Tagged: Brian Cashman

The Dog Days of Spring…

Less Than 3 Weeks to Opening Day…

I always love the arrival of pitchers and catchers in early February, followed shortly thereafter by the position players. The first images of Spring Training are always a welcome sight after a long, cold winter. The first glimpses of the players on the practice fields near Steinbrenner Field, the popping of catcher’s mitts and the sounds of bats as balls leave the yard. But gradually, the excitement fades and the arrival of Opening Day can’t get here fast enough. We’re here now. I am starting to lose interest in watching guys like Trey Amburgey and Isiah Gilliam playing games and want to see the MLB regulars consistently through game’s end.

Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

For the Yankees, hopefully there will be no further injuries this Spring. We know at least three players are headed for the Injured List to start the season. Luis Severino, Jacoby Ellsbury, and CC Sabathia. Sevy is currently in the midst of his two-week shutdown. It was reported yesterday that he isn’t feeling any pain after a cortisone shot. But like a doctor once told me after a cortisone shot, it masks the pain but doesn’t cure the problem. Based on Sevy’s positive words, I am cautiously optimistic that rest is the cure and there will be no further setbacks for him. Ellsbury, after such a late start to camp (expected to arrive next week), will need to stay for extended spring training, assuming he’s 100% healthy even when he arrives (unlikely if you ask me). Sabathia, as we know, had a delayed start this Spring after last December’s angioplasty and has been going a little slower than the rest of the starting rotation.

Two inactive players in camp are already destined for the Injured List as they continue their respective recoveries from Tommy John surgery: Didi Gregorius and Jordan Montgomery. I had been bracing myself for the possibility Gregorius could be out until August but he is seemingly ahead of schedule and we could see him as early as June. Regardless of how well Tulo may be playing at the time, Didi will be such a welcome sight when he is cleared to play. Montgomery is doubtful to provide any meaningful contribution this season. When he is cleared to throw and begins his rehab, he’ll head to the Minor Leagues. I see him as nothing more than a spot starter very late in the season, if at all. Many fans are acting like he’ll be a great trade deadline “acquisition” but honestly I don’t see him pitching any big games for the Yankees this year. Even healthy, he is not one of the best starters and I think it will be next season before he’s truly back and ready to help.

So, in my opinion, Opening Day seems to be pointing to the following roster:

Projected 2019 New York Yankees Opening Day Roster
Catcher Gary Sanchez
First Base Luke Voit
Second Base Gleyber Torres
Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki
Third Base Miguel Andújar
Right Field Aaron Judge
Center Field Aaron Hicks
Left Field Brett Gardner
Designated Hitter Giancarlo Stanton
Super Utility D.J. LeMahieu
Bench Tyler Wade
Bench Austin Romine
SP-1 Masahiro Tanaka
SP-2 James Paxton
SP-3 J.A. Happ
SP-4 Jonathan Loaisiga
SP-5 Domingo German
Closer Aroldis Chapman
Setup Dellin Betances
Rest of the Bullpen Zack Britton
Adam Ottavino
Chad Green
Jonathan Holder
Tommy Kahnle
Luis Cessa

This is not necessarily the OD roster I want but rather what the tea leaves seem to be saying according to my eyes. I know many fans can’t let go of the homer Greg Bird hit off Andrew Miller in the playoffs a couple of years ago but Voit deserves the first base job based on last season’s performance (until proven otherwise). As the loser of the first base job, I expect Bird to begin the season at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. I’ve seen people say one of Voit or Bird should be traded but I do think it would be unwise. As much as I like Voit, he needs to prove last Fall was not a fluke. If not, Bird needs to be ready for the call-up while playing every day for the RailRiders. LeMahieu is expected to be the backup first baseman.

This lineup forces the Yankees to use Stanton in left field more often than they would like. I know I don’t see Brett Gardner as an every day starter anymore but no doubt Manager Aaron Boone will run him out there as often as possible. I still expect Clint Frazier to eventually come up from Triple A to mount a serious threat for playing time but realistically it won’t happen until later this summer if Frazier mashes for the RailRiders unless injuries mandate an earlier call. There’s no circumstance I see Gardy as the starter when the calendar page turns to September.

I am a bit concerned about the nagging little ailments that always seem to bother Hicks. He has been held out of games over the past week due to tightness in his back and is still feeling some discomfort. He is not expected to return to play until next Tuesday at the earliest according to Aaron Boone’s words yesterday. I am hopeful the back does not become a season-long malady. I am sure Hicks wouldn’t have missed as much time if it had been the regular season but there’s still concern (if not the Yankees, at least for me).

Tyler Wade’s speed and versatility (ability to play infield and outfield positions) makes him the most logical option for the bench. If he gets the job, I really hope this serves as his breakout year.

My preferred starting lineup would feature LeMahieu at second, with Torres sliding to shortstop, until Gregorius returns. But hey, what do I know. Brian Cashman and Aaron Boone get paid a lot of money to make those decisions and they’re certainly much smarter and more knowledgeable about the Yankees than I am.

Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Tanaka at the top of the rotation is my speculation that he’ll be named as the Opening Day starter. Otherwise, I’d rate Paxton as the slightly better pitcher (sorry Masa). Sevy is expected to be checked late next week to see if he can resume throwing. Best case scenario, we won’t see him until late April or even possibly early May. The concern here is the potential for further setbacks which would delay Sevy much longer than originally expected. Everyone keeps expecting CC Sabathia to come back pitching like he did last season but that’s not a certainty by any stretch of the imagination. The guy had a stint placed in a heart valve. It’s a serious procedure and we honestly do not know how it will affect him until he actually pitches against live hitting in games that matter. I can’t say that I am too enamored with the heavy reliance upon Loaisiga and German (or Cessa) in the early going. I know GM Brian Cashman has said the Yankees intend to go with the internal options, but really, what else is he supposed to say. Even if he is very interested in signing a free agent arm or acquiring another pitcher via trade, he is not going to tip his hand and show any signs of desperation. It would force the Yankees into an overpay situation. So, while I expect the Yankees to go into the season with Loaisiga and German as starters, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Yankees make another move to bring in a veteran starter. There’s no scenario I see Dallas Keuchel as a Yankee. The money, the years, and the draft pick compensation attached simply do not make any sense. I guess age 31 is the new 41 in Major League Baseball. The next few weeks should be interesting as the 2019 Opening Day Roster takes shape. Inevitably, there is always a surprise or two. We’ll see.

As expected, the Yankees reacquired controlling interest in the YES Network.  Holding 20% ownership in the network, they purchased the remaining 80% from Disney with the help of other investors, including Amazon, Blackstone Group and Sinclair Broadcast Group, for $3.47 billion. The transaction presumably increases the Yankees’ stake in YES to 30% and controlling interest among the financial backers. I’ve seen many fans complain about the Yankees’ investment in the YES Network over signing former free agents Bryce Harper and Manny Machado but, in my opinion, one does not affect the other. I don’t think the YES Network acquisition impacted the decision not to pursue Harper and Machado, nor do I feel that signing one of those guys would have prevented the purchase. Long-term, for the Yankees, I feel reacquiring control of the YES Network is a wise decision. It does underscore the fact the Yankees are a very valuable franchise and regardless of how one feels about Harper and Machado, a very financially astute one.

The sale does not require FCC approval but it is expected to take 120 days to complete. It was reported the financial partners have their own strategic plans for the acquisition but the Yankees will control programming, and the choice of announcers. We may love baseball but it’s hard to ignore the Yankees are a major business and all decisions are made for the long-term vision and success of the organization.

Speaking of the YES Network, I’ve been very pleased with their decision to have guest announcers this Spring. I particularly enjoyed the recent insight of Reggie Jackson. As a fan who grew up with the famed Bronx Zoo, it was fun listening to Reggie’s stories of those days. I loved Thurman Munson and enjoyed hearing his name again. Willie Randolph did a great job too. David Wells is scheduled to sit in the booth next Friday and Saturday when the Yankees play two of his former teams, the Boston Red Sox and the Toronto Blue Jays. Boomer remains one of my all-time favorites and I am looking forward to his appearance.

As always, Go Yankees!

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Bryce Harper and the Unlucky 13 in Philadelphia…

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Credit: Sports Illustrated

In the End, Money Wins…

So, Bryce Harper will never wear Pinstripes. Well, not the right color of Pinstripes, that is. After the long and at times excruciating wait, Bryce will call Philadelphia home for the next thirteen years. $330 million ensured that if Bryce had any misgivings about the City of Brotherly Love or if he wasn’t exactly enamored with the personality of the Phillies manager, Gabe Kapler, it wasn’t something that money could not overcome. I guess you could say that Philadelphia’s own Benjamin Franklin had a say in the matter.

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I am disappointed, for sure. When the off-season began, I had hoped the Yankees would sign either Harper or Manny Machado. In fact, I felt sure they would grab one of those guys. While the Yankees had some lukewarm interest in Machado, they were never players for Harper. Oh well, what are you going to do – boycott the team? That’s foolish. The 2019 New York Yankees are a very good team. This is certainly the best team since 2009 and we know how that one ended. In many ways, you could say this team is better than the 2009 World Champions.

Jake Story, one of the co-leaders of the Talkin’ Yanks Podcast, tweeted this yesterday after the Harper announcement:

Talkin Jake

I saw so many reactions to Harper’s contract with Philadelphia but I felt Jake accurately and uniquely summed up exactly how I felt.

I really thought Harper or Machado would provide the Yankees’ with clear separation from the Boston Red Sox. Last year, the Red Sox were eight games better than the Yankees and they rolled past us in the AL Division Playoffs on their way to the World Series championship. I know, you can claim many of the Sox players had career years or that they have no bullpen this season. From my perspective, they are, sadly, the MLB Champs until proven otherwise. I didn’t want to beat the Red Sox this year…I wanted to crush them. Probably my biggest fear as we head into the new season is saying “I wish we had signed Harper or Machado” in October.

But Jake’s correct. We must have hope GM Brian Cashman is right about this team. He knows far more about the Yankees than we ever will. For Yankee fans to trash the Steinbrenner family or threaten to boycott games makes absolutely no sense to me. You can count on one hand the number of teams that tried to improve themselves as hard as the Yankees did this past off-season. The Boston Red Sox did nothing. They re-signed Nasty Nate (Nathan Eovaldi) but you and I know that carries a huge risk on a long-term deal. He’s a great guy but he is a two-time Tommy John recipient that throws incredibly hard. They let their top setup man, Joe Kelly, depart via free agency, and their closer, Craig Kimbrel, remains unsigned with Boston seemingly disinterested in a reunion due to the financial impact. The Yankees have the better bullpen, no question, but I do stand by the belief the Yankees bullpen will not be as great as the fans’ expectations and the Red Sox bullpen won’t be as horrific as Yankee fans seem to think. You know there will be bumps in the road for the greatest of bullpens. Relief arms can be so fickle at times. So, to simply believe we are going to beat Boston because of the respective bullpens is flawed thinking. They still have some very good baseball players on that team. While I think the Yankees will win the AL East this year, it would be very frustrating if we head into October as a Wild Card team again for the one game ‘do-or-die’. We may have won the last two Wild Card games, but inevitably the law of averages will bite us in the butt. I’d rather head into the playoffs with a five-game series and take our chances.

I can’t blame the Yankees for not wanting to make a ten to thirteen-year commitment for one player. Bryce Harper is not the best player in baseball even if he is paid like it. I know that the Phillies went thirteen years to drive down the AAV for luxury tax purposes but that’s a huge commitment regardless of the dollars involved. I thought the rumored offer by the Los Angeles Dodgers (four years for $168 million) made all the sense in the World. Bryce would have gotten more than enough money to live with the highest AAV in the game and the opportunity to test the free agent market again at age 30. However, I get Bryce’s desire to play in one city for the rest of his career. He is concerned about his legacy and playing in a stadium that gives him 40+ home run potential every year will allow him to pad his stats more than he might have accomplished at Dodger Stadium or Oracle Park in San Francisco. I am sure this was very enticing to him. He would have looked great in Yankee Stadium (building a greater legacy playing for Baseball’s most storied franchise) but I recognize by not signing Harper, the chances the Yankees spend big money to retain Didi Gregorius are increased.  I don’t want to lose Gregorius so maybe this off-season’s ‘Harpchado’ fiasco is a silver lining when all is said and done. Like they say, sometimes the best trade is the one not made at all. So, the best signing for Yankees might be the no signings of Harper and Machado.

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It’s a bummer we are in a stretch of non-televised Spring games. Gary Sanchez makes his Spring debut later today and we cannot watch unless we are at Steinbrenner Field. The next televised game (YES Network) is Sunday’s split squad game in Tampa against the uninspiring Detroit Tigers.

Troy Tulowitzski hit his second game of the Spring in yesterday’s 8-6 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates or so I read since I couldn’t watch the game with my own eyes.  It’s a little too early to get excited about Tulo but for as much as I’ve been down on the signing, I am intrigued by the energy and excitement he is bringing to games.  I am hoping he stays healthy and doesn’t go Ellsbury on us. If he can maintain his current physical condition, he might be able to help this season as long as Manager Aaron Boone does not overuse him. I know the plan is to give him frequent breaks, with Gleyber Torres sliding over from second base to spell him a few times per week, until Didi Gregorius returns later this summer. Hopefully the Yankees can stick to the plan and not be forced into a situation where we are dependent upon Tulo every day.  I have the same concerns about Brett Gardner but I digress. I am cautiously optimistic for a successful rebound season for the former Rockie/Blue Jay and hope he allays my fears. If it doesn’t work, the Yankees cut bait and move on but I sincerely hope he’s better than that.

The first base battle has been fun to watch so far this Spring. Both Luke Voit and Greg Bird are, pardon the cliché, ‘in it to win it’. Bird has played four games, with five hits in eight at-bats, a homer, two doubles and three RBIs.  Voit, the favorite entering Camp according to Boone, has played two games, with two hits in four at-bats, a homer and four RBIs. Small sample sizes, yes, but the guys are trying hard to impress. Love the effort. As down as I’ve been on Bird, it would be awesome for him to finally unlock his potential, staying healthy, with that beautiful left-handed swing in Yankee Stadium. If not, I hope Voit grabs the job and doesn’t let go. If the Yankees are not looking for a new first baseman in July, life will be good.

I don’t know why but there’s a part of me that would like to see the Yankees re-sign reliever Adam Warren. After being shipped away twice, I am not sure why Warren would want to come back to the Bronx or if there is even room in the bullpen for him, but I guess I’d rather see Warren as a Yankee than watch him end up in a place like Boston or Tampa. That’s just one of those sentimental, non-analytical feelings that serves absolutely no place in today’s game.

As a residual effect of the Bryce Harper signing, GM Brian Cashman should call Phillies GM Matt Klentak to find out what it would take to acquire left fielder Nick Williams. Williams is the player most directly impacted by Harper’s presence. He has underperformed in Philly but the 25-year-old lefty has some game.  Per Fangraphs, “These days prospects are supposed to offer instant gratification. With just one win above replacement through his first 791 plate appearances, Nick Williams has fallen short of expectations. Even though his offensive numbers technically declined between 2017 and 2018, extreme good fortune (a .375 BABIP) helped to fuel his rookie campaign. His peripherals improved last season including a seven-point drop in his swinging strike rate. His walk and strikeout rates moved in the right directions in large part due to massive gains to his plate discipline. As a hitter, Williams still has kinks. A trade of ground balls for more fly balls would better fit his sweet lefty swing if it can be achieved without more strikeouts. Despite above average speed, Williams shows no proclivity to run on the bases, and he’s posted bafflingly bad defensive marks. There’s a good chance time and experience will fix his ill-adventures in the outfield.” Williams, in my opinion, could be a good ‘buy low/high reward’ candidate. Exactly the type of player Cashman likes to accumulate. If the Yankees do not want to over-expose Giancarlo Stanton in left field, Williams could be a good platoon partner for Brett Gardner if the organization is down on Clint Frazier.

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Credit: USA TODAY Sports

For as much as we laugh about the Miami Marlins, I am really digging their new uniforms. Hats off to Marlins CEO Derek Jeter for bringing the new look to his franchise. Or maybe we should say, hats on.

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Credit: AP

I feel sorry for the Marlins this year as they are going to get their clocks cleaned by the Mets, Nationals, Braves, and Phillies in the highly competitive NL East but at least they’ll be look cool as they walk off the field with another loss.

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March has arrived so we’ve entered the month of true Yankees baseball…finally. With Opening Day just four weeks from yesterday, we’ll see the players ramping up over the next couple of weeks. The Boston Red Sox rode a hot start last April to the most successful season in franchise history. I am not expecting a similar historic start for the Yankees this year, but it would be nice for them to jump out of the gate strong. With the first nine games against the Baltimore Orioles and Detroit Tigers, both expected to have losing seasons, there’s no reason the Yankees can’t build an early division lead before they go head-to-head with the AL Elite Red Sox and Astros in early to mid-April. Exciting times. Let’s make this a Championship year!

As always, Go Yankees!

Nolan Arenado and the Fictitious Pinstriped Dream…

Atlanta Braves v Colorado Rockies
The Denver Post

Arenado, As Expected, Signs Extension to Stay in Colorado…

Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado is no longer an option for the Yankees now that he has signed an eight-year, $260 million extension to remain in Denver, Colorado. Honestly, I think the Yankees’ rumored interest in Arenado was either a media-creation for clicks or a plant by the Yankees Front Office to deflect criticism for the team’s lackluster run at Manny Machado.

A sample of yesterday’s headlines:

IF THE YANKEES WANT NOLAN ARENADO THEY HAVE TO WAIT AS ROCKIES INK THIRD BASEMAN TO 8-YEAR, $260M DEAL

– The New York Daily News

NOLAN ARENADO’S $260M IS YANKEES BLOW AND BRYCE HARPER TARGET 

– The New York Post

MLB RUMORS: YANKEES WHIFF ON ROCKIES’ NOLAN ARENADO, WHO GETS RECORD-SETTING CONTRACT TO SKIP FREE AGENCY 

– NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

While I thought it was inevitable the Colorado Rockies would pony up for their best player, I do not believe for a second the Yankees decided to pass on Machado to wait for Arenado. In the present environment where players are amenable to team-friendly extensions (see Aaron Hicks and Luis Severino), I never really thought Arenado would test the free agency waters. As soon as Nolan previously signed the arbitration offer of $26 million for 2019 from the Rockies, it felt there was sufficient momentum to keep Nolan 5,280 feet above sea level for the duration of his career. If Nolan had chosen to go the route of free agency, I felt there was a stronger chance he’d to return to his native Southern California to play for either the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, who have a clear need for a third baseman, or the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have a good but aging third baseman in Justin Turner (he’ll be 35 in November). I just never saw the Yankees as the primary destination for Arenado. If the Yankees chose not to make competitive offers for the three best free agents this off-season, including two 26-year-old’s on Hall of Fame paths, there is nothing that would lead me to believe they would be willing to spend this Fall regardless of how good Arenado is.  He is fifteen months older than Machado and carries the Coors Field Effect label. While I think he’s a great player regardless of where he plays, I am not convinced the Yankees were seriously targeting him.

At this point, it is obvious the Yankees are committed to Miguel Andujar at third base. As a hit machine, he carries a very valuable bat in an otherwise loaded lineup. Defensively, the Yankees are expecting improvement. The bat can certainly compensate for some of the challenges in the field, but if Andujar can raise the level of his fielding to at least league average, I think everyone would be very happy. It’s tough watching the brilliant defensive plays made at third by Machado and Arenado and wonder what could have been, but that ship sailed. Machado has 300 million reasons to believe San Diego is the most beautiful city in the U.S. and the Yankees, in my opinion, were never players for Arenado.

Andujar is our third baseman and he deserves our trust and support. There’s no question he wants to improve and he probably works harder than most of the guys on the team. I doubt you’ll ever see any ‘Johnny Hustle’ comments about Andujar’s play because he does hustle and clearly wants to be the best.  Whether or not we believe Andujar can improve his defensive game is irrelevant as long as he believes he can. If he fails for whatever reason(s), I have no doubt GM Brian Cashman will find another alternative via trade (not through high-priced free agency). A young under-valued player with great potential seems to be Cashman’s preferred player these days. Personally, I am not betting against Miguel Andujar. I feel he has the drive and desire to succeed, matched with the necessary tools. Enough with the Andujar bashing. His name has taken a beating in Social Media. It’s not his fault the Yankees chose not to pursue Machado.  Well, I guess you could say it is his fault because they see the talent and commitment to win in Miggy. If we ran the Yankees and it was our money, I have no doubt we would have come to the same conclusion. Make decisions for the good of the organization and not short-sighted moves to make bloggers like me happy. Embrace Andujar, embrace the 2019 New York Yankees. This is our team. They have a championship to capture and they need our support for every man on the roster…well maybe not Jacoby Ellsbury. We have the team to strip the Championship belt from the Boston Red Sox and we should be proud.

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Getty Images

Speaking of Manny Machado, he couldn’t help but take a shot at the Baltimore Orioles. In an interview, Machado is quoted as saying, “The Dodgers last year, they showed me some love. The Orioles drafted me. I did a lot for that community, I did a lot for the state, they didn’t show me a little bit of love. It is what it is. But going over to L.A., L.A giving up a lot of prospects for me, that kind of shows you what I meant to them, which is amazing.” Needless to say, he has ruffled some feathers in Birdland.  By comparison, former Oriole Zack Britton has been respectful and appreciative of his time in Baltimore. Take the high road, Manny. You have your money and apparently the love you sought. Isn’t that enough?

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I thought it was fair yesterday when Manager Aaron Boone announced outfielder Clint Frazier will begin the year in Triple A.  After missing so much time last year following his concussion, Frazier needs consistent playing time to get himself back on a roll. I think it was wise for Boone to let Frazier know that he is not up for consideration in making the Opening Day Roster. It will take some pressure off Frazier and allow him to ramp up his game at his pace rather than an accelerated one thinking he has a shot to overtake Brett Gardner. I am not crazy about entering the season with Gardy as the starting left-fielder but I do think we’ll see Stanton out there more often. I’d prefer Stanton to stay at DH to help keep the big man healthy but there’s no question the team is better when Stanton plays the field. It frees up DH for some roster rotation to keep other guys fresh. If Frazier crushes Triple A, he’ll force the Yankees’ hand. I expect Frazier to be the starting left-fielder by season’s end. If not, I am sure Brian Cashman will provide other options as he always does. On the bright side, Sugar Shane Robinson is a Phillie so he won’t be starting any games in the Bronx this year.

I was a bit disappointed with yesterday’s rainout of the Spring game between the Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies. DJ LeMahieu was scheduled to play third base and I was curious to watch. Unfortunately, the next few games will not be televised so we won’t be able to get our Yankees fix until Sunday.  They should be able to get in today’s game in Lakeland, Florida against the Detroit Tigers.  There is a chance of scattered thunderstorms but not until late afternoon so the game should be fine. Chance Adams will get the start over previously announced starter Albert Abreu. Abreu is expected to pitch in relief. LeMahieu is expected to start at second base today and will make his Yankees debut at third for his next start. But since the game is not televised, we’ll be unable to see any of it. Bummer.

It’s been a few days since the official announcement but I was glad to see the Yankees sign Aaron Hicks to an extension. I was shocked at the number of years (seven) but the overall value of the deal, $70 million, is team-friendly. Hicks has the potential to fully earn those dollars within the first few years of the deal, making the back half of the contract negligible if performance does not warrant a starting position by the time the 29-year old Hicks nears his mid-30’s. Estevan Florial is still a few years away and he is far from a “sure thing”. The free agent market looked very slim for center fielders after the season (Leonys Martin appeared to be the best potential available target). In-house, Brett Gardner and the guy I don’t really expect to ever don the Pinstripes again, Jacoby Ellsbury, represented the top options had Hicks left via free agency. So, instead, the Yankees keep a player that Manager Aaron Boone has called baseball’s most underrated player and I am happy about it. Attention now turns to the two other primary pending free agents, Dellin Betances and Didi Gregorius. I’d love to see both players return so hopefully the Yankees can lock up one or both before the season starts. They can worry about a big extension for Aaron Judge next off-season. Regardless of how Troy Tulowitzki plays, I want Didi Gregorius as this team’s starting shortstop as soon as he is cleared to play and for the immediate seasons in the future. Similarly, if I had to choose between Betances and Aroldis Chapman, if the latter decides to opt out of his contract after the season, I’d take Betances. Under that scenario, Zack Britton would become my closer of choice but Betances is so invaluable in his setup role, with or without Chapman. I’d love for Betances to stay as a lifetime Yank.

As always, Go Yankees!

The King of the Spring…

Photo Credit: MiLB.com and Scranton/WB RailRiders

Young Righty Gets First Taste of Major League Camp…

It seemed like such an innocuous and under-the-radar trade in November 2017 when the Yankees traded marginal prospects LHP Caleb Smith and 1B/OF Garrett Cooper to the Miami Marlins for $250,000 in international bonus pool money and young Single A RHP Michael King. Moving Smith and Cooper were clearly designed to clear space on the 40-man roster in advance of that year’s Rule 5 Draft. At the time of the trade, the international bonus pool money appeared to be the objective as the Yankees were making preparations for what would prove to be the failed run at international superstar Shohei Ohtani. King just came along for the ride…or did he?

In 2017, Caleb Smith was dominant for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, riding an unbeaten streak for most of the year. He finished 9-1, with a 2.39 ERA, starting 17 of 18 games played for the RailRiders. He made his Major League debut for the Yankees on July 17, 2017 but the Yankees and Smith lost to the Minnesota Twins, 4-2. He shuttled back and forth between Scranton, PA and the Bronx, finishing 0-1, with 7.71 ERA, in 18 2/3 innings. Despite his Triple A success, Smith, then 26, did not appear to be a top prospect. To his credit, Smith did pitch better for the Marlins last year.  He went 5-6 with 4.19 ERA over 16 starts covering 77 1/3 innings before shoulder tightness ended his season. He is expected to be part of the Marlins’ rotation this year.

Garrett Cooper had been acquired by the Yankees in July 2017 in a trade that sent LHP Tyler Webb to the Milwaukee Brewers. Cooper had some nice moments in the Bronx, playing 13 games. He was 14-for-43 (six extra-base hits) with no homers and 6 RBI’s.  2018, in a Marlins uniform, was largely a lost season for Cooper. He injured his wrist early in the season and later re-injured it during a rehab assignment, undergoing surgery in August. He appeared in just 14 games for the Marlins. He’s now healthy and expected to compete for a job with the Marlins this season, likely as a reserve first baseman/outfielder.

After the Yankees lost out on Ohtani, the international bonus pool money was put to good use as the Yankees had a number of highly rated signings including OF Kevin Alcantara, OF Mauro Bonifacio, C Antonio Gomez, C Agustin Ramirez, RHP Denny Larrondo, and RHP Osiel Rodriguez, plus Luis Severino’s little brother, RHP Rafael Severino.

But setting everything aside, the crown jewel of the Yankees-Marlins trade has turned out to be Michael King. King, born in Rochester, New York and a graduate of Bishop Hendricksen High School in Warwick, Rhode Island, was drafted in the 12th round of the 2016 MLB Draft by the Marlins. At the time, King was the staff ace for Boston College. He signed with the Marlins, foregoing his final year of college eligibility, and was a combined 3-3 with 4.11 ERA over 30 2/3 innings at the lowest three levels of the Marlins’ farm system. He returned to Class A Greensboro in 2017 with much better results, 11-9 with 3.14 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 106 strikeouts, over 149 innings. Still, at the time of the trade to the Yankees, he was largely unheralded and unranked as a prospect.

Last year, he opened eyes in the Yankees farm system. He started the year with High A Tampa, spent time with Double A Trenton, and finished the year with Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. In 24 starts and a relief appearance, King was 11-5 with 1.79 ERA. He struck out 152 batters in 161 1/3 innings with 0.91 WHIP.

Yankees minor league pitching coordinator Danny Borrell, via The New York Post, recently said, “Every time he moved up, he seemed to get better. He wasn’t fazed by the better competition and he knows how to pitch.” Borrell went on to say that he could see King pitching in New York this year if he pitches like last season and does not see the young right-hander regressing.

King, 6’3” and 210 lbs, turns 24 on May 25th. He is currently rated as the Yankees’ fifth-best prospect by Baseball America, behind OF Estevan Florial, RHP Jonathan Loaisiga, OF Everson Pereira, and C Anthony Seigler. His primary pitch is a two-seam fastball that sits in the mid-90’s. The key to his success in the Major Leagues is dependent upon his continued development of secondary pitches.

King will get his first taste of Big League Camp this year when he reports to Tampa as a non-roster invitee for the Yankees. While he is not expected to make the Opening Day Roster (he only made six Triple A starts last year), his goal is simple. Catch the attention of Manager Aaron Boone, Pitching Coach Larry Rothschild and the Yankees’ army of analytics. Even though he is not yet on the 40-man roster, there’s no doubt he will be among the first to be considered if/when the Yankees have needs for help in the starting rotation this year. I’ve heard the claims that he’ll never be anything more than a middle-of-the-rotation starter, but if memory serves correctly, that’s what they said about Andy Pettitte when he was first called up. Let Luis Severino and James Paxton be the aces, the strength of the middle to back end of the rotation is what championships are made of. I am thrilled about King and what he potentially means for the Yankees. This could very well be the year of his Major League debut. I have greater belief in King as a starter than a guy like Chance Adams who I feel is better suited for the pen. Mike King is a winner, and carrying that intangible with his tremendous talent, should make Yankee fans very excited. The King of the Hill is going to create great memories in the Bronx in the not-so-distant future.

This was a brilliant trade by GM Brian Cashman. King has proven better than we expected and he’ll continue to open eyes in Tampa in a few weeks. When the Spring games start, be sure to look out for #93.

As always, Go Yankees!

Sonny Gray Trade? Hold, Please…

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And We Continue to Wait for Gray’s Departure…

I had two wishes for Sunday and neither one materialized for me. Sonny Gray is still a Yankee and the New England Patriots are headed to the Super Bowl. Some sports days really suck. Well, I guess it could be worse. It wouldn’t be fun to be a New Orleans Saints fan today but aside from their pain, yesterday was quite forgettable all things considered. Nevertheless, today is a new day and another opportunity to rip the Pinstripes off Sonny Douglas Gray. Please, Brian Cashman, work your magic and make it happen.

The hang up with the Cincinnati Reds appears to be their desire to sign Sonny, a free agent after the season, to an extension. Reports indicate the Reds have until later today (the conclusion of a 72-hour window) to see if they can get Sonny to put pen to paper.  MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch is reporting the deadline is sometime this evening.  Until the deal is finalized, there is a chance it could break down and the Yankees would need to pivot to other opportunities to unload young Mr Gray.

Jon Heyman’s tweet yesterday that ended with “…or keep him” was rather jarring to me. Look, I want Sonny Gray to do well at his next destination. I hope the dude recaptures the luster he once had in Oakland and puts himself into Cy Young consideration in future years. But, and that’s a very BIG but, I do not want him on the 2019 New York Yankees. I’ve seen enough shades of Gray at Yankee Stadium.

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Photo Credit: AP (Julie Jacobson)

Despite Great American Park not being known as a pitcher’s park, Cincinnati seems to have everything that would appeal to Sonny. It’s approximately 275 miles from his home in Nashville, Tennessee. It’s a young team that has added some interesting pieces this off-season with Tanner Roark, Alex Wood, Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp. They have Joey Votto and a sound closer in Raisel Iglesias. A quick check of the current Reds roster shows that his old Oakland number and the number previously worn in Cincinnati by Aroldis Chapman (54) is available. The pitching coach is Derek Johnson who happened to be Sonny’s pitching coach at Vanderbilt. Cincinnati is considered a less-pressurized small market but a team with some history and tradition. I am sure that Yankees manager Aaron Boone could give some great insight into life in Cincinnati. Oh, wait a minute, Sonny has not heard from the Yankees since the off-season began. Scratch a talk with Boonie. The Reds offer a rotation that would not put any undue pressure on Gray.  He could be the best starter or he could be the worst. It’s really up to him and I think Reds fans will be more forgiving than us.

Cash, get the Gray trade closed! We have faith in you.

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I still don’t get why there is resistance among the fanbase for Adam Ottavino to be the first Yankee to wear the number 0. I am not sure if it is because “0” is not really a number, the fact no Yankee has ever worn the number or a preference for Derek Jeter to be the one to last wear a single digit number. Maybe there are other reasons but I really have no reason to believe Otto should not wear the number. Give it to the man. He’s a native New Yorker and he’s going to wear the Pinstripes proud.

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Emily Waldon of The Athletic recently reported the Yankees will attend a showcase for RHP Rookie Davis and LHP Adam Libertore on January 31st. Libertore, a 31-year-old former Dodgers reliever who was cut last August, does not really interest me, but I’d like to see the Yankees bring back Davis for an opportunity to kick start his career again. Davis was part of the deal that originally brought Aroldis Chapman to New York. Davis was one of four Yankees who went to Cincinnati, and he probably had the most success which really isn’t saying much since none of them panned out for the Reds. Davis underwent hip surgery in October 2017 and missed most of 2018 on the disabled list.  Davis appeared in seven games for the Reds in 2017 with six starts. The numbers were awful: 1-3, 8.63 ERA, giving up 38 hits, 23 earned runs, and 7 homers in 24 innings pitched. However, he was once a bright prospect and will only be 26 in late April.  Not sure if anything is there, but why not. I wouldn’t bring him in on a Major League deal but a minor league contract to allow him to rebuild value works for me assuming it works for him.

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Photo Credit: Cincinnati Enquirer (Zach Buchanan)

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr Day so let’s honor and remember one of the greatest men in American history. He may be gone but his voice is heard loudly today and will continue to resonate through many tomorrows to come.

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As always, Go Yankees!

Yankees Close to Sonny Gray Trade…

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Noah K Murray)

Right-hander Appears Headed to Cincy…

It has not yet been finalized but it appears the Yankees are finally close to trading right-hander Sonny Douglas Gray to the Cincinnati Reds. Hopefully there are no last minute snags and this one gets pushed across the finish line.

For Gray, he’ll get a chance for redemption with Cincinnati, which is less than 300 miles from his Nashville, Tennessee home. The Reds have been one of MLB’s most active teams this off-season, having already rebuilt their pitching staff with the acquisitions of Tanner Roark from the Washington Nationals and Alex Wood, formerly of the Los Angeles Dodgers. They’ll join holdovers Anthony DeSclafani and Luis Castillo to provide the Reds with a solid starting rotation. Maybe not good enough to win the NL Central over the Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee Brewers or St Lous Cardinals, but they’ll be better. Gray will also reunite with his pitching coach at Vanderbilt, Derek Johnson, who was named the Reds’ pitching coach in November. Maybe Johnson can do what Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild was unable to do.

While I wanted Gray to leave, there is some sadness that it did not work out for him in New York. I think all of us were excited when the Yankees acquired him from the Oakland A’s in the summer of 2017. We thought he was the missing ace that could be paired with Luis Severino to provide the Yankees with two young stars atop the rotation. Unfortunately, it was never meant to be and now Gray gets a change of scenery that will hopefully benefit him and help restore some of his luster as he heads into his walk year at the age of 29. I wish him the best and I do hope that he pitches more like the ace he once was in Oakland.

The Yankees will reportedly receive second base prospect Shed Long from the Reds. The 23-year-old Long, only 5’8” and 184 lbs, is rated as Cincinnati’s seventh best prospect per MLB.com. He is recognized as an excellent lefty hitter who has worked hard to bring up his defense to at least average. He spent last year in Double A with the Pensacola Blue Wahoos where he hit .261/.353/.412, .765 OPS and 120 +wRC+, with 12 home runs and 56 RBIs. Long has a little speed in those short legs, picking up 19 steals in 25 attempts. I probably would have preferred catching prospect Tyler Stephenson but the Reds resisted the Yankees’ attempts to pry him loose. Regardless, Long is a legitimate prospect and presumably will begin the year with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. His defense leads to speculation that he may need to be moved to a corner outfield position but all reports indicate he is working hard to improve his defensive game.

Photo Credit: Cincinnati Enquirer (Kareem Elgazzar)

The Yankees will also apparently receive a competitive balance draft pick and a lesser minor league player. I doubt the second minor leaguer will be much but I will be anxious to see who the Yankees draft next summer with the draft pick.

Many fans are calling this a heist for Yankees GM Brian Cashman. I guess my expectations are a bit more tempered. I need time to see how this plays out. There’s a good chance that Gray recaptures his magic in Ohio and until the prospects reach the Show, they’ve proven nothing.

Since Long was on the Reds’ 40-man roster, the trade does not free up a spot for newly signed reliever Adam Ottavino. My hope is that we’ve reached the end of the line for RHP Luis Cessa, but the realist in me believes it will be RHP Ben Heller who continues to recover and rehab from last summer’s Tommy John surgery. The Yankees would hold out hope Heller goes unclaimed so that they can outright him to Triple A, but if I was a team with roster space, I’d make a claim to add Heller.

Now that Gray is nearly out of the picture, Jonathan Loaisiga and Domingo German represent the insurance for CC Sabathia in the starting rotation. The Yankees also are bringing non-roster invitee RHP Drew Hutchison to Spring Training. There’s still time for Cashman to find another arm to bring to camp which is the current expectation.

Let’s hope Cashman can seal the deal with the Reds today so that we can move on.

The upcoming week looms big for the Yankees. On Tuesday, the latest Hall of Fame selections will be announced. Leading the charge is the legendary Mariano Rivera who will make the Hall on his first ballot as the greatest Closer in Major League history.

Photo Credit: Newsday (Thomas A Ferrera)

I am not setting myself up for the expectation that Mo will be unanimously voted in even though he should be. While he has appeared on all publicly revealed ballots, I expect someone to exclude him on the undisclosed ballots. While we may want Rivera, my favorite Yankee during his playing days (sorry Derek Jeter fans), to be unanimous, the bottom line is the guy will be a Hall of Famer. I don’t care about the final voting results as long as they ensure Rivera will be Cooperstown, New York this summer. Hopefully Mike Mussina will be there as well even if he has to wear an Orioles cap. I’d prefer he wears a Yankees cap but there is no dispute he was a great pitcher in Baltimore, his original team. I know I always hated it when the Yankees faced him. Generally-speaking, it did not go well for the Yankees.

Today is a big football day with the AFC and NFC Championship Games. It’s time for some disappointment in Boston so hopefully Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs punch their ticket for the Super Bowl and send the New England Patriots home for the off-season. On the NFC side, I’m pulling for the Los Angeles Rams although it won’t be a disappointment if the New Orleans Saints advance. My only hope for today is a Boston loss…and for the Gray trade to be finalized.

As always, Go Yankees!

All Systems Go for CC Sabathia…

League Championship Series - Houston Astros v New York Yankees - Game Three

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Yankees Lefthander Cleared for Action…

The latest medical updates for CC Sabathia show he has been cleared to resume baseball activities which is good news for everyone but most notably CC himself. Artery blockages of the heart are a serious matter, especially for a large guy who isn’t even 40 yet. A happy and healthy CC Sabathia is the greatest concern. Baseball is secondary. I am excited Sabathia will be able to embark on his final year of his magical career with the gift of good health.

Nevertheless, it does allow the Yankees to continue fielding offers for Sonny Gray. As helpful as some people think Gray might be to the Yankees this year, my stance to rid the roster of his name has not changed. I think the Yankees can find other options for the sixth man role that do not entail paying the long man/spot starter $9 million for the year.

In his recent comments, GM Brian Cashman said, “When it developed (Sabathia’s angioplasty in December which involved placement of a stent in a blocked heart artery), it slowed down my conversations with intent because we had to see how this played out first.” Cashman went on to say, “Once he has these follow-up appointments, I’ll be in a much better position to either fully engage the conversations we’ve had or continue to slow-walk it while we make sure CC’s health is taken care of, that is first and foremost.”

Based on the latest reports, it seems safe that Cashman can get San Diego Padres GM A.J. Preller on the phone for further talks. It would be nice if the Yankees could get someone who can assist at the Major League level right now as opposed to a bucket of prospects. If the Yankees do go for prospects, I sure wouldn’t mind getting catcher Luis Torrens back. But for someone who could help now, Padres closer (and one-time Yank) Kirby Yates could certainly help fill the void left by David Robertson who departed for the not-so-greener pastures of Philadelphia. Well, I take that back, D-Rob did get plenty of green in Philly, to the tune of $23 million. Anyway, Yates would look nice in the Yankees bullpen if the team decides not to pay the clearly better option (Adam Ottavino) which might help the likelihood the Yankees re-sign Dellin Betances after the upcoming season.

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The leader of The Greedy Pinstripes, Daniel Burch, posted this comment on Twitter yesterday:

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Daniel perfectly summed up how I feel about the Manny Machado situation. I’ve probably been on Team Machado much stronger than either Daniel or Bryan Van Dusen (they both seem to prefer Bryce Harper which certainly makes sense), but I am just as tired of the situation as Daniel is. I am ready for the endless debate about Manny and Bryce Harper to end. There’s no doubt I want at least one of the two 26 year old superstars and will be disappointed if neither one of the generational talents come to the Bronx. But honestly, I want this to end even if it means neither player dons the Pinstripes this summer. I’d really like the Yankees to move on to other areas of roster improvement. If the Yankees do not get Machado, we still need a strong backup option for shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. Sure, Gleyber Torres can slide over and it is possible that Tyler Wade could step up to be the player we need, but I want another strong defensive option heading into Spring Training. I’ve long said Marwin Gonzalez would be a perfect fit for the roster with his versatility. In addition to his ability to play around the infield, the majority of his time last year was spent in left field. He would be a great option to spell Brett Gardner. Nothing against Gardy, but he is better served in moderation and not overly exposed every day at this point in his career. Gonzalez can play short, he can play third. Even though he’s never played the position, I bet you could toss him a catcher’s mitt and he wouldn’t embarrass himself. The point is the guy’s versatility. Plus, he is a team guy with championship experience. If not Gonzalez, I’d better happy with the return of Adeiny Hechavarria’s glove. Josh Harrison doesn’t return excite me despite the Yankees’ interest in the player over the years.  But if the Yankees decide for an encore engagement with Neil Walker, so be it. Let’s not pin our hopes on Wade as the backup plan. I guess you could say we need a backup to the backup to see how this plays out in Spring Training.

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There really isn’t much more the Yankees need to do to improve. Machado or Harper would make them better, but regardless, the Yankees will be ready to compete for the AL East Championship by the time the Baltimore Orioles arrive at Yankee Stadium in late March.  The Yankees have not won the AL East since 2012 but it’s time to take back what is ours. It’s kind of sad that the only AL East team NOT to win the AL East since the Yankees last won are the Tampa Bay Rays. The Orioles, Blue Jays, and of course the Red Sox have hoisted the flag since the Yankees last dominated the AL Eastern Division. Boston, as we unfortunately know, has won it for the last three consecutive years.  Enough is enough.  I am tired of the Wild Card and want to ensure we enter October with a multiple-game series and are not faced with another ‘do-or-die’ one game or go home situation. The Red Sox will be strong, maybe not 108 wins strong, but they’ll be no pushover, especially if they figure out a good solution for the back end of their bullpen. The Rays aren’t going away anytime soon with their talented pitching staff, even if they can’t get anybody in the St Petersburg-Tampa area to watch them play. We also know there’s a beast being born in Toronto with the riches of young talent, like Vladimir Guerreo, Jr and Bo Bichette, rapidly working their way to the Show. We may not see it in 2019 but the Blue Jays loom as a serious threat on the horizon. Our opportunity is now. I know I am tired of talking about Machado and Harper, but dammit, they’d help.

Spring Training is a little more than a month away. With Boston feeling the pain of their payroll and the need to lock up some of their young superstars within the next couple of years, the Yankees have a golden opportunity to eliminate the gap in talent between the teams. Hal, it’s only money. Lord knows you are making more and more every year. Remember what it was like to hoist the Commissioner’s Trophy in 2009?  You can have that feeling again. We want you to be sprayed with Champagne. We’re only thinking about your best interests so go ahead and spend a little and bring World Series Championship #28 back to the Bronx. Happy Yankee fans like to spend money.

This post kind of embodies where I am at with Machado. I keep trying to get him out of my head yet I inevitability circle back around to him. Please, let this end soon. If it is Machado or Bust, I am getting dangerously close to Bust. But you know, Manny would look really good in Pinstripes…

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As always, Go Yankees!