Tagged: Greg Bird

The New York Yankees & Elusive Good Health…

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Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, Associated Press


Starting Rotation missing its spots…

Silly me. I had hoped the “Next Man Up” tag line was the theme of the 2019 Yankees, not this year.

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Credit: Randy Glasbergen

The Yankees are not off to a great start in 2020 with the injuries that have surfaced. James Paxton is not expected back until May at the earliest, possibly June, after recent back surgery, Aaron Judge is being held back over caution with his shoulder, and Luis Severino is headed to New York for further tests regarding the forearm tightness he experienced this week.

I am not ready to throw in the towel and concede the AL East to the Tampa Bay Rays, but no doubt the Rays see blood in the water.  The Yankees didn’t have Severino for most of last season and they still won 103 games so it’s not like they’ll fold without him. I am very thankful the Yankees were successful in signing Gerrit Cole last December and the team’s offense, even without Judge at 100%, remains one of the best in the game.

I went from wanting J.A. Happ traded after his disappointing performance last season (primarily to eliminate his $17 million contract and his potential for reaching the milestones to trigger another $17 million for 2021) to the realization that he is a major cog in the starting rotation, at least for now. With the absences of Paxton and Sevy, Tanaka becomes the second to Cole, and Happ is your third starter. It does not exactly instill confidence (at least not for me).Yet, I am hopeful we’ll see Happ’s return to be a stable and consistent force in the rotation like he was in the latter half of the 2018 season. Although nobody has handed him anything, Jordan Montgomery is expected to be the fourth starter. From there, it is anybody’s guess.

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If GM Brian Cashman knew about Paxton’s troublesome back and some potential concern with Sevy’s forearm (if it has been bothering him since the playoffs last year this past off-season, I am surprised the best pitching options brought in from the outside were former Angels starter Nick Tropeano and former Rockies starter/reliever Chad Bettis. In retrospect, it seems like Cashman had the time to bring in a potentially stronger hedge for the starting rotation.

Most likely, the fifth starter role will be filled either by an opener or we’ll see one of the young guys (like Deivi Garcia or Michael King) step forward. There’s been a lot of hype for Clarke Schmidt but asking him to jump from Double A seems to be a big leap. Then, there’s the usual suspects, Jonathan Loaisiga and Luis Cessa. I am not trying to be critical of them but I see both as better arms for the pen. As much as we may like Loaisiga’s arm, he always seems to be an injury waiting to happen. I think the Yankees are better using Chad Green as a late inning bullpen specialist, especially after the departure of Dellin Betances and despite Green’s success as an opener last year.

It’s always possible the Yankees swing a trade for a starter but teams are less motivated to trade in March than they will be in July when they know whether or not October is in their future.

I’d love to see one of the young guys grab the starting spot and run with it.  Maybe that’s what the Yankees see. If it were my team, I’d probably be less willing to gamble with the fifth spot when there are questions with the third and fourth starters. But Cashman and his team know much more than I ever will and I trust them to make the right decisions. The Yankees have heavily invested in the 2020 season and they’re not going to throw it away now. Championship windows are not open for long and the Yankees know it. Trust the process.

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Photo Credit: Andrew Mills, NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

I am glad we’ll have Yankees Baseball back on TV today when the Yankees face the Toronto Blue Jays at Steinbrenner Field. Or if you are fortunate enough to be in Tampa, all the better. J.A. Happ takes the pitching mound for the Yankees in their Spring debut. The game will also see Michael King, Luis Cessa and Nick Tropeano with turns behind Happ. We won’t have the joy of Troy Tulowitzki’s homer off his former team last Spring (the career highlight of his brief time in Pinstripes), but maybe Gio Urshela, the scheduled third base starter, can deposit a pitch over the outfield wall while facing some of his ex-teammates. Gerrit Cole, in a non-televised game, will make his debut on Monday against his original team, the Pittsburgh Pirates. Bummer, I would have really enjoyed to see Cole facing live opposing hitters. The first few Spring games are always fun until the monotony sets in during the upcoming weeks. While I am anxious and excited for the March 26th opener in Baltimore, I am hopeful we’ll have greater confidence in the starting rotation behind Cole and Tanaka when the season starts. So I want the regular season to start soon, but not too soon. May the best possible 26 men head north to the great state of Maryland next month.

I think the inner George Steinbrenner in me wants the Yankees to grab whatever star players they can (Nolan Arenado, Josh Hader, etc.) so they can crush the World, but I know the Yankees have the healthy guys in camp right now that can bring home the “piece of metal” by season’s end. I was probably a little envious of the Los Angeles Dodgers fan base and how energized they became with the trade that brought Mookie Betts to their team. They seem to be beating their chests about this being “the year”. There’s still a lot of baseball to played between now and October, but I’ll happily take my chances with this collection of Yankees and how they stack up against the Dodgers assuming the teams are fortunate enough to advance to this year’s World Series.

MLB Network’s 30 Clubs in 30 Days will feature the Yankees on Tuesday, March 3rd. I always enjoy the exclusivity of interviews with the Yankees players and coaches but those shows always seem like the fastest hour in Sports or at least the player interview segments seem too short. The YES Network is good about the Hot Stove shows early in the off-season but there’s always a sense of loss when the shows come to an end. It’s too bad they can’t have weekly shows from Tampa to give us insight into the players. I guess there’s Yankees Magazine but it doesn’t have the same real time effect like the Hot Stove shows.

They are saying Greg Bird has a legitimate shot to earn the starting first base job with the Texas Rangers as they break in their new stadium this season. I have to say it will suck if Bird has a happy and healthy season for the Rangers. I know, I shouldn’t say that. I do not regret the Yankees’ decision to cut Bird loose, but after so much false hope each season with Bird, it would be disappointing to see him give Texas what he never gave the Yankees (good health). I guess I turn the page on ex-Yankees faster than I should. I loved Didi Gregorius as a Yankee but now I find the fans who are still posting comments about how much they miss him to be annoying. I couldn’t care less about the Philadelphia Phillies and their manager. I feel the same about Bird and former Yank Todd Frazier (I see him as more of an ex-Met these days) in Texas. I am not going to root for them just because they once played for the Yankees. Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly is the lone exception to my personal rule.

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Photo Credit: Jeff Roberson, Associated Press

I’ve tried to avoid talking about the cheating scandal for this post but I want to say I feel David Ortiz is wrong for calling Mike Fiers a “snitch”.

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Photo Credit: The New York Post

I respect Big Papi but Fiers, a guy none of us are enamored with as Yankee fans, did the right thing to bring attention to the Houston cheaters. While I understand Papi’s criticism that Fiers should have said something while a member of the Astros, I also get team camaraderie holding players back from being divisive forces in the clubhouse and the fact Fiers tried to follow proper channels through the Oakland A’s and the MLB office before stepping forward on the public stage. I support Fiers for his critical role in bringing to light the shame and scandal of the Houston Asterisks. I still do not like Fiers the pitcher, but I will always respect him for stepping forward and revealing the unethical play of the Astros.

Let’s enjoy some baseball today.

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As always, Go Yankees!

Astros Sorry They Got Caught…

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Photo Credit: USA TODAY

Fake Remorse by the Cheaters…

Houston Astros owner Jim Crane is trash.

It’s no wonder the Astros players resorted to a cheating system that included beating on trash cans to signal stolen pitching signs. Crane set the example from the top of the organization and the trash rolled downhill.

I was angered after listening to the Astros’ poorly organized press conference this week. Despite their preparation a day before, I knew there probably was not anything the Astros could have said or done to gain forgiveness but I felt the entire charade was botched. From the canned brief statements from cheating leaders Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve to Crane’s use of new manager Dusty Baker as a shield, it was truly a clown show. It was absurd when Crane said the cheating did not impact the 2017 ALCS against the Yankees and then turned around less than a minute later to say he never said those words. Huh?

I’ll give the players after the press conference some credit. Carlos Correa, in particular, sounded much better and more remorseful than his teammates.

I think Major League Baseball butchered this by not taking away the deceitfully-gained 2017 World Series championship from the Houston Astros. At this point, you can’t give it to the Los Angeles Dodgers or the Yankees, but, in my opinion, the championship should be vacated. I don’t care there is no precedent for this. Considering we did not personally experience the great Black Sox Scandal a century ago when eight players were accused of throwing the 1919 World Series, this is the worst stain of the game in our lifetimes. The players were granted immunity. They should not be allowed to represent themselves as champions.

I am ready to close the book on the Astros and move on. MLB is not going to do anything further to the Astros organization and we can only look forward at this point. However, I do think there will be some residual anger and frustration as players gather in Arizona and Florida.

Cody Bellinger of the Dodgers was very hard on the Astros yesterday when interviewed at Camelback Ranch, the Dodgers’ spring training home in Arizona. Per the LA Times, Bellinger said, “I thought the apologies were whatever. I thought Jim Crane’s was weak. I thought Manfred’s punishment was weak, giving them immunity. I mean these guys were cheating for three years. I think what people don’t realize is Altuve stole an MVP from (Aaron) Judge in ’17. Everyone knows they stole the ring from us.”

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Photo Credit: ESPN

Despite the Astros’ claims the cheating was isolated to 2017 and a small part of ’18, Bellinger feels the cheating extended into the 2019 post-season. Bellinger probably said it best, “I know I personally lost respect for those guys. I think I would say everyone in the show, in the big leagues, lost respect for those guys.” I’ll take it further and say baseball fans everywhere, except perhaps for those in Houston, have lost respect for the Houston Astros.

I am not sure we’ll ever get over this, but we do need to move forward. However, I know I’ll enjoy watching the reception the Astros get when they visit different cities this season. They deserve everything headed their way. I am not endorsing physical harm, but let the verbal abuse begin. They created this mess and now they must face the music. I can’t wait for the Yankee Stadium reaction in September when the Cheaters come to the Bronx for a four-game series.

The Houston Asterisks, the Houston Cheaters, the Houston Asstros, the Houston Trashtros, whatever you want to call the worthless collection of scum, are coming to a city near you. Let the booing begin…

Moving on to other topics. The long awaited trade of Mookie Betts and David Price was finally made official this week after the Dodgers had to re-structure the deal. I still feel it wasn’t so much about the medical records of former Twins reliever Brusdar Graterol but more about Boston’s knee-jerk reaction to the poor reception over trading their homegrown superstar and getting minimal in return, thanks to the salary dump of Price. In the restructured trades, the Dodgers kept Graterol, who will fit nicely into the Dodgers’ bullpen with his 100 mph heat, after sending starting pitcher Kenta Maeda to the Twins. Replacing Graterol in the trade to Boston, the Dodgers added prospects Jeter Downs, a childhood Yankee fan named after a recently named Hall of Fame player, and catcher Connor Wong, to accompany the previously agreed upon outfielder Alex Verdugo. Downs, a shortstop/second baseman, was blocked in LA with Corey Seager at short and highly ranked prospect Gavin Lux in line to take over at second. Wong profiles as a backup catcher and the Dodgers have stronger catching prospects in Keibert Ruiz and Diego Cartaya.

I am sure Verdugo and Downs will have their moments against the Yankees in upcoming seasons, but I am glad to see Mookie Betts out of the division. Yankee fans have been moaning how they’ll miss beating up on Price, but I actually think the move to the NL West will be good for him. Regardless of how you feel about him, David Price is a good pitcher. If healthy, I think he has a chance to be much better for the Dodgers. Although Price was a reason the Red Sox celebrated a World Series championship in 2018, his overall tenure in Boston was not favorable. I don’t really buy into the Yankee fans who say they can’t wait to face Price in the 2020 World Series. First, we need to get to the World Series and there is a long road between now and then, but if we are fortunate enough to get there and face the Dodgers, it’s not a guarantee the Yankees would dominate Price. Just because they’ve enjoyed past success against him does not mean that they’ll forever own him. Price is a quality Major League pitcher and he’s motivated to improve. Therefore, you’ll find no disparaging words from me about him. As for Mookie, I am excited that I can finally root for the supremely talented outfielder. I appreciate his play and by all accounts, he is a fantastic person both on and off the field. I have no idea if Betts will be a Dodger for only one season or if he’ll re-sign with them when he hits the free market next off-season, but for now, I look forward to going to Dodger Stadium this season to see two great players sharing the outfield for the Dodgers.

There’s no question the Red Sox are a weaker team today than they were last week.  I think they realize they can’t compete with the Yankees or even the Tampa Bay Rays at the top of the division but I’d say they remain a dangerous team that can make some noise. They need many things to go right, but I wouldn’t totally discount Boston’s ability to snag a Wild Card spot. Once in the playoffs, anything can happen (as long as you aren’t cheating).

This week has been fun, as far as the Yankees go. It was great to see Gerrit Cole wearing Yankees gear, throwing to Gary Sanchez. I love the perfectionist on the mound and it’s clear he is a notch above anything we’ve seen in recent times with no disrespect to Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton or Luis Severino. I thought his words during the Thursday press conference were exemplary, as usual. Cole is quickly becoming one of my favorite players to listen to. No doubt he’s already there with his pitching.

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Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

As one who preached all winter for the Yankees to trade J.A. Happ, it was good to hear Happ say this week that he wanted to stay with the Yankees when he heard the trade rumors. He recognizes his shortcomings in last year’s juiced ball environment and he has been working on making the necessary adjustments. Given we need Happ with Paxton on the shelf for the first couple of months of the season, I’ve warmed up to the idea of keeping Happ for now. It’s possible he’ll be stronger this year than last. I still think he’s a trade candidate at some point depending upon how it goes with Jordan Montgomery, in addition to the eventual return of the suspended Domingo German and maybe a breakout by Deivi Garcia at some point. But as long as he is in pinstripes, I’ll cheer for him. As long as he puts the Yankees in position to win every fifth day, life will be good.

Gary Sanchez’s comment that you could rip his pants off if he hit a homer to send the Yankees to the World Series was priceless with its statement clearly direct at Jose Altuve’s obvious attempt to protect his jersey after last fall’s homer off Aroldis Chapman to end the ALCS.

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The Spring has brought a few more number changes. In addition to J.A. Happ’s recent switch from 34 to 33, Mike Ford dropped 36 in favor of 72 and Thairo Estrada took the departed Stephen Tarpley’s 71. With Luke Voit now wearing 59, the Yankees have a linebacker and an offensive lineman at first base. Probably because of David Cone, 36 seems more like a pitcher’s number to me so I am glad to see Ford grab a power number.

It was funny to see Greg Bird and Austin Romine, in Rangers and Tigers camps, respectively, sporting beards. It seems like the first thing players do when they leave the Yankees is toss the razor.

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Photo Credit: Smiley N Pool, The Dallas Morning News

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Photo Credit: Kimberly P Mitchell, Detroit Free Press

Now that pitchers and catchers are in camp, we anxiously await the arrival of all position players on Monday. Most are already in Tampa, but the band will officially be together again when President’s Day rolls around. I am looking forward to the first of the exhibition games until the monotony sets in a few weeks from now.  On the bright side, the regular season will soon be here as March 26th is not really that far away anymore. My expectations for the upcoming season are reasonable…total domination and obliteration of the American League (and the NL’s October representative)  by the Yankees will suffice.

As always, Go Yankees!

Preparing for Yankees Baseball in December…

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Biggest month of the off-season begins in 3, 2, 1…

From a baseball off-season perspective, it’s always good to put the Thanksgiving weekend in the rear view mirror. Generally, there are not too many transactions in November and while there were a few free agent signings and trades this year, the heart of the off-season begins as the calendar page rolls into December.

Like many fans, I continue to hold out hope the Yankees sign one of Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg. Realistically, I do not feel the Yankees will be the highest bidder for either pitcher. There’s probably a better chance they go for a guy like Madison Bumgarner if they dip into the free agent pool at all or better yet, make a trade for a young starter with strong upside. My only concern is that Cole and Strasburg can be had for money (something which the Yankees have even if they are bumping up against the highest luxury tax tier) whereas a trade would cost young, talented prospects. I am not trying to “prospect hug”, but if you don’t have to trade Deivi Garcia, Luis Gil, Luis Medina, Albert Abreu or another top pitching prospect, why do it? I’d rather the Yankees part with cash than young players who could one day help the Yankees. Ultimately, I do feel GM Brian Cashman will do the right thing for the organization or at least I can hope. I am sure new pitching coach Matt Blake is helping the analytics team scour organizational pitching in search of the next Shane Bieber.

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Matt Blake, Yankees Pitching Coach

The Yankees over the last few years have shown us they operate within a certain budget and when given the choice, they’ll make financially conservative decisions over spending “stupid money”. As much as I like Cole and Strasburg, I cannot see the Yankees handing out $200 million plus contracts for either pitcher.  It kind of reminds me of back when the Yankees were negotiating with Ron Guidry one year and held him to $900,000 because George Steinbrenner didn’t think pitchers were worth a million dollars per year. I am sure Hal Steinbrenner knows how much he wants to pay for a pitcher and there is a line he is unwilling to cross. My guess is Cole signs with the Los Angeles Angels and given that he has not yet returned to Washington, Strasburg goes home to San Diego. Money outweighs playing at home, sure, but for both, I think their home town teams will be the victors with the most green.

Max Goldstein took a lot of heat for writing on article on Elite Sports NY yesterday entitled “New York Yankees should pursue Zack Wheeler and Alex Wood”. He provides very compelling reasons for why it’s the more likely outcome for the Yankees given their recent history. Whether or not I’d like that result is irrelevant. It simply stands as a strong possibility. If Wheeler and Wood were to become Yankees, I’d certainly support them. I want Gerrit Cole as much as anybody but the realist in me knows that we need to keep a very open mind regarding the potential actualities for the starting rotation. We are most likely not going to get the big ticket purchases and have to be prepared for players of value and potential.

I am also prepared to lose Didi Gregorius, Dellin Betances, and Austin Romine. There’s been talk lately that both Didi and Dellin, and possibly even Romine, could join Joe Girardi in Philadelphia. I hate to be petty, but I’d hate to see that happen. If Didi leaves, I’d prefer to see him go back to Cincinnati. As for Dellin, I’d rather see him join the Los Angeles Dodgers than the New York Mets. I continue to believe that Romine goes to the Los Angeles Angels, like Gerrit Cole. Of the three, I think the loss of Betances will hurt the most. The recent reports about the Yankees’ interest in Kansas City’s Tim Hill or Oakland’s Blake Treinen seem to indicate the Yankees are looking for Dellin’s replacement rather than simply looking to bolster the pen. Didi Gregorius has been one of my favorite Yankees. He was the perfect guy to replace Derek Jeter, and his personality is so enjoyable. I strongly believe 2020 will be a bounce back year for him and I hope it is in Pinstripes. While I know Gleyber Torres is a more than capable shortstop, my preference would be to keep him at second and bring Didi back. If Didi leaves, D.J. LeMahieu can be a free agent next year and we could be back searching for a second baseman next off-season like we were when Robinson Cano left. The Yankees could potentially swing a rumored trade for Francisco Lindor and Corey Kluber that would solve the shortstop/second base debate while addressing the starting rotation. No doubt I’d take Lindor over Sir Didi any day of the week regardless of how much I like the latter. However, I don’t think the Lindor/Kluber trade will happen, at least not with the Yankees.

I am not against the Yankees re-signing Austin Romine. I think he’s been a very good backup for the Yankees and the pitching staff loves him. In my opinion, another team will pay him more than the Yankees are offering and they’ll give him a better line for a starting job.  While Gary Sanchez is the undisputed starter for the Yankees, the need for two quality catchers in today’s game is very important. We’ve seen the Atlanta Braves spend to bring in Travis d’Arnaud, who enjoyed a career resurgence with the Tampa Bay Rays last year, to pair with Tyler Flowers following the retirement of Brian McCann. The Washington Nationals brought back Yan Gomes to pair with Kurt Suzuki.  While I think Kyle Higashioka can be that guy, we don’t really know until he proves he can be. I can see the Yankees bringing in catching competition for training camp to see where the chips fall. The depth behind Higgy is not good. The organization’s best catching prospects, Anthony Siegler and Josh Breaux are a couple of years away.

In a perfect world, I’d love to see Gregorius, Betances, and Romine all return to the Yankees next season, while bringing in Cole and Strasburg. Sadly it will not happen and we need to be prepared for none of them to be Yankees.

A controversial topic lately, at least among the Yankees fan base, is if the team should introduce alternative road uniforms. I think the majority, based on what I’ve seen, prefer to remain with the traditional uniforms without exception. While some like the all black uniforms the Yankees wore last year in Los Angeles against the Dodgers, there’s probably no chance the topic is even under discussion or consideration with the Steinbrenner family. For me, I have always loved these road uniforms worn by Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth.

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Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth

There’s no way I’d ever want the Yankees to mess with the home uniform but for the road, who cares?  The most important representation is the interlocking N-Y on the baseball cap. I hate the traditionalist mindset that says, ‘we do it because that’s the way we’ve always done it’. Change is good. I don’t want names on the uniforms so maybe that part of me is a traditionalist, but I have no objection to change for the better.

Following the release of Greg Bird by the Yankees, it seems that his best course to get back to the Major Leagues is to sign a minor league deal with a training camp invitation. Perhaps some team will offer him a major league contract but I doubt it.  Every MLB team had a chance to claim him on waivers and chose not to. Granted, as a free agent, he’ll come more cheaply than he would have if claimed off waivers, but Bird has much to prove. He needs to find a team that is willing to be patient with him. I wish him the best, and while I will miss his swing, I won’t miss his injury reports. I truly hope he has better luck staying healthy with his next destination. I think my biggest fear is that he goes to the Boston Red Sox and becomes the player we always thought he would be.

Monday is a big day with the 8 pm Eastern deadline for teams to tender contracts to their arbitration-eligible players. A couple of former Yankees are among the list of potential non-tender candidates…Brandon Drury and John Ryan Murphy.  I wouldn’t be opposed to a reunion with either player. I know both have underperformed since leaving the Yankees but I liked both when they were here and I continue to hold the optimism they could succeed in the right environment. I’d like to see what new catching coordinator Tanner Swanson could do with Murphy.

A week from Sunday is the start of Baseball’s Winter Meetings in San Diego, CA.  No doubt San Diego would love to dominate the local headlines with a Strasburg signing during the Meetings. It feels like this year’s meetings should be more active than last year. The off-season so far has been more active even if the Yankees have been relatively quiet. I guess we’ll soon find out. Time will tell if Hal Steinbrenner intends to deliver us a few Christmas presents early.

I hope everyone had an enjoyable and memorable Thanksgiving! It’s a beautiful time to spend with friends and family.

As always, Go Yankees!

The Yankees Deserve Your Patience…

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Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II/AP

Injury-riddled start does not end World Series aspirations…

The Yankees are 2-4 entering play today. The season-opening homestand against two of the AL’s worst teams didn’t exactly go according to plan.  The only saving grace is the Boston Red Sox have one more loss than the Yankees.  It’s disappointing but what are you going to do?  This ship will right itself.  I am certainly not going to declare this a lost season the first week in April.

I’ve said it before but I hate losing winnable games and that’s exactly what every one of those four losses have felt like. I don’t think anybody could have foreseen the rash of injuries that have hit the Yankees. I am certainly not going to join the ‘I wish we had signed Machado or Harper’ crowd or those who are still pining for Joe Girardi to return as Yankees manager. If the Yankees had signed Machado or Harper, who knows, they could have been hurt wearing the famed Pinstripes. I don’t think Girardi wins you more games than Aaron Boone. The Yankees turned that page and we’re not going back to Girardi regardless of what happens. There’s no doubt the Injured List is overflowing but this would have been impossible to predict regardless of any moves made by the Yankees Front Office during the past off-season.

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Now is the time for the guys given opportunities to step up. Greg Bird, Clint Frazier, Tyler Wade, Mike Tauchman, and, later today, Thairo Estrada, your time is now. Not tomorrow, not next week. Now. If a few of these guys can play up to potential, the Yankees will be alright. I am comfortable with D.J. LeMahieu and his glove at third base. He was a minor league third baseman and in his limited sample size in the Bronx, he’s looked like a veteran at the position. With the unexpected injury to Troy Tulowitzki…I take that back, no injury with Tulo is unexpected…the inevitable injury, shortstop is in good hands with Gleyber Torres. The pressure is on Tyler Wade to perform at second.

I am sure the Yankees see Luke Voit potential in Mike Tauchman but so far, the former Colorado Rockie looks like a 4A player. He may be great at Triple A but so far, like Tyler Wade, he has yet to prove it at the Major League level. Time to kick off the training wheels and let ‘er rip. They can establish their Major League careers right here, right now.  The dreams they’ve held since childhood are within their control.

I have my thoughts about the ability of some of these guys to live up to the hype but it’s up to them to prove they belong here. There’s a reason most were touted as top prospects at one time or another.

After one run through the starting rotation, and Masahiro Tanaka’s second start, I’ve been pleased with the quality of the starting pitching. Domingo German was great and Jonathan Loaisiga did a fine job yesterday in a limited appearance. The only forgettable performance was J.A. Happ but he’ll rebound.  We’re a couple of weeks away from the return of CC Sabathia and I am anxious to see how he performs but all in all, I like what we’re seeing from the rotation. It would be better with Luis Severino, but for now, the starting rotation is not the weak link. Sadly, I see no fit for Gio Gonzalez and fully expect him to either opt out on April 20th or decide to stay in Triple A to keep his arm fresh until somebody calls. It’s a little disappointing that a few of the losses have been bullpen failures but they haven’t exactly been given high run support.  Watching David Robertson blow a game yesterday for the Philadelphia Phillies against the Washington Nationals by walking in the winning run with the bases loaded shows things could be worse. I’d rather get beat throwing a hard fastball over the middle of the plate than letting the other team win on walks. I’ll gladly take my chances with Adam Ottavino in the fireman role previously held by D-Rob.

Once the healthy regulars start hitting, the Yankees can and should get on a roll. I never really dreamed that New York Mets ace Jacob deGrom would have a home run this season before Aaron Judge. Let’s have hope the guys will hit because they will. Death, taxes, and monstrous Aaron Judge bombs.  You can count on it.

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Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

I am not sure what I think about Miguel Andujar’s desire to return this season. If he avoids surgery and attempts to return, he may be limited to DH duties since it is harder to throw than it is to bat. He was already a defensive liability without the labrum tear.  I’d hate to see him try to play this year, need surgery in the off-season and potentially impact his availability in 2020. I’d almost prefer the surgery now to resolve the problem so that we know he’ll be at full speed for next season. Although it’s not great to play Giancarlo Stanton in the field and risk potential injury, the best use of the DH role is an open rotation to keep guys fresh.

To replace Troy Tulowitzki, I thought the Yankees would call up Gio Urshela to provide third base support for D.J. LeMahieu. The downside is Urshela is not on the 40-man roster so the Yankees would have needed to make room (either by moving someone to the 60-day Injured List or going the DFA route).  Instead, the Yankees will call up Thairo Estrada who is on the 40-man.  Estrada, 23, had been the starting shortstop for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders although his Triple A experience is extremely limited.  Personally, I’d love to see Estrada outperform Tyler Wade.  Well, I’d like to see Wade prove he belongs in the Big Leagues but I am not holding my breath. I’ve seen people suggesting the Yankees should make a trade with the Toronto Blue Jays to acquire Freddy Galvis or Brandon Drury. I wouldn’t be opposed to either player.  Galvis probably makes the most sense, but I liked Drury, despite the health issues, when he was here. I’ve even seen Ian Happ’s name mentioned. Happ is currently assigned to the Cubs’ top farm team in Iowa and can play multiple positions. I guess you can never have too many Happs on your team. But for now, let’s see what Estrada and Wade can do.  They might surprise a few people.

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Photo Credit: Jake Danna Stevens/The Citizens Voice

The Yankees hit the road today to face the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards in downtown Baltimore for the O’s Home Opener. After losing their first two series of the season, the Yankees need to take these three games at Inner Harbor or at least win two of three. The road doesn’t get any easier next week when the Yankees travel to South Texas to play the Houston Astros. They really need to build some momentum against the Orioles before playing a team they will face in October if all goes according to plan. James Paxton takes the ball today in the Road Grays. He’ll be opposed by Baltimore’s Alex Cobb who was supposed to get the Opening Day start at Yankee Stadium last week before getting pushed back.  Hopefully today is the day the Big Maple picks up the first of many Yankee wins. The Yankees will have a rare Friday off before resuming the series on Saturday and Sunday.

I am not ready to throw in the towel. Let’s give these Yankees a chance to overcome the early season injury woes. At least one of the replacement players will step up in a huge way, I am sure. This is still a very good team. Once we get into May and guys like Luis Severino, Dellin Betances, Aaron Hicks and Giancarlo Stanton are back, things will look much better. No reason to panic. Play today, win today. We’ll worry about Saturday on Saturday and there’s plenty of time to think about Houston after Sunday’s game.

As always, Go Yankees!

Opening Day Success for Tanaka & Company…

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Yankees Roll behind Tanaka and Voit…

I know, I am late to the party with writing about Opening Day but it was a very exciting day. Great weather, the wonderful presence of unanimous Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera throwing out the first pitch (I loved watching #42 fire one from the Yankee Stadium pitching mound), solid pitching by Masahiro Tanaka despite not having his best stuff, a villainous bullpen and a couple of home runs from people not named Aaron Judge or Giancarlo Stanton. It was an awesome day in the Bronx.

Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg/The New York Post

The 7-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles felt like it could not have been better scripted. It was a great start to the highly anticipated 2019 season by the Yankees. There’s obviously a long ways to go, with 161 more games on the schedule, but it’s better to start with a win than not.

I was around some non-Yankee fans watching the game who took delight when Tanaka gave up a couple of hits in the first inning even if the second infield single hit the lead runner for the final out. They were predicting doom and gloom for Tanaka and the Pinstripers. I know the Yankees were playing MLB’s worst team but I knew Tanaka would persevere. Despite a lackluster Opening Day history, Tanaka seems locked in this year. I certainly wasn’t going to give up hope after a couple of meaningless hits. Tanaka shook off the first inning and never looked back. I think this will be a big season for him.

The Yankees didn’t have to wait long for their first home run of the season. The easy picks would have been Judge or Stanton, but it was Luke Voit who kicked off the 2019 chase to beat the Yankees’ 2018 record of 267 home runs. Granted, the Yankees would end the day six home runs behind the Los Angeles Dodgers but there’s no doubt many balls are going to leave Yankee Stadium this year for the home team. When Luke hit that ball in the bottom of the first inning with Judge and Stanton on base, I wasn’t sure if it was hit hard enough to go out but with his classic hop at the plate, I felt a sense of assurance it did have the necessary distance. Thankfully it easily carried over the center field wall into Monument Park for a 3-0 lead. Miguel Andujar almost made it a four-run game when his fly ball took left fielder Dwight Smith, Jr to the wall but it fell short of clearing the fence.  As many said, that ball would have easily carried out in the heat of August. In cool, crisp March, the ball decided to find Smith’s glove instead.

Aaron Judge may not have hit the first Yankee home run of the season but he did score the first run thanks to Voit’s homer. It was a great game for Judge, who went 2-for-3 with a couple of walks and three runs scored. He only struck out once, showing a very patient eye. Despite the presence of so many great offensive forces in the Yankees’ lineup, Judge is clearly the conductor and the heart and soul of the team’s engine.

Photo Credit: Chris Pedota/NorthJersey.com-USA TODAY Sports

Great game for Luke Voit who also picked up another RBI in the bottom of the fifth when he was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. Voit finished with one official at-bat, the three-run homer, with the HBP and two walks. While I didn’t think last year was a fluke for Luke, he still has a long way to go to prove it was not but this was a very good way to start. I have no desire to underestimate the Yankees’ very talented baseball analytics team. The Chasen Shreve/Giovanny Gallegos trade for the former Cardinals minor leaguer, with minimal Big League opportunities, was/is a steal.

Photo Credit: Chris Pedota/NorthJersey.com-USA TODAY Sports

In a game Luis Severino had been slated to start until rotator cuff inflammation forced a change in plans, Tanaka pitched very well. He lasted until the sixth inning when a two-out run scoring double by Trey Mancini (one of the few recognizable names in Baltimore’s lineup) ended his day. 5 2/3 innings pitched, scattering six hits, yielding a couple of runs with only one earned and striking out five was a good day. From there, the Yankees used a bullpen formula we’ll see frequently this year. Adam Ottavino, who ended the sixth inning threat with a seven-pitch strikeout, to Zack Britton to Aroldis Chapman. I know there was concern with Chapman’s velocity (he was off his usual velocity by 3 to 5 mph) but it’s early. Not time to sound the alarms yet. I’ll go with those who attribute the reduced velocity to the cooler weather and Chapman’s age-induced work to transition from a hard thrower to more of a pitcher. I remain convinced we’ll see triple digits when the warmer weather returns.

Credit to Greg Bird for answering Voit’s home run with a solo dinger in the eighth after three strikeouts.  Bird got the start at first base over Voit, forcing the latter to DH. I really like Voit as the team’s first baseman but I am certainly not going to complain if Bird finally has the year we’ve long waited for. I love Bird’s swing when his bat is happy and healthy.

Although I would have really enjoyed to see David Robertson return to the Yankees for this season, I’ve been excited about the addition of Adam Ottavino since the day he was signed. He had a great Yankees debut with 1 1/3 innings pitched and three strikeouts.  His pitches are wicked. When he’s on, the batters have no chance. If D-Rob has re-signed, the Yankees most likely would not have signed AO. So I am pleased the way things turned out despite how much I liked Robertson.

I think my only disappointment with Opening Day was D.J. LeMahieu sitting on the bench through game’s end. It’s tough being a starter without a position. He is capable of so much more. Hopefully Aaron Boone figures out a good way to keep LeMahieu on the field, with his incredible glove, this season and his productive bat  in the order to help keep runners moving around the bases. LeMahieu is potentially a huge answer to the team’s RISP problem from last season.

Opening Day was a great success particularly considering every AL East team, except for the Yankees, lost. Chris Sale and the Boston Red Sox were bludgeoned in Seattle, although they did claw back and win last night’s game after trailing Seattle by two runs in the ninth inning, thanks to a three-run homer by Mitch Moreland off the M’s new closer, Hunter Strickland. Bummer that the Mariners traded their great young closer, Edwin Diaz, to the New York Mets in the off-season. If Diaz had been pitching, the Red Sox most likely would have lost their second consecutive game.

It stunk there was no Bronx baseball yesterday but the Yankees and O’s resume their series today. Woohoo! James Paxton will take the ball for his Yankees debut wearing the Pinstripes in Yankee Stadium for the first time. He’ll be opposed by Baltimore’s Nate Karns, the one-time Tampa Bay Ray. I am looking forward to watching Paxton on our side. Hopefully this will be a much better outing than his last Yankee stadium appearance. Last season, on June 21st, he surrendered two first-inning home runs to Aaron Judge and Miguel Andujar and lost a 4-3 decision to Luis Severino and the Yankees. On the bright side, the Big Maple won’t have to pitch to Judge and Andujar today since those guys will be playing behind him.

Poor Chasen Shreve. After being designated for assignment by the St Louis Cardinals, he cleared waivers and was sent outright to Memphis. Shreve may get another chance with the Cardinals if the injury bug hits their bullpen (very possible with the presence of injury-beleaguered Andrew Miller) but I am sure this is not how Shreve had planned for this season to play out. I was a little surprised that no team took a chance on Shreve but his stock has certainly fallen. He’s a good guy so I am hopeful he gets another chance but the game is clearly evolving away from lefty specialists. So if he can’t prove he is capable of more, his future is not bright.

Ronald Torreyes also failed to make the cut with the Twins. With an option left, Toe was assigned to Minnesota’s Triple A team in Rochester. The few times I saw him in Spring Training, I thought he looked good and had a chance to make the MLB roster. Hopefully he’ll get his chance to call Target Field home at some point this season. Former Yankees Tyler Austin, Jake Cave and Michael Pineda were all part of Minnesota’s Opening Day roster. Austin’s spot seems to be the most tenuous as he’ll be the odd man out when Miguel Sano is activated off the Injured List. With no options left, Austin’s future looks murky. The Twins have C.J. Cron at first and Nelson Cruz at DH. Both spots can be backed by Marwin Gonzalez so Austin represents a luxury with no real spot once Sano is back at third. These things have a way of working themselves out so hopefully Austin carves out a significant role with the Twins. If not, he’ll be packing his bags and moving on to the next city.

Bryan Mitchell was another ex-Yank to get the guillotine. Sent to the San Diego Padres in the salary-dump trade involving Chase Headley, Mitchell had been expected to be part of San Diego’s starting rotation this year. He was designated for assignment a couple of days ago and now awaits his fate. Ex-Yank Jose Pirela, a part of the Padres’ MLB roster the last few years, was optioned to El Paso. Nobody ever watches Padres games so I’m not sure anybody will notice. Hopefully Mitchell gets an opportunity with another organization to fulfill the promise he once held as a Yankees prospect. If not, he’ll be catching up with Pirela in West Texas for some Margaritas.

Keeping on track with the ex-Yankees theme, I was glad to see Melky Cabrera get another chance. In camp as a non-roster invitee with the Pirates, he was added to Pittsburgh’s Opening Day roster when outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall was placed on the injured list. I can still remember those great victory celebrations when Melky was a Yankee but Cabrera has traveled through many cities since that time. Hopefully he’ll get to spend some meaningful time in the Steel City. Former Yankees seem to do well in Pittsburgh.

One-time Yankees’ top prospect Mason Williams also gets another chance. After playing with the Cincinnati Reds organization the last couple of seasons, he was signed by the Baltimore Orioles yesterday after being cut by the Reds a couple of weeks ago. He’ll report to Baltimore’s top farm team in Norfolk, VA. It doesn’t seem like that long ago we were hoping for great things in Pinstripes for Williams. I guess if you want an opportunity to play, signing with a talent-devoid organization is the way to go. No doubt he’ll find his way to Camden Yards at some point this year if he proves himself in Triple A.

I continue to be amazed no team has signed either Craig Kimbrel or Dallas Keuchel. I really thought they’d be signed before the start of the season. I had fully expected the Milwaukee Brewers to grab Kimbrel after it was announced closer Corey Knebel would need Tommy John surgery but I guess the presence of premier bullpen shutdown artist Josh Hader lessens the need.  Keuchel can help almost any team win more games. I kept expecting him to be a late training camp sign by his former team, the Houston Astros, but it never happened. The Astros still seem like his best option but for now, he has to throw every five days on his own dime. If I was the GM of the Atlanta Braves, I’d be all over Keuchel to help with the highly competitive NL East. Maybe the baseball analytics are right about the regression of Keuchel, but I have to believe he can still help somebody.

I am very glad the baseball season is back. It’s been a long off-season. Spring training is nice but it gets old after awhile. It’s awesome to see games that count once again. I am hopeful these games lead to an AL East championship and a highly successful October for the Yankees. We’ve waited a very long time for this year. As they say, time will tell but I like our chances.

As always, Go Yankees!

Taking the Long View…

2019 MLB Season is here…

As we round the final turn and head down the home stretch to Opening Day, excitement and anticipation is filling the air. For the Yankees, it carries a hope there are no further injuries as the team prepares to take its best (or healthiest) twenty-five men north to the Bronx. As we sit, the Seattle Mariners have a two-game lead on the rest of Major League Baseball, thanks to their two-time sweep of the Oakland A’s in Tokyo, Japan earlier this week.

It’s unfortunate because I think he has the most talent but the guess here is that Jonathan Loaisiga is the odd man out for the starting rotation with Luis Cessa and Domingo German grabbing the two temporary starting spots opened by Luis Severino and CC Sabathia starting the year on the Injured List. Since Dellin Betances is expected to begin the year on the Injured List too, it could open the door for Loaisiga to join the bullpen as the long man but the Yankees will probably send him to Triple A to keep him stretched out. Cessa and German might need help and Gio Gonzalez is not quite ready to contribute. I expect the Yankees to begin the year with Sabathia serving his five-game suspension before he is moved to the Injured List so I’ll include him on the Opening Day roster, which is  why I am going with six starters and seven relievers. It will shake out an eight-man pen after Sabathia is moved to the Injured List and the Yankees bring up Loaisiga or promote Gonzalez to take one of the temporary rotation spots, which would push either Cessa or German to the pen.

Clint Frazier has been optioned for minor league reassignment and Aaron Hicks is expected to open on the Injured List which means the debate between Luke Voit or Greg Bird at first base won’t be resolved as both guys are making the final roster. Playing time will be tilted toward Voit, in my opinion, but Bird will have every opportunity, once again, to show that he belongs if he can stay healthy. I am losing confidence in Bird’s ability to stay healthy and play consistently but I would truly love to see that beautiful left-handed swing humming at Yankee Stadium.

So, as I sit here on a Saturday morning, this is my latest projected Opening Day roster.

STARTING PITCHERS (6)

Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, J.A. Happ, Luis Cessa, Domingo German and CC Sabathia (suspended for five games, then headed to the Injured List)

Injured List:  Luis Severino and Jordan Montgomery

BULLPEN (7)

Aroldis Chapman (Closer), Zack Britton, Adam Ottavino, Chad Green, Tommy Kahnle, Jonathan Holder, and Stephen Tarpley

Injured List: Dellin Betances and Ben Heller

CATCHER (2)

Gary Sanchez and Austin Romine

INFIELDERS (7)

Luke Voit, Greg Bird, Gleyber Torres, D.J. LeMahieu, Troy Tulowitzki, Miguel Andujar, and Tyler Wade

Injured List: Didi Gregorius

OUTFIELD (3)

Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Brett Gardner

Injured List: Aaron Hicks and Jacoby Ellsbury

Tyler Wade becomes the de facto fourth outfielder until Aaron Hicks returns.

Staying with the predictions theme, here is my projection for the upcoming MLB Season.

Division Champions and Wild Cards:

AL EAST

New York Yankees

AL CENTRAL

Cleveland Indians

AL WEST

Houston Astros

AL WILD CARD

Boston Red Sox

Minnesota Twins

NL EAST

Atlanta Braves

NL CENTRAL

Chicago Cubs

NL WEST

Los Angeles Dodgers

NL WILD CARD

Milwaukee Brewers

St Louis Cardinals

League Champions:

AMERICAN LEAGUE

New York Yankees

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Los Angeles Dodgers

And, last but certainly not least, your 2019 World Series Champions:

WORLD SERIES 

New York Yankees (over Los Angeles Dodgers in six games)

I know this is a Yankees blog but, hey, I am not biased! I am a realist.

The poor Dodgers.  They have become the Buffalo Bills of Major League Baseball. I think 2019 will be the end of their consecutive World Series appearance streak but sadly for them it will end like the past two years, another season ending in disappointment.

In making my choices, the two teams I thought the most about but didn’t add were the Tampa Bay Rays and the Washington Nationals. I really see the Minnesota Twins and the St Louis Cardinals as the surprise teams this season. With no offense to the New York Mets or Bryce Harper and the Philadelphia Phillies, I don’t see those teams in the mix at the end. The Nationals, even without Harper, are a better team than the Mets or Phillies. Maybe Bryce can make October plans with Mike Trout for some non-baseball related activities so they can compare notes as Baseball’s two highest paid performers.

The year of contract extensions continues. While Didi Gregorius, Dellin Betances, and Aaron Judge wait for agreement on future dollars, the St Louis Cardinals finalized their extension with first baseman Paul Goldschmidt (5 years for $130 million) which will be officially announced today and the Boston Red Sox locked up their ace, Chris Sale, with an extension of 5 years for $145 million. Sale can opt out after three years. He’ll earn $30 million per year for those three years, and then $27.5 million per year if he opts to stay for the final two seasons. I see so many Red Sox fans taking offense at Yankee fans making disparaging remarks about Sale but honestly the only people I ever see complaining about Sale are Red Sox fans.  Health is a risk for any pitcher. I think Sale is one of the best in the game and Boston was smart to keep their ace (although I’d rate Mookie Betts, a potential free agent after the 2020 season, as a greater need). Meanwhile, the Houston Astros are close to a two-year extension for $66 million with veteran starter Justin Verlander.

As teams narrow their rosters to the final 25, some ex-Yankees are in the news.  Former Yankees reliever, Chasen Shreve, who went to St Louis with Giovanny Gallegos in the trade that brought Luke Voit to New York, was designated for assignment by the Cardinals. I wonder how much the Cardinals would love to undo the Voit trade. I feel bad for Shreve. As a LOOGY, his days are potentially numbered with next year’s minimum three-batter rule. Good guy but I am not convinced in his ability to adapt to the impending changes in the game. Adeiny Hechevarria, in camp with the New York Mets as a non-roster invitee, did not make the cut.

Congratulations to infielder Yangervis Solarte, who did make the San Francisco Giants, and Curtis Granderson, who will be wearing the new Marlins gear for Team Derek Jeter. I am glad to see the Grandy Man still can.

After two massive home runs last night against the Philadelphia Phillies, I’d say Giancarlo Stanton is locked and loaded. I am really looking forward to watching him in his sophomore year with the Yankees. I am sure opposing pitchers, feeling the pain, will be saying “not so much”.

As always, Go Yankees!

Bryce Harper and the Unlucky 13 in Philadelphia…

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Credit: Sports Illustrated

In the End, Money Wins…

So, Bryce Harper will never wear Pinstripes. Well, not the right color of Pinstripes, that is. After the long and at times excruciating wait, Bryce will call Philadelphia home for the next thirteen years. $330 million ensured that if Bryce had any misgivings about the City of Brotherly Love or if he wasn’t exactly enamored with the personality of the Phillies manager, Gabe Kapler, it wasn’t something that money could not overcome. I guess you could say that Philadelphia’s own Benjamin Franklin had a say in the matter.

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I am disappointed, for sure. When the off-season began, I had hoped the Yankees would sign either Harper or Manny Machado. In fact, I felt sure they would grab one of those guys. While the Yankees had some lukewarm interest in Machado, they were never players for Harper. Oh well, what are you going to do – boycott the team? That’s foolish. The 2019 New York Yankees are a very good team. This is certainly the best team since 2009 and we know how that one ended. In many ways, you could say this team is better than the 2009 World Champions.

Jake Story, one of the co-leaders of the Talkin’ Yanks Podcast, tweeted this yesterday after the Harper announcement:

Talkin Jake

I saw so many reactions to Harper’s contract with Philadelphia but I felt Jake accurately and uniquely summed up exactly how I felt.

I really thought Harper or Machado would provide the Yankees’ with clear separation from the Boston Red Sox. Last year, the Red Sox were eight games better than the Yankees and they rolled past us in the AL Division Playoffs on their way to the World Series championship. I know, you can claim many of the Sox players had career years or that they have no bullpen this season. From my perspective, they are, sadly, the MLB Champs until proven otherwise. I didn’t want to beat the Red Sox this year…I wanted to crush them. Probably my biggest fear as we head into the new season is saying “I wish we had signed Harper or Machado” in October.

But Jake’s correct. We must have hope GM Brian Cashman is right about this team. He knows far more about the Yankees than we ever will. For Yankee fans to trash the Steinbrenner family or threaten to boycott games makes absolutely no sense to me. You can count on one hand the number of teams that tried to improve themselves as hard as the Yankees did this past off-season. The Boston Red Sox did nothing. They re-signed Nasty Nate (Nathan Eovaldi) but you and I know that carries a huge risk on a long-term deal. He’s a great guy but he is a two-time Tommy John recipient that throws incredibly hard. They let their top setup man, Joe Kelly, depart via free agency, and their closer, Craig Kimbrel, remains unsigned with Boston seemingly disinterested in a reunion due to the financial impact. The Yankees have the better bullpen, no question, but I do stand by the belief the Yankees bullpen will not be as great as the fans’ expectations and the Red Sox bullpen won’t be as horrific as Yankee fans seem to think. You know there will be bumps in the road for the greatest of bullpens. Relief arms can be so fickle at times. So, to simply believe we are going to beat Boston because of the respective bullpens is flawed thinking. They still have some very good baseball players on that team. While I think the Yankees will win the AL East this year, it would be very frustrating if we head into October as a Wild Card team again for the one game ‘do-or-die’. We may have won the last two Wild Card games, but inevitably the law of averages will bite us in the butt. I’d rather head into the playoffs with a five-game series and take our chances.

I can’t blame the Yankees for not wanting to make a ten to thirteen-year commitment for one player. Bryce Harper is not the best player in baseball even if he is paid like it. I know that the Phillies went thirteen years to drive down the AAV for luxury tax purposes but that’s a huge commitment regardless of the dollars involved. I thought the rumored offer by the Los Angeles Dodgers (four years for $168 million) made all the sense in the World. Bryce would have gotten more than enough money to live with the highest AAV in the game and the opportunity to test the free agent market again at age 30. However, I get Bryce’s desire to play in one city for the rest of his career. He is concerned about his legacy and playing in a stadium that gives him 40+ home run potential every year will allow him to pad his stats more than he might have accomplished at Dodger Stadium or Oracle Park in San Francisco. I am sure this was very enticing to him. He would have looked great in Yankee Stadium (building a greater legacy playing for Baseball’s most storied franchise) but I recognize by not signing Harper, the chances the Yankees spend big money to retain Didi Gregorius are increased.  I don’t want to lose Gregorius so maybe this off-season’s ‘Harpchado’ fiasco is a silver lining when all is said and done. Like they say, sometimes the best trade is the one not made at all. So, the best signing for Yankees might be the no signings of Harper and Machado.

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It’s a bummer we are in a stretch of non-televised Spring games. Gary Sanchez makes his Spring debut later today and we cannot watch unless we are at Steinbrenner Field. The next televised game (YES Network) is Sunday’s split squad game in Tampa against the uninspiring Detroit Tigers.

Troy Tulowitzski hit his second game of the Spring in yesterday’s 8-6 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates or so I read since I couldn’t watch the game with my own eyes.  It’s a little too early to get excited about Tulo but for as much as I’ve been down on the signing, I am intrigued by the energy and excitement he is bringing to games.  I am hoping he stays healthy and doesn’t go Ellsbury on us. If he can maintain his current physical condition, he might be able to help this season as long as Manager Aaron Boone does not overuse him. I know the plan is to give him frequent breaks, with Gleyber Torres sliding over from second base to spell him a few times per week, until Didi Gregorius returns later this summer. Hopefully the Yankees can stick to the plan and not be forced into a situation where we are dependent upon Tulo every day.  I have the same concerns about Brett Gardner but I digress. I am cautiously optimistic for a successful rebound season for the former Rockie/Blue Jay and hope he allays my fears. If it doesn’t work, the Yankees cut bait and move on but I sincerely hope he’s better than that.

The first base battle has been fun to watch so far this Spring. Both Luke Voit and Greg Bird are, pardon the cliché, ‘in it to win it’. Bird has played four games, with five hits in eight at-bats, a homer, two doubles and three RBIs.  Voit, the favorite entering Camp according to Boone, has played two games, with two hits in four at-bats, a homer and four RBIs. Small sample sizes, yes, but the guys are trying hard to impress. Love the effort. As down as I’ve been on Bird, it would be awesome for him to finally unlock his potential, staying healthy, with that beautiful left-handed swing in Yankee Stadium. If not, I hope Voit grabs the job and doesn’t let go. If the Yankees are not looking for a new first baseman in July, life will be good.

I don’t know why but there’s a part of me that would like to see the Yankees re-sign reliever Adam Warren. After being shipped away twice, I am not sure why Warren would want to come back to the Bronx or if there is even room in the bullpen for him, but I guess I’d rather see Warren as a Yankee than watch him end up in a place like Boston or Tampa. That’s just one of those sentimental, non-analytical feelings that serves absolutely no place in today’s game.

As a residual effect of the Bryce Harper signing, GM Brian Cashman should call Phillies GM Matt Klentak to find out what it would take to acquire left fielder Nick Williams. Williams is the player most directly impacted by Harper’s presence. He has underperformed in Philly but the 25-year-old lefty has some game.  Per Fangraphs, “These days prospects are supposed to offer instant gratification. With just one win above replacement through his first 791 plate appearances, Nick Williams has fallen short of expectations. Even though his offensive numbers technically declined between 2017 and 2018, extreme good fortune (a .375 BABIP) helped to fuel his rookie campaign. His peripherals improved last season including a seven-point drop in his swinging strike rate. His walk and strikeout rates moved in the right directions in large part due to massive gains to his plate discipline. As a hitter, Williams still has kinks. A trade of ground balls for more fly balls would better fit his sweet lefty swing if it can be achieved without more strikeouts. Despite above average speed, Williams shows no proclivity to run on the bases, and he’s posted bafflingly bad defensive marks. There’s a good chance time and experience will fix his ill-adventures in the outfield.” Williams, in my opinion, could be a good ‘buy low/high reward’ candidate. Exactly the type of player Cashman likes to accumulate. If the Yankees do not want to over-expose Giancarlo Stanton in left field, Williams could be a good platoon partner for Brett Gardner if the organization is down on Clint Frazier.

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Credit: USA TODAY Sports

For as much as we laugh about the Miami Marlins, I am really digging their new uniforms. Hats off to Marlins CEO Derek Jeter for bringing the new look to his franchise. Or maybe we should say, hats on.

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Credit: AP

I feel sorry for the Marlins this year as they are going to get their clocks cleaned by the Mets, Nationals, Braves, and Phillies in the highly competitive NL East but at least they’ll be look cool as they walk off the field with another loss.

Miami-Marlins-New-Logo-Leak

March has arrived so we’ve entered the month of true Yankees baseball…finally. With Opening Day just four weeks from yesterday, we’ll see the players ramping up over the next couple of weeks. The Boston Red Sox rode a hot start last April to the most successful season in franchise history. I am not expecting a similar historic start for the Yankees this year, but it would be nice for them to jump out of the gate strong. With the first nine games against the Baltimore Orioles and Detroit Tigers, both expected to have losing seasons, there’s no reason the Yankees can’t build an early division lead before they go head-to-head with the AL Elite Red Sox and Astros in early to mid-April. Exciting times. Let’s make this a Championship year!

As always, Go Yankees!

Happy Reporting Day for Yankee Pitchers and Catchers…

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Photo Credit: Bryan Hoch via Instagram

The Dawn of the 2019 MLB Season…

After a painfully long off-season filled with too many rumors and rampant speculation, Yankee pitchers and catchers officially report to training camp in Tampa, FL today to begin preparations for the upcoming season. Granted, many of the Yankee players are already in Tampa, working out informally, but Spring Training officially gets underway today with the first scheduled workout for pitchers and catchers tomorrow.

Meanwhile, position players can spend Valentine’s Day with their loved ones although many, like Aaron Judge, Troy Tulowitzki, Didi Gregorius, Clint Frazier and others, are already in camp in advance of Monday’s reporting date. The first full team workout will be next Tuesday.

I really thought there would be movement with Manny Machado and Bryce Harper this week. Of course, I’ve been thinking that every week since the start of the new year.  At this point, I don’t really know when they’ll sign. I still think they’ll be in some team’s camp, either in Florida or Arizona, before Opening Day but who knows. I feel so bad for the other guys. The free agents not named Machado or Harper. So many guys who can make a difference on a Major League roster, like Marwin Gonzalez, Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel, and they can’t find work. Clearly something has to change. For the Yankees, they appear to have the guys who will compete for the Opening Day roster barring any last-minute additions. Even if the Yankees didn’t sign Machado or Harper, they’ve been one of the more active teams this off-season.

The biggest battle to watch this Spring is the first base competition between Luke Voit and Greg Bird. By the way, Happy Birthday to Luke!  He is 28 years old today. DJ LeMahieu will apparently also see time at first in his role as the utility player for the team (which makes no sense to me). I’d like to see Voit win the job outright, continuing his late season run from last year.  I like his energy and excitement.  It’s infectious and spreads to his teammates. I would love to see Greg Bird hit the way we know he can but, like many people, I am tired of waiting. My guess is Bird goes to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to find himself if Voit wins the job. Bird’s sweet left-handed swing would look beautiful in Yankee Stadium but I am losing confidence we’ll ever see it consistently. For as much as I want Voit to win the job, I wouldn’t be disappointed if Bird killed it this Spring to reclaim the position for himself. That would be a great problem to have.

I just can’t wrap my head around the thought that Troy Tulowitzki is the starting shortstop. In my mind, he’s done. If he shows anything in camp, great, but realistically, I am not expecting anything from him. Team defense, in my opinion, is better served with Gleyber Torres at short and DJ LeMahieu, and his gold glove, at second until Didi Gregorius returns later this summer. Tulo is such a Wild Card at the moment. He could make the Opening Day roster and be the starting shortstop or he could by cut by the end of March when the team identifies its best 25 players. Honestly, neither would surprise me. But I think LeMahieu is the better player at this point and the Yankees have a greater investment in him. I find it very hard to believe that LeMahieu is simply the new Ronald Torreyes. He is better and deserves better.

dj-lemahieu-stats-yankees-contract-manny-machado
Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated

Out in left field, dependence on Brett Gardner as the starter is flawed logic. A fourth outfielder at best at this stage of his career, it would be better for Clint Frazier to win the job (unlikely) or put Giancarlo Stanton in left more often which is always a risk since he carried the injury-risk label until his monster 2017 season when he won the NL MVP Award for the Miami Marlins. DH is the best way to keep Stanton healthy and hitting the way he did during his MVP year. Jacoby Ellsbury, if healthy, looms as a threat to take a roster spot away from Frazier for Opening Day. I anxiously look forward to the day when Ellsbury and the Yankees part ways. While I don’t expect him on the field Opening Day, the possibility exists he is there if healthy.  The problem with Ellsbury is even if he is healthy, it won’t stay that way. The King of the DL will become the King of the new IL (“Injured List”). Let those insurance checks keep rolling in for Team Hal.

The only other real competition will be the last spots in the bullpen. Tommy Kahnle is expected to take one of the jobs, assuming he can pitch like he did in 2017. I really hope that the last man in the pen is not Luis Cessa. That’s another guy I’d like to see leave. I would prefer the last spot go to either Domingo German or Jonathan Loaisiga as the swing man/spot starter assuming the Yankees do not bring anyone else into Camp.  Let German and Lasagna duke it out in the Spring with the best arm heading north to the Bronx in late March. Danny Farquhar probably looms as a sentimental favorite for many after last year’s brain hemorrhage. If Kahnle fails to win a job and Farquhar proves he should be one of the bullpen finalists, I’d like to see him get it.

It’s an exciting time in the Yankees Universe. We have one of the best teams in Baseball right now. If this team can perform to its expectations, we should be watching Yankees baseball deep into October. Hopefully, this season will not see the Boston Red Sox spilling champagne on Yankee Stadium soil. It would be much better for the Yankees to return the favor with celebrations at Fenway Park while sounds of New York, New York reverberate through its halls. I know, it would be better for the Yankees to celebrate at home, in front of Yankee fans, but there’s a part of me that wants to see the Yankees in googles and bubbly in the very heart of the Red Sox Nation.

I was a little disappointed to see Jorge Posada is joining the Miami Marlins organization as a special adviser.  I know, it was destined to be considering Jorge’s close relationship with Marlins CEO Derek Jeter but it’s still tough now that it is actually happening.

posada-jeter
Photo Credit: Getty Images

It’s difficult to watch 50% of the Core Four representing another MLB organization. Plus, a third Yankees retired number currently manages the team. I guess we should be thankful the Marlins are in the National League so the Yankees do not play them very often. Credit to Alex Rodriguez for maintaining his alliance with the Yankees after the end of his playing career.  I know part of it was the renegotiation of his playing contract into special services for Hal Steinbrenner, but A-Rod could have severed ties as he pursued his broadcast career with FOX and ESPN Sunday Night Baseball. Posada’s move makes me very thankful for Mariano Rivera, my favorite member of the Core Four. Rivera recently announced his intention to be a pitching consultant for the Yankees (teaching pitching in the organization in a to-be-determined role).  I’d really like to see the Yankees get Andy Pettitte back in the family. I’ve always thought he’d be a tremendous pitching coach and I’d love to see him transition back into pro coaching as an eventual successor for Larry Rothschild. We may have lost Jeter and Posada for now, but I don’t want to lose either Rivera or Pettitte. Eventually Don Mattingly will get fired.  Not that I want him to lose his job, but when the inevitable parting of the ways occurs, I am hopeful that Mattingly can find his way home.  Maybe not as a manager, but I look forward to the day when Donnie Baseball is a frequent visitor to Yankee Stadium again even if it is only for Spring Training and Old Timer’s Day.

It’s exciting to see the images of Spring Training. I am glad we’re getting the band together again and look forward to the first exhibition game a week from Saturday in Fort Myers, FL against the hated Boston Red Sox. This is the year we take them down. AL East Championship, American League Championship, World Series Championship. The time is now. Let’s end Boston’s reign.

As always, Go Yankees!

It’s Only A Number…

Shortage: Available Yankee Jersey Numbers…

The Yankees announced a few number assignments and reassignments yesterday so I thought I’d take the liberty of putting all the numbers together on one list.

I thought it was interesting that Greg Bird’s number is shared with Billy Burns, a non-roster invitee, assuming the information on the Yankees website is correct. There are a few other duplications but Bird stood out the most. I don’t think it means anything but it is a message to Bird that he had better bring his “A” game to Spring Training if he intends to keep the number.

Not that it is our concern but I worry about how many numbers will be available a hundred or two hundred years down the road. Personally, I think they should make it mandatory for coaches to wear numbers in the eighties to free up the lower numbers for players. Phil Nevin and I seem to be in agreement on this topic although his choice of numbers makes me think of Dallas Cowboys’ greats Drew Pearson and Michael Irvin (even though I am not a Cowboys fan).

I am assuming 35 is out of circulation for Mike Mussina due to his recent induction into the MLB Hall of Fame. The number has been assigned out since Moose’s retirement, primarily held by Michael Pineda during his stay. I think Phil Nevin wore it last year after he gave up 53 to Zach Britton. But there are other retired numbers that were worn by subsequent players, like Graig Nettles with 9 or Chris Chambliss with 10, before they were taken out of circulation. A couple of other numbers are open but not in circulation (13 for Alex Rodriguez and 21 for Paul O’Neill). If, by chance, Manny Machado were to become a Yankee (unlikely), it would be interesting to see if A-Rod would consent to giving up his number. I think he would but the way the market is playing out, we may never know.

Frankly, I am not a big fan of retired numbers. I think it becomes more of a popularity contest and numbers get retired for good, not great, players when retiring numbers should be reserved for those truly special once-in-a-lifetime players like Babe Ruth or Lou Gehrig.

Number Player Number Player
0 Adam Ottavino, LHP 50 Reggie Willits, First Base Coach
1 Billy Martin 51 Bernie Williams
2 Derek Jeter  52 CC Sabathia, LHP
3 Babe Ruth  53 Zach Britton, LHP
4 Lou Gehrig 54 Aroldis Chapman, LHP
5 Joe DiMaggio 55 Rex Brothers, LHP (NRI)
6 Joe Torre 56 Jonathan Holder, RHP
7 Mickey Mantle 57 Chad Green, RHP
8 Bill Dickey

Yogi Berra

58 Larry Rothschild, Pitching Coach
9 Roger Maris 59 Josh Bard, Bench Coach
10 Phil Rizzuto 60 Mike Harkey, Bullpen Coach
11 Brett Gardner, LF 61 Ben Heller, RHP
12 Troy Tulowitzki, SS 62 Danny Coulombe, LHP (NRI)

Marcus Thames, Hitting Coach

13 Open 63 Domingo German, RHP

P.J. Pilittere, Asst Hitting Coach

14 Tyler Wade, 2B/SS 64 Carlos Mendoza, QC Coach/Infield Instructor
15 Thurman Munson 65 James Paxton, LHP
16 Whitey Ford 66 Kyle Higashioka, C
17 Aaron Boone, Manager 67 Jonathan Loaisiga, RHP
18 Didi Gregorius, SS 68 Dellin Betances, RHP
19 Masahiro Tanaka, RHP 69 No Comment
20 Jorge Posada 70 Giovanny Urshela, 3B (NRI)
21 Open 71 Stephen Tarpley, LHP
22 Jacoby Ellsbury, CF 72 Kyle Holder, SS (NRI)
23 Don Mattingly 73 Open
24 Gary Sanchez, C 74 Joe Harvey, RHP
25 Gleyber Torres, 2B 75 David Hale, RHP (NRI)
26 DJ LeMahieu, 2B 76 Nestor Cortes, Jr, LHP (NRI)
27 Giancarlo Stanton, DH/OF 77 Clint Frazier, LF
28 Austin Romine, C 78 Kellin Deglan, C (NRI)
29 Open 79 Francisco Diaz, C (NRI)
30 Ryan Lavarnway, C (NRI) 80 Jorge Saez, C (NRI)
31 Aaron Hicks, CF 81 Open
32 Elston Howard 82 Open
33 Greg Bird, 1B

Billy Burns, OF (NRI)

83 Open
34 J.A. Happ, LHP 84 Brady Lail, RHP (NRI)
35 Open 85 Luis Cessa, RHP
36 Danny Farquhar, RHP (NRI) 86 Domingo Acevedo, RHP
37 Casey Stengel 87 Albert Abreu, RHP
38 Open 88 Phil Nevin, Third Base Coach
39 Drew Hutchison, RHP (NRI) 89 Open
40 Luis Severino, RHP 90 Thairo Estrada, 2B/SS
41 Miguel Andujar, 3B 91 Cale Coshow, LHP (NRI)
42 Jackie Robinson

Mariano Rivera

92 Estevan Florial, CF (NRI)
43 Chance Adams, RHP 93 Michael King, RHP (NRI)
44 Reggie Jackson 94 Trey Amburgey, OF (NRI)
45 Luke Voit, 1B 95 Mike Ford, 1B (NRI)
46 Andy Pettitte 96 Matt Lipka, OF (NRI)
47 Jordan Montgomery, LHP 97 Open
48 Tommy Kahnle, RHP 98 Raynel Espinal, RHP (NRI)
49 Ron Guidry 99 Aaron Judge, RF

Bold/Italicized = Retired Numbers

NRI = Non-Roster Invitee

The Boston Red Sox seem to be scavenger hunting for bullpen help. In the last couple of days, they’ve added RHP Brian Ellington and LHP Dan Runzler. Who? Exactly…

The ping pong match between the Chicago Cubs and White Sox with former Yankees prospect LHP Ian Clarkin has finally come to an end. One team would place the player on waivers and the other would claim him. It started when the White Sox placed him on waivers this off-season, claimed by the Cubs, waivers and claimed by the White Sox, waivers and reclaimed by the Cubs. He was placed on waivers again by the Cubs but went unclaimed and was sent outright yesterday to Triple A Iowa. I’ve always liked Clarkin and hope he can find success in Chicago (one park or the other). I would love to see Clarkin back in the Yankees organization but not at the expense of a 40-man roster spot.

It is Groundhog’s Day but this is one day that I’d never want to repeat. This off-season has been brutal and I would not want to extend it one more day. February 13th, when pitchers and catchers report, cannot get here fast enough. The first workout for the pitchers and catchers will be Valentine’s Day, while the position players must show up by Monday, February 18th. Full squad workout the next day, and then the first exhibition game on Saturday, February 23rd when the Yankees travel to Fort Myers, FL to play the Boston Red Sox at JetBlue Park.

I am so ready to talk about the players on the field and not the hypotheticals about certain 26-year-old free agent superstars. Soon, very soon…

As always, Go Yankees!

Zach in the New York Groove…

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Andy Marlin)

Yankees to re-sign LHP Zach Britton…

The old Ace Frehley song seems so appropriate. With some slight alteration, …Zach’s back, back in the New York groove!

I was very pleased to see last night’s news. I don’t know who broke the news first, but it was a Jeff Passan/ESPN tweet that caught my attention. It’s always fun to see a story break on Twitter. First, it’s a random tweet or two and then it’s an avalanche. I wasn’t really expecting major news on a Saturday night but I’ll gladly take it.

The Yankees and Britton’s agent, Scott Boras, were able to get creative with the structure of the deal. It is essentially a three-year contract with an option for a fourth year. The Yankees must guarantee the fourth year after the completion of the 2020 season. If they do not, Britton has the right to opt-out  or he can choose to complete the third year. The contract pays $13 million per year, which guarantees Britton $39 million if he does not opt out. The fourth year, if exercised, would pay $14 million, bringing the total value to $53 million. If Britton is traded during the contract, he’ll get an assignment bonus of $1 million according to Ken Rosenthal.

I am excited to know Britton will be returning to join Aroldis Chapman and Dellin Betances at the back end of the Yankees bullpen. I’ve heard the complaints about his control but he got progressively better after the deadline trade that brought him to the Bronx from Baltimore. I think with a full spring training (he was unable to participate last year with the Orioles) and the further distance from the surgery on his right Achilles tendon in December 2017, he’ll be much closer to the elite reliever we saw in 2016 when he was electric for the Birds. In ’16, he was 2-1, 0.54 ERA in 69 games, converting all 47 save chances he was given. Britton set an American League record with 60 consecutive saves from October 1, 2015 through August 21, 2017.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Rob Carr)

After joining the Yankees last summer, Britton was 1-0 with 2.88 ERA in 25 games, with 21 strikeouts. Although he got a late start to the 2018 season, he had the best groundball rate for any pitcher in MLB with at least 40 innings (73.0%).

The off-season assumption had been Britton would leave for a closing opportunity despite his late season comments about wanting to win more than collecting saves. Early in the off-season, he was connected to the St Louis Cardinals, Philadelphia Phillies and Boston Red Sox, but surprisingly in the end, the Yankees’ primary rival for Britton’s services was the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Brian Cashman was able to beat his former chief lieutenant, Angels GM Billy Eppler, by offering more guaranteed money. The Cardinals took themselves out of the running by signing Andrew Miller and the Phillies, as we know, snagged David Robertson. The Red Sox are feeling the pain of high payroll and are waiting for prices to fall. I think eventually Craig Kimbrel’s asking price will come back into their range. There’s no way he is going to get $100 million regardless of his track record.

When season ended, I had wanted the Yankees to get one of Britton, Robertson or Adam Ottavino. After D-Rob moved on, I was hopeful for at least Britton or Ottavino but now that Britton is back in the fold, I want Ottavino too. I am excited about the potential of guys like Tommy Kahnle (if he can return to 2017 form), Stephen Tarpley, Domingo Acevedo, Chance Adams and others, but Ottavino would truly cap a return to a super bullpen, perhaps the best in Major League Baseball. With continued questions in the starting rotation, this is a must.

With no further moves, the 2019 Yankees are looking very good. Still need a strong defensive shortstop to back up Troy Tulowitzki. Adeiny Hechavarria or Jose Iglesias, come on down! Actually, this could be a great opportunity for Hanser Alberto to make the Show. But imagine this team if they can sign Manny Machado and Adam Ottavino. I’d call that a very successful off-season. Regardless of what happens, I feel better about the team today than I did yesterday morning. I was worried that the holes in the bullpen would be filled with lesser talent. I guess one should never underestimate Brian Cashman and his ability to get Hal Steinbrenner to loosen the grip on his wallet.

Photo Credit: ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

Once Britton takes his physical and the contract is finalized, the Yankees will have to make another roster decision. RHP A.J. Cole lost his seat at the table with Tulo’s signing. Next up appears to be Luis Cessa, Ben Heller or Joe Harvey if the Yankees can find a suitable trade partner as those guys have some value. Heller, who underwent Tommy John surgery last April, might be the most vulnerable despite my preference to see Cessa go. Tim Locastro appears safe for now but things could change if Machado signs with the Yankees.

There’s been some talk about first base and the Yankees’ intent to go into Spring Training with Luke Voit as the starter. I don’t mind first base competition between Voit and Greg Bird. I know a few of us are getting tired of Bird’s inability to take advantage of opportunities due to a variety of injuries but I also know I am not ready to give up on Bird’s talents (apparently neither are the Yankees). I liked the energy Voit brought to the team but conversely I enjoy Bird’s sweet swing. My only hope is the better player gets the job and the other backs him up. At this point, I can’t say if it should be Voit or Bird. The competition begins in earnest next month so we’ll soon see. First base is a position I’ll be watching closely when the Grapefruit League games begin but I am cautiously optimistic we’ll be pleased with the outcome, whatever it may be. May the best man win.  Ready, set, go…

Photo Credit: AP, via NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

As always, Go Yankees!