It is being reported that former Yankee Oscar Gamble, 68, has passed away. If true, this is a very sad loss. I thoroughly enjoyed Gamble as a Yankee and, no, it was not because of the ‘fro. He was a very good ball player, in my opinion. He hit 200 home runs over the course of his 17-year career that included stops with the Cubs, Phillies, Indians, White Sox, Padres and Rangers in addition to the Yankees. He finished his career with the White Sox in 1985, and was a .265 lifetime hitter. Certainly not Hall of Fame numbers, but you could always count on Oscar for a homer when you needed it. I loved watching his left-handed swing in the old Yankee Stadium.
During the winter prior to the 1981 season, I met Gamble in Montgomery, Alabama. He gave me his autograph and I vividly remember our conversation about the upcoming season. He was excited to play with the big free agent that the Yankees had just signed (David Mark Winfield). He came across to me as an incredibly humble and kind man. I was a nobody yet he took the time with me. It’s a meeting that I’ll never forget, and I am very saddened to hear the news of his passing.
Photo Credit: NY Daily News (Martin)
It was also sad to see the news about the passing of former Padres and Diamondbacks General Manager Kevin Towers yesterday. During his time in San Diego, he was a frequent trading partner for Yankees GM Brian Cashman and he spent some time in the Yankees front office (2010 season) after his departure from the Padres before getting his next gig in Arizona. Most recently, he had been a special advisor for the Cincinnati Reds. Towers had been diagnosed with anaplastic thyroid cancer in 2016. The survival rate for this form of cancer is very low so Towers must have known his time was limited. Still, it was a shock to the Baseball world. As they say, Cancer Sucks! Towers was a great force in Major League Baseball and his loss is significant. May he rest in peace…
Photo Credit: Associated Press (Ross D Franklin)
Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like there have been too many deaths already this year.
On to ‘less grim’ topics…I’d say positive but that doesn’t really seem to apply.
The Yankees lost a potential upgrade for backup catcher when free agent catcher Alex Avila signed a contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday. Although there were no indications the Yankees were ever connected to Avila, many Yankees fans called for the signing of Avila as an upgrade for the offensively-challenged Austin Romine. Instead, Avila will represent the offensive side of a platoon with defensive-specialist Jeff Mathis in the Sonoran Desert. The D-Backs had a void at catcher when last year’s starter, Chris Iannetta, recently signed a free agent contract with his original team, the Colorado Rockies. Arizona also has Chris Hermann and former Yankee John Ryan Murphy in the catching mix.
The Yankees added a veteran infielder this week when they signed second baseman/shortstop Danny Espinosa to a minor league contract with a training camp invitation. This was one of those signing that brought a “meh” from me. I didn’t like the way Espinosa expressed his displeasure with the Washington Nationals in December 2016 when the team acquired outfielder Adam Eaton, pushing the young and talented Trea Turner from center field to shortstop, and Espinosa to the bench. The Nats ended up trading Espinosa to the Los Angeles Angels, one of three teams he played for in 2017.
Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Troy Taormina)
Espinosa is a poor hitter. Although he did have 24 home runs in 2016, his batting line was close to the Mendoza Line (.209/.306/.378). He had 174 strikeouts in 516 at-bats (601 plate appearances). In 2017, his line was worse in 295 plate appearances. He had 6 home runs, batting .173/.245/.278. He was released by all three teams he played for in 2017 (Angels, Seattle Mariners, and Tampa Bay Rays). The final release came a few weeks before the season was over.
If Espinosa breaks camp as the starting second baseman, it will mean that Plans A and B went horribly wrong. Alright, that might be a bit too strong. I still expect Gleyber Torres to take the position after spending the first few weeks in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. But I strongly prefer the tandem of Tyler Wade and Ronald Torreyes as the interim solution over Espinosa. I suppose if Wade fails miserably in Tampa over the next couple of months, it is possible that Espinosa partners with Torreyes to cover second until Torres is ready. But Espinosa’s selfish behavior at the end of his time in Washington really soured me on the player.
While it looks like the Yankees will go to training camp with rookies Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar as the front-runners for second and third base, respectively, I still expect the Yankees to sign a veteran third baseman. It may not be a starting type, but it will be someone who can act as a safety net for Andujar. Oh boy, here comes Yunel Escobar. Regardless of who the Yankees sign, they will sign somebody. They’ve added second base bodies (Jace Peterson and the aforementioned Danny Espinosa) so I have no doubts they’ll do the same for third base. Admittedly, my hope for Todd Frazier’s return is starting to fade.
Gladly Accepting Jeter Rejects…
I haven’t seen his exact title yet, but it appears that the Yankees have added former Miami Marlins VP of Player Development Marc Delpiano to their Scouting department. Delpiano was fired by Derek Jeter (well, Jetes made the outgoing President David Samson deliver the news) when he took over the team. Delpiano’s position was replaced when the Marlins added former Yankees executive Gary Denbo. Delpiano is a highly respective baseball executive who drew much praise when he was hired by the Marlins a few years ago. He has experience working for both Neal Huntington and Theo Epstein. Good hire by GM Brian Cashman. Welcome to the Yankees family, Marc!
Despite the deathly slow off-season (no pun intended), training camp is almost upon us. We’ll soon have the opportunity to see Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton putting on daily home run displays instead of wearing tuxedos…
Photo Credit: Marquee NY (Chris Lavado)
The Most Boring Off-Season Ever…
It’s kind of funny to say that this has been one of the slowest Hot Stove Leagues in recent memory, especially when your team acquires the best slugger on the planet, but I can’t remember the last time the majority of the top free agents were unsigned in January.
The Yankees never figured to be big players in the free agent market, given their desire to keep the ‘Alex Rodriguez-freed’ payroll under the luxury tax threshold of $197 million for reset purposes. But then the Los Angeles Dodgers made their big salary relief trade with the Atlanta Braves which gave them the same opportunity as the Yankees to reset their luxury tax rate so you have baseball’s two biggest spenders on the sidelines.
My personal hope is that the slow free agent market leads Todd Frazier back to Pinstripes where he belongs. Of course, rumors circulated yesterday that the Yankees had been back in touch with the Baltimore Orioles about third baseman Manny Machado. I am not convinced the Orioles would trade their best player to the Yankees despite his impending free agency, but conversely, I am not sure the Yankees should give up some of their best prospects for a guy they could sign as a free agent next fall. I wouldn’t want to give the O’s the bullets to reload. But then again, if the O’s make a trade this winter, they’ll bring in quality talent from somewhere. As long as Machado is on the table, it probably keeps any potential deal with Todd Frazier on ice (no pun intended for those of you in New York and New Jersey).
Mark Prior has found his way to the Los Angeles Dodgers as their new bullpen coach, replacing Josh Bard who decided to take a seat on the Yankees bench next to new manager Aaron Boone. The Yankees’ one-time top draft pick (he didn’t sign in 1998) and former Chicago Cub was most recently the minor league pitching coordinator for his hometown San Diego Padres. Prior attempted to make the transition to a relief pitcher in the Yankees organization during the 2011 season but could never capture the potential that was once promised to him through a series of arm injuries. I hope that he finds greater success with his coaching career.
Some teams have been very active with minor league contract signings carrying training camp invitations, but until yesterday, the Yankees had been quiet. It changed when they signed former Atlanta Braves infielder Jace Peterson to a minor league deal on Friday. Peterson has a high pedigree (he was once a first-round draft selection for the San Diego Padres) but he’s never been able to hit in the Major Leagues. He found his way to the Braves for the 2015 season but underwhelmed the team as its starting second baseman that year. The career .234 hitter was released by the Braves last month when he was non-tendered in advance of arbitration. I can’t see him as more than training camp fodder and help with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, but you can never have enough competition for Major League jobs. Good luck to Peterson as he attempts to find his place with his third MLB organization. New coaches, new scenery….who knows, crazier things have happened. In a bit of irony, Peterson made his MLB debut during the 2014 season when former and now current Padres third baseman Chase Headley was placed on the DL. Peterson seems like this year’s Pete Kozma signing to me. If he could only hit, he looks like a version of Austin Romine’s brother Andrew with an ability to play multiple positions.
Jace, just a note, please don’t scratch the big guy…
|Photo Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports|
The New York Post ran an article a couple of days ago indicating that GM Brian Cashman is prepared to go into the season with youngsters at second and third, meaning Gleyber Torres (or Tyler Wade) and Miguel Andujar. I still find it difficult to believe that the Yankees would entrust both critical positions to youth and inexperience (at the MLB level) at the same time. The Post article included Cashman’s words “if the market changes, we’re prepared to adjust” which shows that this is just a waiting game and Cashman is hoping for prices to fall.
I am excited about Gleyber Torres and the future of second base in his hands. I’ve seen so many say that he should open the season as the starting second baseman. For as much as I love the guy, the Yankees MUST delay the start of his MLB service time to pick up an additional year before he hits free agency. That only means that he’ll spend a few weeks in Moosic, PA focusing on solely the nuances of second base before hitting the main stage in the Bronx. It will be well worth the wait for so many reasons. At this point, it’s just fine-tuning but for a guy coming off Tommy John surgery, even a position player with his non-throwing arm, a few weeks in Triple A would be beneficial. In the interim, Ronald Torreyes and Tyler Wade deserve the opportunity to keep the position warm for Torres.
|Photo Credit: Andrew Savulich-NY Post|
The guys over at NJ Advance Media for NJ.com do a great job covering the Yankees. Randy Miller posted a column today featuring a scout’s take on top Yankees prospects. It is well worth the read. As a huge fan of pitching prospect Albert Abreu, I thought the scout’s take on the young right-hander was excellent: “I love him. You’re going to like this kid. I saw him in the Fall League. He was throwing 91-97. He sat 94. He’ll show you a plus curveball at times that is tight with depth. His changeup needs some refinement, but it has a chance to be a plus pitch in the future. He’s aggressive. He gets swings and misses. He’s pretty good with a good body. And he’s a good makeup kid. His delivery gets out of whack at times and it affects his stuff. When he stays square and direct to the plate and he’s working downhill, he’s good. I give him a chance to be a No. 3 starter, a middle-of-the-rotation type guy. If everything comes, he has an outside chance to be a No. 2 starter. Based on what I’ve seen, I like him better than Chance Adams.” I know that Justus Sheffield is going to be a great Yankee, but the scout’s last line about Abreu is the very reason that I’d gladly give up Chance Adams in a trade for a proven MLB starting pitcher. I am very high on Abreu and I am excited about his future in pinstripes.
It’s such a great time to be young and a Yankee for so many of these guys. Who wants to join?…
|Photo Credit: Getty Images|