|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Patrick McDermott)|
Yankee Fans await the departure of Sonny Gray…
If you listen to the so-called Yankee GM’s on Twitter, the end of the road could be near for Sonny Gray. We know he’ll be gone by the time the guys pick up their bags to head to Tampa, Florida for Spring Training in February, but the only question is when, where and for whom.
When Sonny’s college pitching coach was on the Milwaukee Brewers coaching staff, there were lots of trade speculation with the Brewers. Now that the coach (Derek Johnson, formerly pitching coach of Vanderbilt) has moved on to the Cincinnati Reds in the same capacity, the Reds have become the “favored” trade target for the Twitter GM’s. I am sure Yankees GM Brian Cashman is talking to the Reds, as reported by the real insiders, but he’s talking with other teams too. I have no doubt Sonny Gray will perform better in a less-pressurized environment. We’ve seen it with the guys traded to Pittsburgh in recent years (most notably A.J. Burnett and Ivan Nova).
When the Reds are mentioned as a Gray destination, the name of Reds second baseman Scooter Gennett repeatedly comes up. If the Yankees are successful in acquiring the left-handed bat of Gennett, it is going to take more than Sonny Gray to make it happen. Gennett is only 28 years old, and has had great numbers the last two years, but he is a free agent after the 2019 season. I’ve heard people nix the thought of trading for Arizona’s premier first baseman Paul Goldschmidt because of his impending free agency next off-season. Not sure why you’d trade a talented Gray for short-term assets. Gennett’s productive bat would slot nicely into the Yankees lineup, but I just don’t think he is part of a Gray trade unless the team is willing to let go of some top prospects too.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jamie Sabau)|
One writer mentioned 2B/SS Jeter Downs as an option but young Downs is only 20 years old and while drafted in the first round of the 2017 MLB Draft (32nd pick), he has not played higher than Single A and is not ready to help in the immediate future. But, of course, you’ve got to like the name considering he was named for the Yankees future Hall of Fame shortstop. Still, I don’t see the Reds parting with one of their top prospects for Gray unless the Yankees sweeten the pot on their end.
The Oakland A’s and San Diego Padres are other teams mentioned, but there are others. While some have speculated Cashman’s return for Gray could be better than expected, I am anticipating it will be for minor league names that may or may not have heard of before. When you try to sell an asset, it’s generally not a good idea to tell the world how poorly it performs. I know that Cashman sells Gray’s upside in phone conversations with other GM’s, but he certainly has not avoided negative comments in his talks with the media. Nothing like giving a player a chip on his shoulder.
I am trying to keep expectations low for Gray’s return. I’d prefer not to see him go to a team the Yankees could potentially see in the playoffs, such as the A’s. I fully expect Gray to become the pitcher he once was when he exits the main stage in New York. He’ll also be a pitcher with an axe to grind given the disparaging words by our own general manager. While I don’t think Gray is a pitcher for the Big Apple, I won’t easily dismiss him when he is playing in another uniform. He will be a formidable foe in the future. There were some jokes that the Yankees should trade Gray to Oakland for Dustin Fowler, Jorge Mateo, and James Kaprielian. Regardless of where he goes, we have to be prepared that he’ll pitch more like the ace he once was in Oakland.
The next milestone date for Major League Baseball is Tuesday when MLB 40-man rosters must be set in advance of December’s Rule 5 Draft. After November 20th, additions to the 40-man roster can only be made through trades and free agent acquisitions. With Tuesday’s roster deadline, there will be a flurry of activity as teams move to protect their best Rule 5-eligible prospects. The Rule 5 Draft is held on the Thursday (final day) of the Baseball Winter Meetings which will be December 13th in Las Vegas, NV this year.
Most people are speculating the Yankees will trade Gray before they begin aggressive pursuit of other pitching options like Patrick Corbin, J.A. Happ, James Paxton or Nathan Eovaldi. With its potential impact on the 40-man roster, it’s possible we could see Gray moved within the next couple of days. Otherwise, I think we’re going to have to be a little more patient and may not see anything until after the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
On the bright side for whomever pulls on #55 next, the most recent guy to wear it is former Yankees great Hideki Matsui. Godzilla wore the number on the recently completed MLB All-Star Series in Japan as first base coach for MLB All-Star Team Manager Don Mattingly.
|Photo Credit: AP (Toru Takahashi)|
Speaking of pitching, MLB.com posted a column this week about the potential 2019 rookies of the year for each team. For the Yankees, Justus Sheffield was the choice. Per the column written by Jim Callis, Jonathan Mayo and Mike Rosenbaum for MLB.com, “The Yankees’ greatest need is starting pitching, and Sheffield should crack the Opening Day rotation. His fastball, slider and changeup all can be three plus pitches, so it won’t be a shock if he’s New York’s second-best starter after Luis Severino”. That’s probably a little more aggressive than my expectation heading into the new season. So long as he’s not included in a trade for a top starting pitcher, I don’t think Sheffield grabs a spot in the rotation out of Spring Training. I think CC Sabathia is holding the spot Sheffield will take when he’s ready. My expectation is the Yankees will acquire at least two starting pitchers this winter which will delay Top Sheff’s arrival. I hope Sheffield comes to Spring Training and absolutely dominates but I don not really think it will happen…yet. For the top four spots in the rotation, the Yankees need certainty and reliability. It’s great that CC Sabathia is back, but the team should not pin its 2019 hopes on his arm or his bum knee. He’ll be a year older and closer to the inevitable end of the line. I know it’s his last year, but there are no guarantees he’ll pitch like he did last season. He’ll be 39 next summer and he is not exactly in “Mariano Rivera-like” condition. Maybe he pitches solidly throughout the year, but then again, the end could come suddenly and without warning. The Yankees do not need more than one question mark in the rotation if they intend to de-throne the Champions.
Former Yankees managerial candidate Chris Woodward, recently named as the new manager for the Texas Rangers, has appointed a new pitching coach for the Rangers who has Yankee roots. Julio Rangel, most recently a minor league pitching coordinator for the San Francisco Giants, spent six years in the Yankees farm system from 1994 through 2000 but only made it as high as Double A. Still, he’s a Yankee by birth and I wish him the best for his first job as a Major League pitching coach.
I think November is probably my least favorite month as a blog writer. There really isn’t much happening and just lots of speculation, ranging reasonable to absolute ridiculousness. But it is the calm before the storm as we are only a few weeks away from all hell breaking loose with the Baseball Winter Meetings. January tends to be quiet but at least by that time, we’ll have shiny new toys on the roster we can talk about and get excited about the approaching call of Spring Training.
There are two MAJOR free agents available right now…genuine superstars and potential future Hall of Famers…but frankly, I am tired of hearing their names and refuse to write them with this post. If the Yankees sign one of them, great. If not, life goes on. I know one thing for sure, the Yankees roster in January will be much stronger than it is today. Until then, let’s enjoy some turkey and gravy, and spend quality time with our families.
As always, Go Yankees!
|Photo Credit: Kevin C Cox, Getty Images|
Red Thunder Gets No Rest…
Now that we don’t have Gerrit Cole rumors to fuel our days, it looks like we’ll be hearing more and more about Yu Darvish until he finally signs somewhere.
John Harper of The New York Daily News floated a trade possibility this morning. In his scenario, the Yankees would send Jacoby Ellsbury and Clint Frazier to the San Francisco Giants for second baseman Joe Panik. By including Frazier, Harper figures the Yankees could get the Giants to pay $12-$13 million annually of what’s left on Ellsbury’s contract. In his line of thinking, the trade would open the pathway for the Yankees to sign Darvish so he basically views it as an Ellsbury/Frazier swap for Darvish/Panik.
|Photo Credit: Lance Iversen, USA TODAY Sports|
I am not sure that I’m crazy about the trade idea but if the Yankees were willing to send Frazier to Pittsburgh for Cole, they’d be willing to move him to bring in Yu Darvish.
If the Yankees carried a fifth outfielder on the roster to start the year (assuming Ellsbury and Frazier are dealt), it would most likely be Tyler Austin, who could back up first and the corner outfield spots, or Billy McKinney, an outfielder who did work at first base during the Arizona Fall League.
Panik’s presence would allow the Yankees to take their time with Gleyber Torres or move him to third base as once planned. A native New Yorker, Panik, 27, hit .288 with 10 home runs and 53 RBIs for the Giants in 2017. He was eligible for arbitration for the first time this year and settled with the Giants last week for $3.45 million. He can be a free agent in 2021. His lefty bat would play well in Yankee Stadium.
No one is going to take Ellsbury in a straight one-for-one swap, even with boatloads of cash included. So as much as I’d hate to lose Frazier, this is probably a trade that I’d make so long as I knew that I could sign either Darvish or Alex Cobb for the starting rotation.
In an unrelated rumor, Jim Bowden is saying that the Milwaukee Brewers are interested in signing third baseman Mike Moustakas if they could trade Travis Shaw to the Braves, Mets or Yankees. I’m never too excited about adding an ex-Red Sock, but Shaw had a breakout year for the Brewers in 2017 with 31 home runs and 101 RBIs. He batted .273/.349/.513. He is a left-handed bat and will turn 28 in mid-April. Not sure what level of interest the Yankees might have, but it bears watching. It would certainly cause much angst in the Red Sox Nation.
|Photo Credit: Jim Davis, Globe Staff|
Congrats Hideki Matsui…
According to The Japan Times, former Yankee (and Yomiuri Giant) Hideki Matsui has been elected to the Japanese Hall of Fame. At 43 years and 7 months, Matsui is the youngest entrant to the Japanese HOF, eclipsing former Dodgers/Mets pitcher Hideo Nomo, who was 45 years and 4 months at the time of his election.
Before heading to the United States to join the Yankees, Matsui won three Central League home run titles (1998, 2000, and 2002) and he was MVP of the CL in 1996, 2000, and 2002.
This was Matsui’s first year on the Japanese ballot and he garnered 91.3% of the vote. He was joined by former Hanshin Tigers star Tomoaki Kanemoto and former Yomiuri Giants manager Tatsunori Hara.
In his prepared statement, Matsui thanked his mentor, former Yomiuri Giants skipper Shigeo Nagashima. “Day in and day out, (Nagashima) checked my swing, and those days formed the cornerstone for me as a baseball player.”
|Photo Credit: Kyodo|
Hideki’s father, Masao, attended the announcement ceremony on his behalf. Hideki is in New York and was unable to attend.
Congratulations to the great #55 for the well-deserved honor!
Stanton and Judge who?…
Aaron Hicks caused quite a stir on Instagram this weekend when he posted a workout pic that shows he is more than capable of holding his own in the Yankees outfield. I was a little shocked when I first saw the pic and there were plenty of people who questioned whether or not it really was A-A-Ron (it is). Justin Diamond (@justindiamond) had the best tweet: “Sweet baby Jesus. @AaronHicks31 you on the juice this off-season?”…
Wow, what a football game!…
As a lifelong Minnesota Vikings fan, I’ve endured my share of disappointment over the years. The Vikings have found more unique ways to lose big games than any NFL team that I can think of. Well, outside of the Buffalo Bills. Yesterday’s NFC Playoff game against the New Orleans Saints was a game of atonement for me.
The Vikings jumped out to a 17-0 lead in the first half and I was getting congratulations from a number of friends. As a Vikings fan, I knew it was way too early to start getting excited. Plus, Drew Brees is still one of the game’s great quarterbacks. Sure enough, a couple of plays in the second half shifted the momentum to the Saints. The Vikings lost the lead and then re-captured it with less than 2 minutes to go. I was fearful that the Vikings had left too much time on the clock for Brees and Company and unfortunately I was right. Brees led the Saints to a field goal to re-capture the lead at 24-23 with 25 seconds left. Starting on their own 25 after a touchback on the kickoff, the Vikings moved to their 39 and faced a third down with 10 seconds left and no time outs. I was resigned to the agony of defeat when Vikings QB Case Keenum hit WR Stefon Diggs for a 61-yard touchdown to win the game. The Vikings won the game, 29-24. It was such an incredible feeling…something like Aaron Judge hitting a game-winning home run in the bottom of the 9th.
|Photo Credit: Pioneer Press|
I am not sure what will happen next week in Philadelphia as the Vikings take on the Eagles for the NFC Championship but I am enjoying the ride. The Eagles are the only thing that stands between the Vikings and playing this year’s Super Bowl at US Bank Stadium in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota. So regardless of whether they win or lose, the Vikings are going home. I just hope it is with a game still be played.
Lastly, We Remember…
Today, we remember the late great Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. Actually, he is thought of every day, but today is officially his day. He had so many great words over the course of his life, but I’ll leave this post with one: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Thank you, Dr King, for making a difference. We are a better country because of you and would have been even greater if you hadn’t been taken from us prematurely. We are forever grateful for you and your efforts to make this a better World for all of us.
Never forget MLK Jr…
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!
Quite simply, a great Yankee…
One thing is assured. Yankees fans will not be enjoying any of the hoopla that fans of the San Diego Padres, Chicago White Sox, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs et al have been experiencing this off-season. The Winter of Our Discontent (hat tip to John Steinbeck) continues with the loss of starter Hiroki Kuroda, who has signed a one year deal with the Hiroshima Carp of the Japanese Leagues.
Derek Jeter, David Robertson, Francisco Cervelli, Martin Prado, David Phelps, and now Hiroki Kuroda. The Yankees have lost some great personalities from the 2014 team and it ensures that 2015 will be “different”. It remains to be seen if it will be different-good or different-bad, but will definitely be different.
I remember when Hiroki Kuroda arrived in the U.S. in his early 30’s with the Los Angeles Dodgers. I think in my mind I viewed him as nothing more than a #3 starter but I remember watching a Dodgers game a few years (with the legendary Vin Scully announcing…what a treat!). He was masterful that game. I don’t remember the outcome but I do believe it was a Kuroda win and he only gave up a few hits. I was impressed by his performance, but I don’t think I truly appreciated how great he was until he came to New York. I was so wrong. He was more than a #3 starter. He may not have been an ace, but he was the type of #2 starter every team needs. He was a stopper, and he kept his team in games consistently from game to game. After watching A.J. Burnett flame out with essentially the same spot in the rotation with his roller coaster performances, Kuroda gave us stability and an arm that could be counted on. It’s too bad the team was unable to reward him with a World Series championship. Everyone knows the high class and character of Derek Jeter, but Kuroda is every bit the man of honor.
Doug Benc/Getty Images
I am glad that Kuroda was able to be a part of Masahiro Tanaka’s first year and to help with his transition. In a way, there is a bit of an unknown in what it will be like for Tanaka without fellow countrymen Kuroda and Ichiro Suzuki on the team. This is why it would make tremendous sense to add Hideki Matsui to the coaching staff. I haven’t heard Matsui’s name mentioned as a hitting coach but what about first base? He had one of the greatest clutch bats in recent Yankees history and is well liked by his former teammates and coaches.
But back to Kuroda. I read The New York Post headline that blared “Kuroda spurns Yankees, to return to Japan”. I don’t really view this as Kuroda spurning the Yankees. It has been known his desire was to finish his playing career in Japan. The man Kuroda has proven to be is one who would want to put the best possible product on the field in front of his home country. He wouldn’t want his last year to be a pitcher who stayed a year too long. I do not view this as a spurning so much as it was a man trying to do the right thing for his fans and country. As a fan, I know the tremendous respect that he holds for both the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers organizations. Not many people can play for both and only the Yankees and Dodgers.
Masahiro Tanaka wore #18 prior to his arrival in New York. I wonder if he’ll now change his number from 19 to 18 out of respect for his mentor. Tanaka is one of the few guys worthy of wearing Kuroda’s jersey.
Here’s hoping that we see Kuroda at future Yankees Old Timer’s Day games. He will be missed and we look forward to his eventual return to stand among the Legends.
The Element of Surprise…
The World Series is not yet over, but the 2014-15 Hot Stove League is already well under way.
The biggest shocker was the announcement that Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon had opted out of his contract to become a free agent. While I knew that there was a financial gap between what Maddon would require upon the conclusion of his contract next year and what the Rays would be willing to pay, I certainly didn’t expect Maddon’s sudden availability. Interesting that he had to be told about the two week clause to opt out of his contract should former GM Andrew Friedman depart, but clearly a signal that the Rays organization wants to show that they are more than the Friedman-Maddon show. I’ve read that the Rays didn’t want Maddon playing as a lame duck manager next season and that makes sense. Still, he is regarded as one of the best, if not the best, manager in baseball.
Tampa Bay Times
I had expected Maddon’s availability to put Don Mattingly on thin ice in Los Angeles, but publicly the Dodgers have stood behind Mattingly as their manager for 2015. While I don’t think that Mattingly is the manager that Maddon is, I do believe that he eventually will be. Mattingly has continued to improve in my eyes, and he deserves the opportunity to succeed with the Dodgers. But it must be hard for new Dodgers President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman sit idly by while his close friend is available to the highest bidder. With the only remaining managerial opening being in Minneapolis, it’s a given that if Maddon manages in 2015, a team will make a late decision to jettison their current manager. Speculation that it will be the Chicago Cubs certainly makes sense, but I feel bad for Rick Renteria who did a very good job last year with the younger Cubs.
If I owned a baseball team, I’d certainly consider making a change to bring in Maddon. It will be interesting to see where he lands. I really doubt that he’ll sit out a year waiting for the next job.
Meanwhile, I certainly do not feel bad for the Tampa Bay Rays. I am in favor of anything that weakens AL East Rivals, but I am sure that Tampa will be fine.
For the Yankees, they missed their guy when Chili Davis signed a three year deal to be the new hitting coach for the Boston Red Sox. Chili was my personal favorite for the job, and had hoped for his reunion with the Yanks. But it was not meant to be. With Dave Magadan off the board, it’s anybody’s guess who will replace Kevin Long as the Yankees hitting coach. Of the latest names, I do like the idea of the Yankees pursuing Rays hitting coach Derek Shelton or if they stay in house, someone like James Rowson. Without strong clear cut options, it does make one wonder if the Yanks were premature in letting Long go. It certainly didn’t take him long to find a new job in Flushing Meadow. With his reputation, it was a certainty that he wouldn’t remain unemployed very long.
John Munson/The Star-Ledger
In retrospect, the Yankees should have kept Long and brought in an assistant hitting coach. Regardless of who they hire as a replacement, I still think the Yankees should join the many team now employing two hitting coaches. My personal favorite for that role continues to be Hideki Matsui.
A wasted roster spot…
With the World Series now tied up, I am hopeful that it goes the full seven games. While I want the San Francisco Giants to win, I am not ready for the announcement that Alex Rodriguez has rejoined the Yankees active roster. I am not looking forward to his return and I do not feel that he’ll be the productive player that he once was. In my opinion, he’d look better someplace like Miami but the guy has no trade value unless the Yankees are willing to absorb what’s left on his inflated contract. He is definitely the poster child against long-term contracts. This has turned out to be one of the worst that I’ve ever seen. The thought of three more years of A-Rod is so incredibly painful. I sincerely hope that A-Rod’s presence does not deter the Yankees from re-signing free agent third baseman Chase Headley.
There was once a time that I thought A-Rod would never wear pinstripes again but sadly, it appears that I was wrong. Of course, it’s not my money and the Yankees still owe A-Rod too much to just release him.
Assuming the Yankees do bring back Headley, the position that scares me the most next season is first base. It’s hard to count on Mark Teixeira and when he plays, he is a shell of the player he once was. It is looking like A-Rod will be playing some first base which brings its own questions. I remain hopeful that Rob Refsnyder grabs second base in spring training. As for Derek Jeter’s replacement at short, I think the answer is outside of the organization. More than likely, it will be a short term solution. Asdrubal Cabrera probably makes the most sense unless it is determined that his long term future is better suited for second base.
With the World Series set to end either Tuesday or Wednesday, I am sure that the Hot Stove League will start heating up if the last few weeks have been any indication. No offense to either the Giants or the Kansas City Royals, but, outside of A-Rod, I am ready for the rebuilding of the Yankees to begin…
The first swing is a strike…
OK, I am bummed. Today’s news, aside from the fact that my beloved Minnesota Vikings and San Jose Sharks lost games, was the Boston Red Sox naming former Yankee Chili Davis as their new hitting coach. I had really hoped we’d see the return of Davis to New York to replace the departed Kevin Long. However, it is not meant to be. Not sure if Davis decided not to wait on the Yankees, or if they made a lower offer, or if Davis simply looked into the crystal ball and saw greater potential with the 2015 Red Sox hitters.
I wish Chili the best in his new job, and I am sure that he’ll be a huge benefit for Yoenis Cespedes given their prior success together in Oakland.
Where does that leave the Yankees? At this point, Dave Magadan is probably the strongest name on the board. Dante Bichette has been mentioned as a possibility. I have not kept up with Dante’s post-playing career, but he is an intriguing name given his close friendship with Manager Joe Girardi and his son is a prospect in the Yankees system. Another name that intrigues me is Jason Giambi. Not sure if he is ready to pull the plug on his playing days, but he’s obviously already moved into a mentoring role and would be a great guy for the position. With so many teams moving to the two hitting coach approach, I think the Yankees should follow suit regardless of who gets the job. A perfect combo might be Magadan with Hideki Matsui as his assistant hitting coach.
While I am disappointed that Chili Davis is no longer an option, I wonder if the team has already made its decision. Reports are that a new coach could be named by Tuesday which leads me to believe the Yankees have either made their decision or they’ve significantly narrowed the choices.
Hopefully next week brings some good news regarding Joe Girardi’s coaching staff. It’s funny. When your team is not in the World Series, you are anxious for the WS to end so that the Hot Stove League can begin.
Speaking of the World Series, I am pulling for the San Francisco Giants by default. My NL team is the Los Angeles Dodgers but sadly they couldn’t make it to the NLCS. As a Bay Area resident, it’s not too hard to default to the Giants even if they are the Dodgers bitterest rival. It doesn’t matter that the Giants have that ‘been there, done that’ feel to them whereas the Kansas City Royals are returning to a stage they haven’t seen since 1985. I am ready for another Orange October…
For months, the talk centered on prized Japanese pitcher Mashiro Tanaka. He was highly touted as the most valuable free agent pitcher on the market. Of course, his free agency began slowly when there was doubt if his Japanese team would allow him to be posted, particularly after the posting fee was capped at $20 million. Nevertheless, Tanaka was subsequently posted, as we all know.
Almost immediately, the Yankees were regarded as the frontrunner. But given that any team to offer to pay the $20 million posting fee, it opened the field to any team that wanted to make a run at the latest Japanese import. Early on, there was talk that the Seattle Mariners would make a play for Tanaka. It was said that the Los Angeles Dodgers would not be outbid, and the Chicago Cubs were completely enamored with the idea of Tanaka headlining their rotation. The Los Angeles Angels and the Arizona Diamondbacks were other teams mentioned as strong possibilities.
I read that the Mariners were favorites because the team is predominantly owned by Nintendo and Los Angeles was cited because of its close proximity to Japan and its strong Asian community. There was talk that some team would make a surprise late bid, kind of like what the Angels when they signed Albert Pujols.
I never really expected the Dodgers to be “all-in”. They had their own pending free agent to be in Clayton Kershaw and they couldn’t make a ridiculously high bid without driving up their costs to retain Kershaw. They subsequently re-signed Kershaw to a $215 million deal, but I still didn’t think they’d go hard after Tanaka. I did think the Chicago Cubs were a strong challenger for Tanaka despite prior rumors that he preferred a coastal destination. If I have learned anything with Major League Baseball, it’s to never underestimate Theo Epstein.
But fortunately, when Tanaka finally made his decision, he was a Yankee. Almost instantly, the stories about his superior talent turned to questions about how he’ll make the adjustment to life in America and how he is a #2 or #3 starter at best. Everyone is now quick to say that he does not have the talent of Yu Darvish, and I’ve seen the name “Kei Igawa” more than I’d care to in recent days. But still, this was a move that the Yankees HAD to make. With a weak farm system at the upper levels, they had no choice but to overpay for young pitching talent with solid upside. With the hype surrounding Tanaka (who went 24-0 in Japan last year), he also represents a gate attraction. With Tanaka in the fold, the Yankees become the second major league team to have two Japanese players in their starting pitching rotation (the first was the Dodgers with Hideo Nomo and Kaz Ishii). If the Japanese media made it a circus following Hideki Matsui, they’ll have a field day following the trio of Tanaka, Hiroki Kuroda and Ichiro Suzuki.
The realist in me knows not to expect top of the rotation stuff from Tanaka. I know the Yankees want more, but I’d be very satisfied if he could give the Yankees what Kuroda has for the last two years. This is most likely Kuroda’s last year, and it is good that Tanaka will have a year to spend under Hiroki’s wing. I think that will greatly aid his transition to the United States and MLB.
I thought that it would take a contract of 7 years, $140 million to sign Tanaka. So, the Yankees did overbid in that regard. Today I saw an article that one GM speculated the next highest bid were the Cubs and D-Backs at $120 million. I really doubt the gap between the Yankees and the others was that great. The same source mentioned the Dodgers were at $119 million which doesn’t make sense as everyone knew it would take $120 million plus to sign Tanaka. My guess is the Cubs and Dodgers were in the vicinity of $140 million plus. Not bad for a pitcher who has never thrown a major league pitch.
While I would still like to see an additional pitcher brought to camp, there is potential with a rotation that features CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Masahiro Tanaka, Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda or David Phelps. If Pineda could possibly show the potential that caused the Yankees to trade for him (prior to the injuries), the rotation could be very strong. While I would not be opposed to seeing Bronson Arroyo or Ubaldo Jimenez signed, I think the Yankees need to focus on the infield. Yes, they’ve brought in San Diego’s Dean Anna, signed Kelly Johnson, Brian Roberts and Scott Sizemore, and still have Eduardo Nunez but there are too many questions. What happens if Mark Teixeira struggles in his return, or Derek Jeter? Neither of those positions are air tight without getting into the holes at second and third. Jeter will be 40, and Teixeira is a notoriously slow starter. April could be a very challenging month.
My preference would be to find a decent third baseman so that Kelly Johnson could be the primary second baseman. But the team is probably enamored with the idea that Roberts is capable of rebounding from the injury filled years that have plagued him since 2009. Scott Sizemore is nothing more than camp fodder. One magazine I read said “But other than OK pop and a few walks, offers little even when healthy”. Anna is nothing more than a potential reserve.
Catching and the outfield is set, but there is still work to be done in the infield and in the bullpen. I agree with the choice to anoint David Robertson as the closer, but there needs to be an insurance plan in place. Grant Balfour would have been a great option but he is now a Tampa Bay Ray once again. I don’t want Fernando Rodney, but the Yankees need someone who is capable of closing games if Robertson is not up to the task. If Boston can find an elite closer as their fourth choice last year, there are potential arms that can be found. I really hated to see the departure of Boone Logan. Not much has been written about it, but I can only hope that Matt Thornton is a capable, albeit older, replacement. I know the team has long admired lefty Cesar Cabral so perhaps this is Cabral’s year to take it to the next level. I’d also like to see Dellin Betances take advantage of his opportunity and become a force in the pen. I guess every team thinks they can follow the Tampa blueprint for bullpen success given how the Rays are always able to craft something out of nothing.
With pitchers and catchers reporting to training camp in a few weeks, I am sure that the transaction wires will be busy as teams, and most notably the Yankees, look to create playoff caliber rosters.
For the Yankees, while it will be great to see Brian McCann show up to become his orientation with the Yankee pitchers, the cameras and the reporters will be flocked around #19, Masahiro Tanaka, as he begins his pinstriped career. Time to build upon last year’s 85 wins and return the Yankees to October baseball. With the commitment the Yankees have shown this off-season, it’s clear their last move was not their “last” move.