Tagged: Aaron Judge

Warp Speed to Opening Day…

At the conclusion of the World Series, the off-season seems like it will be so long.  We wait for the opening of free agency, then the winter meetings  which generally brings a short frenzy with signings and trades.  Then we wait through the holidays, and go through a quiet January.  Finally, around Valentine’s Day, we are able to get our baseball fix as training camps begin to open.

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Then, we blink, and here we are a week away from Opening Day.  Cubs fans are probably still trying to recover from the hangovers, but the rest of us are anxious to begin the new year and at this point, everyone is optimistic.

The Yankees’ off-season was relatively quiet.  The major move, aside from the return of Aroldis Chapman, was to sign free agent Matt Holliday, now the team’s starting DH.  Matt’s days in the field, at age 37, are over but the bat remains effective and so do the leadership abilities.  I’ve been very pleased this spring with the impact that Matt has had on the younger players, most notably Aaron Judge.  With only a one-year contract, it is possible that this is Matt’s only year in pinstripes.  Time will tell, but given what I’ve seen so far, I hope the team is able to find a way to bring him back next year.

Matt Holliday

Credit:  Matt Rourke, AP

I am not sure what can be said about Masahiro Tanaka other than he’s been amazing this spring.  Through five starts and 18 2/3 innings, he’s only surrendered six hits while striking out 22 to go with a sparkling 0.00 ERA.  I realize that spring stats do not mean a great deal but Tanaka appears to be setting himself up for a career year.  Of course that carries good news/bad news as Tanaka can opt out of his contract at the end of the year, but that’s something to worry about after the season.  For now, let’s just enjoy what could be a tremendous year for the young right-hander.

Manager Joe Girardi has announced that CC Sabathia, rather than Michael Pineda, will slot in the rotation behind Tanaka.  It was something of a surprise given CC was fighting for the fifth spot last spring.  Girardi gave the ‘right-left’right’ strategy as his logic for the move, putting the left-handed Sabathia between two righties.  He also referenced Sabathia’s numbers last year…3.91 ERA in 30 starts.  His record was only 9-12 but wins and losses are deceiving for pitchers as they are dependent upon run support.

I am not sure how Pineda will react to the move back to third in the rotation.  If it motivates him to overcome his inconsistency, I am all for it.  The starting rotation needs a solid year from Pineda if it is going to be successful.

The fight for the last two spots in the rotation has been interesting.  At the start of training camp, I felt the favorites were Luis Severino and Bryan Mitchell.  Severino started strong and then has struggled with starts recently (although he did throw three hitless innings in relief yesterday).  Mitchell has been good but not great.  Chad Green has probably pitched the best among the contenders but the dark horse that is emerging is tall left-hander Jordan Montgomery.  Luis Cessa, one of the early hopefuls, has already been sent to minor league camp for re-assignment.  At 6’6” with an ability to pitch inside, I am very intrigued by Montgomery. He has proven himself at both the AA and AAA levels, and I think the 24-year-old is ready for the major leagues.

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Credit:  Reinhold Matay, USA TODAY Sports

In the right field competition, I think Aaron Judge has done enough to hold off Aaron Hicks.  The stats are fairly comparable.  Judge is batting .300 (15-for-50) with 2 HR and 4 RBI.  Although he is still among the leaders in strikeouts (with 12), he is striking out less than he did last season in the Bronx.  Hicks is batting .279 (12-for-43), also with 2 HR and 4 RBI.  Hicks has struck out seven times.  Judge has also displayed a terrific arm in right.  For me, Judge has done what he needs to this spring and deserves the opportunity to take right field.

Greg Bird has been named the starting first baseman to the surprise of no one.  Bird currently carries a .432 BA (19-for-44) with 6 HR and 11 RBI.  I don’t think there was any chance that Chris Carter was going to beat out Bird, but Carter has been almost non-existent during training camp.  He is currently batting .136 (6-for-44) which is actually up from where it was a few days ago.  He only has one home run to go with 22 strikeouts.  I think there’s a very strong argument for why Carter should be DFA’d when Tyler Austin returns from his foot injury.

With the final days of training camp winding down, the greatest uncertainty lies with shortstop.  Didi Gregorius is out for the next month after suffering the shoulder sprain in the World Baseball Classic, so the question is who will replace Didi at short.  The most logical move would be to slide Starlin Castro to short, and use a platoon of Ronald Torreyes and Rob Refsnyder at second.  For me, it’s not ideal because Castro is still learning the nuances of second base and it should remain his focus.  The only problem is there are no other true shortstops on the 40-man roster.  Prospect Tyler Wade is the most advanced shortstop in the system and he’s probably my favorite for the temporary replacement but he’s young (only 22).  He’s batting .342 in Grapefruit League action (13-for-38) but doesn’t have much power.  Other possibilites are non-roster invitees Pete Kozma and Ruben Tejada.  Didi’s bat will certainly be missed while he is away.

With the latest minor league re-assignments, the Yankees have 39 players remaining in camp.  This includes the injured players (Tyler Austin and Didi Gregorius).  With Opening Day just a week away, there will be more cuts this week as the Yankees pare down to 25 for the trip to St Petersburg to face the Tampa Bay Rays on April 2nd.

This has been a fun spring.  The Yankees have the best record in the Grapefruit League (or the Cactus League for that matter).  I know that spring stats mean nothing when the regular season starts but winning is always fun.  We’ve seen some great stuff from the talented super-prospects in the organization like Gleyber Torres and James Kaprielian.  Although they won’t be heading north with the big league club, they’ve given us glimpses of their incredible futures.  Gary Sanchez has continued to impress and Greg Bird has shown that last year’s shoulder injury is no longer an issue.  I am anxious and ready for the season to start.  The Cubs are yesterday’s news.

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

The Sounds of Spring are approaching…

Soon, very soon…

We are less than a month away before pitchers and catchers report to Tampa.  Sitting in Denver, I still have a few more snowstorms to go before America’s favorite pastime returns, but I am excited and looking forward to the upcoming season.  The Yankees are still a couple of seasons away from being a serious World Series threat, but the season should be fun nonetheless.

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There are a lot of big if’s with this year’s squad.  Can Aaron Judge make the necessary adjustments at this level?  Can Jacoby Ellsbury ever be the player he once was in Boston?  Can he stay healthy?  Will Brett Gardner be traded?  Will Chase Headley be traded?  Will Starlin Castro be moved to third base?  Will Gleyber Torres show that he’s ready for major league action sooner rather than later?  Will Didi Gregorius sustain last year’s success and show continued improvement?  Will Greg Bird restore the great promise that he showed in late 2015?  Will Gary Sanchez continue to show that he is arguably the best Yankee or at least show the Yankees were right in sending Brian McCann to Houston?  The list goes on and on, and that’s without even getting to the pitching staff.

During the recent Winter Warm-up in the Bronx, James Kaprielian sounded like a future ace.  I have long been a fan of Kaprielian’s and have looked forward to his arrival at Yankee Stadium.  Last year’s injury that caused him to miss most of the season was a significant setback, but as a college player, Kaprielian is not that far away.  If he can show success at Scranton/Wilkes Barre this year, there’s no doubt he’ll be making his major league debut later this summer.  I would not be disappointed if Kaprielian surprisingly grabbed a rotation spot out of spring training.

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Credit:  Mark J. Rebilas, USA TODAY Sports

I remain hopeful that Ian Clarkin can be a future rotation piece, even at the back end.  With the influx of other prospects via last summer’s trades, Clarkin’s name is rarely mentioned.  But he is another one that I have hoped would achieve the big leagues.  Drafted as the 33rd player in the 2013 MLB Draft, Clarkin missed part of last season with a knee injury.  He is still only 21 years old so I am hopeful that he’ll bounce back for future success.

The Yankees will have a number of young arms competing for the open rotation spots, but I’d still like to see them bring in a veteran for competition.  Same with the bullpen.  I am supportive of the return of Boone Logan and would like to see him back in pinstripes.

Other teams are making minor moves.  I liked the Miami Marlins’ acquisition of pitcher Dan Straily from the Cincinnati Reds.  I remember a few years ago, I was on a flight from Portland to San Francisco.  There was a guy behind me on the plane that was raving about his son, a pitcher who happened to be the minor league strikeout leader at the time for an Oakland A’s farm team.  It was Straily’s dad.  Straily has been through a few major league organizations since that time, but at least Miami is making moves.

I also thought the Boston Red Sox signing of former Philadelphia Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick was a sound move.  Who knows if Kendrick will ever be the pitcher he once was with the Phillies, but you don’t know if you don’t try.

By not signing any veteran pitchers, the Yankees are clearly saying that they want youth to take the final rotation spots.  If this team is truly dedicated to the youth movement and realistically won’t be in World Series contention for at least two seasons, I do not understand holding onto Brett Gardner.  He is 33 (will be 34 this season).  Speed does not age well.  If the Yankees had a shot for the World Series this year, I’d say hold him.  But that’s not the case.  Granted, we do not know the packages that GM Brian Cashman has turned down and perhaps he has only been offered less talent.  But I firmly believe in identifying undervalued assets to take advantage of potential over proven performance.  There are surprises every year, but again, you don’t know if you don’t try.

Most likely, at this point, Cashman is right that no further moves will be made.  I think it’s a mistake but hopefully the top young prospects will prove that the best move was no move.

I can hear those pitches popping in the catching mitts.  Soon, very soon…

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—Scott

No need to counter Boston’s moves…

All Quiet on the Eastern Front…

It has been a very quiet end of the year for the Yankees.  There were rumors of the Yankees talking with the Chicago White Sox about Jose Quintana and David Robertson but they quickly lost legs.  While the Yankees need starting pitching, I agree that it is best not to raid the newly stocked farm system.  It is a risk to bet on prospects over an established major leaguer, but while Jose Quintana is a good pitcher, he’s not Chris Sale.  Given Chicago’s desire for top prospects in return, it just does not make sense.  Quintana will not be a 2017 difference maker.

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Credit:  Kevin Jairaj, USA Today Sports

I still believe the Yankees are better served by identifying an undervalued young starter with potential.  Sure, that’s every team’s wish but the Yankees have the scouts and resources to uncover the hidden gems.  It is harder to pitch in New York than it is in, say, Pittsburgh, but for some guys, the main stage brings out their full potential.

The New York Mets’ Noah Syndergaard was once just a prospect included in a trade (when the Mets dealt knuckleballer R.A. Dickey to the Toronto Blue Jays).  I think that trade has worked out very well in favor of the Mets.  It also brought them starting catcher Travis D’Arnaud.  The 2012 trade was a risk for the Mets given Dickey was the reigning NL Cy Young winner, but he has never been as good as he was in 2011 and the other guys sent to Toronto are after thoughts (Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas).

The Yankees are not going to win the World Series in 2017.  The current blueprint puts the Yankees on the path to World Series contention in two to three years.  They have the time to develop frontline starters so why not take a chance on some other team’s “Jake Arrieta”.  The Chicago Cubs saw something in the former Baltimore Orioles hurler and it has paid off quite handsomely for them.

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I have high hopes for the Yankees young pitching prospects.  James Kaprielian heads the list, but I haven’t forgotten or given up hope for Ian Clarkin.  Jordan Montgomery and Dietrich Enns are other homegrown prospects that come to mind.  The first young starters that will be given the chance to crack the rotation next season are the obvious ones…Luis Cessa and Chad Green.  There’s also the hope that Luis Severino restores the promise that he showed in 2015 and is not just another failed starter that succeeds in the pen.  Trade acquisitions Justus Sheffield, Dillon Tate, and Albert Abreu also hold promise.

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Credit:  MLB.com

If Severino is successful and just one of the young prospects stands out in the Spring, the rotation that already includes Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia does not look so bad.  It might not be ‘Chris Sale-David Price-Rick Porcello-Eduardo Rodriguez’ worthy, but the foundation is being laid for future success.  It will be imperative for the Yankees to re-sign Tanaka should he opt out of his contract following the season, but Sabathia’s departure as he plays out the final year of his contract will continue to create opportunity for the young prospects.  Michael Pineda is a case by himself.  He is either a really great starter or a disaster.  If he can ever hold the focus on the former, the pitching staff will be significantly improved.

Next season, young players like Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge, Tyler Austin, and Greg Bird will play prominent roles for the Yankees.  If any are not successful, there is another wave of young players waiting for their opportunities at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre or Trenton.  It is inevitable that we’ll see outfielder Clint Frazier at some point in the season, even if it is just a September call-up.  I don’t want to lose this talent in the farm system for the chance on a pitcher which always seems to be the biggest risk in baseball.  Gleyber Torres has already shown that he has that “it” factor even if he is still a few years away from the Bronx.  Stay the course.  GM Brian Cashman’s blue print so far has been successful.  He has turned what was one of the worst farm systems a few years ago to one of the best.  They have the talent and depth in the system to make quiet but effective trades without sacrificing the organization’s best.

2017 may not be a banner year for the team but clearly the light is visible at the end of the tunnel.  Now is not the time for the Ghost of Steinbrenner Past to raise its ugly head.  Young Hal seems to have a plan and one that will soon yield fruit.  Patience.  Stick to the plan…

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—Scott

Bring on the High Heat…

Sanchez had better get extra padding for that mitt…

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

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Credit:  ESPN.com Illustration

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

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

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

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

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

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Credit:  www.drewlitton.com

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

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

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

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

Next year’s going to seem like a Holliday…

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

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Credit:  Google Images / STL Sports View

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

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

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

–Scott