Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jim McIsaac)
Walker, New York Yankee…
When I heard the news the Yankees had signed free agent infielder Neil Walker, I admit it did not excite me. I had thought Walker might be an infield possibility before the Yankees acquired Brandon Drury from the Arizona Diamondbacks (in fact, TGP’s Bryan Van Dusen called it out as a move the Yankees should make before Drury found himself in Tampa with our favorite team). But once Drury arrived, I didn’t give it another thought.
Credit: Pittsburgh Magazine
The reaction among the Yankees Universe has been very mixed. Countless fans feel that Walker blocks the very talented rookies, Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar. I don’t look at it that way. For a one-year contract at $4 million plus incentives, this is not a marriage. It is a dinner date at McDonald’s. Walker may break camp as the starting second baseman but there’s no doubt that Gleyber Torres will be the man when he is ready. Gleyber needs the additional time at Triple A as he continues his comeback from Tommy John surgery on his non-throwing arm. He has shown this Spring that regardless of his MLB service time clock, he would greatly benefit from the added time in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Torres is going to be a star and there is nothing that Neil Walker can do about it.
Brandon Drury is the starting third baseman. With no offense to Miguel Andujar, Drury was not acquired to be a backup. The Yankees see too much potential in the player and feel that they can convert a number of those Drury doubles into home runs. The Yankees gave up two talented prospects in second baseman Nick Solak and pitcher Taylor Widener. At that price, they weren’t paying to get Drury as a part-time player. Perhaps Andujar goes to Pennsylvania and crushes Triple A pitching. There’s nothing wrong with two players fighting for one position. It’s a very good problem to have. For now, Walker’s arrival most likely means that Andujar will be joining Torres in Scranton. But like Torres, Andujar will be back. When he proves his defensive game has caught up with his bat, only a major trade for a starting pitcher could keep Andujar from pulling on the pinstripes. Walker certainly won’t stop that from happening.
I felt and probably still feel that Tyler Wade will see significant starts at second base. Worst case, I can see him in a platoon role with Walker at the position until young Gleyber arrives to take control. Best case, he breaks camp as the starter with Walker on the bench.
To me, the potential losers with the Walker signing are utilityman Ronald Torreyes and non-roster first baseman Adam Lind. Torreyes may make the Opening Day roster. In fact, I think it’s almost a certainty. But, when Torres and Andujar arrive in the Bronx with their minor league assignments completed, Torreyes is the potential odd man out. I thought Lind might have a chance to make the roster since the Yankees, for whatever reason, do not seem enamored with Tyler Austin. But with Walker’s ability to play first base (not to mention Drury too), Austin brings more to the team than Lind does as a right-handed first baseman (nice complement to the lefty-swinging Greg Bird) who can also play corner outfield. Lind is strictly 1B/DH. But Austin’s spot is not a given as the Yankees could opt for Billy McKinney if Jacoby Ellsbury and Clint Frazier are unable to start the season. McKinney has limited experience at first base, but the presence of Walker helps offset his inexperience.
To make room for Walker, the Yankees designated outfielder Jake Cave for assignment and released non-roster invitee Danny Espinosa. Shortstop Kyle Holder was also re-assigned to minor league camp. I’ve always liked Cave but he was squeezed by players ahead of him like Frazier and McKinney and was feeling the heat from hard charging younger prospects. Cave was in camp with the Cincinnati Reds a couple of years ago as a Rule 5 draftee. He opened some eyes although he proved he wasn’t quite ready for the Show. Hopefully, GM Brian Cashman is able to flip Cave for a younger prospect rather than simply letting him go for nothing. I was never excited about the addition of Espinosa. He was a decent player for the Washington Nationals a few years ago, but he wasn’t going to scare anyone with his bat. His poor reaction when the Nats acquired outfielder Adam Eaton which pushed star Trea Turner from the outfield to shortstop, displacing Espinosa, always bothered me. So, for me, I’ll gladly take Walker over Espinosa. The switch-hitter still has some pop left in his bat, and he is a very versatile dude (health-permitting).
Walker was assigned Starlin Castro’s number 14 (most recently worn by Espinosa). For me, the number is forever associated with the great “Sweet Lou” Pinella.
Photo Credit: UPI
By now, I don’t think any Yankees fans are expecting the team to add a starting pitcher before the start of the season. My early favorites for trade deadline candidates are Chris Archer and Danny Duffy. The Los Angeles Dodgers have long been interested in Archer, so I’d probably rate Duffy as the most likely choice if he can be pried from the Kansas City Royals. Personal preference, no doubt, is Archer. The health and performance of the existing starting five will obviously dictate what the Yankees do in July. It’s early, but I’ve been impressed with young right-hander Domingo German and would like to see him become the rotation’s sixth man in place of Luis Cessa.
Good times. I am ready for the season to start.
Waiting for Santa Claus in the Yankees Universe…
My thoughts that this could be a busy week took a hit yesterday when it was very quiet in the Yankees Universe and around baseball.
One of The Greedy Pinstripes co-owners (Bryan Van Dusen) took it as an opportunity to make a compelling argument for the acquisition of Danny Duffy of the Kansas City Royals. I personally do not feel that the Kansas City Royals will trade Duffy. The organization actually received somewhat good news on Monday when the Boston Red Sox re-signed first baseman Mitch Moreland to a two-year, $13 million deal. The signing presumably removes the Red Sox from the first base market (they had been rumored as the favored destination for Royals free agent Eric Hosmer). There is now actually optimism in Kansas City that the Royals could re-sign Hosmer. The San Diego Padres have been mentioned as a possibility for Hosmer but they would have to move Wil Myers back to the outfield (defensively-speaking, Myers has been better at first than in the outfield) and they’d give up a second round draft pick as compensation since Hosmer received a qualifying offer from the Royals. The New York Mets and the St Louis Cardinals remain possibilities for Hosmer too, but if the Royals are successful in bringing Hosmer back to KC, they are not going to “tank it” for a major rebuild. This means they are not going to give up one of their best young pitchers in Duffy who is under team control for the next four years. Duffy is also on record saying “Bury me a Royal” on Twitter in response to trade rumors. There’s no reason for the Royals to trade Duffy at the moment. Once they do trade Duffy, if they do, it will be a signal the team is ready to lose for the short term. I don’t think they are at that point yet so I don’t see Duffy as a present alternative for the Yankees.
The other TGP owner, Daniel Burch, has repeatedly said that the longer trade rumors persist about the Yankees acquiring Gerrit Cole from the Pittsburgh Pirates, the less likely it will actually happen. I agree with that assessment as GM Brian Cashman has a reputation for striking quickly in stealth mode. Hence, the Ninja reputation.
Michael Fulmer does not presently appear to be an option since the Detroit Tigers are not motivated to make a deal. I am sure that every call between Tigers GM Al Avila and Cashman begins with “Are you ready to deal Gleyber Torres?” which abruptly ends the conversation.
So, at the moment, the frontrunner for rotation help appears to be Patrick Corbin of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The D-Backs would love to re-sign outfielder J.D. Martinez (who remains the primary target for the Red Sox) but they would need to move some salary to make it happen. It’s funny how every Yankees move is somehow tied to the Red Sox. Corbin is arbitration eligible for his final year before free agency. He will get more expensive so now is the time for the D-Backs to make a move to ensure they do not lose the pitcher for nothing next off-season. He made a hair under $4 million last season. The D-Backs have a number of arbitration eligible players this off-season so moving Corbin would help control escalating costs while bringing back quality prospects. Corbin was terrific after the All-Star Break last year when he went 8-4 with a 3.26 ERA in his final 15 starts. MLB Trade Rumors is projecting that Corbin’s 2018 salary will be $8.3 million. The 28-year-old lefty would certainly represent an upgrade for the Yankees rotation and the cost shouldn’t involve the team’s best prospects. 2B/3B Brandon Drury has been frequently mentioned with Corbin’s name and he’d provide some help for the Yankees at those positions. Drury made $559,300 last season and is not arbitration eligible until 2019. The 25-year-old righty hit .267 with 13 HR and 63 RBI in 445 AB’s in 2017.
However, this trade rumor has been hanging out there since the Baseball Winter Meetings so the “Burch Rule” is probably in play (less likely to happen with each passing day).
As for third base options, I keep hoping that the Yankees can find a way to bring back Todd Frazier. A one-year contract with an option for one or two more years seems like the best team fit, but the player may feel that he can get more years elsewhere. Buster Olney floated the idea on Twitter yesterday that the Yankees would be a great fit for Mike Moustakas on a one-year deal which of course was met with laughter that Moose Tacos would actually accept one year (his agent is Scott Boras after all). But in theory, I love the idea for the player to build more value in the stacked Yankees lineup and an opportunity to exploit the right field porch before hitting the free agent market next off-season. It will never happen but it’s fun to think about.
Last Star out of Miami, Please Turn Out the Lights…
I feel bad for Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly who remains one of my favorite people in baseball. After the Giancarlo Stanton trade, he publicly made comments about his excitement for the youth movement in Miami. The Marlins have since traded Marcell Ozuna to the St Louis Cardinals and a couple of their remaining young stars (Christian Yelich and J.T. Realmuto) have expressed desires to leave. Mattingly will soon be fielding a team of minor leaguers at the Major League level. He deserves better. It’s a tough situation for the former Yankees captain regardless of the smile and positive words that he gives publicly.
|Credit: Charles Wenzelberg, NY Post|
Well, let’s see what today brings. Go Yankees!
Royals 6, Yankees 2…
Jordan Montgomery showed why he is a Major League pitcher. After a few outings that had led to speculation he could potentially be replaced in the rotation, Monty delivered his finest outing yet. The bullpen couldn’t hold it but you’ll never find a complainer with Montgomery. “I trust those guys coming out of the bullpen. I trust them all. They’re doing the best to execute pitches. They’ve been so great throughout the year already. Nobody is perfect. Win as a team, lose as a team.”, Montgomery said in his post-game comments.
|Credit: Robert Sabo|
Monty took a one-hitter into the seventh inning but gave up a solo home run to Lorenzo Cain. After getting the second out of the inning, Montgomery was pulled for Adam Warren with the Yankees leading 2-1 and no one on, finishing with a two-hit effort. At that point, the bullpen imploded to the tune of four hits and five runs, which allowed the Royals to walk away with the 6-2 victory. After watching Montgomery’s brilliant two-hitter, Warren (1-1) allowed two hits to the first two batters he faced, the second a homer by Jorge Bonifacio, while both Jonathan Holder and Chasen Shreve were greeted with solo shots from the first batters they faced in the eighth. Bryan Mitchell pitched a three-up, three down ninth inning but by then, it was too little, too late as the Yankees were unable to rally.
It’s disappointing to see such a great performance by Montgomery wasted but the overworked bullpen is a byproduct of the overall recent poor performances by the starting rotation. It’s hard to fault Warren and Company as it was inevitable they’d crack from overuse and it was really good to see the maturity of Montgomery as he refused to place any blame on his teammates. You could say that manager Joe Girardi should have left Montgomery in the game, but he was at 98 pitches. It was time for his tip of the cap as he walked off the mound.
|Credit: Mike Stobe/Getty Images|
Danny Duffy, the winning pitcher for the Royals, took notice. After the game, Duffy said “He’s out there, and he’s beyond his years and it’s fun to watch him compete.”
The Yankees scored their only runs in the fourth and fifth innings with solo home runs from Aaron Hicks and Chris Carter, respectively. The Yankees had a chance to close the gap in the eighth when Chase Headley came to bat with two outs and runners at the corners, but his liner to Eric Hosmer, who made a great play, thwarted the attempt.
Prior to the game, the Yankees took a moment of silence for the victims of the horrific and senseless terror attack in Manchester, England, playing “God Save The Queen”.
|Credit: Kathy Willens/AP|
The Yankees (26-17) maintained their 1 1/2 game lead over the Baltimore Orioles in the AL East despite the loss. The Orioles fell 2-0 to Ervin Santana and the Minnesota Twins. Santana pitched a complete game two-hitter. The Boston Red Sox beat the Texas Rangers 11-6 to close to within 3 1/2 games.
Greg Bird has resumed hitting off a tee as he begins his journey back from the bruised ankle injury.
I know, that pic couldn’t possibly be Greg Bird. He’d never wear his jeans that high up!
The current plan is for Bird to hit in an indoor cage today, rest tomorrow, and take outdoor batting practice on Friday and Saturday. Sunday, he’d travel down to Florida to begin either extended spring training on Monday or start a rehab assignment with High-A Tampa.
It’s possible that we could see Bird back with the Yankees late next week or weekend depending upon how things go. Hopefully, there will be no setbacks and he’ll be much stronger and healthier than we last saw him.
Gerrit Cole Update…
Yeah, that’s probably true.
For the record, Cole did kind of stink it up in Pittsburgh’s 5-2 loss to the Atlanta Braves on Monday. He was almost Masahiro Tanaka-like in lasting only 4 2/3 innings. The Braves teed off him, maybe using Bird’s tee, for 10 hits and 5 runs. I guess we can get that production from our own staff without giving up prospects off the MLB Top 100 list.
But all things considered, and throwing in the AL East surcharge on ERA, I’d still take Cole. I know that he spurned the Yankees when drafted a few years ago, but I have to say that for a chance to go to UCLA, I probably would have too.
Gleyber Torres Update…
Tuesday night saw Gleyber Torres in the lineup for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders at third base. Rob Refsnyder was at second, and Tyler Wade at short. Physically, Torres really isn’t that much smaller than Headley. He is an inch shorter at 6’1″ and about 40 pounds lighter at 175 lbs. I guess when I think of third basemen, I think of guys like Kris Bryant (6’5″, 230 lbs) but Torres is taller than others such as Justin Turner or Pablo Sandoval. Nolan Arenado sets the bar for third base from a performance standpoint and he’s only 6’2″, 215 lbs. Torres will continue to pack muscle on his frame so he certainly has the physical attributes to excel at the position. I guess selfishly I wanted to keep third base relatively open or flexible for the possible addition of Manny Machado but I am not going to complain if Torres grabs third for years of All-Star games and World Series Championship rings.
Torres was 1-for-3 with a single in the RailRiders’ 3-1 loss to the Columbus Clippers.
Have a great Wednesday! Time to get a new winning streak started! It’s a new day!
Here is a random wish list for pitching targets leading up to the trading deadline. I know that a couple of the names are untouchable. I guess if I am going without restriction, I should place Clayton Kershaw at the top of the list. Nevertheless, this is fantasyland so here’s my list. All of these pitchers are right-handers which really wasn’t by design. I wouldn’t even say that these are my top five choices. They are, however, five pitchers that I feel could provide an upgrade.
YU DARVISH – Texas Rangers
Darvish is 30 and will be an unrestricted free agent this fall. He is 4-2 with 2.76 ERA and 1.091 WHIP. With Tommy John surgery in his recent past, he’ll carry the injury risk tag for the res t7 of his career. Darvish is still one of the best pitchers in the AL. I loved the guy when he came over from Japan and wished at the time the Yankees had been more aggressive in pursuit of him.
It’s been said that Darvish could be the key to the team eventually signing Japanese superstar and two-way ace Shohei Otani, referred to as the Japanese Babe Ruth.
The downside to Darvish is his age (at this point of the Yankees rebuild and potential off-season cost to re-sign. You’ll obviously have to pay quality prospects for the potential short-term rental assuming the Texas Rangers are even motivated to trade him at the deadline.
CARLOS CARRASCO – Cleveland Indians
Carrasco is also 30. This is total fantasy as the Indians, a World Series caliber contender, are not going to part with a critical rotation piece. There’s no doubt the Yankees have long held interest in Carrasco. The right-hander is 4-2 this season with 2.60 ERA and 0.88 WHIP. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent in 2021.
CHRIS ARCHER – Tampa Bay Rays
Archer is 28 and is a better fit age-wise. But I think he’s untouchable for any AL team due to the heavy premium the Rays would attach to him to trade him inside the division. But if the Yankees could get him, I would be ecstatic. Archer is 3-2 this season with 3.70 ERA and 1.217 WHIP. He will be an unrestricted free agent in 2022.
JON GRAY – Colorado Rockies
If I could have my pick of any pitcher, it might be Gray. I am convinced the 25-year-old Gray is an ace-in-the-making. He’ll be held back from ever reaching his full potential as long as he calls the Mile High City his home. In a very small body of work this season, Gray is 0-0 with 4.38 ERA and 1.459 WHIP. He only pitched 12 1/3 innings before going on the disabled list with a stress fracture in his left foot. Gray has begun his bullpen sessions and will soon be back on the active roster for Colorado. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent in 2022.
Interestingly enough, Gray, like Pittsburgh’s Gerrit Cole, is a former Yankees draft pick. The Yankees picked him in the 10th round of the 2011 MLB Draft. He didn’t sign and was subsequently a number one pick for the Rockies the next year.
VINCE VELASQUEZ – Philadelphia Phillies
The youngest pitcher on my list (24), Velasquez is 2-3 this year with 5.63 ERA and 1.38 WHIP. Forget the stats, the guy has the potential to be a long term fixture in any team’s rotation. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent in 2022.
This isn’t meant to be a ranking of desired pitchers. I am just randomly throwing out some names. Granted, if any team’s first request is Gleyber Torres and is unwilling to budge, it’s discussion over. But Clint Frazier I am not as attached to. With Aaron Judge in the Majors with an assist by Aaron Hicks, and the promise of outfielder Dustin Fowler, I think the Yankees have the necessary ingredients for a good outfield now and for the next few years particularly considering a potential costly run at Bryce Harper in a couple of years when he hits the free agent market. My favorite outfield prospect, Blake Rutherford, is further away but he’ll be a ready replacement when the time comes. So, if I could package Frazier in a deal to bring a quality starting pitcher and maybe a dependable bullpen arm, I’d do it. Pittsburgh’s Gerrit Cole and Tony Watson represent a combo that would be worth the inclusion of a top prospect. And, no, Gerrit Cole is not Ivan Nova.
I am sure that we’ll be hearing many names ad nauseam over the next two months. But regardless of what happens, it will be much better to be a buyer at the trading deadline than a seller if the team keeps playing well. Exciting times in the Bronx.
The Yankees are hopeful that first baseman Greg Bird will be able to begin baseball activities next week. That’s good news to hear. Hopefully Bird has fully recovered and is ready to recapture the form he showed during Spring Training when he led the Grapefruit League in home runs. Bird has already started light running so it should be a sign that the ankle bone bruise has healed. I am looking forward to seeing what a healthy Bird can do.
The Yankees concluded their three-game stay in Kansas City with a loss, falling to the Royals 5-1. I knew they were in trouble when Danny Duffy struck out the first three batters of the game. Duffy threw a scoreless three-hitter over seven innings and recorded his first career double-digit strikeout total with ten. The Yankees scored their only run against KC closer Kelvin Herrera in the ninth inning on a Didi Gregorius single.
Jordan Montgomery (2-3) lasted five innings in taking the loss. He allowed four hits, five runs and three walks (with 4 K’s). The killer was a three-run homer by Mike Moustakis in the fifth inning. His replacement, Chad Green, was stellar in pitching the final three innings. He only gave up a meaningless single in the sixth, a runner subsequently erased by double play. He struck out six. It’s not outside of the realm of possibility that Green could replace Montgomery in the rotation.
|Credit: Elsa/Getty Images|
The Yankees (24-14) maintained their lead in the AL East over the Baltimore Orioles (1 1/2 games) and Boston Red Sox (4 games) as all three teams lost on Thursday. The Yankees did win the series, taking two of three, however, I always hate to see a loss on “Getaway Day” as that’s the game fresh on everyone’ mind for the flight to the next city.
The Yankees begin a three-game series in St Petersburg, Florida tonight against the Tampa Bay Rays (21-22). Here are the scheduled pitching match-ups:
Yankees: Luis Severino (2-2, 3.86 ERA)
Rays: Erasmo Ramirez (2-0, 2.92 ERA)
Yankees: Masahiro Tanaka (5-2, 5.80 ERA)
Rays: Matt Andriese (3-1, 3.18 ERA)
Yankees: CC Sabathia (3-2, 4.93 ERA)
Rays: Chris Archer (3-2, 3.70 ERA)
Have a great Friday! Hopefully Sevy finds a way to slay the Rays!