Nearing the End of the Off-Season…
Two months from tomorrow, Gerrit Cole will be taking the mound in Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland, wearing the Yankee road grays and ready to throw his first official pitch as a member of Major League Baseball’s most storied franchise. Life is good.
I guess I should slow down and just be excited for the opening of Spring Training in less than three weeks. It will be fun to see activity at Steinbrenner Field again. I always love the first televised games of the Spring even if we don’t get to see very much of our favorite players. The interviews with players as they arrive at camp. The informal and subsequent formal workouts as the players get ready for the 2020 season. It’s just great to see those Spring pics of the Yankee rotation starters throwing bullpen sessions side-by-side. I look forward to the first pic featuring Gerrit Cole, Luis Severino, James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka. Yankees baseball, I love it.
But first, congratulations to Derek Jeter for his election to MLB’s Hall of Fame. Although expected, the announcement of his election this week was very exciting and it was so great to hear Jeter talk as a former Yankee great rather than as the CEO of the Miami Marlins. I was convinced prior to the announcement there would be voters who would choose not to vote for Jeter so I never held the expectation he should be a unanimous selection but I’ll admit it was a bit disappointing there was just a single dissenting vote. Honestly, I don’t really care to ever find out who the voter was. I hope he had legitimate reasons for his choices although I cannot imagine what they would possibly be. Jeter was clearly the best candidate on this year’s ballot. Regardless, Jeter goes in with the second highest percentage (99.7%) ever with 396 of 397 votes. Once you’re in, it doesn’t matter if you got in with 99.7% or if you barely did it with 76.6% like Larry Walker. Walker (I am very happy about his election) is no less a Hall of Famer than Jeter. For Jeter, it has been great to hear his stories and how he still feels today that Yankee fans are the best in the World. There’s a part of me that kind of wishes the Steinbrenner family could have found a place for Jeter in the Yankees organization for his post-playing career but I suppose they were never going to sell him a stake in the team like he has in Miami. Jeter has reminded us this week of why he was such a special player in New York.
Credit: Mark Ulriksen, The New Yorker
It will be exciting this summer (July 26th) when Jeter is officially inducted into the Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, New York. No doubt guys like Jorge Posada, Tino Martinez, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera will be there. An encore musical performance by Bernie Williams, who played last year, would be nice.
Photo Credit: Bebeto Matthews, AP
I am probably softening on my stance against Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds. I am not condoning PED use, but they were two great players before the suspected PED involvement. There are worse guys in the Hall of Fame. Clemens and Bonds are running out of time and did not really make up much ground this year. With Clemens and Bonds receiving 61.0% and 60.7% of the votes this year, they would have needed 156 and 157 more votes, respectively, to have made it into the Hall of Fame. That seems like a tall order with just two years of eligibility left. But if these two can’t get in, there’s no way for Alex Rodriguez who becomes eligible in 2022.
Nice recovery by the New York Mets who stayed in-house when they named Felipe Alou’s son Luis Rojas as their new manager replacing Carlos Beltran. Although Rojas is not the “name” Beltran was, I think he is better positioned to be a successful manager. As a long-time member of the Mets organization, he has extensive minor league managerial experience. Assuming Hensley Meulens does not get the Boston job, he’ll provide good experience for Rojas as the team’s bench coach. For as dysfunctional as the Mets can be, this was a good move, in my opinion. I am not really sure why Meulens keeps getting bypassed. I think he’d be a good manager but it would suck to see him go to the Boston Red Sox so I hope he gets bypassed one more time before getting his opportunity.
I have no clue what the Red Sox are going to do. On paper, they still have a very good team. Everybody seems quick to dismiss them but they have the players capable of making noise in the AL East. They’d be weakened if the rumored trade of Mookie Betts happens but if they hold onto him, the AL East will be no cakewalk for the Yankees. Boston’s famed Truck Day is February 3rd so you’d think they would have a manager in place by then. I think Buck Showalter would be an outstanding choice for them but like Meulens, I’d hate to see Buck go there. Even though he’d be a good manager, I am hopeful the Sox elevate bench coach Ron Roenicke to the post. Jason Varitek seems like the eventual manager so it would be wise for them to open a spot on the coaching staff for Tek and let Roenicke groom him for the position.
I thought it was funny this week to see the Houston Astros are going to interview Brad Ausmus. After stints in Detroit and Anaheim, he has proven he is not a very good manager. I know he was a long-time Astro but his selection as manager would probably be a great thing for Yankee fans. The Astros, if they are serious about putting the cheating scandal behind them and naming a guy who can rebuild their credibility, should go with either Showalter or Dusty Baker.
Back to the Yankees, I think we’re ready to go. There will be no trades for Josh Hader, Francisco Lindor or Nolan Arenado. I’ve been hoping for some under-the-radar minor league signings of high upside players but even that is probably not going to happen. They signed a few catchers to minor league deals (Erik Kratz, Chris Iannetta, and John Mazza) to bring catching depth to camp. Former Mets reliever Luis Avilan, 30, was signed to a minor league contract and is presumably a potential replacement for the departed Stephen Tarpley although the significance of a lefty specialist was diminished with this year’s installation of the minimum three batter rule.
The only change I see with the roster between now and Opening Day is the potential trade of J.A. Happ. I still think it happens. I can’t see the Yankees taking Happ and his contract into the regular season with a chance to reach the innings threshold to activate his 2021 option. If they mess with his innings pitched by pulling him out of the rotation at times, that’s not really fair to Happ. I think best case scenario, which would help the team from a luxury tax standpoint, would be to move Happ now rather than wait. The deeper we go into the season with Happ, the greater percentage of his 2020 salary, $17 million, going against team payroll for luxury tax purposes. I suppose the Yankees want to see where Jordan Montgomery is at in Spring Training but I continue to believe Happ will be wearing another uniform by Opening Day.
The other guy who has to go is Clint Frazier. Now with the talk about Miguel Andujar being asked to learn first base and left field, it would further diminish opportunities for Frazier. There are things I don’t like about Clint but he remains a talented player and I think he would strongly benefit from a change of scenery. I get the argument you’d be selling low on the player but I do not see any positives for stashing Frazier in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for another year. You want to see players in the best possible position to succeed and sadly I feel that time has passed for Frazier with the Yankees.
It’s funny but in interviews, I think I’ve heard Manager Aaron Boone talk more about “Mendy” (new bench coach Carlos Mendoza) than he ever talked about his friend and former bench coach Josh Bard (who returned to his role as bullpen coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers). I am excited about what Mendy brings to the bench in his new role. He also inherits the role as organizer of Spring Training activities (which always reminds me of former Yankees coach and now Phillies bench coach Rob Thomson who ran Yankees camp for years). A popular coach, I think this is an underrated and very positive move for the Yankees.
Speaking of the Phillies, I have to say it sucked this week when I saw this image on Sir Didi’s Twitter account courtesy of MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch:
Lastly, I want to say thanks to Mike Fiers. I know he is going to take much heat this year as the whistleblower of the Houston Astros cheating scandal but if he had not stepped forward, it’s not like the Astros were going to self-police and report themselves. Houston cost the Yankees potential opportunities to advance to the World Series through fraudulent measures. Fiers was the guy Yankee fans loved to hate. His infamy grew as the guy who threw the pitch in September 2014 that shattered Giancarlo Stanton’s face. But I honestly hope he gets cheers from the fans for his role in bringing light to the Houston cheaters. Also, congrats to Dallas Keuchel for taking accountability yesterday. I know his words were a little watered down but I appreciate his proactiveness and accountability, something that guys like Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve seemingly cannot comprehend.
When Spring Training opens, I do feel that former Astro Gerrit Cole needs to address the media regarding any knowledge he may have had. While I do not feel the pitchers were directly involved (including the despised Justin Verlander), the topic is the elephant in the room and Cole needs to be open and honest about what he does or does not know. I remain very excited that Cole is a Yankee but he does not get a free pass simply because he is a Yankee.
As always, Go Yankees!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As always, Go Yankees!
So Far, So Good…
Two games into the 162-game schedule and life in the Yankees Universe is fantastic. Okay, we’re not going to win every game and of course winning only 60% of the remaining games would be a stellar regular season but it’s fun to open the year with successive wins.
|Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)|
The Opener was a perfect day for Yankees fans and new Manager Aaron Boone. It couldn’t have been scripted better with the superior work of ace Luis Severino, the bullpen (particularly Chad Green with three strikeouts against the four batters he faced), and the bat of Giancarlo Stanton. Stanton’s two home runs were the talk of the game but it was a great team victory from top to bottom. The only blemish was the solo home run that Dellin Betances allowed to Kevin Pillar when he entered the game in the bottom of the 8th en route to the 6-1 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays.
Yesterday’s game was a little tougher for Boone. The big guns (Aaron Judge, Stanton, and Gary Sanchez) were a combined 0-for-12 with four strikeouts, but in the end it did not really matter. Batting clean-up for the first time this season, Didi Gregorius was 2-for-3 with 2 runs scored on two extra-base hits. Getting thrown out at the plate with no outs was the only negative for an otherwise tremendous day for Sir Didi. The big bats belonged to the bottom of the order with the 8th and 9th hitters, Brandon Drury and Tyler Wade. Drury had two RBIs on a single and a double, while Wade had a two-run double. I groaned when Masahiro Tanaka gave up a home run (fortunately with the bases empty) to former St Louis Cardinal Randall Grichuk in the 2nd inning but it was only one of three hits Tanaka allowed over the course of 79 pitches and six innings of work. The Yankees won the game, 4-2, to earn no less than a split of the four-game series pending the outcome of the next two games in Toronto.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Tom Szczerbowski)|
What can you say about the debut performances of Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka? Collectively, they pitched 11 2/3 innings, allowing only 4 hits, one run, 3 walks, and 15 strikeouts. They’ve set the bar high for the rest of the starting rotation. I am sure that no one wants to be the first to implode.
The bullpen has been outstanding, as usual and as expected, despite the homer Betances gave up or the run-scoring double Aroldis Chapman allowed last night. Both guys were able to finish the job without assistance and will no doubt prove to be their dominant selves for the course of the long season. Chad Green, Tommy Kahnle, and David Robertson showed why this is Baseball’s best bullpen. I am sure that Chasen Shreve, Adam Warren and Jonathan Holder are itching for their 2018 premieres and should take the mound today and/or tomorrow.
I saw an interesting fact yesterday when it was mentioned that the Blue Jays featured more members of 2011 Yankees Opening Day lineup in their batting order than the Yankees did. Looking back at the March 31, 2011 game that saw Joba Chamberlain pick up the win in relief of CC Sabathia for the Yankees’ 6-3 win over the Detroit Tigers, the starting lineup featured the following guys:
Brett Gardner, LF (Yankees LF/CF)
Derek Jeter, SS (Marlins CEO)
Mark Teixeira, 1B (Retired, Baseball Analyst)
Alex Rodriguez, 3B (Retired, Baseball Analyst)
Robinson Cano, 2B (Mariners 2B)
Nick Swisher, RF (Retired, Highly Wired)
Jorge Posada, DH (Retired, Humanitarian)
Curtis Granderson, CF (Blue Jays LF)
Russell Martin, C (Blue Jays C)
This seems like so long ago. I enjoyed the Grandy Man and Martin during their time in Pinstripes but I am glad that they are Blue Jays today. Hopefully Sabathia picks up another win seven years later to the day.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images|
I am not going to read too much into a 2-0 start given that there are still 160 games to be played, but I am glad the Yankees are faring much better than the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers have opened the season by scoring no runs over 18 innings and have lost two heart-breaking 1-0 losses to one of baseball’s worst teams last season (the San Francisco Giants) on two solo homers by second baseman (and New York native) Joe Panik. While the Dodgers may not be “Paniking”, I’d rather be 2-0 than 0-2. Watching the Dodgers bat in the bottom of the 9th last evening showed how deep and special the Yankees lineup truly is. After the Giants had homered against Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen to take the lead in the scoreless battle, the Dodgers sent 39-year-old Chase Utley and Logan Forsythe to the plate in the bottom of the 9th for the rally attempt. Both Utley and Forsythe left their bats on their shoulders for called third strikes. Joc Pedersen, a good but inconsistent hitter, pinch hit for Jansen. He weakly popped up in foul territory to end the game. With no offense to the fine career Utley has had, I’d much rather have Brandon Drury and Tyler Wade at the bottom of the lineup any day of the week.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images|
It didn’t take too long for the Yankees depth to be tested. In a surprise move yesterday, the Yankees placed center fielder Aaron Hicks on the 10-day DL before the game with an intercostal muscle strain. Hicks was not happy with the move as he felt he’d be fine with a few days rest but the Yankees are notoriously conservative when it comes to potential injuries. It was a great story to see outfielder Billy McKinney get his unexpected Major League debut. He woke up in Tampa on Friday morning, thinking about the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders season opener in a week, only to find out that he had a mid-day flight to Toronto to catch. By the end of the evening, he had collected his first Major League hit. I couldn’t help but think of Dustin Fowler’s horrific debut last year with the devastating knee injury, but the results were much better for McKinney. He was only 1-for-4 but it’s nice to get that first hit out of the way. He had a few good defensive plays in left as well. After the game, McKinney said that ball for the first hit would go to his parents. A very classy move by the 23-year-old.
MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch posted an interesting stat that McKinney is only the second Yankee since 1956 to make his MLB debut in the starting lineup within the first two games of the season. The last Yankee do it was Hideki Matsui on this date in 2003, also in Toronto against the Blue Jays. Like McKinney, Matsui had a hit in four at-bats but Godzilla did knock in a run in a game that saw Rogers Clemens defeat former Blue Jays great Roy Halladay.
McKinney’s stay with the big league club figures to be short. Jacoby Ellsbury is eligible to come off the DL next Thursday so it’s likely that McKinney will be playing in next Friday’s season opener for the RailRiders at PNC Field in Moosic, PA against the Syracuse Chiefs. But for now, McKinney gets to play and make an impression for our favorite team. It sure beats working out at Minor League Camp in Tampa. Welcome to the Show, Billy!
|Photo Credit: The New York Post (Corey Sipkin)|
For Yankees fans, like me, who had hoped Aaron Hicks would stay healthy for an entire season, it is not a great start. But at least it sounds like he’ll be able to return as soon as he is eligible. We’ll see. Hicks must prove he deserves our trust and support. As frustrated as I get with the health of Hicks, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Greg Bird, I feel badly for Toronto and their fans. Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki remains one of the game’s best but the guy can’t stay on the field. Every year, it’s something. The latest setback was this week when it was announced that Tulo would need surgery on both ankles to remove bone spurs. Very sad for the talented player who can’t seem to get or stay healthy. So, I guess the Yankees are not the only team to get Ellsbury’d on a routine basis.
Great tweet by Brendan Kuty of NJ Advance Media this morning: “I mean, how do you bet against Aaron Boone? He’s never lost.” True statement.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Tom Szczerbowski)|
Today, CC Sabathia takes the mound against Blue Jays fan favorite Marco Estrada. I guess you could say that it is a battle of former Milwaukee Brewers. May the 6’6” left-hander and 2008 Brewer emerge victorious!
|Photo Credit: The Record (Kevin R Wexler)|
Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)
Next Stop, Toronto Pearson International Airport…
We should begin seeing some whittling down of bodies at Steinbrenner Field soon so it got me thinking about the Yankees’ Opening Day roster. March 29th, and a date with the Toronto Blue Jays, is only three weeks away so the regular season will be upon us before we know it.
Count me among those who do not place much stock in Miguel Andujar’s slew of home runs against mostly Double-A pitching. I think Andujar will make a contribution this year, perhaps a significant one, but I do not feel that he’ll head to Toronto with the team after they play their final Spring game in Atlanta against the Braves. My guess is that he spends more time with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to work on his defensive game.
Here is my projection for the Opening Day Roster (with starting position players in italics).
Rest of the Pen
Aaron Judge, RF
Brett Gardner, LF
Aaron Hicks, CF
Giancarlo Stanton, DH
The guess is Judge will be exclusively a right-fielder and DH, with Stanton primarily filling the DH role but covering both outfield corner positions dependent upon the ballpark. When (not if) Ellsbury gets hurt (assuming that he recovers from the right oblique strain in time for Opening Day), Clint Frazier gets the first look as his replacement with Billy McKinney next in line.
I don’t know what happens with Tyler Austin. The way the Yankees keep trying to replace him leads me to believe that he is not in the long-term vision. I could very well be wrong about the backup first base job. Perhaps Austin does win it and Lind opts out of his minor league contract in a couple of weeks. But it’s hard to overlook Lind’s history of success at the Major League level so I won’t.
It remains my belief we’ll see Gleyber Torres as the starting second baseman during the season, maybe as early as the first of May. Assuming he doesn’t go to Baltimore in a mammoth mid-season trade for Manny Machado, I think Andujar will see extended time in the Majors for the Pinstripers too. Admittedly, if he keeps up his torrid hitting over the next couple of weeks as MLB starters are stretched out in preparation for the season, he could force his way onto the Opening Day Roster. If that happens, Lind (or Austin) could be the odd man out, with Drury and Romine serving as the less-than-desirable first base backups in addition to their other duties.
The first reliever on the Scranton Shuttle will be right-hander Ben Heller, followed closely by fellow righty Giovanny Gallegos. For emergency starter, I’d prefer to go with Domingo German over Luis Cessa but the team seems to love Cessa in spot starts despite the lackluster results.
The toughest call is the batting order but my choices from second to fifth would be Judge, Bird, Stanton, and Sanchez, respectively. Regardless of how this shakes out under Aaron Boone, I feel sorry for American League pitchers.
There’s still plenty of time for roster surprises but I think injuries would play the primary role in any deviations, in my humble opinion (which of course could be seriously flawed).
As the saying goes, time will tell as it often does…
If you haven’t already done so, you should check out Bryan Hoch’s new book, The Baby Bombers: The Inside Story of the Next Yankees Dynasty. The book is available through multiple outlets including Amazon.com (where I bought my copy).
|Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)
A day without the Yankees is a long day…
For those of us not so fortunate to be in Florida, I missed watching the Yankees play yesterday since the game was not televised. I suppose that I could have listened to the WFAN radio broadcast but it is not quite the same. I am glad that today’s game will be televised by the MLB Network.
Spring records do not really matter but the Yankees picked up their second win in two games with their 4-1 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday. The big hit was a three-run homer by Billy McKinney in the top of the 9th.
The Yanks got a scare when Brandon Drury was hit in the left hand while batting against Pirates reliever Clay Holmes in the top of the third inning. Drury stayed in the game and finished out the bottom of the third before departing. Drury said he was fine after the game and no x-rays were taken, but he did ice the hand. It would have been horrible to lose Drury in his first game wearing the Yankees uniform. Miguel Andujar replaced Drury in the fourth inning and stayed for the duration of the game.
|Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)|
The only run scored by the Pirates was Gregory Polanco’s home run off Dillon Tate in the bottom of the 5th.
I enjoy all the social media posts that say Erik Kratz is the greatest hitting catcher in Yankees history with his 1.000 batting average. He was 2-for-2 last season, and so far this spring, he is 2-for-2 with a run batted in. He’s livin’ the life at age 37. Too funny…
This morning, Bryan Hoch of MLB.com reported that the Yankees most likely will not be signing either of the top free agent pitchers, Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn. Per Manager Aaron Boone, “At this point I don’t see those guys as realistic options…it’s my understanding that those guys aren’t really in play for us.” Of course, if I was waiting for prices to fall, that’s exactly what I would say too.
He may be a writer for The Boston Globe and pro-Red Sox, but I enjoy the work of Nick Cafardo. He’s probably one of my favorites. Yesterday, he wrote about the twenty things to watch this baseball season. Number one was “The Giancarlo Stanton/Aaron Judge Show”. Cafardo wrote: “The Yankees are near the center of attention in any season, but you ain’t seen nothing yet. Some are describing it as Ruth/Gehrig reincarnated. Of course it could also be a flop, but we tend to doubt it. Will there be droughts? Absolutely. But the upside should be quite a spectacle.” We’re looking forward to the show as well.
Cafardo also cited that Chris Archer could be the next Tampa Bay Ray on the move. Although he did say the Los Angeles Dodgers have been forever linked the talented pitcher, he mentioned the Yankees as one of the teams that could be in the mix. Even though trades within the division are difficult, the Rays did just acquire a very talented young second baseman in Nick Solak from the Yankees in the three-way trade that netted Brandon Drury for the Yankees. The Rays don’t have to travel far to keep an eye on the young prospects in the Yankees organization since the minor league facility is in their city. It would be hard not to pay attention to the exploits of the High-A Tampa Yankees who will play this season as the renamed Tampa Tarpons.
Give credit to Clint Frazier for his amazing attitude in camp. He is determined to win a spot on the Opening Day roster despite the greatest of odds. Barring injury or trade, the Yankees’ Opening Day outfielders appear to be Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, and Jacoby Ellsbury. There’s probably not a fan in the Yankees Universe that wouldn’t want to see Ellsbury playing elsewhere to make room for Frazier, but the cold, hard reality is that Ellsbury will be wearing pinstripes this year unless GM Brian Cashman can prove he really is ‘The Miracle Worker’. I hate the thought that Frazier will have to open the season at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre but at this point it does appear inevitable.
|Photo Credit: New York Post (Charles Wenzelberg)|
A-Rod is back…
The Yankees have announced that Alex Rodriguez, Reggie Jackson, and Hideki Matsui are returning in special advisor roles for the Yankees. They’ll be joined by Nick Swisher.
Yo, Cash, you gotta stacked team…
It had been long-rumored that A-Rod and Hal Steinbrenner were talking about a role in the organization so I am glad that the Yankees will have his knowledge and insight at their disposal. You have to feel bad for Alex. He’ll have income from FOX Sports, ESPN, and the Yankees this year, any of the income streams alone should exceed what most of us will make. I’ve always enjoyed Swisher’s energy and enthusiasm and it’s great for a young team. I love the passion and love that both guys have for the Yankees.
|Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)|
Spring Training, Game 3
The games of no meaning, except for individual player workouts, continue today at Spectrum Field in Clearwater, FL against the Philadelphia Phillies. The Yankees will see an old friend in Phillies bench coach Rob Thomson.
|Photo Credit: USA TODAY|
The scheduled starting lineup is:
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Gleyber Torres, SS
Greg Bird, 1B
Aaron Hicks, DH
Austin Romine, C
Danny Espinosa, 2B
Ronald Torreyes, 3B
Billy McKinney, RF
Shane Robinson, LF
The starting pitcher will be Jordan Montgomery. The Phillies will counter with one of their best young pitchers, Aaron Nola.
Stay healthy, guys.
|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!