|Aaron Hicks / Photo Credit: UPI|
Red Sox Hardly Resemble Last October’s Champions…
Maybe Jared Carrabis is right and the Yankees can only beat bad teams. Case in point, the Yankees’ 4-1 win over the punchless Boston Red Sox. Seriously, I continue to be amazed by a team missing its top stars like Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Dellin Betances, Luis Severino, Didi Gregorius and Miguel Andujar. If you removed a half-dozen of their very best players, I am not sure the Minnesota Twins or the Houston Astros, the league leaders with 38 wins, would be where they are today. The Yankees sit one game back in wins at 37, and the second best overall record (winning percentage) behind the Twins.
|Gary Sanchez and Aroldis Chapman / Photo Credit: Julio Cortez, AP|
I can’t say enough great things about DJ LeMahieu. As much as I wanted Manny Machado last winter, I never complained about the Yankees’ signing of LeMahieu. Living in Denver, I was able to see, day in and day out, how great LeMahieu is. He’s not a vocal guy and simply lets his play do his talking for him. Game after game in Denver, you’d hear DJ’s teammates with the Rockies talk about how much he meant to the them. When Colorado’s best players, such as Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon, talked about how special LeMahieu was, you knew what you saw with your own eyes was the truth. The guy can play baseball. I am not saying LeMahieu is as good as or better than Machado, but LeMahieu is exactly what this team needs. I had really felt bad for LeMahieu in the off-season when so many Yankee fans were trashing him and most felt he was a product of Coors Field. Sorry, altitude does not improve the ability to hit. It may help balls carry but that’s never been DJ’s game. I am sure that sliders don’t slide or cutters don’t cut like they would at sea level but it still comes down to hand/eye coordination. In 51 games and 221 plate appearances for everybody’s favorite team, I believe LeMahieu has proven he can hit outside of the Mile High City. He is batting .317/.368/.462 with .355 wOBA and 121 wRC+. He has hit 6 home runs (a figure he has only exceeded twice in his career with 11 in 2016, the year he won the NL batting title, and 15 last year). Last night against the Red Sox, LeMahieu was 2-for-4 with a run-scoring double in the bottom of the third and a home run, a solo shot in the fifth, both off Red Sox starter Chris Sale, for two RBIs. He was dazzling with the leather too.
|DJ LeMahieu / Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac, Getty Images|
Daniel Burch of The Greedy Pinstripes was among the very first, if not the first, to suggest last Winter that LeMahieu to the Yanks made sense. I was unable to find the post or I would link it here. I am sure that Yankees special consultant Jim Hendry, the man responsible for originally drafting LeMahieu when he was the Chicago Cubs GM, already had his eyes on his former pupil. But Daniel had great vision for a fan, with no professional affiliation to the team, to see how nicely LeMahieu would fit into the Yankees’ lineup.
LeMahieu certainly has my vote for Yankees MVP at this point in the season. I am not trying to minimize the contributions Domingo German and Giovanny Urshela have made, or the resurrection of The Kraken in the Bronx. LeMahieu has helped solve last year’s problem with runners in scoring position. He has helped those guys who would have been stranded last year step on home plate on their way back to the dugout this season.
After the game last night, Manager Aaron Boone said “He’s out there to rip your heart out” after prefacing it by saying not to be fooled by DJ’s quiet demeanor. When asked about Boone’s comment, DJ just smiled and said “I don’t know about that”. I mentioned it to a friend, a die-hard Rockies fan, and she said “That’s DJ…quiet and mighty. He is pretty humble guy”. Humble or not, I’d hate to think where this team would be without LeMahieu.
With Didi Gregorius set to rejoin the Yankees soon, DJ’s role will change since Gleyber Torres will slide from shortstop to second base, but there’s no way the Yankees can remove DJ’s name from the lineup card. I think he’ll see most of his time at third base, but his versatility allows the Yankees to put him at first and drop Louis Linwood Voit III in at DH. Based on this, Kendrys Morales would be the guy I’d cut to make room for Didi. Use the DH as a revolving door for starters to keep a spot open for LeMahieu. I am sure Didi will see a fair share amount of time at DH as he works his way back although it’s incredible to think how great the Yankees will be defensively on the left side with Didi at short and either Gio Urshela or LeMahieu at third. Not trying to take anything away from the brilliant job Torres has done at short, but Didi is my shortstop…until he’s not. I really hope the Yankees move to sign him to an extension now that he’s healthy. The potential for a lack of motivation by the Yankees exists given how well Torres and LeMahieu performed as the keystone combo. I am not complaining about how well they played but I really do not want to lose Didi after this season.
|Scranton/Wilkes-Barre “Red Barons” Shortstop 5-31-19 / Photo Credit: Jason Farmer, The Citizen’s Voice|
With the calendar page turning to June, the talk about Dallas Keuchel should intensify. Well, it’s been intensifying for weeks but now that the MLB Draft is upon us in a couple of days and the drop of the qualifying offer/draft pick compensation attached to Keuchel, Keuchel’s market should finally form since the only cost will be money. If you believe Keuchel’s agent, Scott Boras, Keuchel is nearly in plug-and-play condition and would not require much time to get ready. Boras would never lead us astray, would he? Honestly, I’ve never been too excited about Keuchel and feel he is regressed from that pitcher that used to absolutely dominate the Yankees. But, there’s no denying he is still a good pitcher and could help. If the Yankees don’t sign him, I could easily see the Tampa Bay Rays or Boston Red Sox make the move. I’d rather have Keuchel pitch for us than against us. If you told me that I could have either Madison Bumgarner, for prospects, or Keuchel, for money, I’d take the latter. The Yankees need rotation help as there are still too many questions with the current rotation. I’d take Max Scherzer, with the high cost in prospects, above all, but that’s a topic for next month’s trade deadline.
Everyone has been talking about how the Yankees blew it by not signing Patrick Corbin last winter. I recognize that he started off very well in Washington, but last night’s line was very ugly. 65 pitches in 2 2/3rd innings which led to 11 hits for the Cincinnati Reds and 8 runs (6 earned). Corbin still has a decent overall ERA at 3.46 but it’s not as nice as it was entering the game. I know, there’s no pitcher immune from a bad game but it’s reinforcement about how fickle pitching can be. We saw it yesterday in pushing perennial Cy Young candidate Chris Sale’s record to 1-7 despite Sale’s 10 strikeouts. @Eric_M888 had the best tweet after the game: “Can’t spell saLLLLLLLe without 7 L’s”.
|Sandy Leon and Chris SaLLLLLLLe / Photo Credit: Julio Cortez, AP|
This is not a game recap but I’d be remiss for not calling out the great throw by Gary Sanchez with two outs and two on to nail former Yank Eduardo Nunez off second base for the final out in the top of the fifth. The Red Sox could have done some damage with the bat in the hands of Andrew Benintendi, who likes Yankee Stadium dingers, but it was not to be. It was simply a fantastic play by Sanchez, showing off his brilliant arm, but give equal credit to Gleyber Torres for the across the bag swipe of Nunez a split second before his hand reached the bag. The reaction by Torres was priceless and I am sure it will be a highlight replayed again and again as the season progresses. I felt that was the true turning point of the game.
|Gary Sanchez / Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke|
Thanks to the win and a Rays loss (5-3 to the Minnesota Twins), the Yankees (37-19) moved up to a game and a half lead over the Rays in the AL East. The Red Sox are 8 1/2 games back. The Yankees’ record in May (20-7) was the best since their magical 1998 season. A successful June can start today with a win. Domingo German (9-1, 3.43 ERA) goes for his tenth win after failing last week against the Kansas City Royals. He’ll be opposed by Rick Porcello (4-4, 4.41 ERA). I’d really like to see German nail down that tenth win but as long as the Yankees emerge victorious, I will be happy.
As always, Go Yankees!
|Photo Credit: Julio Cortez/AP|
Aaron Judge becomes latest Casualty…
There was immediate concern when Aaron Judge arrived at first base after his single in the bottom of the sixth and you could tell he was in pain. Even as Head Trainer Steve Donahue came out and they removed Judge from the game, there was hope it was only a precautionary move with a fairly comfortable lead over the Kansas City Royals. But when Judge dropped the F bomb as he walked through the dugout, it signaled this was worst case scenario. Although no timetables have been given, the left oblique injury will keep Judge away for awhile.
|Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images|
Of all the injuries the Yankees have suffered this year, I had felt that Aaron Judge was the guy the team could least afford to lose. Gleyber Torres probably runs a close second, but Judge is the ideal right fielder for this team and its heart and soul. It was no fun last summer when we lost Judge for an extended period as a result of the fractured wrist, courtesy of a Jakob Junis pitch. But at time, at least the team had Giancarlo Stanton to step into right. As the team prepares to play today, there are only three outfielders on the team. Brett Gardner, Mike Tauchman, and Clint Frazier. The role of the fourth outfielder will be filled by infielder Tyler Wade, who has not exactly set the World on fire with his bat this season.
With the placement of Judge on the Injured List today, there will be an unlucky 13 players on the list. Fortunately, Gary Sanchez will back soon. He is expected to play a minor league rehab game on Monday before being activated on Wednesday. The Yankees head for Anaheim, California to begin a four-game set with the Los Angeles Angels tomorrow so Sanchez should be ready by the third game. Giancarlo Stanton is expected to return sometime during the upcoming road trip but he’s a little further out than Sanchez. The road trip concludes in Phoenix, Arizona on May 1st. The sooner, the better but we need to make sure that Stanton is 100% ready to go to avoid any setbacks.
The Yankees have very limited outfield depth in the system. Everyone knows that top prospect Estevan Florial fractured his wrist in Spring Training and is still recovering so he’s not even a thought (not that he should have been…yet…anyway). The five outfielders listed on the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre roster are Trey Amburgey, Billy Burns, Omar Carrizales (who?), Matt Lipka, and Zack Zehner. Available free agents include Jose Bautista, Matt Holliday, Austin Jackson, Denard Span, Danny Valencia and Chris Young. In other words, there is no help on the horizon other than the return to good health for those on the IL. The only other option is trade, but most teams are reluctant to trade this early in the season. I keep hearing Justin Smoak’s name. No doubt he’d provide a productive bat to pair with Luke Voit at first base and DH, but the Toronto Blue Jays are only a game behind the Yankees and they certainly smell the blood in the water. Not that the Jays have World Series aspirations this year and they’ve already parted with Kevin Pillar (traded to San Francisco on April 2nd) but I don’t think they’d actively help the Yankees at this point even if the teams have been receptive to inter-division trades in the past.
I am not sure what to think at this point. You can only hope the team treads water until the injured stars begin their return to the active roster. It’s hard to look at the current roster and say, ‘Oh yeah, this team is winning the World Series this year’. I am glad that Clint Frazier and recently Mike Tauchman have stepped up but it’s going to take more from the other replacement players. I can’t say that I am overly optimistic. The Yankees can simply not afford to lose any more players at this point. They are stretched as far as they can without outside help. It is imperative that the injured players come back soon but the risk is rushing them back too soon. I guess these are the times that GM Brian Cashman and his staff truly earn their paychecks. With so much bad news lately, I could really use some good news about now. At least we have the NFL Draft later in the week.
With Judge’s injury, yesterday’s 9-2 win over the Royals actually felt like a loss. There was certainly no joy after the game. I was glad the team evened its record at 10-10 but sadly the future, at this moment in time, seems hazy. The Boston Red Sox elevated themselves out of the AL East Cellar yesterday with their second consecutive victory over the division-leading Tampa Bay Rays. With such uncertainty surrounding the Yankees, I’d hate to see the Red Sox go on a roll. There’s no doubt the rash of injuries should make for a reliable battle-tested bench later in the season but that’s hardly any consolation on the 21st day of April. The coming days and weeks will go a long way toward determining how this season will play out. If there was ever a time for the team to unite and persevere through adversity, this is it. At the moment, Yankee Stadium feels a little like Winterfell as the Night King and his Army of the Dead close in for the kill.
To talk a moment about Saturday’s game, it is unfortunate that a Yankee fan interfered with the fly ball to left by Gleyber Torres in the bottom of the third inning. Initially ruled a home run, the call was overturned upon review and Torres was ruled out due to the interference. I agree the fan leaned over the wall so clearly by definition it was interference, but I honestly do not feel Royals outfielder Alex Gordon would have caught the ball. Replay seemed to show the ball just an inch or two beyond his reach. Fortunately, the Yankees didn’t need the three-run homer but I feel bad for Gleyber in losing a home run courtesy of a fan. On the other hand, the fan probably didn’t appreciate the free escort out of the stadium by Security. Tough situation since I feel I probably would have reached for the ball without thinking, like most of us, in that situation too. Aaron Judge hit his fifth home run before he was lost to us. The Yankees also got homers from Clint Frazier, Mike Tauchman, and with his first as a Yankee, DJ LeMahieu. It was a great bounce-back game for Masahiro Tanaka who lost on a grand slam last Sunday. Tanaka went seven innings, giving up only four hits and a run. He walked three and struck out seven to improve his record to 2-1. I thought his ability to leave the lightning quick Billy Hamilton stranded at third after Hamilton’s lead off triple in the top of the third inning (a ball that went under the glove of the defensively-challenged Luke Voit at first) was huge.
The Yankees conclude their four-game series with the Royals today. They’ll send James Paxton (2-2, 3.91 ERA) to the mound. He’ll be opposed by Jorge Lopez (0-2, 4.30 ERA). The Yankees could really use a series win as they embark on the nine-game West Coast trip to Anaheim, San Francisco and Phoenix. Hopefully the remaining healthy players can provide Paxton with the necessary support for his third win of the season.
As expected, Gio Gonzalez exercised the opt-out in his minor league contract. The Yankees have until tomorrow to either elect to promote Gonzalez to the Major League roster or let him go. I fully expect the latter. No doubt he’ll get a big league job soon but it won’t be in the Bronx. Too bad he can’t play the outfield.
As always, Go Yankees! And please, stay healthy.
|Photo Credit: Anthony J Causi/NY Post|
Up and Down Start Continues…
It was an uneven week to say the least. Sure, it was great to sweep the two-game series in the Bronx against the dreaded Boston Red Sox but to follow up with lackluster play in the first game of the Kansas City Royals series was disappointing. It’s easy to blame the high number of injuries for the slow start but there’s no excuse for not playing hard every game. Fortunately, the Yankees rebounded last night to beat the Royals, 6-2, behind CC Sabathia (1-0), the bullpen and a couple of dingers.
|Photo Credit: Mike Stobe/Getty Images|
I’ll admit it. I was one who didn’t feel the Yankees should have re-signed Sabathia this past off-season. For as much as Sabathia has meant to the Yankees over the years and his invaluable role as team leader/mentor, I thought his spot in the rotation could be improved upon. I was wrong and that’s perfectly okay. Sabathia has continued to surprise me with his late career renaissance. When he encountered the knee problems a few years ago, I didn’t think he would be able to reinvent himself as a pitcher, yet he did. I am enjoying Sabathia’s final ride and pleased he’ll do it in Pinstripes. I don’t know his post-career plans but I am hopeful the Yankees find a role for him. I am not sure he can continue to pitch like he has in his first couple of starts but there’s no doubt he’ll give his team a chance to win every time he takes the hill.
We came into the season with such high hopes. For a few years now, we’ve looked at 2019 as the year the Yankees would arrive to capture their 28th World Series Championship. Then, player after player found his way to the now-massive Injured List and the team has struggled out of the gate. Someone asked Mike Axisa on his River Ave Blues chat yesterday how many wins this Yankees team (as currently constructed without the return of any of the men on the Injured List) could achieve and he responded with 84. He’s not wrong. You can’t lose so many superstars without an adverse impact. The big question is who would step up to take advantage of opportunity due to the missing stars.
So far, the award for best replacement player has to be Clint Frazier. There are many who still feel that Frazier’s future lies outside of Pinstripes but I am glad to see him potentially have his breakout year. I’ve been a critic and not exactly an admirer of his social media skills. But we’re starting to see the player GM Brian Cashman saw a few years ago when he sent reliever Andrew Miller to the Cleveland Indians. In fifteen games covering 57 plate appearances, he has 4 homers, 12 RBIs, and is hitting .327/.351/.577 with a great 145 wRC+. His arm was on display last night in right field when he fired a 95 mph throw to catcher Kyle Higashioka on the third base line to nail Martin Maldonado who had tried to score after tagging up at third in the third inning. For as much as Brett Gardner has done to help the Yankees win this week, there’s no question the future of left field should reside with Frazier. When Giancarlo Stanton returns to take DH and Aaron Hicks is back in center field, it should be time for Gardy to move to the bench. Maybe Frazier is just rebuilding his stock for an inevitable trade for starting pitching but I honestly I hope not. I’d like to see him thrive in the Bronx. His time is now.
|Photo Credit: Kathy Willens/AP|
While there won’t be room for him on the big league roster when Stanton and Hicks return, it’s nice to see left fielder Mike Tauchman hit a couple of home runs this week. It’s amazing that he was never able to launch one at Coors Field in his young career. I know, he was only given limited opportunities with the Rox but there’s no question his swing would have played well at 5,280 feet if he had been given more chances. With the Rockies running into their own string of injuries, I can’t help but wonder if they wished they had held onto Tauchman.
I fully expect the Yankees to let pitcher Gio Gonzalez walk when he formally opts out of his minor league contract this weekend. While I’d prefer the experienced Gonzalez over Domingo German for the long haul, German has certainly pitched well enough to retain his spot in the rotation despite his rocky start last Thursday. I think my biggest concern in the rotation right now (aside of Luis Severino’s absence) is the performance of J.A. Happ. It’s unfortunate the Yankees do not have more time with Gonzalez to keep him available if Happ continues to struggle. I don’t see Gonzalez extending his minor league contract with the Yankees and I do not see the Yankees bringing him up only to serve as a long man out of the pen. I think there are starting opportunities for him with other teams (like the New York Mets who just placed the great Jacob deGrom on the Injured List). He’ll get a starting gig somewhere. So, Gio, thanks for the memories. Sorry you didn’t the chance to wear Pinstripes in Yankee Stadium but it’s probably best the Yankees didn’t need you during your short stay.
Speaking of minor league contracts, I am not sure what I think about the Yankees signing first baseman Logan Morrison to a minors deal yesterday. It’s hard to let go of his comments from the past. I know Gary Sanchez has moved on with his comments yesterday that the Home Run Derby (when LoMo questioned the choice of Sanchez over him) was two years ago. But LoMo attacked Yankee fans with his infamous “you can’t fix stupid” remark. I don’t think I am as forgiving as El Gary. I am not sure LoMo will ever get a chance to wear the Pinstripes (he has a July 1st opt-out) but if he does, he owes an apology to the Yankees fan base and to the team for his ill-advised prior comments. It’s hard to criticize LoMo for his poor 2018 with the Minnesota Twins which ended with hip surgery but he is only a season removed from 38 jacks. If he could be that guy, he would certainly be an improvement over Mike Ford as backup first baseman.
With the impending return of Gary Sanchez in the next few days and hopefully Giancarlo Stanton by the end of the month, I am hopeful the Yankees can get on a roll. Today, the Yankees will send Masahiro Tanaka (1-1, 3.22 ERA) to the mound. He’ll be opposed by RHP Heath Fillmyer (0-0, 9.00 ERA). Tanaka will look to erase memories of that grand slam that did him in last Sunday in the 5-2 loss to the Chicago White Sox. We keep saying it but so far the Yankees have failed to capitalize, they need to beat teams like the Royals. Handed a soft schedule to start the year, I never dreamed that we’d still be chasing a .500 mark nearly a month into the season. But all things considered, it’s nothing that a nice 10-game winning streak can’t cure.
I just saw the news that the Miami Marlins fired their hitting coach, former Yankees third baseman Mike Pagliarulo, after their game last night. I hate to say it, but I think the days are numbered for Marlins manager Don Mattingly. Despite his Yankee connections, I think Marlins CEO Derek Jeter will move to get his own guy in the dugout at some point. In my humble opinion, odds are greater Jorge Posada will be Marlins manager next year over Mattingly. It’s unfortunate because Mattingly was my favorite Yankee during his playing career, and I’ve been a fan since those days ended. To replace Pags as hitting coach, the Marlins appointed Jeff Livesey as his replacement. Livesey is son of former Yankees executive Bill Livesey. Livesey will be assisted by one-time Yankees top prospect Eric Duncan.
Okay Yankees, we need a win today. Please bring home the “W” to even your record at 10-10. We want this, you want this. Make it happen.
As always, Go Yankees!
|(Photo Credit: Julie Jacobson/AP)|
OK, it wasn’t quite that bad…
The Yankees got a great pitching performance from new Yankee James Paxton…and lose. It wasn’t exactly how it was planned to go down. I guess Sonny Gray left behind his lack of run support and they assigned to the Big Maple. The Yankees tried to make a comeback but those two insurance runs the Baltimore Orioles tacked on in the top of the ninth were too much to overcome as the Yankees dropped their first game of the season, 5-3.
The range of emotions from Yankee fans were from ‘big deal, it’s the second game of the season’ to ‘OMG, the season is lost!’. I guess you could put me somewhere in the middle. I simply hate to lose winnable games. When the season is done, the Baltimore will most likely have the most losses of any team in either league. Yet, if they win today, they win their first series of the season against a team expected to make noise in October. The Yankees need to win these games. Yes, it is only one game but these types of games can accumulate to a significant amount over the course of a 162-game schedule. I don’t like to lose. I know, I had better learn to deal with 60 losses, give or take, over the course of the summer but it doesn’t mean I have to like it. But after all these years, losing doesn’t get any easier when you are a Yankee fan.
Credit to the Orioles for using an Opener to keep the Yankee bats at bay. Nate Karns started his first game since 2017 and pitched the first two innings. The Yankees had him on the ropes with the bases loaded in the bottom of the first inning with only one out, but Miguel Andujar hit into an inning-ending double play.
|(Photo Credit: Bill Kostroun/NY Post)|
New Jersey’s own Jimmy Yacabonis pitched the next three innings, giving up only a run, to earn the win for the O’s.
Meanwhile, Chad Green and Jonathan Holder failed to keep the Orioles off the scoreboard in the later innings and despite the two-run rally in the bottom of the ninth, the Yankees walked off the field wondering what could have been. So much for the shutdown bullpen that’s going to end games early.
Troy Tulowitzki hit the only Yankee homer, a solo shot in the ninth off former Yank Richard Bleier.
I thought it was a great game for D.J. LeMahieu, who started at third base with Miguel Andujar taking over DH duties. LeMahieu was 2-for-4 with one RBI and a run scored. He flashed his superior leather more than a few times at third, and looked like a veteran at the position. I was in a Denver, Colorado retail shop late yesterday afternoon wearing my Yankee cap, and the clerk commented to me he couldn’t believe the Yankees paid LeMahieu all that money to be a utility player. I agree. With no offense to Troy Tulowitzki, the greater commitment should be for LeMahieu, even if it pushes Gleyber Torres to shortstop until Didi Gregorius returns. A home run by Tulo is not going to change my opinion. I do like LeMahieu at third and Andujar at DH so I hope that’s a frequent option although Giancarlo Stanton needs his time at DH as well. Although LeMahieu has not played much third in the Majors, it was his most frequent position in the Minors so it’s not like he has rarely played there. It’s just been a few years. He’ll shake off the rust.
The Yankees committed three costly errors in the game. Gary Sanchez bounced a throw past Gleyber Torres covering second base in the sixth inning which allowed a run to score. D.J. LeMahieu bounced a throw to Luke Voit at first base which Voit couldn’t handle, for a throwing error, in the top of the ninth inning, allowing Joey Rickard, leading off the inning, to reach second base. He would eventually score an unearned run. Voit had a throwing error earlier in the game (top of the 2nd) which didn’t cause any damage. After tagging first base on a grounder by Rio Ruiz, Voit tried to make an off-balance throw to second to complete the double play but the ball sailed widely to the left, allowing the baserunner, Joey Rickard, to race to third. Fortunately, that was as far as Rickard would get.
James Paxton (0-1) took the tough luck loss. His final line was 5 2/3 innings, four hits, two runs (one earned), a walk and five strikeouts. He threw 82 pitches, one less than Masahiro Tanaka on Thursday and worked at a very quick and efficient pace. He certainly deserved to win and on most days he would have. He’ll get that first Yankee win soon with pitching performances like this.
|(Photo Credit: Julie Jacobson/AP)|
Okay, I’ll let the game go. It was just one game. I get it. The Yankees (1-1) complete the series today with the Orioles. J.A. Happ takes the ball for the Pinstripers while he’ll be opposed by Baltimore’s Dylan Bundy. Hopefully, Happ continues his win streak as a Yankee for at least one more game.
I followed the score of the Red Sox-Mariners game last night and was pleased when Seattle extended their lead to 6-2 on a three-run homer by Jay Bruce in the fifth inning. Then, in the 9th, it all fall apart for the M’s with three errors by third baseman Dylan Moore, filling in for the injured Kyle Seager. The Sox rallied for three runs and had the tying run at third base and go-ahead run at first with two outs, but former Yankee prospect Nick Rumbelow struck out Xander Bogaerts to end the game and preserve Seattle’s victory. Whew! Boston was almost gifted another win. Seattle’s defense looked like the Keystone Cops in that final inning.
|(Photo Credit: Dean Rutz/Seattle Times)|
Today is a good day for a Pinstriped victory.
As always, Go Yankees!
Photo Credit: Hearst Connecticut Media (Scott Mullin), via Stamford Advocate
One holiday down, one to go…
It’s the day after Christmas and there are still a number of questions yet to be answered for the New York Yankees. Sure, the Yankees acquired left-hander James Paxton from the Seattle Mariners in November and they re-signed LHP J.A. Happ earlier this month but we’re the ‘what have you done for me lately’ crowd.
When will the Yankees sign infielder Manny Machado? As we’ve been told, Machado does not intend to make any decisions until after the first of the year. Does that mean we’ll know something on January 2nd? Probably not. This thing could drag out for days or weeks into January before it plays out. I feel the team needs to brace itself for Plan B in the event Machado takes the money from Philadelphia or Chicago and runs (well, in his case, slowly jogs). Although I am not excited about the idea, the Yankees should consider signing Troy Tulowitski but they’d be foolish to rest their hopes on Tulo as a Didi Gregorius “fill-in”. I really like the diversity of Marwin Gonzalez and he has a championship pedigree thanks to his role in helping the Houston Astros win it all in 2017. I’m not excited about moving Gleyber Torres temporarily off second base to cover for Didi at short, but a second baseman like D.J. LeMahieu or Jed Lowrie could help this team. I think Brian Dozier has seen his better days so that’s a hard pass for me. Neil Walker, I’ve already seen that show. It’s probably not outside the realm of possibility the Yankees decide to stay in-house and give Tyler Wade, Thairo Estrada, and Hanser Alberto opportunities during Spring Training. For a team ready to contend for the World Series, I hope not. There’s too much at stake for the Yankees to come up, pardon the pun, short.
When will the Yankees focus on the bullpen? The obvious answer is now. With Machado’s decision pushed off until next week at the earliest, I really wish the Yankees would fill at least one of the two vacancies this week. With each passing day, there is an increasing likelihood that David Robertson, Adam Ottavino and Zach Britton sign elsewhere. It really sucks listening to St Louis Cardinals fans and players talk about how excited they are to have Andrew Miller. As much as I like Robertson, I don’t really get the sense he is a priority for the Yankees, therefore, I really hope they are actively working with the agents for Ottavino and Britton. I know Britton has the potential to get “closer” money, but we need his talent and skills in the Yankees bullpen. Last year showed that we cannot place 100% faith in Aroldis Chapman and his problematic knee. Dellin Betances did a fine job, but I prefer to keep him in a setup role which means we need a proven backup closer to help Chappy. Ottavino has closed and certainly offers that ability, but I’d rather see Britton return among the two choices. Healthy, he is ready to dominate once again. But I won’t be disappointed if Ottavino is the one.
Photo Credit: Getty Images
Do the Yankees need to bring in another starter? Quite simply, the answer is yes. Perhaps the Yankees are convinced Jonathan Loaisiga is the solution for the role of “sixth man”. But he’s about as much of a question mark as the starting rotation itself. Loaisiga is a talented pitcher but until he can prove the ability to stay healthy, he’s going to carry the injury-risk label. Starting with the back end of the rotation, CC Sabathia is expected to be ready for Spring Training but realistically the Yankees need to prepare for other options in the event CC suffers any setbacks. Encountering heart problems at 38 is never a good sign and we do not know how Sabathia will hold up to the rigors of a 162-game schedule. J.A. Happ was solid for the Yankees down the stretch, but he’s 36. A smart pitcher, yes, but a year closer to retirement. With Masahiro Tanaka, you know we’ll eventually hear “he needs Tommy John surgery”. We’ve been living on borrowed time and it is inevitable he’ll eventually need the surgery to continue. Despite a successful 2018 campaign, James Paxton carries his own injury concerns. Luis Severino is perhaps the pitcher with the fewest question marks but he needs to overcome his second half regression from last season. The Yankees need a bona fide starter to serve as the long man/spot starter. I really hope the 2019 answer is not Luis Cessa or A.J. Cole.
Why is Sonny Gray still on this team? I really thought Gray would be an ex-Yankee before 2019 but we’re running out of time. There has presumably been strong interest in Gray, with as many as eleven teams expressing interest, but GM Brian Cashman has yet to receive an enticing offer. Although I am surprised he hasn’t been traded yet, I fully expect Gray to be gone before pitchers and catchers report to Tampa, FL on February 13th. I think many fans were hopeful the Yankees could package Gray with a few high end prospects to grab Cincinnati’s Scooter Gennett but I think that ship has sailed. With the Reds acquiring Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, and Alex Wood from the Los Angeles Dodgers last week, the team is clearly focused on squeezing a few more wins out of their roster next season. Parting with their talented second baseman would not be consistent with that objective. At this point, I don’t think Gray’s presence on the roster is helping anyone. There seems to be an increasing number of Yankee fans wanting the team to hold onto Gray for the hope he can still be what we once thought he would be. For me, I’m done with Gray as much as I am done with Jacoby Ellsbury.
Which leads me to the next question, why is Jacoby Ellsbury still on this team? Insurance payments. As long as the Yankees have the potential to collect on insurance to defray Ellsbury’s cost, he isn’t going anywhere. If and when he is finally healthy, the Yankees will either make the hard decision to stash Clint Frazier at Triple A or they’ll cut bait with Ellsbury and eat the remainder of his contract. If you count the 2021 buyout of his contract, the Yankees still owe Ellsbury $47.3 million. If the Toronto Blue Jays can afford to absorb $38 million to sever ways with Troy Tulowitski, the Yankees can afford $47 million to make Ellsbury an ex-Yankee. It amazes me how the Los Angeles Dodgers can routinely shed bloated contracts but the Yankees cannot. Well, credit to Cashman for the Chase Headley contract elimination but he needs to find the way to part ways with Ellsbury. If Ellsbury is on the Opening Day Roster (I highly doubt it), I will have no choice but to root for him but, ideally, I hope that day never comes.
I know there are more questions that need to be answered before the Yankees show up for Spring Training in February but these are a few on my mind. I am not sure the tandem of Greg Bird/Luke Voit offers the best hope for first base in the long run but we need more time to see how this plays out. Voit has earned the right to play first base for the Yankees, but Greg Bird should be given the opportunity to play during Spring Training and earn his right to be part of the Opening Day roster. He is running out of time and chances, but I don’t think it is the end of the road for Bird yet nor should it be.
Miguel Andujar is my third baseman until he isn’t.
If there is one starting position on the team that concerns me, it is left field. I love Brett Gardner as much as the next guy, but at this point in his career, he’s better suited to serve as fourth outfielder in my humble opinion. I suppose there’s always a possibility that Giancarlo Stanton plays left more often next season or Clint Frazier works himself into a platoon with Gardy or even takes the job. So much is dependent upon whether or not the Yankees sign Machado. If they do, there will be a chain reaction when Didi Gregorius returns late next summer which will presumably push Machado to third, displacing Andujar who will have to move to first, left or DH. Until this is figured out, it will concern me.
One position that does not cause any alarm for me is catcher. I really expect to see an improved Gary Sanchez in 2019. I honestly feel that he’ll continue to improve defensively with each passing season. I was never in favor of the trade rumors for J.T. Realmuto and stand by El Gary as the present and future of Yankees catching. Austin Romine is a fine backup so I have no desire to see any changes with the current catching duo. I’d certainly have no qualms about Kyle Higashioka taking Romine’s job away if his performance dictates it. That would be a nice problem to have. Until younger guys like Anthony Siegler and Josh Breaux are knocking at the door, Sanchez is this team’s catcher.
Photo Credit: Getty Images
These were just some random thoughts on my mind. There hasn’t been much baseball talk the last few days with the holiday season upon us so I’ve been missing it. I turned on MLB Network Radio this morning and had to listen to one-time Yank C.J. Nitkowski talk about his Christmas gifts for his wife. That’s nice. Let’s get this talk back to Baseball. Is it time for Spring Training yet?
As always, Go Yankees!
Waiting for Mister Corbin…
Now we wait. Patrick Corbin concluded his visit with the Yankees last night over dinner with team executives. CC Sabathia was apparently on hand at Yankee Stadium yesterday to help lead a tour for Corbin and his wife, Jen. Aaron Boone was also seen on the premises with pitching coach Larry Rothschild, bullpen coach Mike Harkey and postseason share non-recipient and analyst Zac Fieroh.
Photo Credit: Richard Harbus
Multiple reports indicated there was no formal offer made by the Yankees (yet), but hopefully we’ll see movement in the coming days with the completion of Corbin’s visits to Philadelphia, Washington DC, and New York. I am sure he wants to settle the biggest financial decision of his life and move on to enjoying his off-season with his new bride.
Photo Credit: Richard Harbus
One factor that hasn’t really been discussed much is the impact of Mike Harkey in the Corbin negotiations. Harkey was the pitching coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2014 and 2015 which means he was part of the team that directly oversaw Corbin’s Tommy John surgery, rehab and subsequent return. I am sure Harkey learned a great deal about Corbin’s heart and determination during this process. I haven’t really seen anything written to describe their relationship but familiarity is a plus.
Photo Credit: Getty Images (Norm Hall)
I fully expect Corbin to become a Yankee. Admittedly, there was a time when I thought Greg Maddux and Cliff Lee were going to be Yankees and we see how that turned out. I remember the heartbreak both times when we lost Maddux and Lee, but like the scales tilted slightly in favor of the Atlanta Braves and the Philadelphia Phillies, respectively, in those cases, I hope it is advantage Yankees with Corbin. All signs seem to indicate they are. Ken Rosenthal reported last night that Corbin’s younger brother gave a best-man speech at Patrick and Jen’s recent wedding and concluded the speech by saying they all hoped the couple would be moving closer to home. The brother donned a Yankees cap as he made the statement.
As the Yankees attempt to reel in Corbin, one potential target could be slipping away. There is increasing noise over the last couple of days involving the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Cleveland Indians regarding one of the trio of Tribe pitchers, Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer. It is speculated a potential deal could involve sending Yasiel Puig to Cleveland. The deal could be expanded to include Indians catcher Yan Gomes since the Dodgers’ primary catcher, Yasmani Grandal, is currently a free agent and not expected back. The Indians most likely would want some of the best Dodger prospects, like outfielder Alex Verdugo and/or catcher Keibert Ruiz (especially if Gomes is moved). 21-year-old righthander Dustin May is the Dodgers top pitching prospect. If the Dodgers and Indians consummate a deal, it presumably would remove the two remaining Indians pitchers from potential trade talks as the Indians remain a playoff contender.
J.A. Happ remains under consideration for the Yankees. While I would not be opposed to Corbin AND Happ, I would be disappointed if the Yankees only get the latter. As they say, you can never have too much starting pitching and we see every year the five starters you open the season with are never the five men left standing by the end of September. I am excited about a rotation that features Corbin-Severino-Paxton-Tanaka-Sabathia. Severino-Paxton-Tanaka-Happ-Sabathia, not so much. Sorry, J.A., I know you wore the Pinstripes well but I’d prefer to keep the age-challenged member of the staff isolated to CC Sabathia.
Please end any Hot Stove chatter about a potential deal sending Gary Sanchez to Miami for J.T. Realmuto. Sanchez is not going anywhere, nor should he. I remain in Camp El Gary and I fully expect a rebound season in 2019. He is a guy I want in the lineup. My confidence in his bat has not wavered and I do believe he’ll improve behind the plate. When he’s right, he is the guy you want in a clutch situation. I think Realmuto is a great catcher but we already have one.
I thought the San Diego Padres made an excellent investment to sign free agent pitcher Garrett Richards. Richards will miss next season due to Tommy John surgery but he’s a top of the rotation starter when healthy. I liked him as a good buy low candidate for the Yankees but a two-year deal for $18 million is not exactly buying low. The Dodgers were in on Richards too but ultimately he chose the Padres and yesterday extended his heartfelt thanks to the Los Angeles Angels organization, calling out GM Billy Eppler by name among others.
In a bit of irony, the Ronald Torreyes trade eliminated a job for another former Yankee. After the Chicago Cubs acquired Torreyes earlier this week, they traded infielder Tommy La Stella to the Angels. To make room for La Stella, the Angels designated former Yank Jabari Blash for assignment. The Yankees had acquired Blash last off-season in the deal that sent Chase Headley and Bryan Mitchell to San Diego, but they subsequently lost Blash on waivers. It’s funny, I saw one ridiculous (aren’t they all?) Twitter tweet saying Torreyes would become the next Jose Altuve with the Cubs. Under that logic, wouldn’t Blash be the next Giancarlo Stanton since he’s 6’6”? Um, didn’t think so.
If the Mariners-Mets trade is concluded today as expected, I can’t say that I’ll be excited to see Robinson Cano in a Mets uniform. It will be a little bittersweet seeing Cano at second and Todd Frazier at third for New York’s second-best team. But despite the possibility of Cano calling Citi Field home, I would not want that contract even if the Mariners pay down the $120 million left on Cano’s contract by $30 to $40 million. Sure, I think a 36-year-old Cano can help any team, but what will it look like when he is 38 or 39? In the National League, they won’t be able to hide him at DH so any defensive shortcomings caused by age will be magnified. I will be glad to see Cano back in New York City but I am happier he is not a Yankee.
Did soon-to-be Hall of Fame inductee Mariano Rivera really turn 49 yesterday? How did that happen?! Happy Belated Birthday to Mo! One of the greatest ever to wear Pinstripes.
It’s a new day which means a new opportunity this could be the day Sonny Gray leaves Pinstripes. One can only hope. Waiting for Corbin to sign…waiting for Gray to leave. I know, patience.
As always, Go Yankees!
Let the Dialing for Dollars Begin…
Free Agency has officially begun as the team-exclusive negotiating rights with their own free agents expired yesterday and the rumors are running rampant. I am never quite sure why they even allow teams a window to talk to their free agents since it almost never results in any pre-open free agency signings. This year, there was more activity with guys renegotiating new contracts due to opt-outs and buyouts.
Before I get started, I wanted to give a shout-out to Bryan Van Dusen of The Greedy Pinstripes last week for his post entitled Manny Machado vs. Bryce Harper, and The Rest Of The Offseason. Bryan put a great deal of time and thought into his post and of the many, many posts out there about the Yankees off-season and what the team should do, Bryan’s piece is one of the most thorough, logical, and reasonable. It represents a great blueprint for how the Yankees can win the 2019 World Series Championship. Nice job, Bryan!
Well, the World Series didn’t exactly go to plan. Pulling for the Los Angeles Dodgers, I lost a bet with my good friend Julia (@werbiefitz), a lifelong die-hard Red Sox fan. As a result, my FaceBook cover photo has shown a picture of the Red Sox celebrating their championship for the last week. I can’t take it down until a full seven days have elapsed from the end of the World Series. Needless to say, I’ve been staying away from FaceBook lately. I am also reading a Red Sox-related book chosen by Julia. Upon completion, I have to write a 500-word essay about the ten things I’ve learned from reading the book. My goal is to have this finished before Thanksgiving.
Obviously, it is not fun to know the Red Sox have won four championships this century. But if there is any positive about this year’s Boston champagne party at the conclusion of the World Series, it will be so much sweeter when the Yankees snatch the trophy away from them next year.
|Photo Credit: NJ Advance Media for NJ.com (John Munson)|
The Yankees’ off-season got started quickly this year when the Yankees, as expected, declined the $12.5 million option on Brett Gardner’s contract. After paying the $2 million buyout, the parties quickly announced a new one-year deal for $7.5 million. TGP’s Daniel Burch had pitched bringing back Gardy for $6.5 million so he was very close to the team’s line of thinking. I thought it was a bit of an overpay, but I had mentally prepared myself to move on from Gardner due to the crowded outfield. But upon reflection, I agree Clint Frazier is a huge question mark/uncertainty heading into next year and Jacoby Ellsbury, despite reports of good health, is just buying time until his next DL stint. Regardless of whether or not I think the Yankees should bring CC Sabathia back, I honestly do not feel they will. Certainly things could change, but I think CC gets put on the back burner as the Yankees pursue other pitching opportunities. It increases the likelihood another team, such as the Oakland A’s or Los Angeles Angels, could pitch him an incentive-laden one year deal to return to his home state of California before he rides off into the sunset. Without Sabathia in the clubhouse, Brett Gardner becomes the senior voice and mentor for the younger guys. He may not be the player he once was, but his influence on this team is invaluable so welcome back, Brett!
|Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Nick Turchiaro)|
Every year, I look forward to MLB Trade Rumors and their predictions for the top free agents (teams and contracts). Tim Dierkes is one of the best and I have a great deal of respect for him, but I have to admit that I about fell off my chair when I read his latest offering. He has Bryce Harper going to the Los Angeles Dodgers for 14 years (Yikes!) and, gulp!, $420 million. I am not sure we’ll see a contract break the $400 million mark this year, but if that’s the price tag, the Yankees shouldn’t play. I’d love to have Bryce on the Yankees, but I’d rather spread the money around for the best possible club. Dierkes has Manny Machado going to the Philadelphia Phillies for almost as much (13 years at $390 million). I think most Yankee fans want the team to sign at least one of those guys (with a few ready to spend a billion dollars to sign both as if that would ever happen). If Dierkes is right and Machado and Harper sign elsewhere, I would prefer to see them go to National League clubs. I know, the Yankees don’t need either guy. But it is not often that 26-year-old superstars are available for nothing more than money. So, count me among those who want to come away with at least one. Nonetheless, we need to be prepared the Yankees may not be in play for either.
Third on Dierkes’ list is Patrick Corbin. I saw one writer this week predicting an ‘out of nowhere’ signing of Corbin by the San Diego Padres, but Dierkes stayed with the majority to project Corbin to the Yankees on a 6-year deal for $129 million. Sign me up. If there is one guy I want in this year’s free agency, it is Corbin. He may not be a frontline ace, but he is a very sound option for the starting rotation and would place right behind Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka to give the team a formidable front three. Yesterday, news broke that the Cleveland Indians may be willing to trade veterans so immediate speculation went to a trade to bring Corey Kluber to the Bronx. Regardless of whether or not the Yankees go after Kluber, I’d still sign the left-handed Corbin. He seems like an excellent fit for Yankee Stadium. Honestly, I think the Indians would be foolish to trade Kluber but if it did happen, he is one of few that are as good as Boston’s Chris Sale. The Yankees should be “all-in” if Cleveland is truly willing to deal, but conversely, it should not stall plans to go hard after Corbin. Getting both would be “greedy”, sure, but losing out on both would hurt.
Dierkes has Andrew Miller going to the Red Sox and Zach Britton to the Astros. I have resigned myself to the loss of Britton and dread the thought he’ll sign with either the Red Sox or Astros. Miller scares me a bit with his recent injury history, but I loved the guy as a Yankee and I would like to see him come back if the Yankees do not resign Britton or David Robertson. Miller has an infectious team-first mentality that rubs off on others and the talent to match.
|Photo Credit: SI.com|
Friday was an active day as teams had to make decisions regarding qualifying offers. The Arizona Diamondbacks, as expected, issued a qualifying offer to Patrick Corbin. The one that surprised me was the decision by the Houston Astros not to extend the qualifying offer to Charlie Morton. As such, he represents another option for the Yankees should they lose out on Corbin or simply decide not to pursue him for whatever reasons. If Morton is the best the Yankees can get this off-season, it will be a huge disappointment. Sorry, Charlie. C’mon, I had to do that! With the recent rule changes, the Yankees won’t lose their first round draft pick should they sign Corbin since it’s protected. They would lose their second highest draft pick in next year’s MLB Draft plus a half-million in international bonus pool money. Morton would not cost anything but money but seriously I hope the Yankees can do better.
With the heavy roster activity by MLB teams yesterday, the Yankees picked up a minor league infielder claimed on waivers from the Texas Rangers. Hanser Alberto is a 26-year old shortstop with an ability to play multiple infield positions and even logged some time in the outfield. He hasn’t done much in limited big league opportunities with the Rangers, but he has strong minor league numbers. Last year, in Triple A, he hit .330/.346/.452, with .797 OPS, in 361 at-bats. He doesn’t have much power, but he did drive in 58 runs last year for Round Rock. It remains to be seen if he’ll stick on the 40-man roster this winter. One Rangers blog predicted the Yankees will try to slip him through waivers so that they can outright him to the minors (Alberto is out of options), giving the Rangers an opportunity to grab him back. We’ll find out within the next couple of weeks as the team prepares to finalize its 40-man roster in advance of December’s Rule 5 Draft. I am not really expecting Alberto to stick around.
I was glad to see Clayton Kershaw sign an extension to remain with the Los Angeles Dodgers. I know he’s struggled with injuries the last couple of years, but I see him as a lifetime Dodger. I know some Yankee fans were hopeful that he’d reach free agency, but I didn’t think the Yankees would have been in play. Knowing Kershaw and how important family is to him, I think he would have returned to his home state of Texas if things didn’t work out with the Dodgers or at the most, would have gone somewhere in the Midwest. There was never a chance he was going to come to the East Coast, in my opinion.
Dodgers third base coach Chris Woodward lost his competition last off-season with Aaron Boone for the Yankees’ managerial gig, but now he’ll get a chance to compete with Boone again as the new manager for the Texas Rangers. The Yankees certainly hold high regard for Woodward given their consideration of him last year. I wish him the best in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex.
Lastly, before I go, I want to say that I am on Team Sanchez. So many Yankee fans have wanted the team to trade Gary Sanchez to the Miami Marlins for J.T. Realmuto. I am not questioning Realmuto is a great catcher, but I am not ready to give up on El Gary. 2018 was not a good year for him but I think he’ll be much better in 2019 with room to improve. If the Yankees are going to give up good, young prospects, it should be for their biggest weaknesses, like the starting rotation for one. Selling Gary low would be a huge mistake in my humble opinion.
As always, Go Yankees!