Tagged: Bobby Valentine

What happened to the Yankees’ Arms Surplus?…

 

Locked and not loaded?…

Worst case scenario seems to be playing out with news that Michael Pineda’s shoulder is cause for concern.  Everybody has wondered who would be the odd man out of the rotation, given the strong spring performances by Freddy Garcia and Phil Hughes. There’s been talk of moving either of those two or Ivan Nova to the bullpen, but all things considered, that’s not an ideal spot for any of the three.  I was hopeful that Yankees could find some trade value in Garcia to move him and make room for the others, given that Andy Pettitte looms on the not-so-distant future.  Yesterday, there were indications that Michael Pineda needed to have a strong performance to nail down his much anticipated spot in the rotation.  I didn’t watch the game, but I checked the box score in later innings with the score tied 7-7 only to see that Pineda had given up 6 runs in the first two innings.  Not exactly a strong performance.  Then, this morning, there were reports about Pineda’s shoulder.  He’ll be going for a MRI, but this could get worse, much worse.

Hopefully, the problems with the shoulder are minor and Pineda can recuperate with some rest.

Even though the Yankees ultimately won the exhibition match-up with the Phillies, it was a very costly game with the possible injury to Pineda, as well as reliever Cesar Cabral (elbow).  Both injuries make Joe Girardi’s decisions for the starting rotation and second lefty in the pen much easier.  At this point, it would appear that the rotation will be CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes, and Freddy Garcia.  There could be some shuffling of the last three, dependent upon who’s ready when based on how they’re currently lined up with their respective pitching schedules.  If Cabral is out, it opens the door for Clay Rapada to take the second lefty role behind top lefty Boone Logan.

I prefer striking out the opposing team…

I didn’t fully understand the move with Russell Branyan.  He was released from his minor league deal, and then re-signed to a new minor league deal at a savings of $100,000 to the Yankees.  The money would seem inconsequential, so I wonder if there had been an opt-out clause or something else in the contract that would have been triggered causing the need for the re-negotiation.  It’s not exactly like I’m expecting much from Branyan at this point of his career.  It’s hard to get expected about high strikeout guys like Branyan, but of course, the Yankees added to the fodder with the signing of Jack Cust.  I do not see either as a viable alternative to what the Yankees already have.

Is bashing the Yankees the only way to be beloved in New England…

Enough about the recent tie between the Yankees and Red Sox recently.  I don’t blame Joe Girardi for his decision not to play extra innings in their game with the Red Sox, resulting in a tie.  After the game, Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine ripped the Yankees, saying that it cost a minor league pitcher, Clayton Mortensen, his opportunity to impress in an effort to make the team.  Subsequently, Mortensen has been making disparaging remarks about Girardi and the Yankees.  Seriously?  The guy’s career is going to be determined by one inning of pitching in a meaningless exhibition game?  Yeah, it was the Yankees, but guys don’t make major league rosters just because they play the Yankees well.  I think the other teams in the league have something to say about it.  If Valentine felt that Mortensen had a legitimate shot to make the roster, then he would create the opportunity in the spring schedule to showcase Mortensen.  His only opportunity to impress the Red Sox wasn’t that meaningless game with the Yankees.  For so much ink to be devoted to the unhappiness of Valentine and Mortensen is absolutely ridiculous.

There’s room in the Bronx for Maxwell…

I am hopeful the Yankees find room on the roster for outfielder Justin Maxwell.  Hopefully, with fourth outfielder Andruw Jones slated to share some DU time with Raul Ibanez, there will be the need to carry a fifth outfielder.  I like Maxwell’s athleticism in the outfield, and he is a good role player.

Have Bat, Will Travel…

Speaking of Ibanez, he is finally starting to hit, but I still can’t get his slow start with the Phillies last year out of mind.  I know that he had decent numbers by the end of the year, but I don’t like streaky players and at 40, Ibanez is not going to improve with age.  It’s too bad that Jorge Posada was not able to more fully embrace the DH role.  If he had, he probably would not have been put in the position of having to retire in the off-season.  But that’s water under the bridge, so I hope the Yankees find a suitable and consistent bat at DH as early in the season as possible.  If Ibanez surprises me, and is the guy, so be it.  Just be prepared to bring the bat every day, that’s all I ask.

Finally…

Good luck to Joba Chamberlain on his recovery.  I do hope that he is able to achieve his goal of pitching this season.  Who knows if he’ll ever be the pitcher we thought he would be, but we surely won’t know if he’s not pitching…

Well, the new baseball season is upon us.  Best of luck to everyone and their respective teams.  At this moment, we all have the chance for October glory.  Well, not really, but the standing don’t know any differently.  May the best team win!

–Scott

Practice makes perfect…

 

We took a mulligan on the first 21 rounds…

It amazes me when I look down this list of names…

Carl Everett, OF

Robert Eenhoorn, SS

Tate Seefried, 1B

Kirt Ojala, LHP

Richard Lantrip, INF

Sam Militello, RHP

Jalal Leach, OF

Tim Rumer, LHP

Matthew Terrell, OF

Darren Hodges, RHP

Richard Hines, RHP

Ron Frazier, RHP

Jeff Motuzas, C

Bo Siberz, RHP

Michael Smith, RHP

Ricky Ledee, OF

Bryan Faw, RHP

Bob Deller, OF

Brent Gilbert, RHP

Kevin Jordan, 2B

Keith Seiler, LHP

These are the players that the Yankees selected prior to Andy Pettitte in the 1990 MLB June Amateur Draft.  Of course, Carl Everett’s name stands out but he achieved major league success elsewhere.  I always had high hopes for Ricky Ledee, but he didn’t live up to the hype.  I also liked Sam Militello, but if memory serves correctly, his career was ultimately derailed by injuries.  But still, none of these players came close to matching Pettitte’s career.  It is startling how many pitchers the Yankess took in front of Andy, including three left-handed pitchers.  It’s also amazing to think that when this group was drafted, my now 22 year old son was only 6 months old.

I realize that Andy is nearly 40 years old, but all things considered, physically, he looks much younger.  Took away the strands of gray in his hair and he’d still look 30.  I am not trying to say that he is going to throw like a 30 year old, but I don’t feel the drop-off from 2010 is going to be as severe as some suspect.  I remember when pitchers like David Cone and Roger Clemens were getting older.  They were great pitchers but it felt like they were getting old.  Somehow, Andy doesn’t project that same feeling.  Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine may have his doubts about Andy’s comeback but I’d rather have Andy at the back end of the rotation than what Valentine will be putting out there.  If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work.  As the saying goes, “nothing ventured, nothing gained”.

Fragile:  Handle with care…

I am not quite sure what to think about the news of Joba Chamberlain’s latest injury.  Apparently, he suffered an ankle injury playing with his son that required surgery today.  Expected to be back by June, this will obviously delay his return.  It seems like the Yankees gave up too early on former pitcher Alfredo Aceves after he suffered two successive injuries that kept him off the field.  I don’t know the exact details but the release of Aceves surprised me at the time and of course he found success in Boston.  I hope the Yankees do not prematurely lose confidence in Chamberlain.  I am not comparing Chamberlain’s situation to Aceves other than to emphasize that I hope the organization takes a tolerant and patient approach to see if Chamberlain can still become the pitcher we thought he would be.

Not only are you out, you’re outta here!…

Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi keep preaching patience with DH Raul Ibanez, but when it comes to that topic, my patience has worn incredibly thin. His lack of hits is troubling under any situation.  Given the lineup also has a notoriously slow starting slugger at first base (Mark Teixeira), the Yankees can ill-afford multiple ice bats in April.  The Yankees have the talent to acquire a younger, more productive hitter, and that’s definitely a road that I’d be exploring if I was the Yankees general manager.  Of course, Brian Cashman is a better general manager that I’d ever be even in my own mind so I am sure this will play out exactly as Cash anticipates.  Or at least I hope…

Peyton drinking the Orange Crush?  At least he stayed with the horses…

Peyton Manning, the Denver Bronco.  I am a bit surprised by his choice.  Of course, it ended Tebow-mania in the Mile High City as the Broncos shipped #15 to the New York Jets.  The Jets trade also surprised me given they already have Mark Sanchez.  I had expected Tebow to go to Florida although I do recognize that the Jacksonville Jaguars are grooming Blaine Gabbert.  It will be interesting to see how the Sanchez-Tebow situation plays out in New York.  Maybe they can co-exist, but all things considered, this would be yet another surprise for me.

I thought it was a class gesture for former Broncos QB Frank Tripucka to relinquish his retired number 18 for Peyton to wear.  Obviously, when Peyton retires, Tripucka will have to share the retired status with Manning.  I’d like to see more retired players make those types of moves for certain players.

Think Ron Yary…

I am really worried the Minnesota Vikings are going to use the #3 pick on CB Mo Claiborne rather than stellar OT Matt Kalil.  I know that Claiborne is a potential top 5 pick and the Vikings have a lousy secondary, but I just don’t see how you can pass up a franchise tackle who can protect Christian Ponder for years to come.

And then there was light…

Although we’ve been having summer like weather in Minnesota, it’s still hard to believe that the lights of Target Field will soon be illuminating downtown Minneapolis.  As a downtown resident, I love the lights of the park which have been dark since last October.  It will be fun to see them return in the near future.  I only hope the Twins aren’t greeted with a heap of snow (which could happen in this part of the country).  I am planning to attend my first 2012 game at Target Field in late April when the Boston Red Sox come to town.  For three nights, I will be a Twins fan!

–Scott

$189 Million by 2014 or bust…

 

His accounting degree was the first tip-off…

So, it’s true that the fiscal conservative in Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner is coming to the forefront.  It’s clear that the Yankees have shown considerable restraint in their financial decisions in recent years and none more evident than this off-season when the Yankees watched and let others pay exorbitant dollars for free agent talent.  It was widely rumored that the Yankees have their eye on 2014 and the desire to get their payroll under the $189 million threshold for luxury tax purposes.  But now that Hal Steinbrenner is on record for the stated goal, it will be interesting to see how this plays out in the next few years.

While there are other guaranteed contracts, the most notable in 2014 will be Alex Rodriguez.  If he continues his deterioration as a star player, that $25 million in 2014 is going to look like a huge albatross.  I haven’t tallied the guaranteed dollars, but it’s clear that the next few years will see similar off-seasons like the one we just experienced.  No significant free agent signings, bargain basement ‘right before training camp’ deals like the one given to Raul Ibanez, and trades for young (and cheap) talent.  It will also mean the Yankees won’t overpay to retain talent, which probably shows the door to Nick Swisher.

Meanwhile, teams like the Los Angeles Angels and the Texas Rangers are profiting from regional TV deals (not to mention previous dollars they received through revenue sharing at the Yankees’ expense).  So, it will be other teams splurging on big talent, and the Yankees as a passive by-stander.  There is some logic in the team’s decision but I am concerned that it will bring an end to the winning run the Yankees have been on since the early 1990’s.  As a Yankees fan, the 1980’s were very difficult.  Yes, we were spoiled by George Steinbrenner’s win at all costs mentality, but 90 to 100 loss teams wearing the grand tradition of the pinstripes seems sacrilegious to me.  I am sure that the YES Network is not excited at that prospect either.  But if the stars, like A-Rod and Derek Jeter, continue to wither while eating up valuable salary dollars, the team is going to develop a Pittsburgh Pirates feel to it.  Very limited dollars to fill the holes.

In many respects, it is unfair that the salary threshold is equal among teams given the higher cost of living in New York, combined with the increased pressure that goes with playing on the biggest stage.  Once the ownership situation with the Los Angeles Dodgers is settled, there will be a slugfest in LA as the Dodgers spend to rebuild their legacy and prominence in the City of Angels.  Meanwhile, in New York, the Mets and Yankees will be scooping up the leftovers from the Pittsburgh Pirates and Kansas City Royals.

Okay, I might be a bit pessimistic but there will be a number of very difficult decisions to be made between now and 2014 as the Yankees attempt to reach their goal.  If the Yankees win the 2014 World Series, then credit Hal Steinbrenner for being one of the greatest owners in Yankees history.  If not, how long will it take to recover?…

Open mouth, insert foot…

You know, I don’t really care what Bobby Valentine is saying in Red Sox camp.  I know that if he were the Yankees manager, he’d be making disparaging remarks about the Sox.  It just goes with the territory when it comes to Bobby V.  Whatever helps him get motivated.  Speaking of Red Sox managers, it was really weird seeing the ESPN clips of Terry Francona in Yankees camp, hugging Yankees and talking with Joe Girardi and his coaches.  Unlike Valentine, I have a great deal of respect for Terry Francona.  Regardless, the Bobby V ingredient should make the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry very spicy this year.  It kind of sets the stage for Joe Maddon and the Tampa Bay Rays to steal the show…

I’m sure that A-Rod wasn’t saddened by the news…

Since I am on the topic of the Red Sox, I should say congratulations to Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek, who announced his retirement today.  He was a hated players at times, but like Jorge Posada, his intensity was off the charts.  He is the kind of guy you hate on another team but you’d love to have him on your team.  I think his baseball career is only getting started as I see future success as a manager for him.  I could even see him being an eventual replacement for Bobby Valentine.  Regardless of what he decides to do, we haven’t heard the last of Tek.

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em…again…

Back to the Yankees, I am glad to see the return of third baseman Eric Chavez.  It took a long time…right up to the start of training camp…but it got done.  I liked Chavez in his years as an Oakland A, and while he isn’t the player he once was, he is a great role player and teammate.  He is also a very sorely needed third baseman given the fragility of the guy in front of him.  Yes, Chavez is an injury risk but if he can stay healthy, he’ll be an invaluable part of the 2012 Yankees.

The Seattle Mariners pipeline worked last time (Tino Martinez)…

I liked the Yankees signing of former Seattle Mariners closer David Aardsma.  I don’t think he’ll be in the running for Mariano Rivera’s replacement when THAT day comes, but it was a low risk, high reward signing.  Having 7th and 8th inning options in late summer of David Robertson, Rafael Soriano, Joba Chamberlain, and Aardsma is a manager’s dream.

Best wishes for a fast return…

Here’s hoping for a speedy recovery for former Yankees pitcher A.J. Burnett.  In a batting incident the other day, a failed bunt attempt led to a broken right orbital bone in his face.  I was frustrated with Burnett as a Yankees pitcher, but I’ll never dispute that he is a great guy and a terrific teammate.  I am hoping that the move to Pittsburgh allows Burnett to flourish and hope the latest injury is not a precursor of things to come.

Don’t trip on the snow rounding first…

It is hard to think of baseball when it is snowing.  Snow has been a rare commodity in Minnesota this year, but we received slightly more than a dusting this week.  Living by Target Field, it’s strange to see the stadium and the surrounding snow while thinking that Joe Mauer and company are practicing to get ready to make the trip home to Minneapolis.  I have already bought my tickets for when the Red Sox and Yankees come to town, however, the Yankees don’t arrive in Minneapolis until late September.  I hope that AL East will be decided in the Yankees favor by that time…

Names I’ve known all of my adult life, and in some cases, when I was just a Daydream Believer…

Whitney Houston, Gary Carter and now Davy Jones?  This has not been a fun couple of weeks…

 

–Scott

Disappointment replaced by Optimism…

 

After some thought, I’ve come around…

Now that I’ve had time to digest the Friday night whirlwind that brought pitchers Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda to the Bronx, my initial disappointment was evaporated.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the power potential of Jesus Montero, and I know full well that he’ll be as devastating against the Yankees as Jay Buhner was if not more.  But I recognize that from a position of need, a top of the rotation starter is better than a player without a position.

Ever since I first heard Jesus Montero’s name, it always included a statement that he’d eventually have to find a new position because he would outgrow catcher.  The obvious moves would be to either first base or left field, but last time I checked, both of those positions were occupied by long-term tenants.  Putting an offensive juggernaut at DH is great for offense but it does nothing to help with the defensive aspects of catching or learning a new position.  With Russell Martin in the fold for the foreseeable future, there was no way that Montero would gain the starting position at catcher.  Martin’s ability to handle the pitching staff is simply too important to the team even if his bat is nothing remotely close to Montero.

With Montero, I was always worried about the other young Yankee catchers.  Of course, there’s Francisco Cervelli on the active roster.  If Montero were to take the backup catching job, where would that leave Cervelli?  Most likely playing for the Twins, backing up oft-injured Joe Mauer or someone like that.  I like the defensive reports that I’ve heard about both Austin Romine and Gary Sanchez, but if their path was clogged by Martin and Montero, where did that leave them?  Sanchez needs more time in the minors, but Romine is nearing major league ready status.  With an injury or two, I fully expect him to get his chance to make an impression at Yankee Stadium in 2012.  The trade of Montero ensures that Romine will get his major league opportunity with the Yankees so that’s a good thing.  He doesn’t have Montero’s bat (who does?) but good defense is essential for championships.

Maybe just tell us who the Yankees haven’t talked to…

As for the DH slot, it seems like the Yankees have expressed interest in about everyone.  There have been reports they’ve spoken to the agents for Carlos Pena, Johnny Damon, and Hideki Matsui.  There are pros and cons with all three players, but whoever the Yankees bring on board will have to share time at DH with Alex Rodriguez, Andruw Jones, and Derek Jeter so I’d be okay with any of the three.  I’ve always liked the clutch bats of Damon and Matsui, and the swing for the fences power of Pena is nice even if the average is hovering slightly above the Mendoza line.  With all the reports that the Yankees only have a $1 million or two to spend on a DH, I half expect a report that they’ve talked to Reggie Jackson!  Okay, that might be a stretch, but I’d consider letting ‘all or nothing’ slugger Jorge Vazquez.  He does deserve a shot.  If not, the Yanks should cut him loose and let him pursue a team that will.

If Jorge Posada had embraced the DH role last year, he’d be on his way back to the Bronx for an encore performance…

Upon second thought…

As for the pitching staff, my initial prediction about the rotation order was flawed.  I recognize that Micheal Pineda is the clear #2 in the rotation.  I’ve seen Ivan Nova slotted at #4, but I’d still keep him at #3 at least until he gives reason to drop him in the order.  I think Kuroda is a great addition, but he has to adjust to the American League in the most difficult division, while moving from a pitcher’s ballpark to a park that is less forgiving.  So, I’d give Nova time for pinstripes served and put him ahead of Kuroda.  After the former Dodger, it’s anybody’s guess who will win out…Phil Hughes, my personal favorite; Freddy Garcia, probably the better choice among the pitchers in terms of consistency; and A.J. Burnett, the candidate for most likely to depart the Bronx if the Yanks can find a willing trade partner that wants Burnett…and a boatload of cash to pay that ridiculous salary.  What happens if either Manny Banuelos or Dellin Betances pitches “lights out” in training camp?  This is going to be an interesting battle.

He’s really a cousin of Alcides and Kelvim Escobar?…

Back to Friday night’s trade, I was a bit dismayed when I saw that pitcher Hector Noesi had been included in the trade.  I kept hearing that his ceiling was the back end of the rotation but there was something that I liked about the pitcher.  At first, I didn’t know anything about the “other” Mariner included in the deal, Jose Campos.  But since the initial report of the trade, I’ve come to realize that he has great potential.  At 19, he’s 6’4” and throws in the mid 90’s.  He’ll more than make up for Noesi and fits a better timeline in terms of being major league ready given the high level pitching prospects already in the organization (Banuelos and Betances, for example).  The Curtis Granderson trade has been labeled as a ‘win-win-win’ for all concerned.  Hopefully, this M’s-Yankees trade will meet a similar fate.

What would I expect Bobby V to say?…

Contrary to what Bobby Valentine may think, the Yankees are a better team today than they were last Thursday.  But, I recognize the Boston Red Sox are not done yet.  They signed former Dodger pitcher Vicente Padilla today (a guy I loathe personally) and there’s rumors they could go after Roy Oswalt if they can move payroll.  I still think Boston could be a player for Cubs starter Matt Garza given Theo Epstein’s knowledge of the Red Sox minor league prospects.  Whether Ben Cherington or rather Larry Lucchino would trade with Epstein is another matter.  Still, I think there are changes to be made on both the Yankees and Red Sox between now and training camp.  Last year, I saw a Red Sox friend predict 118 or 119 wins for Boston.  Teams look great on paper, but as they say, the ‘proof is in the pudding’!

Moneyball II, starring Jorge Garcia…

It’s hard to think of the Oakland A’s signing former Yankees starter Bartolo Colon as a low-cost, high reward “Moneyball” kind of move.  At 39, I don’t think there’s really any upside to Colon at this point and in my opinion, he’s not capable of sustaining a full season of starts.  I’d rather have Gio Gonzalez or Trevor Cahill in the rotation, but I guess since those are no longer options, they have to look at the scrap heap that served the Yankees so well last season.

Yes, I know the way to San Jose!…

Speaking of Oakland, I do hope they are successful in their desire to move to San Jose.  As a former San Jose resident, I think it’s very exciting for the city and its metro area to be on the verge of landing both the A’s and the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers, to go with the NHL’s Sharks.  I saw that A’s owner bought the famed Hotel Sainte Claire in downtown San Jose.  He already owns one hotel in San Jose so I guess you can’t read too much into it, but he’s definitely positioning himself for the growth and excitement that San Jose could see in the coming years.  I’d be happy with a Stanley Cup Championship this year, but that’s a little off-topic…

I really don’t forsee another 99 losses when you place character first…

I was a little surprised to see the Minnesota Twins sign former Detroit Tigers flamethrower Joel Zumaya.  He suffered his devastating arm injury at Target Field in 2010.  So, in terms of Karma, you’d think that he’d avoid Target Field like the plague.   But I read comments in this morning’s paper about how he was touched by the reception he received from the Twins fans as he left the field that fateful day.  Stories like that certainly make me feel honored to be a Minneapolis resident, but I was still surprised by Zumaya’s decision.  I wish him the best as he begins the Comeback Trail.  Hopefully he can get back to the level he was before.  For the Twins, with Joe Nathan in Texas and Matt Capps scheduled to close games, they need Zumaya as the pitcher he once was and hopefully will be again.

When it’s tough being the son of Donnie Baseball, come home to the Bronx!…

Before I go, I want to say that I am really hopeful that the Yankees organization proves to be a blessing for former Dodgers prospect Preston Mattingly.  I’ve always heard what a great athlete he is/was when he was younger.  I don’t know what happened through his time in the Dodgers and Indians organizations and I realize that he is getting a bit long in tooth for a prospect, but I really hope that he can find some level of success with the Yankees.  It would be very cool to see Mattingly make a debut at Yankee Stadium at some point in the future.  Who knows if it is in the cards, but being a late bloomer is not outside of the realm of possibility when it comes to someone with his bloodline.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s hard to believe that we are just a month away from training camp.  I’m excited and looking forward to a great season.

 

–Scott

Didn’t see that one coming…

Yeah, but at what price?…

I am bummed…

After years of trade rumors involving Yankees prospect Jesus Montero, I thought he was finally home free and slated to be a member of the 2012 Yankees unless a trade for the seemingly untouchable Felix Hernandez were to materialize.  So, to hear tonight’s news that the Yankees have traded Montero to the Seattle Mariners is a shock since it did not involve the aforementioned King Felix.

I was perusing the MLB Trade Rumors tonight when I saw the blurb that the Mariners were close to acquiring an “young impact hitter”.  Of course, there aren’t too many guys that fit that description and Montero is near or at the top of the list.  I didn’t suspect a King Felix trade since there have been no signals that the Mariners are interested in trading him, so my immediate reaction was the fear of trading Montero for something else.  My fear has been justified as the word has come the Yankees traded Montero and pitcher Hector Noesi, a potential candidate for the starting rotation, to Seattle for pitcher Michael Pineda and minor league pitcher Jose Campos.  I  know nothing about Campos (whether he is a high or mid level prospect or just fodder for the lower leagues).  So, this trade was clearly about Pineda, 22, who made the All-Star Team as a fill-in for Justin Verlander last year during his rookie season.  I recognized that Pineda was a quality pitcher, and I had him on a few of my fantasy baseball teams.

But still, I bought into the hype that Montero was going to be an offensive force.  I recognized that he was a liability at catcher, and that Russell Martin and Francisco Cervelli represent the best catching tandem at the moment until Austin Romine and Gary Sanchez are ready to advance.  To ask a young player to start at DH does seem to be a poor major league decision, but I was looking forward to seeing Montero star in pinstripes.  His bat would have found a good spot in the starting lineup.  Maybe a few years down the road, this trade will look great for the Yankees if Pineda wins the Cy Young or becomes the ace of the staff.  But right now, I am just shocked.  It’s not the type of move that one can embrace or create excitement among the fan base.  I truly would have preferred a short term deal to Edwin Jackson or Roy Oswalt as opposed to giving up young, quality talent.  I also liked Noesi, and knew that he was a viable candidate for the starting rotation.

At the moment, and this could change in time, I think the advantage goes to the Seattle Mariners.  I am assuming that they have the young pitching talent, to go with Noesi, to find a suitable replacement for Pineda in the rotation.  Meanwhile, they get one of the best young bats in the game today.  This takes a little heat off first baseman Justin Smoak so perhaps now he can thrive.  Right now, I rate the Yankees rotation as CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, Michael Pineda, Phil Hughes, and A.J. Burnett.  This means that Freddy Garcia is the pitcher most likely to be cut unless the Yankees can find a home for Burnett.

Maybe he missed pitching to #55…

Okay, after an off-season of solitude, Friday the 13th has just become Yankees Night.  The latest word is the Yankees have signed former Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda.  Based on recent reports, I had expected Kuroda to sign with the Boston Red Sox.  Bobby Valentine’s experience with Japanese players, in my mind, gave the Sox the clear advantage.  Regardless of what transpired and why he decided to come to New York (Russell Martin?), he’s an innings-eater and fits nicely in the back of the rotation.  So, if the news of Kuroda’s signing is accurate, I need to update my starting rotation…CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, Michael Pineda, Phil Hughes, and Kuroda (although an argument could be made for why Hughes should be at the back end of the rotation).  The wild card is Hughes, so do the Yankees keep Burnett for long relief and a potential return to the starting rotation if Hughes falters or do they simply cut their losses?  I suspect that it will be the latter with Freddy Garcia held in reserve.  I also think this virtually confirms that we’ll see Dellin Betances and/or Manny Banuelos in the starting rotation at some point during the season.

My second favorite team is my National League favorite, the Los Angeles Dodgers, so I have to say that I enjoyed the starts I saw from Kuroda in his Dodger days.  He may be older, but he’s a quality pitcher.  He’s not going to shut down the opposition but he’s going to keep you in the game.  I would have preferred Edwin Jackson if no other reason than age (and Jackson’s ability to occasionally be a very dominating pitcher).  But still, it’s hard to find fault with the Kuroda signing.  I’d rather go with Kuroda over Roy Oswalt.  I’ve got to believe that the Yankees figured out the game plan for A.J. Burnett before the events of today unfolded so it’s likely that another deal is forthcoming before pitchers and catchers head for Tampa next month.

The fingerprints of Cash or Hal?…

I always wonder on these types of days if these moves were effected by GM Brian Cashman or if Hank and Hal Steinbrenner got bored and decided to take matters into their own hands.  I am not sure that there’s a move out there that could excite me at this point, but there’s no question the Yankees have a better rotation.  My primary concern still remains a quality backup third baseman for those inevitable A-Rod absences (i.e., trips to the DL).  But now, with Montero in Seattle and Posada on the beach waiting for Old Timer’s Day, who is going to be the DH?  At the moment, it’s a DH by committee with a rotation of A-Rod, Andruw Jones, and others.  It does make one believe that there is a potential acquisition for a veteran hitter in the making.  Bring back Johnny Damon?  It’s certainly within the realm of possibility.

The sleeping giant has awakened…

I know the Yankees objective is to get under $189 million in salary by 2014, but the team is always a sleeping giant.  If the Texas Rangers can come up with $51 million just to talk to Yu Darvish, you know the Yankees are capable of so much more.  It will be interesting to see how the next few weeks unfold.  After a season of inactivity, the Hot Stove League just got warmed up for the Yankees…

–Scott

Did Santa skip Yankee Stadium this year?…

 

The Bear is sleeping…

With the Yankees in hibernation for the winter, there’s not much for us Yankee fans to talk about.  The latest speculation centers on catcher Jorge Posada and where he might end up.  Of the three teams mentioned (Rays, Phillies, and Orioles), I don’t see Jorge as a good fit.

In Tampa, he’d back up his former back up, Jose Molina.  I suppose that he could earn additional starting time by the virtue of his superior bat, but why tarnish a great Yankees legacy by playing for a key divisional rival.  Same goes for the Orioles.  I think there’s a strong chance for Jorge to get pushed aside in either organization for younger, cheaper talent.  Neither the O’s or the Rays would be beholden to Posada as he didn’t carve out a borderline Hall of Fame career in their uniforms.  As for the Phillies, it would probably be a good way for one last shot at the World Series, but the Phillies have emerged as a chief rival for the Yankees.  He wouldn’t start for the Phillies, and his pinch-hitting opportunities and DH duty in interleague play would be limited with Jim Thome on the roster.

I would still like to see Jorge go to the Miami Marlins as a best-case scenario if he decides to continue playing.  He lives in Miami, and the team is in the opposing league.  They are not a natural rival by geography, and he wouldn’t tarnish his Yankees legacy.  But as Nick Cafardo said in his Boston Globe column yesterday, “Hope Jorge Posada retires as a Yankee”.

Short-term rental looks better every day…

With the list of prospective pitchers dwindling, I am in favor of a short term signing (such as Roy Oswalt or Edwin Jackson).  The recent trades of Mat Latos to the Reds and Gio Gonzalez to the Nationals has shown that the price is sky high for young, talented pitchers.  Giving up Jesus Montero and Manuel Banuelos in any trade would be a mistake.  I am not sure if this is akin to 1995 when Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera may have been considered potential prospect trade bait, but still, I’d rather see what the future holds with Montero and Banuelos than without.  I think that either Oswalt or Jackson would be a better option than either Bartolo Colon or Freddy Garcia, and would allow the Yankees more time to work on a more equitable trade or seek potential help in the 2012 free agent market.

Strengthening your team with ex-Yankees…

I really do not want to see the Boston Red Sox weaken the Yankees’ bench by signing Andruw Jones.  The Yankees had a great fourth outfielder in 2011, and they need to make his return a priority.  This is an area that I’ve been greatly disappointed by the continued silence.  I really do not feel that Justin Maxwell, Chris Dickerson or Melky Mesa can fill Andruw’s shoes.

Just like the Los Angeles Angels crept up and became the star of the Winter Meetings (overtaking the Miami Marlins), I keep expecting the Red Sox, who have been very dormant this winter despite their acquisition of former Yankees reliever Mark Melancon, to make a big splash to improve their 2012 team for new manager Bobby Valentine.  It could be the signing of Hiroki Kuroda (whom the Yankees are also interested in) or a trade for the Cubs’ Matt Garza, but if they do improve, it will be difficult for the Yankees to adjust.

The Winter of (Y)our Discontent…

I never thought I’d feel bad for the New York Mets, but it has to be tough for their fans to watch their team move into rebuilding mode when every other team in the division has gotten better.  The Mets would appear to have a stranglehold on fifth place in their division, with no competition.  There is no great joy in watching the Mets as a defeated organization.

Don’t wake the Beast…

It’s hard to believe that pitchers and catchers report in less than two months.  Of course, I am in Minnesota and it’s sunny with an expected high today of nearly 50 degrees.  Nothing is what you expect, or I suppose you could say what it seems.  There’s a winter beast that will soon be awakened in Minnesota.  Does the same hold true for The Bronx?…

 

–Scott

The best of a bad situation for the Red Sox Nation…

 

Bobby Valentine’s hire…

I am still surprised that the Boston Red Sox ownership and management team did not have a clear plan of succession when they failed to back former manager Terry Francona at the end of the season.  Sure, Francona left on his terms but the lack of support had as much to do with the decision as anything.  So, if ownership felt that they wanted a change, they should have had a short list of potential replacements in mind.  Theo Epstein moved more quickly in Chicago when they named Sox candidate Dale Sveum as their manager.  The Sox search just felt “messy” to an outsider like me.

Still, they probably did as well as they could with the hiring of Bobby Valentine.  There is no question that he is a superior tactician.  He is very passionate, which is an attribute that I have always admired.  I cannot say that I’ve been a Bobby V fan in my life.  I lived in Dallas during his years as the manager of the Texas Rangers.  But I respect his knowledge, skills and high desire to win.  At different points during the last few years, there have been times he has been mentioned as a possible Yankees manager.  You don’t have to like the guy personally if he can get the job done.  I think one of my friends referred to Bobby as “swarmy” and it’s a good description.  Nevertheless, I am sure that Bobby will prove himself worthy of the Red Sox Nation and they’ll love him.  Meanwhile, we’ll just continue our loathing of him which fits since he is now with a bitter rival.

I would like to see if Bobby can have a positive impact on pitcher Jon Lester.  Lester has been one of my favorite players, despite his uniform.  He is an ace, and capable of carrying the high expectations that go with it.  2011 was a regression year for Lester so hopefully he’ll get back on track in 2012 and clearly establish himself as the leader of the Red Sox rotation.

…and Terry Francona’s ire…

In recent years, I admittedly lessened my dislike for the Boston Red Sox and it was primarily because of my respect for manager Terry Francona.  In my mind, Joe Torre had been the model of a superior manager, and the Francona mold was in the same class.  I do not know the inner workings of the Red Sox organization, but I am still surprised that they didn’t support Francona based on comments Tito has made during interviews.  I was even more surprised to hear that he had to defend himself against questions about painkillers during his interview with the St. Louis Cardinals.  Here is a manager that won two World Series for an organization that had not won since 1918, or when Babe Ruth was still on the roster.  It’s incredible to think of how many Red Sox managers failed where Tito succeeded.  I think teams missed the boat in not aggressively pursuing Tito this off-season.  Hopefully, teams won’t make the same mistake next year.

All quiet on the Western front…

The days leading up to the Baseball Winter Meetings in Dallas seem so incredibly quiet compared to life under the Boss.  While I recognize that part of it is posturing by the Yankees to avoid overpaying for players, there is the realization that this is a different ownership group even if it is still “in the family”.  The Yankees did not really make any notable moves last season outside of signing catcher Russell Martin and bringing in pitchers Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon.  To fail to upgrade the team this year is a mistake in my opinion.  Last year’s roster was easily defeated by the Detroit Tigers in the play-offs.  While I realize that anything can happen in a short series, I didn’t have the sense or “feel” that the Yankees were going to prevail.  It almost seemed as though it was inevitable the Yankees would lose.  That’s a bad feeling.  The team needs bench or role players that can come through like Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui used to, and they need help at the top of the starting rotation behind CC Sabathia.

I hopeful that the team can re-sign Eric Chavez, Andrew Jones and Luis Ayala.  Chavez is a perfect fit behind Alex Rodriguez, assuming that he can stay healthy, and Jones was a great fourth outfielder if he is content with resuming that type of role for the upcoming season. Ayala seems to be garnering much attention with at least six teams interested.

I like the one rumor that I heard about the Yankees possibly being interested in Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Kyle Drabek.  He would definitely be a pitcher that I’d target if I were the GM.  As a fan, the trade of Doug Drabek hurt at the time and it hurt even more when Drabek went on to achieve great success with the Pittsburgh Pirates.  While acquiring Kyle Drabek has nothing to do with his father as he has great potential on his own right, it would be nice to have the son of Doug Drabek in the organization.  Interestingly, the Yankees had obtained Doug Drabek in a trade with the Chicago White Sox for shortstop Roy Smalley.  If they had held onto him that trade would have been remembered as one of the Yankees better trades.  As it was, the Yankees traded him to the Pirates for Rick Rhoden, who was serviceable but not great.

Of the free agent pitchers, I am still most interested in Mark Buehrle.  I think he’d fit perfectly into the middle of the Yankees rotation.  I like C.J. Wilson but I can understand the team’s apprehension given the dollars that have been mentioned to sign him.  If Yu Darvish is posted later this off-season, I really would like to see the Yankees be aggressive in pursuing him.  I am convinced that he’ll have greater major league success than Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka.  The negative is obviously the cost of the posting fee that it will take to get the job done.  The Red Sox paid over $51 million for the rights to negotiate with Dice-K, and apparently, it will take a similar if not higher number to land Darvish.

If the Yankees were to include outfielder Nick Swisher in a trade for a starting pitcher, they’d need to find a replacement.  As a fan, I am always on the lookout for the next Paul O’Neill type of trade to fill the void…acquiring a talented young outfielder with much promise who has yet fulfilled those expectations.  It’s a high risk move, but as in the case of O’Neill, high reward.  Curtis Granderson has thrived in a Yankees uniform despite the sluggish start, and it’s better to catch a player before he hits the upward arc of his career in terms of cost.  If the Yankees tried to acquire Granderson from the Tigers today, there’s no way that they could get it done with Ian Kennedy, Austin Jackson and Phil Coke (and that’s with Kennedy being mentioned in the NL Cy Young race this year).

Brace yourself, here comes Roller-Coaster Week!…

The upcoming week is always my favorite week of the off-season.  The Hot Stove League is at its pinnacle.  Even if the Yankees do not do anything, it is still a thrilling ride.  It’s fun to talk and think about all the potential possibilities, even as far-reaching as some may sound.  My primary wish is for the Cardinals to get their long-anticipated deal with Albert Pujols done so that we can move on to other storylines.  There’s no way that he is going to Chicago or Miami, and at the end of the day, he is and always will be a Cardinal.

My preferred landing spot for Yankees catcher Jorge Posada, if he decides to continue playing, is the Miami Marlins.  I do not want to see him go to the Mets, Red Sox, or any other AL East rival including the Tampa Bay Rays.

Good move, Bad move…

The Los Angeles Dodgers are my favorite National League team, although I do not have the passion for the team or the sense of loyalty that I hold for the Yankees.  My affection for them began when Joe Torre was named manager (previously I had considered the San Francisco Giants as my NL team) and it has continued with one of my all-time favorite players as the current Dodgers manager, Don Mattingly.  I am dismayed with the ownership situation and do not have any respect for Frank McCourt, but I am optimistic that the sale of the team will restore the luster of the storied franchise.

While it was good for the Dodgers to lock up outfielder Matt Kemp long-term, I do question the move to sign free agent pitcher Chris Capuano.  The cost was too great ($10 million for two years) for a journeyman pitcher who is average to average-minus with no upside.  If this move prevents free agent pitcher Hiroki Kuroda from returning, then it’s an even greater mistake.  I don’t know how much it will cost to sign Kuroda and I realize that he is 37, but he’s still a better pitcher than Capuano.

Don’t let the door hit you on the way out…

I was not excited when the Minnesota Vikings trade a 6th round draft pick to the Washington Redskins for QB Donovan McNabb before the season started, but I did realize the team needed a veteran presence.  McNabb was a failure for the Vikings, and I was glad to see the team finally cut bait with his release this past week.  I am not convinced he can thrive in any environment, contrary to what head coach Leslie Frazier may say.  I think the Vikings simply found out what the Philadelphia Eagles knew and what the Redskins found out last season.  He’s done.  I was pleasantly surprised to see QB Sage Rosenfels return as the third string QB after his release from the Miami Dolphins.  It’s not that I expect Rosenfels to take any regular season snaps this time around, but he’s a good insurance policy and allows the Vikings to continue to use second string QB Joe Webb in a variety of roles.

It’s tough when your favorite football team is playing so bad that you actually hope for losses to ensure a high draft pick.  The Vikings are only two games behind the Indianapolis Colts in the sweepstakes for Stanford QB Andrew Luck.  I am a fan of Vikings QB Christian Ponder, but even I would gladly take Luck over Ponder.  So, with the Denver Broncos playing the Vikings today, all I can say is ‘Go Tim Tebow!’ as a way to bring good “Luck”!…

–Scott