of domestic abuse, then the Yankees should have steered clear of the flamethrower.  But by all accounts, there have not been any further incidents.

So, I think the media’s exploitation of Steinbrenner’s comments are unjustified even if he did misspeak.  It was clearly not his intent to sweep the domestic abuse issue under the rug.

Logan…

Yes, I am looking forward to Hugh Jackman’s upcoming film, but I was disappointed regarding the other Logan.  I had hoped for a reunion with free agent and former Yankees reliever Boone Logan.  However, yesterday, he signed a one year deal to join Andrew Miller and the Cleveland Indians.  I thought that Logan would have been a better lefty option than Tommy Layne.  Current free agent Jerry Blevins could provide the same support for the Yankees pen, but I haven’t heard the Yankees connected with the former Mets reliever.

Granted, if it is Steinbrenner’s goal to reduce payroll for luxury tax purposes, we will have to live with young, inexperienced and cheaper options at certain positions.  The days of overpaying aged veterans are over.

Trolling for miracles…

With a few decent free agents still available, teams are adding short term pieces to complement their respective rosters  Like the Indians’ signing of Logan or Kurt Suzuki signing with the Atlanta Braves, teams are taking chances with short term investments.  But the Yankees, to this point, are not playing.  GM Brian Cashman was apparently right when he made the comments about a month ago that the Yankees were done and the current roster of players would be the ones headed to spring training in Tampa.

I think it is a mistake not to bring in a veteran pitcher to compete with the kids for the two open spots in the starting rotation.  I would love nothing more than James Kaprielian, Luis Cessa, Jordan Montgomery, Luis Severino, and other young arms coming to camp to step up their respective games and grab those final two spots.  But I am fearful for the inconsistency that young pitchers bring.  But granted, if they don’t get the opportunity, they will not learn.  The Chicago White Sox were patient with former Yankee Jose Quintana and they’ve been rewarded.

Worst case scenario is that CC Sabathia proves he is an old man and that last year’s resurgence was a fluke, Michael Pineda continues his inconsistent performances or gets hurt, and Masahiro Tanaka opts out of his deal at the end of the season.  It is possible that all five rotation spots, as we view them today, could be open at the end of the year.  It will take young arms to step up to the next level, but there needs to be an infusion of veteran talent to help form the bridge.

I’d take the chance on Jason Hammel but all signs seem to indicate a lack of interest from the Yankees.

Meanwhile, in Boston, their number 4 and 5 starters (most likely Eduardo Rodriguez and Steven Wright) have the proven history of being able to shut down the Yankees.  So, that’s without even any consideration for the top three, all of whom have Cy Young ability (including one that currently holds the award and is arguably the worst of the trio).

Perhaps the Yankees should package some of the top prospects for a proven young starter.  There is always an adjustment period for New York, so acquiring a young starter a year or two in advance of the team’s return to contention status is not a bad idea.  While I do not want to lose top prospect Gleyber Torres, the Yankees have a surplus in young, talented shortstops with Jorge Mateo (perhaps a future centerfielder), Tyler Wade, Wilkerman Garcia and Kyle Holder.  Having the best farm system in baseball means surplus.  There’s no way all these guys can make it in the Bronx.  Obviously, not all will succeed anyway, but it’s best to take advantage of promise and potential to help the major league team restore its dominance.

As for the potential rumors to acquire an ace like Zach Greinke, I do feel it would be a mistake to take responsibility for his mammoth contract.  The Dodgers were smart not to match the offer Greinke received from the Arizona Diamondbacks last season even if it did weaken their rotation.

Every year, there are names that seemingly come out of nowhere to achieve major league success.  There’s no doubt the Yankee scouts are scouring the leagues to uncover potential hidden gems.  Through patience and perseverance, there will be better days ahead.  We just sometimes get a little impatient and want the up cycle to accelerate.

I am excited that pitchers and catchers will soon be reporting.  There’s football yet to be played on Sunday, yet I am looking more forward to seeing activity at Steinbrenner Field in a few weeks…

—Scott