Tagged: Corey Kluber

Destination: 2019 World Series Championship…

NHF-Champions

Yankees are one or two moves away from “full throttle”…

Another day, another 24 hours gone by with no news on the Yankees front. Waiting for Manny Machado’s decision feels like an eternity. While many of you may be hopeful the Yankees pass on the…don’t say it, don’t say it…”generational” talent, I think it will be a huge disappointment for those of us who wish to see the Yankees sign the young superstar shortstop/third baseman.

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Probably the worst thing about waiting for Manny is how it has placed other moves on hold. Or at least that’s the way it seems from an outsider’s perspective. Not knowing how many dollars it might take to reel in Machado, the Yankees don’t know how much they will have to spend on the bullpen. It also prevents the Yankees from pursuing Plans B or C for the temporary replacement of Didi Gregorius. I know I’ve mentioned D.J. LeMahieu in the past and Daniel Burch wrote a piece about the player yesterday, but I don’t really want to see the Yankees sign a multi-year deal with a free agent second baseman that could potentially spell the end of the illustrious Yankee career of Didi Gregorius. If you make a huge multi- year deal for an above-average second baseman, it increases the likelihood the Yankees permanently move Gleyber Torres to his natural shortstop position and pass on offering Didi an extension. So, I think all things considered, I’d prefer to see a temporary glove-first shortstop like Adeiny Hechavarria or Jose Iglesias over someone like LeMahieu even if the latter’s bat could help. I want Didi Gregorius as the Yankees’ shortstop for the long-term and I am certainly not prepared to see him leave next off-season. I think in my mind, I envision Didi’s return somewhere around the trading deadline in July but some reports have him back sooner. I know that’s also an argument for why the team shouldn’t sign Machado but this is still a good Yankees team that can withstand a few months without Didi in the lineup.

If it’s my money, I pay the most dollars to bring in bullpen help to restore its status as a super bullpen and find a reasonably cheap deal for an interim shortstop to keep Gleyber Torres firmly planted at second base.

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Photo Credit: AP (Julie Jacobson)

I know I’ve said that I want one of David Robertson, Adam Ottavino or Zach Britton, but the truth is I want Britton. I think this becomes more apparent to me with each passing day that Britton remains a free agent. I am ready to see D-Rob go, even if that means he calls Fenway Park home, if it means the return of #53 to the Yankees bullpen. Obviously, if Britton decides he wants to be a closer again and takes more money elsewhere, I’d want the Yankees to go hard after D-Rob or Ottavino. I think for the second open bullpen slot, the Yankees will attempt to fill it from within with the likes of Stephen Tarpley, Joe Harvey and Chance Adams. Surely, Tommy Kahnle has to be better this year. He can’t possibly be any worse than he was last season.

The San Diego Padres keep popping up in trade rumors involving top starting pitchers like Corey Kluber and Marcus Stroman. I don’t really get why a young San Diego team with a very strong farm system that could potentially set up the team as a contender in two or three years would trade prospects for a thirty-something starter. Kluber is one of the game’s best right now but by the time the Padres are ready to contend, he’ll be on the inevitable downward slide. Kevin Acee, the Padres beat writer for the San Diego Union-Tribune tweeted yesterday that the Padres won’t be adding Kluber or Stroman and mentioned the team’s priority is a third baseman.  We know the Padres like Miguel Andujar, which does make you wonder if the Yankees and Padres could team up to make a three-way deal with the Indians to bring Kluber to New York. The Padres could potentially get their hands on Sonny Gray in addition to Andujar in a deal that might make sense for all three teams. I keep reading the Indians won’t trade their ace to an American League team but if the Padres and Yankees work collectively, they can make the Indians an offer they can’t refuse. I think Sonny Gray would thrive in Petco Park and would give the Padres the starter they’ve been seeking. I know that we keep hearing the Dodgers associated with Kluber, but I think they’d be stronger pursuing a trade with the Miami Marlins for catcher J.T. Realmuto, a huge need for the Dodgers, and signing a free agent starter like Dallas Keuchel than using prospects to bring Kluber to Chavez Ravine. If the Yankees can somehow acquire Kluber, I don’t really care what they do the rest of the offseason. They’ll have a team ready to dethrone the defending World Series champions.

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Circling back to the wonderful world of Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, the buzz yesterday was neither player really likes Philadelphia. I don’t really care for the Philly bashing as I like the city, but there’s no doubt, to me, Philly does not hold the same glamour, glitz, and prestige that New York City has. If your primary concern is your legacy in Major League Baseball, there’s no better place to play than New York. Of course, it takes two to tango. I know the Yankees are waiting for prices to drop and maybe that’s the smart play. But the team has the financial strength to bring one of the two best free agent superstars to hit the open market in years to the Bronx in a way that requires virtually no thought from the player or his agent. Well, let’s be honest, the Yankees have the money for both players, but realistically, that’s never going to happen in the bean-counting world of Hal Steinbrenner. I remember how jazzed the fan base was last year when the Yankees acquired Giancarlo Stanton. I know Stanton has taken his not-so-fair share of heat, but he’s a great slugger capable of so much more. Imagine bringing a guy like Machado or Harper to the team with Stanton, Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Gleyer Torres and others. This would excite the fan base beyond heights we’ve seen in years.

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We’re probably facing another quiet day in the Hot Stove League. I doubt anything heats up until we get to late next week. I’d love a surprise Yankees addition before then, but for now the wait must go on. We will persevere and hopefully by the time pitchers and catchers head for Tampa in February, the Yankees will be a much stronger team than they are today. The Yankees Universe has one primary New Year’s resolution…take the World Series championship away from the Boston Red Sox! Hal, say goodbye to your money, and let’s do this!

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As always, Go Yankees!

 

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Mr Corbin Goes to Washington…

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Photo Credit: Associated Press (Matt York)

Yankees Search for Another Starter Continues…

I was probably leading the parade for Patrick Corbin and there’s no doubt I was disappointed when the Washington Nationals signed him earlier this week. After days and weeks of anticipation, it is a letdown when a player you thought you could get goes with another team but I am not going to rip Corbin. He had to make the best decision for his family. So many people posted that the Yankees whiffed out on Corbin or that he snubbed the team. Neither of these are true.

God Bless the Washington Nationals for giving Corbin $140 million over six years. Pay him like he is an elite pitcher even though he isn’t.  His family is set for the rest of their lives.  It’s been reported the Yankees were willing to go 5 years and $100 million, maybe slightly more if they had felt the player was seriously considering them, but no formal offer was ever made. Not quite sure how that means the Yankees “whiffed” or that by accepting $40 million more dollars, Corbin “snubbed” the team. No offense to the Yankees but if another team offered to pay me $1 million to be their fan, I’m gone. $1 million times 40? Where do I sign? I’ll drive to you.

The Corbin ordeal shows that we, as fans, placed greater value on Corbin than the Yankees, and their analytics department, did. I am not sure it was the “shiny new toy” that has been described. I liked the idea of inserting Corbin and James Paxton into the starting rotation with Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia. Quality lefty who induces groundballs would have been a nice fit in Yankee Stadium. But I also know Red Sox fans were excited about potentially feasting on Corbin if he came to the AL East so there are differing opinions for how he would have fared in the competitive AL East. So, Corbin goes to Washington, I lose out on the guy I wanted most, and life moves on.

I like J.A. Happ and I thought he did a very fine job for the Yankees down the stretch, but I am not in favor of giving him a three-year deal at age 36. If he can get three years from the Philadelphia Phillies, one of his former teams, good for him. Let him go hang out at the Liberty Bell.  For a promising young team like the Yankees, adding another aging veteran with no real upside at this point does not appeal to me. We have CC Sabathia so I’d prefer to keep only one rotation spot for an age-challenged pitcher. I am not trying to discriminate against the elderly, but the fact is Happ has already been the best he is ever going to be. At this point, he’ll only get worse with age. He brings consistency but there’s a greater chance he begins the downward slide that comes with age. Maybe he is the thin version of Bartolo Colon and can keep going like the Energizer Bunny. But for me, there are still too many other (and better options) available.

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Photo Credit: New York Post (Paul J Bereswill)

Another pitcher the Yankees apparently “whiffed” on was former Yank Nathan Eovaldi who signed a four-year deal for $68 million with the Boston Red Sox. How do you whiff if you never take a swing? By all accounts, there was no way the Yankees were going to offer Eovaldi four years. I am glad they did not. I like Nasty Nate and, overall, I enjoyed his time with the Yankees. But for a guy who has had two Tommy John surgeries and throws with maximum velocity, the risk is too great for the arm to blow out again. Maybe he stays healthy for Boston over the next four years. Fine, I hope he plays out best case scenario for them. Not that I want Boston to win more championships, but I am not going to wish any ill will toward Eovaldi. Nevertheless, I am glad the risk is on the Red Sox and not the Yankees. It’s like Jacoby Ellsbury in reverse. Let the injury risk reside in Boston this time around.

At the moment, the best free agent options appear to Happ, Charlie Morton and Dallas Keuchel. If the Yankees are unsuccessful in trading for another starting pitcher, I suppose that’s the order I would rank them for my preference. Now that the Cleveland Indians have locked up Carlos Carrasco on an extension, the talk they will trade either Corey Kluber or Trevor Bauer is escalating again. There’s no doubt either Kluber or Bauer would be better options than Happ, Morton or Keuchel. Kluber would give the Yankees a top of the rotation ace but he’s a little older (will be 33 in early April). Bauer will be 28 next month and really took his game to the next level last season before a comebacker fractured his leg.  For Bauer, there’s no doubt his best years are ahead. There’s also something about the mental toughness of Bauer that I like which would probably make him my preference even though Kluber is the more accomplished pitcher of the two at this moment in time. But regardless, if the Yankees can get either Kluber or Bauer, they WILL be a better team. I really hope GM Brian Cashman can put together a package with Cleveland to grab one of their aces. No prospect hugging for me.  If it takes Estevan Florial, among other highly rated prospects, to make this happen, do it. I’d move quickly to extend Aaron Hicks as a result but there are options. Hey, we have Jacoby Ellsbury coming back for center field, right? Yikes! Throw that one away, but seriously, how fantastic would a rotation of Severino, Kluber/Bauer, Paxton, Tanaka, and Sabathia look? World Series-quality to me.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

I suspect Brian Cashman has been working hard behind the scenes and we’ll soon see the fruits of his labor. So many people have ripped the Yankees for their off-season work so far despite the acquisition of one of the American League’s best lefties but we really need to see how this month plays out. By Christmas, we should have a solid handle on what the 2019 Yankees will look like. Another starter, a couple of late inning bullpen options to help Chad Green, Jonathan Holder, Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman, and a solution to cover the months we’ll be missing Didi Gregorius as he recovers from Tommy John surgery. All of these questions should be answered over the course of the next couple of weeks.  Dammit Hal, GET GREEDY!  Now is the time to strike!

I was saddened to wake up to the news that former Major Leaguers Luis Valbuena and Jose Castillo were killed overnight in a car accident in Venezuela. It was just a couple of years ago I thought Valbuena would have been a great third base option for the Yankees (back during the frustrating Chase Headley days). Valbuena was released by the Los Angeles Angels in August, but at 33, he still had time to find his way back. I am sorry for the loss of both men and the devastating effect it will have on their families. May they rest in peace.

I think the Minnesota Twins have figured out if you can’t beat them, join them. By joining “them”, I mean adding former Yankee players to their team in the on-going attempt to find a way to finally beat the Yankees. Yesterday, when news broke the Twins had signed a one-year deal with former Baltimore/Milwaukee second baseman Jonathan Schoop, it was almost immediately announced they had also signed former Yankee utilityman Ronald Torreyes. Aaron Judge’s little buddy was recently non-tendered by the Chicago Cubs shortly after his acquisition from the Yankees. Toe should have opportunities for playing time in Minnesota. Good for him.  He’ll join a variety of former Yankees…Michael Pineda, Tyler Austin and Jake Cave. Former Yankee prospect Zack Littell, acquired last year in the deal that brought Jaime Garcia to New York, is also on Minnesota’s 40-man roster.

Congratulations to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders!  The Yankees’ top affiliate, in conjunction of the International and Pacific Coast Leagues, announced last night that they will host the 2020 Triple-A All Star Game at PNC Field in Moosic, PA. The game will be played on July 15, 2020.

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Derek Jeter’s Miami Marlins announced their coaching staff for 2019 under manager, and former Yankee great, Don Mattingly.  There are clearly a few very strong Yankee connections on the staff.  Mike Pagliarulo returns as the team’s hitting coach and he’ll be assisted by Jeff Livesey, son of former Yankee executive and scout Bill Livesey. Trey Hillman, a former minor league manager in the Yankees farm system and a member of Joe Torre’s staff in 2004, was named the First Base/Infield Coach. The pitching coach will be Mel Stottlemyre, Jr., son of the former Yankee pitcher and later pitching coach under Joe Torre.

It’s hard to believe the Winter Meetings are almost upon us. Everybody has been waiting for the action to start.  We’ve certainly seen it this week with the Corbin and Eovaldi signings, along with a couple others, and the trade of first baseman Paul Goldschmidt from the Arizona Diamondbacks to the St Louis Cardinals but the party is just getting started. It looks like we are in for one helluva ride in the coming days. Who wants to be a Yankee?  Let’s do this.

As always, Go Yankees!

Corby, The Day After…

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Waiting for Mister Corbin…

Now we wait. Patrick Corbin concluded his visit with the Yankees last night over dinner with team executives. CC Sabathia was apparently on hand at Yankee Stadium yesterday to help lead a tour for Corbin and his wife, Jen.  Aaron Boone was also seen on the premises with pitching coach Larry Rothschild, bullpen coach Mike Harkey and postseason share non-recipient and analyst Zac Fieroh.

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Photo Credit: Richard Harbus

Multiple reports indicated there was no formal offer made by the Yankees (yet), but hopefully we’ll see movement in the coming days with the completion of Corbin’s visits to Philadelphia, Washington DC, and New York. I am sure he wants to settle the biggest financial decision of his life and move on to enjoying his off-season with his new bride.

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Photo Credit: Richard Harbus

One factor that hasn’t really been discussed much is the impact of Mike Harkey in the Corbin negotiations.  Harkey was the pitching coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2014 and 2015 which means he was part of the team that directly oversaw Corbin’s Tommy John surgery, rehab and subsequent return. I am sure Harkey learned a great deal about Corbin’s heart and determination during this process. I haven’t really seen anything written to describe their relationship but familiarity is a plus.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Norm Hall)

I fully expect Corbin to become a Yankee. Admittedly, there was a time when I thought Greg Maddux and Cliff Lee were going to be Yankees and we see how that turned out. I remember the heartbreak both times when we lost Maddux and Lee, but like the scales tilted slightly in favor of the Atlanta Braves and the Philadelphia Phillies, respectively, in those cases, I hope it is advantage Yankees with Corbin. All signs seem to indicate they are. Ken Rosenthal reported last night that Corbin’s younger brother gave a best-man speech at Patrick and Jen’s recent wedding and concluded the speech by saying they all hoped the couple would be moving closer to home. The brother donned a Yankees cap as he made the statement.

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Via Twitter

As the Yankees attempt to reel in Corbin, one potential target could be slipping away. There is increasing noise over the last couple of days involving the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Cleveland Indians regarding one of the trio of Tribe pitchers, Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer. It is speculated a potential deal could involve sending Yasiel Puig to Cleveland. The deal could be expanded to include Indians catcher Yan Gomes since the Dodgers’ primary catcher, Yasmani Grandal, is currently a free agent and not expected back. The Indians most likely would want some of the best Dodger prospects, like outfielder Alex Verdugo and/or catcher Keibert Ruiz (especially if Gomes is moved). 21-year-old righthander Dustin May is the Dodgers top pitching prospect. If the Dodgers and Indians consummate a deal, it presumably would remove the two remaining Indians pitchers from potential trade talks as the Indians remain a playoff contender.

J.A. Happ remains under consideration for the Yankees. While I would not be opposed to Corbin AND Happ, I would be disappointed if the Yankees only get the latter. As they say, you can never have too much starting pitching and we see every year the five starters you open the season with are never the five men left standing by the end of September. I am excited about a rotation that features Corbin-Severino-Paxton-Tanaka-Sabathia.  Severino-Paxton-Tanaka-Happ-Sabathia, not so much. Sorry, J.A., I know you wore the Pinstripes well but I’d prefer to keep the age-challenged member of the staff isolated to CC Sabathia.

Please end any Hot Stove chatter about a potential deal sending Gary Sanchez to Miami for J.T. Realmuto. Sanchez is not going anywhere, nor should he. I remain in Camp El Gary and I fully expect a rebound season in 2019.  He is a guy I want in the lineup. My confidence in his bat has not wavered and I do believe he’ll improve behind the plate. When he’s right, he is the guy you want in a clutch situation. I think Realmuto is a great catcher but we already have one.

I thought the San Diego Padres made an excellent investment to sign free agent pitcher Garrett Richards.  Richards will miss next season due to Tommy John surgery but he’s a top of the rotation starter when healthy.  I liked him as a good buy low candidate for the Yankees but a two-year deal for $18 million is not exactly buying low.  The Dodgers were in on Richards too but ultimately he chose the Padres and yesterday extended his heartfelt thanks to the Los Angeles Angels organization, calling out GM Billy Eppler by name among others.

In a bit of irony, the Ronald Torreyes trade eliminated a job for another former Yankee. After the Chicago Cubs acquired Torreyes earlier this week, they traded infielder Tommy La Stella to the Angels. To make room for La Stella, the Angels designated former Yank Jabari Blash for assignment. The Yankees had acquired Blash last off-season in the deal that sent Chase Headley and Bryan Mitchell to San Diego, but they subsequently lost Blash on waivers. It’s funny, I saw one ridiculous (aren’t they all?) Twitter tweet saying Torreyes would become the next Jose Altuve with the Cubs. Under that logic, wouldn’t Blash be the next Giancarlo Stanton since he’s 6’6”?  Um, didn’t think so.

If the Mariners-Mets trade is concluded today as expected, I can’t say that I’ll be excited to see Robinson Cano in a Mets uniform. It will be a little bittersweet seeing Cano at second and Todd Frazier at third for New York’s second-best team.  But despite the possibility of Cano calling Citi Field home, I would not want that contract even if the Mariners pay down the $120 million left on Cano’s contract by $30 to $40 million. Sure, I think a 36-year-old Cano can help any team, but what will it look like when he is 38 or 39? In the National League, they won’t be able to hide him at DH so any defensive shortcomings caused by age will be magnified. I will be glad to see Cano back in New York City but I am happier he is not a Yankee.

Did soon-to-be Hall of Fame inductee Mariano Rivera really turn 49 yesterday?  How did that happen?! Happy Belated Birthday to Mo!  One of the greatest ever to wear Pinstripes.

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It’s a new day which means a new opportunity this could be the day Sonny Gray leaves Pinstripes. One can only hope. Waiting for Corbin to sign…waiting for Gray to leave.  I know, patience.

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As always, Go Yankees!

Yankees Acquire James Paxton…

Photo by Christian Petersen

Top Prospect Justus Sheffield joins the ranks of “former” Yankees…

The news broke suddenly yesterday afternoon. After a fairly quiet November (up to that point, the only significant MLB trade had been Seattle’s catcher Mike Zunino to the Tampa Bay Rays as the start of Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto’s “re-imagining” of his roster), reports came hard and fast like a James Paxton four-seam fastball that the Yankees had acquired the talented lefty from Seattle.

My initial reaction was ‘it’s a start, but we need more’. I didn’t expect the Yankees to lose Miguel Andujar in a trade for the much talked about trade speculation involving the 6’4” Big Maple and fortunately he was not involved. For a frontline ace like Corey Kluber, you’d part with the young third baseman but not for Paxton.

Photo by Al Bello, Getty Images

When it was announced the Yankees had sent top prospect Justus Sheffield, breakout minor league starter Erik Swanson, and rising minor league outfielder Dom Thompson-Williams to Seattle for Paxton, Yankee fans were immediately trying to find flaws in the prospects sent to the Northwest. I am not going to join the crowd and trash Sheffield. The fact remains he is only 22 and still has an excellent chance to be a difference-maker. For a team that is prepared to win in 2019, this is a trade that makes sense. Paxton makes the Yankees better when they step back on the grounds of Yankee Stadium next year. Sheffield is probably a few seasons away from reaching his potential. This is totally a ‘win now’ move.

The Yankees also needed to make room on the 40-man roster for Swanson or he would have been eligible for next month’s Rule 5 Draft so this saves a spot for someone else.

So where do we go from here? I really hope the Yankees continue their pursuit of free agent lefty Patrick Corbin. He was and continues to be my top choice. I’d love to have Corey Kluber but I don’t really expect the Cleveland Indians to trade their ace without asking for a King’s ransom. Admittedly, I will be disappointed if the Yankees sign J.A. Happ to fill the last spot in the rotation. Happ was great during his short time as a Yankee last year, but as a long-term piece, let’s say I would be a little underwhelmed. I would have been fine with Happ to go with Corbin, but not paired with Paxton who carries injury risk. I know, all pitchers carry injury risk. It’s the nature of the beast, but Paxton has consistently missed time over the last few years.

If the Yankees are successful in signing Corbin, the newcomers, along with Masahiro Tanaka, will certainly ease some pressure off Luis Severino to be “the man”.  I suppose it’s not out of the question for the Yankees to sign both Corbin and Happ. Last year proved, once again, you can never have too many starters.  Personally, I preferred signing Happ over long-time Yank CC Sabathia for the back end of the rotation. But regardless, you know that one or more starters in the rotation will miss time for various ailments and the Yankees need to be prepared. I really hope we’re not facing more rollouts of Luis Cessa to fill those spots. Domingo German, Jonathan Loaisiga and Chance Adams will have every opportunity to help, I am sure, but I hope we’re not leaning on those guys in multiple spots like we were at times last season.

Seattle fans seem to be taking the trade in stride. I think they realized that their team was mired in mediocrity in a division with some very strong teams. They have a few players with bloated contracts like Robinson Cano, Felix Hernandez, and Kyle Seager. I have always loved Cano but the back half of his huge contract is not going to be pretty for the 36-year old. I am glad the Yankees were able to acquire Paxton without having to take on any of unmovable contracts. The M’s can use the young pieces received in the Zunino and Paxton trades to position themselves for 2021 or so. I read one Seattle columnist who said Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto basically had the choice of getting punched in the mouth or hit by a truck. He chose the former.

I fully expect Domingo German to give up #65 for Paxton. It’s not exactly like German is married to the number. I believe Jonathan Holder was wearing the number at the start of last season until he opted for a lower number in the 50’s.  The number still reminds me of Phil Hughes but no doubt, in time, Paxton can make it his own.

There may be minor moves made today as teams finalize their 40-man rosters for Rule 5 eligibility next month. I doubt we’ll see anything as major as the Paxton trade, but there’s always a chance for the inevitable Sonny Gray trade now that his spot in the rotation has been filled. Otherwise, I expect the remainder of the week to be fairly quiet with no significant moves until we get past the Thanksgiving Holiday weekend.

Paxton is the first step toward the enhancement of the 2019 Yankees (if you don’t count the re-signings of Brett Gardner and CC Sabathia). Multiple moves remain necessary before this team is ready to take down the Boston Red Sox. Another starter, at least two more for the bullpen, and an interim solution at shortstop. Yet, my excitement for February is building. It only gets better from here.

As always, Go Yankees!

Looking Forward to St Patrick’s Day…

Photo Credit: AP (Rick Scuteri)

Patrick Corbin should be at the forefront for the Yankees…

So many possibilities, where do the Yankees go? November is always a tough month for the Hot Stove League. Lots of talk but not really much action. There’s always the chance for a major trade but we generally have to get much closer to the Baseball Winter Meetings in December for the flurry of activity, then the quietness returns until the start of training camp. I don’t expect this year to be any different.

No doubt GM Brian Cashman is laying the groundwork for potential trades. He’s talked with the Cleveland Indians, he’s reached out to the Seattle Mariners, and has surely had talks with teams we’ve heard nothing about. The talks now will hopefully yield fruit later, but rest assured, if the Yankees are successful in obtaining Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco or James Paxton, it WILL hurt. For a team on the cusp of a championship, now is not the time to “prospect-hug”. The team must be prepared to pay the price, whatever it may be, to bring in a top of the rotation arm.

Of the names mentioned, I probably like Kluber the best. He would immediately became the team’s ace, which we clearly need, and his presence would help take pressure off Luis Severino. Less pressure on Sevy would only enhance the chances for him to become the best he can be. But if the Yanks can’t get Kluber, Carrasco would be a welcome addition. I really like James Paxton and I think his name has been mentioned frequently in the past by TGP’s Daniel Burch. My only concern, like many others, is health. Paxton has not proven to be a durable pitcher. But if the team has the opportunity to add Paxton and the price is reasonable, they should do it.

Photo Credit: USATSI

Regardless of how the trade market plays out, I hope the Yankees do not lose sight of free agent starter Patrick Corbin. He will be costly but I am very fascinated with how his left arm and pitching arsenal would play in Yankee Stadium. He grew up as a Yankees fan and wore #46 in Arizona out of respect for Andy Pettitte. He is a ground ball pitcher with five legitimate pitches although his deadly combinations are the slider, four-seam fastball, and sinker. He’s been praised for his work ethic and the signs show he will be an elite pitcher in his 30’s. Corbin might slot into the third or fourth spot in the rotation depending upon what the Yankees do on the trade market, but he’d ensure the starting rotation is a strength in 2019 compared to its achilles heel in 2018.

Despite the rumors of so many names, Corbin remains my number one target this off-season.  I hope the Yankees see it the same way. Paired with an ace acquired via trade, or added along with the return of a guy like J.A. Happ or Nathan Eovaldi, the starting rotation will be better next year with Corbin in it.

Photo Credit: USA Today Sports (Mark J Rebilas)

The Bryce Harper/Manny Machado talk has reached absurd levels. I am anxious for the guys to get their $300 million plus contracts to end the excessive chatter about the two young superstars. I think the Yankees would be foolish to pass on at least one of the rare “young” superstars but it’s not my money. I see the advantage of Bryce’s left-handed bat in the Yankees lineup and I see Manny’s role in bridging the gap at short and eventually providing a superior defender at third. My personal preference may be Machado as I’ve long admired the player but I would shed no tears with the signing of Harper. Still, the Yankees can win without either so if they go big with the starting rotation and bring in a guy like Marwin Gonzalez or Daniel Murphy to help the infield, it will not be the end of the world. I like the chances better with Harper or Machado, but the 2019 Yankees will contend for the World Series regardless of how this plays out. “Go big or go home” applies now more than ever.

I want the Yankees to end the reign of the Boston Red Sox next season so I am in favor of whatever moves the team has to make to improve. I’d hate to see Miguel Andujar, Estevan Florial, Justus Sheffield, or Albert Abreu leave, but if it improves the team, so be it. Championship windows do not remain open for extended periods of time. You have to take advantage of the opportunities when they present themselves. I am ready for the pain for the greater glory. In Cashman we trust…

Photo Credit: AP (Gregory Bull)

For those keeping score, the Yankees have made some moves this off-season. They’ve re-signed Brett Gardner and CC Sabathia to one-year deals. They re-signed minor league free agent third baseman and defensive-whiz Giovanny Urshela and they signed a minor league deal with former Pirates catcher Ryan Lavarnway. Lavarnway was once a heralded top prospect for the Red Sox, although, now in his 30’s, he has settled into a journeyman role.  He provides much needed catching depth at the upper levels of the farm system. Lavarnway is one of those guys I hope the Yankees don’t need to use but he’s there to help if it becomes necessary. Milwaukee’s Erik Kratz has proven it is never too late to make a significant contribution.  Welcome to the Yankees Family, Ryan!

Photo Credit: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Matt Freed)

The end is within sight for Jacoby Ellsbury. He only has two more years on his contract before the Yankees can exercise their buyout. Ellsbury is owed $42,285,174 for the next two seasons, and the Yankees can then buyout his contract for an additional $5 million. Realistically, I don’t expect Ellsbury to wear the pinstripes again or at least I hope not, but I am glad we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve seen some suggest the Yankees should trade Ellsbury for another dead contract (like Miami’s Wei-Yin Chen, owed $58 million for the next three years, or Seattle’s Robinson Cano, owed $120 million over the next five years). No, thanks. I don’t think the Yankees should take on more money to rid themselves of Ellsbury. I like Cano and he might help but financially it makes absolutely no sense. He is clearly on the downhill slide and he’s entering the really ugly side of his ridiculous contract. If the Yankees can finally move Ellsbury even if they have to pay the bulk of his remaining contract, that’s the way to go. If I was a GM for another team and I was convinced that Ellsbury was finally healthy, I’d take a chance on him for no more than a $5 million per year commitment. That’s a lot of money for the Yankees to eat, but it would be worth the investment (addition by subtraction). I am done with Ellsbury and don’t want to see him pull on the pinstripes again.

Yesterday saw two notable names in the game announce their plans to retire. Hats off to Joe Mauer of the Minnesota Twins and Chase Utley of the Los Angeles Dodgers for long, distinguished careers. Both are names I’d like to see stay in the game in some capacity. I am not sure what their plans are for the future but I wish both the very best as they enter the next phase of their lives. Mauer’s departure certainly opens an opportunity at first base for former Yankee Tyler Austin unless they decide to go in a different direction for new manager Rocco Baldelli.

Is Sonny Gray still a Yankee? Count me among those who think Cashman will bring a better than expected return for the failed Yankee. I am certain he’ll get at least a strong prospect with upside. We’ll see. Hopefully Gray’s Yankee career is over by this time next month. It would  be great if he could take Luis Cessa and A.J. Cole with him.

As always, Go Yankees!

To the ALCS? YES, in Didi!…

Credit:  Phil Long-AP

American League Division Series, Game 5

Yankees Win Series, 3-2

Yankees 5, Indians 2…

CC Sabathia pitched tremendously before handing it over to the bullpen and the bats of Didi Gregorius and Brett Gardner provided the offense as the Yankees surprised the Cleveland Indians and the Baseball World to advance to the American League Championship Series.

Going into the final game of the ALDS, none of the experts were giving the Yankees a chance going against likely AL Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber in his home ballpark. But thanks in very large part to Gregorius, Kluber didn’t stay around too long.  His two home runs ensured that Kluber was watching the game from the dugout by the end of the 4th inning. I am sure that’s not the game plan that Tribe manager Terry Francona had envisioned. Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and Greg Bird were a combined 0-for-13 with ten strikeouts, but with Didi Gregorius playing one of the greatest games in Yankee shortstop history, it did not matter.

The game started with Corey Kluber in control. Brett Gardner opened with a failed bunt attempt on the first pitch to record an out. Aaron Judge struck out for the first of four strikeouts on the night for the second out. But then Didi Gregorius, who entered the game with just one hit in the series, blasted a drive into the right field seats for the game’s first run. Kluber came right back and struck out Gary Sanchez and was seemingly in control despite the misplaced pitch to Didi.

The Yankees had a runner in scoring position in the 2nd inning when Aaron Hicks took a two-out walk and Jacoby Ellsbury reached first on, surprise, catcher’s interference (bat hit the top of the catcher’s glove). Todd Frazier flied out to end the inning and leave the runners stranded, but the Yankees were showing activity against Kluber. Meanwhile, CC Sabathia was facing the minimum number of batters with four strikeouts through the first two innings.

Brett Gardner led off the top of the 3rd inning with a sharp single to right. After Judge whiffed again, Didi Gregorius jumped on another Kluber pitch and ensured it was a fan souvenir in the right field seats again. The Yankees were up, 3-0. 

Credit:  Jason Miller-Getty Images

The bottom of the inning was another three-up, three-down performance for Sabathia, with two more strikeouts.

In the top of the 4th inning, Kluber retired the first two hitters but had reached three balls with both before getting a strikeout and a line out. When he walked Jacoby Ellsbury on five pitches, it was Miller Time in Cleveland. Terry Francona pulled Kluber, who left with a 12.79 ERA in this series, in favor of Andrew Miller. Miller struck out Todd Frazier to get the Tribe out of the inning but it was very surprising to see Kluber’s exit before the conclusion of four full innings. I certainly was not complaining.

CC Sabathia finally gave up his first hit in the bottom of the 4th when Francisco Lindor led off with a single through the hole into left field. Sabathia came back strong, retiring the next three batters, two by strikeout, and remained in control. He looked good starting the bottom of the 5th when he struck out Carlos Santana, but then four successive singles brought home two runs to make it a one-run game. Manager Joe Girardi wasn’t taking any chances at that point and went to the pen to bring in David Robertson to face Francisco Lindor with runners at first and second. 

Credit:  Getty Images

On his second pitch, Lindor hit a grounder to Didi who stepped on second and threw to first to complete the inning-ending double play. A huge defensive play by Didi to ensure that his glove was as loud as his bat. CC Sabathia may not have survived the 5th inning, but still, giving up only two runs and striking out nine batters was a tremendous effort despite the slim lead.  

Credit:  David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

It became a dueling battle of the bullpens as both teams put up scoreless frames through the eighth inning. The Tribe brought in their closer, Cody Allen, with two outs in the 8th (who proceeded to strike out Greg Bird), but I was very surprised…and a little uneasy…when the Yankees brought in Aroldis Chapman to start the bottom of the 8th. With so many other options available in the bullpen, I was fearful that Girardi had gone to Chapman too prematurely. Fortunately, Girardi proved why he is the Yankees manager and I am just a blogger on this site, when Chapman recorded three quick outs on thirteen pitches.

Credit:  Getty Images

In the top of the 9th, with Cody Allen still on the mound, Starlin Castro struck out for the first out. Next up, Aaron Hicks singled to left. A fielding error by Austin Jackson, the ball rolled under his glove, allowed Hicks to move to second. Allen got Chase Headley to pop out, but then he walked Todd Frazier. Brett Gardner’s single to right, just past the glove of second baseman Jose Ramirez, cleared the bases to give the Yankees two very huge insurance runs. Frazier was able to score the second run when the throw from right fielder Jay Bruce into second got past Francisco Lindor and the Toddfather was able to slide into home ahead of the throw to the plate. Gardy advanced to second on a throwing error. It was a legendary at-bat for Gardy, who battled Allen through 12 pitches before getting the key hit (the longest at-bat of the post-season). Francona made another pitching move and pulled his closer in favor of Joe Smith. Smith got Aaron Judge to ground out to third, but no matter, the Yankees had increased their lead to 5-2. A little breathing room.

Going into the bottom of the 9th with a three-run lead made me feel so much better about the return of Aroldis Chapman for a second inning of work. But I did feel some tension when Chapman walked the first batter (Jose Ramirez). Chapman allowed me to exhale slightly when he struck out Edwin Encarnacion.  Carlos Santana hit a ball to second for the force out of Ramirez. Two outs. The only man standing between the Yankees and a date in the ALCS with the Houston Astros was one-time Yankees prospect Austin Jackson. Carlos Santana took second on defensive indifference, but Gardy’s insurance runs ensured that Santana was inconsequential. Chapman’s job was simple…leave the potential tying run standing on deck without a chance to come to the plate. You could feel the excitement emerging when Chapman blew a fastball past Jackson for the called third strike to end the game. The Yankees win!

Credit:  Gregory Shamus-Getty Images

I blamed Joe Girardi for the second game loss, but this game completed his redemption. It’s amazing how many people wrote off the Yankees when they lost the first two games of the ALDS in Cleveland. Even after they tied the series in New York, I didn’t hear many voices giving the Yankees any chance for Game 5 in Cleveland except for maybe Alex Rodriguez. The Indians were arguably the best team in the American League, with 104 wins on the season including the two wins in the ALDS. Their season included the historic 22-game winning streak and they were nearly everyone’s favorite, excluding Yankees fans, to win the World Series after their loss last year to the Chicago Cubs. But in the end, they will not have the opportunity to make a repeat appearance in the Fall Classic.  

If Corey Kluber could have figured out an answer for Didi Gregorius, the results may have been very different and the Yankees might have been left wondering what could have been. Instead, the magic and the ‘never-say-die’ resiliency of the 2017 Yankees continues. The Yankees will get a rematch of their 2015 Wild Card Game loss to Dallas Keuchel and the Houston Astros in Game 1 of the ALCS. This time, we get seven games to show the World that heart, determination and desire, combined with a little talent, can make a difference.  

Congratulations to the New York Yankees! Goodbye, Cleveland…hello, Houston!

Credit:  David Dermer-AP

Have a great Thursday!  Friday the 13th, here we come!  Go Yankees!

The Curious Case of the Girardi Gaffes…

Credit:  David Dermer-AP

American League Division Series, Game 1

Indians 9, Yankees 8…

Yankees manager Joe Girardi received accolades for his managing job in the Wild Card Game. He rightfully deserves the blame for the loss in this one.  Pulling CC Sabathia in the 6th inning at only 77 pitches and still going strong was a highly questionable move but the decision to not challenge the hit by pitch call later in the inning directly led to Cleveland stealing a game from the Yankees that the Yankees had appeared to have stolen from the Indians.

I’ve never been a great fan of Girardi but his minor league play in a critical major league game will most likely haunt us through the winter. The Yankees had a chance to send the series back to New York tied at one. Two games in New York with the series tied would have been a huge advantage for the Yankees. Instead, they now trail two games to none and every game they play going forward in the series is a ‘do or die’ elimination game for the Pinstripers.  It’s hard not to be upset about this game.

The game started so beautifully for the Yankees against likely AL Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber. Kluber has owned the Yankees this year but not Saturday. The team finally broke through against Kluber at the most opportune time. Aaron Judge took a one-out walk from Kluber in the 1st inning and was followed by Gary Sanchez who blasted a shot over the wall in center to give the Yankees an early 2-0 lead.  

Credit:  Chuck Crow-The Plain Dealer

They had a chance for more when Starlin Castro doubled to the wall in left and Greg Bird reached on a fielding error when second baseman Jose Ramirez couldn’t cleanly field the grounder to put runners at the corners with two outs but Aaron Hicks struck out to end the inning. Still, picking up two runs against Kluber was huge.

Credit:  Jason Miller-Getty Images

In the bottom of the 1st, the Indians got those runs back. Francisco Lindor led off with a  hard-hit grounder to third that Todd Frazier couldn’t handle (the ball rolled under his glove into left field) so he was safe at first. After Jason Kipnis flied out to center for the first out, Jose Ramirez walked on four straight pitches.  Edwin Encarnacion was hit by a pitch (a very painful shot to his leg), which loaded the bases. Carlos Santana singled to left, scoring Lindor and Ramirez to tie the game at two. Brett Gardner’s throw to Gary Sanchez was off line which allowed Ramirez to slide in with the second run. CC Sabathia was able to get out of the inning on a very unfortunate event. Jay Bruce hit a hard liner that Didi Gregorius jumped to catch and then Didi dove for second in an attempt to get Edwin Encarnacion who was attempting to get back. Encarnacion rolled his ankle as his foot hit the bag. The Yankees challenged the play, saying Encarnacion’s foot came off the base as he fell, drawing chants of “Yankees suck!” from the Cleveland crowd. The call on the field was overturned and Encarnacion was ruled out for the inning-ending double play. Encarnacion had to be helped off the field. Hopefully it is not the end of the season for Encarnacion.  

Credit:  Gregory Shamus-Getty Images

The Indians took the lead in the bottom of the 2nd. Austin Jackson led off with a single looped into center field. Yan Gomes hit a grounder to third but Todd Frazier’s throwing error to second (a  ball in the dirt) which Starlin Castro couldn’t dig out for the force attempt put runners at first and second with no outs. Giovanny Urshela successfully laid down a sacrifice bunt back to the pitcher to push the runners to second and third. Francisco Lindor was intentionally walked and the bases were loaded. Jason Kipnis singled to left past a diving Todd Frazier, scoring Jackson with the go-ahead run. Sabathia was able to get out of the inning without allowing any further runs when he got Jose Ramirez to pop out in foul territory and struck out Michael Brantley (who took over as Cleveland’s DH after Edwin Encarnacion had injured his ankle).

In the top of the 3rd, the Yankees chased Kluber with big two-out hits. Gary Sanchez started the rally with a one-out single off the end of his bat into right field. Didi Gregorius grounded out to first for the second out, moving Sanchez to second. Starlin Castro singled to left just past a diving Francisco Lindor, scoring Sanchez and the game was tied at three. Greg Bird followed with a solid single to right. Runners at first and second for Aaron Hicks who got a hold of a Kluber pitch to send it into the right field seats as right fielder Jay Bruce could only watch. Yankees were up, 6-3.  

Credit:  Gregory Shamus-Getty Images

Exit Kluber, enter Tyler Olson. The brief one-time Yankee retired Jacoby Ellsbury on a ground out to first but at that point, things were looking good for the Bombers.

CC Sabathia was pitching great after the earlier runs by Cleveland. Meanwhile, the Yankees added two more runs in the top of the 5th. Against Cleveland reliever Mike Cleavinger, Didi Gregorius led off with a walk. Starlin Castro struck out, but Greg Bird blasted a shot inside of the foul pole in right for a two-run homer to increase the lead to 8-3. A five-run lead with Sabathia still pitching great and the Yankees bullpen ready and waiting. Victory was in sight.

Credit:  Gregory Shamus-Getty Images

Then, the unfortunate 6th inning happened. After the Yankees had failed to score in the top of the inning, the Indians got a runner on first when Carlos Santana led off with a walk. Sabathia retired the dangerous Jay Bruce on a line out to short and appeared to be in control, but then Joe Girardi inexplicably pulled him and brought in Chad Green. Green got Austin Jackson to fly out to right for the second out. Yan Gomes doubled to left off the wall, with A-Jax advancing to third. It brought Lonnie Chisenhall to the plate, pinch-hitting for Giovanny Urshela. Green got two quick strikes on Chisenhall and then Chisenhall battled Green by fouling off the next four pitches. The fifth pitch came in and appeared, at quick glance, to hit Chisenhall in the hand. He was awarded first base. Replay showed that the ball had actually hit the bottom of the bat (no flesh). Despite objections from Gary Sanchez, Girardi made the quick decision not to challenge (later saying that he didn’t want to disrupt the pitcher’s rhythm). As Julia Roberts once said in Pretty Woman, “Big mistake. Big. Huge.”  

Credit:  Thomas Ondrey-The Plain Dealer

Chad Green then tried to get a slider past Francisco Lindor who jumped all over the pitch to send it into the right field seats off the foul pole for a grand slam. The once large five run lead was now a slim one run margin.  

Credit:  Thomas Ondrey-The Plain Dealer

David Robertson took over for Green and got the Yankees out of the heart-breaking inning.

Robertson pitched a clean 7th inning but he fell behind Jay Bruce leading off the bottom of the 8th on a 3-1 count and Bruce hammered a D-Rob cutter over the wall in left center to tie the game at eight.

The Yankees had Todd Frazier in scoring position in the top of the 9th (90 feet away) but couldn’t find a way to bring him home. The game went into extra innings but the Tribe bullpen continued to shut down the Yankees. They appeared to have a chance in the top of the 11th when Todd Frazier hit a grounder to third to lead off the inning and a throwing error by the third baseman (ball over the head of the first baseman) allowed Frazier to reach second. Ronald Torreyes was brought in to pinch-run for Frazier. A pick off attempt of Torreyes at second on a throw from the catcher initially appeared unsuccessful but the Tribe challenged the play and replay showed the tag applied before Toe could get his hand back on the base. It was a tremendous defensive play by Francisco Lindor with his lightning quick tag but a very forgettable pinch-running experience for Toe.

Credit:  UPI

Joe Girardi brought Dellin Betances back out for the 13th inning after he had already thrown the prior two innings. It was too much to ask of the short-inning reliever. Austin Jackson led off the inning with a walk and stole second. Yan Gomes ended the game with a single to left, bringing Jackson around with the winning run.  

Credit:  Jason Miller-Getty Images

This loss had the smell of Girardi all over it. Terry Francona who has proven time and again that he is a better manager than Girardi and proved it once again.  Cleveland never loses because of its manager. He’s the wild card that leads to wins.  Unfortunately, we cannot say the same for Girardi. I am not happy with Girardi and we’ll soon have a long winter to think about this missed opportunity.  

The series resumes on Sunday at Yankee Stadium with Masahiro Tanaka facing 18-game winner Carlos Carrasco. I am sure that Cleveland fans like their chances. I only wish that I could say the same.

Credit:  Joshua Gunter-Cleveland.com

Have a great Saturday! Let’s hope for a magical regroup and a Pinstriped charge to three consecutive wins in the ALDS. Thumbs down! Go Yankees!