Baseball Winter Meetings are around the corner…
Soon, the insanity and rush to acquire and trade players will be upon us. The MLB Baseball Winter Meetings begin next Sunday, December 9th, at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada (which of course happens to be Bryce Harper’s hometown). No doubt Vegas will be rocking when the hometown kid hoists a new uniform for the media. The meetings conclude on the morning of Thursday, December 13th, with the Rule 5 Draft.
Patrick Corbin is expected to make a decision before the Winter Meetings so hopefully something breaks in the next few days. He remains my top target. Until the Cleveland Indians actually trade one of their starters, I will be skeptical. I’d gladly take Corey Kluber or Carlos Carrasco and call the rotation complete. Same with San Francisco’s Madison Bumgarner. But I really like Corbin and at 30, he is one of baseball’s better pitchers and he has upside. J.A. Happ did a fine job for the Yankees last year but he’s been the best he is ever going to be. At 36, it’s only downhill from here. Realistically, I was never fearful of Happ on the mound when he was wearing a Blue Jays uniform. I am sure AL East opponents feel the same way. Despite winning 20 games a couple of seasons ago, Happ has never been considered an elite pitcher and certainly never will be at this stage of his career. Corbin, on the other hand, can be (in my opinion).
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Christian Petersen)|
More free agents became available yesterday with the non-tender deadline. Yankee fans seemed surprised to see the Chicago Cubs non-tender Ronald Torreyes. When I saw the Cubs decision to tender a contract to beleaguered shortstop Addison Russell, I figured the odds were against Toe. It was clear the Cubs had picked him up as infield insurance. There’s no reason to believe the Cubs won’t try to re-sign Toe for less money which is what I expect them to do. For the reasons the Yankees traded Toe (younger, cheaper options with better tools available), I don’t think they should make a play to bring Toe back regardless of his clubhouse popularity.
Jonathan Schoop is an interesting option. He was (expectedly) non-tendered by the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday with GM David Stearns acknowledging it had been a “bad deal” to acquire Schoop. Schoop’s 2018 season, which started with the Baltimore Orioles and ended with the playoff-contending Brewers after a deadline trade, was soundly a disappointment and he couldn’t find regular playing time by the time October rolled around. Yet, he is only a season removed from his breakout year in 2017 when he hit 32 homers and drove in 105 runs for the O’s with a batting line of .293/.338/.503 and .841 OPS. Maybe 2017 was a fluke, but the Curacao-native (like Didi Gregorius) is only 27. I’d take a chance on him.
|Photo Credit: Associated Press|
Another interesting name is Wilmer Flores, non-tendered by the New York Mets. He may not have Schoop’s offensive potential but he can move around the infield, playing both corner positions and shortstop. I saw someone post yesterday that it would be funny if the Yankees signed Flores and he outperformed the Mets’ soon-to-be starting second baseman Robinson Cano. I would have no objection to Bill Flowers joining the Yankees. The role of infield help is only an interim plan until the Yankees can get Didi Gregorius back on the ground in late summer so it’s not like we are trying to find a shortstop or second baseman that will be cemented to the spot for the foreseeable future. The Yankees have plenty of offense so I am sure they’ll be fine whatever they decide to do. Ideally, I’d like to keep Gleyber Torres at second base to continue his growth and development at the position, rather than temporarily shift him back to short. I’d be happy re-signing Adeiny Hechavarria to play short until Didi’s return so long as the Yankees fill out the bench with the right players. The elephant in the room is, of course, Manny Machado, but until he signs, the Yankees need to keep all options open. There is still a very good chance Manny goes to Philadelphia since they have an abundance of “stupid money” available.
Another name that jumped out at me for utility-type, infield diversity is Arizona’s decision to non-tender infielder Chris Owings. Oakland non-tendered Giancarlo Stanton antagonist Mike Fiers which I thought was funny. I sure don’t want the Yankees to sign Fiers but I don’t mind seeing him join the ranks of the unemployed.
George A King III had a column in The New York Post this morning saying the Yankees could see David Robertson and Zach Britton go to the Boston Red Sox. I really hope it does not happen. Of the two, it would probably be hardest to see D-Rob put on that ugly “B” cap but it wouldn’t be fun to see Britton in the uniform either. I wish the Yankees would hurry up and re-sign D-Rob to remove one of the current holes in the bullpen. As for Britton, I expect him to get closer’s money so my preference would be for him to end up with a non-AL East team. The St Louis Cardinals sound like a great destination to me.
As much as my head keeps telling me Manny Machado is the best fit for the Yankees, my heart keeps telling me that Bryce Harper would be a great, great Yankee. Giancarlo Stanton was not exactly a need for the Yankees when they acquired him last year, yet he fit seamlessly into the team lineup as the primary DH and occasional left-fielder. With more experience in left, I think Stanton will field the position better in 2019. Still, I’d have no problem keeping Stanton as the full-time DH and putting Harper in left along with the occasional experiment at first base. I know the Yankees have Brett Gardner but if we’re expecting him to be part of the starting outfield next year, we’re not as smart as we should be. Drop Harper into the lineup with his left-handed bat and I couldn’t really care less about the interim offensive solution at shortstop/second baseman, so long as the player brings solid defense, until Didi returns. Bryce was made for Pinstripes and it would be a shame for the Yankees to miss this tremendous opportunity to acquire a superstar just entering his prime.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Rob Tringali)|
I was glad to see the Yankees tender contracts to all of their arbitration and pre-arbitration eligible players. There had been some speculation the Yankees would non-tender Gregorius since 2019 is primarily a lost year and he’ll be a free agent after the season, but I am glad they did not. I remain hopeful they’ll come to an agreement to cover the next couple of seasons to place Didi in position for a more lucrative contract after he has proven his successful return from Tommy John surgery. I am not ready to see Didi leave today or a year from today.
I like Nathan Eovaldi but let the Red Sox or Houston Astros sign him. I am not interested in a return to the Bronx. As a two-time Tommy John recipient who throws extremely hard, I think the risk is too great. Great guy and I wish him the best.
Listening to CC Sabathia’s podcast this week, I was a little surprised that he views Jonathan Loaisiga as a potential top of the rotation talent. I know the young smallish right-hander is rated as the Yankees’ highest pitching prospect by MLB.com and second overall prospect behind Estevan Florial but I guess I hadn’t thought of him that highly. Maybe I should rethink my position. I know I am more intrigued with Loaisiga than Domingo German and there’s no doubt he’ll be called upon to help the Yankees rotation at some point next season. There’s no way the Yankees’ top five stays healthy to make every start. Loaisiga also represents an option if the Yankees occasionally decide to go with a six-man rotation. I kind of like the idea of signing both Patrick Corbin and J.A. Happ with provide starting depth, but Loaisiga represents good insurance if the Yankees are successful in adding only one more starter.
The next couple of weeks should be very eventful. This is the pinnacle of the Hot Stove League. Once we get through the next fourteen days, it should be fairly quiet until pitchers and catchers report in mid-February or one would think so anyway. Brace yourself. It should a helluva ride for the next two weeks.
As always, Go Yankees!
Sleeping with the Enemy…
News that the Yankees have signed veteran third baseman Kevin Youkilis have not been well received in the Yankees Universe…obviously. Sure, there have been a few ex-Boston Red Sox players make their way to the Bronx but certainly none who have been as despised as Youk. His crime? Playing with passion and all-out perseverance to find ways to beat the Yankees. He is one of those tough, gritty players that are relentless and when they smell blood, it’s over. Youk has struggled with injuries in recent years and he had a falling out with former Sox manager Bobby Valentine, who has historically taken to gritty players. I know, there is the stat line that he only got one hit in his final 59 at-bats with the Chicago White Sox last season. Nevertheless, I am willing to give Youk a chance.
Admittedly, I am not an Alex Rodriguez fan and I am still bent the Yankees didn’t let him walk away when he opted out of his first mega contract. But with third base possibilities such as Eric Chavez and Jeff Keppinger signing elsewhere, the Yankees had to do something given that A-Rod will be lost for most of the season due to his upcoming hip surgery. Going to camp with Eduardo Nunez as the starting third baseman, given the team doesn’t have a starting catcher or right fielder, was not appealing in any way. No one really knows how A-Rod will play next season when or if he returns, so odds are they need a solid third baseman for the entire season. With Youk on board, the Yanks still need to get insurance at third in case Youk goes down. But I think as long as he gets sufficient rest, he’ll stay healthy and be an effective part of the Yankees lineup.
When Youk homers for the first time against the Red Sox, I am sure that the Yankee cheers will come around. Yankee fans love players who play with passion so long as the player is on their team. It will always be hard to look at Youk and not think of the 2004 World Champion Red Sox, but he is not the same player he was then and this is a new chapter in his life. When he walks away from the game, he will be remembered as part of the Red Sox organization but for a year or two, he can certainly make an effective contribution for the home team.
There are guys on the current Red Sox roster that I have great respect for, like Jon Lester and Dustin Pedroia. Youk was one of those guys. Sure, I hated the guy in difficult games between the Yankees and Red Sox, but I always had a quiet respect for him. Of course, this could all be premature as Youk still has to pass a physical but I look forward to seeing what he can do in the Bronx sans the famed goatee. It will also be interesting to see if the Yankees continue to hold #20 in reserve out of respect for Jorge Posada or if they assign it to Youk given it was his number in Boston and Chicago. I suspect he’ll end up with something other than #20, but until it happens, you never know.
I saw a quote in George King’s column in The New York Post from Mariano Rivera that I agree with completely: “Yankee (fans) didn’t like him but he was wearing a Red Sox uniform. I can’t decide for them but he will be my teammate and I have to respect him for that.” Youk is a Yankee, and like Mo, I respect him for that.
Ichiro, Part II…
All indications are the Yankees will be coming to terms with Ichiro Suzuki on a new deal to keep him in the Bronx. The question is whether it will be one or two years. At 39, I’d probably prefer a one year deal so that the team can reassess its options at the end of the year. Every move has been made with the intent to get the payroll under $189 million by 2014 for luxury tax purposes and a second year for Ichiro would erode into the dollars available for any talent upgrades next off-season.
As it stands, I do not like an outfield of Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson and Ichiro, but I will be interested to see who they bring in as the fourth outfielder. Perhaps that individual will solidify this outfield corps into a strong and powerful unit. I am not opposed to trading Granderson and moving Gardner to center, but the Yankees would need to replace his offensive production elsewhere in the lineup. All signs so far this winter indicate the Yankees will not do anything to the extreme. Yes, they could still swoop in with a blockbuster trade, but I highly doubt it. The sad part is the current Yankees roster is not as strong as last year’s squad, while the Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox have clearly improved. Tampa Bay may have traded a top starting pitcher in James Shields, but they picked up one of the best prospects in baseball in Wil Myers. Tampa also seems to be able to pull aces out of their farm system every year so there’s no doubt they’ll find a capable replacement for Shields. Baltimore hasn’t made any major moves but they still have the team to over-achieve. I do not know what next year will bring. The Yankees still have December and January to improve, but the likelihood diminishes with each passing day. If the Yankees falter in 2013, what does 2014 look like? I can’t see the team suddenly reversing course and going into “Dodger” mode to sign free agents. I think the Yankees will remain competitive, but I am not convinced they have the horses to win the World Series.
Maybe the All-Star Game should be the Dodgers against everyone else…
My favorite National League team is the Los Angeles Dodgers, but I am struggling with the thought of cheering for the two highest payrolls in baseball. My affection for the Dodgers is primarily because of my long-time hero, Don Mattingly, but the huge salary outlay by the Dodgers will create unrealistic expectations in Dodgerland and it will be tough for Donnie Baseball if the Dodgers struggle. I remain hopeful that he’ll one day find his way back to the Bronx to manage, but I am not pulling for him to get fired next year. I am not sure who I would pull for in the NL if not the Dodgers. I live in the Bay Area so there’s always the San Francisco Giants, but they’ve won the World Series in two of the last three years and I don’t want to jump on the bandwagon. My fallback has always been the St Louis Cardinals because that’s where I experienced attending my first major league baseball game as a teenager so many years ago. I suppose that I’ll stick with the Dodgers as long as Mattingly is there, but Magic Johnson and company have certainly made it more challenging by their willingness to spend excessively.
Why does February 12th (when pitchers and catchers report) seem so close yet so far away?…