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.
Winter is coming…
The dawn of the Winter Meetings. It’s is always one of my favorite times of the year. Last year was very quiet for the Yankees but still, so much happens in the first few days of the meetings with free agent signings and trades.
I am very relieved that the owners and the players association agreed on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. I didn’t really expect a lockout but of course it was always a possibility until the two sides came to an agreement. I understand why the CBA issue held up the Yankees due to the luxury tax implications and uncertainty associated therewith. Now that both sides have a better understanding of the new deal, it should allow the Yankees to begin shaping the 2017 team.
I fully recognize that there will not be wholesale changes. This isn’t 2009 when the Yankees dumped a half billion dollars on top free agents. Sure, I’d love to have Edwin Encarnacion or Jose Bautista on the team but realistically it is not going to happen. Between the two, I’d take Encarnacion but I still don’t think it will happen. The Yankees have a clear need for a solid, clutch-hitting DH but I think they’ll go with either Carlos Beltran or Matt Holliday. Staying in house is an option but that mean DH will be used as a rotation to rest the regulars.
I would love for the Yankees to find a way to move LF Brett Gardner and 3B Chase Headley but in both cases, age + contract make the players hard to move. Gardner would probably be the easier of the two to move. While the Yankees have in-house options to replace Gardner, they’d probably have to go outside to get a replacement for Headley. Miguel Andujar showed in the Arizona Fall League that he is the future at third, but his arrival is still a few years away. I’ve also seen the projections of Gleyber Torres taking over second base, pushing current second baseman Starlin Castro to third. But Torres won’t see the Bronx until late in the 2017 season or sometime in 2018. Despite the absence of immediate help at third, I am still ready to end the Chase Headley story even if he did recover from a horrendous April to have a very good season last year.
Credit: Getty Images
My wish list for this off-season still begins with closer Aroldis Chapman. I am still very hopeful that he’ll find his way back to the Bronx. Kenley Jansen would certainly be acceptable if Plan A does not materialize. I am probably warming up to the idea of a Bronx return for Mark Melancon but I think he’ll either stay in Washington or go to San Francisco. Greg Holland is also an option. I think the Yankees have to move Dellin Betances back to a key setup role where he is better suited. Mariano Rivera, he is not.
As for starting pitchers, I am not opposed to the potential signing of starter Rich Hill. He is older than I would like for a team in transition to youth, but he obviously has a quality arm and would provide rotation stability. He reminds me somewhat of Hiroki Kuroda. A consistent pitcher who can occasionally throw a gem. Not a frontline starter, but a very dependable one. As for trades, I have no idea. I’d love Tampa’s Chris Archer but I don’t think the Rays would trade inter-division and his cost would probably be too high. I liked the Arizona Diamondbacks’ acquisition of Taijuan Walker. A young pitcher who was not fulfilled his potential but the upside is still there. Those are the types of pitchers I’d try to target. I know, it does fall into the high risk, maybe high reward, possible low reward category but look where Jake Arrieta has taken the Chicago Cubs.
It was tough to see pitcher Nathan Eovaldi cut within the last couple of weeks and today’s non-tender of lefty Jacob Lindgren, both players who will miss the 2017 season due to Tommy John surgery. It wasn’t that long ago when Lindgren was tabbed as a can’t miss, fast-track prospect with the potential to make the major league roster the year he was drafted. Injuries have held Lindgren back, but he’s still young enough to recover for a fine professional career. I am hopeful the Yankees find a way to bring both pitchers back into the organization now that they’ve been removed from the 40-man roster.
Next week should be fun. Unlike last year, I am hopeful and optimistic that the Yankees will be active in an attempt to improve the roster and build strength around the emerging young core. We shall see…
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…
Ready or not, here come the 2015 Yankees…
The Yankees have stayed the course and true to their word, they didn’t purchase any big ticket items this off-season. While I am glad to see that they want to end the ridiculous cycle of overbuying for soon to be past their prime ballplayers, it’s an almost certainty that the Yankees will again miss the post-season this year. There’s always the chance that guys like Carlos Beltran, CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, Stephen Drew and Brian McCann play to their prior levels, but really, for everything to come together, the odds are against it.
Max Scherzer might have ensured a few more wins but he would not have made the Yankees a World Series contender. So, perhaps the current path chosen by Yankees management and ownership will ultimately mean a World Series caliber team in a couple of years rather than a few years of a team trying to hang on. I am excited for the future when guys like Aaron Judge, Greg Bird, and Luis Severino begin their ascent to the Bronx.
I thought the Philadelphia Phillies made a good signing with former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Chad Billingsley. There’s a good chance that Billingsley never makes it back from his past injuries, but conversely, there is a small chance that he could. It was a shot worth taking. Granted, this is not exactly Clayton Kershaw that we are talking about, but Billingsley, if right, can help a pitching staff. Meanwhile, the Yankees signed former Minnesota Twins pitcher Scott Baker for insurance. I would have preferred to take a flyer on Billingsley.
Another pitcher that I’d probably be interested in for insurance purposes is former Atlanta Braves starter Brandon Beachy. I really liked Kris Medlen but unfortunately so did the Kansas City Royals.
The Yankees need options for the spot in the rotation currently held by Chris Capuano. Of course, Capuano is just a placeholder for the eventual return of Ivan Nova but I don’t really expect Nova to be effective this year when he does. It will probably be 2016 before we start to see the Nova of old. I have heard talk of converting Adam Warren to a starter, but I like the current configuration of the bullpen even with the loss of David Robertson. I expect the Yankees to name Dellin Betances as the closer rather than use a closer committee comprised of Betances and Andrew Miller. Miller should serve as the prime setup guy, with the others, including Warren falling in line.
While I am hopeful that Stephen Drew returns to the player he can be, I still hope that this is the year Rob Refsnyder arrives to take second base.
While former high prospect Austin Romine is out of options, I feel that John Ryan Murphy is better suited to be the Yankees backup catcher. Sadly, Romine will see his Yankees career end in spring training either through trade or release. Hopefully, the Yankees can get something for him when the time comes.
The calendar page is almost ready to turn to February which means that pitchers and catchers will soon be reporting. Even if this will be another disappointing season for the Yankees, the thrill of the spring is always a great time.
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!
It’s a Chess game…
I wanted to see the Yankees make a move but sending Martin Prado to Miami was not exactly what I had in mind. As with my previous post, I understand why the Yankees can’t pay another $25 million per year for a top starter and how that figure balloons with the luxury cap limitations.
It’s good that the Yankees are acquiring a young arm with Nathan Eovaldi but when I heard the guy has had control problems and allowed the most hits among NL starters, I wasn’t exactly enthused. Still, there must be something in Eovaldi that Larry Rothschild and company see and know that they can tweak for more effective results (or so one would hope).
The Yankees have long needed a quality back up first baseman so adding Garrett Jones does add some pop off the bench with an ability to play first for extended periods of time.
I liked having Martin Prado on the roster given his versatility, however, if his departure means that Rob Refsnyder will get a legitimate shot at second base in the spring, then I am all for it. Jose Pirela has been hitting all winter long and looks like he can be the utility player that Ramiro Pena never was and might even be an option at second base if Refsnyder stumbles. Clearly, the Yankees do need to open starting spots for young guys and as such, the Prado trade was probably justified after the team re-signed veteran third baseman Chase Headley.
I still do not see the Yankees as more than an 85 win team (and most likely less). But as some have said, they are accomplishing the goal of getting younger. Personally, I think if this is the path they’ve chosen, then it’s best to move the most desired players to other teams for quality prospects and wait for the albatross contracts to expire.
As it stands, we’ll be watching the Chicago White Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, Los Angeles Angels, Boston Red Sox, Seattle Mariners and Detroit Tigers race for the AL Championship. I don’t expect the Baltimore Orioles to go away, but I don’t think the Yankees will be in the thick of things come September based on the current roster configuration. I am just not convinced that we’ll see the collective bounce back of the group that includes CC Sabathia, Brian McCann, Alex Rodriguez, Carlos Beltran and Mark Teixeira. Chances are that one or more will spend a significant amount of time on the DL and the Yankees will be searching for replacements in AAA and on the scrap heap.
Would Max Scherzer change that outlook? No, probably not. The Yankees need a vast overhaul and it’s probably going to take a few years just to flush the toilet. The Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers have been able to maneuver very quickly to unload dead weight but the Yankees have too much of it.
The worst thing the Yankees could do at this point is to sign a veteran infielder like Asdrubal Cabrera to play second. I don’t want to see a placeholder at the position. I’d rather see a player with strong long term potential. No more Mark Reynolds fill-ins. It is time to develop the future core of the team.
I would love nothing more than to see a guy like Tyler Austin come to spring and force the Yankees to play him in right field. Carlos Beltran should be the full-time DH at this stage of his career, not Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod should be playing somewhere in Siberia. If there is one move that would make me truly ecstatic this off-season, it would be to find a way to eliminate A-Rod’s presence. If I was a billionaire, I’d gladly give another team $61 million to take him off my hands.
Chris Capuano qualifies as one of those Mark Reynolds fill-ins, but of course, he’ll be the first to go if Ivan Nova successfully returns in May or June. The wild card that I like is to finally see Manny Banuelos fulfill his destiny of reaching the Bronx. He is now far enough removed from his Tommy John surgery that 2015 should be his potential breakout year ala Dellin Betances. If the Yankees broke camp with Banuelos in the starting rotation over Capuano, I’d be very happy.
I am sure that there are still more moves to be made, but at least the Yankees are finally doing something even if we do not yet fully understand the plan.
Meanwhile, Boston Red Sox fans continue to gloat…