Tagged: Hal Steinbrenner

Fun Week in Yankees Universe…

BJP2TVT2SZDJBID4CPRXXHNB3E
Photo Credit: Mike Stobe, Getty Images

Gerrit Cole is a Yankee…

Sorry, but typing those words does not get old. This was quite the week with the brilliant introduction of Gerrit Cole at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday.  Brian Cashman, Aaron Boone, and particularly Gerrit Cole said all the right things. “Pressure is a privilege” will certainly become as much a part of our Yankee lingo as “Savages in the box”.  Yankee fans especially liked Cole’s words “I’m here. I’ve always been here” while pulling out the 18-year-old sign from Game 6 of the 2001 World Series in Phoenix which featured the words ‘YANKEE FAN TODAY, TOMORROW, FOREVER’.

29db02fd-d089-431a-920b-04d9383ce701-Gerrit_Cole_sign_
Photo Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran, USA TODAY Sports

People seemed to dissect whether the sign was the original or not. Not that it really matters one way or the other, but I think it was the faded original. The point is a one-time young Yankee fan achieved his dream of playing for his favorite childhood team. A child who would grow up to be among the best in his profession.

I’ve been looking for Hal Steinbrenner to excite the Yankees fan base for a few years and he certainly delivered this month. Of course, no sooner than the press conference was over, Yankee fans were calling for Steinbrenner to trade top prospect Jasson Dominguez to Cleveland for Francisco Lindor. As great as it would be to have Lindor in the Yankees lineup, it is not happening. If the Indians do trade their ultra-talented shortstop, it’s more likely he’d go to a team in the National League like the Los Angeles Dodgers. Lindor is scheduled to make $16.7 million in 2020 with one more year of arbitration until he becomes a free agent. The Yankees are trying to unload J.A. Happ to get his $17 million off the books to help the team get below the third luxury tax tier. As great as Lindor is, I don’t see the Yankees staying above the third tier. Without Lindor, many are already saying the Yankees are the favorites to win the 2020 World Series. I am not a prospect-hugger but I don’t want to trade Dominguez.  There are countless prospects overflowing with elite potential who never made it to the Show but still, I’d rather take my chances on a seemingly count-miss prospect like Dominguez even if he eventually flames out. He has a chance to be something special and I’d prefer to see it in a Yankees uniform.

Screen Shot 2019-12-21 at 9.45.26 AM
@jassondominguez_7 via Instagram

For me, the only work that needs to be done is bringing in depth at certain positions. I’d like to see the addition of an infielder that can cover second and short to compete with Tyler Wade and Thairo Estrada in Spring Training. A left-handed hitter would be nice. He can’t play short, but someone like Travis Shaw and his ability to play all infield positions except catcher and shortstop seems to make good sense. Wade, as the backup shortstop, could play a valuable role on the bench with his speed and positional flexibility.

As much as I like Lindor, I think the one player I’d target if I owned the Yankees would be Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado. The Rockies are apparently considering offers since they’re entering a rebuild situation. Financially-speaking, I don’t think the Yankees would take on his contract, but to me, there’s a greater need for a guy like Nolan at third base than there is for Lindor at short. I know, putting Lindor at short would allow Gleyber Torres to stay at second, and D.J. LeMahieu to remain as the Utility Man Extraordinaire. But to add an elite bat and glove at third base carries great value. With no disrespect to Gio Urshela or Miguel Andujar, neither is on the same level as Arenado as a complete premier player.  Nevertheless, I do not see the Yankees bringing in any more “big” names this off-season.

I was surprised the Cleveland Indians finally traded Corey Kluber after years of speculation. Their return from the Texas Rangers seemed a bit light (outfielder Delino DeShields, Jr and hard-throwing reliever Emmanuel Clase). I don’t really feel bad the Yankees missed out on him.  He’ll be 34 in April, and he missed most of last year due to injury. Going to Texas represents a homecoming of sorts for Kluber as he went to high school in Coppell, Texas, a suburb of Dallas. At some point soon, perhaps, he’ll be entering the decline phase of his career. Maybe he has resurgence in Texas like Justin Verlander did, but then again, maybe not. I’d prefer younger players to help keep the Yankees’ current championship window open. If the Yankees had missed out on Cole, then maybe Kluber would have been a great option. Heading into the season, I have no qualms about a rotation featuring Cole, Luis Severino, James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, and Jordan Montgomery. I do feel Happ will be traded so I didn’t include his name, and although I think Montgomery will be on an innings limit, we have guys like Deivi Garcia and Michael King ready to step in at some point next season.  I could see the Yankees bringing in a veteran starter on a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training. Or Brian Cashman making a trade for a young, controllable starter is always an option.

I expected Luke Voit to give up his number 45 to Gerrit Cole but I was surprised Luke went with number 59. On social media, he indicated he will wear the number to honor his brother who went to West Point and was Captain of Army’s football team. Makes sense. 59 has always seemed like a coach’s number to me and that’s who has primarily worn the number in recent years, but no reason that Luke can’t make it his own. Luke has a “football” mentality so it fits his persona.

Screen Shot 2019-12-21 at 9.47.47 AM
@lukevoit via Instagram

The excitement for Cole was nearly matched by yesterday’s news the Yankees had parted ways with their director of strength and conditioning, Matt Krause. While I believe it was a necessary change (much like the dismissal of pitching coach Larry Rothschild), I feel bad for Krause, the man. His dismissal most likely happened weeks ago and we’re just now hearing about it, but regardless of when the decision was made, you hate to see anyone lose their job prior to Christmas.  People view Krause as the reason for the high number of injuries last year and that’s probably unfair. Krause was the 2017 Professional Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year and had been employed by the Yankees since 2014. I am all for the change, but I do hope that Krause lands on his feet for his next opportunity. Sadly, he now carries the stigma of 30 men lost to the Injured List in one season, a MLB record.  Not exactly something you want on your resume as a specialist in strength and conditioning.

Credit to the Yankees for realizing the changes they needed to make within their infrastructure regarding coaching philosophies and the bright, new talent they’ve brought in with the changing of the guard. New pitching coach Matt Blake may be the face of the change, but this goes much deeper than just him. Yankees Assistant GM Michael Fishman, the analytics guru, is rapidly becoming a major force within the Yankees’ hierarchy. With the news that Assistant GM Jean Afterman is moving to Sonoma, CA for family reasons and will be working remote, it seems like Fishman may leapfrog her as a bigger voice, and now face, within the organization. His presence at Cole’s press conference was confirmation.

gettyimages-1125512726-2048x2048

I know many Yankee fans were disappointed yesterday to see Gerrit Cole’s personal catcher last year, Martin Maldonado, re-sign with the Houston Astros. As we saw with Austin Romine’s departure, the Yankees are not going to spend $3-$4 million on a backup catcher. Maldonado got 2 years, $7 million from the Astros and there’s no way the Yankees were going there. They seem committed to making Kyle Higashioka the backup to Gary Sanchez, but admittedly, I’d prefer a better Plan B than the return of 39-year-old Erik Kratz who was signed to a minor league deal this week. At this point, I don’t see the Yankees bringing in competition for Higgy. Jason Castro, currently a free agent, has experience with new Yankees catching coordinator Tanner Swanson but I don’t see the Yankees paying Castro the money he’ll be looking for.  We were spoiled a bit by Romine the last couple of years since he always seemed to come up big during Gary’s IL stints.  But there’s no reason Higgy can’t deliver in the role.  He has superior pitch framing skills, and there’s some pop in his bat.  As much as I am looking forward to Swanson’s work with Sanchez, the same holds true for Higgy. The brightest catching prospects in the organization (Anthony Siegler, 20, and Josh Breaux, 22) have yet to play above Class A ball.

Lastly, it appears to be the end of the Pinstriped road for former top pitching prospect Chance Adams. He was designated for assignment on Wednesday before the Yankees announced Cole to make room on the 40-man roster. It’s disappointing as many of us had very high hopes for Adams, but the last couple of years have not been fun. Like many, I thought Adams might be a stronger option in the bullpen but we’ll never know. He could clear waivers and end up back in Scranton/Wilkes Barre but it seems like somebody would be willing to take a chance, no pun intended, on the former top prospect. He is only 25, has an option remaining, and some team might think they can pull his potential out. You see pitching-starved teams like the Los Angeles Angels and think they’d be all over this. I expect a trade as the more likely outcome although I can’t really see the Yankees getting much in return. Hopefully the change of scenery will be good for Chance and he’ll achieve the Major League dream at some point in the not-so-distant future. I am sad it didn’t work out with the Yankees but it was not to be.

The Yankees still need to make room for Brett Gardner once he is officially announced. If J.A. Happ isn’t traded, I think Stephen Tarpley is probably next up on the chopping block. I’d prefer to keep Ben Heller over Tarpley, and not really interested in parting with the younger arms that were added to the 40-man roster earlier this Fall. There was a time I wanted Luis Cessa to go, but he proved last year to be a good long-man option. With the departure of Nestor Cortes, Jr, Cessa carries more value than he did in seasons past. At this point, the next major milestone for the Yankees will be Februrary 12th when pitchers, including Gerrit Cole – woohoo!, and catchers report to Legends Field in Tampa, FL.

Gerrit-Cole4
Photo Credit: Associated Press

As always, Go Yankees!

The Gerrit Cole Watch…

T25UQXBA5JDV7IYODWEVTIAGOI

And now we wait…

Will Gerrit Cole wear the famed Pinstripes or will he find refuge in a Southern California town?  I think the vast majority of the Yankees Universe want the long and anticipated addition of Cole to happen although I do not have the stats to show it. With no slight to Stephen Strasburg, an elite pitcher, Cole is the best available free agent pitcher on the market.

By now, we know the Yankees are targeting a major free agent for what feels like the first time since Masahiro Tanaka. When the Yankees were courting Masa, they went out of their way to show him the Yankees experience. GM Brian Cashman showed a ‘no holds barred’ approach during his recent meeting with Cole and agent Scott Boras, bringing along Manager Aaron Boone, Pitching Coach Matt Blake, and former Yankee great Andy Pettitte. Of course, I temper this knowing that they also brought along Team President Randy Levine, not exactly one of my favorites. Despite Levine’s presence, it is clear the Yankees mean business.

Last year, with free agents Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, Yankees fans were mixed and, in retrospect, there was no apparent strong interest from the team other than the obligatory dinners in New York. At the time, so many fans were saying Harper and Machado were “luxuries”. I still take exception to that word. When you haven’t won a championship in a decade, no player is a luxury. Still, I get it. The Yankees were able to get great production from a cheaper alternative in the form of David John LeMathieu. Hats off to the Yankees for identifying a great player without having to pay in excess of $300 million. There’s no doubt in my mind, if the Yankees had paid either Harper or Machado, we wouldn’t even be here talking about Cole despite the Yankees obvious need for an elite starting pitcher. Sure, the Yankees can afford it, but I don’t think they’d be considering the estimated $250-$280 million it will take to land Cole if they had paid $330 million to Harper or $300 million to Machado. In retrospect, it seems the Yankees had their eye on the prize (Cole) last year, a clear need and not a luxury.

The Yankees have been connected to Cole for a very long time. They drafted him in the first round of the 2008 MLB Draft (28th overall), but we all know Cole did not sign, opting to attend UCLA after graduating from Orange Lutheran High School, a comprehensive private Christian co-educational college preparatory high school in Orange, CA despite his childhood status as a Yankee fan.

pasted image 0
Photo Credit: William Perlman, The Star Ledger

Even after the Pittsburgh Pirates selected Cole as the first overall pick in the 2011 MLB Draft and signed him, there was always talk that connected Cole to the Yankees. It was apparent the Yankees had a continued interest in him over the years. It reached the epitome a couple of years ago when there was strong speculation the Yankees were going to acquire Cole from the Pittsburgh Pirates. For a few days during the 2017-18 off-season, it felt like it was a done deal, but it never came together and the Pirates subsequently dealt Cole to the Houston Astros in January 2018 for what seemed like a lighter return than the Yankees could have offered (Pirates received Michael Feliz, Jason Martin, Colin Moran and Joe Musgrove). I know, the most rumored Yankee name was Clint Frazier, a player over-valued by most Yankee fans and a player the Pirates did not need at the time. I am convinced the Yankees could have found the right mix of players to entice the Pirates, but we’ll never really know unless former Pirates GM Neal Huntington decides to write a ‘tell-all’ book.

When ESPN’s Jeff Passan tweeted the other day the Yankees had ownership-level approval to go after Cole, it sent a wave of excitement through the Yankees Universe. After initial excitement, the realist in me knows that nothing is done until Cole’s signature is on the dotted line. There’s still time for the Los Angeles Angels or Los Angeles Dodgers, or some other team, to make a ridiculous offer. We know Cole is going to get more money than any free agent pitcher in history regardless of where he signs. David Price of the Boston Red Sox holds the highest contract value for a pitcher with $217 million, and Zack Greinke of the Houston Astros is the average annual value (AAV) leader at $34,416,667. Once Cole signs, he should be tops in both categories.

want Cole as a member of the New York Yankees, but I am concerned about the potential he does not sign until late January. The Yankees have an urgent need for an elite starting pitcher, particularly with the looming free agencies of James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka next fall, and good starting pitchers are starting to come off the board rapidly. If the Yankees only signed someone like Madison Bumgarner, I’d be happy with the off-season, but there’s no question the drop-off from Cole to Bumgarner is huge. The longer this goes on, the less likely someone like even MadBum is available. There’s the trade route, but I’d say that I am hot and cold about a guy such as Corey Kluber. I know when healthy, he is one of the game’s best but he will also turn 34 early next season. Cole is 29 and won’t turn 30 until next September. I want a pitcher in his prime, not one that is riding the tail end of it.

Yankee fans have loved to talk about Luis Castillo of the Cincinnati Reds and Lucas Giolito of the Chicago White Sox, but both of those teams are improving with solid young teams and would be foolish to part with their potential aces. People like to laugh about the failed attempts of the White Sox to land premium free agents, other than the recently signed catcher Yasmani Grandal, but their farm system is ready to produce great young talent for the Major League team and they are on the cusp of winning. Once they start to win, they’ll become a more attractive destination for premier free agents. Giolito is such a big part of the coming force, same with Castillo in Cincy.

If the Yankees do sign Gerrit Cole, we can drop the narrative that Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner is cheap. If he was cheap, we would have been the team chasing guys like Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles (with no offense to the Texas Rangers as those guys will help them break in their new stadium) and not an elite talent like Gerrit Cole. Yankee fans are short-sighted (sorry, but, generally speaking, we are). Thankfully, the Steinbrenner Family and GM Brian Cashman have the long-view in mind. If Cole signs, we will be rewarded for their patient approach.

I’d like to see the Yankees bring the Cole negotiations to an end next week. I know it’s not the Scott Boras way, but it seems like the two sides can get together to produce numbers that work for both sides. I am hopeful for quick resolution so the Yankees can move on to other pressing needs.

If Cole does become a Yankee, I think Luke Voit should give up #45. Voit has no other connection with the number other than his short tenure with the Yankees. He was #40 in St Louis and as we know, he’s not getting that number. Frankly, there’s been some good numbers come available recently (namely 22, 30, and 33) and there are a couple that might be available in the coming days (18 and 28). If I was Voit, I’d take 22, 28, or 30. Those seem like better “power” numbers for a muscular first baseman anyway. Personally I like 22, even if I couldn’t stand the last guy who wore it and still harbor resentment against a certain Texas right-hander that once wore the number. Surprisingly, I think of former Yankees center fielder Jerry Mumphrey when it comes to number 22.

The Winter Meetings begin tomorrow in San Diego. I doubt we’ll see much activity on Sunday. Many are traveling, including Aaron Boone. By next Thursday, we’ll know if this has been truly the most active off-season in recent memory or if it is another case of all talk and no action. Up to this point, it has been more active. It feels like there are a few major moves ready to break so we’ll soon see.  I am sure the days will fly by next week as we wait with anticipation. Sadly, when Thursday arrives and the meetings conclude, there may be a few Yankee prospects headed to other camps courtesy of the Rule 5 Draft. I think we’ll lose the defensively gifted infielder Kyle Holder among the possibilities. The Yankees will be in the market for an infielder if Didi Gregorius signs elsewhere (looking more and more like he is going to join Joe Girardi in Philadelphia). His departure will make Tyler Wade or Thairo Estrada as the likely choice to make the roster as backup shortstop behind Gleyber Torres. It seems like the Yankees will bring another body in Spring Training to strengthen the competition. So, I am expecting a minor trade or signing for an infielder at the very least.

We also need another strong arm for the bullpen with the potential departure of Dellin Betances.  Betances, like Gregorius, is rumored as a potential option for Girardi and the Phillies. I guess that would be better than Dellin going cross-town to join the Mets. If Dellin leaves, I’d personally prefer to see him to go the Los Angeles Dodgers. My preference, however, is for Dellin to stay. I think of the free agents (Brett Gardner, Didi Gregorius, Austin Romine, and Betances), Dellin is the one I want to stay the most even if he is still recovering from the Achilles injury. But at this moment in time, from the outside looking in, it appears the only probably returnee will be Brett Gardner. I love Didi, but I’ve accepted the Yankees will be moving on. I just hope the Yankees extend D.J. LeMahieu if they decide to let Didi walk. As a pending free agent, I’d hate to be back searching for a quality second baseman again like we were after Robinson Cano left if LeMachine leaves after next season.  The matter is moot if the Yankees were to acquire Francisco Lindor, but I think the Dodgers are a more likely destination for the Tribe’s ultra-talented shortstop. I liked the job Austin Romine did for the Yankees, but I think the team goes with the cheaper Kyle Higashioka to back up Gary Sanchez. Higgy also seems like a perfect student for catching coordinator Tanner Swanson with his superior framing skills. I’d hate to see Romine join his father’s old club (Red Sox) so I am hopeful if he leaves, he goes home to sunny Southern California.

I wonder if we’ll hear about the next destination for former Yankees bench coach Josh Bard. He left his position with the Yankees in November to pursue jobs closer to his Colorado home, but I’ve not heard any updates. It seems weird that his departure has been so quiet and that he did not have an immediate job to go to. I am glad to see the elevation of infield/quality control coach Carlos Mendoza to bench coach. He has been a very loyal employee of the Yankees organization for a long time and it’s good to see recognition for the excellent work he has done. Hopefully his partnership with Boone will be as strong as the Boone-Bard connection (or better).

cut
Photo Credit: AP

Lastly, we’ll hear tomorrow who has been elected to MLB’s Hall of Fame by the Modern Baseball Era Committee. The candidates are Dwight Evans, Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Don Mattingly, Marvin Miller, Thurman Munson, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, Ted Simmons and Lou Whitaker. Sadly, I’ve come to the realization that it is probable neither Munson nor Mattingly will receive at least 75% of the vote. It’s sad for me. Growing up watching Munson, he was such a wonderful player to follow and admire before his tragic death at age 32. To me, he was the heart and soul of those championship clubs in the ‘70’s. Contrary to Reggie Jackson’s words, I always felt that Thurman was the straw that stirred the drink. He was easily my favorite player as a kid. I always wondered if the 1981 World Series would have had a different outcome if Thurman had lived. His passion to be the best was so strong. I keep hoping that they’ll elect Thurman to the Hall, but, disappointingly, I do not think it will happen. I hope I am wrong. It would be great to see the former Yankees captain join another recent Yankees captain for the induction ceremony next summer in Cooperstown, New York.

fbb7a6f0-b3cf-11e9-b7b5-c3ee9381e4c0
Photo Credit: Yahoo Sports

Buckle up, the Winter Meetings are about to start. This should be fun.

As always, Go Yankees!

Preparing for Yankees Baseball in December…

NY-CU637_GARDNE_GR_20140122174415

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.

Matt-Blake
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.

maxresdefault
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 End of the Road…

Photo Credit: Matt Slocum, AP

Yankees lose another ALCS to Astros…

The end of a baseball season, unless you are the last team standing, always ends in disappointment. Not to take away from so many positives during the season but it’s no fun to suddenly and harshly see the season end on a walk-off two run homer. There’s no doubt the Yankees could have won this series and many will continue to dissect what went wrong in the coming days and weeks, but at this point, the only option is to look ahead.

I really hope the Yankees can find the elusive ace in the upcoming off-season. It remains to be seen if the Yankees will pay for a top free agent pitcher like Gerrit Cole or acquire one through trade. If Cole has a successful World Series, I am sure it will boost his already sky-rocketing value as the best available pitcher. Regardless of whether the Yankees sign Cole or if they go in another direction to save some pain on Hal Steinbrenner’s wallet, they need “the guy” who puts fear in the opposition. Maybe Luis Severino can be that guy next year. This season was lost for him due to injury, and his October version was just a fraction of what he is and can be. James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka had some fantastic October moments, but neither pitcher is going to strike fear in the hearts of the opposition. I had my hopes up for Patrick Corbin last season, only to see the disappointment of watching him sign with the Washington Nationals. For Corbin, it was the perfect scenario. He got the most money and a trip to the World Series.  I am not sure he would have been a difference maker for the Yankees, but it only underscores the need for a better starting rotation. It’s amazing the Yankees were once considered the frontrunners for the services of multiple 2019 World Series pitchers (Cole, Corbin, and Max Scherzer). We’ll never know but just one of those pitchers in Pinstripes could have ensured the continuance of the Yankees’ 2019 season.  

It’s not a coincidence that the two teams in the World Series have the game’s best pitching staffs.  I’ll give the edge to the Astros, but it would not surprise me if the Nationals shut down the high-flying ‘Stros. The Nationals are riding great momentum right now and they can give Houston a fight. I am sure their pitchers were watching how the Yankee pitchers, for the most part, kept Astros hitters off-balance. If they can avoid the Yankees’ mistakes, the Nats could be soon sipping champagne.  

So, the primary goal for Brian Cashman should be to get an ace (finally) and make Luis Severino and James Paxton the second and third starters.  

I was a little disappointed with the lack of support of certain players by the Yankees fan base over the last few weeks. You certainly cannot blame Giancarlo Stanton for the injuries that derailed his season and left him largely ineffective and often sitting out games in the playoffs. I think he’ll be back stronger than ever in 2020. Why criticize the man? He’s here for the long haul and we need to support the man and help him become the best he can be, not tear him down. Love him or hate him, the man wants to win for the Yankees. Other players often criticized were Gary Sanchez, Didi Gregorius, Luke Voit, and lately, Adam Ottavino. For me, I want all of these guys on the 2020 roster when the Yankees attempt to make a deeper October run.  

Admittedly, I shut off Twitter for much of the last week. I was tired of the negativity and I wanted to focus on the Yankees, keeping an open and positive mind about the players.  

It’s sad that CC Sabathia had to say goodbye by walking off the mound in ALCS Game 5 after a shoulder injury brought his Hall of Fame career to an end. There was no Mariano Rivera or Derek Jeter moment for him, but I know that I appreciate his efforts just as much. He may not be the first ballot Hall of Famer like Mo or Jeter, but he’ll join them soon enough. There’s no doubt in my mind CC deserves a spot in Cooperstown.

Photo Credit: AP

I really hope the Yankees find a way to keep Sabathia in the organization in a non-playing position. Not a token consultant role, but a more meaningful capacity to keep his presence, attitude and leadership around the Yankees. Maybe not a coach, but I am sure there’s a beneficial spot for Sabathia that would be mutually rewarding for all of us. A great baseball pitcher, and an even better man. Thanks, CC, for everything you’ve done for the Yankees.

Aroldis Chapman will take a lot of heat for giving up the fateful walk-off homer to Jose Altuve last night, but I am not going to criticize him. Even the great Mariano Rivera had a couple of October moments like that. Yet, if Chapman does decide to opt out of his contract this off-season, I am prepared for the Yankees to walk away. I do not feel they should attempt to re-sign him to a new deal. Closers have a short shelf life. Rivera was an aberration. I think the Yankees would be better served using Chapman’s money to make a starting rotation upgrade. The Astros proved you don’t have to spend top dollar to have a very successful bullpen. Last night didn’t factor into my feeling that the Yankees should let Chappy walk if he opts out. I felt that way before the game and have for the last couple of months. I think Zack Britton is more than capable of being a championship caliber closer.   

When I look at the 40-man roster, I think these guys are gone or should be gone.

Chance Adams

Enough is enough…time for a change of scenery.

Jake Barrett

Presently on the 60-day IL, there’s no way the Yankees open a spot on the 40-man roster for Barrett with the need to protect certain prospects in advance of December’s Rule 5 Draft. 

Cody Gearrin

I thought Gearrin did a decent job overall, but he gets squeezed out in the 40-man roster crunch.

J.A. Happ

This probably falls more into the ‘should be gone’ category as I don’t believe he’s going anywhere with another year on his contract (and an option for 2021). I really hope Brian Cashman is able to make a move to send Happ elsewhere. It’s his spot in the rotation that direly needs to be upgraded. You could say Jordan Montgomery is that man, but I think of Montgomery as Sabathia’s replacement. Monty, as a fifth starter, should be as effective as Sabathia was in recent years, if not potentially better. He’ll never be a frontline pitcher like Sabathia, and that’s okay. Happ’s spot is the one that HAS TO BE better. Michael King and Deivi Garcia represent hope but the Yankees need a true ace and Happ, at this point in his career, is a liability.  

Jonathan Holder

I always liked Holder but no doubt 2019 was a major disappointment with performance and injuries. If Holder goes, it is purely the roster crunch that forces the move. I’d like to have Holder back but I am not certain it will happen.  

Tyler Lyons

Tyler did fine in limited appearances but ultimately his 40-man spot is too valuable to hold him. I don’t see him as a long term option and never did. He is just a journeyman pitcher that will be searching for his next team in the off-season.

Austin Romine

I don’t think that Romine should go, but I think as a free agent, he’ll get offers that potentially include the ability to compete for a starting job. He’s done everything anyone could ask of a backup catcher and he’ll help a team in 2020. I just don’t think it will be with the Yankees. I do think Kyle Higashioka is ready to step in as the backup for Gary Sanchez which helps ease the loss of Romine.

Greg Bird

Presently on the 60-day IL, the Yankees will have to open a spot on the 40-man for him. In light of years of injuries and unfulfilled promise, I think it’s time to cut bait.  If there’s a guy I would love to prove me wrong, it’s Bird. But he’s had so many chances and here we are…the proverbial fork in the road. Instead of more chances, I think the Yankees simply move on.

Edwin Encarnacion

The Parrott Ride was fun while it lasted and it’s too bad that Edwin didn’t make much noise in the ALCS, but there was never a chance the Yankees are going to pick up his $20 million option for 2020. The Yankees need that money to make other upgrades. Regardless of what just happened, the Steinbrenner Family is not suddenly going to go on a spending spree. Assuming that 2019 was not fluke for Gio Urshela’s hitting ability, I think he’ll be the starting third baseman heading into next season. The Yankees have to make room for Miguel Andujar and I think he takes Edwin’s roster spot, and competes for time at first base, third base, DH, and potentially, if he works on it during Spring Training, some corner outfield play.  

Didi Gregorius 

I want to be clear that I love Didi as a Yankee. I love his attitude and his play, both offensively and defensively. I know that 2019 was not a stellar offensive campaign for him but c’mon, the dude just came off Tommy John surgery last off-season. If the Yankees sign the impending free agent to a new contract, I think he’ll be more like the Didi of old in 2020. But that’s the question. Do the Yankees sign him to a new contract with Gleyber Torres able to man shortstop at an All-Star level, making DJ LeMahieu the starting second baseman instead of an infield rover. No doubt Hal Steinbrenner watches the bottom line very closely and unfortunately I think Didi could be an off-season casualty. If so, I will miss him greatly. He’s been an excellent Yankee.  

Jacoby Ellsbury

If ‘enough is enough’ is the case for Chance Adams, Ellsbury has proven that time and again. Everyone knows the only reason that Ellsbury is still technically a Yankee is his contract and the financial assistance offered by insurance to help mitigate the cost for the years he has been unable to play. Currently on the 60-man IL, I wouldn’t give Ellsbury a spot on the 40-man roster. Ellsbury has one year left on his contract ($21,142,857) and a team option for 2021 that will no doubt be bought out for $5 million. I think this is the end for Ellsbury. Time for the Yankees to move on, and take the financial hit. The 40-man roster spot is too valuable to waste it on Ellsbury.

Clint Frazier

The guy is just not a Yankee. I think he can be a good player, but not for the Yankees. If the Yankees re-sign Brett Gardner to another one year deal, there’s no way Frazier sticks around with the more versatile Mike Tauchman on the roster. It’s almost laughable the Yankees probably could have had Gerrit Cole a couple of years ago for Frazier, Adams and another top prospect or two. What a difference that would have made (with the benefit of hindsight, of course)!  

Brett Gardner

Despite Brett’s highly successful 2019 season, there’s still question whether the Yankees re-sign the longtime Yankee. Nothing against Brett, but age is a factor. At some point, the younger guys have to play. Gardy will be forced out at some point in the future, and it could very well be this off-season. I am all for bringing him back to be the fourth or fifth outfielder (active rosters expand from 25 to 26 next season), but I think there is reasonable doubt about whether or not the Yankees bring him back so it is very possible we’ve seen the last of Gardy in Pinstripes. He’s wore the Pinstripes very proudly and I’ll cherish his time as a Yankee. 

Cameron Maybin

I like Cameron but he was just a 2019 ‘fill-in’ due to the massive number of injuries. He wasn’t brought in to be part of the future. Purely a “now” in-season acquisition, I don’t think he’ll be back.

Larry Rothschild

I hate to be critical of pitching coach Larry Rothschild because we do not see him “behind the scenes” and how truly valuable he has been for the Yankees, but if the Yankees could get someone like David Cone as pitching coach, you have to do it. I also like Andy Pettitte. I think both Cone and Pettitte would be better pitching coaches from the outside, looking in. I think Cone is the more likely option as Pettitte seems to be enjoying the low-stress life in Texas with family and high school coaching. Like Don Mattingly before him, he’ll eventually get the itch to get back into the game but I don’t think we’re quite there yet with him. So, David Cone would be my choice for pitching coach. I think he’d be tremendous in the role and would help the pitching staff to over-achieve.  

Strength & Conditioning Team

You’re all fired!  

This season has been so much fun for the Yankees and their fans (well, up until this past week and last night in particular). We’ll forever remember it as the Year of the Savages and the entire #NextManUp attitude. I was really hoping for CC Sabathia to leave with “book end” championships for his Yankees career, but it wasn’t meant to be. Hard to believe that we’ve completed the first decade of no Yankees appearances in the World Series for the past century. Hopefully the streak starts again when the new decade rolls in. I think the younger players on the team will take the current disappointment to fuel greater heights next year. Get ready for the constant “he’s only 23” for Gleyber Torres. This is not the closure of a window but rather the upward pressure on raising the window. We have every reason to believe the Yankees will win in 2020. The pressure is on Brian Cashman to make the right moves this off-season to enhance the team’s chances as we move forward. No doubt he saw what we saw and he’ll make the right moves. We just have to be patient for the next 3-4 months. Let’s see how this plays out. I have faith and confidence in the Yankees pursuit of a championship.  

As for baseball, I am done. I am not interested in a Nationals-Astros World Series. At this point, I just want the World Series to be over so that we can begin the latest off-season, with the usual excitement and anticipation for possible enhancements to the roster. I hope the Yankees can sign DJ LeMahieu to an extension with just one year left on his contract. I am sure the Yankees will be looking for another addition that can have the type of impact on the team like LeMahieu did this year. A great under-the-radar signing that yields tremendous fruit. I don’t know who or what position, but the quest every year is to ensure the best possible player or pitcher at every position. Team chemistry plays very strongly into the equation so it’s up to Cashman and his analytics team to show why they are considered among the best in the game. Attitude and talent, the formula is simple. Finding the ingredients is difficult but the Yankees have a great, still young core. The recipe doesn’t need to be changed, just the garnishments. Just like I was disappointed after the 1995 season, the future is bright. There is hope for 2020 and I am very excited about the future. We’ve not heard the last from this team. They’ll be back and stronger than ever.

Photo Credit: EPA  

As always, Go Yankees!   

7 Days to Yankee Stadium…

Capture
(Photo: John G Zimmerman/Sports Illustrated)

Season Opener is a week away…

Finally, we can see real baseball on the horizon. Well, if you are an early bird, I suppose you’ve been up to watch the Seattle Mariners and Oakland A’s play the last two days in Tokyo for an early preview of the regular season. But, c’mon, we all know that real baseball doesn’t start until the New York Yankees take the field.

The Yankees officially announced the signing of LHP Gio Gonzalez yesterday. Initially, it was reported to be a $3 million contract if Gio makes the Major League roster, but subsequently we learned it also includes an incentive of $300,000 per start up to 30 starts so the deal could be worth as much as $12 million. I’ve seen more than one Yankee fan say the team should use an opener before bringing Gio in so that he technically does not get credit for a “start” but seriously that’s not the way the Yankees operate.  You may feel that Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner is a tight-wad but I firmly believe even if the Yankees used an opener like Jonathan Holder for an inning before bringing in Gio to cover the next five or six innings, the team would honor the performance as a start. They wouldn’t use an opener solely for avoidance of paying the incentive. Say what you will about the Yankees’ Front Office but the Yankees have proven, time and again, they take care of their own.

It was a little weird seeing the pics of Gio without his beard. Like James Paxton, going beardless makes him look so much younger.

Gio

Hey, maybe it will make his arm look younger too.  Oh well, wishful thinking on my part. I do hope that Gio gets an opportunity to join the Yankees with this 30-day trial.  If not Opening Day (which seems unrealistic from a timing standpoint), a few weeks into the season. I really hope it doesn’t come down to April 20th with us wondering whether Gio will be added to the MLB roster or if he’ll exercise his opt-out if he doesn’t. If the Yankees were truly the only team offering him a contract this month, it’s not like teams will be lined up for his services on April 20th unless there is an epidemic of arm injuries around both leagues.

Wednesday also saw Yankees RHP Luis Severino toss twenty-five pitches from 60 feet on flat ground with his resumption of baseball activity after two weeks of rest. Sevy reported a little rust from the time off, but overall felt good about the workout. There were no reports of pain or discomfort in the right shoulder/rotator cuff.  Sevy plans to toss twenty-five pitches at 60 feet again today on his path to hopefully return in early May. I don’t want to say the season is lost without Severino but he is such a huge part of the mission to dethrone the Boston Red Sox and bring the World Series championship back to New York. Hopefully there are no setbacks on his road to recovery. We need this man and his right arm.

I didn’t realistically think Ichiro Suzuki would be a Mariner after the two-game series in Japan but he made it official when he announced that he would retire at the conclusion of this morning’s game. What a career! The future Hall of Famer will leave the game with 3,089 hits (or 4,367 hits counting his time in Nippon Professional Baseball). I had really hoped he would pick up one final hit in the games in Japan but it was not meant to be. In his final at-bat in the 8th inning this morning, the crowd yelled “Ich-Eee-Ro” as he prepared for the first pitch. After a lengthy at-bat, he hit an infield roller to short and the throw just beat Ichiro to first base. Bummer, I was so hopeful for a safe sign from the first base umpire. Ichiro took the field in the top of the 9th but once all of the players were in position, Mariners manager Scott Servais pulled everyone off the field. Ichiro, the last man on the field, slowly walked off where he was greeted with hugs from his teammates and coaches. The scene was especially emotional for Mariners starter Yusei Kikuchi who made his Major League debut in the game. He bowed his head as he hugged Ichiro and it was evident tears were flowing down his cheeks. One Japanese career begins, another ends. A very touching moment. Congratulations with your retirement, Ichiro!  It was our privilege and pleasure to watch you perform for so many years. We wish you the very best with your post-playing career. No doubt Ichiro will forever be a Seattle Mariner but I am grateful for his 360 games as a Yankee after his acquisition from the Mariners on July 23, 2012 for Danny Farquhar and D.J. Mitchell. I really wish that Ichiro could have had a farewell game like Derek Jeter did, but there’s no doubt this one was every bit as emotional.  I am sad we bring closure to such a fantastic career.  It’s time but it doesn’t make it any easier.  Thank you, Ichiro. We’ll see you in Cooperstown, New York in five years.

Ichiro
(Photo: Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports)

Since I am dishing out congratulations, I should throw some towards Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout, the best player in the game today. His contract extension, 12-years at $426.5 million including the money he was already owed in 2019 and 2020, is official. I think it’s only right he stays in an Angels uniform for the duration of his career. Many thought he’d join Bryce Harper in Philadelphia, including Bryce, and I am sure there are more than a few Yankee fans that had hoped he would find a way to the Bronx. As much as I would have loved Trout as a Yankee, he belongs in an Angels uniform and should stay there. He is such an amazing, selfless player who is head and shoulders above everyone else in MLB. Unlike Bryce Harper, Trout deserved to be paid like the best player in Baseball because he is.

Trout

I know the Yankees had been hoping Trout would fall to them in the 2009 MLB Draft but the Angels thwarted those plans when they chose Trout with the 25th pick of the draft (ironically, a compensation pick for losing free agent first baseman Mark Teixeira to the Yankees). With Trout off the board, the Yankees regrettably selected outfielder Slade Heathcott, no longer in the game, with the 29th pick. Dang, so close, yet so far away.  Of course, with the benefit of hindsight, there were 24 foolish picks before Trout in that draft. With no offense to top pick Stephen Strasburg, there is nobody on that list who comes close to Trout. Now if the Angels could just settle their stadium situation. I know they’ve talked with the city of Long Beach but I really hope the team stays in Orange County. I love Long Beach (one of my favorite cities) but it feels like Dodgers country to me. Maybe that’s just because the Dodgers are my NL team. Long Beach is located in Los Angeles County and is just a short 45-minute train ride south of downtown LA.  Mike Trout belongs to the Angels like the Angels belong in Orange County.  I hope they can get this figured out now that they no longer have to worry about Trout.

I don’t know about you but I am ready for Yankees baseball. One week, just one week. I can smell those hot dogs and beers outside of Yankee Stadium already.

As always, Go Yankees!

Much Ado, Machado, About Nothing…

sd-1550644832-gpzm9m1cyg-snap-image
Photo Credit: Jeff Roberson-Associated Press

Manny Machado and the Pinstriped Dreams Vanish…

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

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

Capture
Photo Credit: Associated Press

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

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

GBSZWK2M4NABBG73YHYH4WBHTI
Photo Credit: Katherine Frey

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

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

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

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

Beltran

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

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

la-me-don-newcombe-20190219
Photo Credit: Luis Sinco-Los Angeles Times

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!