‘Stros Send the RSN Home Early in Game 1…
I wasn’t going to watch Game 1 of the American League Championship Series, but I got sucked into it when the Houston Astros took a one-run lead off on the Boston Red Sox, with everybody’s favorite…Joe Kelly…on the mound, in the top of the sixth inning. It was awesome in the top of the ninth when one-time Red Sock Josh Reddick blasted a solo shot against his former team to make it a two-run game. When Yuli Gurriel parked a three-run homer into the right field stands, the Red Sox fans were exiting Fenway Park in droves and their team had yet to take their final swings in the bottom of the ninth. It was such a beautiful sight!
|Photo Credit: Houston Chronicle (Karen Warren)|
The Astros won the game, 7-2, to ensure they’ll head to Houston with no less than a split pending the outcome of today’s game. They could sweep the games at Fenway Park before jumping on a Texas-bound plane and they do have the good fortune of facing Yankees punching bag David Price later today. Hopefully the Astro bats will enjoy hitting off Price as much as the Yankees do.
|Photo Credit: Boston Globe|
Gerrit Cole draws the Game 2 pitching assignment for Houston. It is easy to look back to last winter and say the Yankees should have been more aggressive in their pursuit of Cole. Ken Davidoff wrote a great piece in The New York Post today regarding the Yankees and Cole. The Yankees were willing to package a deal centered on outfielder Clint Frazier, but the Pittsburgh Pirates wanted the inclusion of Miguel Andujar as a centerpiece too. In retrospect, despite the lost season for Frazier, it’s hard to find fault with the Yankees’ decision to hold onto Andujar even if the Yankees desperately need pitching. Also, there was no guarantee Cole would have pitched as well in New York as he did in Houston. Maybe Andujar eventually gets moved for another frontline starter. Oh well, I am not going to look back and criticize the Yankees for their failure to acquire Cole. The Pirates chose to accept an inferior package from the Astros. It was their decision; not ours. There’s nothing we can do about it. Cole is a good pitcher, but he’s not worth handing over the farm system for. Now if we are talking about Jacob deGrom, that’s a different story.
Many Yankee fans were offended when Alex Rodriguez lost a bet to David “Big Papi” Ortiz and had to wear Red Sox gear on Fox TV, thanks to Boston’s win over the Yankees in the ALDS. Honestly, I could care less. It would have hurt if the player had been one of the core Yankees, but A-Rod’s not in that category. I know he’s done much to rehabilitate his image, but I truly wish the Yankees would have never acquired him. I would have been fine with him wearing a Red Sox uniform for real in 2004. I think A-Rod has done a fine job on the broadcasting side and I know he continues to preach the Yankees are his favorite team, but it doesn’t mean that I have to like him. The fact remains he tarnished the game and he lied to the fans. But aside from that, I’ve lost bets and had to wear Red Sox jerseys or hats before so to me it was no big deal.
|Photo Credit: FS1|
I saw a funny Twitter post yesterday that said Milwaukee Brewers reliever Brandon Woodruff has more postseason homers than Boston’s Mookie Betts. Woodruff hit what would prove to be the eventual difference-maker in Milwaukee’s NLCS Game 1 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday night off the great Clayton Kershaw. So far in the 2018 post-season, Betts only has 4 hits in 20 at-bats, with no homers and a couple of RBI’s. Betts is a great player but he is not immune to the post-season blues.
Everyone is making their predictions for which pending free agents the Yankees should re-sign or let walk. I hate to say it, but I don’t see the Yankees bringing Brett Gardner back. They’d be foolish to exercise the $12 million option and while declining the option and re-signing him to a lower one-year deal is possible, I am convinced the presence of a healthy Clint Frazier and, ugh!, Jacoby Ellsbury will force the Yankees to move on.
If the Yankees sign free agent Patrick Corbin of the Arizona Diamondbacks (as many expect) and re-sign J.A. Happ, I also do not see the Yankees bringing back CC Sabathia. So, the Yankees could be on the verge of losing their top two veteran leaders. I have no doubt other guys will pick up the void but I am appreciative of the Yankee careers for both Gardner and Sabathia. They’ve worn the Pinstripes proudly and will be missed.
|Photo Credit: MLB.com|
The Yankees face big decisions in the bullpen. With both David Robertson and Zach Britton ready to hit the free market, the Yankees have to decide whether to try and bring both back, just one, or let them both go elsewhere to the highest bidder. I’d love to see both return and I feel that having a super bullpen is so critical. Unless Luis Severino can make major adjustments this winter, the Yankees lack a true ace and signing Corbin does not change that fact. A super bullpen compensates for the deficiencies in the starting rotation. I love D-Rob’s heart, but if I had to make a choice for only one, I’d go with Britton. Unfortunately, I think Britton will get an insane offer from some other bullpen deficient team to be their closer, so it’s probably more likely the Yankees bring back Robertson. I’d really hate to see both leave.
While I think it is possible the Yankees go over the luxury tax threshold next year, the realist in me knows that Managing General Partner will give GM Brian Cashman a defined budget that may not include paying luxury tax penalties. I think some fans are expecting a 2009-like splurge with great young free agent superstars like Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, but there’s a very good chance the Yankees pass on any extended nearly half a billion dollar contracts. I see many fans predicting both Machado and Harper in the 2019 Yankees lineup and that’s simply not happening.
It’s amazing to think former Yankees third base coach Joe Espada might get a managing job before his former boss, Joe Girardi. Espada, currently bench coach for the Houston Astros, is emerging as one of the favorites for the job in Anaheim which was vacated when long-time Angels manager Mike Scioscia stepped down. Angels GM Billy Eppler knows Espada well from their time together in New York. Espada may be living the ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em’ dream, but his run of consecutive championship series will end if he becomes skipper of the Halos.
I wonder if there are any Yankee fans that are actually pulling for the Red Sox over the Astros? None that I am aware of, but I am sure there are a few fair weather fans out there.
Let’s hurry up and fast-forward through the World Series so that we can get the Hot Stove League started. I am ready for the off-season planning to begin. Nothing better than getting Hal Steinbrenner, Brian Cashman and other key executives together in one room to map out strategy for 2019. We can speculate. They can decide. But one thing’s for sure, we are united in our desire for a World Series championship next year.
As always, Go Yankees!
Photo Credit: AP (Julie Jacobson)
On the bright side, greater things await the team next year…
It was a disappointing end to a promising season. I know, we should be grateful for a season that saw the Pinstripers win 100 games and advance through the Wild Card game to the AL Divisional Series. Unfortunately, the Boston Red Sox were the better team. They won 108 games over the course of the season, and did not run into the roller coaster ride that we felt at times as Yankee fans. I did feel the Yankees had the talent to beat the Red Sox but, for whatever reasons, it was not meant to be. So, congratulations to the Boston Red Sox and their fans.
The days following the ALDS loss have been difficult. I couldn’t bring myself to watch or listen to the MLB Network or ESPN the next day. It’s always hard when your favorite team’s season is abruptly ended. But if there is a takeaway, I hope that the bitterness of the loss motivates Yankees leadership to make the necessary enhancements to turn this team from very good to great. For several years, we’ve looked at 2019 as the arrival of the latest and greatest edition of Yankees championship baseball. 2017 was a little premature but it gave us a glimpse of what this team could do. Maybe it set expectations for 2018 higher than they should have been, but at this point, 2018 is water under the bridge. Time to look ahead and get excited about the future which will very soon be the present.
Everybody is writing posts about what the Yankees should do. Ultimately, those are the decisions that Hal Steinbrenner, the Steinbrenner Family, and the Yankees executive management team must make. We can say what we’d like for them to do, but if any of us feel that we could do a better job than Brian Cashman and Company, we’re delusional. I can say what I think the Yankees should do and will below, but these are really just personal wishes that may or may not come true. I trust Brian Cashman to make the right decisions.
We know going into the 2019 season the starting pitching staff will be led by Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka. I fully expect Severino to make the necessary adjustments this winter to ensure greater consistency next season. I don’t think Sevy wants to settle for being a good pitcher. He wants to be one of the best in the game. I’ve been saying for months the Yankees should part ways with CC Sabathia, but now that the season is over and I’ve had time to re-think the position, the Yankees should try to sign CC on a one-year deal to bring him back as their fifth starter. There are some young, talented pitchers in the organization, like Justus Sheffield, Chance Adams, Mike King, Albert Abreu, Jonathan Loaisiga and Domingo German, but let them battle for the sixth man position. We know that the five-man rotation you start the season with is rarely the rotation you have at the end. I think the chance of injury increases significantly each year with Sabathia, but his value in the clubhouse cannot be dismissed. I think one or more of those young pitchers will have their opportunity to shine at some point next season, but let’s break camp with the ball in CC’s hand at the back end of the rotation. For the other two spots, I’ve held the third position, like many Yankee fans, for lefty Patrick Corbin. He seems destined for the Bronx. It will be a major disappointment if the Yankees are unable to sign him. For the fourth position, I’d try to re-sign J.A. Happ. We should get Jordan Montgomery back sometime in mid-2019, but these rotation “problems” (i.e., too many starting pitchers) have a tendency of working themselves out. Clearly, Corbin is a higher priority than Happ so if I can only have one, I’ll take the Arizona Diamondback.
In the bullpen, we may be potentially losing both Zach Britton and David Robertson. Sentimentally, I’d like to see the Yankees re-sign Robertson. I hated the years he was away with the Chicago White Sox. I really enjoyed getting him back into Pinstripes. There’s no doubt Aroldis Chapman is the undisputed Closer for the Yankees, but it’s nice to have a proven top closer in reserve for those times when/if Chappy goes down or not available. I’ve never been a fan of Dellin Betances closing games, despite his late season success. I prefer to keep the big guy in the primary setup role where he excels. If both Britton and Robertson leave, there’s no doubt Chad Green moves into a later inning role unless the Yankees sign a guy like Andrew Miller (which, as much as I hate to say it because I love the guy, would be a mistake given Miller’s recent history of injury struggles and ineffectiveness). I really liked having Britton on the team. Down the stretch, he was great. I have as much confidence in him closing games as I do Chapman or Robertson. Unfortunately, I think some team will throw too much money at him to be their primary closer so I think the odds of Britton’s return are very slim to non-existent.
I don’t want to trash Giancarlo Stanton and don’t feel that he should be judged solely on his performance in the ALDS, but if I could trade Stanton to the Los Angeles Dodgers and sign Bryce Harper, I’d do it. Realistically, I don’t think it will happen and I am convinced Stanton is here for the long haul regardless of the opt-clause in his contract. I think Stanton will be better next year after a year in the Bronx.
Miguel Andujar is everybody’s choice for AL Rookie of the Year. Well, at least among the Yankees Universe any way. No offense but the Yankees need to improve their defense at third. Many have called for moving Andujar to left. I’d support it. He has a very strong arm and I think his defensive flaws would not be as exposed in left as they are at third. Moving Andujar to left opens a spot in the lineup for everybody’s favorite free agent, Manny Machado. Not only is Machado a great young superstar, but his bat in the lineup would go a long way toward helping to solve the Yankees’ ongoing RISP problems. For the year (with the Baltimore Orioles and Los Angeles Dodgers), Manny hit .297/.367/.538 with .905 OPS. He slugged 37 homers and drove in 107 runs. It is assumed that he’d be willing to move back to third for the Yankees, and he’d greatly improve the team’s defense at the position. Unfortunately, I think the Philadelphia Phillies will be very aggressive in trying to sign Machado so if the Yankees want him, they’ll have to work hard to make it happen.
Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Gary A Vasquez)
I am not ready to give up on Gary Sanchez. I have no interest in the ‘dump Sanchez, trade for J.T. Realmuto’ arguments. I fully expect El Gary to work on his game during the off-season and come back much stronger, with a chip on his shoulder, next season. We know what his bat is capable of when it’s right. I think he will be improved defensively as well. I would not make any changes with the catching position. I am fully in favor of Austin Romine returning as El Gary’s caddy.
I really enjoyed the late season work of Luke Voit at first base. But there’s no way I’d go into training camp next Spring simply handing Voit the job. Greg Bird, while he didn’t deserve to start after his demotion, should be given every opportunity to compete with Voit. If the Yankees encounter a surprising chance to upgrade the position (someone like Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt), they should do it. In the end, I think Voit will be the team’s first baseman but until the regular season starts, I think it should be open competition to decide.
Right field, second base, and shortstop are firmly set so the only other position that could be potentially upgraded, excluding those I’ve mentioned above, would be center field. To trade or not to trade Aaron Hicks. That is the question. I don’t have a center field solution. Estevan Florial is not ready yet. I’d probably prefer to see Hicks stay, but I’d have no problem if the Yankees decide to trade him to improve other areas so long as they identify a strong option to replace him.
Brett Gardner has been a great Yankee but the team should not exercise his option. Some have mentioned declining the option and then re-signing him for less money, but he is a fourth outfielder at best at the stage of his career. I guess it really boils down to whether or not the Yankees think Clint Frazier can stay healthy. Plus, the albatross contract (Jacoby Ellsbury) should be back next year ready and, gulp, healthy. If there is one player that I’d love to see the Yankees dump regardless of the dollars lost, it would be the King of the DL. Sadly, I think we’re stuck with him for now and his presence could very well spell the end of Gardner’s time in Pinstripes.
When Aaron Boone was named manager of the Yankees, I had really wanted him to hire an experienced bench coach. I would have loved to have seen Rob Thomson stay in the role, but I get his reasons for leaving after he was passed over for the manager’s job after years of service in the organization. Given Boone’s inexperience, I had really felt that he would have benefited from a seasoned manager serving as his bench coach (much like the role Ron Roenicke played for Boston’s Alex Cora). Boone opted for “smart and confident”, foregoing experience, when he went with Josh Bard. Bard is working his name to the short list for potential managers and he may very well turn out to be one of the game’s best eventually, but I think an experienced bench coach would have been better for Boone this past season. Next season, both Boone and Bard will be stronger for this season’s experience so maybe there’s no need to make any changes with the coaching staff. I trust Boone enough to know that he’ll reflect upon this season and identify areas of improvement to make the necessary corrections. There’s no doubt that Brian Cashman and his team will be working with Boone in the off-season too. I don’t think we’ll see the same level of bullpen management (or if you will, mismanagement) next season. Boone continues to have my support.
I am anxious to see what Brian Cashman has in store for us. He knows that this team is very capable of being great and does not need too many tweaks to position themselves among MLB’s elite. I am sure that we’ll feel a sense of loss for those players who depart via free agency or trade, but when the 2019 season rolls around, the Yankees will be ready to play. I am excited and I think the team is well positioned to go deep into October next year. I am convinced the Yankees will be improved while the Red Sox, after career years from multiple players, will regress.
I am looking forward to hearing what Aaron Boone and Brian Cashman have to say in their press conferences later today. I am so ready for the Hot Stove League to begin. But first, we still have some baseball left even if the beloved Yankees are at home with their families. Nonetheless, I am anxious to hear the first words for the 2019 blueprint when Boonie and Cash took the podium at Yankee Stadium. Then we have to wait a couple of weeks before Operation Win 2019 World Series begins with full steam.
For now, it is the NL and AL Championship Series, with the NL kicking things off tonight. The only team left in the playoffs that interests me are the Los Angeles Dodgers. If the Dodgers lose the NLCS to the Milwaukee Brewers, I probably won’t be watching the World Series. Credit to the Brewers for acquiring the most valuable outfielder from the Miami Marlins (Christian Yelich) last off-season. It’s been a magical season for them. I think the Dodgers will prevail but the Brewers certainly have a good chance for altering the outcome. I really hate the Houston Astros but I am hopeful they are the AL representative in the Fall Classic. I am so ready for the end of Boston’s season now, not later. So, my picks for the World Series are a repeat performance by last year’s participants, the Los Angeles Dodgers versus the Houston Astros, with the same outcome.
As always, Go Yankees!
|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.