Photo Credit: MLB.com
Until the Yankees reclaim the Throne…
Many Yankees fans are quick to anoint the Yankees as the AL East champs, but yesterday, GM Brian Cashman, in interviews, echoed my beliefs. The Boston Red Sox are the AL East Champions until proven otherwise. We may like the 2018 Yankees but until they dethrone the Red Sox, J.D. Martinez and the Red Sox are the hunted. Sure, the Yankees made it further in the post-season in 2017 but it does not matter. The Yankees may have taken the Astros deeper into their series than the Red Sox did against the same opponent but the truth is that the Yankees and Red Sox both lost to the eventual World Series Champions.
Photo Credit: Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Zuma Press (Keith Birmingham)
I would argue that Martinez helps his team’s lineup more than Giancarlo Stanton helps his. I am not saying that Martinez will be a better slugger than Stanton, but it terms of how the player affects his own team, I think Martinez can have the bigger impact. The Red Sox were clearly missing something last year with the retirement of future Hall of Famer David Ortiz. Martinez brings power to his club and he’ll help those around him. The Yankees are destined to hit a lot of home runs with or without Stanton.
Photo Credit: Associated Press (Ross D Franklin)
Courtesy of The New York Post, Cashman told reporters on Wednesday, “They are the American League East Champs so we are not on equal footing. We were a wild card. They are the American League East champs and we are not. We are not on equal footing until we take it away from them.”
ESPN writer Marly Rivera reported that David Price (with a big smile on his face) gave the following response when asked about the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry with the Stanton/Martinez acquisitions: “You guys want it, let’s do it, we hate the Yankees. You guys want it, yeah we hate the Yankees. We hate them.” Price has a lot of work to do rebuild his image in his own city, but I do expect him to be much better this year than last. It gets lost but the Red Sox have two excellent relievers coming back this year from injury (Carson Smith and Tyler Thornburg) which will make their bullpen much stronger in front of elite closer Craig Kimbrel.
There’s no doubt it is time to end Boston’s reign. Let’s do this.
Oh yes, I know the Muffin Man who lives in Drury Lane…
The song I repeatedly sang to my son when he was an infant has been going through my head lately, for some reason.
Photo Credit: Getty Images, via The Athletic
it’s funny but J.D. Martinez signing with the Red Sox may have led to the arrival of Brandon Drury in the Bronx. Cashman told the YES Network’s Michael Kay yesterday that the Yankees have been trying to acquire Drury from the Arizona Diamondbacks since back in the days when the late Kevin Towers was the team’s general manager. Cashman didn’t have any success in finding a match with Towers or the subsequent GM, Dave Stewart. He was finally able to get his man when he identified that current Arizona GM Mike Hazen was having trouble matching up with the Tampa Bay Rays in an effort to acquire outfielder Steven Souza, Jr. He stepped in to offer help through a three-way trade, and it resulted in both Hazen and Cashman getting their men. If the D-Backs had been successful in re-signing Martinez, their desire to get Souza would have been diminished and the odds are that Drury would still be working out in Phoenix.
The Yankees website hasn’t been updated with Drury’s new number yet but his Instagram account was sporting Todd Frazier’s number 29 yesterday (identifying the Yankees as his team). Drury wore 27 in Arizona so a number change was inevitable.
Cashman indicated that Drury will play third base which they feel is his best position although many have given strong reasons for why Drury should start at second. He wasn’t handing the third base job to Drury (it must be earned) but I have no doubt that the Opening Day Lineup will feature Drury at third base, barring injury. I do feel that if/when Miguel Andujar proves that he is ready, he’ll have every opportunity to compete with Drury for the job. May the best third baseman win. I like competition. It tends to draw out the best in everyone.
The Arizona Republic, in an article about their new outfielder, cited that you have to give up good players to get good players. They acknowledged that Drury, returning to his natural position at third, could blossom in New York.
Project Gleyber Torres at second base continues in full force. With Drury at third, Torres continues to be the favorite at Starlin Castro’s old position regardless of whether he starts Opening Day or a few weeks later to delay his service time. Many of you may be upset the Yankees most likely will not be starting rookies at both second and third bases, but I feel much better breaking in one rookie at a time for a team with high expectations. I do feel that both Andujar and Torres will be making contributions by late summer (assuming that Andujar does not get shipped elsewhere at the Trading Deadline).
I am anxious to see the first images of Drury at Yankees camp. He is excited to be here and it’s infectious. His all-out style of play is going to make him a fan favorite. A lot of guys know how to play, but not everyone is a winner. I think you can easily put Drury in both categories.
|Photo Credit: New York Daily News (Corey Sipkin)|
Aaron Boone is present and accounted for in Tampa…
As we bear down on the reporting date for pitchers and catchers (with many players already at camp) in a few days, it has continued to be very quiet for the Yankees and their primary division rival, the Boston Red Sox.
It really does not feel like there is any team willing to match or exceed the alleged offer made to free agent outfielder J.D. Martinez by the Red Sox. There has been some talk that the Arizona Diamondbacks could come up with a $100 million contract offer but they’d need to move salary to make it happen (sounds like the Yankees and their interest in free agent starting pitcher Yu Darvish except their ‘Jacoby Ellsbury-like’ albatross is the heavy contract of starting pitcher Zack Greinke who at least remains a vital part of the team’s plans). Martinez would prefer to play right field which probably makes Phoenix more desirable (to him) than Boston but I remain convinced that dollars will win in the end and that Martinez will be on display at Fenway Park as the team’s primary DH. There’s always the chance they could trade Jackie Bradley, Jr and move Andrew Benintendi to center but that would weaken the outfield defense.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jennifer Stewart)|
If the Red Sox fail to sign Martinez, names like Mike Moustakas and Logan Morrison have been mentioned. None are easy fits. Signing Moose Tacos would require an adjustment with plans for young starting third baseman Rafael Devers. Morrison probably makes more sense as he could share 1B and DH with Mitch Moreland. Nevertheless, I really feel the Red Sox will persevere and eventually sign Martinez. The Red Sox know that they need a big bopper to compete with the Yankees this year. I am not quick to say the Yankees are the superior favorites in the AL East. I feel the Red Sox are the champions until proven otherwise. I also expect the Red Sox starting rotation to be stronger this year, with bounce backs by David Price and Rick Porcello. It was great that Chris Sale couldn’t get a victory against the Yankees last year, but the odds of that happening again are similar to the odds of the Yankees successfully trading Ellsbury. Boston is not going away and the Yankees won’t be sneaking up on anybody this year like they did in 2017. Baseball Prospectus released its annual PECOTA projections last week and they have the Yankees winning the division by 9 games over the Red Sox with 96 wins. I think the division will be much closer than that, especially if the Sox are successful in snagging Martinez. I have been a Yankees fan too long to underestimate the Sox.
PECOTA, for what it’s worth, projects Aaron Judge with a batting average of only .247 (really?), with 37 home runs and 94 RBI’s. Giancarlo Stanton is projected at .259, 41 home runs and 106 RBI’s. Gary Sanchez is not far behind with .269 BA, 34 homers and 97 RBI’s.
The one that really stands out to me is first baseman Greg Bird. The projection has him getting over 500 plate appearances, while batting .246 with 28 homers and 86 RBI’s. I am really hopeful that this is the year that Bird finally stays healthy. I love his swing and his bat in the stacked Yankees lineup. But until he proves that he can stay on the field for the duration of the season, I am going to be a bit skeptical.
|Photo Credit: New York Daily News (Andrew Savulich)|
My fear is that the Yankees have to lean on Tyler Austin at first base more heavily than expected. I guess all things considered that’s better than rolling out Chris Carter, but I’d prefer no question marks at first base as the Yankees attempt to break in rookies at second and third bases.
The Tampa Bay Rays might actually play in Tampa…
On Friday, the Tampa Bay Rays announced that they’d like to build a new stadium in Ybor City, a historic Latin community northeast of downtown Tampa. There are many hurdles before it can come to fruition, but I hope the Rays are successful. I don’t know much about Tampa politics but it makes more sense to have the Rays in Tampa than St Petersburg. Watching a baseball game at Tropicana Field always feels like watching a game in an oversized warehouse. I really hope that Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg is successful in getting his stadium initiative approved and funded. This seems like such a win-win situation for the Rays and the greater Tampa metropolitan area.
|Photo Credit: Tampa Bay Times (Marc Topkin)|
Ybor City is about five miles east of Steinbrenner Field and Raymond James Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
I don’t like the smell of that rumor…
Speaking of the Rays, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported this week that the Yankees had checked in on Rays starter Jake Odorizzi. Odorizzi is only 27 (28 in late March) but the right-hander had a down year in 2017. He was 10-8 with 4.14 ERA in 28 starts. He only struck out 127 batters while walking 61, the worst K/BB ratio of his career. A fly-ball pitcher, he gave up 30 home runs, which obviously would not play well in Yankee Stadium. One Rays blog proposed sending Odorizzi and reliever Alex Colome to the Yankees for outfielder Clint Frazier and a low-level lottery ticket. I wouldn’t do it. I would consider sending Frazier to Tampa for a trade circled around Chris Archer, but not Odorizzi.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Mark Cunningham)|
“Odo” would not be a significant upgrade over any of the starters in the current Yankees rotation so I dismiss the thought that the Yankees might be interested. I’ll gladly take a promising young arm like Chance Adams or Justus Sheffield over Odorizzi. The only reason you’d make a trade for Odorizzi would be on his potential as a breakout candidate but I’d prefer the in-house options…and keeping Red Thunder in pinstripes.
But wait, weren’t we part of the exciting young Yankees?…
Yesterday, Tyler Kepner of The New York Times wrote an article about which teams stand a chance in 2018. It was kind of sad looking for the photo that he posted with the caption, “The Yankees reached the American League Championship Series last season, but fell short against the Astros.” Of the recognizable faces, only one player and one coach remain from this pic taken just last October.
|Photo Credit: The New York Times (Chang W Lee)|
Joe Girardi can now be found on the MLB Network sporting a suit and defending his managerial choices during last season’s post-season. Rob Thomson is helping set up training camp in Clearwater, Florida for the Philadelphia Phillies as new manager Gabe Kapler’s bench coach and most likely the lead training camp organizer. No word about the future plans for former hitting coach Alan Cockrell, seen in the photo standing next to current hitting coach Marcus Thames. Yankees centerfielder Aaron Hicks looks at a trio of ex-Yankees. Todd Frazier will soon be headed to Port St Lucie, FL for the New York Mets; Starlin Castro, assuming he is not traded, will go to Jupiter, FL for the Miami Marlins; while Chase Headley returns to the Valley of the Sun in Peoria, AZ to play for his original team, the San Diego Padres. Hicks, as we know, will help ensure that Jacoby Ellsbury is the most expensive bench player in baseball. Thames, I am sure, is salivating at the opportunity to work with Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Didi Gregorius, Greg Bird, and others. Good times…
|Photo Credit: Getty Images|
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Al Bello and Christian Petersen), via CBS New York|
Trading January for February…
It was another quiet week in the Yankees Universe, but fortunately, it puts us one week closer to Spring Training.
Many feel that the Yankees are good with the present makeup of the 40-man roster as the gates of Steinbrenner Field prepare to open but I remain convinced that the Yankees will add either a strong starting pitcher or a veteran to solidify third base. It would be great to add both but I don’t see how that’s economically feasible for a team trying so hard to stay under the $197 million luxury tax threshold.
I thought the Washington Nationals have done a tremendous job with their infield bench. First, they signed first baseman Matt Adams, the long-time Cardinal who spent most of last year in Atlanta, to back up first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. Then, they re-signed 2B/3B Howie Kendrick who can plug into a corner outfield position as well. Either one of these players would have been useful for the Yankees. I like the idea of pairing a veteran with the youthful Miguel Andujar at third. Granted, I would love to see the return of Todd Frazier or even the signing of Mike Moustakas, but the Yankees can afford to lower their sights for another guy that could help Andujar with his transition to the MLB level. Eduardo Nunez is probably not the answer, due to his questionable defense and injury history, but there are other guys that could fit the bill without blowing the budget. Josh Harrison, carrying a cap hit of $10.25 million, is probably the guy that comes to mind but his acquisition would probably prevent the addition of a starting pitcher who is better than any of the current starting five.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images North America (Joe Sargent)|
The Toronto Blue Jays have been fairly active in trying to rebuild their post-Jose Bautista outfield. Earlier this week, they signed former Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson to fill a platoon role. Then, yesterday, they traded for St Louis Cardinals outfielder Randall Grichuk who became expendable when the Cardinals acquired former Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna, particularly given the breakthrough of outfielder Tommy Pham for the Cards last year. Grichuk has some thump in his bat, even if he hasn’t been consistent. He is expected to be the starter in right field, replacing Bautista. I don’t know much about the younger pitching prospect that the Blue Jays sent to St Louis (Connor Greene), but I am glad to see reliever Dominic Leone depart the AL East. In a setup role for the Blue Jays last year, Leone stranded 42 of 54 base runners which ranked fourth among AL relievers. He held righties to .211 batting average and was even stingier with lefties at .183. The Grandy Man may not be the player he once was, but he is still one of the game’s best gentlemen. I’m sure that he’ll be a positive influence on the young Jays. He didn’t do much for the Los Angeles Dodgers last year after the late season acquisition (.161 batting average with 7 home runs in 112 at-bats), but he can still provide occasional pop. I can still remember his grand slam against the Yankees last August in what would prove to be his last at-bat for the New York Mets.
|Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)|
It’s inevitable that the Boston Red Sox and free agent outfielder J.D. Martinez come together at some point this off-season. I find it highly unlikely that the Arizona Diamondbacks bring back Martinez due to monetary constraints and there doesn’t seem to be much competition with Boston for the outfielder’s services. The latest reports indicate the Red Sox have offered 5 years at $125 million but agent Scott Boras is on record seeking a 6 or 7 year deal for his client. Teams have wised up and understand how detrimental the latter years can be for extended length contracts given to thirty-something players. If the Red Sox are truly offering $25 million per year, I think Martinez would be smart to consider it. At a winter function for the Red Sox yesterday, former Red Sox great Pedro Martinez explained, “The main reason why Mookie (Betts) and those guys miss (David Ortiz) more is because they were getting better pitches to hit on an earlier count because of his presence. Everybody knew they wanted to attack Mookie and those guys to get them out early before they get to David because David was one of those guys who was really special.” Martinez could be that guy for the Red Sox, which is why I feel that Boston will eventually get the deal done even if it gives them a $200+ million payroll.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Christian Petersen)|
The most talked about situation for the Yankees is Jacoby Ellsbury and his contract. By all indications, Ellsbury has no desire to waive his no-trade clause and is focused on competing with Aaron Hicks for the starting center field role. Many Yankees fans, including myself, feel that it would be best for Ellsbury to drop the NTC and allow a trade. The pro-Ellsbury fans attack us, saying that Ellsbury is a better player than we are giving him credit for. I don’t think anyone disputes that Ellsbury is still a good player. He just doesn’t fit the 2018 Yankees. At this point, it is clear that Aaron Hicks has the upper hand and it would take an injury to Hicks (always a possibility) to clear a path to consistent playing time for Ellsbury. But even then, he’d have to fight Brett Gardner for time and Gardy probably has the edge. It does not make sense to pay a fourth or fifth outfielder $22 million per year. If the Yankees were successful in getting another team to take on half of what’s left of Ellsbury’s deal, that’s still significant money that could go toward a starting pitcher and/or veteran third baseman. That’s why I think it is best to move Ellsbury if you can. He can be a very useful player for another team. Seattle was mentioned as the primary trade target until they acquired second baseman Dee Gordon from the Miami Marlins with the intent to convert him to center field. Then, the San Francisco Giants were heavily mentioned by Yankees fans. But they acquired Andrew McCutchen from the Pittsburgh PIrates and are bumping up against the luxury tax threshold themselves. Some have mentioned the Colorado Rockies in a trade of bad contracts for IF/OF Ian Desmond, but I don’t think the Rockies are as down on Desmond as Yankees fans would like to think. A trade to a Cactus League team seems to make the most sense given that Ellsbury makes his home in Scottsdale, Arizona. Personally, I think the Yankees will be stuck with Ellsbury until the dollars left on his contract reach a point that Hal Steinbrenner is comfortable cutting bait. That means at least another season or two. It stinks because it will most likely keep Clint Frazier at Triple A if he is not traded for a starting pitcher. I am a fan of Red Thunder and I’d like to see him in the Bronx, not Moosic, PA. He’s ready, even if it means that team leader Brett Gardner is the odd man out.
|Photo Credit: SI.com|
Maybe next week is finally the week we get some actual news in the Yankees Universe. Yeah, right…probably not. Oh well, Spring Training will soon be here. I am ready and anxious to see 1 Steinbrenner Drive thriving with Yankees fans in the stands watching Yankees greats on the field.
|Credit: Daniel Decker Photography|
After two successive weekends starting with a bang (first the word about Aaron Boone’s hiring as the replacement for Joe Girardi and then the stunning deal that brought the great Giancarlo Stanton to the Bronx), we enter this weekend on a quiet note.
There have been rumors for days (actually the ongoing discussions have lasted for years) the Yankees have been talking to the Pittsburgh Pirates about starter Gerrit Cole. Personally, I am in favor of Cole’s acquisition. I know, he basically sucked last year. 12-12, 4.26 ERA. 31 home runs allowed. It was easily his worst season and he is now a couple of seasons removed from his dominant 19-win 2015 season. You’d be bringing him into the pressurized AL East which isn’t going to help anybody’s ERA, particularly for a pitcher prone to give up the long ball. But maybe I continue to see the upside of the pitcher and feel that he can be an effective middle-of-the-rotation starter. There’s the intangible that he was a childhood Yankees fan so it’s possible that he could have the reverse Ivan Nova effect (pitching much better in New York than Pittsburgh). I know, that one is a stretch but I’d really like to see what pitching coach Larry Rothschild could do with Cole’s arm.
|Credit: Charles Wenzelberg, NY Post|
The issue, of course, is cost. Any trade is almost certain to be headlined by outfielder Clint Frazier. The Pirates will also demand a top pitching prospect in a deal that would most likely cost the Yankees at least four young promising players. Many believe that Chance Adams may be better suited for relief and I’ve heard concerns about the at-times violent delivery of Justus Sheffield (and concerns about his durability). Between the two, I’d probably be more willing to sacrifice Adams although I have enjoyed his progression through the Yankees farm system. I saw one Pirates blog clamoring for Jordan Montgomery. That’s a deal-breaker for me. I would not include Montgomery under any circumstances with the concerns that accompany Cole. I have a tough time justifying Frazier but the Yankees have an abundance of outfielders and Frazier is better suited for left field than center. Until they can clear out room by trading Jacoby Ellsbury (please!) or Brett Gardner, there’s simply no room for Frazier. The job of fourth or fifth outfielder can easily be handled by Jake Cave or Billy McKinney, with Estevan Florial a season or two away. Pittsburgh wants to contend again by 2019 so they are not going to settle for Single-A prospects or guys with no potential to reach the bigs until after 2020. This is a dilemma and I am sure that’s a primary reason the talks have gone on for so long with no resolution.
I know everyone prefers Michael Fulmer of the Detroit Tigers but there’s no indication that the Tigers are willing to trade Fulmer. Even if Fulmer was available, I think the cost would be substantially greater than what it would or should take to get Cole.
We know that the Boston Red Sox will respond to the Yankees addition of Giancarlo Stanton. They’ve been rumored for weeks to be the possible destination for both first baseman Eric Hosmer and outfielder J.D. Martinez. With their pitching staff (assuming that David Price can return to ace status), they will be strong contenders for the AL East championship next season. I was glad to see one possible fallback option eliminated yesterday when former Cleveland Indians slugger Carlos Santana signed with the Philadelphia Phillies. Martinez has indicated he wants to play the outfield and at the moment, the Red Sox outfield is full with Mookie Betts (arguably one of the best players in MLB), Jackie Bradley Jr, and Andrew Benintendi. It’s possible the Sox could trade JBJ but he’s one of the best defensive centerfielders in the league. Neither Benintendi nor Betts are going anywhere. Therefore, I hope Martinez continues to take a stand against becoming a full-time DH.
The trades of Chase Headley and Starlin Castro opened starting roles for the Yankees at second and third. At the moment, Gleyber Torres is destined to take second. However, there is greater value in starting him at Triple A to open the season for a few weeks to delay his free agency by a year so it makes more sense to use the combo of Ronald Torreyes and Tyler Wade to man the position until Torres is ready. At third, Miguel Andujar is presently at the front of the line although I still suspect the Yankees will acquire a short-term veteran. This one is tough. I’d love to see the Yankees bring Todd Frazier back on a two-year deal, but the Yankees are probably looking at no more than one year which is not in sync with the player. One possible destination for Frazier was eliminated yesterday when the Los Angeles Angels signed Zack Cozart, former shortstop for the Cincinnati Reds, to play third (Andrelton Simmons is entrenched at short and the Angels just acquired second baseman Ian Kinsler from the Tigers). I keep hoping that the price tag for Frazier drops low enough for the Yankees to grab him but that’s not something that I am counting on. I guess the Yankees need to find their next Scott Brosius off some unsuspecting MLB roster.
If anything is going to happen, it will probably be next week. Otherwise, I don’t see any significant baseball activity until after the first of the year.
I am sure that GM Brian Cashman and company are hard at work as I type this post.
Hopefully there is a quality starting pitcher out there who dreams of joining Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray, and Jordan Montgomery. Run support may not have been Gray’s friend in 2017 but in 2018, I don’t think it’s going to be a problem. As a pitcher, I’d love to be backed by a lineup that features Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, Didi Gregorius, Aaron Hicks, Brett Gardner and others. They’ll just have to get used to the extended wait between innings while the Yankees are batting.
Oakland A’s Outfielder Sues the White Sox…
Former Yankees outfielder Dustin Fowler has sued the Chicago White Sox and the state agency that manages Guaranteed Rate Field (Illinois Sports Facilities Authority) as a result of the devastating knee injury he suffered in his Yankees debut last summer in Chicago. The suit, filed in the Cook County Circuit Court, claims the White Sox and the state agency acted negligently by not securing the knee-level electrical box that Fowler collided against when he hit the low side of the wall chasing a fly ball in foul territory. The suit indicates by failing to pad, guard or cover the electrical box, the defendants showed “an utter indifference to or conscious disregard” for Fowler’s safety.
|Credit: Pete Caldera, NJ.com|
Fowler, part of the trade that brought Sonny Gray to New York, is expected to be ready for A’s training camp next spring but time will tell if the knee injury has lasting ramifications on the former Yankee’s career. I agree that the parties at Guaranteed Rate Field should be held liable. At the time of the injury, then Yankees manager Joe Girardi was very critical of the exposed electrical box. It is a hazard that could have been prevented.
I wish Fowler the best with his suit and hope that he is able to reach the potential and stardom that he seemed destined for prior to the injury.
The Tampa Yankees are no more…
I will miss the “TY” logo as the Yankees’ High-A affiliate have changed their name to the Tampa Tarpons. I immediately saw tweets about tampons after the announcement of the name change, but the Tarpons name has history in Tampa. It was the name of a previous Florida State League team for over thirty years. The old Tarpons club was sold and relocated in 1988. The new team was placed in Tampa by the Yankees in 1994. Welcome back, Tarpons!
I am sure the Tampa Bay Rays are glad to see the removal of “Yankees” from the Tampa name even if the minor league team remains affiliated with the Pinstripes.
Speaking of the Tampa Tarpons, I continue to hope that their manager, Jay Bell, is named as Al Pedrique’s replacement at Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre although former Yankees coach Tony Pena would probably be a very solid option too.
59 days to Spring Training. Go Yankees!