Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, Associated Press
Starting Rotation missing its spots…
Silly me. I had hoped the “Next Man Up” tag line was the theme of the 2019 Yankees, not this year.
Credit: Randy Glasbergen
The Yankees are not off to a great start in 2020 with the injuries that have surfaced. James Paxton is not expected back until May at the earliest, possibly June, after recent back surgery, Aaron Judge is being held back over caution with his shoulder, and Luis Severino is headed to New York for further tests regarding the forearm tightness he experienced this week.
I am not ready to throw in the towel and concede the AL East to the Tampa Bay Rays, but no doubt the Rays see blood in the water. The Yankees didn’t have Severino for most of last season and they still won 103 games so it’s not like they’ll fold without him. I am very thankful the Yankees were successful in signing Gerrit Cole last December and the team’s offense, even without Judge at 100%, remains one of the best in the game.
I went from wanting J.A. Happ traded after his disappointing performance last season (primarily to eliminate his $17 million contract and his potential for reaching the milestones to trigger another $17 million for 2021) to the realization that he is a major cog in the starting rotation, at least for now. With the absences of Paxton and Sevy, Tanaka becomes the second to Cole, and Happ is your third starter. It does not exactly instill confidence (at least not for me).Yet, I am hopeful we’ll see Happ’s return to be a stable and consistent force in the rotation like he was in the latter half of the 2018 season. Although nobody has handed him anything, Jordan Montgomery is expected to be the fourth starter. From there, it is anybody’s guess.
If GM Brian Cashman knew about Paxton’s troublesome back and some potential concern with Sevy’s forearm (if it has been bothering him since the playoffs last year this past off-season, I am surprised the best pitching options brought in from the outside were former Angels starter Nick Tropeano and former Rockies starter/reliever Chad Bettis. In retrospect, it seems like Cashman had the time to bring in a potentially stronger hedge for the starting rotation.
Most likely, the fifth starter role will be filled either by an opener or we’ll see one of the young guys (like Deivi Garcia or Michael King) step forward. There’s been a lot of hype for Clarke Schmidt but asking him to jump from Double A seems to be a big leap. Then, there’s the usual suspects, Jonathan Loaisiga and Luis Cessa. I am not trying to be critical of them but I see both as better arms for the pen. As much as we may like Loaisiga’s arm, he always seems to be an injury waiting to happen. I think the Yankees are better using Chad Green as a late inning bullpen specialist, especially after the departure of Dellin Betances and despite Green’s success as an opener last year.
It’s always possible the Yankees swing a trade for a starter but teams are less motivated to trade in March than they will be in July when they know whether or not October is in their future.
I’d love to see one of the young guys grab the starting spot and run with it. Maybe that’s what the Yankees see. If it were my team, I’d probably be less willing to gamble with the fifth spot when there are questions with the third and fourth starters. But Cashman and his team know much more than I ever will and I trust them to make the right decisions. The Yankees have heavily invested in the 2020 season and they’re not going to throw it away now. Championship windows are not open for long and the Yankees know it. Trust the process.
Photo Credit: Andrew Mills, NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
I am glad we’ll have Yankees Baseball back on TV today when the Yankees face the Toronto Blue Jays at Steinbrenner Field. Or if you are fortunate enough to be in Tampa, all the better. J.A. Happ takes the pitching mound for the Yankees in their Spring debut. The game will also see Michael King, Luis Cessa and Nick Tropeano with turns behind Happ. We won’t have the joy of Troy Tulowitzki’s homer off his former team last Spring (the career highlight of his brief time in Pinstripes), but maybe Gio Urshela, the scheduled third base starter, can deposit a pitch over the outfield wall while facing some of his ex-teammates. Gerrit Cole, in a non-televised game, will make his debut on Monday against his original team, the Pittsburgh Pirates. Bummer, I would have really enjoyed to see Cole facing live opposing hitters. The first few Spring games are always fun until the monotony sets in during the upcoming weeks. While I am anxious and excited for the March 26th opener in Baltimore, I am hopeful we’ll have greater confidence in the starting rotation behind Cole and Tanaka when the season starts. So I want the regular season to start soon, but not too soon. May the best possible 26 men head north to the great state of Maryland next month.
I think the inner George Steinbrenner in me wants the Yankees to grab whatever star players they can (Nolan Arenado, Josh Hader, etc.) so they can crush the World, but I know the Yankees have the healthy guys in camp right now that can bring home the “piece of metal” by season’s end. I was probably a little envious of the Los Angeles Dodgers fan base and how energized they became with the trade that brought Mookie Betts to their team. They seem to be beating their chests about this being “the year”. There’s still a lot of baseball to played between now and October, but I’ll happily take my chances with this collection of Yankees and how they stack up against the Dodgers assuming the teams are fortunate enough to advance to this year’s World Series.
MLB Network’s 30 Clubs in 30 Days will feature the Yankees on Tuesday, March 3rd. I always enjoy the exclusivity of interviews with the Yankees players and coaches but those shows always seem like the fastest hour in Sports or at least the player interview segments seem too short. The YES Network is good about the Hot Stove shows early in the off-season but there’s always a sense of loss when the shows come to an end. It’s too bad they can’t have weekly shows from Tampa to give us insight into the players. I guess there’s Yankees Magazine but it doesn’t have the same real time effect like the Hot Stove shows.
They are saying Greg Bird has a legitimate shot to earn the starting first base job with the Texas Rangers as they break in their new stadium this season. I have to say it will suck if Bird has a happy and healthy season for the Rangers. I know, I shouldn’t say that. I do not regret the Yankees’ decision to cut Bird loose, but after so much false hope each season with Bird, it would be disappointing to see him give Texas what he never gave the Yankees (good health). I guess I turn the page on ex-Yankees faster than I should. I loved Didi Gregorius as a Yankee but now I find the fans who are still posting comments about how much they miss him to be annoying. I couldn’t care less about the Philadelphia Phillies and their manager. I feel the same about Bird and former Yank Todd Frazier (I see him as more of an ex-Met these days) in Texas. I am not going to root for them just because they once played for the Yankees. Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly is the lone exception to my personal rule.
Photo Credit: Jeff Roberson, Associated Press
I’ve tried to avoid talking about the cheating scandal for this post but I want to say I feel David Ortiz is wrong for calling Mike Fiers a “snitch”.
Photo Credit: The New York Post
I respect Big Papi but Fiers, a guy none of us are enamored with as Yankee fans, did the right thing to bring attention to the Houston cheaters. While I understand Papi’s criticism that Fiers should have said something while a member of the Astros, I also get team camaraderie holding players back from being divisive forces in the clubhouse and the fact Fiers tried to follow proper channels through the Oakland A’s and the MLB office before stepping forward on the public stage. I support Fiers for his critical role in bringing to light the shame and scandal of the Houston Asterisks. I still do not like Fiers the pitcher, but I will always respect him for stepping forward and revealing the unethical play of the Astros.
Let’s enjoy some baseball today.
As always, Go Yankees!
Someone, please, take out the trash…
I am tired of the Astros cheating scandal and I am ready to move on.
Borrowing from an old lawyer joke, how do you know when an Astros player is lying? His lips are moving.
After giving some praise to Carlos Correa in my last post, he subsequently opened his mouth in front of a camera in an interview with Ken Rosenthal and let the trash continue to spew. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has proven to be a very weak leader in the face of this adversity, and the entire ordeal, in my opinion, is a farce.
The players will never admit to anything that is not in the Commissioner’s report and the Commissioner does not have the power his predecessors may have had. He’s basically an employee of the owners and there was no way Jim Crane, despite his role into turning the Astros into a trashy organization, was ever going to be implicated. He was given the perfect way out by making GM Jeffrey Luhnow and Manager A.J. Hinch the scapegoats when he fired them.
I don’t want to belabor the issue. What’s done is done. The Commissioner has taken action, regardless of how we may feel was too light, and need to move on. The Astros players have had their time to talk but I wish they’d just shut their pie holes because no good is coming from their words. MLB needs to closely monitor teams to ensure this never happens again with the Astros, the Boston Red Sox or any other team in Major League Baseball. I am frustrated the Astros weren’t forced to vacate their fraudulently earned 2017 World Series championship but the time for proper penalty, unfortunately, has passed.
There is word we’ll hear about the Red Sox investigation by the end of the week. Although the Sox were led to the 2018 World Series championship by Cheat Leader Alex Cora, I have yet to see anything that leads me to believe any possible violations by their organization were on par with the schemes in Houston. As such, I expect any penalties to be very light relative to the penalties received by the Astros. It’s possible there will be revelations that we have not heard and it may change the situation but at this point, I think the Red Sox disciplinary action will be minimal and fairly quiet compared to the experience of the last few weeks. I am not defending the Red Sox but conversely I am not going to crucify them without cause.
My greatest hope for the 2020 MLB season is the game is played honestly and ethically. Let the chips fall as they may. Maybe the Yankees win a championship, maybe they do not. But in the end, we can hopefully say no one was cheating behind the scenes to change the outcome.
Moving on to other topics, it was announced today the Atlanta Braves promoted their GM, Alex Anthopoulos, to President of Baseball Operations. Not that I care about the Braves (although I have long respected Anthopoulos), the only point I raise by saying this is I continue to feel strongly the Yankees should do the same for GM Brian Cashman. As the long-tenured general manager for our favorite club, he is more deserving of the title of President of Baseball Operations than most of the guys who now hold it for their respective clubs. Cash should be the President of Baseball Operations (or Executive Vice President, as long as he holds the top Baseball Operations position), and they should promote Tim Naehring to GM. I’d say Jean Afterman but I know that she has no interest in a greater role, particularly after her move to the Wine Country in Northern CA. That makes Naehring the next best candidate to step up. Perhaps you can say Cashman already holds the role despite his title and maybe that’s true. But for the optics, I’d like to see the title match the authority. I’ve been critical of Cashman at times, but there is no one more qualified to lead the baseball side of the house than him. Keep Randy Levine on the business side (or lock him in a closet, I don’t care).
The Yankees announced this week they have signed former Colorado Rockies RHP Chad Bettis to a minor league contract with invitation to Spring Training. I was a little surprised. It’s not that I don’t think Bettis can pitch, I just feel the opportunity is better elsewhere. Then again, if you want to get noticed, play for the Yankees (even if it is only Spring Training). If he doesn’t make the Yankees, perhaps another team sees enough to reach out to him.
Photo Credit: Chris Carlson, Associated Press
It’s easy to look at Chad’s 2019 numbers and scoff. Pitching mostly out of the bullpen, the former starter had a 1-6 record with 6.08 ERA in 63 2/3 innings. Those numbers won’t inspire confidence in anyone except opposing hitters, but Bettis has had a very hard road. Bettis, who will be 31 on April 26th, was 14-8 with 4.79 ERA in 186 innings in 2016 before a diagnosis of testicular cancer which he successfully defeated. Last season, he was converted to the bullpen after three starts, and was one of the Rockies’ most effective relievers in May (tied a franchise record for five consecutive scoreless outings, pitching more than an inning in each appearance without yielding any runs despite calling Coors Field home). Subsequently, a right hip impingement that eventually became a torn labrum ended his season and resulted in bilateral surgery in late August. The Colorado Rockies subsequently cut him loose after the season.
Last fall, Bettis was quoted as saying, “I’m going to build up again to being the best reliever that I can possibly be”. I don’t know where his road in Pinstripes will lead but I know that I will be cheering for him. If he doesn’t make the Yankees, I hope another team sees value and brings him to their active MLB roster for the season. Life has dealt Bettis a difficult hand and yet he has continued to overcome the obstacles and I don’t see that stopping now. Here’s to you, Chad. Our wish for much success with your continued MLB journey!
I thought it was great Yankees ace Gerrit Cole received a standing ovation yesterday after throwing to live hitters for the first time this Spring yesterday. This is just a prelude to what we’ll experience when Cole takes the mound in real game action. Very exciting times in the Yankees Universe and suffice it to say we’re all very happy Gerrit Cole is a Yankee. I know, there will be a complete Yankee fan meltdown the first time Cole gives up a homer, but, man, I love our chances for October with Cole leading the charge.
Photo Credit: Twitter, via @ByKristieAckert
I think James Paxton should keep the mustache. After his scruffy look in Seattle, I didn’t think the shaved version last season fit him very well. While I am not generally a fan of “porn star” ‘staches, I think it gives the Big Maple some character and he should stay with it.
Photo Credit: SNY
Sadly, the Yankees Universe lost a one-time member of the family when former Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Tony Fernandez, 57, died this past weekend. He fought polycystic kidney disease since 2017 and had suffered a stroke earlier this month. Fernandez played in 108 games for the Yankees in 1995. He was the starting shortstop entering Spring Training in 1996 when a broken elbow opened the door for Derek Jeter’s Hall of Fame career. Rest in Peace, Tony. Your time with us was too short but we are glad you are no longer in pain.
As always, Go Yankees!
New deals for the 9 Arb-Eligible Yankees…
ESPN MLB Insider Jeff Passan set the stage for the chaotic day yesterday when he tweeted: “Your Twitter feeds are going to be deluged today. Between now and this afternoon, 155 arbitration-eligible players will either agree upon salaries for the 2020 season or exchange desired salary numbers with teams. It’s always an extraordinarily hectic day for players and teams.” He was right. When the dust settled, all but 20 players had agreed to salary deals. Fortunately, none of those guys were Yankees as all nine players settled with the team.
With visions of Yankees Team President Randy Levine spiking a figurative football a few years ago when the Yankees beat Dellin Betances in arbitration, I am glad the team avoided the ugly confrontation with their players again this year.
For the arb-eligible Yankees, here are the results. The figures in parentheses are the projections per MLB Trade Rumors:
- James Paxton, $12.5 million ($12.9M)
- Aaron Judge, $8.5 million ($6.4M)
- Gary Sanchez, $5 million ($5.6M)
- Tommy Kahnle, $2.65 million ($3.0M)
- Gio Urshela, $2.475 million ($2.2M)
- Chad Green, $1.275 million ($1.4M)
- Luis Cessa, $895,000 ($1.1M)
- Jordan Montgomery, $805,000 ($1.2M)
- Jonathan Holder, $750,000 ($800K)
I’d say the Yankees did a very good job bringing resolution to these cases. The only player who made significantly more than his projection was Aaron Judge and there’s no doubt he is worth the money, if not more. No doubt he would have made much more on the agreement if he had not missed so much time last year. Not sure he would have matched Cody Bellinger’s record first-year arbitration salary of $11.5 million considering Cody’s MVP year, but he would have been close as arguably the Yankees’ best position player.
Photo Credit: Mike Ehrmann, Getty Images
Jeff Passan also reported the following players did not settle and, barring agreements between now and then, are expected to go to arbitration hearings:
- Jesus Aguilar
- Nick Ahmed
- Pedro Baez
- Andrew Benintendi
- Jose Berrios
- Archie Bradley
- Aledmys Diaz
- Brian Goodwin
- Shane Greene
- Josh Hader
- Max Muncy
- Hector Neris
- Joc Pederson
- J.T. Realmuto
- Eduardo Rodriguez
- George Springer
- Trevor Story
- Brent Suter
- Chris Taylor
- Tony Wolters
The Los Angeles Dodgers, a team that historically settles with their arb-eligible players, really stick out on this list. So do the Boston Red Sox who did settle with much rumored trade candidate Mookie Betts for $27 million. It really makes me appreciate the Yankees for ensuring agreements with all of their players. Happy Yankees make for happy Yankee fans.
No big news for the Yankees so far in the new year, player-wise anyway. They did sign former Colorado Rockies catcher Chris Iannetta this week to a minor league deal with the presumed Spring Training invitation. Iannetta was released by the Rockies last August. He’s clearly a depth signing as I hold no expectation he’ll beat out Kyle Higashioka for backup catching duties but he does help to provide support if either Gary Sanchez or Higgy go down with injuries. I like the thought of Iannetta better than the recently re-signed Erik Kratz.
Iannetta, who will be 37 shortly after the start of the season, has clearly seen his better days. Steamer projects him to play 60 games with 2 home runs and 7 RBIs, batting .218/.314/.402, .304 wOBA and 88 wRC+. In other words, pray for good health behind the plate.
There was a part of me hoping for a reunion with catcher John Ryan Murphy despite his underwhelming performance with the bat since he left the Yankees. He is no longer an option after signing a minor league deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates yesterday. Hard to believe that Murphy is still only 28. Pittsburgh is probably a good place for him to land since the Pirates seem to have a way of resurrecting former Yankee backup catchers.
The Yankees also signed former Los Angeles Angels starter Nick Tropeano, a Long Island native, to a minor league deal. Tropeano, 29, a righty, is presumably depth for Triple A. While he showed promise for the Angels a few years ago, he’s never been the same since undergoing Tommy John surgery in August 2016. Last year, he gave up 15 runs in 13 2/3 innings at the Major League level for the Halos. He took his only loss last July in a dreadful start against the Baltimore Orioles when he was hammered for 7 runs in five innings. Here’s hoping for greater success with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. He does carry an infamous stat. He’s the only pitcher to record a one-pitch strikeout. He was pitching in Double A for the Houston Astros affiliate in August 2013. In the sixth inning of a game against the A’s affiliate, the batter, Vinnie Catricala, took a pitch he thought was outside. When the ump called strike, Catricala stepped out of the batter’s box to protest the call. The umpire, Ron Teague, invoking a little known rule, called an automatic strike. When Catricala didn’t step back into the box as instructed by Teague, the ump called him out by strikeout. Tropeano, with one pitch, observed the strikeout while standing on the pitching mound. It’s something the game may never see again. For Catricala, the total of 9.4 seconds out of the batter’s box combined with his arguing, earned him an ejection from the game.
While I still expect the Yankees to trade RHP J.A. Happ and most, if not all, of his contract, Happ who wore #33 in Toronto with the Blue Jays, dropped #34 this week to take Greg Bird’s vacated number. The Yankees still need to clear room on the 40-man roster once the Brett Gardner deal becomes official. Not sure what is taking so long. At first, I thought the holidays were the obstacle but at this point, it must be about clearing space on the roster. Who knows. I am sure it will be official before Gardy has to report to Tampa next month. If the Yankees had to drop someone right now, my vote would be for Stephen Tarpley. But for luxury tax purposes, the best case scenario is to move Happ’s money to open a spot for Gardy. I have full confidence in Jordan Montgomery as the team’s fifth starter.
I think the Yankees will continue to look for clever minor league signings (the low cost/high reward variety). Although they’ve been heavily criticized this off-season for their inactivity, I liked the Los Angeles Dodgers signing of former Milwaukee Brewers starter Jimmy Nelson. Granted, Nelson may never be the pitcher he once was, but I thought it was a good risk to take. There was a time that Nelson represented the hope of the Brewers starting rotation until he was derailed by injuries. Nelson is only 30 and he’s someone that I’d take a chance on. I’d like to see the Yankees find that type of deal with a pitcher who could presumably offer more than say a guy like Tropeano. As for Nelson, he is probably better suited for the bullpen at this point of his career, but he always made me think of CC Sabathia for no other reason than he wore the same number with the Brewers as CC did (#52) and is the same heighth (6’6”). For the Sabathia Stans, I am not comparing their stats or implying any close relationship.
I fully expect to hear reports of Yankees GM Brian Cashman rummaging through dumpsters between now and February 12th. There will be no Josh Hader or Nolan Arenado sightings in Tampa next month but there could be a few recognizable names ready to compete for roles with the team.
For those of you arguing between Miguel Andujar and Gio Urshela, both players can co-exist on the Yankees roster. I am glad to have both and looking forward to their respective contributions. I have no desire to pick one over the other. Ultimately, Aaron Boone and his staff will make the right choices about who to play and where. I can easily see scenarios with both players in the lineup, producing and helping the Yankees in their drive to dominate the American League.
As always, Go Yankees!
Photo Credit: Instagram @dellinbetances68
Reliever Signs with the NY Mets…
First of all and most importantly, MERRY CHRISTMAS!
That’s not meant to be a tie-in with the title of this post. Yesterday certainly was not a fun day for most Yankee fans. I wrote a post yesterday morning before the news broke and was still writing my hope for the Yankees to sign Dellin Betances. Sadly, it was not meant to be and he is now a member of the despised crosstown Mets.
Photo Credit: Adam Hunger, Getty Images
I am disappointed, without a doubt, but there was never any indication the Yankees were going to try to bring him back. It hurts a little that both Didi Gregorius and Betances left for one-year deals. It seems like the Yankees could have matched those offers without breaking the bank. Betances’ contract has a player option for 2021 and a team option for 2022, but if he pitches like we know he can, he’ll most likely decline the player option. For 2020, Betances will receive a signing bonus of $5.3 million and a salary of $2.2 million. The player option is worth $6 million for 2021, but if he declines, he’ll receive a $3 million buyout. It’s not smooth sailing next off-season for Betances if he does decline the option, the Mets could apply the qualifying offer which would cause some market resistance.
Oh well, he’s gone. Social media was littered with disparaging remarks by Yankee fans about Betances yesterday. Regardless of the reason(s) the Yankees chose not to aggressively try to retain Betances, he was a great Yankee. I felt he was one that I wanted to see stay in Pinstripes for the duration of his career. Frankly, I would have rather kept Betances and let Brett Gardner walk, primarily because I feel good outfielders are easier to come by than elite relievers. If you believe that Betances has seen his better days, then the Yankees were right to let him go. Although I will never root for the Mets, I hope Betances is able to regain his prime form. He’ll be 32 next season, and this, potentially, is his last chance for a big payday. If Edwin Diaz is able to rebound from his disastrous 2019 and pitch like the elite closer he was with the Seattle Mariners in 2018, the Mets will have a very strong back end of their bullpen. Seth Lugo figures to join the mix making it a formidable group.
For Dellin, he gets to stay in New York City. As a native New Yorker, this is huge for him and his family. I probably would have preferred to see him join Didi Gregorius and Joe Girardi in Philadelphia but that would have meant uprooting his family and moving a few hours down I-95. So for Dellin’s sake, since he wanted to stay in NYC, I am glad he was able to. He’ll get to pitch for his friend and former teammate, new Mets manager Carlos Beltran.
For his 8-year Yankees career, Dellin finished 21-22 with 2.36 ERA and 36 saves. In 381 2/3 innings, he struck out 621 batters. He pitched in 358 games after making his debut during the 2011 season. He’ll be missed, but we move on.
The Yankees bullpen remains among the very best with Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, Adam Ottavino, and Tommy Kahnle. I’d say the group did fine in 2019 without Betances so there’s no reason to believe this group can’t be better in 2020 with baseball’s best starter sitting atop the rotation. With five effective starting pitchers, the Yankees will make less use of an opener in 2020 so it means Chad Green can return to the later stages of games. With more rest and options available to him, Aaron Boone can maximize the potential of the bullpen to its fullest capabilities.
Photo Credit: Thomas A Ferrera, Newsday
Among Yankee fans, speculation immediately centered on the Yankees “have to” acquire Josh Hader and saying maybe that was the end game. I don’t feel the Yankees have to make any moves. Sure, it would be nice to add another effective, elite reliever but I am not going to buy into the Josh Hader hype. As we all know, when Brian Cashman moves, he moves quietly and swiftly. There’s been too much noise around Hader which makes me believe this is purely fan speculation run wild. Maybe Cashman does pull off a Hader trade, but the cost will be very high. Contrary to fan belief, we can’t just dump excess baggage on Milwaukee and call it a day. They’ll want players of significant value for their premier reliever who has four years of control remaining…if they choose to deal him at all.
Ken Giles was mentioned as a trade target last summer when it was reported the Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays did have talks at the trading deadline which almost brought Giles to the Bronx. The Yankees could revisit those talks, however, I am leery of giving Toronto anything of value. With their young core and improving starting rotation, they’ll be making some noise in the AL East in upcoming years. The last thing I’d want to see is former Yankees helping lead the charge.
This probably makes Cleveland’s Brad Hand the most attractive option, in my opinion. If the Indians were to deal Francisco Lindor, it would be a clear signal they are entering rebuilding mode after the earlier trade which sent Corey Kluber to the Texas Rangers. At that point, Hand would seemingly become expendable, and from a trade standpoint, would be more reasonably priced than Hader.
Photo Credit: Aaron Joseczyk, UPI
Other names that have been mentioned include Mychal Givens of the Baltimore Orioles and Tim Hill of the Kansas City Royals.
Regardless of what happens, the Yankees will be alright. Ben Heller is healthy and ready to show he belongs in the Yankee bullpen. I am optimistic for a rebound by Jonathan Holder. I think Jonathan Loaisiga, if he stays healthy, has a chance to be a very good reliever. Luis Cessa was better last year and could continue to improve. Let’s give Brian Cashman time to round out the bullpen. He has 49 days until pitchers and catchers report to Tampa. That’s not a hard stop but I have no doubt the best possible 25 men will take the field for the New York Yankees when they open the regular season on March 26th at Camden Yards against the Baltimore Orioles.
Enjoy your Christmas! We can worry about Yankees baseball tomorrow.
As always, Go Yankees!
Photo Credit: Mike Stobe, Getty Images
Gerrit Cole is a Yankee…
Sorry, but typing those words does not get old. This was quite the week with the brilliant introduction of Gerrit Cole at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday. Brian Cashman, Aaron Boone, and particularly Gerrit Cole said all the right things. “Pressure is a privilege” will certainly become as much a part of our Yankee lingo as “Savages in the box”. Yankee fans especially liked Cole’s words “I’m here. I’ve always been here” while pulling out the 18-year-old sign from Game 6 of the 2001 World Series in Phoenix which featured the words ‘YANKEE FAN TODAY, TOMORROW, FOREVER’.
Photo Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran, USA TODAY Sports
People seemed to dissect whether the sign was the original or not. Not that it really matters one way or the other, but I think it was the faded original. The point is a one-time young Yankee fan achieved his dream of playing for his favorite childhood team. A child who would grow up to be among the best in his profession.
I’ve been looking for Hal Steinbrenner to excite the Yankees fan base for a few years and he certainly delivered this month. Of course, no sooner than the press conference was over, Yankee fans were calling for Steinbrenner to trade top prospect Jasson Dominguez to Cleveland for Francisco Lindor. As great as it would be to have Lindor in the Yankees lineup, it is not happening. If the Indians do trade their ultra-talented shortstop, it’s more likely he’d go to a team in the National League like the Los Angeles Dodgers. Lindor is scheduled to make $16.7 million in 2020 with one more year of arbitration until he becomes a free agent. The Yankees are trying to unload J.A. Happ to get his $17 million off the books to help the team get below the third luxury tax tier. As great as Lindor is, I don’t see the Yankees staying above the third tier. Without Lindor, many are already saying the Yankees are the favorites to win the 2020 World Series. I am not a prospect-hugger but I don’t want to trade Dominguez. There are countless prospects overflowing with elite potential who never made it to the Show but still, I’d rather take my chances on a seemingly count-miss prospect like Dominguez even if he eventually flames out. He has a chance to be something special and I’d prefer to see it in a Yankees uniform.
@jassondominguez_7 via Instagram
For me, the only work that needs to be done is bringing in depth at certain positions. I’d like to see the addition of an infielder that can cover second and short to compete with Tyler Wade and Thairo Estrada in Spring Training. A left-handed hitter would be nice. He can’t play short, but someone like Travis Shaw and his ability to play all infield positions except catcher and shortstop seems to make good sense. Wade, as the backup shortstop, could play a valuable role on the bench with his speed and positional flexibility.
As much as I like Lindor, I think the one player I’d target if I owned the Yankees would be Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado. The Rockies are apparently considering offers since they’re entering a rebuild situation. Financially-speaking, I don’t think the Yankees would take on his contract, but to me, there’s a greater need for a guy like Nolan at third base than there is for Lindor at short. I know, putting Lindor at short would allow Gleyber Torres to stay at second, and D.J. LeMahieu to remain as the Utility Man Extraordinaire. But to add an elite bat and glove at third base carries great value. With no disrespect to Gio Urshela or Miguel Andujar, neither is on the same level as Arenado as a complete premier player. Nevertheless, I do not see the Yankees bringing in any more “big” names this off-season.
I was surprised the Cleveland Indians finally traded Corey Kluber after years of speculation. Their return from the Texas Rangers seemed a bit light (outfielder Delino DeShields, Jr and hard-throwing reliever Emmanuel Clase). I don’t really feel bad the Yankees missed out on him. He’ll be 34 in April, and he missed most of last year due to injury. Going to Texas represents a homecoming of sorts for Kluber as he went to high school in Coppell, Texas, a suburb of Dallas. At some point soon, perhaps, he’ll be entering the decline phase of his career. Maybe he has resurgence in Texas like Justin Verlander did, but then again, maybe not. I’d prefer younger players to help keep the Yankees’ current championship window open. If the Yankees had missed out on Cole, then maybe Kluber would have been a great option. Heading into the season, I have no qualms about a rotation featuring Cole, Luis Severino, James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, and Jordan Montgomery. I do feel Happ will be traded so I didn’t include his name, and although I think Montgomery will be on an innings limit, we have guys like Deivi Garcia and Michael King ready to step in at some point next season. I could see the Yankees bringing in a veteran starter on a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training. Or Brian Cashman making a trade for a young, controllable starter is always an option.
I expected Luke Voit to give up his number 45 to Gerrit Cole but I was surprised Luke went with number 59. On social media, he indicated he will wear the number to honor his brother who went to West Point and was Captain of Army’s football team. Makes sense. 59 has always seemed like a coach’s number to me and that’s who has primarily worn the number in recent years, but no reason that Luke can’t make it his own. Luke has a “football” mentality so it fits his persona.
@lukevoit via Instagram
The excitement for Cole was nearly matched by yesterday’s news the Yankees had parted ways with their director of strength and conditioning, Matt Krause. While I believe it was a necessary change (much like the dismissal of pitching coach Larry Rothschild), I feel bad for Krause, the man. His dismissal most likely happened weeks ago and we’re just now hearing about it, but regardless of when the decision was made, you hate to see anyone lose their job prior to Christmas. People view Krause as the reason for the high number of injuries last year and that’s probably unfair. Krause was the 2017 Professional Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year and had been employed by the Yankees since 2014. I am all for the change, but I do hope that Krause lands on his feet for his next opportunity. Sadly, he now carries the stigma of 30 men lost to the Injured List in one season, a MLB record. Not exactly something you want on your resume as a specialist in strength and conditioning.
Credit to the Yankees for realizing the changes they needed to make within their infrastructure regarding coaching philosophies and the bright, new talent they’ve brought in with the changing of the guard. New pitching coach Matt Blake may be the face of the change, but this goes much deeper than just him. Yankees Assistant GM Michael Fishman, the analytics guru, is rapidly becoming a major force within the Yankees’ hierarchy. With the news that Assistant GM Jean Afterman is moving to Sonoma, CA for family reasons and will be working remote, it seems like Fishman may leapfrog her as a bigger voice, and now face, within the organization. His presence at Cole’s press conference was confirmation.
I know many Yankee fans were disappointed yesterday to see Gerrit Cole’s personal catcher last year, Martin Maldonado, re-sign with the Houston Astros. As we saw with Austin Romine’s departure, the Yankees are not going to spend $3-$4 million on a backup catcher. Maldonado got 2 years, $7 million from the Astros and there’s no way the Yankees were going there. They seem committed to making Kyle Higashioka the backup to Gary Sanchez, but admittedly, I’d prefer a better Plan B than the return of 39-year-old Erik Kratz who was signed to a minor league deal this week. At this point, I don’t see the Yankees bringing in competition for Higgy. Jason Castro, currently a free agent, has experience with new Yankees catching coordinator Tanner Swanson but I don’t see the Yankees paying Castro the money he’ll be looking for. We were spoiled a bit by Romine the last couple of years since he always seemed to come up big during Gary’s IL stints. But there’s no reason Higgy can’t deliver in the role. He has superior pitch framing skills, and there’s some pop in his bat. As much as I am looking forward to Swanson’s work with Sanchez, the same holds true for Higgy. The brightest catching prospects in the organization (Anthony Siegler, 20, and Josh Breaux, 22) have yet to play above Class A ball.
Lastly, it appears to be the end of the Pinstriped road for former top pitching prospect Chance Adams. He was designated for assignment on Wednesday before the Yankees announced Cole to make room on the 40-man roster. It’s disappointing as many of us had very high hopes for Adams, but the last couple of years have not been fun. Like many, I thought Adams might be a stronger option in the bullpen but we’ll never know. He could clear waivers and end up back in Scranton/Wilkes Barre but it seems like somebody would be willing to take a chance, no pun intended, on the former top prospect. He is only 25, has an option remaining, and some team might think they can pull his potential out. You see pitching-starved teams like the Los Angeles Angels and think they’d be all over this. I expect a trade as the more likely outcome although I can’t really see the Yankees getting much in return. Hopefully the change of scenery will be good for Chance and he’ll achieve the Major League dream at some point in the not-so-distant future. I am sad it didn’t work out with the Yankees but it was not to be.
The Yankees still need to make room for Brett Gardner once he is officially announced. If J.A. Happ isn’t traded, I think Stephen Tarpley is probably next up on the chopping block. I’d prefer to keep Ben Heller over Tarpley, and not really interested in parting with the younger arms that were added to the 40-man roster earlier this Fall. There was a time I wanted Luis Cessa to go, but he proved last year to be a good long-man option. With the departure of Nestor Cortes, Jr, Cessa carries more value than he did in seasons past. At this point, the next major milestone for the Yankees will be Februrary 12th when pitchers, including Gerrit Cole – woohoo!, and catchers report to Legends Field in Tampa, FL.
Photo Credit: Associated Press
As always, Go Yankees!
And now we wait…
Will Gerrit Cole wear the famed Pinstripes or will he find refuge in a Southern California town? I think the vast majority of the Yankees Universe want the long and anticipated addition of Cole to happen although I do not have the stats to show it. With no slight to Stephen Strasburg, an elite pitcher, Cole is the best available free agent pitcher on the market.
By now, we know the Yankees are targeting a major free agent for what feels like the first time since Masahiro Tanaka. When the Yankees were courting Masa, they went out of their way to show him the Yankees experience. GM Brian Cashman showed a ‘no holds barred’ approach during his recent meeting with Cole and agent Scott Boras, bringing along Manager Aaron Boone, Pitching Coach Matt Blake, and former Yankee great Andy Pettitte. Of course, I temper this knowing that they also brought along Team President Randy Levine, not exactly one of my favorites. Despite Levine’s presence, it is clear the Yankees mean business.
Last year, with free agents Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, Yankees fans were mixed and, in retrospect, there was no apparent strong interest from the team other than the obligatory dinners in New York. At the time, so many fans were saying Harper and Machado were “luxuries”. I still take exception to that word. When you haven’t won a championship in a decade, no player is a luxury. Still, I get it. The Yankees were able to get great production from a cheaper alternative in the form of David John LeMathieu. Hats off to the Yankees for identifying a great player without having to pay in excess of $300 million. There’s no doubt in my mind, if the Yankees had paid either Harper or Machado, we wouldn’t even be here talking about Cole despite the Yankees obvious need for an elite starting pitcher. Sure, the Yankees can afford it, but I don’t think they’d be considering the estimated $250-$280 million it will take to land Cole if they had paid $330 million to Harper or $300 million to Machado. In retrospect, it seems the Yankees had their eye on the prize (Cole) last year, a clear need and not a luxury.
The Yankees have been connected to Cole for a very long time. They drafted him in the first round of the 2008 MLB Draft (28th overall), but we all know Cole did not sign, opting to attend UCLA after graduating from Orange Lutheran High School, a comprehensive private Christian co-educational college preparatory high school in Orange, CA despite his childhood status as a Yankee fan.
Photo Credit: William Perlman, The Star Ledger
Even after the Pittsburgh Pirates selected Cole as the first overall pick in the 2011 MLB Draft and signed him, there was always talk that connected Cole to the Yankees. It was apparent the Yankees had a continued interest in him over the years. It reached the epitome a couple of years ago when there was strong speculation the Yankees were going to acquire Cole from the Pittsburgh Pirates. For a few days during the 2017-18 off-season, it felt like it was a done deal, but it never came together and the Pirates subsequently dealt Cole to the Houston Astros in January 2018 for what seemed like a lighter return than the Yankees could have offered (Pirates received Michael Feliz, Jason Martin, Colin Moran and Joe Musgrove). I know, the most rumored Yankee name was Clint Frazier, a player over-valued by most Yankee fans and a player the Pirates did not need at the time. I am convinced the Yankees could have found the right mix of players to entice the Pirates, but we’ll never really know unless former Pirates GM Neal Huntington decides to write a ‘tell-all’ book.
When ESPN’s Jeff Passan tweeted the other day the Yankees had ownership-level approval to go after Cole, it sent a wave of excitement through the Yankees Universe. After initial excitement, the realist in me knows that nothing is done until Cole’s signature is on the dotted line. There’s still time for the Los Angeles Angels or Los Angeles Dodgers, or some other team, to make a ridiculous offer. We know Cole is going to get more money than any free agent pitcher in history regardless of where he signs. David Price of the Boston Red Sox holds the highest contract value for a pitcher with $217 million, and Zack Greinke of the Houston Astros is the average annual value (AAV) leader at $34,416,667. Once Cole signs, he should be tops in both categories.
I want Cole as a member of the New York Yankees, but I am concerned about the potential he does not sign until late January. The Yankees have an urgent need for an elite starting pitcher, particularly with the looming free agencies of James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka next fall, and good starting pitchers are starting to come off the board rapidly. If the Yankees only signed someone like Madison Bumgarner, I’d be happy with the off-season, but there’s no question the drop-off from Cole to Bumgarner is huge. The longer this goes on, the less likely someone like even MadBum is available. There’s the trade route, but I’d say that I am hot and cold about a guy such as Corey Kluber. I know when healthy, he is one of the game’s best but he will also turn 34 early next season. Cole is 29 and won’t turn 30 until next September. I want a pitcher in his prime, not one that is riding the tail end of it.
Yankee fans have loved to talk about Luis Castillo of the Cincinnati Reds and Lucas Giolito of the Chicago White Sox, but both of those teams are improving with solid young teams and would be foolish to part with their potential aces. People like to laugh about the failed attempts of the White Sox to land premium free agents, other than the recently signed catcher Yasmani Grandal, but their farm system is ready to produce great young talent for the Major League team and they are on the cusp of winning. Once they start to win, they’ll become a more attractive destination for premier free agents. Giolito is such a big part of the coming force, same with Castillo in Cincy.
If the Yankees do sign Gerrit Cole, we can drop the narrative that Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner is cheap. If he was cheap, we would have been the team chasing guys like Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles (with no offense to the Texas Rangers as those guys will help them break in their new stadium) and not an elite talent like Gerrit Cole. Yankee fans are short-sighted (sorry, but, generally speaking, we are). Thankfully, the Steinbrenner Family and GM Brian Cashman have the long-view in mind. If Cole signs, we will be rewarded for their patient approach.
I’d like to see the Yankees bring the Cole negotiations to an end next week. I know it’s not the Scott Boras way, but it seems like the two sides can get together to produce numbers that work for both sides. I am hopeful for quick resolution so the Yankees can move on to other pressing needs.
If Cole does become a Yankee, I think Luke Voit should give up #45. Voit has no other connection with the number other than his short tenure with the Yankees. He was #40 in St Louis and as we know, he’s not getting that number. Frankly, there’s been some good numbers come available recently (namely 22, 30, and 33) and there are a couple that might be available in the coming days (18 and 28). If I was Voit, I’d take 22, 28, or 30. Those seem like better “power” numbers for a muscular first baseman anyway. Personally I like 22, even if I couldn’t stand the last guy who wore it and still harbor resentment against a certain Texas right-hander that once wore the number. Surprisingly, I think of former Yankees center fielder Jerry Mumphrey when it comes to number 22.
The Winter Meetings begin tomorrow in San Diego. I doubt we’ll see much activity on Sunday. Many are traveling, including Aaron Boone. By next Thursday, we’ll know if this has been truly the most active off-season in recent memory or if it is another case of all talk and no action. Up to this point, it has been more active. It feels like there are a few major moves ready to break so we’ll soon see. I am sure the days will fly by next week as we wait with anticipation. Sadly, when Thursday arrives and the meetings conclude, there may be a few Yankee prospects headed to other camps courtesy of the Rule 5 Draft. I think we’ll lose the defensively gifted infielder Kyle Holder among the possibilities. The Yankees will be in the market for an infielder if Didi Gregorius signs elsewhere (looking more and more like he is going to join Joe Girardi in Philadelphia). His departure will make Tyler Wade or Thairo Estrada as the likely choice to make the roster as backup shortstop behind Gleyber Torres. It seems like the Yankees will bring another body in Spring Training to strengthen the competition. So, I am expecting a minor trade or signing for an infielder at the very least.
We also need another strong arm for the bullpen with the potential departure of Dellin Betances. Betances, like Gregorius, is rumored as a potential option for Girardi and the Phillies. I guess that would be better than Dellin going cross-town to join the Mets. If Dellin leaves, I’d personally prefer to see him to go the Los Angeles Dodgers. My preference, however, is for Dellin to stay. I think of the free agents (Brett Gardner, Didi Gregorius, Austin Romine, and Betances), Dellin is the one I want to stay the most even if he is still recovering from the Achilles injury. But at this moment in time, from the outside looking in, it appears the only probably returnee will be Brett Gardner. I love Didi, but I’ve accepted the Yankees will be moving on. I just hope the Yankees extend D.J. LeMahieu if they decide to let Didi walk. As a pending free agent, I’d hate to be back searching for a quality second baseman again like we were after Robinson Cano left if LeMachine leaves after next season. The matter is moot if the Yankees were to acquire Francisco Lindor, but I think the Dodgers are a more likely destination for the Tribe’s ultra-talented shortstop. I liked the job Austin Romine did for the Yankees, but I think the team goes with the cheaper Kyle Higashioka to back up Gary Sanchez. Higgy also seems like a perfect student for catching coordinator Tanner Swanson with his superior framing skills. I’d hate to see Romine join his father’s old club (Red Sox) so I am hopeful if he leaves, he goes home to sunny Southern California.
I wonder if we’ll hear about the next destination for former Yankees bench coach Josh Bard. He left his position with the Yankees in November to pursue jobs closer to his Colorado home, but I’ve not heard any updates. It seems weird that his departure has been so quiet and that he did not have an immediate job to go to. I am glad to see the elevation of infield/quality control coach Carlos Mendoza to bench coach. He has been a very loyal employee of the Yankees organization for a long time and it’s good to see recognition for the excellent work he has done. Hopefully his partnership with Boone will be as strong as the Boone-Bard connection (or better).
Photo Credit: AP
Lastly, we’ll hear tomorrow who has been elected to MLB’s Hall of Fame by the Modern Baseball Era Committee. The candidates are Dwight Evans, Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Don Mattingly, Marvin Miller, Thurman Munson, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, Ted Simmons and Lou Whitaker. Sadly, I’ve come to the realization that it is probable neither Munson nor Mattingly will receive at least 75% of the vote. It’s sad for me. Growing up watching Munson, he was such a wonderful player to follow and admire before his tragic death at age 32. To me, he was the heart and soul of those championship clubs in the ‘70’s. Contrary to Reggie Jackson’s words, I always felt that Thurman was the straw that stirred the drink. He was easily my favorite player as a kid. I always wondered if the 1981 World Series would have had a different outcome if Thurman had lived. His passion to be the best was so strong. I keep hoping that they’ll elect Thurman to the Hall, but, disappointingly, I do not think it will happen. I hope I am wrong. It would be great to see the former Yankees captain join another recent Yankees captain for the induction ceremony next summer in Cooperstown, New York.
Photo Credit: Yahoo Sports
Buckle up, the Winter Meetings are about to start. This should be fun.
As always, Go Yankees!
Off-Season Prep for 2020 is Underway…
I think I can speak for the entire Yankees fanbase when I say that we miss Yankees Baseball. We are in the part of the off-season where there is talk and speculation but not much action. Things should start warming up next week. Not that there will be signings and trades, but the General Manager meetings will be held Monday through Thursday in Scottsdale, Arizona. The groundwork for the future trades could be laid and of course there could be finalization of the new deal for Brett Gardner. When you get all the GM’s together in one place, anything can happen. Let the alcohol flow! After a couple of shots, maybe Jacoby Ellsbury would look attractive to somebody. I’d love for a rival GM to wake up from a drunken stupor one morning, screaming “WTF! How did we end up with Ellsbury???!!!” Sadly, it won’t be that easy to get rid of Jacoby but I’ll always hold out hope. Fortunately, we are only one season away from the $5 million buyout and the end of Ellsbury’s time in New York.
The biggest news for the Yankees this week was the appointment of Matt Blake as the new pitching coach, replacing the fired Larry Rothschild. Blake, 33, had been promoted last Tuesday to Director of Pitching Development for the Cleveland Indians. Two days later, he was the newest member of Aaron Boone’s staff. Blake has been with the Indians for four seasons and was, prior to his promotion, the Assistant Director of Player Development. Before joining the Indians in late 2015, Blake was a pitching coordinator for Cressey Sports Performance in Hudson, MA. He began his career as a pitching coach for a Boston area high school (Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School in Sudbury, MA) in 2009. In 2010, he served as an area scout for the Yankees before moving on to Cressey. He served as the pitching coach in 2015 for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox, a collegiate summer baseball team in the Cape Cod Baseball League.
Blake is a native of Concord, New Hampshire and graduated from the College of the Holy Cross with degrees in psychology and philosophy. He was on the Holy Cross baseball team for all four years.
While I think we have to recognize that most of us are not qualified to assess who is or is not a good pitching coach, I like the hire. I know everybody wanted the sexy pick of David Cone. Me too. I thought Cone or Andy Pettitte would be good choices, but conversely, I know that just because Cone was a very good pitcher and a great broadcaster does not mean that he would have been a terrific pitching coach. Also, the pitching coach job would have required Cone to take a pay cut. Frankly, I am glad that we’ll continue to hear Coney on YES Network broadcasts with Michael Key. I suppose he could always pursue coaching jobs elsewhere if he is so inclined but for now, I like his presence on my TV screen for games.
The Yankees have evolved into one of Baseball’s most advanced analytic teams. They’ve sunk huge costs into acquiring some of the best available analytic minds to support VP, Assistant General Manager Michael Fishman and his team of analysts. The word is Blake is very good at taking analytics and breaking it down into laymen’s terms for pitchers to understand and how to apply them. I know the Yankees didn’t wake up one morning and say ‘hey, let’s steal Blake from the Indians!’. They did their research, and multiple members within the Yankees organization had the opportunity to meet with Blake. The consensus of the greatest minds in the organization was the hiring of Blake as the next pitching coach. That’s good enough for me.
I do think the Yankees should join the recent trend in MLB to hire an assistant pitching coach. The unknown about Blake is that he has never played or coached at the Major League level. I am not saying he can’t do it, but I think two voices on the coaching staff for the pitchers is smart. I personally like RailRiders pitching coach Tommy Phelps. He has good knowledge and experience with many of the high level prospects and we know that he has done good work with the Major League pitchers sent down for additional instruction, with Chad Green representing the most recent example. Who knows if Green’s rebound was because of Phelps or was based on a plan developed by Larry Rothschild, but I do know that Phelps is highly respected and would make a good partner for Blake.
Speaking of Larry Rothschild, it didn’t take him long to find new employment. One day after the Yankees hired Blake, the San Diego Padres announced their had re-assigned their pitching coach of 17 years, Darren Balsey, to other duties within the organization and had hired Rothschild to be their next pitching coach. I think everyone expected Larry to follow Joe Girardi to Philadelphia, but all things considered, I think landing in San Diego is an ideal opportunity for him. I was a little surprised when Girardi went with Bryan Price as his pitching coach. Not that I think Price is a bad coach, but as a recent manager, I am sure he has aspirations to manage again, and I can’t help but think there could be potential for conflict with Girardi who we know can be hard-headed at times. Maybe I am reading too much into that, but at this state of his career, Rothschild is content with serving as a pitching coach until retirement calls his name. He’ll now get his opportunity to help break in another rookie manager (Jayce Tingler) and will be charged to help develop one of the best pitching prospects in the game in MacKenzie Gore. I don’t get the hate directed at Rothschild by Yankee fans. While I think it was time for the Yankees and Rothschild to part ways, I realize that Larry did many things right and there was much we were unable to see from the outside looking in. I am appreciative for the years he gave the Yankees. The Padres are a young, analytics-driven team, and they chose to go with experience. Good for Larry. I wish him the best for his new opportunity.
It was reported the Yankees and Brett Gardner’s camp are talking and it should result in a new deal soon. I am in favor of bringing Gardy back, however, I do not feel the Yankees should spend more than $8-$10 million on a one-year contract. Maybe throw in some incentives for a couple more million. But to expect Gardy to replicate his 2019 season (enhanced by the alleged juiced baseball) is asking too much. The Yankees need a starting center fielder next year and I hate seeing Gardner’s name automatically written in while Aaron Hicks recovers from Tommy John surgery. The guy will be 37 in August. I think he is best served as the team’s fourth outfielder with random starts rather than every day. The Yankees need to field the best players in 2020, not swim in sentimental waters. I’ve seen some Yankee fans suggest Gardy’s number should be retired when his playing days are finished. Sorry, while he has been a good Yankee for a long-time, he is not a Hall of Fame level player and never has been. I value Gardy’s leadership but I believe he is overrated in the eyes of many fans. I am not sure if the center field should be Mike Tauchman or maybe someone who is not in the organization right now, but I think the Yankees will go with the best man for the job and not simply pay for past performance.
I know the Yankees will be okay if Didi Gregorius leaves, but I’ll be sad. I like his left-handed bat and I think he’ll rebound for a stronger 2020 season as he gets further away from TJ surgery. The Yankees are still a championship-level team with Gleyber Torres at short and D.J. LeMahieu at second, but I think Didi still has much left in the tank. I know, I am making these statements after saying the Yankees shouldn’t stay with Gardy for sentimental reasons. But unlike Gardy, I think the best years can still be ahead for Didi. There’s growing speculation that Didi’s original team, the Cincinnati Reds, are interested in bringing him back. I guess if Didi does leave, I’d rather see him go to the National League so the Reds would probably be best-case scenario. But minus his bat, the Yankees will need to find another left-handed hitter to sandwich between Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. I am not sure if lefties like Mike Ford, Mike Tauchman, or (gasp!) Greg Bird can be that guy or if Brian Cashman will have to go for outside help. Also, unless the Yankees sign LeMahieu to an extension, there could be an infield void after next season. I’d hate to go back to rolling out guys like Brian Roberts and Stephen Drew to fill in at second base like we did when Robinson Cano left. If you say Tyler Wade, then we obviously have differing opinions about the player.
A much speculated target for shortstop has been Cleveland’s Francisco Lindor. Granted, he is not a left-handed bat but clearly he’s one of the best players in the game today. He is only 25 and would fit nicely into the Yankees lineup as a replacement for Gregorius. If the Indians move Lindor, it will only be for a huge haul so we’d have to expect to lose some very talented and promising players. Another suggestion is Corey Seager if the Los Angeles Dodgers acquire Lindor. I’d be fine with either Lindor or Seager at shortstop (using Aaron Boone’s favorite word, “obviously”). But honestly, I wish the Yankees would just re-sign Gregorius and save the trade bullets for an ace. A package of Lindor and Corey Kluber would be awesome, but the price tag would be outrageous. Nevertheless, I am sure you’ll be able to see Cashman in conversation with Chris Antonetti, Cleveland’s President of Baseball Operations, and/or Mike Chernoff, the Tribe’s GM, next week. You never know what can happen in Baseball.
I am cautiously optimistic about Thurman Munson’s presence on the 2020 Modern Era Committee ballot for Hall of Fame consideration. The results will be announced on December 8th. I’ve always said that Jim “Catfish” Hunter is the reason I became a Yankee fan, but it didn’t take long for Thurman to become my favorite player. The others on the ballot are Don Mattingly, Dwight Evans, Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, Ted Simmons, Lou Whitaker, and former MLBPA head Marvin Miller. Mattingly was my favorite player after Munson. While I think both players are Hall of Fame-worthy, if I had to pick one, I’d say it is time for Thurman to get his deserved recognition as one of the game’s all-time greats. I loved the passion and intensity of that guy. He was the AL Rookie of the Year in 1970 and the AL MVP in 1976. Even though the Yankees were swept in the World Series that year, it was not because of Munson who hit .529 (9 for 17) in the series. He was the heart and soul of two World Series championship teams in 1977 and 1978. Thurman’s death in 1979 remains one of those “I know exactly where I was when I heard the news” moments in my life. I was devastated and it’s sad that we didn’t get to see what Thurman could have done past age 32. I know there was speculation at the time about Thurman’s desire to get closer to home and perhaps sign with the Cleveland Indians, but it would have been hard to see him in anything other than Pinstripes. He was truly one of the Yankee Legends despite his premature departure and deserves his place among the other greats. I hope this is the year.
As always, Go Yankees!