Tagged: Dellin Betances

2020 Yankees New Year’s Resolution: Good Health for ALL…

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Yankees Overhaul Training/Strength-and-Conditioning Team…

The Yankees have made their first significant acquisition of 2020. No, they have not landed Francisco Lindor of the Cleveland Indians or Josh Hader of the Milwaukee Brewers. In a story broken on Friday night by Lindsey Adler of The Athletic, the Yankees have hired Eric Cressey of Cressey Sports Performance to oversee their training and strength-and-conditioning departments.

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Admittedly, I was probably most familiar with Cressey as a former employer of Yankees pitching coach Matt Blake, who served time as a pitching coordinator for the company. However, Cressey is nationally recognized for his work in kinesiology and biomechanics, and has worked with baseball stars such as Corey Kluber and Max Scherzer.

Per Corey Kluber’s quote on Cressey’s website, “CSP has been a crucial part of the success I have had in my career to this point. The programs have helped me gain velocity as well as put my body in position to remain healthy throughout a long season.”

For a team that set a MLB record last season for most players (thirty) on the Injured List in a single season, Cressey represents a major leap forward for the organization. We knew change was coming when word spread a few weeks ago that former strength-and-conditioning coach Matt Krause had been relieved of his duties with the Yankees. I expected an upgrade in the department but certainly not someone of Cressey’s caliber.

As part of the deal, Cressey will be allowed to continue to operate Cressey Sports Performance which has locations in Hudson, MA and Palm Beach Gardens, FL.

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I am excited about Cressey’s hire and feel it is as critical to the training and strength-and-conditioning areas as last year’s addition of Driveline’s Sam Briend as the organization’s director of pitching and the offseason hire of Blake as the new Major League pitching coach, replacing Larry Rothschild. The hitting instruction group has also received major upgrades within the past year with the hiring of Dillon Lawson as hitting coordinator and Rachel Balkovec as a minor league hitting coach, among various other additions.

According to Lindsey Adler, longtime trainer Steve Donahue, who has been in the organization since 1979, will transition to a role she says is “akin to trainer emeritus” and he is expected to maintain an active role in the organization.

To replace Donahue as head trainer, the Yankees will promote assistant athletic trainer/physical therapist Michael Schuk, 37, who is entering his seventh season with the Yankees. His bio on the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society website indicates he holds a bachelor’s degree in Health Science-Athletic Training from the University of Central Florida and a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from Nova Southeastern University. Prior to joining the Yankees, Schuk worked as an intern for the Cleveland Indians and the NFL’s Washington Redskins.

For those of you who continue to feel that Hal Steinbrenner is “cheap”, you may want to rethink your narrative.  We know the Yankees spent $324 million to bring one of the best starting pitchers in Baseball to the Bronx, but these organizational hires like Cressey most certainly come at very high costs. Outside of the Cincinnati Reds, who hired Driveline founder Kyle Boddy as director of pitching initiatives/pitching coordinator last October, no team has been as aggressive as the Yankees in rebuilding their organizational infrastructure with premium talent in nearly every area of instruction and conditioning. None of this happens without Hal Steinbrenner’s authorization (and his money, of course).

As for the team on the playing field, the Yankees have been quiet since the highly successful press conference last month to introduce Gerrit Cole. The re-signing of Brett Gardner has yet to be officially announced but that seems to be a product of the holidays and the formal announcement could be coming any day now, along with the corresponding roster move to open a spot on the 40-man roster. Barring a trade of J.A. Happ, the most significant moves before pitchers and catchers report next month will probably be players coming in on minor league deals with MLB camp invites.

Some Yankee fans wanted a reunion with former Yankees second baseman Starlin Castro, however, All-Starlin signed a two-year deal with the World Champion Washington Nationals to be their second baseman next season, replacing Brian Dozier and Asdrubal Cabrera. After a few years living in obscurity in Miami, I am glad to see Castro get another chance with a contender. Credit to Starlin who could have been a malcontent with losing under the Marlins, he was nothing but a positive, inspirational force on Don Mattingly’s team and I am happy to see him land with a good club.

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Probably a couple of the remaining free agent names I am watching with interest are second baseman Scooter Gennett and first baseman Eric Thames. Not that I feel it is absolutely critical the Yankees bring in another left-handed hitter, but it would be nice.

Fangraphs, via Steamer, projects Gennett to hit .261/.311/.421 with .310 wOBA and 90 wRC+ this coming season with 14 home runs and 58 RBIs (0.6 fWAR) in 112 games. 2019 was a lost season due to injuries. He missed three months of the season after severely straining his groin in March. When he came back he only hit .217 in 22 games and was traded at the July deadline to the San Francisco Giants. The Giants, who had cut former second baseman Joe Panik, another name recently linked to the Yankees, to make room for Gennett, released Scooter on August 27th.  Gennett is infamous for the four home run game in 2017, but I think there’s potential for a rebound in a part-time role. Whether the Yankees bring in Gennett or Panik on a minor league deal, I’ll use the words of The Greedy Pinstripes’ Daniel Burch, “No such thing as a bad minor league deal.” I agree. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. If it doesn’t work, you sever ties and move on. I like to  bring in as much competition at certain spots as possible and let the cream rise to the top. It’s not that I have anything against Tyler Wade or Thairo Estrada. I think one of them will serve a very valuable role as backup at shortstop for Gleyber Torres and there’s no question I love Wade’s speed. But there is room for a guy like Gennett who could provide some flexibility to use D.J. LeMahieu around the diamond like last year.

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Credit: USATSI

As for Thames, he may not hit for average but when he gets a hold of a mistake pitch, the balls go a very long way. That plays nicely with the short porch in right at Yankee Stadium. I am comfortable with Luke Voit and Mike Ford at first base, but would certainly not be opposed to bringing in Thames on a minors deal.

It was a little tough watching Dellin Betances wearing Mets gear at his press conference this week. Last off-season, I wanted the Yankees to re-sign David Robertson, perhaps over then free-agent Adam Ottavino. D-Rob signed with the Phillies and only pitched in seven games before missing the remainder of the season due to injury. He subsequently had Tommy John surgery and is not expected back anytime soon. Meanwhile, Ottavino was signed and became a very valuable part of the Yankees bullpen despite the late season slide. The Yankees called that one right and perhaps they’ve made the right call about Betances. I’ll miss Dellin and I hope the achilles injury does not resurface for him. We know how critical your legs are for power as a pitcher so if anything’s off, it could be very problematic for a pitcher who occasionally struggles with command. I’d love to see Dellin return to form in 2020 and then opt out after the season to re-sign with the Yankees. In my dreams, I know, but Dellin will remain a favorite for his time in the Bronx.

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For those of you who may have forgotten, potential fifth starter Jordan Montgomery was 9-7 in 2017 with 3.88 ERA. His K/9 rate was 8.34 and he started 29 games. His fWAR was 2.6.  I’d gladly take that production in the fifth spot again. I still expect the Yankees to trade J.A. Happ and his contract to lessen the team’s payroll for luxury tax purposes, but I think Montgomery represents a great replacement for Happ. Montgomery is a better starter, in my opinion, than 18-game winner Domingo German, who will miss the season’s first 63 games after his suspension for domestic violence was handed down this week by MLB.

Speaking of German, I’ve seen many Yankee fans call for his release. While I in no way, shape or form, condone German’s actions, I do feel that he deserves the opportunity to serve his sentence and get the help he needs to be a better man. It would be wrong to cut him for no return. As a player he has value, and I’d hate to see him land in Boston to help the Red Sox who seem to be crumbling at the moment. If the Yankees opt to trade him and control where he goes, I would not be opposed. I feel the Yankees owe German nothing, but for letting his teammates down, he owes the team everything (same with his family, actually more so, who suffered the domestic violence). I am willing to forgive although I doubt I’ll ever forget his actions which form my impressions of his character, but let’s give him a second chance to prove he is better than this.

This time next month we’ll be anxiously awaiting the start of Spring Training (as if we aren’t already). February 12th is not that far away and we’ll soon see Gerritt Cole walking up to Steinbrenner Field as a member of everybody’s favorite team.  Good times.

As always, Go Yankees!

Farewell to Dellin Betances…

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Photo Credit: Instagram @dellinbetances68

Reliever Signs with the NY Mets…

First of all and most importantly, MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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That’s not meant to be a tie-in with the title of this post. Yesterday certainly was not a fun day for most Yankee fans. I wrote a post yesterday morning before the news broke and was still writing my hope for the Yankees to sign Dellin Betances. Sadly, it was not meant to be and he is now a member of the despised crosstown Mets.

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Photo Credit: Adam Hunger, Getty Images

I am disappointed, without a doubt, but there was never any indication the Yankees were going to try to bring him back. It hurts a little that both Didi Gregorius and Betances left for one-year deals. It seems like the Yankees could have matched those offers without breaking the bank. Betances’ contract has a player option for 2021 and a team option for 2022, but if he pitches like we know he can, he’ll most likely decline the player option. For 2020, Betances will receive a signing bonus of $5.3 million and a salary of $2.2 million. The player option is worth $6 million for 2021, but if he declines, he’ll receive a $3 million buyout. It’s not smooth sailing next off-season for Betances if he does decline the option, the Mets could apply the qualifying offer which would cause some market resistance.

Oh well, he’s gone. Social media was littered with disparaging remarks by Yankee fans about Betances yesterday. Regardless of the reason(s) the Yankees chose not to aggressively try to retain Betances, he was a great Yankee. I felt he was one that I wanted to see stay in Pinstripes for the duration of his career. Frankly, I would have rather kept Betances and let Brett Gardner walk, primarily because I feel good outfielders are easier to come by than elite relievers.  If you believe that Betances has seen his better days, then the Yankees were right to let him go. Although I will never root for the Mets, I hope Betances is able to regain his prime form. He’ll be 32 next season, and this, potentially, is his last chance for a big payday. If Edwin Diaz is able to rebound from his disastrous 2019 and pitch like the elite closer he was with the Seattle Mariners in 2018, the Mets will have a very strong back end of their bullpen. Seth Lugo figures to join the mix making it a formidable group.

For Dellin, he gets to stay in New York City. As a native New Yorker, this is huge for him and his family. I probably would have preferred to see him join Didi Gregorius and Joe Girardi in Philadelphia but that would have meant uprooting his family and moving a few hours down I-95. So for Dellin’s sake, since he wanted to stay in NYC, I am glad he was able to. He’ll get to pitch for his friend and former teammate, new Mets manager Carlos Beltran.

For his 8-year Yankees career, Dellin finished 21-22 with 2.36 ERA and 36 saves. In 381 2/3 innings, he struck out 621 batters. He pitched in 358 games after making his debut during the 2011 season. He’ll be missed, but we move on.

The Yankees bullpen remains among the very best with Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, Adam Ottavino, and Tommy Kahnle. I’d say the group did fine in 2019 without Betances so there’s no reason to believe this group can’t be better in 2020 with baseball’s best starter sitting atop the rotation. With five effective starting pitchers, the Yankees will make less use of an opener in 2020 so it means Chad Green can return to the later stages of games. With more rest and options available to him, Aaron Boone can maximize the potential of the bullpen to its fullest capabilities.

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Photo Credit: Thomas A Ferrera, Newsday

Among Yankee fans, speculation immediately centered on the Yankees “have to” acquire Josh Hader and saying maybe that was the end game. I don’t feel the Yankees have to make any moves. Sure, it would be nice to add another effective, elite reliever but I am not going to buy into the Josh Hader hype. As we all know, when Brian Cashman moves, he moves quietly and swiftly.  There’s been too much noise around Hader which makes me believe this is purely fan speculation run wild. Maybe Cashman does pull off a Hader trade, but the cost will be very high.  Contrary to fan belief, we can’t just dump excess baggage on Milwaukee and call it a day. They’ll want players of significant value for their premier reliever who has four years of control remaining…if they choose to deal him at all.

Ken Giles was mentioned as a trade target last summer when it was reported the Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays did have talks at the trading deadline which almost brought Giles to the Bronx. The Yankees could revisit those talks, however, I am leery of giving Toronto anything of value. With their young core and improving starting rotation, they’ll be making some noise in the AL East in upcoming years. The last thing I’d want to see is former Yankees helping lead the charge.

This probably makes Cleveland’s Brad Hand the most attractive option, in my opinion. If the Indians were to deal Francisco Lindor, it would be a clear signal they are entering rebuilding mode after the earlier trade which sent Corey Kluber to the Texas Rangers. At that point, Hand would seemingly become expendable, and from a trade standpoint, would be more reasonably priced than Hader.

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Photo Credit: Aaron Joseczyk, UPI

Other names that have been mentioned include Mychal Givens of the Baltimore Orioles and Tim Hill of the Kansas City Royals.

Regardless of what happens, the Yankees will be alright. Ben Heller is healthy and ready to show he belongs in the Yankee bullpen.  I am optimistic for a rebound by Jonathan Holder. I think Jonathan Loaisiga, if he stays healthy, has a chance to be a very good reliever. Luis Cessa was better last year and could continue to improve. Let’s give Brian Cashman time to round out the bullpen. He has 49 days until pitchers and catchers report to Tampa. That’s not a hard stop but I have no doubt the best possible 25 men will take the field for the New York Yankees when they open the regular season on March 26th at Camden Yards against the Baltimore Orioles.

Enjoy your Christmas! We can worry about Yankees baseball tomorrow.

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As always, Go Yankees!

Let’s Secure The Machine…

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Photo Credit: AP


Time to Focus on D.J. LeMahieu…

I have to say this baseball off-season has been more eventful than years past, and has been nice to see the big free agents off the board before Christmas. Last year, it seemed like free agent signings and trade activity were frozen while the World waited to see where Manny Machado and Bryce Harper would land. The Yankees had started early with their trade for James Paxton but it was relatively quiet for them until January. Even then, their signing of D.J. LeMahieu in 2019’s first month was met with indifference from the Yankees fan base, maybe some frustration for those who really wanted to see Manny Machado suit up in Pinstripes.

Nearly a year later, we see how invaluable the acquisition of D.J. LeMahieu really was. Many felt that he was the team’s MVP and warranted consideration for the AL MVP Award (he finished a disappointing fourth). I felt he should have been at least third in the voting with no offense to Marcus Semien (being a Yankee always seems to be a negative factor with these types of awards).

LeMahieu, who will turn 32 in July, enters the final year of his two year, $24 million contract with the Yankees. I’d really like to see the team sign him to an extension now rather than wait until after the season. I think LeMahieu proved his worth in his first Bronx season. He showed he was not a product of Coors Field and actually improved his power numbers away from the Mile High City. His final batting line was .327/.375/.518 with ..375 wOBA and 136 wRC+. He had 26 home runs, eclipsing his previous high of 15 with the Colorado Rockies, and 102 RBIs. His K% was only 13.7%, in line with his career numbers. A superior defender, he is slated to be the Yankees starting second baseman in 2020 with the move of Gleyber Torres to shortstop. Setting the numbers aside, it felt like LeMahieu was always coming up with the big hit when the Yankees needed him the most, almost singlehandedly solving the Yankees’ problem with runners left in scoring position.

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Photo Credit: Tim Warner, Getty Images

For whatever reason, the Yankees are less aggressive with their own free agents than they are when enamored with an outsider like Gerrit Cole. That’s probably a false generalization but I remember how difficult it seemed for Derek Jeter to get new contracts in his later years, with negotiations very tenuous at times. We saw it this Winter when the Yankees let Didi Gregorius walk and to this date appear ready to let Dellin Betances leave. While I am not sure the Yankees had any intention of bringing back Didi (if they had, they would have given him the qualifying offer), Gregorius said at his Phillies introductory press conference that he had only heard from Brian Cashman once and he was told the Yankees were focused on Gerrit Cole. To me, unless a player is very invested in Pinstriped legacy like Jeter or Mariano Rivera, it is easy for a Yankee free agent to go elsewhere if things get contentious.

Last off-season, the Yankees gave extensions to Luis Severino and Aaron Hicks. Unfortunately, both subsequently missed significant time with injuries. Maybe that gives the Yankees pause when considering extensions this off-season.  With the need for Torres at short, the Yankees need to stabilize the future of second base and lock up LeMahieu while they have exclusive negotiating rights. Treat him right.  He is a very valuable part of this team and he has proven his worth. As it sits right now, the Yankees need to add a potential left-handed bat, perhaps in a utility infield role. I know, it is well documented the Yankees’ right-handed hitters hit lefties as well as they do righties, and the need for a left-handed bat is overrated. Still, with the departure of Didi, the only left-handed bats are Mike Ford, Mike Tauchman and Tyler Wade. Of course, when he returns next summer after completion of his rehab from Tommy John surgery, the switch-hitting Aaron Hicks can hit from the left side too.

Slowly, some of the free agent options I’ve liked are starting to come off the board, I thought former Phillies second baseman Cesar Hernandez might have been a decent option although he has only really played second base. But there are more than a few critics with his game, and he is no longer an option after signing with the Cleveland Indians yesterday. Another guy I really liked as a bounce-back candidate, Travis Shaw, signed in the division with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Going into the season, I see Tyler Wade as the primary backup for shortstop. He’ll be challenged in Spring Training by Thairo Estrada but when camp breaks toward the end of March, I feel the difference-maker will be Wade’s speed. So, perhaps the best current free agent option for left-handed infield help appears to be former Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis. I know Kipnis, 33 in April, is not the player he once was. But the Yankees would not be asking him to play a major role.  He was some pop as evidenced by his 17 bombs last year even if he is not going to hit for average (.245/.304/.410 in 2019). It’s probably more likely the Yankees bring in a guy like Joe Panik on a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training, if anyone at all.

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Photo Credit: George Nitikin, AP

It appears the Yankees will be going with Kyle Higashioka as the backup catcher. I thought they might make a play for Gerrit Cole’s 2019 personal catcher, Martin Maldonado, but he re-signed with the Houston Astros. Another possibility, former Yankee Francisco Cervelli, signed with the Miami Marlins. Considering Cervelli signed for only $2 million, it seems like the Yankees could have easily had him if they had wanted, which reinforces their ‘all or nothing’ approach with Higgy. I am a little uneasy if Gary Sanchez misses considerable time due to injuries but it is time for Higgy to show that he is ready. He has literally spent years training and waiting for this opportunity. I hope we do not see the 39-year-old Erik Kratz in the Bronx but unfortunately, at this point, it appears inevitable we will for at least some stretches next season.

The last spot to be addressed is the bullpen. Despite the rumors continuing to flurry about Josh Hader, I’d still prefer to see the return of Dellin Betances.  I know, he’ll be delayed by his Achilles Heel injury which has been addressed only by rest and not surgery, and carries great risk entering the 2020 season. I guess I am not really ready to see Betances leave and I continue, or at least try, to think optimistically about his recovery. It’s not that I am against Hader, it’s just the incredibly high cost it will take to bring him to the Bronx. The Yankees are almost guaranteed to lose Miguel Andujar in any deal for Hader, as well as some very good and high-ranked prospects. As much as I appreciated Gio Urshela’s breakout last year, I am not 100% convinced the late bloomer can sustain his performance into the new season. No doubt I prefer Gio’s glove over Andujar at third, but if hecan’t hit, it makes more sense to return Andujar to third despite his defensive shortcomings because we know the man can roll out of bed and hit bombs. To his credit, he is trying to get better with the glove and that’s all we can ask.

The Yankees were connected with Kansas City Royals reliever Tim Hill earlier this off-season and it’s probably more likely the Yankees pursue a lesser name like Hill than one of the best in the game for the bullpen need. Speaking of the Royals, they acquired Chance Adams from the Yankees yesterday. Adams had been designated for assignment last week when the Yankees officially announced Gerrit Cole. When I first heard that Adams was going to the Royals, I was a bit hopeful he was part of a bigger deal to bring Hill to New York, but getting anything more than a “slapdick prospect” (using Blake Snell’s words) for Adams was asking too much. Straight up, the Yankees received a lower level infielder with no power (Cristian Perez). There was a time when we thought Adams was going to be something special for the Yankees but sadly it was not meant to be. I still think he can be an effective reliever so we’ll see if he thrives with the Royals, a lesser pressurized environment for sure.

It’s nice to know that pitchers and catchers report to Tampa in less than two months. I am ready for MLB’s return (especially after last night’s disappointing loss by my Minnesota Vikings which handed the NFC North division championship to the hated Green Bay Packers). It will be fun to watch the arrival of Gerrit Cole to camp and the barrage of media it is sure to bring when the Yankees highest paid player makes his debut at Steinbrenner Field, surrounded by his new teammates. James Paxton, Luis Severino, and Masahiro Tanaka will almost certainly go unnoticed as they prepare for the 2020 season.

I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas! Enjoy the time with friends and family, and take the time to appreciate all we have with this life.

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As always, Go Yankees!

Early Christmas for Yankee Fans…

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Photo Credit: Getty Images/Illustration via The Ringer


Reminder: Gerrit Cole is a Yankee…

I always look forward to the Baseball Winter Meetings. For me, it’s the highlight of the off-season. Some years are very disappointing, but some, like this year, are not. When the meetings conclude on Thursday, it always feels a little like the day after Christmas. This year was no exception.

We certainly felt the highs and lows of emotion over the course of the eventful week.

Even though it didn’t appear the Yankees were interested in signing Didi Gregorius, it was still a gut punch when word spread on Tuesday that he had signed a one-year deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. When it was rumored at the beginning of the week that Didi’s camp would consider a one-year deal, I thought it might increase the chances he’d re-sign with the Yanks. Nope. He’ll get $14 million to have Joe Girardi pencil his name in at shortstop in Philly and for his sake, hopefully the chance to rebuild his value after last year’s disappointment following Tommy John surgery. He’ll re-enter free agency again after the season, likely in position for a multi-year contract if he proves to be the Didi of old although the Phillies could issue him the qualifying offer which would provide some resistance in the market. I have to say for a few hours after hearing about the signing, I was deeply saddened. I really enjoyed Didi’s play both on and off the field.  He has such a great personality and is so immensely  talented in all areas of his life. I loved his dances on the field with teammates. Emotions re-surfaced a bit yesterday when the Phillies officially announced Didi, and he said his goodbyes to Yankee fans on social media. He will be missed.

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Nevertheless, we have to move on. I get why the Yankees did not re-sign Didi. Gleyber Torres is certainly a cheaper, more talented option at shortstop, and it opens a position, second base, for D.J. LeMahieu after a year of playing all three infield bags. Now, I hope the Yankees extend LeMahieu so we don’t open a hole at second after the upcoming season like we did when Robinson Cano walked.  The presence of Miguel Andujar and Mike Ford certainly lessen the need for LeMahieu to cover first and third, and no doubt we need LeMahieu in the lineup as much as possible (as Aaron Boone would say, “obviously”). So, the positive with Didi’s departure is what it means for LeMahieu. Of course, the Yankees will need to find someone who can fill his role as the floater behind the infield starters. I like Tyler Wade but I am not sure if he is the one. He still has much to prove although he did show more late last year than I had expected. The other in-house option is Thairo Estrada, who has the support of many fans. I expect a minor trade or free agent signing. Former Phillies second baseman Cesar Hernandez seems intriguing although he has very limited experience at short. I am probably hopeful Estrada wins the job, although it’s hard to dismiss Wade’s speed and the disruption he can cause on the base paths. He also has the ability to cover play both infield and outfield positions, flexibility that is very hard to find. I look forward to Spring Training to see how this competition plays out.

So many words typed and I have yet to write the biggest name of the week (except for the top of the page). When I went to bed on Tuesday night, it was unclear where Gerrit Cole would be playing next year. The Yankees remained the favorites and it sounded like the Los Angeles Angels had moved on. However, the Los Angeles Dodgers were still in it, and apparently several mystery teams (although we know the latter is a standard Scott Boras negotiating ploy). As I laid my head on my pillow, I was still carrying the disappointment of the loss of Sir Didi. Around 3 am on Wednesday morning, I woke up and decided to check my phone. Much to my surprise and amazement, I found Gerrit Cole had signed with the Yankees for 9 years and $324 million. Woohoo! We finally got our man.

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Photo Credit: Corey Sipkin

I’ve wanted Gerrit Cole for literally years. It felt like destiny for him to eventually become a Yankee. I really thought the Yankees had him a couple of years ago in a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates, but when that didn’t happen, I always knew the Yankees would have one more chance when Cole became a free agent. I didn’t necessarily fall for the “he wants to play on the West Coast” narrative. Money seems to be a bigger motivator than location. Yet, I remember how much I wanted Max Scherzer a few years ago or even Patrick Corbin last year, only to come away with disappointment. In Corbin’s case, it was a blessing. He’s good pitcher and his contributions helped win the World Series for the Washington Nationals, but he’s not Gerrit Cole. If he had signed the big $140 million contract with the Yankees instead of the Nats, Hal Steinbrenner may have been less motivated to open his wallet for Cole. It’s easy to say that I prefer to have Cole for the next nine years than Corbin for the next five years remaining on his contract. I’d rather see the Yankees use the money to re-sign James Paxton if he proves the second half of last year was the Big Maple we’ll see going forward.

According to The New York Post, the Yankees will be announcing Cole on Tuesday. Hopefully it will be a press conference at Yankee Stadium. I haven’t heard any details yet. It seems like it has been a few years since the Yankees have held an event at the Stadium to announce a new player. Most lately seem to be telephone interviews with the media after the announcements are made. I prefer the players in front of cameras, pulling on the famed Pinstriped jersey and hat with the interlocking N-Y. Loved watching Giancarlo Stanton put on the Pinstripes a few years ago. Hopefully we’ll get to see it with Gerrit and his wife Amy. No doubt Scott Boras will be there as he lives for these big moments in the spotlight.

Speaking of Boras, it’s hard to think of anyone who had a better week than him. He negotiated the contracts for Cole, Stephen Strasburg, and Anthony Rendon, a total of $814 million. If his fee is 5%, he brought in $40.7 million for the Boras Corporation. He also negotiated the $64 million contract for Mike Moustakas with the Reds and represents free agents Hyun-Jin Ryu, Nick Castellanos, and Dallas Keuchel. I don’t think Scott has to worry about where his next meal is coming from.

Back to Cole, I am excited he is a New York Yankee. I think his presence on top of the Yankees’ starting rotation is huge. Not only is he a great pitcher, but I think he helps everyone behind him.  Luis Severino no longer has to feel the pressure to be “the man”.  He can be a soon-to-be 26-year old with immense talent who can thrive as the number two behind Cole. When your third and fourth starters are James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka, life is good. I expect Jordan Montgomery to round out the rotation, but honestly, it does not matter who pitches. I know it won’t be J.A. Happ whom we expect to be traded in the coming days to unload his salary or a good chunk of it. I am glad to see Happ go. I am appreciative of how he pitched after the Yankees acquired him in 2018 at the trading deadline, and I know he can still be an effective Major League pitcher, but the Yankees have plenty of options for the fifth starter (Montgomery, Deivi Garcia and Michael King are the names coming to mind immediately). If we need someone at the trade deadline, we’ll get him.

For the last few years, I’ve viewed the starting rotation as a weakness. It is funny how one man can change that perception. Gerrit Cole puts everyone in their right place, giving the Yankees the best starting rotation in the American League and up there with the Washington Nationals as the best in Major League Baseball.

As for numbers, I would like to see Cole get #45. “Cole 45” is a thing and I’d like it to continue even though it means Louis Linwood Voit III has to find a new number. Voit wore 30 during his college days at Missouri State University and it is available with the departure of Edwin Encarnacion so that’s the number I think Luke should grab. But you could certainly make an argument for other numbers freshly open, like 22 or 28. No, I am not in favor of 69 like many Yankee fans.

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Photo Credit: @lukevoit via Instagram

The Yankees suffered another loss, although expected, when backup catcher Austin Romine signed with the Detroit Tigers. I hate to see Romine go but we’re in a ‘now or never’ situation with Kyle Higashioka since he is out of options. No way the Yankees were ever going to pay $4 million for a backup catcher.  So good for Romine to get his money. He’s been a good Yankee and he’ll be missed. He’ll get a chance to start and to mentor Detroit’s young catchers.  Hopefully the pay day and the starting opportunity will help offset the fact he now has Octobers free. While I’d support a signing of Gerrit Cole’s personal catcher last year, Martin Maldonado, I am hopeful Higgy grabs this opportunity to support Gary Sanchez and runs with it. He’s earned the right to have first crack at the job.

The Yankees also seem likely to lose Dellin Betances at this point. I hate to see it. I’d love to see Dellin back, even on a one-year deal to rebuild value. I hope this is not the end. The Dodgers have apparently emerged as the latest suitor although you can’t count out Joe Girardi and the Phillies given the holes in their bullpen.  I suppose either of those teams would be preferable to the Mets if Dellin does leave. I am not ready for the Bronx native to go and I am sure it will hit me as hard as Didi’s departure if it happens. Kind of reminds me how I felt when Rich “Goose” Gossage signed with the San Diego Padres following the 1983 season.

I should mention congratulations to Brett Gardner are in order for his new contract with the Yankees. I am not sure that I would have locked in $12.5 million for him regardless of what he has meant for the Yankees, but all things considered, it’s good to have his leadership on the team, particularly since CC Sabathia is no longer there. Gardy gets a $2 million signing bonus and $8 million salary for 2020, and a team option for $10 million in 2021 (which carries a $2.5 million buyout). Let Brett bang. Glad he’ll return, although I would give the temporary starting center field role, until Aaron Hicks returns mid-season, to Mike Tauchman to keep Gardy as the fourth outfielder. Even as the fourth outfielder, Gardy will play.

I always hate the Rule 5 Draft as teams always try to poach from the Yankees’ farm system. RHP Rony Garcia was the first selection of this year’s draft when he was grabbed by the Detroit Tigers. Most likely, he’ll be able to remain on the Tigers’ MLB roster for the duration of the season, ending his association with the Yankees. Good opportunity for him. There was not a clear path to the Majors with the Yankees. Too much talent ahead of him. So long to the Yankee minor leaguers selected in the Triple A phase since they now belong to their new organizations and will not be coming back: RHP Hobie Harris (Blue Jays), RHP Will Carter (White Sox), RHP Raynel Espinal (Red Sox), and 2B Wendell Rijo (Braves).  I hate seeing the Red Sox nab Yankee prospects. They grabbed RHP Anyelo Gomez last year in the Minor League phase. Good chance we never see these guys in the Major Leagues but I hate the Red Sox.

At this point, there is not much left for the Yankees to do. I expect them to bring in a few guys on minor league deals with invitations to Spring Training.  Yesterday, they signed outfielder Thomas Milone. Milone, 25 in January, was selected in the third round of the 2013 MLB Draft by the Tampa Bay Rays. He carries the rep of an excellent defensive outfielder whose offensive game has been slower to develop. I am sure the Yankees’ Analytics Team sees something in Milone that they’d like to work with. He’ll join outfielder Zack Granite as another depth piece for Spring Training.

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Photo Credit: MiLB.com

If I had a wish list for the Yankees, it would be to add another bullpen arm. No doubt Dellin Betances heads my list. Rumors circulated this week about the Yankees’ interest in Milwaukee’s elite reliever, Josh Hader, but the cost seems too high to me. One site was suggesting Luis Severino and Gleyber Torres. Yeah, right. In your dreams. Not sure if the Yankees and Brewers can negotiate a reasonable package, but any deal for Hader would be painful in terms of players lost. It would be amazing to put him with Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, Adam Ottavino et al but I do not feel it is likely to happen. With Blake Treinen off the board (signed with the Dodgers), I am not sure where the Yankees turn if Betances leaves. I really like Ben Heller and I am hopeful that 2020 is his breakout year. I expect the Yankees to bring in competition for backup catcher and infield spots but that’s about it. The heavy lifting has been done with the Cole signing. Anything at this point would be for complimentary pieces and depth only. I don’t think the Yankees will have a shocking Madison Bumgarner type of signing at this point.  I’ve heard people suggest the Yankees should trade for Pirates first baseman Josh Bell, but honestly, we’re fine with Luke Voit, Mike Ford and potentially Miguel Andujar. I really want to see what a healthy Luke Voit can do this year. As for Andujar, there’s always a chance Gio Urshela was a one season wonder. Even if he isn’t, Andujar carries great value as one of the best bats on the team. He is more than capable as a superior DH and potential first base option, in addition to third base play in combo with Gio.  I am not in favor of selling him low even if the Texas Rangers have their eye on him. Now if the Colorado Rockies were interested in sending Nolan Arenado to the Yankees, let’s talk.

As always, Go Yankees!

The Gerrit Cole Watch…

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And now we wait…

Will Gerrit Cole wear the famed Pinstripes or will he find refuge in a Southern California town?  I think the vast majority of the Yankees Universe want the long and anticipated addition of Cole to happen although I do not have the stats to show it. With no slight to Stephen Strasburg, an elite pitcher, Cole is the best available free agent pitcher on the market.

By now, we know the Yankees are targeting a major free agent for what feels like the first time since Masahiro Tanaka. When the Yankees were courting Masa, they went out of their way to show him the Yankees experience. GM Brian Cashman showed a ‘no holds barred’ approach during his recent meeting with Cole and agent Scott Boras, bringing along Manager Aaron Boone, Pitching Coach Matt Blake, and former Yankee great Andy Pettitte. Of course, I temper this knowing that they also brought along Team President Randy Levine, not exactly one of my favorites. Despite Levine’s presence, it is clear the Yankees mean business.

Last year, with free agents Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, Yankees fans were mixed and, in retrospect, there was no apparent strong interest from the team other than the obligatory dinners in New York. At the time, so many fans were saying Harper and Machado were “luxuries”. I still take exception to that word. When you haven’t won a championship in a decade, no player is a luxury. Still, I get it. The Yankees were able to get great production from a cheaper alternative in the form of David John LeMathieu. Hats off to the Yankees for identifying a great player without having to pay in excess of $300 million. There’s no doubt in my mind, if the Yankees had paid either Harper or Machado, we wouldn’t even be here talking about Cole despite the Yankees obvious need for an elite starting pitcher. Sure, the Yankees can afford it, but I don’t think they’d be considering the estimated $250-$280 million it will take to land Cole if they had paid $330 million to Harper or $300 million to Machado. In retrospect, it seems the Yankees had their eye on the prize (Cole) last year, a clear need and not a luxury.

The Yankees have been connected to Cole for a very long time. They drafted him in the first round of the 2008 MLB Draft (28th overall), but we all know Cole did not sign, opting to attend UCLA after graduating from Orange Lutheran High School, a comprehensive private Christian co-educational college preparatory high school in Orange, CA despite his childhood status as a Yankee fan.

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Photo Credit: William Perlman, The Star Ledger

Even after the Pittsburgh Pirates selected Cole as the first overall pick in the 2011 MLB Draft and signed him, there was always talk that connected Cole to the Yankees. It was apparent the Yankees had a continued interest in him over the years. It reached the epitome a couple of years ago when there was strong speculation the Yankees were going to acquire Cole from the Pittsburgh Pirates. For a few days during the 2017-18 off-season, it felt like it was a done deal, but it never came together and the Pirates subsequently dealt Cole to the Houston Astros in January 2018 for what seemed like a lighter return than the Yankees could have offered (Pirates received Michael Feliz, Jason Martin, Colin Moran and Joe Musgrove). I know, the most rumored Yankee name was Clint Frazier, a player over-valued by most Yankee fans and a player the Pirates did not need at the time. I am convinced the Yankees could have found the right mix of players to entice the Pirates, but we’ll never really know unless former Pirates GM Neal Huntington decides to write a ‘tell-all’ book.

When ESPN’s Jeff Passan tweeted the other day the Yankees had ownership-level approval to go after Cole, it sent a wave of excitement through the Yankees Universe. After initial excitement, the realist in me knows that nothing is done until Cole’s signature is on the dotted line. There’s still time for the Los Angeles Angels or Los Angeles Dodgers, or some other team, to make a ridiculous offer. We know Cole is going to get more money than any free agent pitcher in history regardless of where he signs. David Price of the Boston Red Sox holds the highest contract value for a pitcher with $217 million, and Zack Greinke of the Houston Astros is the average annual value (AAV) leader at $34,416,667. Once Cole signs, he should be tops in both categories.

want Cole as a member of the New York Yankees, but I am concerned about the potential he does not sign until late January. The Yankees have an urgent need for an elite starting pitcher, particularly with the looming free agencies of James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka next fall, and good starting pitchers are starting to come off the board rapidly. If the Yankees only signed someone like Madison Bumgarner, I’d be happy with the off-season, but there’s no question the drop-off from Cole to Bumgarner is huge. The longer this goes on, the less likely someone like even MadBum is available. There’s the trade route, but I’d say that I am hot and cold about a guy such as Corey Kluber. I know when healthy, he is one of the game’s best but he will also turn 34 early next season. Cole is 29 and won’t turn 30 until next September. I want a pitcher in his prime, not one that is riding the tail end of it.

Yankee fans have loved to talk about Luis Castillo of the Cincinnati Reds and Lucas Giolito of the Chicago White Sox, but both of those teams are improving with solid young teams and would be foolish to part with their potential aces. People like to laugh about the failed attempts of the White Sox to land premium free agents, other than the recently signed catcher Yasmani Grandal, but their farm system is ready to produce great young talent for the Major League team and they are on the cusp of winning. Once they start to win, they’ll become a more attractive destination for premier free agents. Giolito is such a big part of the coming force, same with Castillo in Cincy.

If the Yankees do sign Gerrit Cole, we can drop the narrative that Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner is cheap. If he was cheap, we would have been the team chasing guys like Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles (with no offense to the Texas Rangers as those guys will help them break in their new stadium) and not an elite talent like Gerrit Cole. Yankee fans are short-sighted (sorry, but, generally speaking, we are). Thankfully, the Steinbrenner Family and GM Brian Cashman have the long-view in mind. If Cole signs, we will be rewarded for their patient approach.

I’d like to see the Yankees bring the Cole negotiations to an end next week. I know it’s not the Scott Boras way, but it seems like the two sides can get together to produce numbers that work for both sides. I am hopeful for quick resolution so the Yankees can move on to other pressing needs.

If Cole does become a Yankee, I think Luke Voit should give up #45. Voit has no other connection with the number other than his short tenure with the Yankees. He was #40 in St Louis and as we know, he’s not getting that number. Frankly, there’s been some good numbers come available recently (namely 22, 30, and 33) and there are a couple that might be available in the coming days (18 and 28). If I was Voit, I’d take 22, 28, or 30. Those seem like better “power” numbers for a muscular first baseman anyway. Personally I like 22, even if I couldn’t stand the last guy who wore it and still harbor resentment against a certain Texas right-hander that once wore the number. Surprisingly, I think of former Yankees center fielder Jerry Mumphrey when it comes to number 22.

The Winter Meetings begin tomorrow in San Diego. I doubt we’ll see much activity on Sunday. Many are traveling, including Aaron Boone. By next Thursday, we’ll know if this has been truly the most active off-season in recent memory or if it is another case of all talk and no action. Up to this point, it has been more active. It feels like there are a few major moves ready to break so we’ll soon see.  I am sure the days will fly by next week as we wait with anticipation. Sadly, when Thursday arrives and the meetings conclude, there may be a few Yankee prospects headed to other camps courtesy of the Rule 5 Draft. I think we’ll lose the defensively gifted infielder Kyle Holder among the possibilities. The Yankees will be in the market for an infielder if Didi Gregorius signs elsewhere (looking more and more like he is going to join Joe Girardi in Philadelphia). His departure will make Tyler Wade or Thairo Estrada as the likely choice to make the roster as backup shortstop behind Gleyber Torres. It seems like the Yankees will bring another body in Spring Training to strengthen the competition. So, I am expecting a minor trade or signing for an infielder at the very least.

We also need another strong arm for the bullpen with the potential departure of Dellin Betances.  Betances, like Gregorius, is rumored as a potential option for Girardi and the Phillies. I guess that would be better than Dellin going cross-town to join the Mets. If Dellin leaves, I’d personally prefer to see him to go the Los Angeles Dodgers. My preference, however, is for Dellin to stay. I think of the free agents (Brett Gardner, Didi Gregorius, Austin Romine, and Betances), Dellin is the one I want to stay the most even if he is still recovering from the Achilles injury. But at this moment in time, from the outside looking in, it appears the only probably returnee will be Brett Gardner. I love Didi, but I’ve accepted the Yankees will be moving on. I just hope the Yankees extend D.J. LeMahieu if they decide to let Didi walk. As a pending free agent, I’d hate to be back searching for a quality second baseman again like we were after Robinson Cano left if LeMachine leaves after next season.  The matter is moot if the Yankees were to acquire Francisco Lindor, but I think the Dodgers are a more likely destination for the Tribe’s ultra-talented shortstop. I liked the job Austin Romine did for the Yankees, but I think the team goes with the cheaper Kyle Higashioka to back up Gary Sanchez. Higgy also seems like a perfect student for catching coordinator Tanner Swanson with his superior framing skills. I’d hate to see Romine join his father’s old club (Red Sox) so I am hopeful if he leaves, he goes home to sunny Southern California.

I wonder if we’ll hear about the next destination for former Yankees bench coach Josh Bard. He left his position with the Yankees in November to pursue jobs closer to his Colorado home, but I’ve not heard any updates. It seems weird that his departure has been so quiet and that he did not have an immediate job to go to. I am glad to see the elevation of infield/quality control coach Carlos Mendoza to bench coach. He has been a very loyal employee of the Yankees organization for a long time and it’s good to see recognition for the excellent work he has done. Hopefully his partnership with Boone will be as strong as the Boone-Bard connection (or better).

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Photo Credit: AP

Lastly, we’ll hear tomorrow who has been elected to MLB’s Hall of Fame by the Modern Baseball Era Committee. The candidates are Dwight Evans, Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Don Mattingly, Marvin Miller, Thurman Munson, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, Ted Simmons and Lou Whitaker. Sadly, I’ve come to the realization that it is probable neither Munson nor Mattingly will receive at least 75% of the vote. It’s sad for me. Growing up watching Munson, he was such a wonderful player to follow and admire before his tragic death at age 32. To me, he was the heart and soul of those championship clubs in the ‘70’s. Contrary to Reggie Jackson’s words, I always felt that Thurman was the straw that stirred the drink. He was easily my favorite player as a kid. I always wondered if the 1981 World Series would have had a different outcome if Thurman had lived. His passion to be the best was so strong. I keep hoping that they’ll elect Thurman to the Hall, but, disappointingly, I do not think it will happen. I hope I am wrong. It would be great to see the former Yankees captain join another recent Yankees captain for the induction ceremony next summer in Cooperstown, New York.

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Photo Credit: Yahoo Sports

Buckle up, the Winter Meetings are about to start. This should be fun.

As always, Go Yankees!

Preparing for Yankees Baseball in December…

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Biggest month of the off-season begins in 3, 2, 1…

From a baseball off-season perspective, it’s always good to put the Thanksgiving weekend in the rear view mirror. Generally, there are not too many transactions in November and while there were a few free agent signings and trades this year, the heart of the off-season begins as the calendar page rolls into December.

Like many fans, I continue to hold out hope the Yankees sign one of Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg. Realistically, I do not feel the Yankees will be the highest bidder for either pitcher. There’s probably a better chance they go for a guy like Madison Bumgarner if they dip into the free agent pool at all or better yet, make a trade for a young starter with strong upside. My only concern is that Cole and Strasburg can be had for money (something which the Yankees have even if they are bumping up against the highest luxury tax tier) whereas a trade would cost young, talented prospects. I am not trying to “prospect hug”, but if you don’t have to trade Deivi Garcia, Luis Gil, Luis Medina, Albert Abreu or another top pitching prospect, why do it? I’d rather the Yankees part with cash than young players who could one day help the Yankees. Ultimately, I do feel GM Brian Cashman will do the right thing for the organization or at least I can hope. I am sure new pitching coach Matt Blake is helping the analytics team scour organizational pitching in search of the next Shane Bieber.

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Matt Blake, Yankees Pitching Coach

The Yankees over the last few years have shown us they operate within a certain budget and when given the choice, they’ll make financially conservative decisions over spending “stupid money”. As much as I like Cole and Strasburg, I cannot see the Yankees handing out $200 million plus contracts for either pitcher.  It kind of reminds me of back when the Yankees were negotiating with Ron Guidry one year and held him to $900,000 because George Steinbrenner didn’t think pitchers were worth a million dollars per year. I am sure Hal Steinbrenner knows how much he wants to pay for a pitcher and there is a line he is unwilling to cross. My guess is Cole signs with the Los Angeles Angels and given that he has not yet returned to Washington, Strasburg goes home to San Diego. Money outweighs playing at home, sure, but for both, I think their home town teams will be the victors with the most green.

Max Goldstein took a lot of heat for writing on article on Elite Sports NY yesterday entitled “New York Yankees should pursue Zack Wheeler and Alex Wood”. He provides very compelling reasons for why it’s the more likely outcome for the Yankees given their recent history. Whether or not I’d like that result is irrelevant. It simply stands as a strong possibility. If Wheeler and Wood were to become Yankees, I’d certainly support them. I want Gerrit Cole as much as anybody but the realist in me knows that we need to keep a very open mind regarding the potential actualities for the starting rotation. We are most likely not going to get the big ticket purchases and have to be prepared for players of value and potential.

I am also prepared to lose Didi Gregorius, Dellin Betances, and Austin Romine. There’s been talk lately that both Didi and Dellin, and possibly even Romine, could join Joe Girardi in Philadelphia. I hate to be petty, but I’d hate to see that happen. If Didi leaves, I’d prefer to see him go back to Cincinnati. As for Dellin, I’d rather see him join the Los Angeles Dodgers than the New York Mets. I continue to believe that Romine goes to the Los Angeles Angels, like Gerrit Cole. Of the three, I think the loss of Betances will hurt the most. The recent reports about the Yankees’ interest in Kansas City’s Tim Hill or Oakland’s Blake Treinen seem to indicate the Yankees are looking for Dellin’s replacement rather than simply looking to bolster the pen. Didi Gregorius has been one of my favorite Yankees. He was the perfect guy to replace Derek Jeter, and his personality is so enjoyable. I strongly believe 2020 will be a bounce back year for him and I hope it is in Pinstripes. While I know Gleyber Torres is a more than capable shortstop, my preference would be to keep him at second and bring Didi back. If Didi leaves, D.J. LeMahieu can be a free agent next year and we could be back searching for a second baseman next off-season like we were when Robinson Cano left. The Yankees could potentially swing a rumored trade for Francisco Lindor and Corey Kluber that would solve the shortstop/second base debate while addressing the starting rotation. No doubt I’d take Lindor over Sir Didi any day of the week regardless of how much I like the latter. However, I don’t think the Lindor/Kluber trade will happen, at least not with the Yankees.

I am not against the Yankees re-signing Austin Romine. I think he’s been a very good backup for the Yankees and the pitching staff loves him. In my opinion, another team will pay him more than the Yankees are offering and they’ll give him a better line for a starting job.  While Gary Sanchez is the undisputed starter for the Yankees, the need for two quality catchers in today’s game is very important. We’ve seen the Atlanta Braves spend to bring in Travis d’Arnaud, who enjoyed a career resurgence with the Tampa Bay Rays last year, to pair with Tyler Flowers following the retirement of Brian McCann. The Washington Nationals brought back Yan Gomes to pair with Kurt Suzuki.  While I think Kyle Higashioka can be that guy, we don’t really know until he proves he can be. I can see the Yankees bringing in catching competition for training camp to see where the chips fall. The depth behind Higgy is not good. The organization’s best catching prospects, Anthony Siegler and Josh Breaux are a couple of years away.

In a perfect world, I’d love to see Gregorius, Betances, and Romine all return to the Yankees next season, while bringing in Cole and Strasburg. Sadly it will not happen and we need to be prepared for none of them to be Yankees.

A controversial topic lately, at least among the Yankees fan base, is if the team should introduce alternative road uniforms. I think the majority, based on what I’ve seen, prefer to remain with the traditional uniforms without exception. While some like the all black uniforms the Yankees wore last year in Los Angeles against the Dodgers, there’s probably no chance the topic is even under discussion or consideration with the Steinbrenner family. For me, I have always loved these road uniforms worn by Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth.

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Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth

There’s no way I’d ever want the Yankees to mess with the home uniform but for the road, who cares?  The most important representation is the interlocking N-Y on the baseball cap. I hate the traditionalist mindset that says, ‘we do it because that’s the way we’ve always done it’. Change is good. I don’t want names on the uniforms so maybe that part of me is a traditionalist, but I have no objection to change for the better.

Following the release of Greg Bird by the Yankees, it seems that his best course to get back to the Major Leagues is to sign a minor league deal with a training camp invitation. Perhaps some team will offer him a major league contract but I doubt it.  Every MLB team had a chance to claim him on waivers and chose not to. Granted, as a free agent, he’ll come more cheaply than he would have if claimed off waivers, but Bird has much to prove. He needs to find a team that is willing to be patient with him. I wish him the best, and while I will miss his swing, I won’t miss his injury reports. I truly hope he has better luck staying healthy with his next destination. I think my biggest fear is that he goes to the Boston Red Sox and becomes the player we always thought he would be.

Monday is a big day with the 8 pm Eastern deadline for teams to tender contracts to their arbitration-eligible players. A couple of former Yankees are among the list of potential non-tender candidates…Brandon Drury and John Ryan Murphy.  I wouldn’t be opposed to a reunion with either player. I know both have underperformed since leaving the Yankees but I liked both when they were here and I continue to hold the optimism they could succeed in the right environment. I’d like to see what new catching coordinator Tanner Swanson could do with Murphy.

A week from Sunday is the start of Baseball’s Winter Meetings in San Diego, CA.  No doubt San Diego would love to dominate the local headlines with a Strasburg signing during the Meetings. It feels like this year’s meetings should be more active than last year. The off-season so far has been more active even if the Yankees have been relatively quiet. I guess we’ll soon find out. Time will tell if Hal Steinbrenner intends to deliver us a few Christmas presents early.

I hope everyone had an enjoyable and memorable Thanksgiving! It’s a beautiful time to spend with friends and family.

As always, Go Yankees!

The Cuban Missile Fails to Launch…

Photo Credit: Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Chapman Agrees to Extension w/Yanks…

Aroldis Chapman had the right to opt out of his contract on Saturday night but in the end, he agreed to a one-year extension worth $18 million (in addition to the remaining 2 years/$30 million left on his current contract). So, the opt out did not happen and the Cuban Missile, thankfully, did not launch into Free Agency.

As I wrote yesterday, I was prepared for Chapman to leave. I felt the Yankees would be fine with or without him but you can argue the Yankees would be better served by using Chapman’s money toward a frontline starter. Prior to the news of Chapman’s extension, word spread that Washington Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg had opted out of his contract. Strasburg gives the Free Agency Market two top starters and frankly, I’ll be disappointed if the Yankees do not try to sign either Strasburg or Gerrit Cole.

Honestly, the realist in me knows that the Yankees will not sign either Strasburg or Cole, and the Chapman extension has nothing to do with it. But until they sign, I’ll carry hope that one of them is a Yankee before the next season starts. Supposedly, agent Scott Boras and the Nationals are set to begin negotiations today but we’ll see. The Lerner family is capable of making Strasburg a very rich man but the question is will they? I thought they’d do what it takes to keep Bryce Harper last year rather than let him walk away to a division rival but I was wrong. Granted, they didn’t need Harper to win the World Series, but in Strasburg’s case, he is one of the game’s best and as we know too well, pitchers do not grow on trees.

Photo Credit: Thomas B Shea, USA TODAY Sports

Last year, the Yankees lost out on Patrick Corbin because their offer was blown out of the water by the Nats. It would be very ironic (and poetic) if the Yankees snatched Strasburg away from Washington. Pitcher to pitcher, I’d much rather have Strasburg over Corbin. So it is possible that this could work out to the best possible case scenario for everyone who wanted the Yankees to sign Corbin last year.

Anyway, sorry for the digression, let’s get back to Aroldis Chapman. I am glad he’s a Yankee today. I don’t blame him for the ALCS exit on the walk-off homer by Jose Altuve. Losses never come down to a single play. There are plenty of other things the Yankees could have done differently to change the outcome. You can’t pin the blame on one guy. Even the great Mariano Rivera was human at times. Chapman turns 32 in February so he’ll be a free agent again at age 35. I suspect that’s when the Yankees and Chapman part ways but for now, he’s the team’s closer and I am happy about the outcome. In a way, I do feel bad for Zack Britton who deserves the opportunity to close but he represents great insurance for the health of Chapman. Chapman, to go with Britton, Adam Ottavino, Tommy Kahnle, and Chad Green, ensures the Yankees will have a top bullpen in 2020.

Welcome back, Chappy! We’re glad you decided to stay with us for another run or two or three at October.

Stephen James Strasburg turns 32 in July. In 2019, he was 18-6 for the Nationals with 3.32 ERA. His K/9 was 10.81, HR/9 1.03, and WAR 5.7. He made 33 starts, good for 209 innings of work. It’s easy to salivate about a potential starting rotation of Strasburg, Luis Severino, James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, and Jordan Montgomery (sorry J.A. Happ, don’t let the door hit you on the way out).

I probably still want Gerrit Cole over Strasburg. He’s a little younger (won’t turn 30 until September). He had a brilliant 2019, going 20-5 with 2.50 ERA which should pay off with the AL Cy Young Award. His K/9 was a career best 13.82, HR/9 1.23 and he had the higher WAR at 7.4. The number of starts and innings were similar to Strasburg’s totals…same number of starts with 3 1/3 more innings. But regardless of whether it is Cole or Strasburg, either would look fantastic in Pinstripes.

All of this just means that I should probably begin looking for my Zack Wheeler Yankees jersey.

Photo Credit: Twitter via @Wheelerpro45

There’s a name that Bryan Van Dusen of The Greedy Pinstripes has been pushing for months. German Marquez. He’ll only be 25 heading into next season and he has a wealth of talent and potential. He regressed in 2019 (like the entire Rockies team) but remains arguably the best pitcher on Colorado’s starting staff. I’ve long admired Jon Gray but at this point, there’s no question Marquez is the better pitcher.  He was 12-5 last season with 4.06 ERA (give the guy a break, he pitches at Coors Field). His K/9 was 9.05, HR/9 1.50 (again, Coors Field), and WAR 3.4. This guy is on clear path to replicating the numbers produced by Cole and Strasburg, and he’s five years younger than Cole. I didn’t think the Rockies would be willing to part with their young ace, but after a very disappointing season in the Mile High City, they need more than just help in the rotation.  The Yankees have the pieces that could help a Rockies rebuild and Marquez would fit nicely in the Bronx. Rumor has it that former Rockies do very well in the Bronx. If the Yankees do acquire Marquez, Van Dusen deserves much credit for continuing to shout his name. Marquez is one of a select very few number of pitchers that I’d consider giving up Deivi Garcia for. Luis Castillo of the Cincinnati Reds is another.

If the Yankees are looking to add to the bullpen, particularly if Dellin Betances leaves (I hope not), it won’t include Tony Watson, who has long been a Cashman target. Watson exercised his player option with the San Francisco Giants yesterday which will most likely keep him in the City by the Bay for another year.  Granted, he had a disappointing 2019 season but he remains one of the better lefty relievers around. I know, he’s 34 and he’s recovering from a broken wrist suffered in September but he’s a good guy to have in the pen.

On the same day that Strasburg opted out of his contract, the Nationals dropped the hammer on two guys that helped bring the first World Series championship to Washington since 1924 yesterday (the same day as their victory parade). The team declined the options for first baseman Ryan Zimmerman and catcher Yan Gomes. While Zimmerman was expected (he’s simply not a $20 million/year player anymore), I was a little surprised about Gomes even if he didn’t have a great season statistically-speaking.  I’ve seen more than a few people suggest the Yankees should go after him to back up Gary Sanchez. While I am comfortable going into 2020 with Kyle Higashioka as the backup, I’ll admit that it would be intriguing to have Gomes. He did very well with the great pitching staffs in Cleveland. As much as I want Gary Sanchez to have a healthy, monster season next year, the hard truth is that whomever backs him up will see plenty of playing time. Gomes should be given consideration, in my opinion, if the price is right.

Are the Mets really considering their former manager, Terry Collins, as Carlos Beltran’s bench coach? That’s funny. No disrespect to Collins, who I think is an excellent baseball guy, but it just seems odd that he’d take a coaching position with the Mets after being fired as their manager a couple of years ago. Carlos Beltran recently said that Collins was the best manager he had played for, a group that includes Joe Girardi, Bruce Bochy, and A.J. Hinch.

The five-day exclusive negotiating period for teams and their own free agents will officially end tomorrow so let the Hot Stove League begin! For Yankee fans, we’ll see the names of Cole and Strasburg ad nauseam until we don’t (meaning they sign somewhere).

Buckle up, this should be fun.

As always, Go Yankees!

Baseball is Over…Now What?…

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports

The Hot Stove League is open for business…

The 2019-20 Baseball Off-Season or rather the Hot Stove League has officially begun. While the Washington Nationals and their fans celebrate the World Series championship, the rest of us are left to wonder what could have been. For years, we pointed to 2019 as our championship year.  It’s disappointing it did not happen but on the bright side, the window has not closed and the Yankees will be back in 2020 to make noise in October.

I don’t have an off-season plan. I’ve already read plenty of great ones so no need for me to develop a fictional wish list that has no bearing on what Brian Cashman will actually do. My views are more what I’d like to see in the coming months.

But first, I’d like to extend a birthday wish to Daniel Burch, the Co-Founder and Head Writer of The Greedy Pinstripes blog. Happy Birthday, Daniel! I hope it’s a tremendous day for you, KariAnn, and your family. Enjoy, my friend! Speaking of Daniel, if you haven’t already, you should read his response to Hal Steinbrenner’s recent remarks and his off-season plan that was posted yesterday. It’s an excellent read and right on point. It followed a great off-season plan presented by the other Co-Founder of The Greedy Pinstripes, Bryan Van Dusen.

Now back to baseball. I always head into the off-season with great anticipation and optimism. It’s the chance to add enhancements to the team for its run next year. I do not believe in complacency and feel that you should constantly be looking for ways to improve the roster. We saw what complacency delivered for the Boston Red Sox last year. Granted, a number of their guys had career years the year before so a fall was inevitable but it certainly didn’t help that they made no effort to better their defense of their championship. It resulted in a disappointing, lost year for Boston. Not that I didn’t enjoy seeing Boston down and their fans quiet, but my point is simply that complacency never wins.

I know that going into 2020, I do not want a staff of starters capable of only going five or six innings, with a few bullpen games mixed in. We saw the results of a tired pen in October, even with the rest they were given in the regular season’s final month. Like many fans, I want the Yankees to sign Gerrit Cole (or Stephen Strasburg if he opts out). But realistically, I doubt the Yankees sign either. Unlike last year, when I was very hopeful the Yankees would sign either Manny Machado or Bryce Harper, I do not hold the same belief about this year’s premier free agents.  Not that I don’t want them, just rather I think the Yankees stick to their current business model and show financial constraint. As a Plan B, I’ve certainly warmed to the idea of someone like Zack Wheeler. I’ve long admired Madison Bumgarner but I share the belief that he’ll probably end up with the Atlanta Braves. I think someone like Hyun-Jin Ryu would be a tremendous addition but I can’t believe the Los Angeles Dodgers will let him get away. But then again, I never thought former Dodger Hiroki Kuroda would finish his MLB career as a Yankee.

Regardless of who the Yankees add to the starting rotation (correction, IF they add), there’s no room for J.A. Happ in my opinion. If there’s a move I am very hopeful for, it’s the ability to trade Happ and his contract, even if the team has to cover part of the salary and attach a prospect or two, to another team before the season starts. Last year was a very disappointing one for Happ and at 37 years old, he’s not going to get any better. The Yankees also cannot rely upon Domingo German, who remains on administrative leave for domestic violence. It’s likely he’ll serve a significant suspension next season and even then, I am not so sure I want the man, if the domestic violence accusations are true, on the roster regardless of his 18 wins. I reserve judgment until we know more about his case but at this point, German does not have my support. I know, I was able to forgive Aroldis Chapman and maybe that turns out to be the case with German once we know more. We’ll see but he’s not someone we can count on as we know it today.

I think it is more probable the Yankees will acquire another starter in trade rather than through free agency. I don’t know who they should target. I’ve certainly seen the name of Lucas Giolito come up plenty and I’d be glad to have him, but we’ll have to see how this plays out over the course of the off-season. Personally, I think the Chicago White Sox would be foolish to part with their young ace given the burgeoning young talent in their system. No doubt Brian Cashman and his analytics team have uncovered multiple names they’d love to target.

Photo Credit: Charles Rex Arbogast, AP

As of this writing, the following Yankees are free agents: Edwin Encarnacion, Austin Romine, Didi Gregorius, Cory Gearrin, Dellin Betances, CC Sabathia (retired), Brett Gardner and Cameron Maybin.

I’ve seen many people say that Dellin will be back. While I don’t think he’ll let the ridiculous words of Yankees President Randy Levine from a few years ago influence his decision, the fact remains as long as he is free to choose, it’s very possible that he goes elsewhere. I’d hate to see the Bronx native leave and he’s been such a huge part of the bullpen in recent years despite the lost 2019 season. I had assumed he’d sign a one- or two-year deal with the Yankees to rebuild value, but that may not be the case if another team offers him the right amount of money. This morning, Randy Miller of NJ Advance Media for NJ.com made his predictions for likely landing spots and he has Betances signing with the Houston Astros. Honestly, that makes me sick to the stomach. I really do not want to see Dellin in Houston or Boston. I suppose if he must leave, I’d prefer he goes to Philly to join up with Joe Girardi. But of the above-listed free agents, the one I want back the most is Dellin. I hope he and the Yankees are able to come together on a deal to keep him at home in the Bronx.

Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac, Getty Images

I think Brett Gardner will be back on another one-year deal. At this point in his career, he’s not getting anything more than one-year deals from the Yankees. If another team were to offer him a multi-year contract, I’d support the Yankees’ decision to let him walk away. I don’t want to de-value what Gardy meant to the Yankees in 2019, but my stance on all players is that I’d rather cut bait a year early than a year too late. But none of it really matters as I expect Gardy to be back in 2020.

Didi Gregorius is a tough one. I love the guy. His personality matches his strong defensive ability and I think, a year removed from Tommy John surgery, his bat will rebound next season to its previous form. It’s hard to envision Didi not with the Yankees. He has meant so much to them since Derek Jeter retired. However, I can easily see the Yankees making Gleyber Torres the everyday shortstop and giving D.J. LeMahieu a permanent spot at second base, his strongest position.  It would allow the Yankees to reallocate the money it would take to re-sign Didi to other needs. If the money is re-directed to sign a guy like Gerrit Cole, it would be hard to argue keeping Gregorius in Pinstripes. If he leaves to sign with the rumored favorites, the Milwaukee Brewers or Cincinnati Reds, I’ll be sad but life goes on. Didi has been a great Yankee and as they say, change is inevitable and nothing lasts forever.

Randy Miller has Austin Romine going to the Los Angeles Angels. I can easily see that one coming true. It makes sense for the Southern CA native to go home, and there’s some excitement building in Orange County with Joe Maddon’s appointment as the team’s manager. If the Angels can sign Gerrit Cole and GM Billy Eppler is able to make a few other moves to bring in more talent to support Mike Trout, there’s some reason for optimism for the Angels. I don’t expect the Angels to be competing for the World Series next year, but they’ll be a fun team. I’ll hate to lose Romine but his loss is inevitable, especially if he is given the opportunity to start elsewhere. I’ve enjoyed Romine as the backup catcher but I don’t see him coming back under any circumstances. It’s a great opportunity for Kyle Higashioka and hopefully he’s doing everything possible this winter to prepare himself for the backup role behind Gary Sanchez. Eventually Anthony Siegler and Josh Breaux will be making noise, but for now, Higgy is the best option.

I can see Cameron Maybin coming back on a reasonable, cost-effective deal. I doubt the Yankees try to bring back Cody Gearrin or Edwin Encarnacion (after paying the $5 million buyout rather than $20 million salary for next season). CC, as we all know, is now content to wait for the call to the Hall of Fame.

I had assumed the Yankees would try to sign D.J. LeMahieu to an extension this off-season but upon further thought, I agree with the assessment that LeMahieu holds the overwhelming advantage in negotiations after his brilliant 2019 debut in Pinstripes. The Yankees are better off waiting to see how he performs in 2020. The risk is that he’ll be a free agent after the season but the current Yankees business model looks at the long-term view and will not overpay players like they once did with Jacoby Ellsbury. I know I’d like to see LeMahieu stay in Pinstripes beyond next season but for now, we’ll have to wait.

I don’t think the Yankees need to lock up Gleyber Torres on an extension this off-season but it should be a priority in the next couple of off-seasons. The prime extension target this off-season should be Aaron Judge. Do what it takes. Keep this man in Pinstripes for the duration of his career. Say what you will about the injuries but when healthy, the guy is one of the best in the game.

Today is the day we find out whether or not Aroldis Chapman opts out of his contract. It is assumed that he’ll opt out if he and the Yankees are unable to agree upon an extension. I’ve said all along that I am prepared for Chapman to leave. I’d love to have him back as the team’s closer next year but the Yankees are paying him top dollar. If it is not good enough and they are unable to agree on the dollars for additional year(s), then let him go. Zack Britton is certainly a capable closer who has proven to be the best in the game when fully healthy. I’d have no reservations about him being the Yankees’ closer.  The Yankees would need to add other parts to the bullpen, like signing free agent reliever Will Smith, but I am confident the Yankees will be fine with or without Chappy.

Congratulations to Carlos Beltran. For as much as I hated to see him leave his job as a special advisor for the Yankees, I am happy he’ll get his first managerial gig with the New York Mets. Granted, not crazy it’s the Mets, but there are only so many managerial jobs and you have to start somewhere. I had hoped the San Francisco Giants, one of his former teams, would show interest, but it’s clear Beltran has an East Coast preference for family reasons. It’s kind of funny that Beltran will be butting heads with Don Mattingly and Joe Girardi in the NL East. When Beltran didn’t get the manager job with the Yankees, I had hoped he would be a part of the coaching staff. It obviously didn’t happen but Beltran was still able to bring his influence to the team. I wish him the best of luck in Queens and I hope everything works out for him despite the Wilpon family.

I miss Yankees baseball. Is it February yet?…

As always, Go Yankees!

Better Pitching Equals Better Results…

Photo Credit: Michael Dwyer, AP

Happ, turning back the clock, turns back the Sox…

I’ll admit that J.A. Happ has surprised me the last couple of starts. I had written the guy off a few weeks ago and I didn’t want him anywhere near a post-season start but I think I am starting to soften on that position. His terrific performance yesterday, holding the Boston Red Sox to two hits and no runs over 6 1/3 innings, was an illustration why the Yankees re-signed Happ in the off-season and not Lance Lynn. Behind his latest great start, the Yankees beat the Red Sox, 5-1, to even the  four-game series with two to play.  

Photo Credit: AP

Happ has historically been a good pitcher against the Red Sox which, as we know, is why the Yankees acquired him from the Toronto Blue Jays last summer. He may not be facing Boston this post-season but this is exactly the Happ we need to show up for the big games in a few weeks.  

It’s great that both Happ and James Paxton are rounding into form at the right time. The Tampa Bay Rays, currently 8 1/2 games back, are on fire right now. The Rays have won 9 of their last 10 games, and one of their top injured pitchers, Tyler Glasnow, was activated today to start later this afternoon. With last year’s Cy Young Award winner, Blake Snell, nearing his return from the Injured List, the Rays are getting reinforcements at exactly the right time for them. I don’t expect the Yankees to blow a 8 1/2 game lead but conversely, the Rays do not appear to be going away.  

Fortunately, for the Yankees, they’ll be getting some reinforcements with Luis Severino and Dellin Betances in the not-so-distant future. I am not sure how Sevy will used, but just having him on the pitching staff will be significant. Early on, it appeared he’d probably be used as either an opener or out of the bullpen, but lately, there appears to be some optimism he can start. Regardless of how Manager Aaron Boone decides to deploy him, the Yankees are a better team with Sevy on the active roster.  

Severino could make his 2019 season debut soon. After Sevy’s second rehab start for the Trenton Thunder (AA) on Friday, Boone told The New York Post, “Overall, it was pretty successful. We’ll talk about whether one more (rehab start) is beneficial or [if he will] come with us.” 

Photo Credit: Staton Rabin, AP

Betances needs more time in the minors before he’s ready but, if all goes well, we should see him within the next few weeks. A pending free agent, Betances has much to prove to ensure a big pay day after the season. Not that I think Betances needs added incentive to pitch well for the Yankees but it can’t hurt.

A setback by Aaron Hicks has seemed to stall any hopes he’ll be able to help the team anytime soon. Aaron Boone said yesterday that “He’s not feeling quite right.” It’s unfortunate but at least the Yankees have a reinvigorated Brett Gardner and the surprisingly successful Mike Tauchman to provide the necessary coverage in center field.  

Now if we could just get Giancarlo Stanton back, all would be good on this roster. Yes, I want Stanton in big moments next month. Regardless of how other guys are playing, Stanton remains a huge threat and I think he’ll have his defining Yankee moment next month. And no, it won’t be swinging and missing at a low outside pitch.  This guy remains a game-changer with one swing of his bat.  

Photo Credit: Mike Stobe, Getty Images

Was there really a report this week that the long-forgotten Jacoby Ellsbury has begun indoor activities? Now there’s a guy I never expect to wear the Pinstripes again. If he reaches full health after several years of inactivity, I think the Yankees should just cut bait and eat the remainder of his contract. There’s no scenario I want to see Ellsbury take a roster spot over more deserving guys. Troy Tulowitzski proved how effective an aging veteran can be after missing a few seasons. I wouldn’t expect any better from Ellsbury. At least Tulo showed some heart and still failed. There’s no apparent evidence Ellsbury has any heart.  

The season is over for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. The Tampa Bay Rays were able to grab scoreboard with their Triple A affiliate, the Durham Bulls. The Bulls swept the RailRiders in the opening round of the International League’s Governor’s Cup playoffs, pounding the RailRiders, 17-2, in Game 3 last night. I’m sure this how the Rays envision their future against the Yankees, as early as this October. Hopefully the big league team fares better against the Rays.

RailRiders reliever Ben Heller is expected to join the Yankees later today. Since he is not currently on the active Major League roster (60-day IL), he’ll need to be added to the 40-man roster before he can join the team. Personally, I’d cut Ryan Dull who has no future with this team beyond 2019.  Heller has been my dark-horse favorite for a role in the bullpen as he further distances himself from last year’s Tommy John surgery. I like the guy and I think he can be an effective arm among the quality relievers currently in the Yankees’ bullpen (unlike the much-travelled Dull). Heller was the only effective pitcher in yesterday’s blow-out loss to the Bulls with two innings of hitless/scoreless relief, a walk, and five strikeouts.  

Everyone expects Deivi Garcia to get the call but I don’t think he’s ready. His line yesterday against the Bulls was very forgettable. One inning, two hits (including a homer), four walks, and five runs. Bring the 20-year-old to Spring Training, but I wouldn’t call him up now. I am not basing that on yesterday’s performance but rather his overall time at Triple A. He finished 1-3 with a 5.40 ERA and 5.77 FIP.  He did have 45 strikeouts in 40.0 innings, but issued 20 free passes and hit four batters. I know the Yankees have a seemingly comfortable lead in the AL East but the team is still battling for best record in the AL (currently tied with the Houston Astros at 93-50). Every game matters. I think Garcia will have a long Major League career but let’s pump the brakes until he is truly ready.

Getting back to the Boston Red Sox, their season hangs on the balance. After last night’s loss, they are 7 games out in the AL Wild Card hunt. The Rays and the Oakland A’s hold the top two spots, with the Cleveland Indians hanging in, 1 1/2 games back. With just 20 games to play, the Red Sox literally need two of the three teams ahead of them to collapse. Maybe the Indians fade, but I don’t see the Rays or the A’s relinquishing their current positions. It will be a fun day when I hear the Red Sox have been eliminated from playoff contention. Until then, regardless of the odds, they have a chance. Hopefully the Yanks can take the next two games from Boston to help drive a few nails into their coffin.  

Photo Credit: Michael Dwyer, AP

Don’t look now but the Atlanta Braves could be making a move for the best record in Major League Baseball. All season, everyone has talked about how the Los Angeles Dodgers have run away with the NL but suddenly they have the Braves nipping at their heels. Entering play today, the Dodgers are 92-52 after losing two in a row to the San Francisco Giants. Meanwhile, the Braves, who have won 9 consecutive games, are 89-54. They are within striking distance of Yankees, Astros and Dodgers for MLB’s best record. They say the playoffs are not about the best team but the team that gets hot at the right moment. At this point, you’d have to say that the Rays and Braves are Baseball’s hottest teams. Much can change between now and October, but these two teams are intent on making noise in the coming weeks. Time for Team Pinstripes to put ‘the pedal to the metal’. 

The Yankees have announced a few moves today but none featured Ben Heller. I remain optimistic he’ll get the call, but here’s the day’s transaction per the Yankees:

    • Reinstated Gio Urshela from the 10-day IL
    • Returned Thairo Estrada from rehab and reinstated him from the 10-day IL
    • Recalled Kyle Higashioka and Breyvic Valera from the RailRiders

I am glad to see Urshela back on the field. DJ LeMahieu does a great job at third, but having flexibility with him, helps the team. These moves were simple paper transactions, whereas, Heller will require some maneuvering so perhaps there will be more transactions announced later today. For Heller’s sake, I hope so. 

Photo Credit: Rich Gagnon, AP

I was surprised to see former Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda receive a 60-game ban yesterday for taking a diuretic. Pineda, who has been the Twins’ best pitcher the last few weeks, said in a statement that he took an over-the-counter medication to help control his weight, but it contained hydrochlorothiazide, a diuretic that can mask other substances. The ban was initially 80 games, but Pineda was able to get it reduced to 60 games on appeal after making a compelling case he was not attempting to mask performance-enhancing drugs. I don’t think Pineda had an intent to deceive but it’s an unfortunate situation for the one-time Yank and it certainly hurts Minnesota’s chances for October success.

As always, Go Yankees!

The Baseball Season Did Not End July 31st…

Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac, Getty Images

Destination: World Series Championship is alive and well…

Admittedly, I was very disappointed with the trading deadline. I felt it was a missed opportunity to provide enhancements for the team. The Houston Astros are a very good team from top to bottom, and they are led by a very smart manager. I know I will not underestimate them nor will I compare them to a rotation-strong Tiger team that couldn’t win when it mattered. Nevertheless, Houston did not secure a guarantee of October success with their moves.

I do wish I had better confidence with the return the injured Yankee players. It’s being reported that Luis Severino will finally return to the mound next Friday as he begins his rehab back to the Major Leagues for possibly September. Honestly, he is a setback away from not pitching for the club at all this year. I am trying to keep my expectations low, but at best, he appears to be help for the bullpen barring no further setbacks. There does not appear to be sufficient time to get him stretched out for a starting role, or if he comes back to start, he’ll be like one of the starting pitchers who miss Spring Training and then struggle mightily. Still, I’d rather have Sevy on the post-season roster than not.

Photo Credit: Severino40 on Instagram

Maybe Dellin Betances can come back and recapture his 2018 effectiveness. It does not exactly feel like a sure bet. I probably have more confidence in Dellin at this point than Sevy but we’ll see. The Yankees really need both if they are to win the 2019 World Series. It’s not impossible but it would clearly help.

I am not even sure what to think about Giancarlo Stanton. If he hasn’t even begun baseball activities, I don’t see his return anytime soon. And when he does come back, there is the inevitable struggle to recapture his timing. In other words, we’re looking at some painful at-bats until he becomes the Giancarlo we all know and love.

It’s not great news the Yankees could be without Luke Voit for up to six weeks, a certainty if he does have surgery for his sports hernia. But at least the Yankees have Edwin Encarnacion and DJ LeMahieu to cover first base, and Mike Ford waiting in the wings at Scranton for support. When I saw the San Francisco Giants had designated Tyler Austin for assignment yesterday, my immediate thought was potential help for the Yankees. But I think that was just a sentimental feeling. While I think some team with a higher priority claim will take a shot at the former Yank, I don’t care for Austin’s splits and although he has some power, I think the Yankees have better options in-house. I really thought a trade for Justin Smoak at the trading deadline made sense, but if you truly believe the injured guys will be back, there’s not necessarily any long term room on the roster.

Oh well, the Yankees didn’t get the needed help for the rotation. It sucks but it is what it is. Time for the starters we do have to step it up. Domingo German has certainly earned his standing among the top five. After allowing the first-inning  two-run homer to JD Martinez last night, James Paxton pitched like we know he can in holding the Red Sox to two hits and those two runs over six innings. This is the Pax we need down the stretch. If only he can overcome those first inning jitters. First innings with Paxton are becoming very painful to watch. I still have hope that Paxton can come up big in October. Despite his struggles, I do not believe this to be a ‘Sonny Gray-like’ situation. I think Pax will have his huge moments in Pinstripes. The talent and the desire are there. Pax just needs to find the answer within himself and I am confident he will.

Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

J.A. Happ continues to concern me. I think it was his spot in the rotation that I wanted to see upgraded. His three-year contract is starting to worry me a bit. Technically, it is a two-year deal with an option, but the third year vests with 165 innings pitched or 27 games started in 2020, which, if he stays in the rotation, should be easily achievable. Frankly, I hope the Yankees can find a way to move Happ in the off-season and find a better option, but they’ll have to send a few Benjamin Franklins with him to find a taker.  But for now, Happ needs to find what he had last year at this time. Currently out on paternity leave, hopefully the newly born Happ will help J.A.’s rebirth as an effective Yankees starter.

With CC Sabathia on the Injured List for his knee, a deadline starter would have been ideal but I guess we’ll have to continue with Chad Green, Opener. Green and Nestor Cortes Jr have proven to be a reliable tandem so it’s not the end of the World they have to provide the necessary support. When CC returns, I am not going to go against him. He is a crafty veteran and the final starts of his career will have a very strong impact on him in terms of the desire to go out on his own terms. I am confident he’ll have his magical moment before this is said and done.

It hasn’t been the best of seasons for Masahiro Tanaka, but like the great Andy Pettitte, Masa has a way of raising the bar in October. I have no doubt he’ll be very effective when it matters, even if he continues to give up those annoying obligatory dingers.

For those who think Deivi Garcia is the next Great Savior, my take is not this year. While it has been said he’d be in the bullpen if he does get the call up in September, I doubt he makes a significant difference until 2020 at the earliest. I am not resting any hopes on him. The kid is only 20 and he’s struggled with the promotion to Triple A. I don’t blame him for those struggles. They were inevitable. Rare is the player who can immediately master every level of the minor leagues from the start. I think he’ll be a very good pitcher one day, just not this year. At least not at the big league level. I have no doubt he’ll be frustrating International League hitters by season’s end.

I’ve always liked Aroldis Chapman, but if he opts out of his contract in the off-season, let him go. I am not interested in a renegotiation of his contract. I know Yankee fans either love or hate Zach Britton, but he’d be my choice to take over the closing duties. Not sure if the Yankees will re-sign Dellin Betances, but he’s better suited for setup. He’d be the only other name I’d consider for closer even though I’ve never been a fan of using him in that role despite his limited success. I also think Adam Ottavino and Tommy Kahnle are better in their current roles. The Colorado Rockies tried Otto as closer a couple of years ago without success, but I realize that was before Otto rediscovered himself in his makeshift NYC pitching studio. Still, Otto’s propensity for walks when he doesn’t have his control does not play well in the ninth inning.

I keep reading there’s no way the Yankees sign Gerrit Cole in the off-season and perhaps that’s true. There will be teams like the Los Angeles Angels that will be desperate for starting pitching, particularly for someone with Cole’s resume. I think any chance Houston would re-sign Cole was eliminated when they acquired Zach Greinke and his contract. So, if anything, it gives me some hope the Yankees will be contenders for Cole’s services. We’ll see. Hopefully he doesn’t end the Yankees’ season before we get there.

I was very appreciative of the first inning grand slam by Gleyber Torres last night to answer the home run by JD Martinez and fortunately it held up to give the Yankees a 4-2 win over the Boston Red Sox. Last year at this time, the Yankees started a four-game series in Boston on the exact same date (August 2nd, the anniversary of the death of Yankee great Thurman Munson). The Yankees entered the series in much better position than the Red Sox are in now, trailing the then-AL East leaders by only 5 1/2 games. Boston swept the four-game series which effectively ended the Yankees’ hopes of winning the division. I am really hoping the Yankees can do the same to the Red Sox this year. I remember the defeated feeling I had last year after that series. It’s a feeling the Boston fans should experience this year, in my opinion. I am not really expecting a sweep but taking 3 of 4, especially after last weekend’s disaster in Boston, would be huge. It would also leave the Red Sox severely wounded with their playoff aspirations and three good teams ahead of them in the AL Wild Card hunt.

Since the Tampa Bay Rays had the night off, the Yankees were able to increase their AL East lead to 7 1/2 games. The Red Sox are back to 11 1/2 games behind our favorite team. Too bad, so sad. I’d really enjoy it if the Red Sox players have to make non-baseball plans for October. Time to go for the jugular and race to the AL East title crown. If it happens, I will be so glad the Yankees do not have to play a one-game ‘do or die’ playoff this year. But no Boston baseball in October would almost be as exciting.

Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

The Yankees play two today. The afternoon game will pit Domingo German, searching for his 14th win, against Chris Sale. It’s been a very disappointing year for Boston’s ace so hopefully the disappointment continues today. In the night cap, Chad Green-Opener will face lefty Brian Johnson. Johnson was activated off the Injured List earlier today. He has been out since June 27th with an intestinal issue. A sweep by the Yankees would obviously leave the entire Red Sox team with intestinal issues.

Before I go and despite the disappointment experienced a few days ago, I am glad the Trading Deadline has come and gone. I was tired of the endless speculation and the ridiculous trade proposals in the minds of many Yankee fans. Next year, I’ll be in favor of moving the trade deadline to August 15th to help teams better decide if they are buyers or sellers. However, on August 3, 2019, this is our team and this is THE team that can take us to the promised land. To hell with the Astros and anybody else, the Yankees have the players capable of delivering champagne in the final MLB game of the year. Let’s do this.

Go Yankees!