Tagged: Estevan Florial

Crushing AL East Rivals…

(Photo: Mike Janes/AP)

Even if it means absolutely nothing…

Maybe the Yankees should use David Wells in the YES Network broadcast booth more often. He worked Friday’s game against the Boston Red Sox and yesterday’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays and saw the Yankees score a combined total of 31 runs in the victories over two of their biggest AL East Rivals.  

It was enjoyable to see the Yankees win the 14-1 laugher over the Red Sox but sadly it is just a Spring Training game so it’s meaningless. I’d love to see one of those kind of games (or better yet, two) when the Yankees play the Red Sox on April 16th and 17th. The best way to get rid the memory of the devastating 16-1 loss to Boston in last Fall’s ALDS is to simply return the favor and ensure Boston’s season is shortened this year.   

Saturday’s 17-7 win, two touchdowns and a field goal, over the Blue Jays came at a price. The Yankees lost top prospect Estevan Florial when he tried to make a leaping catch against the wall in the eighth inning. He couldn’t reach the ball and came down on his right wrist against the turf, suffering what subsequent x-rays revealed to be a non-displaced wrist fracture. It’s a big loss as he’ll presumably lose valuable development time. Florial was having a great Spring with a batting line of .355/.429/.516 and .945 OPS in 13 games. In 31 at-bats, he had 11 hits and 7 runs scored to go with a homer and 4 RBI’s. He has also stolen 5 bags, which included one yesterday. There was no way he was making the big league club having just reached High-A last year, but with pitch recognition looming as the last major hurdle for him, his development will be further delayed. Florial missed three months last year after surgery on his hamate bone of the same wrist. If Florial misses 2-3 months with the latest injury, it will adversely affect his status as a potential July trading chip (not that I want the Yankees to trade him, of course). Further tests are scheduled for Monday before the Yankees will know the expected timetable for his recovery and rehab. I am hoping for better than expected results but admittedly it’s not looking good for the talented 21-year-old.  

MLB Network’s 30 in 30 focus on the Yankees is coming up this week…finally. It will air on Tuesday night at 7 pm Eastern during the hour-long MLB Tonight show. I am looking forward to the interviews with some of baseball’s greatest young stars and maybe Brett Gardner and/or CC Sabathia too.   

Listening to the many interviews with other teams around the league, there is a common phrase that Aaron Judge uses which is echoed by so many other players. “Picking (someone’s) brain.” As a fan of The Walking Dead, it’s hard not to get a visual of a Zombie, I mean a Walker, in search of food. I know, this is a game of knowledge and understanding and veteran players have so much to offer younger players. It’s just funny that the same expression gets used by so many players.  

Jacoby Ellsbury is expected in Tampa today. I am sure it will be a day of medical evaluations for him and who really knows where he is at physically except for him.  No way he makes the Opening Day roster but if healthy, for as much as I am down on him, he figures to be in position to help at some point as he works back into playing shape and redevelops his timing after being away from the game for so long. I do not expect anything from him and I had been doubtful he’d ever wear the Pinstripes again, but if he has anything left in the tank, the Yankees should give him a shot. If anything, the dude knows how to get catcher’s interference. I am sure Ellsbury, now 35, has tired of the negative comments from people like me and wants to show he is still capable of playing baseball at a high level, not too much unlike Troy Tulowitzki’s comeback attempt. If he can, play him. If not, cut bait and move on. Of course, it would be a much costlier decision with Ellsbury than Tulo, but I am sure the Yankees won’t use money as a reason not to part ways with Ellsbury if the insurance payments are no longer flowing in and Ellsbury proves to be an outfielder that can no longer play the outfield.

(Photo: Chris Pedota/North Jersey.com)

A couple weeks ago, I gave my projection for the Opening Day Lineup. At this point, you have to scratch Jonathan Loaisiga. He is not going to make the OD roster. For as much as we say Spring Training stats don’t count, Lasagna has stunk big time.  In four games, he is 1-1 with a 10.00 ERA.  He has given up 11 runs (10 earned) in 9 innings pitched. He has walked 6 batters and is carrying a 1.67 WHIP. Granted, you could say that J.A. Happ’s Spring has been nearly as bad, but Happ, as a veteran, “is just working on things”. Loaisiga had something to prove, whereas Happ does not. The performance has most likely earned Loaisiga a trip to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, making Luis Cessa (the pitching surprise of the Spring) and Domingo German the probable replacement starters for Luis Severino and CC Sabathia. Unless the Yankees carry an extra position player, it should mean that Stephen Tarpley will take the last bullpen spot. With Aaron Hicks’ health and the potential he misses Opening Day, it could force the Yankees to bring along an extra outfielder since Brett Gardner will need to slide to center to cover for Hicks although Tyler Wade is fully capable of covering a corner outfield spot on a short-term basis.

There was an update this morning when Hicks told the media that he WILL be missing the opening series against the Baltimore Orioles. He had his second cortisone shot for back stiffness this past week. The Yankees will have to decide whether to carry Hicks on the Opening Day roster if they feel he’ll only miss the two games against Baltimore or place him on the 10-day Injured List if they fear he’ll be out longer. It’s frustrating the Yankees could spend the majority of April “short-handed” as they’ll also be down a man when CC Sabathia serves his five-game suspension. 2020’s 26-man roster is starting to look a year too late.  

If the Yankees aren’t that high on Clint Frazier to start the year, I thought Carlos Gonzalez would have been a sneaky good pickup for some outfield help. However, that option was lost yesterday when the Cleveland Indians signed the long-time Colorado Rockie outfielder to a minor league deal. I guess we’ve reached our quota of ex-Rockies. I know CarGo carries the ‘he can’t hit outside of Coors Field’ tag but for $2-$3 million (pocket change for Hal Steinbrenner), he could have helped.

Congrats to Michael King and Brandon Wagner. They were named yesterday the winners of the 2018 Kevin Lawn Award as the Yankees’ Minor League “Pitcher of the Year” and “Player of the Year”, respectively. King has gotten much recognition after his breakout 2018 season, but Wagner is a bit unheralded. The 23-year-old, in combined A/AA, hit .267/.380/.461, with .841 OPS, last season. He belted 21 homers and 67 RBIs. He is primarily a first baseman but saw multiple games at third base and has even seen time at second and in the outfield.  Diversity is a great ticket to The Show if you have the talent. It should allow Wagner to leap-frog the ‘first base only’ types, Mike Ford and Ryan McBroom, in the farm system in the not-so-distant future if he continues his progression.   

Lastly, Happy St Patrick’s Day to all!  

As always, Go Yankees!  

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Much Ado, Machado, About Nothing…

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Photo Credit: Jeff Roberson-Associated Press

Manny Machado and the Pinstriped Dreams Vanish…

After waiting all off-season with the hope that Manny Machado would wear the famed Pinstripes, it was not meant to be. C’est la vie. I’ve heard people say they can’t believe Hal Steinbrenner was outbid by the small market San Diego Padres. But that would imply the Yankees made a bid which they apparently did not.  I can’t blame the Yankees for passing on a 10-year, $300 million deal. Manny’s a great player but he’s not the best player in baseball. I don’t blame Hal Steinbrenner or the Yankees for passing on Manny at that price. I thought he made sense in the low 200’s or on a short-term deal with high AAV but not $30 million per year for the next ten years. He’s not exactly Alex Rodriguez in his prime.

Best case scenario, if he was not coming to the Yankees, was for Manny to sign with the West Coast Padres. I am glad that he’s out of the American League and away from any Northeastern city. I didn’t really want to see him go to the Chicago White Sox or the Philadelphia Phillies. It is kind of funny that Machado will have to visit Yankee Stadium this year. The Padres will be in New York on Memorial Day, May 27th, for three days. There’s no doubt Machado will receive more than a few Bronx cheers. Even though the Yankees never really made a formal offer, I expect the home crowd to treat Machado something like Oakland did when their former star Jason Giambi returned to Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum wearing Pinstripes for the first time, only worse.

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Photo Credit: Associated Press

While I feel Manny would have made the Yankees better, they are still a very, very good team. I am fully anticipating a dog fight with the defending champion Boston Red Sox again this season and would have liked every conceivable advantage or edge over the Beantown Bunch, which Machado certainly would have provided. But, he’s not here, and we move on. In the AL East, I feel the Yankees are the better team but I’d be foolish to think the Red Sox are going away, even if nobody likes their bullpen on paper.  At the end of the day, the Yankees bullpen might not be as great as everyone thinks (there will be the inevitable bumps in the road) and the Boston pen might not be as bad. Regardless of what happens, I am sure the Yankees and Red Sox will be jockeying for position deep into September.

The most attractive free agent on the market, Bryce Harper, remains available but the Yankees have never been connected to him this off-season at any point like they were with Machado (much to the chagrin of the Yankees fan base). Not only is Harper an excellent player, he has that star quality about him (the “it” factor). Bryce is deserving of a contract equal to or greater than the one Machado received from the Padres. Given that Giancarlo Stanton’s huge deal with the Miami Marlins a few years ago (13 years for $325 million) was an extension, Machado’s contract is considered the most lucrative free agent contract in MLB history. Still, I am sure Harper’s agent, Scott Boras, has every intent to beat the dollar value of Stanton’s deal. While it would make sense for Harper to receive a 10-year, $325 million contract, I’ll take the over with the involvement of Boras. Perhaps Bryce signs a deal for $330 or $335 million or even a little higher. I’d argue that even these dollars make sense for the Yankees. They can certainly afford it while still paying its pending free agents and extending other young players as they reach arbitration like they did with ace Luis Severino. The Yankees are not exactly tapped out on capital like the Chicago Cubs apparently are.  I am not getting my hopes up about Harper or any last-minute play by the Yankees but signing him does make sense to me.  Drop Harper in the batting order between Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton and let’s go. I’d love to see what that lineup could do to the American League.

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Photo Credit: Katherine Frey

The Steamer projection for Harper in the 2019 season is 34 home runs and 93 RBIs with a batting line of .267/.399/.528 and .927 OPS. His WAR is projected at 4.8, which is well below guys like Mike Trout (8.5) and Mookie Betts (7.2) but above Stanton (4.4) and Judge (4.6). Steamer projects Harper to have the second best wRC+ (Weighted Runs Created Plus) at 148, trailing only Trout (180). I don’t need to lay out Brett Gardner’s projected stats to say those numbers would represent a huge upgrade in left field. Probably the only way that Harper doesn’t make sense is if the plan is play Stanton in the field more this year. All I know is we need a better option than Brett Gardner.  It would be wonderful if Clint Frazier shows that he is up for the task and can stay healthy. I’d love for him to grab the position from Gardy, who fits this roster best as its fourth outfielder. Given the players in camp right now, Frazier is the best option. The downside, if Frazier misses any time with injury, there’s not much in the way of a backup plan other than start Gardy every day or play Stanton in the field (which is always a risk for a player that carried the injury label until his huge 2017 NL MVP season).

The current players on the projected 25-man roster that scare me the most are Frazier (for health concerns), Troy Tulowitzki (health concerns, rust, age regression), Greg Bird (health concerns, inability to hold sustained success), and Luis Cessa (not very good, self-explanatory). If Tulo is not up to the task and shows that he cannot recapture past success, the Yankees can easily move Gleyber Torres to shortstop and insert DJ LeMahieu as the starting second baseman. The downside is the lack of a strong utility player under that scenario. The best roster option appears to be Tyler Wade who, to date, has not really shown much at the Major League level. I had hoped for a strong glove-first signing like Adeiny Hechevarria but the New York Mets scooped him up a few days ago. Maybe Wade can prove to be the guy or perhaps Thairo Estrada can show something in camp now that he’s healthy. If Bird fails, I am not too concerned. I think Luke Voit will hold his own at first base. The ideal scenario, to me, is for Bird to outperform Voit and get his left-handed bat into the lineup. For as critical as I’ve been of Bird, there’s no question he has a beautiful swing.  Bird has the talent to succeed even if we’ve grown impatient waiting for it to happen but Voit is no slouch and I do feel that he’ll build off his successful late season run last year and not turn out to be the latest incarnation of Kevin Maas. I am not crazy about going into the season with Cessa as the designated swingman in the bullpen. I’d prefer for Jonathan Loaisiga to overcome the health concerns that engulf his potential and have him break camp as part of the Opening Day roster. I’ve seen enough of Cessa and I’m ready to move on. While I think Cessa could be better in short relief, I don’t really want to see him as the team’s emergency starter. Since he’s out of options, Cessa either must make the team or pack his bags. Despite his faults, he would be claimed on waivers by another team. I’d prefer a trade to at least get something for him. The Yankees are expected to made trades for additional bonus pool money so it’s possible Cessa could be part of that quest. It wouldn’t break my heart.

I am enjoying the Danny Farquhar story like everyone else but it seems to me his only hope to make the Opening Day roster is to outperform Tommy Kahnle.  Farquhar is a short reliever so he’s not an option for the last bullpen spot (long man/spot starter) which presently appears to be Cessa. With nothing against Farquhar, I really hope Kahnle proves during spring training that he can be the dependable reliever he was in 2017. Sure, if Kahnle is a disaster again like last year, let Farquhar take his job but I really hope that’s not the case. I’ve been a Kahnle fan since his early days in the Yankees’ farm system and I’d really like to see him be a valuable and contributing member of Baseball’s best bullpen.

As tough as it was to see former Yankees great Jorge Posada in Marlins camp wearing their new gear, I am grateful Carlos Beltran is in Yankees camp. He has so much to offer the young players. I can’t help but think top prospect Estevan Florial benefits the most from Beltran’s presence and that’s a wonderful thing. Clint Frazier is certainly another player who would be wise to pick Beltran’s brain. Beltran may not have the Yankees pedigree like Posada, but he’s an invaluable resource and the game is better with his involvement in any capacity.

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I am really looking forward to Saturday’s exhibition opener against the Boston Red Sox in Fort Myers, FL.  The downside is that we’ll see names like Ryan Lavarnway, Billy Burns and/or Matt Lipka but at least it will be “Yankees” on the field playing the game of baseball as opposed to us watching videos of PFP or the coaches playing fungo with the infielders on practice fields.

Lastly, I was saddened to see the passing of former Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers great Don Newcombe yesterday. The Dodgers announced Newcombe died Tuesday morning at age 92 following a lengthy illness.  Newcombe was MLB’s first black pitcher to win 20 games. He accomplished the feat in 1951, after winning 17 and 19 games the preceding two years (including earning NL Rookie of the Year honors for the 17-win campaign in 1949). He helped the Dodgers win the World Series in 1955 but his greatest season was the next year when he finished 27-7 with 3.06 ERA. He had 12 complete games and 5 shutouts. He won the NL Cy Young and MVP Awards that year, but lost the deciding Game 7 of the 1956 World Series to the Yankees, giving up two early home runs to Yogi Berra. For his career, “Newk” was 149-90 with 1,129 strikeouts and a 3.56 ERA over a 10-year MLB career.  Missed two seasons in the early 1950’s to serve our military in the Korean War. He was a great Dodger and a better man. May he rest in peace.

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Photo Credit: Luis Sinco-Los Angeles Times

As always, Go Yankees!

False Start by the Pinstripers…

Photo Credit: TNS (John Sleezer)

Yanks fall to Royals…

My fear after nearly a week of no Yankees baseball is that they’d go ‘thud’ against one of the worst teams in the American League. Sadly, my fear became reality when the Yankees lost Friday night against the lowly Kansas City Royals, 5-2. It was a close game but, at least for me, it never felt like the Yankees were in it.  For Royals manager Ned Yost, it was his 1,100th career managerial victory.

Photo Credit: TNS (John Sleezer)

It’s been a tough week for the Yankees. They played their way to a 3-3 tie with the Washington Nationals through 5 1/2 innings on Tuesday, only to have the game suspended for rain. The rain wiped out the resumption of the suspended game and the regularly scheduled one the next day, leaving the Yankees to spend the night at Washington Dulles International Airport due to the unavailability of hotel accommodations.  They had an off day on Thursday but it didn’t help. There were no extra base hits to be found in Yankee bats last night. Eight singles equated to two runs and a loss. The legendary Jake Junis (who?) gets the win, and CC Sabathia gets saddled with his first loss of the young season.

When an uncharacteristic error was made by Gleyber Torres in the first inning which allowed the Royals to pick up the game’s first run, it felt like it was not going to be the Yankees’ night.

Photo Credit: TNS (John Sleezer)

I guess if there was any solace about the loss, the Boston Red Sox lost too. Boston fell 7-4 to Alex Cobb and the Baltimore Orioles so the Red Sox and Yankees remain tied atop of the AL East standings. The Red Sox have two more wins than the Yankees (30 to 28), but the Yankees have the slight advantage in winning percentage (.683 to .667) thanks to two fewer losses (13 to 15). It would have been nice for the Yankees to have won to create a game advantage but today is a new day. On paper, Luis Severino (6-1, 2.14 ERA) versus Danny Duffy (1-5, 6.51 ERA) looks like a mismatch. Of course, those tend to be the ones we struggle with the most.

The Didi Gregorius for MVP talk has subsided with his 1-for-45 slide. Hopefully, he’ll rediscover his stroke while the team is in Kansas City. April’s Player of the Month has been MIA in May.

Photo Credit: New York Daily News (Howard Simmons)

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a player on the DL incur so many consecutive injuries while out as Jacoby DL’s-bury. The latest ailment for Ellsbury seems to be a back injury. I’ve forgotten the original reason he was placed on the DL or the variety of injuries that have subsequently sidelined him. Maybe I am just looking forward to the day the Steinbrenner family says enough is enough and they pull the trigger to cut bait despite the cost. The guy is nearly untradeable (IDK, is that a word or was it just made up for Ellsbury?). At this point, even if the Yankees back up a Brink’s truck to haul oodles of cash to another team to take the disabled veteran, there would be no takers. The true travesty would be for Ellsbury to actually get healthy and take a 25-man roster spot from a more deserving player. I am ready for Ellsbury’s post-Yankees career.

Speaking of the DL, a good Yankees center fielder is lost until August. Top prospect Estevan Florial (technically, Gleyber Torres is the top prospect but since he’s in the Major Leagues to stay and will soon lose prospect status, Florial is the top prospect by default) will be out for a few months after it was determined that he’ll need surgery on his hamate bone (right hand, unlike the illustration below).

Hopefully all goes well with Florial’s surgery and recovery and this is not a roadblock or delay for his eventual arrival in the Bronx within the next few years.

Another injured player made a triumphant return yesterday. Greg Bird, on rehab assignment with Double-A Trenton, homered off Bowie Baysox reliever Reid Love in the eighth inning of a 2-0 Thunder win. There’s no doubt Bird will soon be back with the big league club and he’ll be a welcome addition. With no offense to Tyler Austin or Neil Walker, I can’t wait to see Bird manning first base for the Bombers once again.

Photo Credit: New York Post (Corey Sipkin)

Billy McKinney also had two hits for the Thunder as he works his way back too, but the roster crunch will send him to Scranton, PA when he is ready.

Given how long it has been since Dellin Betances last pitched, you just know that he is going to implode the next time out. Betances last threw an inning of relief in the 6-2 win over the Oakland A’s on May 13th. I always cringe whenever there are extended delays between appearances for Betances.

In a non-baseball related topic, here is a shameless plug for a new TV series that will air on FX Network this fall, Mayans MC.

Mayans MC stars J.D. Pardo, Emilio Rivera and Edward James Olmos. The show was created by Kurt Sutter and Elgin James, and is set in the post-Jax Teller Sons of Anarchy universe. The story focuses on the struggles of Ezekiel “EZ” Reyes (Pardo), a prospect in the Mayan MC Santo Padre charter on the California/Mexico border.  According to the official storyline, EZ is the gift son of a proud Latino family, who American dream was snuffed out by cartel violence. Now, his need for vengeance drives him toward a life he never intended and can never escape. Rivera reprises his SOA role as Marcus Alvarez, the President of the Mayans MC Oakland charter and the MC’s National President. Olmos plays EZ’s father, Felipe Reyes.  Michael Irby is featured as Obispo “Bishop” Losa, President of the Santo Padre charter. I’ve been tracking this show for several years now and it is exciting that it will finally be part of the Fall TV lineup.

Hopefully today brings the more resilient Yankees team we are familiar with as they’ve shaken off the rust from the long delay between games. The Yankees have proven they can beat the best teams in the American League. Now, they just need to prove they can beat the worst ones.

Go Yankees!

They Some Kind of Shut Us Down…

Photo Credit: Houston Chronicle (Karen Warren)

Astros win ALCS Rematch…

The headline of this post are Aaron Boone’s words, not mine.

I preface this by saying I know Spring games mean absolutely nothing. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say my fear of the Houston Astros is their starting pitching. I think the Yankees’ offense is equal to the World Champions. Some argue the Yankees are better while other put the Astros on top. Either way, both offenses will be among the very best in the game. Now, the starting pitching, at least in my opinion, is not quite so close.

Yesterday’s matchup featured the number five starters for both teams. For the Yankees, Jordan Montgomery gave up two solo home runs. Meanwhile, Houston’s Lance McCullers, Jr held the Yankees hitless until Miguel Andujar’s lead-off single in the bottom of the fifth inning. The Astros limited the Yankees to two hits, winning the game 2-0. The game felt like a microcosm of the difference between the Yankees and the Astros. Of course I didn’t actually get to “see” the game since it was not televised and I am not in Tampa. Manager Aaron Boone felt that Montgomery was “crisper” than earlier Spring starts.  Giving up two runs is not the end of the World and in fact it fits within the definition of a quality start (outside of the shortened number of innings for Spring starts).  A good start by Monty but a dominant one by the son of a former Yankee.

The top of the Yankees order (Brett Gardner, Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez, and Didi Gregorius) went 0-for-12, with five strikeouts.

I am not going to fret over a meaningless Spring game but it is the back end of the starting rotation that concerns me when you compare the Yankees to the Astros. Don’t get me wrong, I like Jordan Montgomery but seriously I’d rather have McCullers, Jr. The difference maker is the depth. The Astros have Brad Peacock and Colin McHugh, two very capable pitchers in reserve, if there are any injuries in the rotation. The Yankees have Luis Cessa and Domingo German. The top young prospects like Chance Adams and Justus Sheffield have shown they are not quite ready to be a force at the MLB level, now, even if we know they eventually will.

Maybe I am unnecessarily concerned about the rotation and the young guys will rise to the challenge if the chips are on the line. But if it was my team, I’d be trying to find a way to sign Alex Cobb, a ‘tried and true’ AL East pitcher.

Is Tyler Austin bound for Scranton?…

I was wrong yesterday when I said that Ronald Torreyes might be the one most adversely impacted by Neil Walker’s presence on the roster.  After hearing Boone’s words yesterday, it sounds like the guy who should be most concerned about making the Opening Day roster is Tyler Austin. Boonie sounds like he is comfortable with a second base tandem of Tyler Wade and Walker, finding regular at-bats for both, and indicated Walker is the one who could provide relief for Greg Bird at first base.

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)

I can’t really put my finger on it, but it has never seemed like the Yankees have fully embraced Austin despite his big hits. I know that health is part of it, but it just doesn’t seem like they want him on the MLB roster. I hope I am reading that wrong and Austin turns out to be a major contributor for the team this year.

Cave finds a home…

I have always liked Jake Cave but I recognized there was simply no room for the talented outfielder. I remember how excited he was to participate in Spring Training with the Cincinnati Reds as a Rule 5 draftee a couple of years ago. He started the Spring off strongly and was drawing raves, but he cooled off and was subsequently returned to the Yankees.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Rob Tringali)

After Cave was designated for assignment earlier in the week to make room for Neil Walker, the Yankees shipped the 25-year-old outfielder to the Minnesota Twins for young Dominican RHP Luis Gil, 19. Gil was not rated among the Twins top prospects and has yet to play outside of the Dominican leagues. He continues the Yankees trend of stockpiling young power arms with tremendous upside. Cave was inserted at #26 for the best Twins prospects by MLB.com, ahead of Twins outfielder and New York native Zack Granite.

In Minnesota, Cave is expected to help at the Major League Level or provide depth at Triple A. For his sake, I hope it’s the former. The Twins made statements yesterday they’ve been interested in Cave since last year’s Jaime Garcia trade. They noticed the power surge and it is something that they want to “keep on track” in the words of Twins manager Paul Molitor.

We wish Cave the very best as he continues his journey to reach the Major Leagues.

Speaking of finding jobs…

The Toronto Blue Jays have signed infielder Danny Espinosa, recently released by the Yankees, to a minor league contract with an invite to camp. Espinosa will have a very short time to prove that he belongs on the field when the Blue Jays open Rogers Centre on March 29th against Espinosa’s old club. The best way for an infielder to play in the Major Leagues? Find the team that employs Troy Tulowitzki. Tulo owns the DL in a way that only Jacoby Ellsbury understands.

The odds are probably against Espinosa this late in March so he’ll probably toil in Triple A until injuries open up big league opportunities.

Well, it’s Saturday. For most of us, that’s a day off. Nothing better than sitting back to watch a Yankees game on a lazy afternoon. Fortunately for us, today’s Spring game between the Yankees and the Detroit Tigers in Lakeland, Florida (1 pm Eastern) will be televised. Masahiro Tanaka on the mound and Estevan Florial in center field. It should be a fun day!

Photo Credit: Associated Press

Go Yankees!

Pondering Thoughts of Opening Day…

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“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.

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Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)

Since many are starting to project Opening Day lineups, I’ll toss in my own.

C-Gary Sanchez

1B-Greg Bird

2B-Tyler Wade (although I could buy into Danny Espinosa for the short term)

SS-Didi Gregorius

3B-Brandon Drury

LF-Brett Gardner

CF-Aaron Hicks

RF-Aaron Judge

DH-Giancarlo Stanton

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.

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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).

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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):

Albert Abreu

Domingo Acevedo

Miguel Andujar

Tyler Austin

Greg Bird

Jake Cave

Luis Cessa

Brandon Drury

Thairo Estrada

Clint Frazier

Giovanny Gallegos

Domingo German

Chad Green

Ben Heller

Kyle Higashioka

Jonathan Holder

Aaron Judge

Jonathan Loasiga

Billy McKinney

Jordan Montgomery

Gary Sanchez

Luis Severino

Gleyber Torres

Ronald Torreyes

Tyler Wade

 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.

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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.

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Photo Credit: MLB.com

One final note: I would like to see more Domingo German and less Luis Cessa, please.

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Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)

Go Yankees!