The Dawn of the Baseball Winter Meetings…
This week is always the most eventful one of the entire off-season. A flurry of activity followed by relative silence as we head into the holidays.
Credit: AP Photo/Seth Wenig
Before the meetings start later this evening, the Yankees have already lost one option with Houston’s free agent signing of former Yankee Carlos Beltran. I had mixed feelings about his possible return to New York. He was arguably the team’s best hitter last season but he is also 40 years old. For a team that has aggressively gotten younger, adding “old” does not necessarily make sense. There is no guarantee that Beltran will be as good as last year, and it’s a near impossibility that he’d be better. Going with older veterans, I’d rather sign either Matt Holliday or Mike Napoli to a short-term deal that keeps the Yankees on the right path toward World Series contention in 2018 or 2019.
Back in the old days under George Steinbrenner, I am sure that both Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista would be Yankees by now. Of the two, I’d prefer Encarnacion but I don’t feel the Yankees should lock up huge long-term dollars for either player even if it would severely weaken the Toronto Blue Jays in the short run. In a couple of years, they’ll just be over-paid, under-producing aging veterans. We’ve seen enough of those in recent seasons.
Credit: Reuters/Ray Stubblebine
There are unofficial reports that the Los Angeles Dodgers have a deal in place with starter Rich Hill so that’s one less option on the pitching front. A deal with Jason Hammel probably makes the most sense. I like Hammel as a reliable, back of the rotation guy. He would be a good complimentary piece to Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda as the team looks to fill other pitching spots with youth. I would probably take a chance with either C.J. Wilson or Tyson Ross if given the opportunity.
It’s possible that GM Brian Cashman can uncover a quality arm via trade but it’s a virtual certainty the team won’t be involved in the Chris Sale sweepstakes. Sale alone would not make the Yankees an immediate World Series contender and he would cost the best quality of the farm system to acquire. So, the Yankees need to stay the course as they continue to add the pieces for future success.
I was disappointed to see minor league hitting coordinator James Rowson leave the organization. I am happy to see him return to the major leagues as the hitting coach for the Minnesota Twins, however, I thought he would have been a better hitting coach for the Yankees than current hitting coach Alan Cockrell or assistant hitting coach Marcus Thames. When the Yankees had dismissed Jeff Pentland last year, I was hopeful that Rowson would get the job. It was not meant to be. I think he’ll be a good addition to Paul Molitor’s staff in Minneapolis and should help former Yankee and current Twins’ co-catcher John Ryan Murphy to hit again.
I remain hopeful the Yankees re-sign pitchers Nathan Eovaldi and Jacob Lindgren* as they recover from Tommy John surgery. Granted, neither pitcher will help in 2017 but I would really prefer to see them stay.
Let’s hope this week brings good news for Yankees fans…
*Several hours after this post, the Atlanta Braves announced they’ve signed Lindgren to a one year deal that will allow them to retain rights to Lindgren if they add him to their 40-man roster.
Like many Yankees fans, I found myself very disappointed that the Yankees lost Cuban free agent infielder Yoan Moncada to the Boston Red Sox. After an off-season of inactivity, it felt like the Yankees would make the winning push to bring Moncada to the Bronx. Then, to come up short to the Red Sox, feels so wrong. The money the Yankees were offering Moncada was huge ($25 million with the potential to go to $27.5 million), particularly considering the 100% tax associated with the bid had it won. Boston was all-in with over $31 million, and we are left to wonder why the Yankees couldn’t push a little bit harder.
I know, a 19 year old who has not proven himself and is at least two years from the major leagues. Still, under best case scenario, he would have been THE replacement for Robinson Cano. Perhaps the Yankees feel that they are in good hands with Rob Refsnyder at second and potentially Eric Jagielo in a few years at third. If Moncada puts up Hall of Fame numbers in Boston, this one will be forever a hard one to take. I felt that he was a blue chip, can’t miss prospect and he certainly would have zoomed to the top of the Yankees prospect list had he signed.
Conversely, if he flops, this will sting in Beantown and Hal Steinbrenner will look like a genius. But somehow, I suspect that Moncada will be alright and Hal’s frugal mind will leave the Yankees as the bridesmaids. It’s hard to think of a guy who is spending nearly $235 million to field a team this year as a frugal mind but he is unquestionably more bottom line oriented than his father was.
If the Yankees fail to advance to the play-offs for the third year in a row, it is going to place great pressure on Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman. But it’s the owner’s decision to go young and cut costs so time will tell if the manager and GM are the casualties. I am not looking for Girardi to leave. If he does get the ax, there’s not really anyone out there that I think could do a better job (who is not already employed).
This is a tough year. We have to have faith that the young moves for guys like Didi Gregorius and Nathan Eovaldi will pay off. Can they bridge the gap to when the farm system is ready and capable of producing major league talent?
If Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia, and, egads, Alex Rodriguez can’t turn back the clock, it’s going to be a long year in the Bronx and the future, without Moncada, is still a bit unclear.
I am not sure what I would do if I was the owner of the Yankees. It is so important to get a collection of cost controlled players to supplement the larger contracts. Everyone on the 25 man roster can’t be a mega-millionaire. Something has to give. But with the younger players, after years of picking lower in the draft or not having any top draft picks, the Yankees have to figure out a way to be creative. The loopholes that they’ve exploited for a century have closed and they need to find new ways to exert their financial strength. Otherwise, it’s going to be a long time before a World Series championship returns to its rightful home.
My guess for a World Series champion in 2015 is the easy pick…the Washington Nationals. On paper, they have it top to bottom. But inevitably, it will be some surprise team that no one saw coming. But sadly, the Yankees will most likely be home for the holidays by October.
As usual, I hope they prove me wrong…
What’s the plan?…
Well, it’s January 2015. The Yankees roster is slowly evolving. The latest addition/return was the surprise re-signing of Stephen Drew which certainly makes sense. While I still prefer to see Rob Refsnyder win the second base job outright, Drew certainly provides great insurance at both second base and shortstop. It’s no sure thing that Didi Gregorius will be successful and I’d prefer not to see Brendan Ryan as the only other choice, even if he is a slick fielder.
I am still concerned about the starting rotation. Reading CC Sabathia say the knee is fine is hardly a ringing endorsement that he’ll be the CC of old. I think best case he is a strong #3 in the rotation if he is able to come back healthy. His days as the team’s ace are over…in my opinion. The hope of the rotation lies with Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda. Obviously, there are health concerns with both pitchers. Even though Ivan Nova will return later in the year, I do not expect him to be back up to par until 2016. Nathan Eovaldi is the project. The Yankees apparently think they can turn him around and perhaps they can. It would be good to get him to the point that he is as reliable and consistent as Hiroki Kuroda was.
While I get why the Yankees will not pay $200 million for Max Scherzer, I wish they would make a play for James Shields. With a rotation containing so much uncertainty, the Yankees really need a dependable starter without question marks.
I have heard some rumblings that the Yankees now have the prospects to make a trade for Cole Hamels, but I am not sure that’s one I would pursue. I like prospects such as Aaron Judge and Luis Severino and want to see them succeed in pinstripes. It was tough when I was a kid and the Yankees were always trading youth for veterans. Doug Drabek, Jay Buhner, Fred McGriff, Al Leiter, J.T. Snow, Brad Ausmus. I know the list is much longer than this, but it was tough watching guys like that succeed elsewhere.
I don’t think that Cole Hamels would be the missing ingredient to suddenly make the Yankees the World Series favorites. So, if he is not the difference maker, then the Yankees shouldn’t raid the cupboards to bring him aboard. I’d rather see Hamels go to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The fear of course is that he’ll be calling Fenway Park home next season.
At this point, I still do not see the 2015 Yankees making the play-offs. I think the Baltimore Orioles will still be the team to beat. They suffered off-season losses, yes, but they’ll also be getting back Manny Machado, Chris Davis and Matt Wieters. The Toronto Blue Jays look to be the most improved team and they’ve been a team of potential for a few years. Boston will be stronger, and it’s best to never underestimate the Tampa Bay Rays even if Joe Maddon and Andrew Friedman are no longer calling the shots.
There’s still time for GM Brian Cashman to make the moves to propel the Yankees into contention but so much is riding on better seasons from Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, and Mark Teixeira. Of the group, McCann is the only one I feel is capable for turning it around. Beltran and Teixeira are in their decline years, and that slippery slope is steeper for some guys.
Hear the voice of the Bard!…
There’s a nice piece in Nick Cafardo’s column today (Sunday Baseball Notes in The Boston Globe) about the comeback of Daniel Bard. It would be good to see Bard successfully return to his position of bullpen relevance after years of struggle. Perhaps that’s a buy low signing the Yankees should pursue. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. There was a time when Bard was a Yankees draft pick although he never signed. Even if he goes back to Boston or another team, I truly hope that Bard is successful.
Short walk to the Hall…
Congratulations to the Hall of Fame inductees: John Smoltz, Randy Johnson, Craig Biggio, and Pedro Martinez. I think all of the selections were justified. It was sad that it was the final ballot appearance for Don Mattingly, but it was a given that he was not going to make it. Maybe he can take the Joe Torre route…great managerial success to go with a strong playing career…to gain access to the Hall.
25 years is long enough…
Put me in the group of people who want to see Pete Rose allowed to enter the Hall of Fame. He remains one of the best players I’ve been privileged to see play in my lifetime. This is not an endorsement of Pete the man and I feel what he did was wrong, however, Pete the player was one of the best players of all-time.
I am glad that this is the last full month without any baseball activity. Looking forward to the opening of spring training camps next month.
Happy New Year!
This has been an odd off-season for Yankees fans. Quietly, the Yankees have made small deals to get younger. The only significant addition of a proven high level performer is lefty Andrew Miller. Didi Gregorius makes sense given the team’s need at short, but he’s hardly proven himself as a top flight shortstop to this point in his career.
It was difficult to see David Robertson leave to sign with the Chicago White Sox, particularly since there were no outward signs the team tried to keep him. Not sure what the team saw that we didn’t, but Robertson has proved he can pitch in the Bronx and that’s not an easy task…especially when you follow the footsteps of a Legend…
Despite the brevity of his Yankees career, I was disappointed when I heard the news that Martin Prado had been traded to the Miami Marlins. While I am hopeful that Rob Refsnyder grabs second base in spring training, there’s always the chance that neither he nor Jose Pirela will be successful. Prado provides great diversity to a roster. While I am not disappointed that Mark Teixeira will have a sorely needed legitimate backup in Garrett Jones, I am not quite sure what to think about starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi. I understand the potential is there, but it’s yet to be proven.
Robert Mayer – USA Today Sports
But probably the biggest sadness of the off-season occurred with the New Year’s first trade which saw the Yankees send once top prospect Manny Banuelos to the Atlanta Braves for relievers David Carpenter and Chasen Shreve. I can so remember when the “Killer B’s” (Banuelos, Dellin Betances and Andrew Brackman) were so highly touted and viewed as the future of the Yankees. Betances failed as a starting pitcher, but obviously, he resurrected his promise with brilliance in the bullpen and now looms as the likely new closer. Brackman was released a couple of years ago and is now out of baseball. Nevertheless, I still had hope that Banuelos would finally arrive. After Tommy John surgery in 2012/13, I expected him to struggle in 2014. Few pitchers are able to come back at an immediate high level. It takes time. There is still time for Banuelos to blossom. To the Yankees’ defense, there is always the chance he’ll never be what he could have been. I will still root for Banuelos, the Brave, and I do hope that he becomes the pitcher we thought he would be.
Mike James – AP Photo
As a Yankees fan, there are certain guys in the farm system that you follow closely. Granted, there has been a shortage of high level talent in the system, but still, you hold out hope that certain guys will become the next core of the team. Yet, in recent years, it has usually just ended in disappointment, with Banuelos being the latest. I can think of Eric Duncan, Cito Culver, Mason Williams, and Slade Heathcott as a few who have failed. The successes of players like Dellin Betances have been few and far between. So, perhaps that’s why GM Brian Cashman is shuffling the deck. But it’s hard not to say that this feels like a rebuilding program, rather than re-tooling. So, the two year play-off drought threatens to be more. I know, I know, if CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, and, eek!, Alex Rodriguez can return to form, the Yankees will be in the hunt. But that’s not a bet I would take. Of the players, I think, realistically, McCann is the only way who will bounce back. That means, with the roster as-is, the Yankee Stadium lights will be out in October.
I do have to add the usual caveat….I hope that I am WRONG!
So now, I look forward to the next wave of prospects making a difference. I am hopeful that guys like Aaron Judge, Luis Severino, Jacob Lindgren, Gary Sanchez, Ian Clarkin, and the aforementioned Rob Refsnyder are able to accomplish what so many in front of them have failed to do…wear the pride and pinstripes of baseball’s most storied franchise, the New York Yankees.
Here’s hoping for much happiness and success in 2015 for all!
We’re mediocre and we like it!…
I fully understand why the Yankees can’t field a starting rotation full of $25 million per year starters. I recognize that Max Scherzer is most likely cost prohibitive for even the rich Yankees. But my problem is the off-season of inactivity has me concerned about the prospects for 2015. I am glad the Yankees signed lefty reliever Andrew Miller and re-signed starting third baseman Chase Headley, but as it stands, the Yankees are not a better team today than the one who finished with 84 wins last season. Miller’s addition was offset by closer David Robertson’s departure, and Headley is a returnee.
Other guys who helped make a difference last year, like Brandon McCarthy and Francisco Cervelli, are no longer Yankees. The Yankees were wise not to pay McCarthy $48 million for four years, but he will still be missed. Cervelli brought lefty specialist Justin Wilson to the team and he’ll help in the bullpen, but it remains to be seen if John Ryan Murphy or Austin Romine can match his intensity as Brian McCann’s backup.
It’s difficult watching other teams make bold moves to improve while the Yankees sit idly by. If the Yankees are not in on Scherzer, then why are they not pursuing guys like Kris Medlen. Medlen was a very talented pitcher before he got hurt. There’s risk for the Kansas City Royals in signing Medlen today, however, there’s also very good upside potential. The Yankees’ preference was to re-sign #5 starter Chris Capuano who failed in Boston and was considering Japan when the Yankees called.
If the Yankees had a strong farm system with the upper levels stacked with major league ready talent it would be one thing, but that’s not the case. The best talent are years away from helping.
Honestly, if the Yankees are not going to try to win, I’d prefer to see them blow the team up and send the trade-able players away for quality prospects. A few 95 loss seasons for the chance to return to prominence would be preferable to an annual 85 win team that consistently comes up short in September.
Or better yet, I’d prefer to see the Steinbrenner family sell the team to someone who shares the understanding that George Steinbrenner had about the importance of successful Yankee teams.
The Yankees are not going to win with the current roster. Paying Alex Rodriguez nearly $30 million per year for the next three years has, so it seems, to have paralyzed the team’s finances. Mediocrity courtesy of A-Rod.
It’s almost comical when I hear players like Andrew Miller say that he joined the Yankees to win. With Team Mediocrity, the only winning he’ll see is going to the bank to deposit his paychecks.
Right now, the Yankees fan base seems very lethargic and disappointed. Maybe that’s just me, but the fan base needs to be energized. Management needs to do something to show the nation they are committed to being successful in 2015. We need something to energize us. I am not sure what it would take, but anything is better than nothing. Pinning your hopes on the good health of CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and others is simply a suicide mission.
There’s still time for the Steinbrenner boys to show Major League Baseball that they are still the Yankees. But each day of inactivity brings us closer to the inevitable season of disappointment. It’s funny, the person who may pay the price ultimately is manager Joe Girardi. If the Yankees continue the downward spiral, someone will have to be held accountable. Somehow, I don’t think it will be Hal or Hank Steinbrenner.
George, we miss you.
Filling a position of need…
Finally, there is life in the Bronx! Of course, it was only a matter of time given the needs of the team, but today was a day of large activity by the New York Yankees.
The morning was greeted with news that the Yankees had acquired shortstop Didi Gregorius from the Arizona Diamondbacks, shipping starting pitcher Shane Greene to the Detroit Tigers in a three-way trade. While it’s never good to relinquish young, controllable pitching talent, the price of a 4th or 5th starter (or possibly long reliever) in Greene to acquire a starting shortstop was a no-brainer.
Christian Peterson/Getty Images North America
Gregorius is not coming to the Bronx to replace Derek Jeter. He is merely the man who will be penciled into the slot created by the retirement of the future Hall of Famer. But truth be told, short looks so much better in the hands of a 25 year old than it would have with a 41 year old regardless of the achievements for the latter. Gregorius will bring good defense to an infield that needed help. He may not hit, but he’ll hit better than backup shortstop Brendan Ryan. He may be headed into the season as a platoon with Ryan (per Brian Cashman’s words earlier today), but Gregorius will have every opportunity to prove that the position is his. The Yankees are much better with his presence. Time will tell if he is a short or long term solution, but for now, he is an improvement over the speculated possibilities of Stephen Drew, Asdrubal Cabrera or Jed Lowrie.
SOMEONE had to take Jeter’s spot and it may as well be Didi.
With Greene’s departure, the obvious first question is whether this will motivate the Yankees to pursue Max Scherzer. While I would love the Yankees to pursue Jon Lester, it seems almost too late in the process for the Yankees to enter the picture since it has been speculated that Lester will choose his destination next week during the Winter Meetings.
My fear is that the Boston Red Sox will soon be touting both Lester and Cole Hamels in their starting rotation which is even more reason that the Yankees need a true ace at the top of their staff. Too many questions with the other starters so Scherzer is sorely needed.
It’s Miller Time!…
In the morning, it was also reported that reliever Andrew Miller would be deciding his selection today. Later, it was announced the Yankees were his choice. I wouldn’t say that they ‘won’ the bidding since technically, they were runner-up to the Houston Astros who offered more, but Miller felt the Yankees were the better destination. Of course, it helps that Miller makes his home in Tampa so it will be a short commute to spring training.
AP Photo/Winslow Townson
Miller’s signing makes the most sense if the Yankees can somehow re-sign closer David Robertson. The bullpen is so much stronger with the trio of Robertson, Dellin Betances and Miller than it is with Betances and Miller as co-closers. Given the shortcomings of the starting rotation, mastery of the 6th innings on will be crucial. I really like the thought of two powerful lefties in the pen (Miller and newcomer Justin Wilson, acquired earlier in the off-season from Pittsburgh). Of course, last year’s top draft selection, lefty reliever Jacob Lindgren is burning through the system and will be in the major league bullpen in the not so distant future. So, for a team that has struggled with finding dominant left-handed relief in recent years, they’ll soon be dealing with a position of strength. Manager Joe Girardi must be getting good night’s sleep these days.
I love the Baseball Winter Meetings. It is always my favorite time of the off-season. Of course, as a Yankees fan, my team is generally very active during the week. Last year’s flurry of acquiring Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran on the same day was such a rush. Kind of like today when the Yankees acquired Gregorius and Miller…
When they needed a manager, the Rays simply took the Cash…
Finally, the Tampa Bay Rays announced their new manager when they named former catcher Kevin Cash to the position.
I was a little surprised that the Rays are replacing perhaps baseball’s best manager with a guy who has never managed before. But Cash has been learning the craft under the watchful eye of Tito Francona in Cleveland as bullpen coach, and he brings the right amount of enthusiasm and intelligence to the position. Clearly, new Rays President Matt Silverman is trying to place his own stamp on the team. The best choice would have been to hire former Rays bench coach Dave Martinez but of course, that would have been a carryover from the Andrew Friedman-Joe Maddon regime. All things considered, I am glad that Martinez was able to slide over to the Chicago Cubs to continue his role as bench coach for Maddon.
It will be interesting to see how Cash does. It’s interesting that he can claim World Series rings with both the Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. Now, he’ll see those teams routinely as a member of the AL East. Hopefully, he does well and his stay in St Petersburg is long and mutually rewarding. Well so long as it doesn’t involve any AL East or World Series championships.
The next week should be interesting regardless of what happens. The Yankees have awakened from their slumber…
How to build an 80-win team…
The Boston Red Sox have gotten stronger with the recent additions of Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, and most likely, the re-signing of their former ace Jon Lester in the coming weeks. The Toronto Blue Jays quietly signed catcher Russell Martin (a significant upgrade over Dioner Navarro) and last night, pulled off a major trade for arguably one of the best third basemen in the game in Josh Donaldson of the Oakland A’s. The cost for Donaldson was Brett Lawrie and prospects. Given Lawrie’s inability to stay healthy, this trade provides further enhancement for a team that has held promise for a few years.
Lance Iversen, The Chronicle
Then there’s the Baltimore Orioles. They may not have made any big moves but they are still the AL East champs until proven otherwise.
I am not sure what’s going on with the Tampa Bay Rays. They will be losing a great potential manager in bench coach Dave Martinez when they finally name a replacement for Joe Maddon and the team no longer has the feeling of eternal optimism that it had when Maddon and former GM Andrew Friedman were running the show. So, we’ll leave them out of the equation.
So, clearly, the Blue Jays and Red Sox are determined to challenge the Orioles’ hold on the division championship. Meanwhile, in the Bronx, just crickets…
Last winter, the Yankees were quiet at the beginning of the off-season but then launched a flurry of signings in December that netted Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Carlos Beltran. It was a lot of money, but it still had the feeling the money could have been better spent. Of course, if the Yankees would have just paid Russell Martin a few years ago rather than allow him to leave as a free agent, the Yankees could have gotten him much cheaper than the deal they signed McCann to (or the one Martin ultimately signed with the Jays). Ellsbury is a known risk given his injury risk. He held up fairly well in his first season in pinstripes, and I like having him on the team. But the truth is the Yankees had a center fielder on the roster at the time in Brett Gardner and would have been better served going after a bat for left field. Beltran has been a great major leaguer but his age simply does not bode well for staying healthy.
Now, I could write major concerns with Ramirez and Sandoval, but the Red Sox are dealing from a position of strength and have loosened some major league players, combined with quality prospects, to make a major trade to further strengthen the team (such as a move for the Philadelphia Phillies ace Cole Hamels). The Yankees last year were just trying to fill holes.
I am surprised that the Yankees have not been linked in any way with star free agents Jon Lester and Max Scherzer. Clearly, either one would immediately enhance the Yankees’ chances in 2015. They need to find answers for other positions (third base, shortstop and the bullpen) but a high end rotation is a must for any team to succeed. As it stands, there are too many questions with Masahiro Tanaka’s elbow, Michael Pineda’s ability to stay healthy or if CC Sabathia is riding the major downslope of his career.
The Yankees need to sign either Scherzer or Lester, and retain the free agent trio of Brandon McCarthy, Chase Headley, and David Robertson. With this off-season of inactivity, it feels like the Yankees are going to lose out on all of the above. At least today, two days after Thanksgiving.
I remain hopeful that Rob Refsnyder wins the second base job in spring training. As for shortstop, the easiest solution is to re-sign Stephen Drew. It’s really too bad that the organization was unable to develop a high level shortstop prospect in time for Derek Jeter’s departure. Jorge Mateo looks like a strong possibility but he’s years away from being ready for the major league level. So, the Yankees are best served finding a short-term solution like Drew and hope for a bounce back year with a full training camp. I’d prefer that over a trade that could potentially cost what high level talent the Yankees do have in the upper levels of the minor league system.
If the Yankees do nothing, they’ll be battling the Rays for last place. If they merely try to fill holes with cheaper alternatives, they’ll still be cellar rats. Something has to give….soon.
I agree with Hal Steinbrenner when he says that you don’t need a $200 million payroll to win but the Yankees roster as currently constructed is not championship-caliber in my opinion. Too much risk and uncertainty, and players who’ve seen their better days. Alex Rodriguez is such a huge albatross and it’s a shame that he is now the “face” of the team.
Hopefully, Brian Cashman and the Steinbrenner boys have a plan in place that is driven for success and not merely a bean counter’s approach to fielding a team.
Time will tell, as it often does (as the saying goes)…