|Photo Credit: CBSSports.com|
Will Gleyber-Mania Sweep the Yankees Universe?…
As the gates of Spring Training prepare to open, the Yankees’ 2018 entrant for Rookie of the Year should be Gleyber Torres (with no disrespect to Miguel Andujar, who easily has the talent to walk off with the hardware himself at the end of the year). It would be wonderful to see the Yankees win ROYs in consecutive years, the way the Los Angeles Dodgers used to do it.
Will Gleyber start the year as the starting second baseman or will he spend the first few weeks at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre? Bet on the latter. I’ve seen many say that the Yankees would make Torres the Opening Day starter if he has a tremendous Spring but with literally millions of dollars at stake, I have no doubt the Yankees will delay his MLB service time clock to push potential free agency back one year. With so many young stars, the Yankees will have to spend significant payroll for guys like Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Didi Gregorious, Luis Severino, Greg Bird and others in future years. Team Hal is not going to leave dollars on the table when they can send Gleyber to Triple A until mid-April to save money for future payroll. So, the ‘will they or won’t they’ open the season with Gleyber on the Opening Day Roster is moot. We’ll have to wait a couple of weeks.
|Ronald Torreyes, Gleyber Torres and Luis Cessa|
In the interim, I am fully confident that Tyler Wade and Ronald Torreyes can fill the void.
Torreyes covered for Didi Gregorius for the first month of last season and did a fine job. It helped solidify his role as the utility player for the team. This came at a time when Torreyes was trying to prove that he belonged in the Major Leagues. He’ll come into the season this year with much greater confidence that he does, in fact, belong. The 25-year-old finished the season last year with 3 home runs and 36 RBIs in 108 games and 336 plate appearances. His batting line with .292/.314/.375, with .689 OPS. There will be many more opportunities for the Toe-Night Show.
Tyler Wade underwhelmed us with his performance in 2017 but everyone expects the 23-year-old to play closer to his minor league numbers this year. In 85 games for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, Wade hit 7 home runs with 31 RBIs. His batting line, in 386 plate appearances, was .310/.382/.460, with .842 OPS.
The Yankees do not need an offensive beast at second base. There’s plenty of firepower in other areas of the starting lineup. They just need guys that can get on base. I feel either Torreyes or Wade or a combination of both can hold down the fort until Gleyber…and Hal Steinbrenner’s wallet…are ready for him to make his MLB debut.
|Photo Credit: New York Post (Charles Wenzelberg)|
Gleyber David Torres Castro was born in Caracas, Venezuela on December 13, 1996. He was signed by the Chicago Cubs as an international free agent in July 2013 for $1.7 million. Here is the bio from the year he was signed per MLB.com: “The top player from Venezuela in this year’s class, Gleyber does everything well. He has a smooth compact swing and the ball jumps off his bat. Scouts like that he can spray the ball all over the field with power and believe he has a chance to be a special hitter. A solid defender, Torres has excellent hands, great feet and he’s known to have an accurate arm with above-average strength. He’s impressed scouts with his ability to make all of the routine plays and an occasional great play. He is particularly adept on his glove-hand side and continues to show improvement on all-around defense. Torres isn’t the biggest prospect on the field but he has an athletic build and is strong for his size. Scouts have taken notice of his baseball instincts and his leadership abilities, and he quickly built a reputation as a fundamentally sound player.”
ESPN’s Keith Law recently released his 2018 Top 100 Prospects and rated Torres as the fifth best prospect behind Ronald Acuna, Atlanta Braves; Vladimir Guerrero, Jr, Toronto Blue Jays; Fernando Tatis, Jr, San Diego Padres; and Victor Robles, Washington Nationals. That’s pretty good company. Law credits a high batting average and OBP as the potential to make Torres an All-Star caliber player.
|Photo Credit: New York Daily News (Andrew Savulich)|
Torres is still very young, having just turned 21 in December. He’ll have a strong support network with the group formerly known as the Baby Bombers. Giancarlo Stanton, the addition that helped restore the Yankees to their reputation as the Evil Empire, made his MLB debut at age 20 and will have plenty of advice to help Torres cope with life in the Major Leagues. One thing is for sure, Gleyber Torres is going to be in the Bronx for a very long time. We will soon see the start of the next great Yankees career, and I am excited about the future and potential for Gleyber. I have seen too many Yankees fans calling for the return of Starlin Castro. Why? Torres is or at least will be a better all-around player than Castro and will soon have the opportunity to prove it on the field.
|Gleyber Torres and Starlin Castro|
There are exciting times ahead for the Yankees Universe. Prepare for the Gleyber Torres Show. Gleyber Torres, the starting second baseman for the New York Yankees.
Just think, final month without Baseball…
Outside of the big December splash which brought the second iteration of “Mike” Stanton to Pinstripes and a plethora of reliever signings in MLB, it is has been an extremely quiet off-season. Sadly, it does not give us much to write about except for speculation and thoughts of wild-ass trade propositions.
Soon, Baseball Training Camps will be buzzing with activity. In many cases, players are already on-site in Florida and Arizona, ready for the arrival of pitchers and catchers in a few weeks. Gone are the days when players ate pizza and drank beer all winter long (now reserved for us, the fans), arriving at training camp to get in shape. We’re ready (for baseball, in addition to beer and pizza) and I am sure the Yankees players are too (the baseball part). But is GM Brian Cashman ready? That’s the million dollar question.
|Photo Credit: New York Daily News (Andrew Savulich)|
I keep saying that I find it hard to believe the Yankees will go into camp with rookies at both second and third bases. Then again, we rip another daily page off the calendar and there have been no changes to the current 40-man roster. I want a solid Plan B in place for third base. I feel that we are covered at second. The odds-on favorite is obviously Gleyber Torres (GLAY-burr, for those of you scoring at home) even if he has to spend the first couple of weeks at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to delay MLB service time. Backup support is in the form of Tyler Wade and Ronald Torreyes, with improved play expected of the former. The wild card is non-roster invitee Jace Ryan Peterson. Someone from that group, most likely Torres, is going to step up and provide a major contribution at second base. Third base is my concern. I like Miguel Andujar. His bat appears to be Major League ready even if his defensive skills haven’t quite caught up. I am not opposed to starting Andujar at third, but what’s Plan B? What if Andujar is not ready for the challenge? Trades are rarely made in April or May with limited seller motivation. I wouldn’t want to see Torreyes as the long-term alternative (he is better served in the utility role). Torres could probably be looked at as a fallback plan but I prefer the converted shortstop at second over third. The perfect scenario for me is the return of Todd Frazier. But short of that, I want a decent veteran for backup support or someone who could platoon with Andujar, assuming the Yankees do not bring back a starting option like Frazier.
At this point, I’ve given up the idea of adding another top starter for the rotation. Yu Darvish would look outstanding in Pinstripes. But at $20 million plus per year, he’s simply not affordable in Hal Steinbrenner’s budget. Even if the Yankees made room, I am not sure that $20+ million annually is the route to go for a thirty-something pitcher on an extended multi-year contract. The Free Agent Class after the upcoming season is the most fruitful in years and the Yankees are expected to be players. But before jumping in the free agent pool in a big way, the Yankees need take care of their own. The one player that they should re-sign to a contract extension next off-season is Didi Gregorius. If he delivers a season comparable to last year, he’ll have the right to make very high demands during contract negotiations. Hopefully, the Yankees do not wait until Didi becomes a free agent after the 2019 season to try and lock him up.
It is a certainty that Hal Steinbrenner will not go hog wild with payroll next year even if he is successful in resetting the luxury tax penalties in 2018.
I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again. I would trade Brett Gardner. Look, I love the player and what he has meant to the Pinstripes. Unless Brian Cashman proves that he is indeed the Miracle Worker (i.e., trade of Jacoby Ellsbury), the most marketable redundant player is Gardy. I get it, you can’t replace his intangibles in the clubhouse but others have to step up. Moving Gardy’s contract would give the Yankees budget room to bring back Todd Frazier and possibly a lesser starting pitcher to add to the training camp mix. They’d still have plenty of room for July acquisitions without fear of breaking the $197 million luxury tax threshold. You’d have Aaron Hicks and Jacoby Ellsbury to cover center, and Clint Frazier for left field on the days that either Aaron Judge or Giancarlo Stanton are at DH. I’d prefer Gardy over Ellsbury, but face it, Ellsbury is not going anywhere. That’s a very solid outfield without Gardner’s presence. The Yankees are not going to re-sign Gardner next off-season when he becomes a free agent. There is too much outfield depth and talent in the Yankees farm system to devote eight figures to a guy in his mid-thirties. So knowing that this is most likely his last year in the Bronx, I’d make a move now to free up some dollars to help the positions of need.
I’ll be preaching for the return of Todd Frazier until he signs somewhere. Pinstripes, Please!
‘Deja Vu, All Over Again’ as the great Yogi Berra would say…
The ‘Alex Rodriguez will replace Aaron Boone as Yankees manager’ jokes were running rampant yesterday when it was announced that A-Rod has signed on as part of ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball team replacing Boone. A-Rod obviously has a history of replacing Boone considering that he took Boone’s place in 2004 when Boonie injured his knee during a pickup basketball game and was subsequently released. My thought was that Boone should never leave his Playmate wife. Otherwise, A-Rod, after he moves on from J-Lo (c’mon, you know it’s inevitable), might be there to replace Boone once again. Seriously, I think A-Rod is a good addition to the ESPN team. Matt Vasgersian will replace Dan Shulman as the play-by-play announcer, joining A-Rod, in for Boone, Buster Olney and holdover Jessica Mendoza. A-Rod will continue working for FOX Sports during the post-season and World Series as well under the unique talent-sharing arrangement. Give A-Rod credit for rebuilding his image. Time will tell if it helps his case for induction into the Hall of Fame, but all things considered, it can’t hurt.
With the majority of the top free agents still available as we bear down on the end of January, the biggest off-season winners for their decisions have to be Giancarlo Stanton, for using his no-trade clause to navigate a trade to the Bronx, and Masahiro Tanaka, for his decision not to opt-out. I’d also have to say that the Justin Upton’s choice to sign a five-year deal for $106 million with the Los Angeles Angels (including a full no-trade clause) to waive his opt-out was not far behind. Otherwise, it’s hard to believe that the best free agent contract signed so far has been the three-year, $60 million deal that Carlos Santana took from the Philadelphia Phillies to be their new starting first baseman. When players like Yu Darvish and J.D. Martinez eventually sign, I am sure that they’ll break the $100 million barrier but I don’t recall a time when the majority of the top ten free agents were unsigned at this point in the off-season.
With suppressed prices, I hope this does not lead to the Yankees signing third base types like Yunel Escobar, Cliff Pennington, or Darwin Barney. I may want veteran help at third but I guess my sights remain aimed a little higher. Todd Frazier, come home.
|Photo Credit: Associated Press (Seth Wenig)|
We may want it all but…
We’re the mighty Yankees. We should have every available superstar, right? To listen to some fans, that seems to be the case. But in reality, this is a business and the magical figure of $197 million to reset luxury tax penalties may as well be a hard and fast salary cap. Team Hal will do whatever it takes to stay under that mark.
It’s nice that free agent pitcher Yu Darvish has narrowed his choices to six teams, including the Yankees. But in the grand scheme of things, it means nothing. The Yankees are not going to pursue Darvish at this point given the pitcher’s desire for a contract in excess of $20 million per year annually.
Yesterday, Michael Kay reported on his show that the Yankees had previously offered Darvish 7 years at $160 million but had given him a short window (48 hours) to accept. When Darvish didn’t bite, the Yankees allegedly pulled the offer. No offense to Michael (he’s one of my favorites), I struggle with the thought the Yankees really made that type of offer with the current roster construction and cost. If the Yankees really did make that level of offer and Darvish did not accept, he was foolish in this stagnant market.
I really liked Yu Darvish when he first came to the United States and had been hopeful the Yankees would sign him before he was snagged by the Texas Rangers. But now, while I agree he is an upper echelon pitcher, I don’t feel that he’d be the right fit. The primary reason is money. The reality is that the Yankees will keep 2018 payroll below the $197 million threshold. Even if the Yankees moved contract(s) to make room, I don’t think it would be the wisest path to add a multi-year, greater than $20 mil per year, contract for a pitcher on the wrong side of 30. If Darvish was the missing piece to guarantee a World Series, it would be one thing but he’s not. The only thing that I like about a Darvish signing is that he wouldn’t cost multiple top prospects like a trade for Gerrit Cole would. The reality is that arms like Justus Sheffield and Albert Abreu could be out-performing Darvish in the big leagues within the next few years.
While Manny Machado would look great in Pinstripes, the reality is that he will not be part of the 2018 Yankees. At the moment, the Arizona Diamondbacks appear to be the frontrunner…if the Baltimore Orioles decide to trade their very talented third baseman. The D-Backs, if they acquire Machado, would move him to his position of preference (shortstop). While I think Machado should stay at third (for the sake of his surgically-repaired knees), you wonder if shortstop becomes Machado’s top priority when he hits the free agent market after the upcoming season. If so, the Yankees will not be in play given the team already has a strong shortstop. Didi Gregorius, the unsung hero of the 2017 Yankees, is not going anywhere.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images|
I am not opposed to the Yankees filling second and third bases with Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar, respectively. I just don’t feel the Yankees would entrust two critical positions to rookies at the same time.
GM Brian Cashman is talking like Torres could break camp as the starting second baseman but it makes the most sense to keep him at Triple A for the first few weeks to delay his MLB service time and push his free agent eligibility back a year. Hal Steinbrenner, the accountant, is never going to go hog wild with payroll, even if he is successful in resetting luxury tax penalties this year. Unlike his father, he will always be concerned about the bottom line. I am comfortable with Tyler Wade and Ronald Torreyes covering second until Torres is ready. I buy into the opinion that we didn’t see the real Wade last year and he could be more like the player he was for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders this year. Training camp will be very critical for him. But, really, there’s no question second base belongs to Torres regardless of what Wade is able to accomplish.
As for third, Andujar, if he isn’t traded, will be watched very closely at training camp as he attempts to disprove the perspective that his defensive game hasn’t caught up with his bat. Another name that has been suggested, Kyle Holder, seems to be a stretch. Holder is 23 but the highest he has played was at High A Tampa last year. It would be very difficult to make that type of leap for the defensive wizard. He’s not a power bat but in the Yankees lineup, he would not need to be. Realistically, I think Holder is still a season or two away. My opinion remains that the 2018 Yankees third baseman is not presently on the roster. But if I am wrong and Andujar heads north to the Bronx with the big league club in late March, so be it. I’ll be a fan and supporter.
I was glad to see the Yankees settle two of their potential arbitration cases yesterday when they signed Tommy Kahnle and Aaron Hicks to one-year contracts for $1.325 million and $2.825 million, respectively. With today’s deadline to exchange arbitration figures, it’s possible that we could see other signings. The other arbitration eligible players are Didi Gregorius, Dellin Betances, Sonny Gray, Adam Warren, Chasen Shreve and Austin Romine. The Yankees want to avoid contentious battles like the one with Dellin Betances last year, even though they won. Of the players, I’d really hate to see Gregorius or Gray go to arbitration. They are such huge keys for the upcoming season. The worst way to start the year would be for them to go into a room to hear about their faults from the team’s perspective.
My general sense is that the Yankees will make at least one other significant move before training camp but it’s equally possible that ‘what you see is what you get’ with the current roster. I expect other non-roster invitees beyond infielder Jace Peterson but it’s hard to classify any of those as “significant”.
Let’s see what today brings…
If you are going to dream, dream BIG…
Such a tease! For the last month, Yankees fans have dreamt of the idea of Giancarlo Stanton wearing Pinstripes. But with Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner’s budget and his drive to reset luxury tax penalties this year, the likelihood of Stanton coming to the Bronx appears to be about as strong as Shohei Otani changing his mind and deciding that he loves New York after all.
Still, it’s tough to hear that the Yankees are one of four teams that Giancarlo Stanton would openly waive his no-trade clause for. The list includes the Yankees, the Los Angeles Dodgers (his hometown team and favorite growing up), the Houston Astros and the Chicago Cubs. I am mildly surprised that the Los Angeles Angels didn’t make the cut for the LA native (I know, they are not really in Los Angeles). It’s hard because the timing isn’t right for a team that is trying desperately to stay under $197 million for the payroll this year.
It’s possible that Stanton eventually accepts a trade to either the San Francisco Giants or the St Louis Cardinals but the longer this drags out, the more likely it is those teams will move on. If the Giants land Otani, it would seemingly improve their chances for getting Stanton to accept the already negotiated trade to the Giants. I tend to side with the majority that believe Otani will end up in Seattle, particularly now that they’ve gained an edge in international bonus pool money. Could this help the Yankees snag Stanton? I guess time will tell as it often does.
For the Yankees, the decision to sign Jacoby Ellsbury four years ago yesterday to the seven-year, $153 million contract is the gift that keeps giving (in a negative way). Ellsbury, now Baseball’s highest-paid pinch-runner, is an albatross for Team Hal. As long as Ellsbury’s contract hangs around the neck of the Yankees, it will be difficult for them to find the creative way to bring Stanton to the Bronx even though they have the resources to pull it off.
The Seattle Mariners had looked like a strong potential trade partner for the Yankees depending upon how much of Ellsbury’s contract the Yankees were willing to eat. But the Mariners removed themselves from the conversation with their trade acquisition yesterday of second baseman Dee Gordon, whom they intend to move to center field. The Boston Red Sox just look at the Yankees, stuck with Ellsbury, and laugh. There were no tears shed in Boston when Ellsbury signed with the Yankees. My closest Red Sox friends were glad to be free of the King of the DL four years ago.
It’s incredible to imagine Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge in the same lineup. It will never happen (will it?) but the protection in the batting order the Yankees could offer Stanton would be immense. It would be fun to watch all of those balls flying out of Yankee Stadium.
I keep hoping that GM Brian Cashman and his team, against all odds, can find a way to get creative while staying in line with Hal Steinbrenner’s budget. By self-admission, Cashman is paid to think outside of the box. Here is his latest opportunity. Make it happen! The realist in me knows that it will not come to fruition but it is fun to dream about. Taking on Stanton’s contract would be far better than paying over a half-billion dollars to Bryce Harper next off-season.
I feel bad for Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly who now gets to watch as his team is stripped of its best Major League talent. Donnie Baseball deserves better. Marlins CEO Derek Jeter is obviously finding that it is not so easy sitting on the other side of the table with a strict budget in hand.
The Bronx Coaching Staff…
Now that the Yankees have their manager (Aaron Boone) and the return of the pitching coach (Larry Rothschild), the focus is on the remainder of the coaching staff. I have not heard Tony Pena’s name at all. He is a valuable coach and I’d like to see his return. We’ve heard the names of Yankees ‘thirty-something’ minor league coaches Reggie Willits and Carlos Mendoza as possibilities. We know that Rob Thomson, Josh Paul and Al Pedrique are no longer options, having found MLB employment elsewhere. It was odd that the first name drawing attention is current Los Angeles Dodgers bullpen coach Josh Bard. A former catcher, the possibility of adding Bard leads me to believe that there is no interest in bringing back Pena. Bard and Boone played together briefly in Cleveland. I seriously hope that Bard is not under consideration for Bench Coach. At Boone’s press conference, when asked if managerial experience was a prerequisite for the bench coach, Boone responded that he wanted smart and confident sitting next to him. Sounds like a possible setup for Bard. I guess it’s not like there is no managerial experience on the bench. Larry Rothschild was the original manager for the then Tampa Bay Devil Rays when they entered the league in 1998. But regardless of Rothschild’s presence, I personally would prefer to see experience sitting with smart and confident to offer suggestions to the new first-time manager.
Bard played for five teams over 10 seasons during his pedestrian career as a backup catcher, yet I think of him as a Red Sock. That’s kind of funny considering that he only played 7 games in 2006 for the Red Sox. The intent was for Bard to catch knuckle baller Tim Wakefield, who ironically gave up Boone’s 2003 ALCS Game 7 home run. But 10 passed balls in those 7 games ended his time in Boston.
Based on GM Brian Cashman’s words, they’ve provided a list of names to Boone and Boone has provided names to them and they are going through the vetting process. So, it’s highly probable that other guys, beyond Bard, have been or will soon be interviewed. Boone talks about having a world-class coaching staff, but it’s tough when we’ve seen a few world class guys like Thomson, Paul and Pedrique walk away from the organization. I hope that Boonie is right. The team’s leadership will be very instrumental in the success of the young Baby Bombers as we move forward.
Note to Brian Cashman…
Please re-sign CC Sabathia. What are you waiting for?…
I am always anxious to see what the Baseball Winter Meetings will bring. Those few days bring the most excitement of the off-season. It’s very possible that nothing happens for the Yankees but it should be a fun week anyway. With such a large concentration of media gathered in Orlando, Florida beginning this weekend, rumors of trades and signings should soon start flying fast and furiously.
I’d love to be working on a post next week entitled ‘How the Yankees Made the Stanton Dream a Reality’…
And Then There Was One…
Although no official announcement has been made, the Yankees have an agreement in place with Aaron Boone to serve as the successor for former Yankees Manager Joe Girardi.
I am surprised. Since he retired, Boone has served as a broadcaster with ESPN. He has not managed or coached at any level. I have not heard a single complaint about Boone’s personality or baseball knowledge, but like Michael Kay said, it’s handing the keys of a Lamborghini to someone who just got their driver’s license. The Yankees job is the best in Baseball. The Yankees are the most storied, most prestigious team in the most powerful city in America. Expectations entering the 2017 season were fairly low, but the team finished the season a single game away from the World Series. Needless to say, expectations will be substantially higher as we enter the 2018 season. No pressure, Boonie!
I do not dislike the choice of Boone and had previously said I’d be okay with him as manager if Hensley Meulens was not selected. But Boone does need a very strong supporting cast (i.e., coaching staff). We know that pitching coach Larry Rothschild will be returning and he is perhaps one of the greatest components of the coaching staff but bench coach will be very critical. After not being selected as manager, Rob Thomson left the Yankees organization after 28 years and will become bench coach for inexperienced manager Gabe Kapler in Philadelphia. I’ve already heard Eric Wedge’s name mentioned as a possible bench coach for Boone (Wedge managed Boone in Cleveland after Boone left the Yankees). I continue to preach Al Pedrique. No one has the level of relationships with the young Baby Bombers like Pedrique does. He is an experienced successful manager. Granted, his managerial success has largely been in the Minor Leagues, but he knows how to run a game to win. He did manage the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2004 for 83 games after Bob Brenly (who had managed the D-Backs over the Yankees in the 2001 World Series) was fired. Pedrique’s MLB managerial record is an uninspiring 22-61 but it’s not his fault. He was trying to do the best he could with a team that had gotten a World Series manager fired. Pedrique later served as bench coach for the Houston Astros and we all know that he won a Triple A championship with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders in 2016.
In retrospect, It appears the Yankees had no plan when Girardi was dismissed. At the time Girardi was told his services were done, I had felt that GM Brian Cashman had a clear idea whom he wanted to occupy the manager’s chair. The Boone choice shows that he most likely did not enter the equation until he aced his interview with Cashman. Of course, he had to get his foot in the door for the interview so he was obviously on Cashman’s mind but most likely wasn’t the clear choice when this thing started.
|Credit: Patrick E McCarthy|
I remember being a little upset when Boone suffered the knee injury in a pickup basketball game in January 2004 which ended his season and his Yankees career. It set in motion the trade which brought Alex Rodriguez to the Bronx. No disrespect to those of you who love A-Rod but that’s one trade I wish never would have happened. But from a character-standpoint, Boone was honest with the team about the injury which caused the forfeiture of his 2004 contract (receiving only $917,533 in termination pay on the $5.75 million deal). I am sure that earned him brownie points with Yankees Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner.
As for Hensley Meulens, he will return to the San Francisco Giants to become bench coach for Manager Bruce Bochy. I really hope that he gets an opportunity to manage in the not-so-distant future. For all we know, he could very well be Bochy’s replacement if the present Giants manager decides to step down in the next few years. I was very impressed with Meulens and I feel that he’ll be an outstanding manager one day.
Carlos Beltran didn’t get the job since the leap from player to manager with no break was viewed as too much, but I hope that Beltran gets another opportunity to serve within the Yankees organization. Like Meulens, he has the potential to be a great manager one day. For now, it would be great to have him on the coaching staff. If not, his presence in the front office and/or as a spring training instructor would be invaluable.
Welcome back to the New York Yankees, Aaron Boone! We hope your learning curve is small and the team prospers under your leadership. Feel free to go ahead and hit another one out of the park for us.
|Credit: Allen Kee, Getty Images|
The Hidden Ball Trick…
We know the Yankees tendered contracts to all of their arbitration-eligible players prior to last evening’s deadline, but a number of MLB players were not so fortunate.
A name that jumped out at me without looking at the entire list was Ryan Goins of the Toronto Blue Jays. It is not so much about the player’s ability but rather he is the one who pulled off the sneaky hidden ball trick to record an out on Todd Frazier at second base back in September. In 2017, he hit 9 homers and 62 RBI’s in 143 games with a .237 batting average. Not a great player but he’s been pesky over his career. I guess he was unable to pull off a hidden ball trick on Toronto to entice them to extend his Blue Jays career.
|Credit: Associated Press|
Another name that surprised me was first baseman Matt Adams. Adams, the former St Louis Cardinal who was acquired by Atlanta to fill in during Freddie Freeman’s time on the DL last year, was non-tendered by the Braves. I didn’t expect Adams to be part of the 2018 Braves Roster but I thought he had some value as a trade candidate for an organization that was recently stripped of multiple international prospects. Instead, he’ll hit the open market to find a new home. I’d take a flyer on him as a potential hedge for the health of Greg Bird.
This year, I hope the Yankees can reach deals with their arbitration-eligible players before their scheduled hearings. I’d hate to see a repeat performance of last year’s contentious hearing between Dellin Betances and the Yankees that brought ugly remarks by Yankees President Randy Levine. The fade by Betances last season supported the Yankees position but last year’s hearing did nothing to help the confidence of the pitcher (hurting his psyche more than anything).
Well, yesterday was a busy start to the new month. The Yankees have their manager and team officials are probably headed to Los Angeles to meet with the agents for Japanese superstar Shohei Otani who was officially posted by the Nippon Ham Fighters yesterday. Representatives for both the San Francisco Giants and St Louis Cardinals have met with Giancarlo Stanton in Los Angeles so we could see a trade of the big slugger to either the Giants or Cards by early next week. Unlike November, December should prove to be a wild and exciting ride.
Waiting for Otani…
Given every other writer (or blogger in my case) has written that this has been the slowest off-season in recent memory, I will do my obligatory part to say that it’s been so slow. November 29th and the best we can say is that former Boston Red Sox starter Doug Fister has signed a free agent contract with the Texas Rangers. The Red Sox picked Fister up off the scrap heap last summer and he gave them some decent starts down the stretch when they had holes popping up in other parts of the starting rotation. Good for him that he parlayed it into some sense of short-term job security in Texas.
I expected the Thanksgiving weekend to be quiet and it was. No Yankees news other than the preparation by all teams for the much anticipated posting of Japanese superstar Shohei Otani which should occur shortly after Friday when the MLB Owners ratify the new posting agreement. The Yankees are obvious favorites but of course some teams have been very vocal about their intent to pursue the two-way star. The loudest has been the Seattle Mariners. We know that this move is not about money so the fact the Yankees can offer the second highest amount of green does not necessarily mean anything. I’ve felt all along that this move, for now, is about the endorsement dollars. I read one writer say Otani could make up to $20 million per year in endorsement deals between the United States and Japan. I realize that Otani played in a smaller market in Japan for a “ham company” but I feel that if he wants to be the best, there is none other than the New York Yankees for him. He’d have the opportunity to play in the greatest city (highest potential for endorsement deals) and he’d join a young team on the verge of something truly special. His age would fit nicely with the other Baby Bombers to ensure an extended competitive run for the duration of his stay. He’d have a pitcher on the Yankees pitching staff that could help serve as a mentor (Masahiro Tanaka) and he’d have access to one of Japan’s greatest baseball players with Hideki Matsui (who knew a thing or two about incredible clutch hitting), currently special assistant to GM Brian Cashman.
I think it is an easy decision for Otani but of course, at this point, it is anybody’s guess where he ends up. In the end, I do hope it is Team Yankees while recognizing there are risks with a player attempting to both pitch and hit on a regular basis. Otani is a special talent and there may never be an opportunity to get a player of his caliber for only $3.5 million under team control for multiple years. No question that fits into Hal Steinbrenner’s 2018 budget.
Next Up, Carlos Beltran…
Carlos Beltran will become the sixth man interviewed for the Yankees managerial opening today. I like Carlos and I value his ability to communicate with players and the media, but I struggle with the idea of the player-to-manager path with no coaching experience. I wouldn’t mind seeing Beltran as part of the Yankees coaching staff but I’d really prefer someone who at least has coaching experience as its new manager. I saw a bunch of tweets yesterday that compared Beltran to Joe Torre as a player who successfully made the transition. But no one was mentioning that Torre’s record with his first team, the New York Mets, was a .405 winning percentage (286-420). He didn’t experience post-season success until he managed his fourth team, the Yankees. Beltran may prove to be an excellent manager one day but for a team that is positioned for success now, I’d rather not have a guy learning on the job.
Yankees fan yesterday, Yankee today…
Credit to Peter Gammons for this piece that I found interesting. Newly acquired RHP Michael King (who joined the Yankees in the trade that sent LHP Caleb Smith and 1B Garrett Cooper to the Miami Marlins) was a second team All-State performer for Bishop Hendricksen High School in Warwick, Rhode Island in 2012. That summer he played in the Annual Summer Rivalry Classic held for Northeastern high school kids at Yankee Stadium. Among the free offerings that day was bubble gum that King was very fond of, stuffing perhaps 6 or 7 sticks of gum into his mouth at one point. Asked what he did with that big wad of gum, King indicated that he stuck it under the bench. According to Gammons, King, a childhood Yankees fan, said, “I figured I’d get it back when I get back there to the bullpen as a Yankee.” I love that story and the optimism. I look forward to the dream being fulfilled.
The Bronx, Home of MLB’s Best Executive…
Congratulations to Brian Cashman for being named as Baseball America’s 2017 Major League Executive of the Year! It was a much deserved honor for the great GM. It probably doesn’t hurt the contract negotiations for his new deal either. Hal Steinbrenner issued a statement that read, “Brian plays a crucial role in our success, and I’ve known for quite some time how fortunate we are to have him leading our Baseball Operations Department. He cares deeply about this franchise and our fans, and he skillfully navigates the many challenges that come with holding the position he does in the media capital of the world.” Not bad for a kid who grew up as a Dodgers fan. He is ensuring that his name will be forever marked in Yankees history as one of the great pillars of success. Next stop, World Series!
|Credit: Stan Grossfield, Boston Globe Staff|
Like everyone else, I am ready for some real off-season baseball action. But I am sure that once the calendar page turns to December, we’d better hold on. It should be a fun ride!
|Credit: Rich Schultz, Getty Images|
Moving on to the Next Round?…
The Baseball off-season continues to move at a snail’s pace. Of course, things will change as we get past the Thanksgiving holiday and move into December and closer to the Baseball Winter Meetings.
In the meantime, we continue to pick apart every little thing that happens ad nauseum. We learned this week that Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner not only supported GM Brian Cashman’s decision to sever ways with former manager Joe Girardi, he agreed with it and it has been something that they’ve had talks about for the past several years. Of course, that leads me to believe that it was Steinbrenner’s call and there are details that we may never really know. We do know there were perceived communication issues and that Girardi had failed to connect with the clubhouse, particularly over the last couple of seasons. Given how vocal both Cashman and Steinbrenner have been about the Girardi situation, it seems like there are more issues at play than just communication and connectivity to players. Steinbrenner implied that the Yankees would have made this decision even if the Yankees had won the World Series.
Although Girardi lasted a decade in the Bronx, he’s now been fired twice by ownership groups that gave scathing departing remarks. Girardi was NL Manager of the Year for the Florida Marlins in 2006, yet he was fired after the season. Then-owner Jeffrey Loria almost fired Girardi on the spot during an August game when Girardi told Loria to stop heckling the home plate umpire. Girardi may have done a decent managing job for the Yankees but you have to think that future teams will take a more cautious approach when/if considering him for managerial openings. I don’t know Girardi so I cannot attest to his personality beyond what I’ve seen during his pre- and post-game interviews but there’s something there, if I was an owner, that would give me pause about Girardi. I have no hard feelings against the man and I hope that he gets another opportunity in MLB but it was clearly time for a change.
|Credit: John Raoux, Associated Press|
Upon the conclusion of the GM Meetings in Orlando, Florida, this week, GM Brian Cashman resumed his managerial interviews.
Former Yankee Hensley “Bam Bam” Meulens was in the Bronx on Thursday. I really like Meulens. I know that a lot of people have scoffed at the guy and he has no managerial experience, but I like his communication style (handles himself very well in interviews) and he is clearly a guy that knows baseball and relationships. He is fluent with multiple languages including a little bit of Japanese which gives him the ability to talk directly to the majority of players without the assistance of interpreters. He enjoys a great relationship with shortstop Didi Gregorius, whom he managed in the WBC Classic. Meulens has been part of three World Series championships in San Francisco.
|Credit: ESPN Internet Ventures|
Cashman also spoke with former Yankee Aaron Boone on Friday. Boone is best remembered for his home run to the beat the Boston Red Sox in the 2003 American League Championship Series, a year before the Sox finally ended the Curse of the Bambino. It was Boone’s 2004 knee injury, suffered in a pre-season basketball game, that led the Yankees to their acquisition of Alex Rodriguez and the drama that ensued. Boone, as everyone knows, comes from a family rich in MLB tradition, with a grandfather, father and brother that were all Major Leaguers. There’s no doubt he is an intelligent guy but like Meulens, no managerial experience, and unlike Meulens, no coaching experience.
I think either Meulens or Boone could do a good job if they are surrounded by the right coaches. I kind of like the idea of using either Al Pedrique or Eric Wedge as the new manager’s bench coach. I would not be disappointed to see Rob Thomson return to that role. It appears that Los Angeles Dodgers third base coach Chris Woodward is next up for a managerial interview. I don’t really know much about Woodward so I don’t have any opinions about him. At this point, I clearly prefer Meulens and Boone over him. Not sure if Woodward will be the last of the candidates before we start Round 2 or if there will be more guys paraded through the Bronx. The next round will feature a trip to Florida to meet with the Steinbrenner family. I’d probably take the candidates by Trinity Memorial Gardens in Trinity, FL. If the ground rumbles (the Boss turning over in his grave), you know the candidate is probably not the one.
I am anxious for the Yankees to make a decision, but I understand they are under no pressure to hurry and can afford to take their time. Outside of Shohei Otani, they do not figure to be big players in Free Agency despite the greedy nature of us, the fans. CC Sabathia has already said that he’d return despite not knowing who the next manager will be. So, for now, we wait…
All Rise for the Judge!…
Congratulations to Aaron Judge for being named AL Rookie of the Year, as expected, and his second place finish in the AL MVP voting. I expected the AL MVP vote to be much closer than it really was. Jose Altuve took 27 of 30 first place votes with only two going to Judge. There was some outrage from the media but the class exhibited by Judge was so professional and heartfelt (as we have come to expect with the big slugger). After Altuve won, Judge tweeted: “M-V-P!!! Nobody more deserving than you!! Congrats on an unforgettable 2017!! @JoseAltuve27”. Judge makes me proud that he is a Yankee every day.
Yankee Dreams extinguished…
The Yankees lost a long-time farmhand and one-time top prospect when outfielder Mason Williams signed a minor league free agent deal with the Cincinnati Reds. I am sorry that it never worked out for Williams in Pinstripes. I had very high hopes at one point that never came to fruition. Hopefully, for his sake, the change of scenery helps him achieve some the success that had once seemed inevitable for the talented 26-year-old.
|Credit: Jim McIsaac, Getty Images|
Another former Yankees prospect, a few years removed from the organization, pitcher Manny Banuelos, has signed a minors deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers. It doesn’t seem like that long ago when Williams and Banuelos were the top prospects with the Yankees. Of course Banuelos was part of the Killer B’s (the trio of Banuelos, Dellin Betances and Andrew Brackman).
The only Killer B that made it was Betances. Like Williams, I hope that Banuelos can find success in Chavez Ravine. He has failed to impress the Atlanta Braves and the Los Angeles Angels so maybe fourth time’s a charm. I really liked Banuelos as a young prospect and had hoped to see him achieve MLB success.
And we continue to wait. Go Yankees!