Tagged: DJ LeMahieu

Despite Win, Yankees Lose…

Photo Credit: Julio Cortez/AP

Aaron Judge becomes latest Casualty…

There was immediate concern when Aaron Judge arrived at first base after his single in the bottom of the sixth and you could tell he was in pain. Even as Head Trainer Steve Donahue came out and they removed Judge from the game, there was hope it was only a precautionary move with a fairly comfortable lead over the Kansas City Royals. But when Judge dropped the F bomb as he walked through the dugout, it signaled this was worst case scenario. Although no timetables have been given, the left oblique injury will keep Judge away for awhile.

Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Of all the injuries the Yankees have suffered this year, I had felt that Aaron Judge was the guy the team could least afford to lose. Gleyber Torres probably runs a close second, but Judge is the ideal right fielder for this team and its heart and soul. It was no fun last summer when we lost Judge for an extended period as a result of the fractured wrist, courtesy of a Jakob Junis pitch.  But at time, at least the team had Giancarlo Stanton to step into right. As the team prepares to play today, there are only three outfielders on the team. Brett Gardner, Mike Tauchman, and Clint Frazier. The role of the fourth outfielder will be filled by infielder Tyler Wade, who has not exactly set the World on fire with his bat this season.

With the placement of Judge on the Injured List today, there will be an unlucky 13 players on the list. Fortunately, Gary Sanchez will back soon. He is expected to play a minor league rehab game on Monday before being activated on Wednesday. The Yankees head for Anaheim, California to begin a four-game set with the Los Angeles Angels tomorrow so Sanchez should be ready by the third game. Giancarlo Stanton is expected to return sometime during the upcoming road trip but he’s a little further out than Sanchez. The road trip concludes in Phoenix, Arizona on May 1st. The sooner, the better but we need to make sure that Stanton is 100% ready to go to avoid any setbacks.

The Yankees have very limited outfield depth in the system. Everyone knows that top prospect Estevan Florial fractured his wrist in Spring Training and is still recovering so he’s not even a thought (not that he should have been…yet…anyway). The five outfielders listed on the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre roster are Trey Amburgey, Billy Burns, Omar Carrizales (who?), Matt Lipka, and Zack Zehner. Available free agents include Jose Bautista, Matt Holliday, Austin Jackson, Denard Span, Danny Valencia and Chris Young. In other words, there is no help on the horizon other than the return to good health for those on the IL. The only other option is trade, but most teams are reluctant to trade this early in the season. I keep hearing Justin Smoak’s name. No doubt he’d provide a productive bat to pair with Luke Voit at first base and DH, but the Toronto Blue Jays are only a game behind the Yankees and they certainly smell the blood in the water. Not that the Jays have World Series aspirations this year and they’ve already parted with Kevin Pillar (traded to San Francisco on April 2nd) but I don’t think they’d actively help the Yankees at this point even if the teams have been receptive to inter-division trades in the past.

I am not sure what to think at this point. You can only hope the team treads water until the injured stars begin their return to the active roster. It’s hard to look at the current roster and say, ‘Oh yeah, this team is winning the World Series this year’. I am glad that Clint Frazier and recently Mike Tauchman have stepped up but it’s going to take more from the other replacement players. I can’t say that I am overly optimistic. The Yankees can simply not afford to lose any more players at this point. They are stretched as far as they can without outside help. It is imperative that the injured players come back soon but the risk is rushing them back too soon. I guess these are the times that GM Brian Cashman and his staff truly earn their paychecks. With so much bad news lately, I could really use some good news about now. At least we have the NFL Draft later in the week.

With Judge’s injury, yesterday’s 9-2 win over the Royals actually felt like a loss.  There was certainly no joy after the game. I was glad the team evened its record at 10-10 but sadly the future, at this moment in time, seems hazy. The Boston Red Sox elevated themselves out of the AL East Cellar yesterday with their second consecutive victory over the division-leading Tampa Bay Rays. With such uncertainty surrounding the Yankees, I’d hate to see the Red Sox go on a roll. There’s no doubt the rash of injuries should make for a reliable battle-tested bench later in the season but that’s hardly any consolation on the 21st day of April. The coming days and weeks will go a long way toward determining how this season will play out. If there was ever a time for the team to unite and persevere through adversity, this is it. At the moment, Yankee Stadium feels a little like Winterfell as the Night King and his Army of the Dead close in for the kill.

To talk a moment about Saturday’s game, it is unfortunate that a Yankee fan interfered with the fly ball to left by Gleyber Torres in the bottom of the third inning. Initially ruled a home run, the call was overturned upon review and Torres was ruled out due to the interference. I agree the fan leaned over the wall so clearly by definition it was interference, but I honestly do not feel Royals outfielder Alex Gordon would have caught the ball. Replay seemed to show the ball just an inch or two beyond his reach. Fortunately, the Yankees didn’t need the three-run homer but I feel bad for Gleyber in losing a home run courtesy of a fan. On the other hand, the fan probably didn’t appreciate the free escort out of the stadium by Security. Tough situation since I feel I probably would have reached for the ball without thinking, like most of us, in that  situation too. Aaron Judge hit his fifth home run before he was lost to us. The Yankees also got homers from Clint Frazier, Mike Tauchman, and with his first as a Yankee, DJ LeMahieu. It was a great bounce-back game for Masahiro Tanaka who lost on a grand slam last Sunday. Tanaka went seven innings, giving up only four hits and a run. He walked three and struck out seven to improve his record to 2-1. I thought his ability to leave the lightning quick Billy Hamilton stranded at third after Hamilton’s lead off triple in the top of the third inning (a ball that went under the glove of the defensively-challenged Luke Voit at first) was huge.

The Yankees conclude their four-game series with the Royals today. They’ll send James Paxton (2-2, 3.91 ERA) to the mound. He’ll be opposed by Jorge Lopez (0-2, 4.30 ERA). The Yankees could really use a series win as they embark on the nine-game West Coast trip to Anaheim, San Francisco and Phoenix. Hopefully the remaining healthy players can provide Paxton with the necessary support for his third win of the season.

As expected, Gio Gonzalez exercised the opt-out in his minor league contract. The Yankees have until tomorrow to either elect to promote Gonzalez to the Major League roster or let him go. I fully expect the latter. No doubt he’ll get a big league job soon but it won’t be in the Bronx. Too bad he can’t play the outfield.

As always, Go Yankees! And please, stay healthy.

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Nolan Arenado and the Fictitious Pinstriped Dream…

Atlanta Braves v Colorado Rockies
The Denver Post

Arenado, As Expected, Signs Extension to Stay in Colorado…

Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado is no longer an option for the Yankees now that he has signed an eight-year, $260 million extension to remain in Denver, Colorado. Honestly, I think the Yankees’ rumored interest in Arenado was either a media-creation for clicks or a plant by the Yankees Front Office to deflect criticism for the team’s lackluster run at Manny Machado.

A sample of yesterday’s headlines:

IF THE YANKEES WANT NOLAN ARENADO THEY HAVE TO WAIT AS ROCKIES INK THIRD BASEMAN TO 8-YEAR, $260M DEAL

– The New York Daily News

NOLAN ARENADO’S $260M IS YANKEES BLOW AND BRYCE HARPER TARGET 

– The New York Post

MLB RUMORS: YANKEES WHIFF ON ROCKIES’ NOLAN ARENADO, WHO GETS RECORD-SETTING CONTRACT TO SKIP FREE AGENCY 

– NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

While I thought it was inevitable the Colorado Rockies would pony up for their best player, I do not believe for a second the Yankees decided to pass on Machado to wait for Arenado. In the present environment where players are amenable to team-friendly extensions (see Aaron Hicks and Luis Severino), I never really thought Arenado would test the free agency waters. As soon as Nolan previously signed the arbitration offer of $26 million for 2019 from the Rockies, it felt there was sufficient momentum to keep Nolan 5,280 feet above sea level for the duration of his career. If Nolan had chosen to go the route of free agency, I felt there was a stronger chance he’d to return to his native Southern California to play for either the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, who have a clear need for a third baseman, or the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have a good but aging third baseman in Justin Turner (he’ll be 35 in November). I just never saw the Yankees as the primary destination for Arenado. If the Yankees chose not to make competitive offers for the three best free agents this off-season, including two 26-year-old’s on Hall of Fame paths, there is nothing that would lead me to believe they would be willing to spend this Fall regardless of how good Arenado is.  He is fifteen months older than Machado and carries the Coors Field Effect label. While I think he’s a great player regardless of where he plays, I am not convinced the Yankees were seriously targeting him.

At this point, it is obvious the Yankees are committed to Miguel Andujar at third base. As a hit machine, he carries a very valuable bat in an otherwise loaded lineup. Defensively, the Yankees are expecting improvement. The bat can certainly compensate for some of the challenges in the field, but if Andujar can raise the level of his fielding to at least league average, I think everyone would be very happy. It’s tough watching the brilliant defensive plays made at third by Machado and Arenado and wonder what could have been, but that ship sailed. Machado has 300 million reasons to believe San Diego is the most beautiful city in the U.S. and the Yankees, in my opinion, were never players for Arenado.

Andujar is our third baseman and he deserves our trust and support. There’s no question he wants to improve and he probably works harder than most of the guys on the team. I doubt you’ll ever see any ‘Johnny Hustle’ comments about Andujar’s play because he does hustle and clearly wants to be the best.  Whether or not we believe Andujar can improve his defensive game is irrelevant as long as he believes he can. If he fails for whatever reason(s), I have no doubt GM Brian Cashman will find another alternative via trade (not through high-priced free agency). A young under-valued player with great potential seems to be Cashman’s preferred player these days. Personally, I am not betting against Miguel Andujar. I feel he has the drive and desire to succeed, matched with the necessary tools. Enough with the Andujar bashing. His name has taken a beating in Social Media. It’s not his fault the Yankees chose not to pursue Machado.  Well, I guess you could say it is his fault because they see the talent and commitment to win in Miggy. If we ran the Yankees and it was our money, I have no doubt we would have come to the same conclusion. Make decisions for the good of the organization and not short-sighted moves to make bloggers like me happy. Embrace Andujar, embrace the 2019 New York Yankees. This is our team. They have a championship to capture and they need our support for every man on the roster…well maybe not Jacoby Ellsbury. We have the team to strip the Championship belt from the Boston Red Sox and we should be proud.

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Getty Images

Speaking of Manny Machado, he couldn’t help but take a shot at the Baltimore Orioles. In an interview, Machado is quoted as saying, “The Dodgers last year, they showed me some love. The Orioles drafted me. I did a lot for that community, I did a lot for the state, they didn’t show me a little bit of love. It is what it is. But going over to L.A., L.A giving up a lot of prospects for me, that kind of shows you what I meant to them, which is amazing.” Needless to say, he has ruffled some feathers in Birdland.  By comparison, former Oriole Zack Britton has been respectful and appreciative of his time in Baltimore. Take the high road, Manny. You have your money and apparently the love you sought. Isn’t that enough?

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I thought it was fair yesterday when Manager Aaron Boone announced outfielder Clint Frazier will begin the year in Triple A.  After missing so much time last year following his concussion, Frazier needs consistent playing time to get himself back on a roll. I think it was wise for Boone to let Frazier know that he is not up for consideration in making the Opening Day Roster. It will take some pressure off Frazier and allow him to ramp up his game at his pace rather than an accelerated one thinking he has a shot to overtake Brett Gardner. I am not crazy about entering the season with Gardy as the starting left-fielder but I do think we’ll see Stanton out there more often. I’d prefer Stanton to stay at DH to help keep the big man healthy but there’s no question the team is better when Stanton plays the field. It frees up DH for some roster rotation to keep other guys fresh. If Frazier crushes Triple A, he’ll force the Yankees’ hand. I expect Frazier to be the starting left-fielder by season’s end. If not, I am sure Brian Cashman will provide other options as he always does. On the bright side, Sugar Shane Robinson is a Phillie so he won’t be starting any games in the Bronx this year.

I was a bit disappointed with yesterday’s rainout of the Spring game between the Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies. DJ LeMahieu was scheduled to play third base and I was curious to watch. Unfortunately, the next few games will not be televised so we won’t be able to get our Yankees fix until Sunday.  They should be able to get in today’s game in Lakeland, Florida against the Detroit Tigers.  There is a chance of scattered thunderstorms but not until late afternoon so the game should be fine. Chance Adams will get the start over previously announced starter Albert Abreu. Abreu is expected to pitch in relief. LeMahieu is expected to start at second base today and will make his Yankees debut at third for his next start. But since the game is not televised, we’ll be unable to see any of it. Bummer.

It’s been a few days since the official announcement but I was glad to see the Yankees sign Aaron Hicks to an extension. I was shocked at the number of years (seven) but the overall value of the deal, $70 million, is team-friendly. Hicks has the potential to fully earn those dollars within the first few years of the deal, making the back half of the contract negligible if performance does not warrant a starting position by the time the 29-year old Hicks nears his mid-30’s. Estevan Florial is still a few years away and he is far from a “sure thing”. The free agent market looked very slim for center fielders after the season (Leonys Martin appeared to be the best potential available target). In-house, Brett Gardner and the guy I don’t really expect to ever don the Pinstripes again, Jacoby Ellsbury, represented the top options had Hicks left via free agency. So, instead, the Yankees keep a player that Manager Aaron Boone has called baseball’s most underrated player and I am happy about it. Attention now turns to the two other primary pending free agents, Dellin Betances and Didi Gregorius. I’d love to see both players return so hopefully the Yankees can lock up one or both before the season starts. They can worry about a big extension for Aaron Judge next off-season. Regardless of how Troy Tulowitzki plays, I want Didi Gregorius as this team’s starting shortstop as soon as he is cleared to play and for the immediate seasons in the future. Similarly, if I had to choose between Betances and Aroldis Chapman, if the latter decides to opt out of his contract after the season, I’d take Betances. Under that scenario, Zack Britton would become my closer of choice but Betances is so invaluable in his setup role, with or without Chapman. I’d love for Betances to stay as a lifetime Yank.

As always, Go Yankees!

Happy Reporting Day for Yankee Pitchers and Catchers…

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Photo Credit: Bryan Hoch via Instagram

The Dawn of the 2019 MLB Season…

After a painfully long off-season filled with too many rumors and rampant speculation, Yankee pitchers and catchers officially report to training camp in Tampa, FL today to begin preparations for the upcoming season. Granted, many of the Yankee players are already in Tampa, working out informally, but Spring Training officially gets underway today with the first scheduled workout for pitchers and catchers tomorrow.

Meanwhile, position players can spend Valentine’s Day with their loved ones although many, like Aaron Judge, Troy Tulowitzki, Didi Gregorius, Clint Frazier and others, are already in camp in advance of Monday’s reporting date. The first full team workout will be next Tuesday.

I really thought there would be movement with Manny Machado and Bryce Harper this week. Of course, I’ve been thinking that every week since the start of the new year.  At this point, I don’t really know when they’ll sign. I still think they’ll be in some team’s camp, either in Florida or Arizona, before Opening Day but who knows. I feel so bad for the other guys. The free agents not named Machado or Harper. So many guys who can make a difference on a Major League roster, like Marwin Gonzalez, Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel, and they can’t find work. Clearly something has to change. For the Yankees, they appear to have the guys who will compete for the Opening Day roster barring any last-minute additions. Even if the Yankees didn’t sign Machado or Harper, they’ve been one of the more active teams this off-season.

The biggest battle to watch this Spring is the first base competition between Luke Voit and Greg Bird. By the way, Happy Birthday to Luke!  He is 28 years old today. DJ LeMahieu will apparently also see time at first in his role as the utility player for the team (which makes no sense to me). I’d like to see Voit win the job outright, continuing his late season run from last year.  I like his energy and excitement.  It’s infectious and spreads to his teammates. I would love to see Greg Bird hit the way we know he can but, like many people, I am tired of waiting. My guess is Bird goes to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to find himself if Voit wins the job. Bird’s sweet left-handed swing would look beautiful in Yankee Stadium but I am losing confidence we’ll ever see it consistently. For as much as I want Voit to win the job, I wouldn’t be disappointed if Bird killed it this Spring to reclaim the position for himself. That would be a great problem to have.

I just can’t wrap my head around the thought that Troy Tulowitzki is the starting shortstop. In my mind, he’s done. If he shows anything in camp, great, but realistically, I am not expecting anything from him. Team defense, in my opinion, is better served with Gleyber Torres at short and DJ LeMahieu, and his gold glove, at second until Didi Gregorius returns later this summer. Tulo is such a Wild Card at the moment. He could make the Opening Day roster and be the starting shortstop or he could by cut by the end of March when the team identifies its best 25 players. Honestly, neither would surprise me. But I think LeMahieu is the better player at this point and the Yankees have a greater investment in him. I find it very hard to believe that LeMahieu is simply the new Ronald Torreyes. He is better and deserves better.

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Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated

Out in left field, dependence on Brett Gardner as the starter is flawed logic. A fourth outfielder at best at this stage of his career, it would be better for Clint Frazier to win the job (unlikely) or put Giancarlo Stanton in left more often which is always a risk since he carried the injury-risk label until his monster 2017 season when he won the NL MVP Award for the Miami Marlins. DH is the best way to keep Stanton healthy and hitting the way he did during his MVP year. Jacoby Ellsbury, if healthy, looms as a threat to take a roster spot away from Frazier for Opening Day. I anxiously look forward to the day when Ellsbury and the Yankees part ways. While I don’t expect him on the field Opening Day, the possibility exists he is there if healthy.  The problem with Ellsbury is even if he is healthy, it won’t stay that way. The King of the DL will become the King of the new IL (“Injured List”). Let those insurance checks keep rolling in for Team Hal.

The only other real competition will be the last spots in the bullpen. Tommy Kahnle is expected to take one of the jobs, assuming he can pitch like he did in 2017. I really hope that the last man in the pen is not Luis Cessa. That’s another guy I’d like to see leave. I would prefer the last spot go to either Domingo German or Jonathan Loaisiga as the swing man/spot starter assuming the Yankees do not bring anyone else into Camp.  Let German and Lasagna duke it out in the Spring with the best arm heading north to the Bronx in late March. Danny Farquhar probably looms as a sentimental favorite for many after last year’s brain hemorrhage. If Kahnle fails to win a job and Farquhar proves he should be one of the bullpen finalists, I’d like to see him get it.

It’s an exciting time in the Yankees Universe. We have one of the best teams in Baseball right now. If this team can perform to its expectations, we should be watching Yankees baseball deep into October. Hopefully, this season will not see the Boston Red Sox spilling champagne on Yankee Stadium soil. It would be much better for the Yankees to return the favor with celebrations at Fenway Park while sounds of New York, New York reverberate through its halls. I know, it would be better for the Yankees to celebrate at home, in front of Yankee fans, but there’s a part of me that wants to see the Yankees in googles and bubbly in the very heart of the Red Sox Nation.

I was a little disappointed to see Jorge Posada is joining the Miami Marlins organization as a special adviser.  I know, it was destined to be considering Jorge’s close relationship with Marlins CEO Derek Jeter but it’s still tough now that it is actually happening.

posada-jeter
Photo Credit: Getty Images

It’s difficult to watch 50% of the Core Four representing another MLB organization. Plus, a third Yankees retired number currently manages the team. I guess we should be thankful the Marlins are in the National League so the Yankees do not play them very often. Credit to Alex Rodriguez for maintaining his alliance with the Yankees after the end of his playing career.  I know part of it was the renegotiation of his playing contract into special services for Hal Steinbrenner, but A-Rod could have severed ties as he pursued his broadcast career with FOX and ESPN Sunday Night Baseball. Posada’s move makes me very thankful for Mariano Rivera, my favorite member of the Core Four. Rivera recently announced his intention to be a pitching consultant for the Yankees (teaching pitching in the organization in a to-be-determined role).  I’d really like to see the Yankees get Andy Pettitte back in the family. I’ve always thought he’d be a tremendous pitching coach and I’d love to see him transition back into pro coaching as an eventual successor for Larry Rothschild. We may have lost Jeter and Posada for now, but I don’t want to lose either Rivera or Pettitte. Eventually Don Mattingly will get fired.  Not that I want him to lose his job, but when the inevitable parting of the ways occurs, I am hopeful that Mattingly can find his way home.  Maybe not as a manager, but I look forward to the day when Donnie Baseball is a frequent visitor to Yankee Stadium again even if it is only for Spring Training and Old Timer’s Day.

It’s exciting to see the images of Spring Training. I am glad we’re getting the band together again and look forward to the first exhibition game a week from Saturday in Fort Myers, FL against the hated Boston Red Sox. This is the year we take them down. AL East Championship, American League Championship, World Series Championship. The time is now. Let’s end Boston’s reign.

As always, Go Yankees!

The Sights and Sounds of Steinbrenner Field…

Photo Credit: The New York Post (Charles Wenzelberg)

Pitchers and Catchers Report on Wednesday…

Here we are. The final weekend before pitchers and catchers report and Major League Baseball officially kicks off preparations for the 2019 season. Many players have already made their way to Tampa and have been seen in their informal workouts on the practice fields around Steinbrenner Field and signing autographs as they depart the hallowed grounds of 1 Steinbrenner Drive.

Photo Credit: Bryan Hoch via Instagram

I always enjoy the opening of Spring Training. So much excitement for the new season, everyone’s healthy (for the most part), and after no Major League baseball since last October, the gang’s back together again to make another run at the American League championship and the ultimate goal of winning the World Series. Of course, the feeling starts to fade in a couple of weeks when we are anxiously  and impatiently awaiting the start of the regular season but for now it’s a thrilling experience.

The past week saw another round of rumors surrounding Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. While both young superstars remain unsigned, there is continued speculation the Yankees could make a play for one of the players if the price falls into their comfort zone. The words of Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner this week while attending the owner’s meeting in Orlando did not dispel the rumors. I know, he can’t say the Yankees are out because of the CBA, but he somewhat flamed the rumors by not counting the Yankees out on any moves they might make in the coming days.

Steinbrenner made the comment, “If there’s a narrative that we’re not spending money and being cheap, that’s just false”. In my opinion, the Yankees have not been cheap. If anything, my frustration is simply the allocation of dollars that have been spent. I like DJ LeMahieu but with all honesty, the team would have been better with Manny Machado than LeMahieu. There’s been word (no official confirmation) the Yankees floated a concept of 7 or 8 years for around $220 million when they met with Machado in December. If true, Machado’s agent should have used it as a starting point for more serious negotiations. It didn’t happen, and the team quickly pivoted to LeMahieu. I don’t feel Steinbrenner is being cheap but conversely I don’t feel that he’s putting the best possible team on the field. Maybe signing Machado is not meant to be or if he really wanted to be a Yankee, he would be one by now. Regardless of events, I can’t help feel a little disappointment that neither Machado nor Harper are making flight plans for Tampa.

At various points of the off-season, the Yankees have called Brett Gardner the starting leftfielder and Troy Tulowitzki the starting shortstop. I don’t buy either claim. At this point in his career, Gardy helps this team the best as its fourth outfielder. He is not the player he once was. Age happens to all of us, except for maybe Tom Brady or Mariano Rivera. Perhaps Clint “The Wildling” Frazier proves the injuries and concussions are behind him and he finally fulfills the promise he’s held for a few years now. I have no problem rolling out Frazier as the starter if he proves in Tampa over the next few weeks that he is ready. Personally, I’d prefer it if Frazier can take the job from Gardner because it means he has proven he can be better.

As for Tulo, I just can’t shake the feeling he is done. Realistically, I am not expecting much from him. I think he’ll be very rusty in Spring Training, and I don’t see him as an every day starter once the team moves north to the Bronx. It feels too much like trying to “catch lightning in a bottle”. The infield is much stronger, in my opinion, with current two-year consecutive Wilson Defensive Player of the Year DJ LeMahieu at second and Gleyber Torres sliding to shortstop until the great Didi Gregorius is ready to return.

Photo Credit: Didi Gregorius via Instagram

But despite Plan B’s that make sense with the current roster and invitees, the Yankees can be a better team with Harper or Machado. Of the two, Harper makes the most sense. Aside from the left-handed bat that he’d bring to the lineup, he represents a great option for left field, keeping Giancarlo Stanton in the healthier role as DH, and Harper could potentially develop as a first baseman. I know, you don’t pay a guy hundreds of millions of dollars to see if he can play a new position but Bryce would represent such a great resource for the Yankees in their drive to dethrone the Boston Red Sox. For Hal, Harper will increase tickets sales, both at home and on the road. If the Yankees are successful in reacquiring controlling interest in the YES Network, Harper would be a primary face and draw attraction for the team. He is a popular player, perhaps one of the most popular in the game outside of Mike Trout. This is not meant as a slam to Aaron Judge who I feel is one of the greatest players in the game, but Harper unquestionably has more fans outside of the Yankees Universe.

Photo Credit: USATSI

I am still a major fan of Manny Machado but I recognize that his presence would adversely impact Miguel Andujar. Nevertheless, the Yankees should not decide to pursue Machado because of Andujar because Machado is clearly the better overall player. But under that scenario, the Yankees would need to move Andujar to left field or first base or trade him for top starting pitching as we’ve talked about ad nauseam this off-season. Putting Harper in left keeps Andujar at third with the potential to see if he has improved his defensive game and allowing LeMahieu to slide over to the corner for support if necessary.

My desire to add either Harper or Machado will not die until the players sign somewhere, anywhere.  Once that happens and if it is not in the Bronx, we’ll move on. The 2019 New York Yankees will be a very good team with or without Harp-Chado. If the Yankees do not sign either player, I’ll undoubtedly look at it as  missed opportunity (the “missed” chance to turn the team from very good to great) but I’ll support the current roster with full force and vigor as we all will.

I am really enjoying Adam Ottavino as a Yankee. His ‘This or That’ videos on Instagram with his wife feeding him questions from off-screen have been stellar. Given he is a lifelong Yankee fan like us makes him so relatable, outside of the fact that he’s 6’5”, ruggedly handsome, throws a nasty slider, lives in a beautiful Manhattan apartment with an overview of the city, has an adorable wife and family, and makes millions of dollars per year.

I like that Otto’s first pic upon arriving in Tampa this week was to take a picture of the famed George Steinbrenner statue outside of Steinbrenner Field.

Photo Credit: Adam Ottavino via Instagram

Ottavino understands the history of the franchise better than most through his childhood fandom. He recently mentioned that his favorite Yankee hitter was Bernie Williams and fave pitcher was Jimmy Key. There’s probably guys on the team who don’t even know who Jimmy Key is. I respect both of those choices.

After being known for years as Zach Britton, I was surprised the reliever formally announced that he’d be known by the proper “Zack” going forward. Not so much the correction of his name to match how he uses it and the name which appears on his birth certificate but rather why it took so many years for him to do it. I am sure that I’ll type Zach a time or two this season. Personally, with no offense to any Zack’s reading this, but I prefer the “ch” version of the name. It sounds more sophisticated, IMO. But hey, it’s not my name.  Britton has the right to call himself whatever he wants. If he wants to go by “Fluffy”, that’s fine by me. I guess I’ll get used to the new spelling in time. Speaking of Britton, I didn’t realize that his brother Buck was a manager in the Baltimore Orioles’ farm system. Buck Britton managed the Single-A Delmarva Shorebirds to a 68-66 record in 2018. For this season, he’s been elevated to manager of the Double-A Bowie Baysox. Not that I expect Zack to ever get over his love for Birdland, but his brother’s presence in the Orioles organization continues to give him ties to his former roots.

I mention it every year but I’ll continue to do it until there are changes. The Yankees need to revisit their facial hair policy. I don’t want to see the uncontrolled beards like Justin Turner of the Los Angeles Dodgers wears each season or Johnny Damon’s “Caveman” look during his days in Boston, but with controlled guidelines, there’s no reason guys like Luis Severino should not be allowed to wear beards like this:

Photo Credit: YES Network

I know the Yankees stick to the policy out of respect for the late George Steinbrenner but times have changed. I do not feel that short, trimmed facial hair detracts from the brand. It seems like all of the Yankee players are sporting some type of facial hair during the off-season. And very often when Yankee players are traded elsewhere, the first thing they do is grow a beard. I saw a pic of Ronald Torreyes, now playing for the Minnesota Twins, sporting a cool goatee this week.

Photo Credit: Ronald Torreyes via Instagram

Players should be allowed a certain degree of self-expression. I get the history and tradition of Baseball’s most storied and prestigious franchise but wearing a groomed short beard is not exactly like slapping last names on the back of the famed Pinstriped jersey. Loosen up the facial policy rules, Hal. It’s your team, set your own standard.

This has been a tough year watching Boston win championships in both MLB and NFL. I am tired of Boston fans celebrating and want to see the fans of New York rejoice. The Yankees have a huge opportunity to make plans for a parade in late October. Let’s not screw this up. The dawn of the 28th World Championship is upon us.

As always, Go Yankees!

A Week Closer to Spring Training…

Less Than a Month for the Road to Tampa…

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner but for pitchers and catchers when it arrives, it will mean they’ve reported to Spring Training in Tampa one day earlier. Very appropriate considering our love for America’s favorite Pastime. Flowers and chocolates for the loves in our life? No, grab a glove and bat and let’s get after it! I know that I am anxious to see the guys back at Steinbrenner Field so that we can talk about baseball activities as opposed to this dreadful offseason of rumors and rare free agent signings (or as I like to call it, the roller coaster of hope).

The Yankees were busy last week collecting former Colorado Rockies. I like DJ LeMahieu and was surprised his signing was met with much negativity among the fan base. Maybe it’s because I live in Denver, Colorado but I saw firsthand how much DJ meant to the Rockies and their fans. He has such a strong reputation for being an excellent fielder and is very highly thought of by his teammates, and we know he hits for average even if he didn’t accumulate power numbers at the hitter’s friendly high altitude of Coors Field. Even if the Rockies didn’t make DJ an offer, I know the fans and his teammates were disappointed to see DJ leave. For the Rockies, it’s well known that they are saving their pennies for Nolan Arenado. Despite the trade rumors that surfaced late in the week, the Rockies still hope to hang on to their franchise player who can be a free agent after the upcoming season. I feel that we need to give DJ a chance. He wants to win as much as anybody and he seems excited to be a Yankee even if it wasn’t his childhood dream. There’s other infield moves that I might have preferred but I still think LeMahieu is an outstanding addition.

Photo Credit: MLB.com

Later in the week, the Yankees signed former Colorado reliever Adam Ottavino, another fan favorite. I’ve never been a very big fan of the Rockies, kind of hard when your favorite NL team is the Los Angeles Dodgers, but I know that whenever Ottavino was giving an interview, I’d listen. He is well spoken and offers great insight into baseball anytime he talks. He is frequent guest on MLB Network and always makes himself accessible to the media. After his disappointing 2017 season which included his omission from the playoff roster, he didn’t sulk. He took office space in Harlem to build an indoor pitching facility and reinvented himself which led to a highly successful campaign this past year. The native Brooklynite maintains his home in NYC with an apartment in Manhattan and seems such a natural fit to pitch for the Yankees. My hope going into the off-season was for the Yankees to sign at least two of Zach Britton, David Robertson, and Ottavino. While I would have liked to have seen D-Rob return, I can’t say that I am disappointed he has been replaced by Otto.

Ottavino’s signing means the Yankees need to make room on the 40-man roster before the trade can be made official. The flurry of Sonny Gray trade rumors are intensifying which seems to imply the Yankees will be looking to trade Gray for prospects rather than proven MLB talent that might occupy 40-man roster space. It was kind of funny yesterday when Jack Curry of the YES Network fell for a false tweet by the fake Jon Heyman to send out a report Gray had been traded to Cincinnati for a player to be named later and cash. By all accounts, the Yankees are still talking with the Padres and Giants in addition to the Reds. I’ve quit trying to  speculate who the Yankees might get in a Gray trade. I am sure that GM Brian Cashman will acquire the best possible talent. There’s been some talk a reliever like Tommy Kahnle or Jonathan Holder could be included to sweeten the pot, but I’d hate to sell Kahnle low as I feel he’ll be closer to his 2017 version this year. Holder was the breakout arm last season and as a young cost-controlled pitcher, he carries too much value in terms of both cost and talent to trade (unless you are convinced Stephen Tarpley and other minor league arms are ready to ascend to the Bronx). I’d prefer to see Holder and Tarpley as the last men in the pen, aside from long relief/spot starter which I anticipate to go to Jonathan Loaisiga if Gray is traded. It’s very possible that a Gray trade could go down this weekend or early next week. The Yankees should be in position to make Otto’s signing official by Monday or Tuesday so you’d think Gray will be gone before then, although I’d have no problem, personally, in severing ties with Luis Cessa.

Jon Heyman, the real one I think, is reporting the Gray trade is expected to happen this weekend. Per his tweet on Twitter this morning: “Yankees and Reds are getting closer on a Sonny Gray trade. Teams are talking about two prospects and a draft pick going for Sonny. One of 2B prospect Shed Long and C prospect Tyler Stephenson may go. Giants, Braves, Brewers are on periphery. A deal should happen this weekend.” I liked a tweet yesterday when the commenter said that if he saw Sonny Gray was traded for a shed, he wouldn’t blink an eye. I know, I feel the same way but it would be nice to get a value return.

Congratulations to Brian Cashman for at least getting a young prospect for outfielder Tim Locastro who was designated for assignment when LeMahieu was signed. Locastro was traded to Arizona for 17-year-old LHP Ronald Roman of the Dominican Republic.  Roman had been signed by the Diamondbacks last summer as an international signee and is set to make his professional debut this year in the lower levels of the farm system. Could not really find any information on him. He’s a lottery ticket, for sure, but you can’t win if you don’t take a chance.

Back to the bullpen, the Yankees have certainly built what should be the premier pen in the league. But we know that even the best of bullpens give up a few runs now and then. I like the Yankees’ chances in the late innings, but there will be breakdowns. We can’t expect perfection but all things considered, I’d rather take my chances with the Yankees’ pen over any other team in Major League Baseball. I am surprised the Boston Red Sox have not done anything to fill their holes in the bullpen. I still think they’ll eventually get Craig Kimbrel back. I know the Sox don’t want to pay Kimbrel’s current asking price but I’d still be surprised if they let him walk away. I really thought they’d snare one of Britton, Robertson or Ottavino and I am so glad it did not happen. Given Otto’s relatively affordable contract of 3 years for $27 million, I was even more surprised the Sox didn’t make a play for him despite carrying MLB’s highest payroll. If the Red Sox do lose Kimbrel, I’d expect Dave Dombrowski to make a trade to bring in a proven closer unless they are convinced Tyler Thornburg is healthy and ready to pitch at the level he did a couple of years ago for the Milwaukee Brewers. Thornburg had 13 saves for the Brewers in 2016, with 2.15 ERA after being named their closer midway through the year. He had thoracic outlet syndrome surgery in 2017, and wasn’t really able to do anything last summer  after his return (5.63 ERA over 24 innings) before being shut down early in September. I am sure the Red Sox will figure out their current bullpen mess but it’s clear they do not value the importance of a super bullpen like the Yankees do. If I ran the Sox, I’d probably sign Dallas Keuchel and move Nathan Eovaldi to the pen. No doubt Keuchel’s asking price is dropping.

As it stands right now, I like the current composition of the 2019 Yankees and certainly believe they have the talent to take down the Red Sox. There are other moves the team could make to improve the roster but if they don’t, this is still a damn good team. I am so ready to watch the baseballs flying in Tampa and seeing Aaron Judge’s grin as he arrives at Steinbrenner Field. It’s almost time for the Yankees fan base to reunite and cheer for MLB’s best team.

As always, Go Yankees!

Thoughts After the LeMahieu Signing…

DJ LeMahieu Signs 2-Year Deal w/Yankees…

The Yankees caught everyone by surprise on Friday when it was reported they had signed former Colorado Rockies second baseman DJ LeMahieu to a two-year contract worth $24 million, pending a physical. I knew the San Francisco Giants were interested in LeMahieu and were willing to move Joe Panik if necessary and the Los Angeles Dodgers had long been mentioned as a favorite but I hadn’t really given any thought to DJ as a Yankee. So, when I first heard the news, I was a bit underwhelmed.

This, in no way, means I do not recognize LeMahieu is a very good baseball player. He is. I guess going into the off-season, I felt the Yankees had a tremendous opportunity to substantially improve their club at a time when the Boston Red Sox are struggling with the pains of a very high payroll. I don’t want to beat the Red Sox, I want to crush them. I had felt if the Yankees could sign Patrick Corbin and Manny Machado and/or Bryce Harper, they’d be the clear most powerful team in the AL East. As we know, the Yankees expressed interest but did not play in the Corbin negotiations when other offers exceeded their comfort zone. Now, it appears the Yankees are out on both Machado and Harper.

I’ll remain on Team Machado until he signs with another club. Even Ken Rosenthal, while he believes the Yankees are no longer “in” on Machado, will only believe he’s not going to be a Yankee when he pulls up another jersey at an introductory press conference. To me, Machado is missed opportunity. A large number of fans are quick to say Machado was merely a ‘want’ and not a need. Okay, I get it. But how often are young (very young) superstars available for only money? And how many of those young superstars have always wanted to be Yankees? I guess we’d like to think everyone wants to be a Yankee. But that’s a rather narcissistic view. Both Harper and Machado are players who wanted to wear the famed Pinstripes and it’s disappointing, to me, that neither dream will come true.

Setting aside Machado and Harper, the Yankees ARE an improved team. I like the infield with LeMahieu at second and Gleyber Torres at shortstop over Troy Tulowitzki at short and Gleyber remaining at second even though I didn’t really want to see Gleyber sliding back and forth. I am not convinced Tulo can stay healthy and I certainly do not want to pin any hopes on him. LeMahieu, on the other hand, can play a vital role for this team.

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kelley L Cox)

Down the stretch last year, Colorado’s great third baseman Nolan Arenado was quoted as saying this about LeMahieu: “If fans knew how much we appreciate DJ and saw how much we care for him and how important he is to this team, they’d realize what a big factor he is. He sets the standard for us. We go where he goes, really.” That’s very high praise from one of the game’s true superstars. Charlie Blackmon is also on record making similar comments. I listened to an interview with Blackmon a few days ago and he was still expressing hope the Rockies would re-sign LeMahieu despite the team’s acquisition of Daniel Murphy. It appears the Rockies intend to play Murphy at first, assuming they figure out what do to with Ian Desmond, and open second base for competition between a couple of young players. The Rockies hold aspirations of competing with the Dodgers for the NL West title and LeMahieu would have helped their cause.

While I probably would have preferred Marwin Gonzalez for his ability to play shortstop and left field, it’s hard to find fault with the defensive prowess LeMahieu brings to the team. He may not have much power but he’s certainly not going to disappoint you with his bat. He has a batting title to his credit (NL, 2016) and has appeared in a couple of All-Star games. He has won three Gold Gloves, including the past two years. He has also been the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year at second for the last two seasons and in 2013.

Infield defense was a huge concern prior to LeMahieu’s signing so his presence is much needed and as it stands right now I am glad he’s a Yankee. If Tulo shows anything at shortstop, the Yankees have the option of moving LeMahieu to third with Miguel Andújar shifting to DH and Giancarlo Stanton playing left field which eases some doubts I have with the dependence on Brett Gardner as an every day option in left field. To sign Machado now would probably mean the end of the Yankees career for Didi Gregorius, a free agent after the upcoming season. I want Didi back as the team’s starting shortstop so maybe all things considered, the LeMahieu signing is a blessing.  

Photo Credit: Instagram via @sirdidig18

Like Tulo, LeMahieu will have to find a new number. The number 9 he wore in Colorado is retired for the late Roger Maris. The Yankees retired the number for Maris in 1984, a few months after they had traded Graig Nettles, the last to wear the number, to the San Diego Padres.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

The fringe players are slowly coming off the 40-man roster. RHP A.J. Cole was claimed by the Cleveland Indians on waivers yesterday.  He had been designated for assignment to make room for Tulowitzki. I thought the Yankees might be able to pick up a lower-ranked prospect for Cole but it was not to be. Yesterday, to make room for LHP Zach Britton, infielder Hanser Alberto was waived and almost immediately claimed by Britton’s former team, the Baltimore Orioles. Once the LeMahieu signing becomes official, the Yankees will need to make another move so Luis Cessa, Ben Heller and Tim Locastro are probably the most vulnerable unless the Yankees finally move Sonny Gray for prospects (I’d prefer MLB talent in return). I like Heller despite his current recovery from Tommy John surgery (which means he can’t provide any immediate help) but would prefer to see the exit of Cessa over Heller.

The Yankees are always slow to announce their non-roster invitees for Spring Training but the list is building:

LHP Rex Brothers

LHP Danny Coulombe

RHP Drew Hutchison

OF Billy Burns

OF Matt Lipka

I don’t see any great upside with these players but Scranton/Wilkes-Barre needs some help after the losses they’ve suffered in the last few months so they represent organizational depth. Brothers is a one-time Colorado Rockie and teammate of Tulo, LeMahieu, Tommy Kahnle and, cough-cough, free agent reliever Adam Ottavino.

Lastly, while I was glad to see the Yankees agree with all of their arbitration-eligible players on new contracts for the upcoming season except one, I was disappointed the one player is Luis Severino. I don’t like the arbitration process which requires the team to tell an arbitrator the entirety of the player’s faults to build their case for the lower salary. If Dellin Betances leaves via free agency after the season, I will look back to the contentious hearing he had with the team a couple years ago and the poor choice of words by Yankees President Randy Levine after the decision in the team’s favor as a reason for his departure. I know, Dellin’s final decision will most likely be based on money but he surely has the negative feelings in the back of his mind regardless of his love of wearing the hometown Pinstripes. I think what bothers me more about Sevy’s case is how close the two parties are. Severino wants $5.25 million while the team offered $4.4 million. It seems like there was room for compromise. The two sides can continue to negotiate so I hope there is resolution before the actual arbitration hearing is held. We need to build Sevy up to be the ace he is destined to be, not tear him down.

I was very glad the Yankees settled with new starting pitcher James Paxton for $8.5 million. I want Paxton’s experience to be very positive from the start. By all accounts, he is very excited about pitching for the Yankees. In reading and listening to Zach Britton’s words about re-signing with the Yankees, it is very clear how he and his family were treated by the Yankees played a very strong factor in his decision to return. I want Paxton fully appreciate his first year in the Bronx too.

Pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training a month from tomorrow. I am anxious to see Tampa and Steinbrenner Field buzzing with Yankees again. There’s no doubt Manager Aaron Boone will carry greater confidence and preparedness into camp this year with a year under his belt. I am convinced he’ll be much stronger this year and that bodes well for the team.

Good times in the Yankees Universe.

As always, Go Yankees!