Photo Credit: Getty Images (Bob Levey)
Yankees win again…
I have to admit the Yankees are playing better against the Houston Astros than I thought they would. It was a miserable start to current series when Houston’s Charlie Morton dominated the Yankees to take the first game, but since then, the Yankees have held the Astros scoreless for 22 innings and have limited them to two runs overall for three games. Houston is bound to score runs and it most likely will occur today but it’s been a fun ride.
The Astros clearly have the best starting rotation but the Yankees have the better bullpen. While we had early concerns about certain guys in the pen, the unit appears to be coming together and Aroldis Chapman looks great (even if he wasn’t needed last night). It is very nice to see Dellin Betances pitching like the All-Star version again. Chad Green, David Robertson…I am grateful for these guys every day.
Last night’s pitching performance by Luis Severino was magnificent. A day after Justin Verlander pitched a three-hit shutout for eight innings, striking out fourteen, only to walk away with a no-decision when Astros closer Ken Giles coughed up the game-winning home run to Gary Sanchez, Luis Severino took his gem to the finish line with a complete game, five-hit shutout. He also reached double-digits with strikeouts (ten). If you want something done, you have to do it yourself. It paid off for Sevy as he picked up his fifth win of the young season. Personally, I probably would have called it a night for Severino after eight innings and 98 pitches but thankfully they pay Aaron Boone to make those decisions, not me.
Photo Credit: Houston Chronicle (Karen Warren)
It was only a matter of time until Giancarlo Stanton starting hitting like the NL MVP he is. Prior to yesterday’s game, I lost count of how many times I was reminded that Dallas Keuchel has never yielded any home runs to the Yankees. So, it was only fitting that the newcomer took Keuchel deep, not once but twice. I am really anxious for Stanton to have a game like this at Yankee Stadium. He has awed crowds in Toronto and Houston but I would love nothing better than for Stanton to take a curtain call in the Bronx.
Photo Credit: Getty Images (Bob Levey)
I’ll borrow a term currently used on the TV show Supergirl. When they are hitting, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton are “World Killers”. Yes, I watch Supergirl. C’mon, Melissa Benoist is hot. But with all sincerity, when the World Killers are on, the Yankees are unstoppable.
I was as disappointed as any Yankees fan with the news that Jordan Montgomery will miss the next several months. While I am glad that the immediate prognosis does not involve Tommy John surgery, I recognize that anything is possible until Monty is healthy enough to pitch again. Hopefully rest over the next three weeks allows Montgomery to begin his path toward building arm strength once again. In the interim, I am looking forward to watching Domingo German. In Spring Training, I was so on Team German over Team Cessa as the Yankees’ long reliever/spot starter. It’s unfortunate that it took an injury to Luis Cessa to open the door for German but I am glad he’s here. The Yankees certainly need to explore potential Plan B’s but for now, let’s see what the kid can do. In my mind, A.J. Cole probably represents the next option. I’d prefer to see him over recent returnee David Hale.
When word spread that Monty had left Tuesday’s game after seven pitches, Yankees Twitter started clamoring for Chance Adams. While admittedly I am one of those who believe Adams is destined for the bullpen in a long-term view, his numbers at Triple A this year simply do not support an argument for his promotion. So far this season for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, Adams is 0-2 in five starts. He has given up 24 hits in 24 2/3 innings and 14 earned runs (including four home runs). His ERA is an unsightly 5.11 and his WHIP is the highest it has ever been (1.42). He is not ready. Justus Sheffield is the Yankees best pitching prospect (in my opinion) and he is killing it in Double A. Okay, “killing it” might be a bit too strong at 1-2, but he’s struck out 39 guys in 28 innings. Only one batter has connected for a home run off Top Sheff and he’s limited teams to seven total earned runs for 2.25 ERA. I think Sheffield has earned a promotion to Triple A, but he’s not ready for The Show just yet. My personal favorite pitching prospect is Albert Abreu but he’s further away (has only made one start in High A after returning from injury).
We’re probably a good month and a half to two months away from teams legitimately talking trades for starting pitchers. Some have speculated the Yankees should go after Madison Bumgarner of the San Francisco Giants. MadBum is currently on the DL but when healthy, he’s one of the best when the calendar turns to October. I’d love to have the guy on the Yankees. I just don’t think the Giants will trade their best pitcher who has meant so much to the organization. But if he could be pried loose, I’d have to problem giving up guys like Clint Frazier and Chance Adams for him.
For now, I hope Domingo German takes the job as fifth starter and runs with it. I don’t expect him to be as good as Monty but as long as he keeps the Yankees in games, life will be good.
Photo Credit: AP (Kathy Willens)
The Yankees play an afternoon matinee today in the final game of their four-game set with the Houston Astros. Win or lose, this has been a great road trip for the Yankees. Worst case, they had back to the Bronx with a 5-2 record for the latest travel. But to win six of seven would be fantastic. Lance McCullers, Jr always seems to rise to the occasion against his father’s former team, but as the Yankees showed Dallas Keuchel yesterday, no one is invincible. I am looking for Masahiro Tanaka to continue the string of outstanding pitching performances in this series. A few homers from Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez would not hurt. If it involves another implosion by Ken Giles, all the better.
|Photo Credit: Associated Press (Julie Jacobson)|
The Sky is Falling…
Unlike TGP’s fearless leader, Daniel Burch, I did not wake up in a happy, cheerful and loving mood. Sorry. I know, all things considered, things could be worse. But the last couple of days have not been enjoyable. We’re Yankees fans. We want and expect nothing less than complete dominance and success. The 2018 Yankees have a roster capable of playing, hit-for-hit and pitch-for-pitch, with the best teams in Major League Baseball. But while other teams revel in early success, the Yankees are getting off to a sluggish start.
I get it…we’re only eight games into the season and there are still 154 games to play (or the length of the regular season games when Babe Ruth and his friends played). It’s not the end of the World and there are many, many games before the AL East is decided.
The Yankees lost a heart-breaker last night in extra innings. The Baltimore Orioles took the second game of the series, thanks to a grand slam by catcher Caleb Joseph in the top of fourteenth inning, winning 7-3. Despite fighting back to tie the game multiple times, the home team could never take the lead and were inches from victory in the bottom of the eleventh when Orioles reliever Mychal Givens threw a wild pitch and Didi tried to score from third. Givens came sliding across the plate to block Didi and take the throw from catcher Caleb Joseph to tag the out.
|Photo Credit: Associated Press (Julie Jacobson)|
For those of you who feel Aaron Judge owns the Orioles, I’d have to counter Buck Showalter owns the Yankees…at least for the first two games of the season series. George Steinbrenner is probably rolling over in his grave.
The Yankees fell to 4-4 and trail the Boston Red Sox by 2 1/2 games in the AL East. The Red Sox are on a roll, winners of six straight while they ride their cream puff schedule. The Toronto Blue Jays are a game ahead of the Yankees. It’s early but so far the Red Sox and the Houston Astros appear to be the early class of the AL. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have also started the season strong (Shohei Otani homered for the third consecutive game) and the improved Minnesota Twins, as expected, lead their division.
Last night’s loss was more costly than just the score. Four Yankees were pulled from the game for various ailments. CC Sabathia exited after four innings with a right hip strain, Brandon Drury was replaced by pinch-hitter Ronald Torreyes in the bottom of the sixth (Toe stayed in the game at third; we later learned Drury is suffering from migraine headaches and blurred vision), Neil Walker slid over to second base from first in the top of the ninth to replace Tyler Wade (suffering from the flu), and Gary Sanchez left the game during the fateful fourteenth inning with a leg cramp.
|Photo Credit: Associated Press|
The Yankees also checked on the health of closer Aroldis Chapman during a ninth inning visit by when it was observed that the Cuban Missile’s velocity was down. Chapman blamed it on a cold night.
An MRI after the game revealed no issues for Sabathia, however, the Yankees placed him on the 10-day DL earlier today. Drury was also placed on the disabled list. Jonathan Holder, the reliever on the mound when Caleb Joseph hit the game-winning grand slam for the Orioles last night, was optioned to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. RHPs Domingo German and Luis Cessa (ugh!) were promoted to the big league club. Also, the Yankees signed IF/OF Jace Peterson to a Major League contract. Peterson was 1-for-4 with a strikeout in the RailRiders’ season-opening win last night. Peterson’s time with the Yankees appears to be over when Drury comes back since he’ll most likely be placed on waivers (rather than kept on the 40-man roster). It could end sooner given the expected return of OF Aaron Hicks in a few days.
Sabathia is only expected to miss one start. As for Drury, we won’t really know anything until Monday when he undergoes testing to determine the cause of the migraine headaches. An avowed Minnesota Vikings fan, it was frustrating for years when former Viking Percy Harvin struggled with migraines. I hope Drury’s problem is not as severe as the one that afflicted the very talented Harvin.
I haven’t figured out how this impacts the 40-man roster yet. The Yankees recently moved reliever Ben Heller to the 60-day DL which freed up a spot but the Yankees acquired third baseman Cody Asche. Even though Asche was optioned to Triple A, MLB.com is showing Asche on the 40-man roster. It would seem that something’s got to give to make room on the active roster for Peterson. I could be looking at this wrong. I’ve seen comments that the 40th spot was opened when the Yankees waived Trayce Thompson, who briefly took Heller’s spot, but that does not account for why MLB.com and the RailRiders website are showing Asche on the 40-man roster. Maybe Asche was never truly on the 40-man and the sites are in error. Who knows? The Yankees and MLB have this figured out so I don’t need to.
I am not happy about Cessa on the big league roster. He’s been my ideal DFA candidate for some time. I truly hope the Yankees use German over Cessa to make CC’s next start (which should be next Saturday). I’ve seen enough of Cessa to know that he is not a reliable starting pitcher. Let’s see how his stuff plays in limited spots in the bullpen. I’d rather take that chance over giving opposing teams multiple looks at the pedestrian pitcher when he is on the mound. German won me over with a very strong Spring so I’d like to see him get his first audition in the rotation.
Peterson, playing left field today, is not going to scare anybody with his bat.
|Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)|
In the off-season, everybody (except maybe me) wanted Miguel Andujar as the starting third baseman for the Pinstripers. I wanted the Yankees to re-sign Todd Frazier and was subsequently supportive of the Drury acquisition. Well, here we are. Andujar is now your starting third baseman. This season, Andujar is 0-for-12 with no walks and four strikeouts. He is on the fast track to reach Kyle Higashioka’s 0-for-18 performance from last year. At least Higashioka managed to mix in a couple of walks and runs. I know, Andujar WILL hit. But obviously I’d prefer sooner than later. Never a better time to start than today.
Hopefully the Yankees can get into a groove and starting winning games. There are still two games to salvage at least a tie in the series with the O’s. Things will look much better if the Yankees can emerge from the weekend with a 6-4 record.
Here’s to hoping that today is a better day. Go Yankees!
|Photo Credit: Associated Press (Winslow Townson)
Ty, Ty, Tyler Again…
On a wing and a prayer. Unfortunately, that’s life with Greg Bird as your first baseman.
The Yankees Universe collectively groaned a sigh of disappointment when Bird was pulled before the start of an exhibition game with the Atlanta Braves in Lake Buena Vista, FL at the Walt Disney Resort yesterday with an apparent foot injury. He underwent an MRI and a CT scan yesterday afternoon and it was determined that he had right foot inflammation. It is in the same general area where he had ankle surgery last summer to remove excessive bone growth. The reason for the inflammation is not currently known.
Bird will see noted New York Orthopaedic Surgeon Martin J. O’Malley in the Upper East Side on Monday to determine the cause of the inflammation.
Every year, it seems like it is something with the talented but fragile first baseman. He missed the entire 2016 season following shoulder surgery. Then last year, the foot injury at the end of training camp led to the eventual ankle surgery in July which limited him to 48 games although he did have a memorable post-season.
If Bird is forced to the disabled list, Tyler Austin appears to be the beneficiary. GM Brian Cashman has indicated that the Yankees will use in-house options. Neil Walker has been mentioned as a possibility, but it’s hard to envision the second baseman as the regular first baseman. Backup or platoon maybe. Brandon Drury played first base in the minors but he is firmly planted as the third baseman. The Yankees always seem to be looking for alternatives to Austin (for whatever reason), so it is not a given that Austin will make the roster if Bird cannot.
When Austin was forced to move from DH to first base to replace Bird for the game against the Braves, the Yankees pulled first baseman Ryan McBroom out of the minor league camp for DH duties. McBroom, the return when the Yankees traded Rob Refsnyder last year, responded with a home run and a run-scoring single (the latter hit produced two runs but the second one was courtesy of a throwing error). McBroom will be 26 in a couple of weeks but he has never played above Double A. Another option surfaced on Saturday when the Seattle Mariners returned Rule 5 draftee Mike Ford to the Yankees. He was assigned to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. Ford batted .259 with two homers and 10 RBIs in 54 at-bats for the Mariners this Spring, but regular first baseman Ryon Healy returned from hand surgery sooner than expected and Daniel Vogelbach won the backup job as the team’s hottest hitter in camp. So Ford didn’t do a bad job for the M’s…it was just a numbers game. Between Trenton and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last year, Ford batted .270/.404/.471 with .875 OPS to go with 20 home runs and 86 RBIs. The guess is that Austin gets the job if Bird is not ready, but Ford looms as a potential option.
|Photo Credit: Associated Press (Chris Carlson)|
I really like Greg Bird as a player and his swing is a thing of beauty. But the succession of injuries is taxing to say the least. I will continue to hope for the best and I am trying to be optimistic that the latest inflammation is not a sign of much deeper problems. Let’s hope that Bird receives positive news from Dr O’Malley tomorrow and the foot inflammation is solved with treatment and rest.
With Ford’s return, the Yankees have recaptured two of the four players taken in last December’s Rule 5 Draft. Anyelo Gomez was previously returned to the Yankees by the Braves. The Baltimore Orioles designated Jose Mesa, Jr for assignment on March 21st when they signed free agent Alex Cobb. If Joe Table, Jr clears waivers, he’ll be offered back to the Yankees. Nestor Cortes, Jr remains in Orioles camp and is the scheduled starter in today’s game against the Philadelphia Phillies.
|Photo Credit: Baltimore Sun|
I’ve seen a lot of negative reaction from the Yankees fan base over the decision to give RHP Jonathan Holder the final spot on the Opening Day roster over Domingo German. I don’t get it. With the RailRiders, German can continue to start and will be stretched out if/when the Yankees need an emergency or extra starter. I’d prefer that to German sitting in the bullpen waiting for opportunities. Some fans seem to think the Opening Day roster is etched in stone. If we’ve learned anything, the final spots on the roster are very fluid with movement aboard the Scranton Shuttle.
Baseball is tough. It’s hard to believe that closer Greg Holland has been unable to find a job. He had 41 saves in 2017 for the Colorado Rockies. He turned down an off-season offer from the Rockies and their money went to new closer Wade Davis. I keep hearing that teams continue to stay away from Holland due to his asking price. At what point does Holland say ‘uncle’ and accept an offer simply to play? Same with Mark Reynolds who hit 30 home runs last season for the Rockies. I feel bad for the guys who can still play the game at its highest level but can’t find a job. The next few days will be even tougher as teams make the necessary cuts to reach their 25-man rosters. You wonder if it is the end of the line for older players like Jayson Werth, Jose Bautista and Matt Holliday. Scott Kazmir, part of the salary dump that sent outfielder Matt Kemp to the Los Angeles Dodgers, was released by the Braves yesterday. He had exited the game against the Yankees with left arm fatigue (after reportedly having thrown 90-100 pitches in a bullpen session last Wednesday). Despite on the hook for $16 million, the Braves opted to part ways with the left-hander who missed the 2017 season with injuries. Now, Kazmir is one of many on the unemployment line (although I am fairly confident the $16 million will help him pay bills while he looks for a new job).
Today is the final day in Florida for the Yankees. After today’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays in Port Charlotte, the Yankees will head for Atlanta, GA to play the Braves at SunTrust Park on Monday. Then, MLB camp is done. The Gang of 25 will head to Toronto and the Aaron Boone Era will officially begin with Opening Day on Thursday against the AL East rival Blue Jays. It’s almost time.
To borrow words from the great John Sterling, let’s give the team a “Stanton ovation”! It’s going to be a very exciting season. Go Yankees!
The Dog Days of Spring…
One week to go until the games become “real”. The thought of Toronto, Canada on a day in late March gives me a rather chilly feeling but watching the Yankees play brings the necessary warmth. The current weather forecast calls for cloudy skies with an expected high of 47 degrees and a 20% chance of precipitation. Nevertheless, the temp inside the Rogers Centre should be very comfortable for the away team. Let the homers begin!
Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)
It sounds like Manager Aaron Boone intends to have his 25-man roster in place by the weekend. I was surprised to see that first baseman Tyler Austin didn’t make the cut. I assume that places Neil Walker and Austin Romine as the backup first basemen. The speculation is that the Yankees will carry 13 pitchers and 12 position players. We know that Tyler Wade has made the team as the second baseman and Brandon Drury will be the starter at third. So, the bench appears to be Austin Romine, Neil Walker, and Ronald Torreyes as it appears that neither Jacoby Ellsbury nor Clint Frazier will be ready. Under this scenario, the Yankees won’t carry a fifth outfielder with Ellsbury expected to open the season on the disabled list. The outfield rotation would be limited to the four outfielders currently in play (Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton) using the DH slot primarily for Stanton and Judge. This is where multi-position versatility is very helpful. Although Drury has only played third base for the Yankees, he was the starting second baseman for the Arizona Diamondbacks last year and he has also seen time in the outfield for the Snakes. Torreyes as the emergency catcher is funny but it makes sense. Walker will be all over the infield except shortstop and catcher.
Photo Credit: MLB.com
So it appears the critical decision with be the 13th pitcher. Luis Cessa simply no longer has my trust or support. I do not want him as the rotation’s “sixth man” and after a good Spring, I feel much better about Domingo German in that role. I thought this would be the breakout year for Ben Heller but he had a few rough outings recently and has found himself with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. There is still time for him to shine but it won’t be at the start of the season. I really like Jonathan Holder. He blazed through the Yankees farm system until struggling last year. I am convinced he will be much stronger this year. So, for me, I’d like to see either German or Holder get the last spot on the 25-man roster. German would be a true long man, but if the Yankees need an emergency starter, there’s always the Scranton Shuttle. I’d probably go with Holder to start the season but like last year, the final spot on the roster will be very fluid.
I was surprised to see the return of Rule 5 draftee Anyelo Gomez from the Atlanta Braves. We know that the Braves will be bad this year. I thought they’d bite the bullet and keep Gomez on the MLB roster all season to keep the talented young pitcher. But Gomez’s performance spiraled downward as the MLB-caliber competition in exhibition games increased and it led to Atlanta’s decision to offer Gomez back to the Yankees. Similarly, Jose Mesa, Jr has struggled with the Baltimore Orioles and he was designated for assignment this week when the O’s signed free agent pitcher Alex Cobb. If Mesa clears waivers, the O’s will have to offer him back to the Yankees. So, this leaves only Nestor Cortes, Jr (Orioles) and Mike Ford (Mariners) as the only Rule 5 draftees still with the teams that selected them from the Yankees in December. I remain convinced Cortes will make the O’s Opening Day Roster despite the three-run homer that he gave up to Aaron Judge in yesterday’s exhibition game. I still expect Ford to be offered back to the Yankees by the Mariners in a numbers crunch at first base.
Photo Credit: MLB.com
Speaking of the Mariners, I was saddened to learn that former Yankees reliever David Phelps will miss the upcoming season with a torn UCL that requires Tommy John surgery. I thought it was cool that Ichiro Suzuki had followed Phelps to the Yankees, Miami Marlins and then back to Seattle. Now, it appears their reunion on the active regular season roster will be delayed assuming that Ichiro continues to play for the M’s beyond this year. We wish David the very best with his surgery and recovery. Hope to see him back in the Mariners’ bullpen sometime next year and as good as ever (except when he pitches against the Yankees, of course).
Photo Credit: Seattle Times (Ken Lambert)
If you have a subscription to The Athletic, you should be sure to check out Marc Carig’s piece this morning on Brandon Drury entitled “Brandon Drury brings a serious edge to Yankees clubhouse”. Drury has become one of my favorite players in a short period of time. I love his quiet intensity. Like many believe including Yankees GM Brian Cashman, I feel very strongly that Drury’s best days are ahead. I think he’ll be a force at third base and will make us forget we ever knew Chase Headley or Todd Frazier. I am very pleased to see Carig covering the Yankees again after a few years away on the Mets beat. He’s an excellent writer and very insightful. Solid work, once again, by Carig.
It’s been tough with no televised Yankees games for the last few days. Fortunately, the Yankees will be on ESPN2 this afternoon against Jake Cave and the Minnesota Twins. I haven’t seen the lineups for the game yet but hopefully we’ll see Cave. I haven’t been following the Twins so I assume that Cave is remains in the Major League camp. The scheduled starter for the Twins will be former Yankee Phil Hughes.
7 Days to Toronto. I’m ready. You’re ready. They’re ready. Let’s Go Yankees!
Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jim McIsaac)
Walker, New York Yankee…
When I heard the news the Yankees had signed free agent infielder Neil Walker, I admit it did not excite me. I had thought Walker might be an infield possibility before the Yankees acquired Brandon Drury from the Arizona Diamondbacks (in fact, TGP’s Bryan Van Dusen called it out as a move the Yankees should make before Drury found himself in Tampa with our favorite team). But once Drury arrived, I didn’t give it another thought.
Credit: Pittsburgh Magazine
The reaction among the Yankees Universe has been very mixed. Countless fans feel that Walker blocks the very talented rookies, Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar. I don’t look at it that way. For a one-year contract at $4 million plus incentives, this is not a marriage. It is a dinner date at McDonald’s. Walker may break camp as the starting second baseman but there’s no doubt that Gleyber Torres will be the man when he is ready. Gleyber needs the additional time at Triple A as he continues his comeback from Tommy John surgery on his non-throwing arm. He has shown this Spring that regardless of his MLB service time clock, he would greatly benefit from the added time in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Torres is going to be a star and there is nothing that Neil Walker can do about it.
Brandon Drury is the starting third baseman. With no offense to Miguel Andujar, Drury was not acquired to be a backup. The Yankees see too much potential in the player and feel that they can convert a number of those Drury doubles into home runs. The Yankees gave up two talented prospects in second baseman Nick Solak and pitcher Taylor Widener. At that price, they weren’t paying to get Drury as a part-time player. Perhaps Andujar goes to Pennsylvania and crushes Triple A pitching. There’s nothing wrong with two players fighting for one position. It’s a very good problem to have. For now, Walker’s arrival most likely means that Andujar will be joining Torres in Scranton. But like Torres, Andujar will be back. When he proves his defensive game has caught up with his bat, only a major trade for a starting pitcher could keep Andujar from pulling on the pinstripes. Walker certainly won’t stop that from happening.
I felt and probably still feel that Tyler Wade will see significant starts at second base. Worst case, I can see him in a platoon role with Walker at the position until young Gleyber arrives to take control. Best case, he breaks camp as the starter with Walker on the bench.
To me, the potential losers with the Walker signing are utilityman Ronald Torreyes and non-roster first baseman Adam Lind. Torreyes may make the Opening Day roster. In fact, I think it’s almost a certainty. But, when Torres and Andujar arrive in the Bronx with their minor league assignments completed, Torreyes is the potential odd man out. I thought Lind might have a chance to make the roster since the Yankees, for whatever reason, do not seem enamored with Tyler Austin. But with Walker’s ability to play first base (not to mention Drury too), Austin brings more to the team than Lind does as a right-handed first baseman (nice complement to the lefty-swinging Greg Bird) who can also play corner outfield. Lind is strictly 1B/DH. But Austin’s spot is not a given as the Yankees could opt for Billy McKinney if Jacoby Ellsbury and Clint Frazier are unable to start the season. McKinney has limited experience at first base, but the presence of Walker helps offset his inexperience.
To make room for Walker, the Yankees designated outfielder Jake Cave for assignment and released non-roster invitee Danny Espinosa. Shortstop Kyle Holder was also re-assigned to minor league camp. I’ve always liked Cave but he was squeezed by players ahead of him like Frazier and McKinney and was feeling the heat from hard charging younger prospects. Cave was in camp with the Cincinnati Reds a couple of years ago as a Rule 5 draftee. He opened some eyes although he proved he wasn’t quite ready for the Show. Hopefully, GM Brian Cashman is able to flip Cave for a younger prospect rather than simply letting him go for nothing. I was never excited about the addition of Espinosa. He was a decent player for the Washington Nationals a few years ago, but he wasn’t going to scare anyone with his bat. His poor reaction when the Nats acquired outfielder Adam Eaton which pushed star Trea Turner from the outfield to shortstop, displacing Espinosa, always bothered me. So, for me, I’ll gladly take Walker over Espinosa. The switch-hitter still has some pop left in his bat, and he is a very versatile dude (health-permitting).
Walker was assigned Starlin Castro’s number 14 (most recently worn by Espinosa). For me, the number is forever associated with the great “Sweet Lou” Pinella.
Photo Credit: UPI
By now, I don’t think any Yankees fans are expecting the team to add a starting pitcher before the start of the season. My early favorites for trade deadline candidates are Chris Archer and Danny Duffy. The Los Angeles Dodgers have long been interested in Archer, so I’d probably rate Duffy as the most likely choice if he can be pried from the Kansas City Royals. Personal preference, no doubt, is Archer. The health and performance of the existing starting five will obviously dictate what the Yankees do in July. It’s early, but I’ve been impressed with young right-hander Domingo German and would like to see him become the rotation’s sixth man in place of Luis Cessa.
Good times. I am ready for the season to start.
Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)
Next Stop, Toronto Pearson International Airport…
We should begin seeing some whittling down of bodies at Steinbrenner Field soon so it got me thinking about the Yankees’ Opening Day roster. March 29th, and a date with the Toronto Blue Jays, is only three weeks away so the regular season will be upon us before we know it.
Count me among those who do not place much stock in Miguel Andujar’s slew of home runs against mostly Double-A pitching. I think Andujar will make a contribution this year, perhaps a significant one, but I do not feel that he’ll head to Toronto with the team after they play their final Spring game in Atlanta against the Braves. My guess is that he spends more time with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to work on his defensive game.
Here is my projection for the Opening Day Roster (with starting position players in italics).
Rest of the Pen
Aaron Judge, RF
Brett Gardner, LF
Aaron Hicks, CF
Giancarlo Stanton, DH
The guess is Judge will be exclusively a right-fielder and DH, with Stanton primarily filling the DH role but covering both outfield corner positions dependent upon the ballpark. When (not if) Ellsbury gets hurt (assuming that he recovers from the right oblique strain in time for Opening Day), Clint Frazier gets the first look as his replacement with Billy McKinney next in line.
I don’t know what happens with Tyler Austin. The way the Yankees keep trying to replace him leads me to believe that he is not in the long-term vision. I could very well be wrong about the backup first base job. Perhaps Austin does win it and Lind opts out of his minor league contract in a couple of weeks. But it’s hard to overlook Lind’s history of success at the Major League level so I won’t.
It remains my belief we’ll see Gleyber Torres as the starting second baseman during the season, maybe as early as the first of May. Assuming he doesn’t go to Baltimore in a mammoth mid-season trade for Manny Machado, I think Andujar will see extended time in the Majors for the Pinstripers too. Admittedly, if he keeps up his torrid hitting over the next couple of weeks as MLB starters are stretched out in preparation for the season, he could force his way onto the Opening Day Roster. If that happens, Lind (or Austin) could be the odd man out, with Drury and Romine serving as the less-than-desirable first base backups in addition to their other duties.
The first reliever on the Scranton Shuttle will be right-hander Ben Heller, followed closely by fellow righty Giovanny Gallegos. For emergency starter, I’d prefer to go with Domingo German over Luis Cessa but the team seems to love Cessa in spot starts despite the lackluster results.
The toughest call is the batting order but my choices from second to fifth would be Judge, Bird, Stanton, and Sanchez, respectively. Regardless of how this shakes out under Aaron Boone, I feel sorry for American League pitchers.
There’s still plenty of time for roster surprises but I think injuries would play the primary role in any deviations, in my humble opinion (which of course could be seriously flawed).
As the saying goes, time will tell as it often does…
If you haven’t already done so, you should check out Bryan Hoch’s new book, The Baby Bombers: The Inside Story of the Next Yankees Dynasty. The book is available through multiple outlets including Amazon.com (where I bought my copy).
“Did Andujar hit another home run?”…
There’s no doubt it is fun to watch Miguel Andujar hit home runs in nearly every at bat (so it seems). But…c’mon, it is Spring Training. I put as much stock in Andujar’s home runs as I do the fact that neither Aaron Judge nor Giancarlo Stanton have gone yard. It is very early and the hurlers are still working on their pitches and not necessarily using strategy or attacking hitters like they would in the regular season. Plus, many of the Spring pitchers are guys who will never see a MLB roster in 2018 (if ever). In other words, keep expectations in check. When it is show time, you know Judge, Stanton and Sanchez will be leading the homer parade.
Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)
Since many are starting to project Opening Day lineups, I’ll toss in my own.
2B-Tyler Wade (although I could buy into Danny Espinosa for the short term)
These are safe choices but decisions I fully expect Manager Aaron Boone to roll with on March 29th. If Gleyber Torres shows that he is ready by the end of the month, then I think he breaks camp with the Yankees as the starting second baseman. Otherwise, he’ll begin the season in Triple A to fine tune his game. I’ve become convinced that service time will not factor into the decision. The Yankees want to field the team that gives them the best chance for success from the very first game of the season. When Gleyber is ready, he is the man at the second. For me, he’s the most exciting talent at the position since Dontcha Know Robinson Cano.
Photo Credit: Newsday (Thomas A Ferrara)
I feel confident, at this point, that the Opening Day roster will feature 25 guys currently in camp with the Yankees. In other words, I do not see any further trade activity or free agent signings before the start of the regular season. The Yankees have a huge advantage over the Boston Red Sox in terms of in-season flexibility. Boston is maxed out on payroll and they have a weak farm system. There will be no major acquisitions by the Red Sox at the trading deadline. The Yankees, on the other hand, have the ability to make huge moves dependent upon need, with salary room and cupboards overflowing with prospects. The Yankees have the talent, today, to hang with the Red Sox, if not potentially creating separation in the AL East Standings. Identifying mid-season weaknesses and seeking impact upgrades should allow the Yankees to explode past the Red Sox if all goes according to plan (which, of course, it never does). Nevertheless with all things considered, I’ll take my chances with the Yankees against the Beantown Bunch.
If I was Orioles GM Dan Duquette, I’d be on the phone to Brian Cashman. “Say Brian, I’ve been watching that Andujar kid. You still interested in Manny?”. I know that Orioles owner Peter Angelos hates the Yankees but a chance to grab a young third baseman with a lethal bat and perhaps a top pitching prospect, among others, for a guy that will wear the Orioles uniform for the final time on Sunday, September 30, 2018 against the Houston Astros at Camden Yards (barring a trade by the deadline).
While I think the Yankees will spend to sign (or if they successfully trade for him, re-sign) Manny Machado, I do not expect a big splash in the 2018-19 free agent market. I’ve seen some suggest that the Yankees will sign both Machado and Bryce Harper. That’s not happening. The Yankees have a large chunk of the roster comprised of pre-arbitration guys who are still making minimum wage or barely over. This list includes (in alphabetical order):
You could cut this list down to just Greg Bird, Chad Green, Aaron Judge, Jordan Montgomery, Gary Sanchez, and Luis Severino. That’s six players who will see significant increases in their pay over the coming years as they enter into arbitration. This is on top of the current arbitration players like Didi Gregorius who will command top dollars on the open market in the not-so-distant future. If Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner has taught us anything, he is not going to be frivolous with money. I can’t see committing Giancarlo Stanton-like money (or more) to outside free agents when the Yankees will have to pay their own young stars one day. I am more excited about the prospect of Estevan Florial eventually becoming the starting center fielder than the possibility of spending a half-billion dollars to bring Bryce Harper to the Bronx. Don’t get me wrong…I love Harper…but I think he is an excess luxury for a team with so many young talented hitters. I would rather see the dollars invested in upgrading the starting pitching and retaining our young superstars.
I don’t envy Aaron Boone for the decision he’ll have to make at third base. As a Vikings fan, I am watching their off-season with interest as the team does not have a quarterback signed beyond the young unproven Kyle Sloter. The big question is whether the Vikings will try to re-sign Sam Bradford, Teddy Bridgewater or Case Keenum, or attempt to go after a big fish like Kirk Cousins. While I’d like Cousins on my team, I recognize the team needs to re-sign its own young stars. This is not unlike the Yankees. Yesterday, Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer, talking about the QB situation, said that the team has to make the right call for its next QB. Otherwise, it could cost him his job. I don’t think the third base competition between Brandon Drury and Miguel Andujar will cost Boonie his job, but Sports is big business. The financial considerations have to make as much sense as the ability of the players. So, my philosophy for free agency is the same in the MLB as it is in the NFL, “take care of your own”. It doesn’t mean that there won’t be new guys or that we shouldn’t get rid of guys who are simply filling a roster space. I just want to see the ‘tried and true’ players get their due.
Photo Credit: MLB.com
One final note: I would like to see more Domingo German and less Luis Cessa, please.
Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)