Tagged: Derek Jeter

Hopefully, The Weekend Won’t Be For The Birds…

Credit:  Elsa/Getty Images

Well, I should qualify that by saying I hope it is for the Bird (as in Greg)…just not for the Birds of Baltimore.  

The Yankees head back to the Bronx for a weekend series against the AL East front-running  Orioles.  The series begins tonight at 7:05 pm ET with CC Sabathia  (2-1, 2.70 ERA) scheduled to take the mound versus the O’s Kevin Gausman (1-2, 7.50 ERA).  In Gausman’s last start on Sunday against the Red Sox, he gave up back-to-back home runs in the first inning to Mookie Betts and Hanley Ramirez as the O’s fell to Boston 6-2.  

The Yankees are playing much better than they did when the O’s took 2 of 3 earlier this month.  When the Yankees salvaged the final game of the series with a 7-3 victory on April 9th, it was the start of an eight-game winning streak.  They left Baltimore with a 2-4 record, and now stand at 13-7 as they prepare for the rematch.  The Yankees currently trail the Orioles by just one game.   

The X Factor is the return of shortstop Didi Gregorius, who returns tonight after missing the first 20 games of the season.  Didi performed his rehab assignment at High A Tampa, where he hit .290 with a homer and 13 ribbies.  Credit is owed to interim starting shortstop Ronald Torreyes.  My preference had been to promote prospect Tyler Wade as I didn’t feel Torreyes (or “Toe”) was up to the task.  He proved me wrr, wrrr…not exactly right.  The little guy came up big in clutch situations, and played admirably in the field.  Toe now moves to the critical super-sub role with the ability to cover for Gregorius, Starlin Castro or Chase Headley.  At this point, if you told me that he could play catcher too, I wouldn’t argue.  There’s a reason that Brian Cashman is paid to the general manager and Joe Girardi is paid to be the manager, while I write for free on this blog site.  

Now the question is what becomes of backup shortstop Pete Kozma.  Is he simply optioned to AAA (retaining his spot on the 40-man roster) or designated for assignment?  Personally, for me, the emergency backup shortstop is Wade so I’d shake Kozma’s hand for helping out and then hand him his walking papers.  

Catcher Gary Sanchez is also very close to returning.  He’ll begin his rehab assignment next Tuesday for AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.  Like Torreyes, catcher Austin Romine has done a terrific job filling in for Sanchez.  Obviously, he’ll never be the bat nor the arm of Sanchez, but he held his own at the position.  

This has been a crazy year for guys going on the disabled list.  The San Francisco Giants losing ace Madison Bumgarner for two months due to a dirt bike accident is probably the craziest.  But it seems like no team has been immune from the DL plague.  Soon, the Yankees will be back at full strength for a team that is already playing better than expected.  There is reason for great optimism at 161st and River.  

The pitching match-ups for the rest of the weekend are:

SATURDAY                                      

Balt:  Ubaldo Jimenez (1-0, 5.95 ERA)   

NYY:  Michael Pineda (2-1, 3.86 ERA)    

SUNDAY

Balt:  Wade Miley (1-1, 2.08 ERA)

NYY:  Jordan Montgomery (1-1, 3.78 ERA)

I am very glad that we won’t be facing a Chris Sale-like pitcher in this series.  So far this season, the best pitcher for the Orioles has been Dylan Bundy.  The Yankees will miss Bundy (3-1, 1.65 ERA) this go-around.  You have to like the Yankees’ chances in this series, particularly considering they are at home.  Welcome back, Didi!  It will be great to see #18 on the field again.  

Credit:  MLB.com

Yesterday, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred disputed the reports that the group led by Yankees Legend Derek Jeter and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush had won the exclusive rights to purchase the Miami Marlins.  Per Manfred, there are still two groups involved in the running but that resolution should be reached within a matter of days.  So, hold your horses, Jeter may not be trading in his pinstripes just yet.  It would be cool if the Steinbrenner Family would sell Jeter part of the Yankees, but that’s not going to happen.  For Jeter’s sake, I hope his group’s bid is successful.  Ownership is his dream and the best case scenario without the Yankees in play is a National League club to avoid frequent competition.  


What did last night’s game against the Boston Red Sox look like?…

What can you say about Masahiro Tanaka’s masterful performance against the Red Sox?  It was an absolute masterpiece as Tanaka out-pitched Boston ace Chris Sale for the the 3-0 victory.  Tanaka went the distance, allowing only three hits and no walks, while striking out three.  It was Tanaka’s best start of the year and one of his greatest in pinstripes.  Sale, who came into the game with a career 1.17 ERA against the Yankees, allowed three runs (two earned) in the loss for the Red Sox.  

For the majority of the game, the Yankees held a slim 1-0 lead, thanks to a sac fly by Matt Holliday in the fourth inning.  Finally, they knocked Sale out of the game in the ninth inning after he allowed singles to the first three batters, including a run-scoring hit by Holliday to pick up his second RBI of the game.  Reliever Heath Embree gave up a hit to the first batter he faced (Starlin Castro), scoring Chase Headley, with the run charged to Sale.    

Chris Carter, carrying the rep of a one-dimensional home run hitter, played very solid defense at first base even if he couldn’t get his bat going against Sale.  

This was one of the more enjoyable victories over the Red Sox in recent memory.  Hats off to Tanaka, and congratulations to the team for the two-game sweep.  

Have a wonderful Friday!  It’s time to cook some Birds!  

3 Minus 1 Equals 2…

Credit:  Globe Staff/John Tlumacki

Impressive math skills, huh?  With Tuesday’s rain-out, the 2017 opening Yankees-Red Sox series becomes a two game affair.  It plays havoc with a wager I hold every year with a die-hard Red Sox fan.  Years ago, when we were both bloggers, we started making bets on every series.  Over the years, I’ve had to wear Red Sox caps in photos (including a pink one one year), write long posts about past and present Red Sox players, and sport Red Sox-related profile pics through social media.  My friend no longer blogs so the current bets tend to revolve around FaceBook profile and cover pics.  With only two games, a split means the win goes to the team with the most runs scored.  The loser has to use a Red Sox player as their FaceBook profile pic for three days under the current bet.  So, I have a vested interest in the Yankees to take this series.  Yes, it’s all about me.

The rained out game will be made up on Sunday, July 16th as part of a day-night double-header.   The scheduled starters are pushed back a day so Luis Severino takes the mound today against AL Cy Young Award Winner Rick “Justin Verlander Deserved It More” Porcello while Masahiro Tanaka, in the series marquee matchup, faces Chris Sale on Thursday.  CC Sabathia becomes an observer for this series, with a probable early flight back to New York for Friday’s start against the AL East leading Baltimore Orioles.

It’s raining again today in Boston but hopefully the rain gods will make way for the 7:10 pm EDT start time to allow a few hours of clear skies.  Oh yeah, this is Yankees-Red Sox, better make that four hours of clear skies.

I am not sure what I think about the possibility of Derek Jeter becoming an owner in Major League Baseball.  As Bloomberg reported yesterday, the group led by former Presidential candidate and Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Jeter won the auction for exclusive negotiating rights to buy the Miami Marlins.  The sides still have to hammer out a formal written agreement that must be approved by MLB owners, but I do not see any roadblocks to the eventual sale.  

I suppose that all things considered, it would have been worse for Jeter to buy his local Tampa Bay Rays.  Under that scenario, the Yankees would have had to face a Jeter-owned team 19 times a year in the fight for the American League East.  With Jeter owning a National League team, the Yankees won’t face the Marlins except for every few years in inter-league play.  There’s the possibility that the Yankees could face the Jeter-owned Marlins in the World Series at some point.  But for the most part, they won’t step foot on the same field at the same time.  So, this is probably the best situation for Jeter’s dream to be a Major League owner, particularly considering the Steinbrenner Family has no interest in selling the Yankees.  

It was tough to watch Don Mattingly, a lifetime Yankee, put on another team’s jersey.  If I have a second favorite or National League favorite team, it is probably the Los Angeles Dodgers (okay, not probably, it is).  Mattingly as an assistant coach for Joe Torre in Los Angeles and then later the manager was very palatable.  I was fortunate to live in Los Angeles during the Mattingly regime and I enjoyed having a long-time favorite player as manager of the local team.  I remain a fan of Mattingly’s even though he now calls Miami home, but it’s weird.  I am hopeful that he finds his way back home to Yankee Stadium one day.  I do not know Jeter’s intended ownership percentage or how active he will be as the face of the organization.  Unlike Mattingly, he won’t be putting on a Marlins uniform so technically the Yankees uniform should remain his only one.  Magic Johnson is one of the owners of the Los Angeles Dodgers but activity-wise, he is a bigger part of the Los Angeles Lakers.  Will Jeter take that type of passive ownership role or will he be the front man for the team like Denver Broncos non-owner John Elway?  I can’t really see Jeb Bush taking a backseat to Jeter unless Jeter has the greater ownership interest.  These are the things that will shake themselves out in the course of the coming days, weeks and months.  Congrats to Jeter for apparent achievement of his lifelong dream.  I hope he still finds time to visit the old stomping grounds on occasion.  

Credit:  Getty Images

I saw an article today on the YES Network asking if the Yankees should protect James Kaprielian on the 40-man roster next year in advance of the 2018 Rule 5 Draft.  I want to say now, they had better make room.  This should not even be a discussion.  I will be very upset if the Yankees do not add him to the 40-man next year and risk losing him.  I was mad about the sequence of events that led to Jacob Lindgren signing with the Atlanta Braves.  I hope we do not have a repeat situation with Kaprielian.  I know that he has been plagued by injuries and his body of work in the minor leagues is fairly slim, but he is a top talent.  If, I know…ifs and buts…, if he can stay healthy, I really feel that he’ll be a high end starter in the rotation.  I am steadfastly a fan of Kaprielian’s and I look forward to the day he takes the mound at Yankee Stadium.

The San Diego Padres, who had been carrying three catchers including Rule 5 draftee Luis Torrens (from the Yankees), demoted one of the catchers to AAA.  Starter Austin Hedges has played very well this year.  The catcher sent to AAA, Christian Bethancourt, was attempting to be a combo pitcher/catcher.  The demotion leaves the soon-to-be 21 year-old Torrens as the primary backup for Hedges.  In reality, Torrens should be no higher than A or AA so I am optimistic that events will force the Padres to upgrade backup catching to more seasoned talent to pave the way for the return of Torrens to New York.   But as each month goes by, the chances decrease.  Time will tell.

Have a great Wednesday!  I hope it’s a dry one!

The Man said he was sorry…

You had me at…, um, no, you didn’t…

We are supposed to simply accept a handwritten apology?  Right.  Sorry, I don’t buy it and I don’t think it would matter if A-Rod spoke before a packed house at Yankee Stadium.  Alex Rodriguez is sorry for only one thing.  He got caught.  He could care less about you or me.  Honestly, at this point, the only thing that I’d accept out of A-Rod’s words would be a retirement announcement.

I saw a few New York sportswriters commenting that home runs will bring the fans back.  Are we so shallow that we could forgive Alex for his behavior by simply forgetting all with the first ball that clears the fence?  I know that I will not be a fan of Alex Rodriguez today nor would I be one if by September he has hit 40 home runs.  My days cheering him are over.   I am still a Yankees fan, and of course, I want the team to win.  I would not wish for A-Rod to do anything detrimental to the team (well beyond the damage that he’s already done) but I will only accept his contributions as team contributions, not individual accomplishments.

I admit that I hope Alex plays so poorly in the spring, the Yankees bite the $60 million bullet and release him.  But that’s too far fetched to be possible.  He won’t need to do much to hold his own on the roster.  Rob Refsnyder could play twice as well in spring training and end up in Scranton/Wilkes Barre while A-Rod is the team’s full time DH.  But still, the thought of an outright release would be the best possible outcome in my mind.

As good as the Boston Red Sox’ front office has become, it’s too bad they weren’t better back in 2003 when they failed to acquire A-Rod from the Texas Rangers.  How differently things might have been had A-Rod gone to Beantown.

Ifs and buts, I know…

It’s a numbers game…

There was a time when it seemed odd that Phil Hughes wore #65 or that Joba Chamberlain wore #62.  Now, with the announcement plans to retire numbers 20, 46 and 51, the lower numbers are slowly going away.  Of course #2 will soon be retired for Derek Jeter and I’ve always wondered if some day #21 will be taken down for Paul O’Neill.  Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte and Bernie Williams were all great Yankees and they deserve becoming legends of Monument Park.  It was also very classy of the Yankees to announce plans for a plaque for former second baseman Willie Randolph.

It thought it was cool when Manny Ramirez wore #99 for the Los Angeles Dodgers a few years ago.  Now, we’re probably just a few seasons away from someone donning the same number with the Yankees.  Hopefully, I won’t live to see the days when players are wearing triple digits.

Make or break a farm system…

Based on all reports, I would love nothing more than to see the Yankees sign Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada.  However, based on what I’ve read, I do expect the Los Angeles Dodgers to win the bidding.  I hope the Yankees emerge victorious.  Given they’ll be limited in the international market for the next few years, Moncada would be icing on the cake for the fantastic international draft they had this year.  I know that there are no certainties but Moncada does sound like the real deal.  I guess if the Dodgers win the bidding, I shouldn’t fret too much since I live just a few miles away from Dodger Stadium.  But after an off-season of largely inactivity, signing Moncada would make this winter well worth the wait.  I guess we’ll find out in the next couple of weeks.

NESN.com

Open the door…

Count me among those who hope that new MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred re-opens the Pete Rose case.  It’s time to let Pete the Ballplayer take his rightful place in Baseball’s Hall of Fame.  I will never defend Pete the Man, but I saw the ballplayer play, and he remains one of the greatest that I’ve ever seen.  He has served his sentence and deserves to stand among the game’s greats.

*      *     *

It’s hard to believe that it is time for pitchers and catchers to report.  With this off-season’s inactivity and losses, it is hard to envision October baseball in the Bronx.  Yeah, yeah, if all things go right and everyone stays healthy, I know they have a chance.  But realistically, this is a third place team at best with the potential for the cellar if things go horribly wrong.  As always, I will throw in the caveat that I hope I am wrong.  But if anything, I do think the Yankees are laying the groundwork for future success.

Let’s play ball…

–Scott

Mr Kuroda, it was our pleasure…

Quite simply, a great Yankee…

One thing is assured.  Yankees fans will not be enjoying any of the hoopla that fans of the San Diego Padres, Chicago White Sox, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs et al have been experiencing this off-season.  The Winter of Our Discontent (hat tip to John Steinbeck) continues with the loss of starter Hiroki Kuroda, who has signed a one year deal with the Hiroshima Carp of the Japanese Leagues.

Getty Images

Derek Jeter, David Robertson, Francisco Cervelli, Martin Prado, David Phelps, and now Hiroki Kuroda.  The Yankees have lost some great personalities from the 2014 team and it ensures that 2015 will be “different”.  It remains to be seen if it will be different-good or different-bad, but will definitely be different.

I remember when Hiroki Kuroda arrived in the U.S. in his early 30’s with the Los Angeles Dodgers.  I think in my mind I viewed him as nothing more than a #3 starter but I remember watching a Dodgers game a few years (with the legendary Vin Scully announcing…what a treat!).  He was masterful that game.  I don’t remember the outcome but I do believe it was a Kuroda win and he only gave up a few hits.  I was impressed by his performance, but I don’t think I truly appreciated how great he was until he came to New York.  I was so wrong.  He was more than a #3 starter.  He may not have been an ace, but he was the type of #2 starter every team needs.  He was a stopper, and he kept his team in games consistently from game to game.  After watching A.J. Burnett flame out with essentially the same spot in the rotation with his roller coaster performances, Kuroda gave us stability and an arm that could be counted on.  It’s too bad the team was unable to reward him with a World Series championship.  Everyone knows the high class and character of Derek Jeter, but Kuroda is every bit the man of honor.

Doug Benc/Getty Images

I am glad that Kuroda was able to be a part of Masahiro Tanaka’s first year and to help with his transition.  In a way, there is a bit of an unknown in what it will be like for Tanaka without fellow countrymen Kuroda and Ichiro Suzuki on the team.  This is why it would make tremendous sense to add Hideki Matsui to the coaching staff.  I haven’t heard Matsui’s name mentioned as a hitting coach but what about first base?  He had one of the greatest clutch bats in recent Yankees history and is well liked by his former teammates and coaches.

But back to Kuroda.  I read The New York Post headline that blared “Kuroda spurns Yankees, to return to Japan”.  I don’t really view this as Kuroda spurning the Yankees.  It has been known his desire was to finish his playing career in Japan.  The man Kuroda has proven to be is one who would want to put the best possible product on the field in front of his home country.  He wouldn’t want his last year to be a pitcher who stayed a year too long.  I do not view this as a spurning so much as it was a man trying to do the right thing for his fans and country.  As a fan, I know the tremendous respect that he holds for both the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers organizations.  Not many people can play for both and only the Yankees and Dodgers.

Masahiro Tanaka wore #18 prior to his arrival in New York.  I wonder if he’ll now change his number from 19 to 18 out of respect for his mentor.  Tanaka is one of the few guys worthy of wearing Kuroda’s jersey.

Here’s hoping that we see Kuroda at future Yankees Old Timer’s Day games.  He will be missed and we look forward to his eventual return to stand among the Legends.

–Scott

Waiting patiently for the Cavalry…

A week’s worth of crickets…

For excited as I was for the Baseball Winter Meetings, it was a very unfulfilling time for Yankees fans.  The AL East got stronger as both the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays made significant improvements, and the Baltimore Orioles, while they didn’t make a move, are still a better team on paper.

Losing David Robertson hurt.  I fully recognize that not even the Yankees should be paying multiple guys in the pen $12+ million per year so I understand the decision to let Robertson walk after signing last year’s prized lefty Andrew Miller.  Still, when I saw those words, “White Sox to sign David Robertson”, it was a painful sight to see.

David Robertson mug

USA Today Sports

Part of me, for a few days, imagined a bullpen with Robertson, Betances, and Miller for manager Joe Girardi and the limitless possibilities.  After watching the Kansas City Royals and their stellar pen, it was hard not to dream of a similar equation for the Yankees.  With so many question marks in the rotation, a ‘lights out’ bullpen is a must.  With Robertson gone, there’s no reason why the Yankees still can’t have a superior bullpen.  But losing Robertson does show that we care about our tenured players.  Well, except when their name is Alex Rodriguez.

I am in favor of naming Dellin Betances as the team’s closer in spring training.  I think Miller will be great as the primary setup guy and the earlier innings are in great hands with Adam Warren, Shawn Kelley and others.  A year ago, there were questions about Robertson’s ability to close.  His attempt to close in 2012 when Mariano Rivera got hurt was unsuccessful.  The team ultimately went to Rafael Soriano who held the role for the duration of the season.

Mariano Rivera was an exception.  Most guys are unable to pitch at the level required to close for an extended period of time.  The days of Rivera and Trevor Hoffman are over.  From a financial standpoint, it makes the most sense to have a shorter term view when it comes to a closer so that you don’t get locked into a bad contract (a la Jonathan Papelbon) as the closer ages and naturally deteriorates.  Robertson may still be playing at a very high level in four years, but equally, there’s a chance that he is not.  He always seems to pitch in and out of trouble, but as he ages, his ability to get out of those jams may not quite be there.  He’ll evolve as a pitcher and I am sure that he’ll make the necessary adjustments, but at the end of the day, the Yankees are better off not being locked into Robertson for four years at $48 million.  Betances showed that he is the team’s future closer.  Next year may be a bit premature, but it was inevitable.

The most important thing for the Yankees is to now re-invest the $12 million per year savings into other areas.  Bring back Chase Headley.  Possibly sign a short term closing alternative like Jason Grilli.  Make a run for Max Scherzer.  But the key is to do something.  The Yankees, as they presently stand, will not win in October.

 

How much?  See ya…

Speaking of bad contracts, I was blown away by the commitment the Los Angeles Dodgers made to Brandon McCarthy.  I thought McCarthy was a great pickup last season and hoped the Yankees could re-sign him to a team friendly deal.  But like Robertson, I am glad the Yankees did not commit those years and dollars to McCarthy.  He is a huge injury risk and in the Dodgers case, McCarthy failed last year in the NL West when he was with the Arizona Diamondbacks.  While I hope McCarthy has a great Dodgers career, my fear is that he and the team’s DL list will become good buddies.  I hope I’m wrong but baseball generally proves ‘past performance equals future results’…

Slowly but surely…

The week preceding the Baseball Winter Meetings was good.  The Yankees acquired their 2015 shortstop with the acquisition of Didi Gregorius and the aforementioned lefty artist Andrew Miller, dominant against both righties and lefties.  It was a good start but the team obviously still has much work to do before spring.

I hear so many Yankees fans say that Gregorius is not Derek Jeter.  Nothing against Jeter, but I’d rather see a 24 year old Gregorius starting at short over a 41 year old Jeter.  Gregorius may not be the player Jeter was in his prime, but Jeter wasn’t in his prime anymore and the Yankees had to do something to improve following Jeter’s retirement.  So, to me, Gregorius is his own man in the position.  It is up to him to succeed or fail, without regard to Jeter.  I was a huge Don Mattingly fan, but I gave Tino Martinez a chance from his first at-bat and his early struggles did not waver my support.  Tino turned out to be one of my most beloved players over the years and I never compared him to Mattingly.

It is possible that Gregorius fails.  If so, the Yankees move on to another option.  ‘Nothing ventured, nothing gained’.  But at this point in time, it is his time.  Let’s give him a chance…

Paul Ruhter/Gazette Staff

All I want for Christmas is…

Now if we could just send A-Rod anyway.  I know, it’s not that easy.  The most expensive DH/bench player in baseball history.  It’s too bad those dollars can’t be re-directed to a guy like Max Scherzer.  Maybe some challenges are too much for even the Yankees to overcome.  But I’d love to have the money the Yankees have probably spent trying to find a way.

–Scott

Yanks have a new shortstop – yes, in-Didi!…

Filling a position of need…

Finally, there is life in the Bronx!  Of course, it was only a matter of time given the needs of the team, but today was a day of large activity by the New York Yankees.

The morning was greeted with news that the Yankees had acquired shortstop Didi Gregorius from the Arizona Diamondbacks, shipping starting pitcher Shane Greene to the Detroit Tigers in a three-way trade.  While it’s never good to relinquish young, controllable pitching talent, the price of a 4th or 5th starter (or possibly long reliever) in Greene to acquire a starting shortstop was a no-brainer.

Christian Peterson/Getty Images North America

Gregorius is not coming to the Bronx to replace Derek Jeter.  He is merely the man who will be penciled into the slot created by the retirement of the future Hall of Famer.  But truth be told, short looks so much better in the hands of a 25 year old than it would have with a 41 year old regardless of the achievements for the latter.  Gregorius will bring good defense to an infield that needed help.  He may not hit, but he’ll hit better than backup shortstop Brendan Ryan.  He may be headed into the season as a platoon with Ryan (per Brian Cashman’s words earlier today), but Gregorius will have every opportunity to prove that the position is his.  The Yankees are much better with his presence.  Time will tell if he is a short or long term solution, but for now, he is an improvement over the speculated possibilities of Stephen Drew, Asdrubal Cabrera or Jed Lowrie.

SOMEONE had to take Jeter’s spot and it may as well be Didi.

With Greene’s departure, the obvious first question is whether this will motivate the Yankees to pursue Max Scherzer.  While I would love the Yankees to pursue Jon Lester, it seems almost too late in the process for the Yankees to enter the picture since it has been speculated that Lester will choose his destination next week during the Winter Meetings.

My fear is that the Boston Red Sox will soon be touting both Lester and Cole Hamels in their starting rotation which is even more reason that the Yankees need a true ace at the top of their staff.  Too many questions with the other starters so Scherzer is sorely needed.

It’s Miller Time!…

In the morning, it was also reported that reliever Andrew Miller would be deciding his selection today.  Later, it was announced the Yankees were his choice.  I wouldn’t say that they ‘won’ the bidding since technically, they were runner-up to the Houston Astros who offered more, but Miller felt the Yankees were the better destination.  Of course, it helps that Miller makes his home in Tampa so it will be a short commute to spring training.

AP Photo/Winslow Townson

Miller’s signing makes the most sense if the Yankees can somehow re-sign closer David Robertson.  The bullpen is so much stronger with the trio of Robertson, Dellin Betances and Miller than it is with Betances and Miller as co-closers.  Given the shortcomings of the starting rotation, mastery of the 6th innings on will be crucial.  I really like the thought of two powerful lefties in the pen (Miller and newcomer Justin Wilson, acquired earlier in the off-season from Pittsburgh).  Of course, last year’s top draft selection, lefty reliever Jacob Lindgren is burning through the system and will be in the major league bullpen in the not so distant future.  So, for a team that has struggled with finding dominant left-handed relief in recent years, they’ll soon be dealing with a position of strength.  Manager Joe Girardi must be getting good night’s sleep these days.

I love the Baseball Winter Meetings.  It is always my favorite time of the off-season.  Of course, as a Yankees fan, my team is generally very active during the week.  Last year’s flurry of acquiring Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran on the same day was such a rush.  Kind of like today when the Yankees acquired Gregorius and Miller…

When they needed a manager, the Rays simply took the Cash…

Finally, the Tampa Bay Rays announced their new manager when they named former catcher Kevin Cash to the position.

I was a little surprised that the Rays are replacing perhaps baseball’s best manager with a guy who has never managed before.  But Cash has been learning the craft under the watchful eye of Tito Francona in Cleveland as bullpen coach, and he brings the right amount of enthusiasm and intelligence to the position.  Clearly, new Rays President Matt Silverman is trying to place his own stamp on the team.  The best choice would have been to hire former Rays bench coach Dave Martinez but of course, that would have been a carryover from the Andrew Friedman-Joe Maddon regime.  All things considered, I am glad that Martinez was able to slide over to the Chicago Cubs to continue his role as bench coach for Maddon.

It will be interesting to see how Cash does.  It’s interesting that he can claim World Series rings with both the Yankees and the Boston Red Sox.  Now, he’ll see those teams routinely as a member of the AL East.  Hopefully, he does well and his stay in St Petersburg is long and mutually rewarding.  Well so long as it doesn’t involve any AL East or World Series championships.

The next week should be interesting regardless of what happens.  The Yankees have awakened from their slumber…

–Scott

Waiting for Signs of Life…

How to build an 80-win team…

The Boston Red Sox have gotten stronger with the recent additions of Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, and most likely, the re-signing of their former ace Jon Lester in the coming weeks.  The Toronto Blue Jays quietly signed catcher Russell Martin (a significant upgrade over Dioner Navarro) and last night, pulled off a major trade for arguably one of the best third basemen in the game in Josh Donaldson of the Oakland A’s.  The cost for Donaldson was Brett Lawrie and prospects.  Given Lawrie’s inability to stay healthy, this trade provides further enhancement for a team that has held promise for a few years.

Lance Iversen, The Chronicle

Then there’s the Baltimore Orioles.  They may not have made any big moves but they are still the AL East champs until proven otherwise.

I am not sure what’s going on with the Tampa Bay Rays.  They will be losing a great potential manager in bench coach Dave Martinez when they finally name a replacement for Joe Maddon and the team no longer has the feeling of eternal optimism that it had when Maddon and former GM Andrew Friedman were running the show.  So, we’ll leave them out of the equation.

So, clearly, the Blue Jays and Red Sox are determined to challenge the Orioles’ hold on the division championship.  Meanwhile, in the Bronx, just crickets…

Last winter, the Yankees were quiet at the beginning of the off-season but then launched a flurry of signings in December that netted Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Carlos Beltran.  It was a lot of money, but it still had the feeling the money could have been better spent.  Of course, if the Yankees would have just paid Russell Martin a few years ago rather than allow him to leave as a free agent, the Yankees could have gotten him much cheaper than the deal they signed McCann to (or the one Martin ultimately signed with the Jays).  Ellsbury is a known risk given his injury risk.  He held up fairly well in his first season in pinstripes, and I like having him on the team.  But the truth is the Yankees had a center fielder on the roster at the time in Brett Gardner and would have been better served going after a bat for left field.  Beltran has been a great major leaguer but his age simply does not bode well for staying healthy.

Now, I could write major concerns with Ramirez and Sandoval, but the Red Sox are dealing from a position of strength and have loosened some major league players, combined with quality prospects, to make a major trade to further strengthen the team (such as a move for the Philadelphia Phillies ace Cole Hamels).  The Yankees last year were just trying to fill holes.

I am surprised that the Yankees have not been linked in any way with star free agents Jon Lester and Max Scherzer.  Clearly, either one would immediately enhance the Yankees’ chances in 2015.  They need to find answers for other positions (third base, shortstop and the bullpen) but a high end rotation is a must for any team to succeed.  As it stands, there are too many questions with Masahiro Tanaka’s elbow, Michael Pineda’s ability to stay healthy or if CC Sabathia is riding the major downslope of his career.

The Yankees need to sign either Scherzer or Lester, and retain the free agent trio of Brandon McCarthy, Chase Headley, and David Robertson.  With this off-season of inactivity, it feels like the Yankees are going to lose out on all of the above.  At least today, two days after Thanksgiving.

I remain hopeful that Rob Refsnyder wins the second base job in spring training.  As for shortstop, the easiest solution is to re-sign Stephen Drew.  It’s really too bad that the organization was unable to develop a high level shortstop prospect in time for Derek Jeter’s departure.  Jorge Mateo looks like a strong possibility but he’s years away from being ready for the major league level.  So, the Yankees are best served finding a short-term solution like Drew and hope for a bounce back year with a full training camp.  I’d prefer that over a trade that could potentially cost what high level talent the Yankees do have in the upper levels of the minor league system.

If the Yankees do nothing, they’ll be battling the Rays for last place.  If they merely try to fill holes with cheaper alternatives, they’ll still be cellar rats.  Something has to give….soon.

I agree with Hal Steinbrenner when he says that you don’t need a $200 million payroll to win but the Yankees roster as currently constructed is not championship-caliber in my opinion.  Too much risk and uncertainty, and players who’ve seen their better days.  Alex Rodriguez is such a huge albatross and it’s a shame that he is now the “face” of the team.

Hopefully, Brian Cashman and the Steinbrenner boys have a plan in place that is driven for success and not merely a bean counter’s approach to fielding a team.

Time will tell, as it often does (as the saying goes)…

–Scott