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: Associated Press (David Goldman)|
The Rivalry Continues…
Today is the first meeting of the Boston Red Sox and your New York Yankees. Of course, it’s just a meaningless exhibition game but there’s no doubt all of us, without exception, want to beat the hated Red Sox. We’ll have to do it without the Big Boppers as neither Aaron Judge nor Giancarlo Stanton will provide a preview of what they intend to do to Red Sox pitching.
Here is the scheduled lineup for today’s game at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, FL:
Aaron Hicks, CF
Greg Bird, 1B
Brandon Drury, 3B
Didi Gregorius, SS
Gleyber Torres, 2B
Danny Espinosa, DH
Austin Romine, C
Billy McKinney, RF
Jake Cave, LF
The starting pitcher will be Chance Adams, making his second Spring start.
|Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)|
For the Red Sox, they won’t be giving the Yankees an advance look at J.D. Martinez as he, like Judge and Stanton, will take the bench. Pitching for the Red Sox will be left-hander Brian Johnson who is the favorite to win the fifth spot in the Red Sox rotation at the start of the year, thanks to the injuries to Steven Wright and Eduardo Rodriguez.
The Yankees signed free agent first baseman Adam Lind on Friday to a minor league deal with an invitation to training camp. The deal includes an opt-out at the end of training camp if he is not on the Major League roster. The backup first base job appears to be Tyler Austin’s to lose. It’s hard to envision Lind making the team unless the Yankees do not trust Austin as the primary support for Greg Bird (or if Austin gets hurts, which is within the realm of possibility). Lind did have surprisingly good numbers for the Washington Nationals last year when he batted .303/.362/.513 with .875 OPS in 301 plate appearances. Four of his 14 home runs were pinch-hits. He is a career .272/.330/.465 (.795 OPS) hitter with 200 home runs. Lind, 34, came up in the Toronto Blue Jays organization and played for them through the 2014 season. Since then, he’s had a new team each year. Milwaukee Brewers (2015), Seattle Mariners (2016) and the Nationals (2017).
|Photo Credit: Associated Press (Alex Brandon)|
Austin answered Lind’s signing with a walk-off home run to beat the Atlanta Braves on Friday afternoon. Apparently he borrowed a page from Miguel Andujar’s playbook for rules of engagement with the competition at your position.
My guess is that Austin makes the team and Lind opts out to sign a MLB deal with another team to be their backup first baseman. I don’t see the Austin to Triple A and Lind on the Opening Day roster scenario. One or the other will be part of the organization and the other will not, in my opinion.
Jacoby Ellsbury has a nagging injury. Great. The DL King has been diagnosed with a mild right oblique strain. If it was Ellsbury’s intent to beat out Aaron Hicks for the starting center field job, he’s not off to a good start. Honestly, the Yankees should bite the bullet after the season is over. There will be $47.3 million left on his contract, but at that point, it will be time to cut bait. It’s too bad that Brian Cashman was unable to find a taker, even with the willingness to pay a significant portion of what’s left on Ellsbury’s deal. I agree with Cashman’s assessment that Ellsbury remains an above-average player when healthy but those last two words become more dicey with each passing year.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Tom Szczerbowski)|
Ellsbury’s “backup”, outfielder Clint Frazier, is struggling with his own problems. He continues to be troubled by headaches associated with a concussion he suffered earlier in the Spring. The Yankees had been trying to increase his workload but Thursday’s workout led to sending Frazier for a MRI on Friday. He whacked his head against the wall in left field at LECOM Park in Bradenton, FL last Saturday against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Hopefully this is not a setback and Frazier continues his path toward good health. I know I’d rather go to war with Red Thunder over Ellsbury.
It creates a potential opening for either Jake Cave or Billy McKinney to make noise although it is likely that Ellsbury will be ready for Opening Day.
I try not to get too caught up in Spring stats but I have to admit that, physically, Jordan Montgomery looks great. He doesn’t quite have the ‘Gumby’ look from last year and his face seems more mature. He pitched three innings yesterday in the win over the Braves, striking out five batters. He gave up two hits, but did not allow any runs. All 22 of his pitches were in the strike zone. The 25-year-old appears capable of showing that he is not the starting rotation’s weakest link.
Now, let’s beat those friggin’ Red Sox. Go Yankees!
|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: NJ Advance Media for NJ.com (John Munson)|
The Dawn of the 2018 Yankees…
The nice, lovable Baby Bombers are gone. The famed rock star New York Yankees, the Evil Empire…the most hated team in MLB, are back and ready to dominate Baseball in 2018. Justin Verlander can talk all he wants about how the Houston Astros are the team to beat, but the Yankees are here to change the October outcome.
I wrote about it yesterday but it’s worth more keystrokes on my computer. Giancarlo Stanton. I had not heard when Stanton would report to Tampa so it was a mild surprise when he showed up yesterday. Judging by the media reception, everyone was unanimously excited about appearance of the Yankees’ newest slugger at Steinbrenner Field.
|Photo Credit: New York Post (Charles Wenzelberg)|
It would have been fun to watch as Stanton made his way into the clubhouse to meet his new teammates and coaches. He got a jumpstart over the Winter with his dinner in Los Angeles with Manager Aaron Boone and of course he was in New York during the Baseball Writers Association of America dinner recently when he sat next to Aaron Judge. Now, he gets the opportunity to meet everyone, including all those who support the Yankees behind-the-scenes. There’s no question it will be a media event when Stanton takes his first swings of the Spring at Steinbrenner Field.
Reading the various comments in Tampa offer some insight into how Stanton will handle playing in baseball’s largest market. Aaron Boone said, “I think he’s welcoming the expectations and the largeness of what he is walking into. He understands that when he first takes the field in a couple of days, the attention is going to be huge, the scrutiny is going to be huge, and I think that’s something he’s prepared for the best he can.”
Lefty reliever Wade LeBlanc, in camp with the Yankees on a minor league contract, played with Stanton in Miami during the 2012 and 2013 seasons. LeBlanc remembers how level-headed Stanton was and offered, “I think that’s a quality you have to have in New York to handle the media and be okay with standing in front of them when you didn’t play well.” LeBlanc did say, “He’s never seen a tenth of this media before.”
New York is not for everyone but Stanton seems well prepared for the journey ahead. His personality and superior playing ability will soon make him a fan favorite if he’s not already there. Stanton talks about how this will be fun. Fun is infectious because it’s going to be fun for the fans too.
The greedy side of me wishes that the Yankees had added a “Stanton” to the starting rotation, but there’s time. No pressure to make a trade today when the availability of sellers will be much stronger in July. There’s always a possibility of a free agent signing (Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn) as long as those guys are on the market but it’s unlikely they’ll play for the Yankees given the payroll constraints to stay under the luxury tax threshold. I am intrigued about Chance Adams and what he can do in the Major League Camp this year. Although many words have been written by others speculating that Adams will eventually head for the bullpen, the guy has surpassed expectations at every level of his baseball playing career. He deserves the opportunity to make his case for starting at the MLB level and I, for one, will not doubt his potential for success. My primary hope is that he does it in a Yankees uniform and not pitching for some other team as part of a package to bring a more established starter to New York. I remember being excited about the potential of a young Al Leiter, only to watch him achieve great success for the (then) Florida Marlins and the New York Mets. That wasn’t fun as a Yankees fan. I hope the same fate does not await Adams. Granted, it might be good for him, but not so good for us.
There was another surprise in camp yesterday but not quite so pleasnt when it was announced that infield prospect Thairo Estrada had been shot in the hip at the end of January in Venezuela during a failed robbery attempt. The bullet remains in Estrada’s hip but it is not expected to impede his recovery and ability to play. He may be doing upper body workouts but you’d have to believe that this removes his name from consideration for the starting job at second base. He was a long shot anyway, having only played at the Double A level, but hopefully he continues to be one of the greatest prospects for an organization overflowing with great prospects. I am very glad that he is doing fine, considering how much worse this could have turned out.
Yankees pitching prospect Albert Abreu is also in recovery following his emergency appendectomy on February 7th. It’s a setback but he should be back on the field soon and should not miss much of the season. He’ll be one of the most interesting Pinstriped arms to watch in the Minor Leagues this year.
Clint Frazier is in camp, sporting a shorter haircut and showing good maturity as he talks about the importance of being part of the team. He feels that he should be in the mix for center field with Aaron Hicks and Jacoby Ellsbury and intends to force his way onto the roster. Sadly, I think he’s destined for Triple A as long as Ellsbury is on the roster and will only make it to the Bronx in the event of an outfield injury. I keep hoping that the Yankees find a way to move Ellsbury to create the opportunity for Red Thunder but the realist in me know that we’re stuck with Ellsbury for the long haul.
|Photo Credit: New York Post (Charles Wenzelberg)|
Not that I really want to talk about the Mets on this blog, but I thought was funny when new Mets third baseman Todd Frazier said that he was bad with names and would just call everyone “Big Dog”. It drew a response from Noah Syndergaard who said that he thought he was Frazier’s special Big Dog. Frazier is already making a difference in the Mets clubhouse. I miss that guy.
|Photo Credit: Associated Press (Kathy Willens)|
Today is the last “free” day for position players. Tomorrow is reporting day and the entire contingent of Yankees pitchers and position players, including non-roster invitees, will be present and accounted for at Steinbrenner Field. Time to get to work. They’re ready and so am I.
|Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Reinhold Matay)|
|Photo Credit: New York Daily News (Corey Sipkin)|
Aaron Boone is present and accounted for in Tampa…
As we bear down on the reporting date for pitchers and catchers (with many players already at camp) in a few days, it has continued to be very quiet for the Yankees and their primary division rival, the Boston Red Sox.
It really does not feel like there is any team willing to match or exceed the alleged offer made to free agent outfielder J.D. Martinez by the Red Sox. There has been some talk that the Arizona Diamondbacks could come up with a $100 million contract offer but they’d need to move salary to make it happen (sounds like the Yankees and their interest in free agent starting pitcher Yu Darvish except their ‘Jacoby Ellsbury-like’ albatross is the heavy contract of starting pitcher Zack Greinke who at least remains a vital part of the team’s plans). Martinez would prefer to play right field which probably makes Phoenix more desirable (to him) than Boston but I remain convinced that dollars will win in the end and that Martinez will be on display at Fenway Park as the team’s primary DH. There’s always the chance they could trade Jackie Bradley, Jr and move Andrew Benintendi to center but that would weaken the outfield defense.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jennifer Stewart)|
If the Red Sox fail to sign Martinez, names like Mike Moustakas and Logan Morrison have been mentioned. None are easy fits. Signing Moose Tacos would require an adjustment with plans for young starting third baseman Rafael Devers. Morrison probably makes more sense as he could share 1B and DH with Mitch Moreland. Nevertheless, I really feel the Red Sox will persevere and eventually sign Martinez. The Red Sox know that they need a big bopper to compete with the Yankees this year. I am not quick to say the Yankees are the superior favorites in the AL East. I feel the Red Sox are the champions until proven otherwise. I also expect the Red Sox starting rotation to be stronger this year, with bounce backs by David Price and Rick Porcello. It was great that Chris Sale couldn’t get a victory against the Yankees last year, but the odds of that happening again are similar to the odds of the Yankees successfully trading Ellsbury. Boston is not going away and the Yankees won’t be sneaking up on anybody this year like they did in 2017. Baseball Prospectus released its annual PECOTA projections last week and they have the Yankees winning the division by 9 games over the Red Sox with 96 wins. I think the division will be much closer than that, especially if the Sox are successful in snagging Martinez. I have been a Yankees fan too long to underestimate the Sox.
PECOTA, for what it’s worth, projects Aaron Judge with a batting average of only .247 (really?), with 37 home runs and 94 RBI’s. Giancarlo Stanton is projected at .259, 41 home runs and 106 RBI’s. Gary Sanchez is not far behind with .269 BA, 34 homers and 97 RBI’s.
The one that really stands out to me is first baseman Greg Bird. The projection has him getting over 500 plate appearances, while batting .246 with 28 homers and 86 RBI’s. I am really hopeful that this is the year that Bird finally stays healthy. I love his swing and his bat in the stacked Yankees lineup. But until he proves that he can stay on the field for the duration of the season, I am going to be a bit skeptical.
|Photo Credit: New York Daily News (Andrew Savulich)|
My fear is that the Yankees have to lean on Tyler Austin at first base more heavily than expected. I guess all things considered that’s better than rolling out Chris Carter, but I’d prefer no question marks at first base as the Yankees attempt to break in rookies at second and third bases.
The Tampa Bay Rays might actually play in Tampa…
On Friday, the Tampa Bay Rays announced that they’d like to build a new stadium in Ybor City, a historic Latin community northeast of downtown Tampa. There are many hurdles before it can come to fruition, but I hope the Rays are successful. I don’t know much about Tampa politics but it makes more sense to have the Rays in Tampa than St Petersburg. Watching a baseball game at Tropicana Field always feels like watching a game in an oversized warehouse. I really hope that Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg is successful in getting his stadium initiative approved and funded. This seems like such a win-win situation for the Rays and the greater Tampa metropolitan area.
|Photo Credit: Tampa Bay Times (Marc Topkin)|
Ybor City is about five miles east of Steinbrenner Field and Raymond James Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
I don’t like the smell of that rumor…
Speaking of the Rays, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported this week that the Yankees had checked in on Rays starter Jake Odorizzi. Odorizzi is only 27 (28 in late March) but the right-hander had a down year in 2017. He was 10-8 with 4.14 ERA in 28 starts. He only struck out 127 batters while walking 61, the worst K/BB ratio of his career. A fly-ball pitcher, he gave up 30 home runs, which obviously would not play well in Yankee Stadium. One Rays blog proposed sending Odorizzi and reliever Alex Colome to the Yankees for outfielder Clint Frazier and a low-level lottery ticket. I wouldn’t do it. I would consider sending Frazier to Tampa for a trade circled around Chris Archer, but not Odorizzi.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Mark Cunningham)|
“Odo” would not be a significant upgrade over any of the starters in the current Yankees rotation so I dismiss the thought that the Yankees might be interested. I’ll gladly take a promising young arm like Chance Adams or Justus Sheffield over Odorizzi. The only reason you’d make a trade for Odorizzi would be on his potential as a breakout candidate but I’d prefer the in-house options…and keeping Red Thunder in pinstripes.
But wait, weren’t we part of the exciting young Yankees?…
Yesterday, Tyler Kepner of The New York Times wrote an article about which teams stand a chance in 2018. It was kind of sad looking for the photo that he posted with the caption, “The Yankees reached the American League Championship Series last season, but fell short against the Astros.” Of the recognizable faces, only one player and one coach remain from this pic taken just last October.
|Photo Credit: The New York Times (Chang W Lee)|
Joe Girardi can now be found on the MLB Network sporting a suit and defending his managerial choices during last season’s post-season. Rob Thomson is helping set up training camp in Clearwater, Florida for the Philadelphia Phillies as new manager Gabe Kapler’s bench coach and most likely the lead training camp organizer. No word about the future plans for former hitting coach Alan Cockrell, seen in the photo standing next to current hitting coach Marcus Thames. Yankees centerfielder Aaron Hicks looks at a trio of ex-Yankees. Todd Frazier will soon be headed to Port St Lucie, FL for the New York Mets; Starlin Castro, assuming he is not traded, will go to Jupiter, FL for the Miami Marlins; while Chase Headley returns to the Valley of the Sun in Peoria, AZ to play for his original team, the San Diego Padres. Hicks, as we know, will help ensure that Jacoby Ellsbury is the most expensive bench player in baseball. Thames, I am sure, is salivating at the opportunity to work with Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Didi Gregorius, Greg Bird, and others. Good times…
|Photo Credit: Getty Images|
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Al Bello and Christian Petersen), via CBS New York|
Trading January for February…
It was another quiet week in the Yankees Universe, but fortunately, it puts us one week closer to Spring Training.
Many feel that the Yankees are good with the present makeup of the 40-man roster as the gates of Steinbrenner Field prepare to open but I remain convinced that the Yankees will add either a strong starting pitcher or a veteran to solidify third base. It would be great to add both but I don’t see how that’s economically feasible for a team trying so hard to stay under the $197 million luxury tax threshold.
I thought the Washington Nationals have done a tremendous job with their infield bench. First, they signed first baseman Matt Adams, the long-time Cardinal who spent most of last year in Atlanta, to back up first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. Then, they re-signed 2B/3B Howie Kendrick who can plug into a corner outfield position as well. Either one of these players would have been useful for the Yankees. I like the idea of pairing a veteran with the youthful Miguel Andujar at third. Granted, I would love to see the return of Todd Frazier or even the signing of Mike Moustakas, but the Yankees can afford to lower their sights for another guy that could help Andujar with his transition to the MLB level. Eduardo Nunez is probably not the answer, due to his questionable defense and injury history, but there are other guys that could fit the bill without blowing the budget. Josh Harrison, carrying a cap hit of $10.25 million, is probably the guy that comes to mind but his acquisition would probably prevent the addition of a starting pitcher who is better than any of the current starting five.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images North America (Joe Sargent)|
The Toronto Blue Jays have been fairly active in trying to rebuild their post-Jose Bautista outfield. Earlier this week, they signed former Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson to fill a platoon role. Then, yesterday, they traded for St Louis Cardinals outfielder Randall Grichuk who became expendable when the Cardinals acquired former Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna, particularly given the breakthrough of outfielder Tommy Pham for the Cards last year. Grichuk has some thump in his bat, even if he hasn’t been consistent. He is expected to be the starter in right field, replacing Bautista. I don’t know much about the younger pitching prospect that the Blue Jays sent to St Louis (Connor Greene), but I am glad to see reliever Dominic Leone depart the AL East. In a setup role for the Blue Jays last year, Leone stranded 42 of 54 base runners which ranked fourth among AL relievers. He held righties to .211 batting average and was even stingier with lefties at .183. The Grandy Man may not be the player he once was, but he is still one of the game’s best gentlemen. I’m sure that he’ll be a positive influence on the young Jays. He didn’t do much for the Los Angeles Dodgers last year after the late season acquisition (.161 batting average with 7 home runs in 112 at-bats), but he can still provide occasional pop. I can still remember his grand slam against the Yankees last August in what would prove to be his last at-bat for the New York Mets.
|Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)|
It’s inevitable that the Boston Red Sox and free agent outfielder J.D. Martinez come together at some point this off-season. I find it highly unlikely that the Arizona Diamondbacks bring back Martinez due to monetary constraints and there doesn’t seem to be much competition with Boston for the outfielder’s services. The latest reports indicate the Red Sox have offered 5 years at $125 million but agent Scott Boras is on record seeking a 6 or 7 year deal for his client. Teams have wised up and understand how detrimental the latter years can be for extended length contracts given to thirty-something players. If the Red Sox are truly offering $25 million per year, I think Martinez would be smart to consider it. At a winter function for the Red Sox yesterday, former Red Sox great Pedro Martinez explained, “The main reason why Mookie (Betts) and those guys miss (David Ortiz) more is because they were getting better pitches to hit on an earlier count because of his presence. Everybody knew they wanted to attack Mookie and those guys to get them out early before they get to David because David was one of those guys who was really special.” Martinez could be that guy for the Red Sox, which is why I feel that Boston will eventually get the deal done even if it gives them a $200+ million payroll.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Christian Petersen)|
The most talked about situation for the Yankees is Jacoby Ellsbury and his contract. By all indications, Ellsbury has no desire to waive his no-trade clause and is focused on competing with Aaron Hicks for the starting center field role. Many Yankees fans, including myself, feel that it would be best for Ellsbury to drop the NTC and allow a trade. The pro-Ellsbury fans attack us, saying that Ellsbury is a better player than we are giving him credit for. I don’t think anyone disputes that Ellsbury is still a good player. He just doesn’t fit the 2018 Yankees. At this point, it is clear that Aaron Hicks has the upper hand and it would take an injury to Hicks (always a possibility) to clear a path to consistent playing time for Ellsbury. But even then, he’d have to fight Brett Gardner for time and Gardy probably has the edge. It does not make sense to pay a fourth or fifth outfielder $22 million per year. If the Yankees were successful in getting another team to take on half of what’s left of Ellsbury’s deal, that’s still significant money that could go toward a starting pitcher and/or veteran third baseman. That’s why I think it is best to move Ellsbury if you can. He can be a very useful player for another team. Seattle was mentioned as the primary trade target until they acquired second baseman Dee Gordon from the Miami Marlins with the intent to convert him to center field. Then, the San Francisco Giants were heavily mentioned by Yankees fans. But they acquired Andrew McCutchen from the Pittsburgh PIrates and are bumping up against the luxury tax threshold themselves. Some have mentioned the Colorado Rockies in a trade of bad contracts for IF/OF Ian Desmond, but I don’t think the Rockies are as down on Desmond as Yankees fans would like to think. A trade to a Cactus League team seems to make the most sense given that Ellsbury makes his home in Scottsdale, Arizona. Personally, I think the Yankees will be stuck with Ellsbury until the dollars left on his contract reach a point that Hal Steinbrenner is comfortable cutting bait. That means at least another season or two. It stinks because it will most likely keep Clint Frazier at Triple A if he is not traded for a starting pitcher. I am a fan of Red Thunder and I’d like to see him in the Bronx, not Moosic, PA. He’s ready, even if it means that team leader Brett Gardner is the odd man out.
|Photo Credit: SI.com|
Maybe next week is finally the week we get some actual news in the Yankees Universe. Yeah, right…probably not. Oh well, Spring Training will soon be here. I am ready and anxious to see 1 Steinbrenner Drive thriving with Yankees fans in the stands watching Yankees greats on the field.
|Photo Credit: Kevin C Cox, Getty Images|
Red Thunder Gets No Rest…
Now that we don’t have Gerrit Cole rumors to fuel our days, it looks like we’ll be hearing more and more about Yu Darvish until he finally signs somewhere.
John Harper of The New York Daily News floated a trade possibility this morning. In his scenario, the Yankees would send Jacoby Ellsbury and Clint Frazier to the San Francisco Giants for second baseman Joe Panik. By including Frazier, Harper figures the Yankees could get the Giants to pay $12-$13 million annually of what’s left on Ellsbury’s contract. In his line of thinking, the trade would open the pathway for the Yankees to sign Darvish so he basically views it as an Ellsbury/Frazier swap for Darvish/Panik.
|Photo Credit: Lance Iversen, USA TODAY Sports|
I am not sure that I’m crazy about the trade idea but if the Yankees were willing to send Frazier to Pittsburgh for Cole, they’d be willing to move him to bring in Yu Darvish.
If the Yankees carried a fifth outfielder on the roster to start the year (assuming Ellsbury and Frazier are dealt), it would most likely be Tyler Austin, who could back up first and the corner outfield spots, or Billy McKinney, an outfielder who did work at first base during the Arizona Fall League.
Panik’s presence would allow the Yankees to take their time with Gleyber Torres or move him to third base as once planned. A native New Yorker, Panik, 27, hit .288 with 10 home runs and 53 RBIs for the Giants in 2017. He was eligible for arbitration for the first time this year and settled with the Giants last week for $3.45 million. He can be a free agent in 2021. His lefty bat would play well in Yankee Stadium.
No one is going to take Ellsbury in a straight one-for-one swap, even with boatloads of cash included. So as much as I’d hate to lose Frazier, this is probably a trade that I’d make so long as I knew that I could sign either Darvish or Alex Cobb for the starting rotation.
In an unrelated rumor, Jim Bowden is saying that the Milwaukee Brewers are interested in signing third baseman Mike Moustakas if they could trade Travis Shaw to the Braves, Mets or Yankees. I’m never too excited about adding an ex-Red Sock, but Shaw had a breakout year for the Brewers in 2017 with 31 home runs and 101 RBIs. He batted .273/.349/.513. He is a left-handed bat and will turn 28 in mid-April. Not sure what level of interest the Yankees might have, but it bears watching. It would certainly cause much angst in the Red Sox Nation.
|Photo Credit: Jim Davis, Globe Staff|
Congrats Hideki Matsui…
According to The Japan Times, former Yankee (and Yomiuri Giant) Hideki Matsui has been elected to the Japanese Hall of Fame. At 43 years and 7 months, Matsui is the youngest entrant to the Japanese HOF, eclipsing former Dodgers/Mets pitcher Hideo Nomo, who was 45 years and 4 months at the time of his election.
Before heading to the United States to join the Yankees, Matsui won three Central League home run titles (1998, 2000, and 2002) and he was MVP of the CL in 1996, 2000, and 2002.
This was Matsui’s first year on the Japanese ballot and he garnered 91.3% of the vote. He was joined by former Hanshin Tigers star Tomoaki Kanemoto and former Yomiuri Giants manager Tatsunori Hara.
In his prepared statement, Matsui thanked his mentor, former Yomiuri Giants skipper Shigeo Nagashima. “Day in and day out, (Nagashima) checked my swing, and those days formed the cornerstone for me as a baseball player.”
|Photo Credit: Kyodo|
Hideki’s father, Masao, attended the announcement ceremony on his behalf. Hideki is in New York and was unable to attend.
Congratulations to the great #55 for the well-deserved honor!
Stanton and Judge who?…
Aaron Hicks caused quite a stir on Instagram this weekend when he posted a workout pic that shows he is more than capable of holding his own in the Yankees outfield. I was a little shocked when I first saw the pic and there were plenty of people who questioned whether or not it really was A-A-Ron (it is). Justin Diamond (@justindiamond) had the best tweet: “Sweet baby Jesus. @AaronHicks31 you on the juice this off-season?”…
Wow, what a football game!…
As a lifelong Minnesota Vikings fan, I’ve endured my share of disappointment over the years. The Vikings have found more unique ways to lose big games than any NFL team that I can think of. Well, outside of the Buffalo Bills. Yesterday’s NFC Playoff game against the New Orleans Saints was a game of atonement for me.
The Vikings jumped out to a 17-0 lead in the first half and I was getting congratulations from a number of friends. As a Vikings fan, I knew it was way too early to start getting excited. Plus, Drew Brees is still one of the game’s great quarterbacks. Sure enough, a couple of plays in the second half shifted the momentum to the Saints. The Vikings lost the lead and then re-captured it with less than 2 minutes to go. I was fearful that the Vikings had left too much time on the clock for Brees and Company and unfortunately I was right. Brees led the Saints to a field goal to re-capture the lead at 24-23 with 25 seconds left. Starting on their own 25 after a touchback on the kickoff, the Vikings moved to their 39 and faced a third down with 10 seconds left and no time outs. I was resigned to the agony of defeat when Vikings QB Case Keenum hit WR Stefon Diggs for a 61-yard touchdown to win the game. The Vikings won the game, 29-24. It was such an incredible feeling…something like Aaron Judge hitting a game-winning home run in the bottom of the 9th.
|Photo Credit: Pioneer Press|
I am not sure what will happen next week in Philadelphia as the Vikings take on the Eagles for the NFC Championship but I am enjoying the ride. The Eagles are the only thing that stands between the Vikings and playing this year’s Super Bowl at US Bank Stadium in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota. So regardless of whether they win or lose, the Vikings are going home. I just hope it is with a game still be played.
Lastly, We Remember…
Today, we remember the late great Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. Actually, he is thought of every day, but today is officially his day. He had so many great words over the course of his life, but I’ll leave this post with one: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Thank you, Dr King, for making a difference. We are a better country because of you and would have been even greater if you hadn’t been taken from us prematurely. We are forever grateful for you and your efforts to make this a better World for all of us.
Never forget MLK Jr…