Credit: Andy Martin/USA TODAY Sports
With the better-than-expected start to the season, it’s easy to get caught up with the thinking that the Yankees could actually win the American League East. Sadly, I still do not believe that will be the case. I think the Boston Red Sox remain the heavy favorite to win the division. While the Yankees may be playing great without Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius, the Red Sox are starting to gather some steam even though Jackie Bradley, Jr. and arguably their best player, Mookie Betts, are currently on the DL. Add Betts to the stellar starting rotation, and the Red Sox will be a very formidable force throughout the summer. We’ll have some bumps and bruises with the younger starters as time goes by, and there’s no certainty that Michael Pineda has finally turned the corner. My only reservation with the Red Sox is that they do not seem to have the same heart they did with David Ortiz in the lineup. Hanley Ramirez is a great baseball player but he’s no Big Papi.
Nevertheless, I do feel the strong start has positioned the Yankees to make a run at a Wild Card spot, especially with the horrific start of the perennial playoff contending Toronto Blue Jays.
While the Yankees are currently chasing Baltimore, the Orioles lost their lock-down closer Zach Britton for at least ten days with a left sore forearm (his throwing arm). Britton is obviously an elite closer so this severely weakens the O’s pen. Although it’s possible that Britton will be back before the O’s get to New York late next week, they do go into a head-to-head showdown with the Red Sox starting Friday night for a three-game set in their weakened state.
It is amazing to think that the Yankees have played this well without Gregorius and Sanchez. If they can continue to get solid pitching from the starting rotation, the return of Gregorius and Sanchez in a few weeks should be a great lift. It’ll almost be like getting All-Star caliber players at the trading deadline with the only difference being the Yankees do not have to give up any premier prospects (or any prospects, for that matter, other than the probable DFA of Pete Kozma).
The Yankees announced they’ve traded reliever Johnny Barbato to the Pittsburgh Pirates for a player to be named later or cash. Those types of deals usually turn out to be cash. Barbato was optioned to AAA by the Pirates. It’s unfortunate that the Yankees didn’t get more out of Barbato considering they gave up dependable reliever Shawn Kelley to get him. The Pirates always seem to get high mileage out of Yankee rejects. Barbato will probably be their ace closer within a couple of years.
I apologize in advance for going off topic (non-Yankees talk) but I have been very interested in watching Cody Bellinger, a first baseman in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization. Bellinger, son of former Yankee Clay Bellinger, is the Dodgers top prospect and the heir apparent to Adrian Gonzalez. On Sunday, Bellinger was responsible for all three runs in Oklahoma City’s 3-2 win over the Memphis Redbirds. Bellinger scored a run after walking in the fourth; tied the game with a solo homer in the fifth; and singled in the go-ahead run in the seventh. For the season, the 21-year-old Bellinger is batting .372 (16-for-43) with 4 doubles, 3 homers, and 12 RBI’s. Meanwhile, for the Big League Dodgers, the 34-year-old Gonzalez is hitting .250 with no homers and 4 RBI’s. If Bellinger keeps it up, there could soon be a changing of the guard at first base in Dodger Stadium. Looks like the Dodgers could be back to the days of bringing up an All-Star to the Majors every year. If Bellinger does not get the call, top pitching prospect Julio Urias most certainly will.
Credit: Rob Tringali/Getty Images
Speaking of the Oklahoma City Dodgers (in an attempt to keep this Yankees-oriented), it’s kind of cool that their stadium, Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark, is located at 2 S. Mickey Mantle Drive. Too bad there was no room to build the stadium across the street and down a little for 7 S. Mickey Mantle Drive.
In other non-Yankees news (or is it?), Bryan Harper stepped to the plate on Sunday in the bottom of the ninth with two outs, with the Washington Nationals trailing the Philadelphia Phillies 4-3 and Philly closer Joaquin Benoit on the mound. With two runners on base, Harper homered to center to win the game, 6-4. It was his second home run of the game and it gave him 5 RBI’s for the day. Preview of coming attractions at Yankee Stadium? Time will tell, as it often does. Hal, what’s a half-billion in the grand scheme of things? It’s just money…
Welcome back, Matt Holliday! After sitting out two games against his former team, the St Louis Cardinals, this past weekend, Matt Holliday returned on Monday to absolutely crush a baseball which allowed the Yankees to jump ahead of the Chicago White Sox with an early 3-0 lead. The ball traveled 459 feet, with exit velocity of 113.9 MPH, and according to Statcast was the second longest homer of the year (two feet behind a Carlos Gomez blast).
Aaron Judge also homered in the fourth inning with one on and two outs.
Jordan Montgomery impressed once again. You gotta love his calm demeanor on the mound (unflappable). His deceptive arm angle is a thing of beauty with the over the top motion. Montgomery gave up three runs and seven hits in six innings of work, with two walks and two strikeouts. The runs didn’t come until the seventh inning when Montgomery was tiring (a three run bomb by Yolmer Sanchez that ended Montgomery’s night). Regardless of the end, Montgomery was better the second time around (as I thought he would be). He’s an exciting part of the rotation and is quickly earning his pinstripes for the long haul.
Credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Adam Warren did what he does best. After Montgomery’s exit, he bridged the gap to the ninth inning. Although he finally allowed a run, he did his job and turned the game over to Aroldis Chapman with one out and a runner on base. Although Chapman did allow a single to the first hitter, pushing the lead runner to third, he needed just two pitches to earn his fourth save. The next batter, Tyler Saladino, hit into a game-ending double play.
The Yankees won 7-4, and have now won eight consecutive games.
Have a great Tuesday! Nine would be just fine!
You had me at…, um, no, you didn’t…
We are supposed to simply accept a handwritten apology? Right. Sorry, I don’t buy it and I don’t think it would matter if A-Rod spoke before a packed house at Yankee Stadium. Alex Rodriguez is sorry for only one thing. He got caught. He could care less about you or me. Honestly, at this point, the only thing that I’d accept out of A-Rod’s words would be a retirement announcement.
I saw a few New York sportswriters commenting that home runs will bring the fans back. Are we so shallow that we could forgive Alex for his behavior by simply forgetting all with the first ball that clears the fence? I know that I will not be a fan of Alex Rodriguez today nor would I be one if by September he has hit 40 home runs. My days cheering him are over. I am still a Yankees fan, and of course, I want the team to win. I would not wish for A-Rod to do anything detrimental to the team (well beyond the damage that he’s already done) but I will only accept his contributions as team contributions, not individual accomplishments.
I admit that I hope Alex plays so poorly in the spring, the Yankees bite the $60 million bullet and release him. But that’s too far fetched to be possible. He won’t need to do much to hold his own on the roster. Rob Refsnyder could play twice as well in spring training and end up in Scranton/Wilkes Barre while A-Rod is the team’s full time DH. But still, the thought of an outright release would be the best possible outcome in my mind.
As good as the Boston Red Sox’ front office has become, it’s too bad they weren’t better back in 2003 when they failed to acquire A-Rod from the Texas Rangers. How differently things might have been had A-Rod gone to Beantown.
Ifs and buts, I know…
It’s a numbers game…
There was a time when it seemed odd that Phil Hughes wore #65 or that Joba Chamberlain wore #62. Now, with the announcement plans to retire numbers 20, 46 and 51, the lower numbers are slowly going away. Of course #2 will soon be retired for Derek Jeter and I’ve always wondered if some day #21 will be taken down for Paul O’Neill. Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte and Bernie Williams were all great Yankees and they deserve becoming legends of Monument Park. It was also very classy of the Yankees to announce plans for a plaque for former second baseman Willie Randolph.
It thought it was cool when Manny Ramirez wore #99 for the Los Angeles Dodgers a few years ago. Now, we’re probably just a few seasons away from someone donning the same number with the Yankees. Hopefully, I won’t live to see the days when players are wearing triple digits.
Make or break a farm system…
Based on all reports, I would love nothing more than to see the Yankees sign Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada. However, based on what I’ve read, I do expect the Los Angeles Dodgers to win the bidding. I hope the Yankees emerge victorious. Given they’ll be limited in the international market for the next few years, Moncada would be icing on the cake for the fantastic international draft they had this year. I know that there are no certainties but Moncada does sound like the real deal. I guess if the Dodgers win the bidding, I shouldn’t fret too much since I live just a few miles away from Dodger Stadium. But after an off-season of largely inactivity, signing Moncada would make this winter well worth the wait. I guess we’ll find out in the next couple of weeks.
Open the door…
Count me among those who hope that new MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred re-opens the Pete Rose case. It’s time to let Pete the Ballplayer take his rightful place in Baseball’s Hall of Fame. I will never defend Pete the Man, but I saw the ballplayer play, and he remains one of the greatest that I’ve ever seen. He has served his sentence and deserves to stand among the game’s greats.
* * *
It’s hard to believe that it is time for pitchers and catchers to report. With this off-season’s inactivity and losses, it is hard to envision October baseball in the Bronx. Yeah, yeah, if all things go right and everyone stays healthy, I know they have a chance. But realistically, this is a third place team at best with the potential for the cellar if things go horribly wrong. As always, I will throw in the caveat that I hope I am wrong. But if anything, I do think the Yankees are laying the groundwork for future success.
Let’s play ball…
What’s the plan?…
Well, it’s January 2015. The Yankees roster is slowly evolving. The latest addition/return was the surprise re-signing of Stephen Drew which certainly makes sense. While I still prefer to see Rob Refsnyder win the second base job outright, Drew certainly provides great insurance at both second base and shortstop. It’s no sure thing that Didi Gregorius will be successful and I’d prefer not to see Brendan Ryan as the only other choice, even if he is a slick fielder.
I am still concerned about the starting rotation. Reading CC Sabathia say the knee is fine is hardly a ringing endorsement that he’ll be the CC of old. I think best case he is a strong #3 in the rotation if he is able to come back healthy. His days as the team’s ace are over…in my opinion. The hope of the rotation lies with Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda. Obviously, there are health concerns with both pitchers. Even though Ivan Nova will return later in the year, I do not expect him to be back up to par until 2016. Nathan Eovaldi is the project. The Yankees apparently think they can turn him around and perhaps they can. It would be good to get him to the point that he is as reliable and consistent as Hiroki Kuroda was.
While I get why the Yankees will not pay $200 million for Max Scherzer, I wish they would make a play for James Shields. With a rotation containing so much uncertainty, the Yankees really need a dependable starter without question marks.
I have heard some rumblings that the Yankees now have the prospects to make a trade for Cole Hamels, but I am not sure that’s one I would pursue. I like prospects such as Aaron Judge and Luis Severino and want to see them succeed in pinstripes. It was tough when I was a kid and the Yankees were always trading youth for veterans. Doug Drabek, Jay Buhner, Fred McGriff, Al Leiter, J.T. Snow, Brad Ausmus. I know the list is much longer than this, but it was tough watching guys like that succeed elsewhere.
I don’t think that Cole Hamels would be the missing ingredient to suddenly make the Yankees the World Series favorites. So, if he is not the difference maker, then the Yankees shouldn’t raid the cupboards to bring him aboard. I’d rather see Hamels go to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The fear of course is that he’ll be calling Fenway Park home next season.
At this point, I still do not see the 2015 Yankees making the play-offs. I think the Baltimore Orioles will still be the team to beat. They suffered off-season losses, yes, but they’ll also be getting back Manny Machado, Chris Davis and Matt Wieters. The Toronto Blue Jays look to be the most improved team and they’ve been a team of potential for a few years. Boston will be stronger, and it’s best to never underestimate the Tampa Bay Rays even if Joe Maddon and Andrew Friedman are no longer calling the shots.
There’s still time for GM Brian Cashman to make the moves to propel the Yankees into contention but so much is riding on better seasons from Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, and Mark Teixeira. Of the group, McCann is the only one I feel is capable for turning it around. Beltran and Teixeira are in their decline years, and that slippery slope is steeper for some guys.
Hear the voice of the Bard!…
There’s a nice piece in Nick Cafardo’s column today (Sunday Baseball Notes in The Boston Globe) about the comeback of Daniel Bard. It would be good to see Bard successfully return to his position of bullpen relevance after years of struggle. Perhaps that’s a buy low signing the Yankees should pursue. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. There was a time when Bard was a Yankees draft pick although he never signed. Even if he goes back to Boston or another team, I truly hope that Bard is successful.
Short walk to the Hall…
Congratulations to the Hall of Fame inductees: John Smoltz, Randy Johnson, Craig Biggio, and Pedro Martinez. I think all of the selections were justified. It was sad that it was the final ballot appearance for Don Mattingly, but it was a given that he was not going to make it. Maybe he can take the Joe Torre route…great managerial success to go with a strong playing career…to gain access to the Hall.
25 years is long enough…
Put me in the group of people who want to see Pete Rose allowed to enter the Hall of Fame. He remains one of the best players I’ve been privileged to see play in my lifetime. This is not an endorsement of Pete the man and I feel what he did was wrong, however, Pete the player was one of the best players of all-time.
I am glad that this is the last full month without any baseball activity. Looking forward to the opening of spring training camps next month.
Quite simply, a great Yankee…
One thing is assured. Yankees fans will not be enjoying any of the hoopla that fans of the San Diego Padres, Chicago White Sox, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs et al have been experiencing this off-season. The Winter of Our Discontent (hat tip to John Steinbeck) continues with the loss of starter Hiroki Kuroda, who has signed a one year deal with the Hiroshima Carp of the Japanese Leagues.
Derek Jeter, David Robertson, Francisco Cervelli, Martin Prado, David Phelps, and now Hiroki Kuroda. The Yankees have lost some great personalities from the 2014 team and it ensures that 2015 will be “different”. It remains to be seen if it will be different-good or different-bad, but will definitely be different.
I remember when Hiroki Kuroda arrived in the U.S. in his early 30’s with the Los Angeles Dodgers. I think in my mind I viewed him as nothing more than a #3 starter but I remember watching a Dodgers game a few years (with the legendary Vin Scully announcing…what a treat!). He was masterful that game. I don’t remember the outcome but I do believe it was a Kuroda win and he only gave up a few hits. I was impressed by his performance, but I don’t think I truly appreciated how great he was until he came to New York. I was so wrong. He was more than a #3 starter. He may not have been an ace, but he was the type of #2 starter every team needs. He was a stopper, and he kept his team in games consistently from game to game. After watching A.J. Burnett flame out with essentially the same spot in the rotation with his roller coaster performances, Kuroda gave us stability and an arm that could be counted on. It’s too bad the team was unable to reward him with a World Series championship. Everyone knows the high class and character of Derek Jeter, but Kuroda is every bit the man of honor.
Doug Benc/Getty Images
I am glad that Kuroda was able to be a part of Masahiro Tanaka’s first year and to help with his transition. In a way, there is a bit of an unknown in what it will be like for Tanaka without fellow countrymen Kuroda and Ichiro Suzuki on the team. This is why it would make tremendous sense to add Hideki Matsui to the coaching staff. I haven’t heard Matsui’s name mentioned as a hitting coach but what about first base? He had one of the greatest clutch bats in recent Yankees history and is well liked by his former teammates and coaches.
But back to Kuroda. I read The New York Post headline that blared “Kuroda spurns Yankees, to return to Japan”. I don’t really view this as Kuroda spurning the Yankees. It has been known his desire was to finish his playing career in Japan. The man Kuroda has proven to be is one who would want to put the best possible product on the field in front of his home country. He wouldn’t want his last year to be a pitcher who stayed a year too long. I do not view this as a spurning so much as it was a man trying to do the right thing for his fans and country. As a fan, I know the tremendous respect that he holds for both the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers organizations. Not many people can play for both and only the Yankees and Dodgers.
Masahiro Tanaka wore #18 prior to his arrival in New York. I wonder if he’ll now change his number from 19 to 18 out of respect for his mentor. Tanaka is one of the few guys worthy of wearing Kuroda’s jersey.
Here’s hoping that we see Kuroda at future Yankees Old Timer’s Day games. He will be missed and we look forward to his eventual return to stand among the Legends.
A week’s worth of crickets…
For excited as I was for the Baseball Winter Meetings, it was a very unfulfilling time for Yankees fans. The AL East got stronger as both the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays made significant improvements, and the Baltimore Orioles, while they didn’t make a move, are still a better team on paper.
Losing David Robertson hurt. I fully recognize that not even the Yankees should be paying multiple guys in the pen $12+ million per year so I understand the decision to let Robertson walk after signing last year’s prized lefty Andrew Miller. Still, when I saw those words, “White Sox to sign David Robertson”, it was a painful sight to see.
USA Today Sports
Part of me, for a few days, imagined a bullpen with Robertson, Betances, and Miller for manager Joe Girardi and the limitless possibilities. After watching the Kansas City Royals and their stellar pen, it was hard not to dream of a similar equation for the Yankees. With so many question marks in the rotation, a ‘lights out’ bullpen is a must. With Robertson gone, there’s no reason why the Yankees still can’t have a superior bullpen. But losing Robertson does show that we care about our tenured players. Well, except when their name is Alex Rodriguez.
I am in favor of naming Dellin Betances as the team’s closer in spring training. I think Miller will be great as the primary setup guy and the earlier innings are in great hands with Adam Warren, Shawn Kelley and others. A year ago, there were questions about Robertson’s ability to close. His attempt to close in 2012 when Mariano Rivera got hurt was unsuccessful. The team ultimately went to Rafael Soriano who held the role for the duration of the season.
Mariano Rivera was an exception. Most guys are unable to pitch at the level required to close for an extended period of time. The days of Rivera and Trevor Hoffman are over. From a financial standpoint, it makes the most sense to have a shorter term view when it comes to a closer so that you don’t get locked into a bad contract (a la Jonathan Papelbon) as the closer ages and naturally deteriorates. Robertson may still be playing at a very high level in four years, but equally, there’s a chance that he is not. He always seems to pitch in and out of trouble, but as he ages, his ability to get out of those jams may not quite be there. He’ll evolve as a pitcher and I am sure that he’ll make the necessary adjustments, but at the end of the day, the Yankees are better off not being locked into Robertson for four years at $48 million. Betances showed that he is the team’s future closer. Next year may be a bit premature, but it was inevitable.
The most important thing for the Yankees is to now re-invest the $12 million per year savings into other areas. Bring back Chase Headley. Possibly sign a short term closing alternative like Jason Grilli. Make a run for Max Scherzer. But the key is to do something. The Yankees, as they presently stand, will not win in October.
How much? See ya…
Speaking of bad contracts, I was blown away by the commitment the Los Angeles Dodgers made to Brandon McCarthy. I thought McCarthy was a great pickup last season and hoped the Yankees could re-sign him to a team friendly deal. But like Robertson, I am glad the Yankees did not commit those years and dollars to McCarthy. He is a huge injury risk and in the Dodgers case, McCarthy failed last year in the NL West when he was with the Arizona Diamondbacks. While I hope McCarthy has a great Dodgers career, my fear is that he and the team’s DL list will become good buddies. I hope I’m wrong but baseball generally proves ‘past performance equals future results’…
Slowly but surely…
The week preceding the Baseball Winter Meetings was good. The Yankees acquired their 2015 shortstop with the acquisition of Didi Gregorius and the aforementioned lefty artist Andrew Miller, dominant against both righties and lefties. It was a good start but the team obviously still has much work to do before spring.
I hear so many Yankees fans say that Gregorius is not Derek Jeter. Nothing against Jeter, but I’d rather see a 24 year old Gregorius starting at short over a 41 year old Jeter. Gregorius may not be the player Jeter was in his prime, but Jeter wasn’t in his prime anymore and the Yankees had to do something to improve following Jeter’s retirement. So, to me, Gregorius is his own man in the position. It is up to him to succeed or fail, without regard to Jeter. I was a huge Don Mattingly fan, but I gave Tino Martinez a chance from his first at-bat and his early struggles did not waver my support. Tino turned out to be one of my most beloved players over the years and I never compared him to Mattingly.
It is possible that Gregorius fails. If so, the Yankees move on to another option. ‘Nothing ventured, nothing gained’. But at this point in time, it is his time. Let’s give him a chance…
Paul Ruhter/Gazette Staff
All I want for Christmas is…
Now if we could just send A-Rod anyway. I know, it’s not that easy. The most expensive DH/bench player in baseball history. It’s too bad those dollars can’t be re-directed to a guy like Max Scherzer. Maybe some challenges are too much for even the Yankees to overcome. But I’d love to have the money the Yankees have probably spent trying to find a way.
I am not sure too many people would have predicted the San Francisco Giants and the Kansas City Royals in the Fall Classic, but congratulations to the Giants for their third World Series win in five years. For being the most dominant team since the Yankees of the late 90’s, they’ve gone about it very quietly. I guess that’s a product of East Coast bias, but Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy deserve much credit for crafting one of baseball’s better organizations.
When the Royals hit the sloppy triple in the top of the 9th of Game 7 against the great Madison Bumgarner, there was never really a sense that the Giants were going to let the game slip away. Of course, that’s very easy to say when Bumgarner is on the mound. It was a legendary World Series performance and he was the MVP by far. Pablo Sandoval played superbly but Bumgarner was simply spectacular. I did feel bad for the Kansas City fans who came so close to a championship after so many years of bad teams. They’ll certainly be a force going forward and should have other opportunities. With their stash of young talent, they remind me of the Tampa Bay Rays of a few years ago.
Maybe we will see it during our lifetime…
Joe Maddon and the Chicago Cubs. It does seem like a potential great marriage. Hopefully, former Cubs manager Rick Renteria will get another opportunity sooner rather than later. He certainly deserves it, but this was a move that the Cubs needed to make. It is a terrific chance for Maddon to prove that he is the best manager in baseball, and to win the World Series at Wrigley Field would be the crown jewel.
When Maddon first opted out of his contract with the Rays, I thought, or feared, that the Dodgers would foolishly dump Don Mattingly to reunite Maddon with former Rays GM Andrew Friedman. But fortunately, Mattingly is held in high regard by ownership, so I am sure that solidified his position regardless of what Friedman may have felt privately. Publicly, the Dodgers didn’t say or do anything to undermine their current manager which was good. With the Dodgers off the table, the Cubs were the best spot for Maddon. Unfortunate that it came at the expense of an employed manager, but it was still the right fit.
Maddon and his personality should be an instant success in the Windy City.
Protect your own, well, except #13…
I was glad to see the Yankees extend a qualifying offer to closer David Robertson, but there was no chance they wouldn’t. It would be awesome if Robertson accepted the qualifying offer but I seriously doubt it. Hopefully, the Yankees and Robertson can find common ground in bringing the closer back to the Bronx. Dellin Betances may be a great closer one day, but Kansas City showed that you can go a long way with a stellar bullpen. The Yankees are better with Betances setting up Robertson.
I am also hopeful that the Yankees bring back third baseman Chase Headley and starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy. However, McCarthy may get caught in numbers. CC Sabathia will be back to join Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda. Shane Greene deserves another shot at the rotation, and it is very likely the Yankees will go after one of the top three free agent pitchers (Max Scherzer, Jon Lester or James Shields). At some point early in the season, Ivan Nova will return. It’s anybody’s guess what Sabathia will bring and there is some uncertainly with Tanaka and his elbow. So loading up with starting pitching is never a bad thing, but if McCarthy wants a guaranteed spot, he’ll most likely need to go elsewhere. It’s too bad because he is a good fit in the Bronx.
Tough decisions lie ahead for GM Brian Cashman and the Steinbrenner family.
Too many players with uncertainty. Alex Rodriguez is certainly at the head of the list. His days as a premier third baseman are over. That’s even more reason to bring Headley back. With someone like A-Rod, I would set my expectations low and then anything he delivers beyond that would be a bonus. I truly hated to see the World Series end for no other reason than it meant the restoration of A-Rod to the active roster. I wish there was a way the Yankees could sever ties, but the contract is too problematic unless the Yankees want to simply give A-Rod money for nothing and release him.
With Jose Pirela performing well in winter ball, there should be very spirited competition for second base with Rob Refsnyder in Spring Training. My preference is to go young with the position and not reach out for an older veteran on the free agent or trade market. They’ll need to do the latter at shortstop to provide a fill in until young prospect Jorge Mateo is hopefully ready in a few years.
It’s been fun watching the star shine more brightly on Yankees prospect Aaron Judge. One of the bigger guys in baseball, he is playing better than just a big man and is on track to arrive at Yankee Stadium in a couple of years.
This off-season will see the departure of some prospects as a few are getting older and running out of options like Austin Romine. The Yankees have a glut at catcher behind Brian McCann, so it would seem that either Francisco Cervelli or John Ryan Murphy will have to go. I only hope that it doesn’t mean trading away high level talent like Judge or pitcher Luis Severino unless the return is significant (highly unlikely).
Best of luck to Gary Denbo as he takes over for VP of Baseball Operations for the retiring Mark Newman. The Yankees have made progress in improving their minor league system the last couple of years so hopefully Denbo can enhance the continued growth of quality prospects at the upper levels of the system. Also, I was pleased to see the return of former third baseman Eric Chavez as a special assignment scout. I was disappointed last year when he chose a bench role with the Arizona Diamondbacks over the Yankees to be closer to his home in Arizona.
Still no word on a new hitting coach or first base coach, although it looks like Raul Ibanez is getting strong consideration for the former position. Teaming him with someone like James Rowson would be a great idea.
Decisions made by the Yankees over the next 45 days will go a very long way toward shaping the 2015 Yankees.
I am ready for Spring Training to begin…
The Element of Surprise…
The World Series is not yet over, but the 2014-15 Hot Stove League is already well under way.
The biggest shocker was the announcement that Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon had opted out of his contract to become a free agent. While I knew that there was a financial gap between what Maddon would require upon the conclusion of his contract next year and what the Rays would be willing to pay, I certainly didn’t expect Maddon’s sudden availability. Interesting that he had to be told about the two week clause to opt out of his contract should former GM Andrew Friedman depart, but clearly a signal that the Rays organization wants to show that they are more than the Friedman-Maddon show. I’ve read that the Rays didn’t want Maddon playing as a lame duck manager next season and that makes sense. Still, he is regarded as one of the best, if not the best, manager in baseball.
Tampa Bay Times
I had expected Maddon’s availability to put Don Mattingly on thin ice in Los Angeles, but publicly the Dodgers have stood behind Mattingly as their manager for 2015. While I don’t think that Mattingly is the manager that Maddon is, I do believe that he eventually will be. Mattingly has continued to improve in my eyes, and he deserves the opportunity to succeed with the Dodgers. But it must be hard for new Dodgers President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman sit idly by while his close friend is available to the highest bidder. With the only remaining managerial opening being in Minneapolis, it’s a given that if Maddon manages in 2015, a team will make a late decision to jettison their current manager. Speculation that it will be the Chicago Cubs certainly makes sense, but I feel bad for Rick Renteria who did a very good job last year with the younger Cubs.
If I owned a baseball team, I’d certainly consider making a change to bring in Maddon. It will be interesting to see where he lands. I really doubt that he’ll sit out a year waiting for the next job.
Meanwhile, I certainly do not feel bad for the Tampa Bay Rays. I am in favor of anything that weakens AL East Rivals, but I am sure that Tampa will be fine.
For the Yankees, they missed their guy when Chili Davis signed a three year deal to be the new hitting coach for the Boston Red Sox. Chili was my personal favorite for the job, and had hoped for his reunion with the Yanks. But it was not meant to be. With Dave Magadan off the board, it’s anybody’s guess who will replace Kevin Long as the Yankees hitting coach. Of the latest names, I do like the idea of the Yankees pursuing Rays hitting coach Derek Shelton or if they stay in house, someone like James Rowson. Without strong clear cut options, it does make one wonder if the Yanks were premature in letting Long go. It certainly didn’t take him long to find a new job in Flushing Meadow. With his reputation, it was a certainty that he wouldn’t remain unemployed very long.
John Munson/The Star-Ledger
In retrospect, the Yankees should have kept Long and brought in an assistant hitting coach. Regardless of who they hire as a replacement, I still think the Yankees should join the many team now employing two hitting coaches. My personal favorite for that role continues to be Hideki Matsui.
A wasted roster spot…
With the World Series now tied up, I am hopeful that it goes the full seven games. While I want the San Francisco Giants to win, I am not ready for the announcement that Alex Rodriguez has rejoined the Yankees active roster. I am not looking forward to his return and I do not feel that he’ll be the productive player that he once was. In my opinion, he’d look better someplace like Miami but the guy has no trade value unless the Yankees are willing to absorb what’s left on his inflated contract. He is definitely the poster child against long-term contracts. This has turned out to be one of the worst that I’ve ever seen. The thought of three more years of A-Rod is so incredibly painful. I sincerely hope that A-Rod’s presence does not deter the Yankees from re-signing free agent third baseman Chase Headley.
There was once a time that I thought A-Rod would never wear pinstripes again but sadly, it appears that I was wrong. Of course, it’s not my money and the Yankees still owe A-Rod too much to just release him.
Assuming the Yankees do bring back Headley, the position that scares me the most next season is first base. It’s hard to count on Mark Teixeira and when he plays, he is a shell of the player he once was. It is looking like A-Rod will be playing some first base which brings its own questions. I remain hopeful that Rob Refsnyder grabs second base in spring training. As for Derek Jeter’s replacement at short, I think the answer is outside of the organization. More than likely, it will be a short term solution. Asdrubal Cabrera probably makes the most sense unless it is determined that his long term future is better suited for second base.
With the World Series set to end either Tuesday or Wednesday, I am sure that the Hot Stove League will start heating up if the last few weeks have been any indication. No offense to either the Giants or the Kansas City Royals, but, outside of A-Rod, I am ready for the rebuilding of the Yankees to begin…