Tagged: Didi Gregorius

The Sights and Sounds of Spring Training…

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Nearing the End of the Off-Season…

Two months from tomorrow, Gerrit Cole will be taking the mound in Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland, wearing the Yankee road grays and ready to throw his first official pitch as a member of Major League Baseball’s most storied franchise. Life is good.

I guess I should slow down and just be excited for the opening of Spring Training in less than three weeks. It will be fun to see activity at Steinbrenner Field again. I always love the first televised games of the Spring even if we don’t get to see very much of our favorite players. The interviews with players as they arrive at camp. The informal and subsequent formal workouts as the players get ready for the 2020 season. It’s just great to see those Spring pics of the Yankee rotation starters throwing bullpen sessions side-by-side. I look forward to the first pic featuring Gerrit Cole, Luis Severino, James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka. Yankees baseball, I love it.

But first, congratulations to Derek Jeter for his election to MLB’s Hall of Fame. Although expected, the announcement of his election this week was very exciting and it was so great to hear Jeter talk as a former Yankee great rather than as the CEO of the Miami Marlins.  I was convinced prior to the announcement there would be voters who would choose not to vote for Jeter so I never held the expectation he should be a unanimous selection but I’ll admit it was a bit disappointing there was just a single dissenting vote. Honestly, I don’t really care to ever find out who the voter was. I hope he had legitimate reasons for his choices although I cannot imagine what they would possibly be. Jeter was clearly the best candidate on this year’s ballot. Regardless, Jeter goes in with the second highest percentage (99.7%) ever with 396 of 397 votes. Once you’re in, it doesn’t matter if you got in with 99.7% or if you barely did it with 76.6% like Larry Walker. Walker (I am very happy about his election) is no less a Hall of Famer than Jeter. For Jeter, it has been great to hear his stories and how he still feels today that Yankee fans are the best in the World. There’s a part of me that kind of wishes the Steinbrenner family could have found a place for Jeter in the Yankees organization for his post-playing career but I suppose they were never going to sell him a stake in the team like he has in Miami. Jeter has reminded us this week of why he was such a special player in New York.

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Credit: Mark Ulriksen, The New Yorker

It will be exciting this summer (July 26th) when Jeter is officially inducted into the Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, New York. No doubt guys like Jorge Posada, Tino Martinez, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera will be there. An encore musical performance by Bernie Williams, who played last year, would be nice.

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Photo Credit: Bebeto Matthews, AP

I am probably softening on my stance against Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds. I am not condoning PED use, but they were two great players before the suspected PED involvement. There are worse guys in the Hall of Fame. Clemens and Bonds are running out of time and did not really make up much ground this year. With Clemens and Bonds receiving 61.0% and 60.7% of the votes this year, they would have needed 156 and 157 more votes, respectively, to have made it into the Hall of Fame. That seems like a tall order with just two years of eligibility left. But if these two can’t get in, there’s no way for Alex Rodriguez who becomes eligible in 2022.

Nice recovery by the New York Mets who stayed in-house when they named Felipe Alou’s son Luis Rojas as their new manager replacing Carlos Beltran. Although Rojas is not the “name” Beltran was, I think he is better positioned to be a successful manager. As a long-time member of the Mets organization, he has extensive minor league managerial experience. Assuming Hensley Meulens does not get the Boston job, he’ll provide good experience for Rojas as the team’s bench coach. For as dysfunctional as the Mets can be, this was a good move, in my opinion. I am not really sure why Meulens keeps getting bypassed. I think he’d be a good manager but it would suck to see him go to the Boston Red Sox so I hope he gets bypassed one more time before getting his opportunity.

I have no clue what the Red Sox are going to do. On paper, they still have a very good team. Everybody seems quick to dismiss them but they have the players capable of making noise in the AL East. They’d be weakened if the rumored trade of Mookie Betts happens but if they hold onto him, the AL East will be no cakewalk for the Yankees. Boston’s famed Truck Day is February 3rd so you’d think they would have a manager in place by then. I think Buck Showalter would be an outstanding choice for them but like Meulens, I’d hate to see Buck go there. Even though he’d be a good manager, I am hopeful the Sox elevate bench coach Ron Roenicke to the post. Jason Varitek seems like the eventual manager so it would be wise for them to open a spot on the coaching staff for Tek and let Roenicke groom him for the position.

I thought it was funny this week to see the Houston Astros are going to interview Brad Ausmus. After stints in Detroit and Anaheim, he has proven he is not a very good manager. I know he was a long-time Astro but his selection as manager would probably be a great thing for Yankee fans. The Astros, if they are serious about putting the cheating scandal behind them and naming a guy who can rebuild their credibility, should go with either Showalter or Dusty Baker.

Back to the Yankees, I think we’re ready to go. There will be no trades for Josh Hader, Francisco Lindor or Nolan Arenado. I’ve been hoping for some under-the-radar minor league signings of high upside players but even that is probably not going to happen. They signed a few catchers to minor league deals (Erik Kratz, Chris Iannetta, and John Mazza) to bring catching depth to camp. Former Mets reliever Luis Avilan, 30, was signed to a minor league contract and is presumably a potential replacement for the departed Stephen Tarpley although the significance of a lefty specialist was diminished with this year’s installation of the minimum three batter rule.

The only change I see with the roster between now and Opening Day is the potential trade of J.A. Happ. I still think it happens.  I can’t see the Yankees taking Happ and his contract into the regular season with a chance to reach the innings threshold to activate his 2021 option. If they mess with his innings pitched by pulling him out of the rotation at times, that’s not really fair to Happ. I think best case scenario, which would help the team from a luxury tax standpoint, would be to move Happ now rather than wait. The deeper we go into the season with Happ, the greater percentage of his 2020 salary, $17 million, going against team payroll for luxury tax purposes. I suppose the Yankees want to see where Jordan Montgomery is at in Spring Training but I continue to believe Happ will be wearing another uniform by Opening Day.

The other guy who has to go is Clint Frazier. Now with the talk about Miguel Andujar being asked to learn first base and left field, it would further diminish opportunities for Frazier. There are things I don’t like about Clint but he remains a talented player and I think he would strongly benefit from a change of scenery. I get the argument you’d be selling low on the player but I do not see any positives for stashing Frazier in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for another year.  You want to see players in the best possible position to succeed and sadly I feel that time has passed for Frazier with the Yankees.

It’s funny but in interviews, I think I’ve heard Manager Aaron Boone talk more about “Mendy” (new bench coach Carlos Mendoza) than he ever talked about his friend and former bench coach Josh Bard (who returned to his role as bullpen coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers). I am excited about what Mendy brings to the bench in his new role. He also inherits the role as organizer of Spring Training activities (which always reminds me of former Yankees coach and now Phillies bench coach Rob Thomson who ran Yankees camp for years). A popular coach, I think this is an underrated and very positive move for the Yankees.

Speaking of the Phillies, I have to say it sucked this week when I saw this image on Sir Didi’s Twitter account courtesy of MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch:

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Lastly, I want to say thanks to Mike Fiers. I know he is going to take much heat this year as the whistleblower of the Houston Astros cheating scandal but if he had not stepped forward, it’s not like the Astros were going to self-police and report themselves. Houston cost the Yankees potential opportunities to advance to the World Series through fraudulent measures. Fiers was the guy Yankee fans loved to hate. His infamy grew as the guy who threw the pitch in September 2014 that shattered Giancarlo Stanton’s face. But I honestly hope he gets cheers from the fans for his role in bringing light to the Houston cheaters. Also, congrats to Dallas Keuchel for taking accountability yesterday. I know his words were a little watered down but I appreciate his proactiveness and accountability, something that guys like Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve seemingly cannot comprehend.

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When Spring Training opens, I do feel that former Astro Gerrit Cole needs to address the media regarding any knowledge he may have had. While I do not feel the pitchers were directly involved (including the despised Justin Verlander), the topic is the elephant in the room and Cole needs to be open and honest about what he does or does not know. I remain very excited that Cole is a Yankee but he does not get a free pass simply because he is a Yankee.

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!

Missing the New York Yankees…

Off-Season Prep for 2020 is Underway…

I think I can speak for the entire Yankees fanbase when I say that we miss Yankees Baseball. We are in the part of the off-season where there is talk and speculation but not much action. Things should start warming up next week. Not that there will be signings and trades, but the General Manager meetings will be held Monday through Thursday in Scottsdale, Arizona. The groundwork for the future trades could be laid and of course there could be finalization of the new deal for Brett Gardner. When you get all the GM’s together in one place, anything can happen.  Let the alcohol flow! After a couple of shots, maybe Jacoby Ellsbury would look attractive to somebody. I’d love for a rival GM to wake up from a drunken stupor one morning, screaming “WTF! How did we end up with Ellsbury???!!!” Sadly, it won’t be that easy to get rid of Jacoby but I’ll always hold out hope. Fortunately, we are only one season away from the $5 million buyout and the end of Ellsbury’s time in New York. 

The biggest news for the Yankees this week was the appointment of Matt Blake as the new pitching coach, replacing the fired Larry Rothschild. Blake, 33, had been promoted last Tuesday to Director of Pitching Development for the Cleveland Indians. Two days later, he was the newest member of Aaron Boone’s staff.  Blake has been with the Indians for four seasons and was, prior to his promotion, the Assistant Director of Player Development. Before joining the Indians in late 2015, Blake was a pitching coordinator for Cressey Sports Performance in Hudson, MA.  He began his career as a pitching coach for a Boston area high school (Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School in Sudbury, MA) in 2009. In 2010, he served as an area scout for the Yankees before moving on to Cressey. He served as the pitching coach in 2015 for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox, a collegiate summer baseball team in the Cape Cod Baseball League.  

Blake is a native of Concord, New Hampshire and graduated from the College of the Holy Cross with degrees in psychology and philosophy. He was on the Holy Cross baseball team for all four years.

While I think we have to recognize that most of us are not qualified to assess who is or is not a good pitching coach, I like the hire. I know everybody wanted the sexy pick of David Cone. Me too. I thought Cone or Andy Pettitte would be good choices, but conversely, I know that just because Cone was a very good pitcher and a great broadcaster does not mean that he would have been a terrific pitching coach. Also, the pitching coach job would have required Cone to take a pay cut. Frankly, I am glad that we’ll continue to hear Coney on YES Network broadcasts with Michael Key. I suppose he could always pursue coaching jobs elsewhere if he is so inclined but for now, I like his presence on my TV screen for games.  

The Yankees have evolved into one of Baseball’s most advanced analytic teams. They’ve sunk huge costs into acquiring some of the best  available analytic minds to support VP, Assistant General Manager Michael Fishman and his team of analysts. The word is Blake is very good at taking analytics and breaking it down into laymen’s terms for pitchers to understand and how to apply them. I know the Yankees didn’t wake up one morning and say ‘hey, let’s steal Blake from the Indians!’. They did their research, and multiple members within the Yankees organization had the opportunity to meet with Blake. The consensus of the greatest minds in the organization was the hiring of Blake as the next pitching coach. That’s good enough for me.  

I do think the Yankees should join the recent trend in MLB to hire an assistant pitching coach. The unknown about Blake is that he has never played or coached at the Major League level. I am not saying he can’t do it, but I think two voices on the coaching staff for the pitchers is smart. I personally like RailRiders pitching coach Tommy Phelps. He has good knowledge and experience with many of the high level prospects and we know that he has done good work with the Major League pitchers sent down for additional instruction, with Chad Green representing the most recent example. Who knows if Green’s rebound was because of Phelps or was based on a plan developed by Larry Rothschild, but I do know that Phelps is highly respected and would make a good partner for Blake.  

Speaking of Larry Rothschild, it didn’t take him long to find new employment. One day after the Yankees hired Blake, the San Diego Padres announced their had re-assigned their pitching coach of 17 years, Darren Balsey, to other duties within the organization and had hired Rothschild to be their next pitching coach. I think everyone expected Larry to follow Joe Girardi to Philadelphia, but all things considered, I think landing in San Diego is an ideal opportunity for him. I was a little surprised when Girardi went with Bryan Price as his pitching coach. Not that I think Price is a bad coach, but as a recent manager, I am sure he has aspirations to manage again, and I can’t help but think there could be potential for conflict with Girardi who we know can be hard-headed at times. Maybe I am reading too much into that, but at this state of his career, Rothschild is content with serving as a pitching coach until retirement calls his name. He’ll now get his opportunity to help break in another rookie manager (Jayce Tingler) and will be charged to help develop one of the best pitching prospects in the game in MacKenzie Gore. I don’t get the hate directed at Rothschild by Yankee fans. While I think it was time for the Yankees and Rothschild to part ways, I realize that Larry did many things right and there was much we were unable to see from the outside looking in. I am appreciative for the years he gave the Yankees. The Padres are a young, analytics-driven team, and they chose to go with experience. Good for Larry. I wish him the best for his new opportunity.  

It was reported the Yankees and Brett Gardner’s camp are talking and it should result in a new deal soon. I am in favor of bringing Gardy back, however, I do not feel the Yankees should spend more than $8-$10 million on a one-year contract.  Maybe throw in some incentives for a couple more million. But to expect Gardy to replicate his 2019 season (enhanced by the alleged juiced baseball) is asking too much. The Yankees need a starting center fielder next year and I hate seeing Gardner’s name automatically written in while Aaron Hicks recovers from Tommy John surgery. The guy will be 37 in August. I think he is best served as the team’s fourth outfielder with random starts rather than every day. The Yankees need to field the best players in 2020, not swim in sentimental waters. I’ve seen some Yankee fans suggest Gardy’s number should be retired when his playing days are finished. Sorry, while he has been a good Yankee for a long-time, he is not a Hall of Fame level player and never has been. I value Gardy’s leadership but I believe he is overrated in the eyes of many fans. I am not sure if the center field should be Mike Tauchman or maybe someone who is not in the organization right now, but I think the Yankees will go with the best man for the job and not simply pay for past performance.  

I know the Yankees will be okay if Didi Gregorius leaves, but I’ll be sad. I like his left-handed bat and I think he’ll rebound for a stronger 2020 season as he gets further away from TJ surgery.  The Yankees are still a championship-level team with Gleyber Torres at short and D.J. LeMahieu at second, but I think Didi still has much left in the tank. I know, I am making these statements after saying the Yankees shouldn’t stay with Gardy for sentimental reasons. But unlike Gardy, I think the best years can still be ahead for Didi. There’s growing speculation that Didi’s original team, the Cincinnati Reds, are interested in bringing him back. I guess if Didi does leave, I’d rather see him go to the National League so the Reds would probably be best-case scenario. But minus his bat, the Yankees will need to find another left-handed hitter to sandwich between Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton.   I am not sure if lefties like Mike Ford, Mike Tauchman, or (gasp!) Greg Bird can be that guy or if Brian Cashman will have to go for outside help. Also, unless the Yankees sign LeMahieu to an extension, there could be an infield void after next season. I’d hate to go back to rolling out guys like Brian Roberts and Stephen Drew  to fill in at second base like we did when Robinson Cano left. If you say Tyler Wade, then we obviously have differing opinions about the player.   

A much speculated target for shortstop has been Cleveland’s Francisco Lindor. Granted, he is not a left-handed bat but clearly he’s one of the best players in the game today. He is only 25 and would fit nicely into the Yankees lineup as a replacement for Gregorius. If the Indians move Lindor, it will only be for a huge haul so we’d have to expect to lose some very talented and promising players. Another suggestion is Corey Seager if the Los Angeles Dodgers acquire Lindor. I’d be fine with either Lindor or Seager at shortstop (using Aaron Boone’s favorite word, “obviously”). But honestly, I wish the Yankees would just re-sign Gregorius and save the trade bullets for an ace. A package of Lindor and Corey Kluber would be awesome, but the price tag would be outrageous. Nevertheless, I am sure you’ll be able to see Cashman in conversation with Chris Antonetti, Cleveland’s President of Baseball Operations, and/or Mike Chernoff, the Tribe’s GM, next week. You never know what can happen in Baseball.  

I am cautiously optimistic about Thurman Munson’s presence on the 2020 Modern Era Committee ballot for Hall of Fame consideration. The results will be announced on December 8th. I’ve always said that Jim “Catfish” Hunter is the reason I became a Yankee fan, but it didn’t take long for Thurman to become my favorite player.  The others on the ballot are Don Mattingly, Dwight Evans, Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, Ted Simmons, Lou Whitaker, and former MLBPA head Marvin Miller. Mattingly was my favorite player after Munson. While I think both players are Hall of Fame-worthy, if I had to pick one, I’d say it is time for Thurman to get his deserved recognition as one of the game’s all-time greats. I loved the passion and intensity of that guy.  He was the AL Rookie of the Year in 1970 and the AL MVP in 1976. Even though the Yankees were swept in the World Series that year, it was not because of Munson who hit .529 (9 for 17) in the series. He was the heart and soul of two World Series championship teams in 1977 and 1978. Thurman’s death in 1979 remains one of those “I know exactly where I was when I heard the news” moments in my life. I was devastated and it’s sad that we didn’t get to see what Thurman could have done past age 32. I know there was speculation at the time about Thurman’s desire to get closer to home and perhaps sign with the Cleveland Indians, but it would have been hard to see him in anything other than Pinstripes. He was truly one of the Yankee Legends despite his premature departure and deserves his place among the other greats. I hope this is the year.  

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!