|Photo Credit: Houston Chronicle (Karen Warren)|
Astros win ALCS Rematch…
The headline of this post are Aaron Boone’s words, not mine.
I preface this by saying I know Spring games mean absolutely nothing. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say my fear of the Houston Astros is their starting pitching. I think the Yankees’ offense is equal to the World Champions. Some argue the Yankees are better while other put the Astros on top. Either way, both offenses will be among the very best in the game. Now, the starting pitching, at least in my opinion, is not quite so close.
Yesterday’s matchup featured the number five starters for both teams. For the Yankees, Jordan Montgomery gave up two solo home runs. Meanwhile, Houston’s Lance McCullers, Jr held the Yankees hitless until Miguel Andujar’s lead-off single in the bottom of the fifth inning. The Astros limited the Yankees to two hits, winning the game 2-0. The game felt like a microcosm of the difference between the Yankees and the Astros. Of course I didn’t actually get to “see” the game since it was not televised and I am not in Tampa. Manager Aaron Boone felt that Montgomery was “crisper” than earlier Spring starts. Giving up two runs is not the end of the World and in fact it fits within the definition of a quality start (outside of the shortened number of innings for Spring starts). A good start by Monty but a dominant one by the son of a former Yankee.
The top of the Yankees order (Brett Gardner, Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez, and Didi Gregorius) went 0-for-12, with five strikeouts.
I am not going to fret over a meaningless Spring game but it is the back end of the starting rotation that concerns me when you compare the Yankees to the Astros. Don’t get me wrong, I like Jordan Montgomery but seriously I’d rather have McCullers, Jr. The difference maker is the depth. The Astros have Brad Peacock and Colin McHugh, two very capable pitchers in reserve, if there are any injuries in the rotation. The Yankees have Luis Cessa and Domingo German. The top young prospects like Chance Adams and Justus Sheffield have shown they are not quite ready to be a force at the MLB level, now, even if we know they eventually will.
Maybe I am unnecessarily concerned about the rotation and the young guys will rise to the challenge if the chips are on the line. But if it was my team, I’d be trying to find a way to sign Alex Cobb, a ‘tried and true’ AL East pitcher.
Is Tyler Austin bound for Scranton?…
I was wrong yesterday when I said that Ronald Torreyes might be the one most adversely impacted by Neil Walker’s presence on the roster. After hearing Boone’s words yesterday, it sounds like the guy who should be most concerned about making the Opening Day roster is Tyler Austin. Boonie sounds like he is comfortable with a second base tandem of Tyler Wade and Walker, finding regular at-bats for both, and indicated Walker is the one who could provide relief for Greg Bird at first base.
|Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)|
I can’t really put my finger on it, but it has never seemed like the Yankees have fully embraced Austin despite his big hits. I know that health is part of it, but it just doesn’t seem like they want him on the MLB roster. I hope I am reading that wrong and Austin turns out to be a major contributor for the team this year.
Cave finds a home…
I have always liked Jake Cave but I recognized there was simply no room for the talented outfielder. I remember how excited he was to participate in Spring Training with the Cincinnati Reds as a Rule 5 draftee a couple of years ago. He started the Spring off strongly and was drawing raves, but he cooled off and was subsequently returned to the Yankees.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Rob Tringali)|
After Cave was designated for assignment earlier in the week to make room for Neil Walker, the Yankees shipped the 25-year-old outfielder to the Minnesota Twins for young Dominican RHP Luis Gil, 19. Gil was not rated among the Twins top prospects and has yet to play outside of the Dominican leagues. He continues the Yankees trend of stockpiling young power arms with tremendous upside. Cave was inserted at #26 for the best Twins prospects by MLB.com, ahead of Twins outfielder and New York native Zack Granite.
In Minnesota, Cave is expected to help at the Major League Level or provide depth at Triple A. For his sake, I hope it’s the former. The Twins made statements yesterday they’ve been interested in Cave since last year’s Jaime Garcia trade. They noticed the power surge and it is something that they want to “keep on track” in the words of Twins manager Paul Molitor.
We wish Cave the very best as he continues his journey to reach the Major Leagues.
Speaking of finding jobs…
The Toronto Blue Jays have signed infielder Danny Espinosa, recently released by the Yankees, to a minor league contract with an invite to camp. Espinosa will have a very short time to prove that he belongs on the field when the Blue Jays open Rogers Centre on March 29th against Espinosa’s old club. The best way for an infielder to play in the Major Leagues? Find the team that employs Troy Tulowitzki. Tulo owns the DL in a way that only Jacoby Ellsbury understands.
The odds are probably against Espinosa this late in March so he’ll probably toil in Triple A until injuries open up big league opportunities.
Well, it’s Saturday. For most of us, that’s a day off. Nothing better than sitting back to watch a Yankees game on a lazy afternoon. Fortunately for us, today’s Spring game between the Yankees and the Detroit Tigers in Lakeland, Florida (1 pm Eastern) will be televised. Masahiro Tanaka on the mound and Estevan Florial in center field. It should be a fun day!
|Photo Credit: Associated Press|
|Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Reinhold Matay)|
The Battle of New York…
I am always the first to say that Spring games mean absolutely nothing but I have to admit it was fun beat the New York Mets on Saturday by 7 runs for the second time this year. The Yankees won 10-3 at Steinbrenner Field after beating the Mets 11-4 last Wednesday in Port St Lucie, FL.
Rumor has it the new guy, Giancarlo Stanton, can hit bombs. We were finally treated to the first Pinstriped home run by the big guy and man, did it feel good to see that one go out. It made me realize how much I like watching Aaron Judge and Stanton hit back-to-back, considering I have been an advocate for breaking them up with Greg Bird. It was exciting to see Judge reach base and then both guys celebrating at home plate after Stanton completed his home run trot, which included the faux football hand-off by third base coach Phil Nevin as Stanton rounded the base. John Sterling’s call of the home run was “a Stantonian blast”. Unclear if that’s just a temporary Spring call or if it will be the tagline for the season.
|Photo Credit: New York Post (Charles Wenzelberg)|
Another great moment in Saturday’s game was the first Spring appearance of David Robertson, who had recently been felled by food poisoning. Luis Cessa started the game and reaffirmed my concerns about his stature as the rotation’s sixth man when he got into trouble in the second inning. Two walks and a single loaded the bases with only one out. Enter D-Rob. Six pitches…two strikeouts…inning over. I really hope the Yankees do not allow Robertson to leave at the end of the season when he becomes a free agent. The guy was made to be a Yankee and it was hard enough to watch his years away in Chicago. Now that we have him back, I don’t want to lose him again.
There was a scare in the top of the 6th inning when Tyler Wade rolled his wrist while attempting to dive for an infield grounder by Jose Reyes. Wade left the game and although he iced the hand, no further tests were planned. It sounds as though Wade will be back out on the field by Monday. The current leader for Opening Day second baseman, it would have been tough to lose Wade for any extended period of time. I am glad he is okay. It was certainly a scary moment.
The game also featured a bit of miscommunication. Dellin Betances pitched the fourth inning and then went to the clubhouse. No one told Adam Warren that he was scheduled to pitch the fifth, so it became a scramble after the Yankees completed batting in the bottom of the fourth. There was some apparent confusion in the dugout, and Warren quickly got up in the bullpen. After a brief delay, Betances came back out to face one batter, giving up a single, before departing for good. Aaron Boone held his usual 5th inning in-game conversation with the YES Network broadcasters but clearly did not want to talk about the incident. “We had some issues there. We’ll just leave it at that.” Some on social media were crucifying Boone for the miscommunication but I’d rather see Boone make mistakes in Spring training and learn from them before the season starts.
|Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Reinhold Matay)|
A fair amount of drama for a “meaningless” Saturday afternoon game.
The Yankees had a couple more cuts yesterday when flame-throwing RHP Domingo Acevedo was optioned to Double-A Trenton and RHP Brian Keller was reassigned to minor league camp.
The Minnesota Twins may have lost the Wild Card game to the Yankees last season, but they will be a stronger team when they take the field this year. Although top starting pitcher Ervin Santana will miss the start of the season after surgery on his finger last month, the Twins previously added Jake Odorizzi in a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays and yesterday they signed free-agent Lance Lynn (an innings-eater and a very good pickup) to a one-year, $12 million contract. The Lynn signing triggered today’s release of Anibal Sanchez (Lynn was clearly an upgrade, in a total statement of the obvious). I would have loved to have seen the Yankees sign Lynn. The Twins have also added former Rays first baseman Logan Morrison, who slugged 38 home runs in 2017, to be their primary DH. I haven’t really been keeping up with the Twins, but they are quietly getting stronger. They also added Fernando Rodney and Addison Reed to their bullpen. I’ve never been a big fan of Rodney but Reed was a great signing.
With Lynn signing for much less than anticipated, I can’t help but wonder what it would take to sign free agent righty Alex Cobb in this environment of falling prices. You can never have enough starting pitching. I know that he’d never do it, but it would be cool if Jake Arrieta came to the Yankees with an offer to play for a pillow contract so that he can test the free agent market again next year. He does know and trust the Yankees closer. I know, I am just dreaming but whatever it takes to bring the 28th World Championship to the Bronx.
Lefty Joe Mantiply, 27, who spent last season with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders and was in camp with the Cincinnati Reds this year as a non-roster invitee underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery on Friday. We wish Joe the very best as he begins his journey on the road to recovery and hopefully fulfilling his dream of one day making it back to the Major Leagues (he pitched briefly for the Detroit Tigers in 2016).
|Photo Credit: Cheryl Pursell|
I am bummed that today’s game against the Miami Marlins in Jupiter, FL will not be televised. For the Yankees making the trip, be sure to say hello to our old friend, Starlin Castro.
|Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)
A day without the Yankees is a long day…
For those of us not so fortunate to be in Florida, I missed watching the Yankees play yesterday since the game was not televised. I suppose that I could have listened to the WFAN radio broadcast but it is not quite the same. I am glad that today’s game will be televised by the MLB Network.
Spring records do not really matter but the Yankees picked up their second win in two games with their 4-1 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday. The big hit was a three-run homer by Billy McKinney in the top of the 9th.
The Yanks got a scare when Brandon Drury was hit in the left hand while batting against Pirates reliever Clay Holmes in the top of the third inning. Drury stayed in the game and finished out the bottom of the third before departing. Drury said he was fine after the game and no x-rays were taken, but he did ice the hand. It would have been horrible to lose Drury in his first game wearing the Yankees uniform. Miguel Andujar replaced Drury in the fourth inning and stayed for the duration of the game.
|Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)|
The only run scored by the Pirates was Gregory Polanco’s home run off Dillon Tate in the bottom of the 5th.
I enjoy all the social media posts that say Erik Kratz is the greatest hitting catcher in Yankees history with his 1.000 batting average. He was 2-for-2 last season, and so far this spring, he is 2-for-2 with a run batted in. He’s livin’ the life at age 37. Too funny…
This morning, Bryan Hoch of MLB.com reported that the Yankees most likely will not be signing either of the top free agent pitchers, Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn. Per Manager Aaron Boone, “At this point I don’t see those guys as realistic options…it’s my understanding that those guys aren’t really in play for us.” Of course, if I was waiting for prices to fall, that’s exactly what I would say too.
He may be a writer for The Boston Globe and pro-Red Sox, but I enjoy the work of Nick Cafardo. He’s probably one of my favorites. Yesterday, he wrote about the twenty things to watch this baseball season. Number one was “The Giancarlo Stanton/Aaron Judge Show”. Cafardo wrote: “The Yankees are near the center of attention in any season, but you ain’t seen nothing yet. Some are describing it as Ruth/Gehrig reincarnated. Of course it could also be a flop, but we tend to doubt it. Will there be droughts? Absolutely. But the upside should be quite a spectacle.” We’re looking forward to the show as well.
Cafardo also cited that Chris Archer could be the next Tampa Bay Ray on the move. Although he did say the Los Angeles Dodgers have been forever linked the talented pitcher, he mentioned the Yankees as one of the teams that could be in the mix. Even though trades within the division are difficult, the Rays did just acquire a very talented young second baseman in Nick Solak from the Yankees in the three-way trade that netted Brandon Drury for the Yankees. The Rays don’t have to travel far to keep an eye on the young prospects in the Yankees organization since the minor league facility is in their city. It would be hard not to pay attention to the exploits of the High-A Tampa Yankees who will play this season as the renamed Tampa Tarpons.
Give credit to Clint Frazier for his amazing attitude in camp. He is determined to win a spot on the Opening Day roster despite the greatest of odds. Barring injury or trade, the Yankees’ Opening Day outfielders appear to be Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, and Jacoby Ellsbury. There’s probably not a fan in the Yankees Universe that wouldn’t want to see Ellsbury playing elsewhere to make room for Frazier, but the cold, hard reality is that Ellsbury will be wearing pinstripes this year unless GM Brian Cashman can prove he really is ‘The Miracle Worker’. I hate the thought that Frazier will have to open the season at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre but at this point it does appear inevitable.
|Photo Credit: New York Post (Charles Wenzelberg)|
A-Rod is back…
The Yankees have announced that Alex Rodriguez, Reggie Jackson, and Hideki Matsui are returning in special advisor roles for the Yankees. They’ll be joined by Nick Swisher.
Yo, Cash, you gotta stacked team…
It had been long-rumored that A-Rod and Hal Steinbrenner were talking about a role in the organization so I am glad that the Yankees will have his knowledge and insight at their disposal. You have to feel bad for Alex. He’ll have income from FOX Sports, ESPN, and the Yankees this year, any of the income streams alone should exceed what most of us will make. I’ve always enjoyed Swisher’s energy and enthusiasm and it’s great for a young team. I love the passion and love that both guys have for the Yankees.
|Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)|
Spring Training, Game 3
The games of no meaning, except for individual player workouts, continue today at Spectrum Field in Clearwater, FL against the Philadelphia Phillies. The Yankees will see an old friend in Phillies bench coach Rob Thomson.
|Photo Credit: USA TODAY|
The scheduled starting lineup is:
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Gleyber Torres, SS
Greg Bird, 1B
Aaron Hicks, DH
Austin Romine, C
Danny Espinosa, 2B
Ronald Torreyes, 3B
Billy McKinney, RF
Shane Robinson, LF
The starting pitcher will be Jordan Montgomery. The Phillies will counter with one of their best young pitchers, Aaron Nola.
Stay healthy, guys.
|Photo Credit: The Arizona Republic (Michael Chow)|
Please, stop with the Judge & Drury jokes…
Yankees fans were waiting for some news but Tuesday’s announcement that the Yankees had acquired 2B/3B Brandon Drury from the Arizona Diamondbacks brought, surprisingly at least to me, mixed reactions.
The news first broke late afternoon that the Yankees had sent 2B prospect Nick Solak to the Tampa Bay Rays. There were a few minutes of no updates so I tried to speculate. I didn’t think Solak alone would be enough to entice the Rays to move starting pitcher Chris Archer so I figured it had to be a middle or corner infielder. The only players that came to mind were infielders Christian Arroyo, acquired in the trade that sent Evan Longoria to San Francisco, and Matt Duffy, also a former Giant. Arroyo would have been a decent option but I didn’t think the Rays would move him so soon since he is the favorite to replace Longoria at third. While starting to worry that a potential trade might involve Duffy, word came that the Yankees had acquired Drury from Arizona, with Solak going to the Rays and reliever Taylor Widener headed to the Desert. The D-Backs acquired Steven Souza Jr from the Rays, while Arizona sent pitcher Anthony Banda and two players to be named later back to the Rays. To make room for Drury, the Yankees designated outfielder Jabari Blash for assignment. Blash, acquired from the San Diego Padres in the salary-dumping deal that sent Chase Headley and Bryan Mitchell to Southern California, seemed like an odd fit from the start with a team full of talented outfielders.
Personally, I like the move. Nothing against the rookies (Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar) but I’ve felt all along the Yankees would bring in a veteran to help ease the transition for them. Earlier in the off-season, I had hoped that guy would be Todd Frazier but it was not meant to be as the Toddfather ended up in Queens with the Mets as their new third baseman. Many, including this blog, were starting to talk about free agent 2B Neil Walker as a possibility.
Although Drury played more second base last year (114 games versus only one at third), he is considered a natural third baseman who was blocked by D-Backs starting third baseman Jake Lamb. During his MLB career, the 25-year-old has played 41 games at third so he does have experience.
|Photo Credit: The Arizona Republic (Tom Tingle)|
Drury is not arbitration-eligible until next year and under team control for four years. He’ll make no more than $700,000 for the 2018 season. He played 135 games in 2017, hitting 13 home runs and 63 RBI’s. His batting line was .267/.317/.447 with an OPS of .764. He hit 16 dingers in 2016 so he clearly has some pop in that bat.
The nice thing about Drury is that he won’t block Andujar and/or Torres when they are ready. But he’ll help with the transition and will remove some of the pressure off the younger players. I can see the scenario where both Andujar and Torres start the year at Triple A, with Tyler Wade or Danny Espinosa heading north to the Bronx as the starting second baseman while Drury takes third. But regardless of what happens, we will see both Andujar and Torres in the Bronx this year and at least one (or both) of those guys will be the starter at some point in the not so distant future. I think Torres is closer to the bigs than Andujar but the gap is probably not that great.
|Photo Credit: NorthJersey.com (Chris Pedota)|
Eventually, I think the odd man out could be Ronald Torreyes. Drury is incredibly versatile. During his short three season MLB career, he’s played every position except center field, catcher and pitcher. The Grants Pass, OR native is very excited about the opportunity that awaits him. Drury told the New York Post on Tuesday night, “Oh man, I am pumped and can’t wait to get there. I am thinking about the opportunity I have. Playing for the New York Yankees is a dream and I have to take advantage of it. I was a Yankee fan (as a kid).” He is expected to arrive in Tampa today.
I saw free agent Neil Walker as the most obvious choice for veteran help after Frazier signed with the Mets. But Walker’s age (32), and limited experience at third, concerned me. The Yankees have multiple options at second behind Torres. Tyler Wade, Ronald Torreyes, Danny Espinosa, and Jace Peterson are the most notable. At third, there really wasn’t much standing behind Andujar. Torreyes was probably the most experienced but he’s not an ideal starter. For me, I’d much rather have the youth and upside with Drury who knows how to play third versus an aging middle sacker. Alright, 32 is not old but Walker, at least to me, is starting to show signs of decline with his recurring back problems.
I will admit that there was a part of me that wanted the Yankees to find a way to sign free agent third baseman Mike Moustakas. I really wanted to see one year of Moose Tacos taking his shots at the short right porch in Yankee Stadium. I loved the idea of mixing his lefty bat into the lineup with fellow lefties Didi Gregorius and Greg Bird to break up the right-handed hitters. But signing Moustakas would have required a trade (most likely either Brett Gardner or David Robertson) if the Yankees are committed to staying under the $197 million luxury tax threshold as we’ve been led to believe. It also would have eliminated the possibility of adding a quality starter to the rotation. There was one Kansas City Royals blog yesterday (before the Drury trade) that pitched a trade idea to acquire Jacoby Ellsbury (along with Miguel Andujar and $27 million in cash) for a Royals prospect as a way to open up salary space for the Yankees to add Moustakas. No idea if Ellsbury would consider waiving his no-trade clause for that idea but the Royals do train in Arizona and he would have to clear path to the starting center field job since last year’s starter, Lorenzo Cain, recently signed with the Milwaukee Brewers.
I know, every time the issue of trading for or signing a free agent starting pitcher is mentioned, many of you get defensive. Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray, CC Sabathia, and Jordan Montgomery represent a quality staff, I know. But, I am concerned about the depth. At this point, we simply do not know if Chance Adams is ready and capable for the Major Leagues. We think he is but we don’t really know for sure until he takes the mound at Yankee Stadium. Justus Sheffield is perhaps the best arm in the system but he’s never played above Double A. At the moment, neither Adams nor Sheffield are on the 40-man roster. I like Luis Cessa but he does not excite me as a starter. We’ve been down that road enough to tell me that I don’t want to pin replacement rotation hopes on Cessa. I certainly would not want to pull Chad Green from his valuable bullpen role to start. I’d prefer to add a quality starter and push Montgomery to Triple A for a few starts. Even adding a starter, Monty is almost certain to get more than 20 starts for the big league team this year. I like Monty as the insurance card so much better than Cessa. Later in the year, perhaps Adams or even Sheffield can become options. The likelihood that all of the starters remain healthy this year is slim. The Yankees are in position to add either Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn now if the price is right or wait until the trading deadline to add reinforcements. Options, I love options.
|Photo Credit: St Louis Post-Dispatch (Chris Lee)|
At the end of the day, the Drury trade simply shows us that GM Brian Cashman has a plan (as if we needed to be reminded). He is not going to overpay and is not afraid to walk away from “his” guy if necessary. But, he will be diligent to ensure that the moves he does make will improve the team. He understands that the stakes now are as high as they’ve been during his 20-year career as the team’s GM. He has a very talented Major League team, backed by a tremendously strong farm system. Rare is the organization that has that deadly combination.
The Yankees chief rival significantly improved themselves over the weekend when the Boston Red Sox signed free agent slugger J.D. Martinez (Drury’s former teammate). The Red Sox Nation were back to puffing out their chests this week after a winter of feeling inferior. So, I really like the timing of the “we’re not done” message that Cashman sent out to American League competitors. Going back to TV/Radio personality Casey Stern’s words, “Prospects are cool, parades are cooler”. Brian Cashman is not done nor should we expect him to be. He has his sights set on the 28th World Championship in franchise history. Trust the Master.