|Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)|
Now arriving at Steinbrenner Field…everybody!
Today is the full reporting date for the New York Yankees with the arrival of all remaining position players. It’s an exciting day for the Yankees Universe as the Pinstripers begin preparations for what hopefully will lead to the 28th World Championship for MLB’s most storied franchise and our favorite team.
Even though the Yankees were not in the news, it was a very active Saturday night around Major League Baseball last evening.
The evening started with news that the Tampa Bay Rays had acquired first baseman/DH C.J. Cron from the Los Angeles Angels. The Cron move, from the Angels perspective, makes sense. Shohei Otani is expected to take DH time away from Albert Pujols, which will force Pujols to play more first base than he did last year (143 games at DH, 6 games at first). Luis Valbuena has the ability to handle both infield corners, whereas Cron was strictly 1B/DH, making the latter the more expendable of the two. I honestly do not understand the move from the Rays perspective. They have a need at first base given that Lucas Duda and Logan Morrison, last year’s first basemen, are both currently free agents and not expected to re-sign with the Rays. But to make room for Cron, they designated outfielder Corey Dickerson, the Rays’ sole representative on last year’s AL All-Star team, for assignment. Dickerson hit .282 last season with 27 home runs and 62 RBI’s (carrying a respectable .815 OPS). The Rays either have a specific trade in mind or they know they have good trade alternatives to consider for Dickerson who will never see the waiver wire.
The Rays weren’t finished. They followed the Cron trade by sending starter Jake Odorizzi to the Minnesota Twins for shortstop Jermaine Palacios. While I did not want a fly ball pitcher like Odorizzi pitching for the Yankees at Yankee Stadium, I was surprised by the low cost for Minnesota to acquire the pitcher. Zack Littell, one of the prospects that the Yankees sent to the Twins in last year’s head-scratching trade for Jaime Garcia, is rated significantly higher among prospects in the Twins organization than Palacios. Good move by the Twins, but apparently, Tampa Bay Rays GM Erik Neander was drunk-dialing his friends last night. His first words this morning probably were, “OMG, I did what?” Maybe Yankees GM Brian Cashman should have called Neander last night to ask about Chris Archer.
The evening was capped by the long-awaited and much-anticipated free agent signing of first baseman Eric Hosmer by the San Diego Padres. Hosmer joins the now bearded former Yankee Chase Headley in lovely San Diego. Hosmer’s deal has two components. 5 years guaranteed for $105 million, with an opt-in for an additional 3 years and $39 million after 2022. Agent Scott Boras ensured that the contract was front-loaded for his client in what has been a very stagnant free agent market. The Hosmer signing has ramifications for several other players. Hosmer was viewed as a potential fall-back for the Boston Red Sox if they are unsuccessful in their stare-down with free agent outfielder J.D. Martinez. The move also increases the likelihood Mike Moustakas re-signs with the Kansas City Royals. The Royals preferred Hosmer over Moustakas but now that Hosmer is off the table, the Royals will most likely attempt to bring back Moose Tacos, eliminating any thoughts that the third baseman might accept a one year pillow contract with the Yankees.
It’s only been a few days but I am very impressed with how Gleyber Torres has handled himself this spring. He’s so young (21) but he shows maturity beyond his years. He has made a very strong effort to converse in English which is never an easy thing to do. Most of us raised with English as our primary language struggle with it. Torres wants to make the Opening Day roster but he has stated he would understand if he has to go to the minors to start the season. His words, from what I’ve seen, are team-oriented and not selfish like some players. He is my favorite to be the Yankees starting second baseman, either on Opening Day or within a few weeks after the season has started. Even though the Yankees have publicly stated that service time will not be a consideration, I am convinced the Yankees, given a choice, would wait to start Gleyber’s service time clock to delay free agency by a year. He is an exciting player and once he grabs second base, he’ll be a long-term fixture in the Bronx.
|Photo Credit: New York Post (Charles Wenzelberg)|
It may be inevitable that Manny Machado and the Yankees join forces after the season, but I have reservations. Manny will head into the season as Baltimore’s starting shortstop, his preferred position, and is making comments that he expects to player there for a very long time. According to Machado, “This is where my heart has always been, this is what I’ve wanted to do. This is what I’ve always wanted to do. This what I came into this world to do — to play shortstop at the big league level. Finally, Buck and the Baltimore organization are giving me the opportunity to go out there and do what I can at that position and show myself. That’s been my dream all along. I’m really looking forward to it.” Machado added, “Once I do it this year, it’s not something that’s just switching off. I’m making the transition. Hopefully, I want to stay there and continue doing it. This is where my heart has always been. Finally getting an opportunity to do it for a full season. I’m looking forward to it, and hopefully I can continue playing [shortstop] for a long time.” I’ve seen comments say the Yankees would/should move Didi Gregorius to third base to accommodate Machado. I am sorry but that’s not a price I think the Yankees should pay. Didi has earned the right to be the team’s starting shortstop. He’s such a team guy that I am sure he’d make the move if asked, but why should he? I like Machado but there are other options. I really hope that Miguel Andujar grabs third base this year and runs with it, eliminating the need for Machado. The plan for next offseason should not be ‘Machado or Bust’ unless he recognizes that the only path to the Bronx is and should be third base. Andujar has the ability to make this entire issue moot.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jonathan Daniel)|
Here are the number assignments for the Yankees coaching staff (thanks to Bryan Hoch of MLB.com):
17-Aaron Boone, Manager
59-Josh Bard, Bench Coach
60-Mike Harkey, Bullpen Coach
64-Carlos Mendoza, Infield Coordinator/Quality Control Coach
53-Phil Nevin, Third Base Coach
63-P.J. Pilittere, Assistant Hitting Coach
58-Larry Rothschild, Pitching Coach
62-Marcus Thames, Hitting Coach
50-Reggie Willits, First Base Coach/Outfield Instructor
It’s going to be fun to watch the coming days at Steinbrenner Field. Granted, it will be a disappointment if this year’s team falls short of its quest for a World Championship, but the ride is going to be magnificent. Welcome Yankees, one and all! Let’s get to work.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images|
|Photo Credit: New York Post (Charles Wenzelberg)|
It’s Stanton Time…
It is hard to believe (still) but Giancarlo Stanton is close to taking the field as a member of the New York Yankees. I’ve enjoyed seeing the early camp photos of Aaron Judge, Didi Gregorius, Gary Sanchez, Gleyber Torres, Miguel Andujar, Greg Bird and other position players ahead of Sunday’s reporting deadline, but clearly, the appearance I’ve been waiting for the most is the arrival of Giancarlo Cruz Michael Stanton.
|Photo Credit: Patrick Hennessy, via Twitter @TrueHennessy|
Stanton indicated that he arrived early to take everything in and adjust to the time zone since he’s a “West Coast Guy”. Regardless of his reasons, I am ready to see him on the field with his new teammates sooner rather than later.
Based on his words, Stanton understands the goal in the Bronx. Per Bryan Hoch of MLB.com on the expectation of winning, Stanton said “It’s huge. I’ve never been able to experience that at this level. This is a level I’ve worked toward my whole life and never been able to experience that, so I’m really excited for that aspect.” Yes, we are too. Hoch went on to say Stanton added there is curiosity about how many homers he and Judge can hit, but “We can’t worry about expectations when the main goal is to win. If our expectations help us win, then it doesn’t really matter what the numbers are.” But c’mon, all of us want to see massive numbers between these two. Triple-digit homers traveling many, many miles will be just fine.
Good times in the Yankees Universe!
Other Spring Notes…
Now that pitchers and catchers have reported to all camps, we’re starting to see movement in the free agent market.
In moves that indirectly impact the Yankees, the Boston Red Sox re-signed infielder Eduardo Nunez (pending a physical) and the Toronto Blue Jays signed lefty Jaime Garcia. Nunez might have been a nice cog to use for support in transitioning the rookies at second and third, but he’s not a great defender and seems somewhat injury prone so it was no loss to the Yankees in my opinion. I never heard any interest with the Yankees bringing back Garcia but no doubt I would have preferred him in a spot start over Luis Cessa. While Garcia is an average starter at best, I’m sure he’ll throw a no-hitter against the Yankees now. Seriously, I wish him well in Toronto but I am okay with the Yankees decision to let him go. The only negative is the loss of the pitching prospects that the Yankees sent to the Minnesota Twins (Zack Littell and Dietrich Enns) last year for Garcia. I liked the work Littell had done in the minor leagues last year prior to the trade.
At this point, the only veteran free agent infielder that appeals to me is Neil Walker. I’d love for Mike Moustakas to sign a one-year “pillow” contract but realistically it is not going to happen. The Yankees are committed to keeping payroll under the $197 million threshold and I think the loss of $1 million in international bonus pool money represents a bigger detriment to the Yankees than the loss of the second and fifth round draft picks. Last month, Baseball America named the Yankees as one of three teams favored to sign soon-to-be free agent outfielder Julio Pablo Martinez from Cuba. If the Yankees truly have interest in Martinez, they won’t sacrifice international bonus pool money for a one year of Moustakas. The Yankees have limited space available for the current 2017-18 signing period so they’d be looking at July 2nd for the next signing period once Martinez is declared a free agent by MLB. The only way the Yankees could justify losing the draft picks and the international bonus pool money would be a long-term contract for Moose Tacos and that’s simply not going to happen as we await the eventual expected landing of Manny Machado in the Bronx.
We are just one week away from the first Spring game. The Yankees open the Grapefruit League schedule with a 1:05 pm EST matchup at Steinbrenner Field next Friday against their “fight opponent” from last July, the Detroit Tigers. No doubt that the players will be much calmer than their last meeting and the managers involved are long gone. Boonie, please be sure to hand Giancarlo a bat next Friday. We need some action photos of the big guy going deep in Yankees gear. I am tired of these Marlins pics…
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Drew Hallowell)|
My thoughts for Opening Day Starting Pitcher
Last year, we knew almost immediately when training camp began who would get the Opening Day pitching assignment. New manager, new coaching staff, and a down year from the 2016 staff ace leave the decision a little more up in the air this year.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Tom Szczerbowski)|
Let’s break down the candidates:
The unquestioned (and surprising) leader of the 2017 Yankees Rotation. Sevy shared the team lead of 14 wins with CC Sabathia (he had a 14-6 record with 2.98 ERA in 31 games started covering 193 1/3 innings pitched). Severino also struck out 230 batters. He finished third in the AL Cy Young voting behind Corey Kluber and Chris Sale. If the decision is based solely on stats, Sevy is your man.
The “recognized” staff ace had an uncharacteristic 2017 compared to prior seasons. His record was 13-12 with 4.74 ERA, however, he finished the year strong and was 2-1 with 0.90 ERA in the post-season against the Cleveland Indians and Houston Astros. His body of work for his four-year Yankees career (52-28, 3.56 ERA, 668 1/3 innings pitched, 30 starts) attests to his stature and continued rank as a leader of the staff. Personally, I feel that we’ll see a more normalized Tanaka in 2018, pitching closer to his pre-2017 numbers.
Okay, if we go solely on the basis of the body of work, Sabathia is the clear and undisputed leader as the most tenured member of the pitching staff. 120-73 in nine years as a New York Yankee, with a 3.75 ERA in 1,657 2/3 innings pitched. In 2017, CC was 14-5 with 3.69 ERA in 27 games started (148 2/3 innings pitched). If the decision for Opening Day starter is Lifetime Achievement Award, Sabathia is the choice. This is probably a sentimental choice as it could be Sabathia’s final year in Pinstripes depending upon how the season goes.
While it is possible that Gray may someday be an Opening Day starter for the Yankees, this is not the year. Sonny appeared in only 11 games for the games following the trading deadline deal that brought him to New York last year. He was 4-7 with 3.72 ERA over 65 1/3 innings. Granted, he didn’t get much run support but he also did not help his own cause as he pitched better in Oakland than he did in the Bronx. Gray’s goal for this year will be to set himself up Opening Day in a future season.
He was just a rookie. No offense to Monty but he is the fifth starter until proven otherwise. He finished 8-7 with 4.07 ERA in 29 games started over 155 1/3 innings pitched. He did an admirable job as the fifth starter; much better than Luis Severino did the year before.
This is a tough decision. I think that any of the top three (Severino, Tanaka and Sabathia) would make an excellent choice for Opening Day starter. Severino is probably viewed the current staff ace by most, but Tanaka has put up good numbers collectively over the past four years. Sabathia would be a wonderful choice to recognize how much the man has meant to the Yankees. For me, I’d probably go with Severino as the future face (or ace, however you want to look at it) of the rotation but with all sincerity none of the three would be a bad choice in my humble opinion.
Prior to the season, I was saying the Yankees should move veteran outfielder Brett Gardner. Now, fourteen games into the 2017 season, I am more convinced than ever he should be moved. Granted, it is not his fault that he turns 34 on August 24th (I personally blame his parents) but he does not fit into the long-term view for the new and improved New York Yankees.
For the season, Gardner is batting .205 with no home runs or RBI’s. He has stolen five bags but all things considered, his production is replaceable. The Yankees need to find room to consistently start fourth outfielder Aaron Hicks. Hicks, 27, has shown he can be a productive hitter when he regularly knows that he’ll be in the lineup. For the season, Hicks has much better numbers than Gardner (outside of the total stolen bases). Hicks has received 15 less at-bats than Gardner but only has two less hits. Hicks has three home runs on the year, with eight RBI’s. His two stolen base attempts ended in failure but regardless, Hicks has been the better player. Even though he hasn’t put up the numbers for AAA Scranton/Wilkes Barre-Barre this month, I think Mason Williams, 25, is a very capable fourth outfielder.
I would love to unload center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury but with his contract, he’s not going anywhere. We’re four years into his 7-year, $153 million contract and at this point, there’s nothing he can do for redemption (at least not in my eyes). He is what he is, and he’ll never be more, and he’ll never be that dude who tore up the league for the Boston Red Sox in 2011. That was his Brady Anderson year. Chained to Ellsbury for the foreseeable future, it means that Hicks would need to play either left or right. Aaron Judge is the awakening Giant in right so he’s not going anywhere. That only leaves left field. It makes the most sense to move Gardner and begin the outfield youth movement with full intensity. Gardner’s been a good Yankee so slap him on the back, give him a watch, and send him on his way.
I suppose the opposing point of view is that Ellsbury will be hurt at some point and it will be necessary to slide Gardner to center, creating a left field opening. At some point this season, the Yankees need to begin placing higher value in Dustin Fowler as the center fielder of the future unless they plan to discard Fowler (a mistake in my opinion) to make way for Jorge Mateo. I wish Mateo was closer to the Majors so that he could force a competition but at this point, Fowler will be ready much sooner. Since Mateo is still learning the position, he is much further behind Fowler than just levels in the Minor Leagues.
I wouldn’t want to over-expose Matt Holliday but he could still play left occasionally in a pinch. As former Yankee Lee Mazzilli once said (regrettably), “Left field is a position for idiots”. Not trying to demean the position, but there are others in the organization that can play the position as back up for Hicks, Ellsbury, and Judge. There always seems to be fourth outfielders readily available as free agents or ones that could easily (and cheaply) be had. I am not worried about the outfield depth. As we move deeper and deeper into the season, guys like Clint Frazier move closer to potential callups.
It’s time to move Gardy. Maybe not this exact minute but no later than July if not sooner.
Now that I’ve ripped Gardner for the day, he will probably go on a hitting tear.
Why is it that the best Yankees beat writers always move on? I remember loving the work of Peter Abraham on the LoHud Yankees Blog, and these days he is a Red Sox beat writer for the Boston Globe. I get it, he’s a Boston guy so it was an opportunity to go home. Then, I loved reading Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News and listening to his podcasts. Now, he is a writer for MLB.com writing about, Egads!, other teams. Or Marc Carig of The Star Ledger moving from the Yankees to the Mets. Next, you’ll probably tell me that Brendan Kuty or Bryan Hoch have found other things they’d like to do. Sorry, just my rant about losing Feinsand. I enjoyed his time as the Yankees beat writer for the Daily News.
The win streak ends at eight. Bummer. Usually, when a starting pitcher goes eight innings and only allows three hits and strikes out ten, the end result is a win. But on a night when the other team’s starter was a wee bit better and the Yankee bats were quiet, Luis Severino took the loss as the Yankees fell to the Chicago White Sox, 4-1. The Yankees had a chance at the end with the winning run at the plate, but Aaron Judge grounded into a force out to end the game. A grand slam would have been so cool at that moment.
The Yanks still have the chance to take the series when the teams meet for the third and final time this evening.
Tuesday evening turned out to be a double loss as top prospect Gleyber Torres was scratched from the lineup for AA Trenton Thunder due to biceps tendonitis. He will undergo a MRI to determine the extent of the injury. Hopefully, the news will be favorable.
James Kaprielian underwent successful Tommy John surgery on Tuesday, so now the long road to recovery begins.
Have a great Wednesday! I think it’s time to start a new winning streak!