Backed by uncharacteristic run support (at least for him), Sonny Gray finally pitched on Sunday like the guy who was an ace in Oakland. We’ve seen few glimpses of that guy since he became a Yankee last July. I know, it was against one of the worst teams in the American League but it was a great Sonny Gray start. For a game anyway, this warrants a ‘Sonny Gray DOES NOT suck’ from me.
As you know, I am quick to criticize Gray so I owe it to him to recognize a wonderful performance. Gray (3-3) pitched eight innings, holding the Kansas City Royals to four hits and a single run. He didn’t allow the run until the eighth inning when he was starting to tire. He walked a batter and struck out five in the 10-1 victory. The four homers, including two by Tyler Austin, were fantastic but there was no doubt Gray was the star of this game.
A.J. Cole, in a rare appearance, pitched a clean ninth inning. Sure, he had a big lead but ask the Miami Marlins about holding a big lead in the ninth inning. They had a 9-4 advantage Sunday against the Atlanta Braves (a team many are starting to liken to the 2017 Yankees) and had Brad Ziegler on the mound to close it out. Six runs later, the Braves walked off the field a winner. So, I try to never underestimate a mop up role like the one Cole faced.
Now for the home runs. Tyler Austin is making a very convincing case to stay with the Major League club despite the impending return of Greg Bird. I’ve felt all along Austin is the most susceptible for a demotion to Triple A to make room for Bird. Even with his two home runs on Sunday, I still think he’ll be the odd man out since he has options remaining. The Yankees aren’t getting rid of Ronald Torreyes and I don’t see them cutting bait with Neil Walker. Randy Miller of NJ Advance Media speculated this morning that the Yankees will DFA Walker and trade him for a minor leaguer to use the remaining balance of his $4 million contract at the trading deadline (in addition to the space they already have) to open a spot for Bird. I suppose he may be right but I have liked the versatility Walker brings and he has hit better of late. But I have to admit that a tandem of Bird-Austin at first base is a bit scary (in a good way).
|Photo Credit: The Kansas City Star (John Sleezer)|
Miguel Andujar and Austin Romine tacked on solo homers in the ninth which did more to help their personal statistics than the team’s result.
Yankees Twitter was aghast before the game when the lineup was posted. Many had expected to see Gary Sanchez at DH, Didi Gregorius at short, and Clint Frazier in left. Instead, Giancarlo Stanton was the DH, Brett Gardner in left, and Ronald Torreyes was the shortstop for the second day in a row. I understood the move with Sir Didi who is mired in a 1-for-45 slump. Nothing against the great Brett Gardner, but I would have preferred to see Red Thunder in left. But at the end of the day, it didn’t matter. The Yankees cranked out fourteen hits with Aaron Boone’s lineup to power the offense.
Nice job by Austin Romine. During the off-season, so many Yankees fans (maybe even me) wanted the Yankees to sign Alex Avila to replace Romine as the backup catcher. Yesterday, Romine had perhaps his greatest game as a Yankee. He was 3-for-5 with two RBI’s. He had a run-scoring single in the fourth inning in addition to the ninth inning dinger. It’s worth noting that Romine is batting .326 in 48 plate appearances with the homer and nine RBI’s, while Avila is only batting .132 with two homers and four RBI’s in nearly twice as many plate appearances and has opened the door for more playing time for former Yankee John Ryan Murphy with the Snakes.
It was great to see the Yankees dominate two consecutive games against the lowly Royals after Friday night’s disappointing loss. It had been a very tough week for the Yankees with the rainouts in Washington, D.C. It was not surprising they played sluggishly in their only loss in the Royals series, but I was glad to see that it lasted only one game before they were back in expected form.
The lone disappointment yesterday was the option of outfielder Clint Frazier to Triple A after the game. I know, it was inevitable. It was a numbers game and Frazier is better served by playing every day for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. He’ll head to Pennsylvania and await the next call to Yankee Stadium. It’s not what you want (to borrow Joe Girardi’s line), but Frazier is only an injury away from returning.
The Yankees now head to Dallas/Fort Worth to face the Texas Rangers. The Rangers have under-performed this year (18-30) but they are generally a handful for the Yankees. The first two games of the series feature Yankees Past and what could be Yankees Future. Today, the Yankees will face a former Yankee in the ancient Bartolo Colon while Tuesday features 2009 World Series foe Cole Hamels, whose name has been mentioned as a possible trading deadline candidate for the Yankees. There are other trade candidates I’d like to see over Hamels, but he is a proven veteran arm. After the Yankees finish the three game series in Texas, they’ll head back to the Bronx to meet up with Shohei Ohtani and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in a series that starts Friday night.
David Hale just keeps coming back like a bad penny. I really thought we’d seen the last of Hale when he was designated for assignment for the second time this year by the Yankees. When he elected free agency after his most recent DFA, I felt sure he’d go elsewhere. It was not to be as Hale signed another minor league deal with the Yankees and will head to Scranton, PA to join the starting rotation for the RailRiders. His addition led to the release of former Yankees prospect Daniel Camarena. I had hoped for better results from Camarena who had been re-acquired from the Chicago Cubs earlier this year after signing a minor league free agent contract with the Cubs in the off-season. But a 2-3 record and 5.08 ERA (44 hits and 20 walks in 39 innings) led to Camarena’s second exit from the organization. I wish him the best with his next opportunity. It’s unfortunate he was unable to realize his dream in Pinstripes.
Speaking of the RailRiders starting rotation, their latest addition (besides Hale) is prospect Erik Swanson. Swanson’s name hasn’t really been mentioned much since he was acquired in the trade that sent Carlos Beltran to the Texas Rangers a couple of seasons ago. Dillon Tate was the more highly regarded name in the trade, but Swanson is the minor league pitcher of the moment. The guy has been sensational in Double A this year. The 24-year-old righty started six games for the Trenton Thunder, winning five with no defeats. He has given up a paltry two earned runs in 40 2/3 innings (0.44 ERA) while striking out 52. He has only allowed 12 walks. The superb performance led to his recent promotion to Triple A. In an organization with so many talented young prospects, Swanson has illuminated his name.
|Photo Credit: Martin Griff, via Pinstriped Prospects|
The Yankees did so well with the 2016 trades of Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller, they are generally recognized as the trades that highlight the genius of GM Brian Cashman. Nevertheless, the returns for Beltran (namely Swanson and Tate) and Brian McCann (Albert Abreu and Jorge Guzman, who helped bring Giancarlo Stanton to New York) were spectacular. Cashman and Company were certainly well prepared when they made those “under-the-radar” trades that opened roster space for younger, more talented players.
Unfortunately, the Boston Red Sox keep winning so the Yankees and Sox remain tied atop the AL East although the Yankees (30-13) continue to hold a slight advantage in winning percentage. New York is at .698 while the Red Sox (32-15) are .681. Boston is off today so the Yankees could pick up a half-game to take sole possession of first place or they could lose to fall into second place. With 119 games to play, I suppose it does not really matter either way in the grand scheme of things but I always prefer to see the Red Sox in the rear view mirror.
|Credit: Frank Galasso Illustration|
Photo Credit: Getty Images (Mitchell Layton)
Rain sweeps the Yankees away to Kansas City…
I guess we have Tyler Austin to thank for the last couple of days not being a total loss. Without his heroics (3 RBI’s), the Yankees would have lost Tuesday’s game which was ultimately suspended after 5 ½ innings with the score tied at 3. The Nats would have won the game if Austin hadn’t tied the score with the sac fly after his earlier home run. When the game is resumed, the Yankees will have nine outs to twelve for the Nationals so the odds favor the Nats. Nevertheless, credit goes to Austin for helping to avert a rain-shortened loss.
Photo Credit: AP (Pablo Martinez Monsivais) via BTA
With rain sweeping away the resumption of the suspended game and Wednesday night’s scheduled game, the Yankees have a couple of days off until they take the field in Kansas City tomorrow night for the first game of a three game weekend series.
I saw a good tweet on Twitter earlier this week that angrily asked why Robinson Cano got suspended for 80 games but the Yankees were only suspended for one. I see no association between Cano’s situation and the Yankees (he hasn’t worn pinstripes since 2013) but it was a good comeback for a day that saw both Cano and the Yankees get suspended (obviously for quite different reasons).
Photo Credit: Getty Images
As for Cano, I am disappointed. I don’t know all the facts of his case, but I am glad the Yankees didn’t try to match the huge offer the Seattle Mariners made to Cano after the 2013 season. I was not in favor of a ten year deal then, and this incident only reaffirms what can go wrong with inflated extended deals (I know, we have our own ‘Jacoby Ellsbury’ to bear). I always liked Robbie even if I did get frustrated at times with his lack of hustle. But as we stand here today, I’d much rather have Gleyber Torres as the Yankees starting second baseman than Robinson Cano, even if he hadn’t fractured a bone in his hand or was not currently serving a suspension for banned substances. The only injustice I saw about Cano’s suspension is he gets to begin serving it while he is on the disabled list. So, the actual playing time he’ll miss as a result of the 80-game suspension will be much less since the bulk of the time will be spent recovering and rehabbing from the surgery on his hand. I am glad he was ruled ineligible for post-season play, should the Mariners make the playoffs. It’s very convenient (and fortunate) for the Mariners that they have another All-Star second baseman on the roster with Dee Gordon who was serving as a first-time starting center fielder for the M’s prior to Cano’s injury and subsequent suspension. The M’s will still, no doubt, miss Cano in their lineup.
I do hope for Cano’s sake, he is able to put this behind him and he has no further acts of indiscretion for the duration of his playing career. I will continue to root for and support the former Yankee.
Poor David Hale. He’s been DFA’d three times this year (twice by the Yankees and once by the Minnesota Twins). Honestly, I am not really sure why the Yankees picked him up a second time. I’d rather see him cut this time rather than going to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on an outright assignment if he clears waivers. There’s nothing special in Hale’s arm and I’d rather see a young, hungry pitcher get his opportunity. I wish Hale the best in his future non-Yankee endeavors.
Photo Credit: Getty Images
The latest DFA for Hale cleared a temporary spot for Clint Frazier. It was speculated his latest time with the big league club would be limited to the Nationals series (to provide an extra bat off the bench for the National League-style of play) but with the rainouts, Frazier traveled with the team to KC and will hopefully get some time in the outfield with Aaron Judge and company before he gets the inevitable call to head back to Pennsylvania. It would be great if Red Thunder and his bat make it very difficult to demote him. Admittedly, I am growing tired of Aaron Hicks in center. Hicks may be the better defender and the more “true” center fielder, but I think Frazier has the better promise and potential for the now and in the future. Hicks is too inconsistent for me. I only wish that Estevan Florial was more advanced in his development and maturity. Dude, hurry up and age, will ya??!!
To sidetrack for a moment, I do have to say I’d gladly put Frazier in a trade package if it meant the Yankees could pry LHP Madison Bumgarner from the San Francisco Giants. I know Mad Bum has suffered some fluke injuries in recent years and has as much familiarity with the DL as Jacoby Ellsbury and Clayton Kershaw but when healthy, he’s a gamer. I’d love to roll with Luis Severino and Bumgarner as my top two pitchers heading into October. However, if Frazier is not traded, I hope he gets his chance to stay with the Pinstripes even if it comes at the expense of Aaron Hicks and Jacoby Ellsbury.
Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Shanna Lockwood)
Back to the Yankees and Nationals, the makeup day will be Monday, June 18th at 5:05 pm Eastern. It is going to make for a very long night for the Yankees with at least 12 innings of baseball. They finish a series against the Tampa Bay Rays in the Bronx on the preceding Sunday afternoon, and then after the game and a half on Monday night in the Nation’s Capital, they quickly head back to Yankee Stadium to begin a series against the Cano-less Mariners the next day.
Despite the washout in Washington, the Yankees (28-12) are currently a ½ game ahead of the Boston Red Sox (29-14) in the AL East Standings. Boston plays tonight at Fenway Park against the lowly Baltimore Orioles so it’s possible the Yankees and Red Sox could be tied entering play tomorrow. But then again, the spineless David Price is on the mound for the Sox so I’ll gladly take my chances with Greg Bird’s high school buddy Kevin Gausman and the O’s.
Photo Credit: The Aurora Sentinel (Heather Longway)
I really feel bad for the Los Angeles Dodgers and their fans. I am a known Dodgers sympathizer (they’re my NL team) and this has been an awful start to the year for the defending National League champs. Entering the season, many had them making the World Series for the second year in a row, but after another loss to the Miami Marlins last night, the Dodgers are 16-26 and have fallen into last place in the NL West. Well, technically they are tied with the San Diego Padres, but the Padres have the slight advantage in winning percentage.
Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jennifer Stewart)
Injuries have been tough but there were so many parallels between the Yankees and the Dodgers at the start of the season. Both are big market teams trying to reset luxury tax penalties with strong, young teams. But the similarities end there. The Dodgers had to let valuable role players like Brandon Morrow and Tony Watson walk in the off-season to keep payroll down and they’ve lost superstar players like Corey Seager (out for the year) and Clayton Kershaw to injury. This is Justin Turner’s first week back after his DL stint to start the year. The Dodgers face a lost season or they need to quickly spend to bring in strong reinforcements if they hope to salvage the season. The Dodgers have a strong farm system (okay, not as strong as the Yankees) but it is not ready to help. They’re already leaning on young guys like Walker Buehler in the starting rotation. Manny Machado’s name keeps coming up as an option for the Dodger Blue but he’d probably eliminate any chance of the Dodgers staying under the luxury tax threshold. Plus, they’d have to find a position for him if they have any hopes of signing him after the season since Seager will be back next year to reclaim shortstop. The Dodgers situation shows how much luck plays into strategy when it comes to navigating the treacherous waters of payroll. The Yankees and Dodgers are clearly trending in opposite directions.
I have tickets to two upcoming Dodgers games. Sounds like I’ll probably have a more enjoyable time watching the out of town scoreboard to see how the Yankees are doing.
To the Yankees and all of us fans, enjoy your day off. We look forward to watching the road team step up to the plate at Kaufman Stadium on Friday night.
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|