The Holiday Season Slowdown…
As the final days of 2017 burn away, there’s not much happening in the Yankees Universe…at the moment. Granted, this has been one of the quieter off-seasons for all MLB teams with so many unsigned free agents. I know, we already got our shiny new toy (Giancarlo Stanton) but there is still work to be done.
|Credit: Stan Grossfield, Boston Globe|
The Yankees finally announced the one-year, $10 million deal for CC Sabathia this week. Realistically, I am expecting some regression from Sabathia at this point (it would be hard to replicate last year’s statistics considering he turns 38 in late July), but he means so much to the clubhouse. I always thought Mike Mussina finishing his career with a 20-win season was the best way to go (short of winning a World Series championship). I doubt Sabathia’s knee will allow him the former but he certainly has a shot at the latter. The value of veteran leadership is understated. I don’t think Matt Holliday gets enough credit for his “behind-the-scenes” work with Aaron Judge last season. With new coaches on board, Sabathia brings a wealth of consistency and mentorship that would otherwise be missing. I am not trying to sell the other team veterans short, but Sabathia has been such a leader in the clubhouse and a guy that the team loves. I am glad to see him back in Pinstripes.
Speaking of Mussina, I think it is a travesty that he currently trails Roger Clemens in the Hall of Fame voting. According to MLB Network, with 27.9% of the votes completed, Clemens currently has 71.6% (75% is needed for induction into the Hall of Fame). Mussina trails Clemens by nearly a percentage point (70.7%). Granted, Clemens has the better stats but he also cheated. Moose played the game cleanly and spent his entire career in the highly charged AL East. I feel that Moose deserves a spot in the Hall of Fame ahead of Clemens. It’s inevitable that Clemens and other Steroid-users like Barry Bonds will eventually make the Hall but I’d prefer that it takes a few more years.
Brendan Kuty of NJ.com is reporting that a reunion between the Yankees and third baseman Todd Frazier is unlikely. With the Sabathia signing, the projected Yankees payroll currently stands at $178 million. Frazier made $12 million in 2017. The Yankees still desire to add a cost-controlled pitcher and need room for trading deadline additions and roster call-ups. This is where the pain of Jacoby Ellsbury’s contract really hurts. I remain hopeful that the Yankees can move Ellsbury. One writer recently suggested that the Yankees pay all but $15 million still owed to Ellsbury (which equates to nearly $53.5 million including $5 million buyout in 2022). The writer (I do not recall who) correctly stated that Ellsbury, still a good player, should be worth at least $5 million per year for another team. He doesn’t steal as many bases as he used to and he’s always an injury risk whenever he takes the field, but if healthy, he can help a team. Of course it has to be a team that he’d waive his no-trade clause for. I keep watching the San Francisco Giants and hoping their efforts to acquire Cincinnati’s Billy Hamilton fail. An additional $5 million for payroll would certainly help the Yankees achieve their objective of adding another pitcher while bringing in quality veteran talent at third. I remain hopeful the Yankees can find a way to bring Frazier back but the optimism has faded.
While the Yankees are the early favorites to sign 2018 free agent-to-be Manny Machado, there is no certainty that he will sign with the team. As such, I think a two-year offer for Frazier makes sense if the Yankees can find the payroll room to stay under the luxury tax threshold of $197 million. If the Yankees do sign Machado next year, Frazier is still a valuable roster component, especially if he can play more first base during the upcoming season. If the Chicago Cubs or St Louis Cardinals make a trade with the Baltimore Orioles for Machado, there’s a good chance one of those teams could entice Machado to sign a long-term deal. The cost to acquire Machado, even with just one year left on his contract, will be high so any team parting with the level of talent necessary to acquire the premium player will make every attempt to lock up Machado. Pulling the trigger on such a deal would indicate some willingness or optimism on the receiving team’s part that they could sign Machado. There is no guarantee that Miguel Andujar will be successful at the Major League level or defensively-speaking, that he is even ready. With youth at second base (should Gleyber Torres win the job as expected), I feel that it is too risky to have MLB inexperience at third base too for a team with heightened expectations.
More Cash for Cash…
By now, we all know that GM Brian Cashman has received a 5-year extension worth approximately $25 million. Even the most fervent Cashman critics have acknowledged the good job that Cash has done to rebuild the Yankees farm system. If I owned the team, I would re-structure the front office to model the Chicago Cubs arrangement with Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer. Under that structure, Cashman would become President, Baseball Operations. Randy Levine’s title (President) would be realigned to show his status on the business side of Operations. Actually, he wouldn’t have a job if I owned the team, but I guess that’s another matter. With Cashman’s promotion, I would appoint Tim Naehring as Executive Vice President, General Manager. Naehring would get the job since he is currently viewed as Cashman’s right-hand man although an argument could certainly be made for either Jean Afterman or Damon Oppenheimer.
I hate seeing good people like Billy Eppler and Gary Denbo leave the organization for “better” opportunities and feel that there are ways to reward current Cashman underlings.
2017 Pinstripe Bowl Champions…
Congratulations to the Iowa Hawkeyes for their 27-20 victory over Boston College in the 2017 Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium yesterday. I have been a lifelong fan of the University of Iowa (perhaps even longer than I’ve been a Yankees fan which dates back to my childhood). It was weird seeing a football field placed in the middle of Yankee Stadium, but for my Hawkeyes, it was their first bowl win since 2010. The Hawkeyes finished 8-5 this year, however, it did include a victory over Ohio State which was the highlight of the season for me.
I can’t really think of a better way to end the year than for one of my favorite teams to win within the confines of the home of my favorite MLB team. Beating Boston was a bonus. Nice job, Hawkeyes!
|Credit: Bryon Houlgrave, The Register|
Now that the Hawkeyes have won their bowl game on hallowed grounds, it is time to bring back the baseball diamond to Yankee Stadium.
I can’t believe the calendar page is getting ready to turn to 2018 but the new year brings great hope and optimism for Yankees fans. I am ready for training camp. We’re only about a month and a half away before pitchers and catchers report. Tampa will soon be rocking with excitement! Now batting, Number 27 (sorry, this never gets old)…
It’s tough to follow a game that you should have won with a dull, listless performance. So it was for the Yankees as they fell 7-1 to the AL cellar rats, the Toronto Blue Jays. To the Blue Jays credit, they are now on a three-game winning streak and have held their opponents to a single run in each of those victories. It was just a matter of time before the Blue Jays started playing like the team many predicted to contend for the AL East and unfortunately the Yankees may have run into them at the wrong time.
Luis Severino, after his brilliant performance in Boston, let the bottom of Toronto’s batting order do the damage. In the second inning, he allowed a two-run homer to the number seven hitter, shortstop Ryan Goins, who is subbing for the injured Troy Tulowitzki. It would be the only runs Toronto would need on a quiet night for Yankee bats. Severino allowed another home run in the sixth inning to the number nine hitter, third baseman Chris Coghlan, a fill-in for the injured Josh Donaldson. Severino (2-2) lasted 5 2/3 innings, giving up 8 hits and 5 runs. He walked two and struck out 3.
Credit: Kathy Willens/AP
Reliever Luis Cessa took one for the team and finished the remaining 3 1/3 innings to provide rest for the weary Yankees bullpen. He did give up a two-run shot to Jose Bautista in the seventh inning but was otherwise effective.
Jacoby Ellsbury made a great play in the sixth inning with a leaping catch of a potential double. His momentum carried him into the centerfield wall. A runner on third scored on the sac fly, but then Ellsbury overthrew Aaron Judge on an attempt to get the ball back into the infield which allowed a runner on second to also score.
Greg Bird is lost at the plate. His latest 0-for-4 performance dropped his batting average to an even .100. He left 5 men on base. The Yankees continue to give him chances to turn it around, but when is enough? I’ve been in Bird’s corner but at some point, he needs to figure this out at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, not New York, in order to restore his confidence. I had thought he was getting better swings in recent days but the results are not there. I am not ready to say ‘send him down today’ but it is probably not going to take too many more games of hitless results.
It was just one of those games. The Yankees have struggled against the Blue Jays in recent years as they are just 13-26 against Toronto since the start of the 2015 season. The loss dropped the Yankees (15-9) one game behind the Baltimore Orioles in the AL East. The O’s beat the Boston Red Sox 5-2 on Monday night to recapture sole possession of first place. But today, yesterday means nothing. The Yankees can still take this series and it starts today with timely hitting and precision pitching.
Prior to the game, the Yankees recalled Cessa to provide long relief insurance and optioned reliever Bryan Mitchell to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Brendan Kuty of NJ.com had the best Twitter line: “Mitchell will likely share 1B duties with Refsnyder and Choi” in reference to Mitchell’s one inning of work at first base on Sunday. Too funny!
With no offense to Jorge Mateo, my personal favorite for the future of center field at Yankee Stadium had quite a game on Sunday. Dustin Fowler, a strong candidate to eventually unseat Jacoby Ellsbury, hit for the cycle as the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders defeated the Indianapolis Indians (the Pittsburgh Pirates’ top farm club), 7-6.
In the bottom of the 11th inning, Fowler capped his memorable day with a walk-off home run, completing the cycle. For the game, the 22-year-old went 5-for-6 with 2 runs scored and 2 RBI’s. For the season, Fowler is batting .293 (24-for-82), 4 home runs, and 12 RBI’s. He is second on the team with a .914 OPS. He has also stolen two bases.
1st Inning: Tripled to right.
3rd Inning: Grounded out to third.
5th Inning: Doubled to right, scoring Tyler Wade.
7th Inning: Singled to center.
9th Inning: Doubled to right.
11th Inning: Homered to right, no one on…RailRiders win!
It may have taken two extra innings, but what a way to cap hitting for the cycle! Congrats to Fowler for the terrific game. I look forward to the day when he is doing this in the Bronx.
Credit: Times Leader
I am a Yankees Homer but I can’t predict an AL championship for the Yankees yet. Granted, the team finished the month of April in a first-place tie with the Baltimore Orioles, but it’s still a very long season. The Yankees had a chance to bury the Orioles on Sunday and couldn’t do it. The ebbs and flows the season will ultimately predict the final standings. Let’s see how the team handles its first real stretch of difficulty. With the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros looming on the horizon, adversity is on its way. The last time catcher Gary Sanchez started a game, the Yankees were 1-4. So let’s not start printing World Series tickets just yet. Through May 1st last year, the Yankees were 8-15. This season, they are 15-9 through the same date. If they finish the season, from this point forward, with the same number of wins and losses as last year, they are a 90-win team. I think this team can contend for a Wild Card spot but I am not ready to anoint them as potential division champions. I still expect Boston to play much better as the season progresses, particularly if they get David Price back. And I’ve learned to never underestimate Buck Showalter and the Baltimore Orioles. The charging Blue Jays also have the Yankees’ number. If the Yankees are still slugging it out for first place at the All-Star Break, then I’ll reconsider my forecast. But for now, I still feel the best case scenario is a Wild Card slot with the division championship a season or two away.
Have a great Tuesday! Today is a new day…time to beat these pesky Jays!
Prior to the season, I was saying the Yankees should move veteran outfielder Brett Gardner. Now, fourteen games into the 2017 season, I am more convinced than ever he should be moved. Granted, it is not his fault that he turns 34 on August 24th (I personally blame his parents) but he does not fit into the long-term view for the new and improved New York Yankees.
For the season, Gardner is batting .205 with no home runs or RBI’s. He has stolen five bags but all things considered, his production is replaceable. The Yankees need to find room to consistently start fourth outfielder Aaron Hicks. Hicks, 27, has shown he can be a productive hitter when he regularly knows that he’ll be in the lineup. For the season, Hicks has much better numbers than Gardner (outside of the total stolen bases). Hicks has received 15 less at-bats than Gardner but only has two less hits. Hicks has three home runs on the year, with eight RBI’s. His two stolen base attempts ended in failure but regardless, Hicks has been the better player. Even though he hasn’t put up the numbers for AAA Scranton/Wilkes Barre-Barre this month, I think Mason Williams, 25, is a very capable fourth outfielder.
I would love to unload center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury but with his contract, he’s not going anywhere. We’re four years into his 7-year, $153 million contract and at this point, there’s nothing he can do for redemption (at least not in my eyes). He is what he is, and he’ll never be more, and he’ll never be that dude who tore up the league for the Boston Red Sox in 2011. That was his Brady Anderson year. Chained to Ellsbury for the foreseeable future, it means that Hicks would need to play either left or right. Aaron Judge is the awakening Giant in right so he’s not going anywhere. That only leaves left field. It makes the most sense to move Gardner and begin the outfield youth movement with full intensity. Gardner’s been a good Yankee so slap him on the back, give him a watch, and send him on his way.
I suppose the opposing point of view is that Ellsbury will be hurt at some point and it will be necessary to slide Gardner to center, creating a left field opening. At some point this season, the Yankees need to begin placing higher value in Dustin Fowler as the center fielder of the future unless they plan to discard Fowler (a mistake in my opinion) to make way for Jorge Mateo. I wish Mateo was closer to the Majors so that he could force a competition but at this point, Fowler will be ready much sooner. Since Mateo is still learning the position, he is much further behind Fowler than just levels in the Minor Leagues.
I wouldn’t want to over-expose Matt Holliday but he could still play left occasionally in a pinch. As former Yankee Lee Mazzilli once said (regrettably), “Left field is a position for idiots”. Not trying to demean the position, but there are others in the organization that can play the position as back up for Hicks, Ellsbury, and Judge. There always seems to be fourth outfielders readily available as free agents or ones that could easily (and cheaply) be had. I am not worried about the outfield depth. As we move deeper and deeper into the season, guys like Clint Frazier move closer to potential callups.
It’s time to move Gardy. Maybe not this exact minute but no later than July if not sooner.
Now that I’ve ripped Gardner for the day, he will probably go on a hitting tear.
Why is it that the best Yankees beat writers always move on? I remember loving the work of Peter Abraham on the LoHud Yankees Blog, and these days he is a Red Sox beat writer for the Boston Globe. I get it, he’s a Boston guy so it was an opportunity to go home. Then, I loved reading Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News and listening to his podcasts. Now, he is a writer for MLB.com writing about, Egads!, other teams. Or Marc Carig of The Star Ledger moving from the Yankees to the Mets. Next, you’ll probably tell me that Brendan Kuty or Bryan Hoch have found other things they’d like to do. Sorry, just my rant about losing Feinsand. I enjoyed his time as the Yankees beat writer for the Daily News.
The win streak ends at eight. Bummer. Usually, when a starting pitcher goes eight innings and only allows three hits and strikes out ten, the end result is a win. But on a night when the other team’s starter was a wee bit better and the Yankee bats were quiet, Luis Severino took the loss as the Yankees fell to the Chicago White Sox, 4-1. The Yankees had a chance at the end with the winning run at the plate, but Aaron Judge grounded into a force out to end the game. A grand slam would have been so cool at that moment.
The Yanks still have the chance to take the series when the teams meet for the third and final time this evening.
Tuesday evening turned out to be a double loss as top prospect Gleyber Torres was scratched from the lineup for AA Trenton Thunder due to biceps tendonitis. He will undergo a MRI to determine the extent of the injury. Hopefully, the news will be favorable.
James Kaprielian underwent successful Tommy John surgery on Tuesday, so now the long road to recovery begins.
Have a great Wednesday! I think it’s time to start a new winning streak!