Photo Credit: Michael Dwyer, AP
Happ, turning back the clock, turns back the Sox…
I’ll admit that J.A. Happ has surprised me the last couple of starts. I had written the guy off a few weeks ago and I didn’t want him anywhere near a post-season start but I think I am starting to soften on that position. His terrific performance yesterday, holding the Boston Red Sox to two hits and no runs over 6 1/3 innings, was an illustration why the Yankees re-signed Happ in the off-season and not Lance Lynn. Behind his latest great start, the Yankees beat the Red Sox, 5-1, to even the four-game series with two to play.
Photo Credit: AP
Happ has historically been a good pitcher against the Red Sox which, as we know, is why the Yankees acquired him from the Toronto Blue Jays last summer. He may not be facing Boston this post-season but this is exactly the Happ we need to show up for the big games in a few weeks.
It’s great that both Happ and James Paxton are rounding into form at the right time. The Tampa Bay Rays, currently 8 1/2 games back, are on fire right now. The Rays have won 9 of their last 10 games, and one of their top injured pitchers, Tyler Glasnow, was activated today to start later this afternoon. With last year’s Cy Young Award winner, Blake Snell, nearing his return from the Injured List, the Rays are getting reinforcements at exactly the right time for them. I don’t expect the Yankees to blow a 8 1/2 game lead but conversely, the Rays do not appear to be going away.
Fortunately, for the Yankees, they’ll be getting some reinforcements with Luis Severino and Dellin Betances in the not-so-distant future. I am not sure how Sevy will used, but just having him on the pitching staff will be significant. Early on, it appeared he’d probably be used as either an opener or out of the bullpen, but lately, there appears to be some optimism he can start. Regardless of how Manager Aaron Boone decides to deploy him, the Yankees are a better team with Sevy on the active roster.
Severino could make his 2019 season debut soon. After Sevy’s second rehab start for the Trenton Thunder (AA) on Friday, Boone told The New York Post, “Overall, it was pretty successful. We’ll talk about whether one more (rehab start) is beneficial or [if he will] come with us.”
|Photo Credit: Staton Rabin, AP|
Betances needs more time in the minors before he’s ready but, if all goes well, we should see him within the next few weeks. A pending free agent, Betances has much to prove to ensure a big pay day after the season. Not that I think Betances needs added incentive to pitch well for the Yankees but it can’t hurt.
A setback by Aaron Hicks has seemed to stall any hopes he’ll be able to help the team anytime soon. Aaron Boone said yesterday that “He’s not feeling quite right.” It’s unfortunate but at least the Yankees have a reinvigorated Brett Gardner and the surprisingly successful Mike Tauchman to provide the necessary coverage in center field.
Now if we could just get Giancarlo Stanton back, all would be good on this roster. Yes, I want Stanton in big moments next month. Regardless of how other guys are playing, Stanton remains a huge threat and I think he’ll have his defining Yankee moment next month. And no, it won’t be swinging and missing at a low outside pitch. This guy remains a game-changer with one swing of his bat.
|Photo Credit: Mike Stobe, Getty Images|
Was there really a report this week that the long-forgotten Jacoby Ellsbury has begun indoor activities? Now there’s a guy I never expect to wear the Pinstripes again. If he reaches full health after several years of inactivity, I think the Yankees should just cut bait and eat the remainder of his contract. There’s no scenario I want to see Ellsbury take a roster spot over more deserving guys. Troy Tulowitzski proved how effective an aging veteran can be after missing a few seasons. I wouldn’t expect any better from Ellsbury. At least Tulo showed some heart and still failed. There’s no apparent evidence Ellsbury has any heart.
The season is over for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. The Tampa Bay Rays were able to grab scoreboard with their Triple A affiliate, the Durham Bulls. The Bulls swept the RailRiders in the opening round of the International League’s Governor’s Cup playoffs, pounding the RailRiders, 17-2, in Game 3 last night. I’m sure this how the Rays envision their future against the Yankees, as early as this October. Hopefully the big league team fares better against the Rays.
RailRiders reliever Ben Heller is expected to join the Yankees later today. Since he is not currently on the active Major League roster (60-day IL), he’ll need to be added to the 40-man roster before he can join the team. Personally, I’d cut Ryan Dull who has no future with this team beyond 2019. Heller has been my dark-horse favorite for a role in the bullpen as he further distances himself from last year’s Tommy John surgery. I like the guy and I think he can be an effective arm among the quality relievers currently in the Yankees’ bullpen (unlike the much-travelled Dull). Heller was the only effective pitcher in yesterday’s blow-out loss to the Bulls with two innings of hitless/scoreless relief, a walk, and five strikeouts.
Everyone expects Deivi Garcia to get the call but I don’t think he’s ready. His line yesterday against the Bulls was very forgettable. One inning, two hits (including a homer), four walks, and five runs. Bring the 20-year-old to Spring Training, but I wouldn’t call him up now. I am not basing that on yesterday’s performance but rather his overall time at Triple A. He finished 1-3 with a 5.40 ERA and 5.77 FIP. He did have 45 strikeouts in 40.0 innings, but issued 20 free passes and hit four batters. I know the Yankees have a seemingly comfortable lead in the AL East but the team is still battling for best record in the AL (currently tied with the Houston Astros at 93-50). Every game matters. I think Garcia will have a long Major League career but let’s pump the brakes until he is truly ready.
Getting back to the Boston Red Sox, their season hangs on the balance. After last night’s loss, they are 7 games out in the AL Wild Card hunt. The Rays and the Oakland A’s hold the top two spots, with the Cleveland Indians hanging in, 1 1/2 games back. With just 20 games to play, the Red Sox literally need two of the three teams ahead of them to collapse. Maybe the Indians fade, but I don’t see the Rays or the A’s relinquishing their current positions. It will be a fun day when I hear the Red Sox have been eliminated from playoff contention. Until then, regardless of the odds, they have a chance. Hopefully the Yanks can take the next two games from Boston to help drive a few nails into their coffin.
Photo Credit: Michael Dwyer, AP
Don’t look now but the Atlanta Braves could be making a move for the best record in Major League Baseball. All season, everyone has talked about how the Los Angeles Dodgers have run away with the NL but suddenly they have the Braves nipping at their heels. Entering play today, the Dodgers are 92-52 after losing two in a row to the San Francisco Giants. Meanwhile, the Braves, who have won 9 consecutive games, are 89-54. They are within striking distance of Yankees, Astros and Dodgers for MLB’s best record. They say the playoffs are not about the best team but the team that gets hot at the right moment. At this point, you’d have to say that the Rays and Braves are Baseball’s hottest teams. Much can change between now and October, but these two teams are intent on making noise in the coming weeks. Time for Team Pinstripes to put ‘the pedal to the metal’.
The Yankees have announced a few moves today but none featured Ben Heller. I remain optimistic he’ll get the call, but here’s the day’s transaction per the Yankees:
- Reinstated Gio Urshela from the 10-day IL
- Returned Thairo Estrada from rehab and reinstated him from the 10-day IL
- Recalled Kyle Higashioka and Breyvic Valera from the RailRiders
I am glad to see Urshela back on the field. DJ LeMahieu does a great job at third, but having flexibility with him, helps the team. These moves were simple paper transactions, whereas, Heller will require some maneuvering so perhaps there will be more transactions announced later today. For Heller’s sake, I hope so.
|Photo Credit: Rich Gagnon, AP|
I was surprised to see former Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda receive a 60-game ban yesterday for taking a diuretic. Pineda, who has been the Twins’ best pitcher the last few weeks, said in a statement that he took an over-the-counter medication to help control his weight, but it contained hydrochlorothiazide, a diuretic that can mask other substances. The ban was initially 80 games, but Pineda was able to get it reduced to 60 games on appeal after making a compelling case he was not attempting to mask performance-enhancing drugs. I don’t think Pineda had an intent to deceive but it’s an unfortunate situation for the one-time Yank and it certainly hurts Minnesota’s chances for October success.
As always, Go Yankees!
(Photo: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports)
Former Athletic-National-Brewer Signs Minor League Deal w/Yanks…
So, the Yankees signed LHP Gio Gonzalez to a very short-term minor league deal. So what? I’ve seen so many negative comments on Social Media and I don’t get it. This late in Spring Training, the top replacement starters for Luis Severino and CC Sabathia appear to be Luis Cessa and Domingo German. After I trashed him in my last post, Jonathan Loaisiga pitched very well on Sunday. Nothing changes with the Gonzalez signing.
I know Gonzales is not a savior. Heck, he’s not even a very good starting pitcher anymore. His signing prompted many to ask why the Yankees aren’t trying to sign Dallas Keuchel. It’s an ‘apples to oranges’ comparison. If Gonzalez makes the Major League roster, he’ll get paid $3 million. If not, he can opt out of the contract on April 20th. He basically has a month to prepare on the Yankees’ dime. It will either get him a roster spot on everybody’s favorite team or he opens eyes in another organization who may be seeking starting pitching. No sooner than the word of the verbal agreement between Gonzalez and the Yankees had been reported, the Texas Rangers lost a starting pitcher (Yohander Mendez), who was diagnosed with a UCL sprain in his throwing arm. Shit happens and you need to be prepared. I think best-case scenario is we never see Gio in Pinstripes. It will mean that two of Cessa, German and Loaisiga are doing well. However, if one falters, Gio will be ready to step in assuming he proves he is ready. It’s really a no-lose situation for the Yankees. Dallas Keuchel, despite it being so late in Spring Training, is still going to cost you a lot of money and years. He’s not taking a minor league deal for chump change. There’s also the small issue of draft pick compensation tied to Keuchel since he received a qualifying offer from the Houston Astros. I have no problems with the Yankees’ decision to pass on Keuchel and to roll the dice the Gonzalez.
Gonzalez is far removed from his 21-win season of 2012 or even his 15 wins two years ago. At age 33, his fastball velocity is down, strikeout rate is falling, and WHIP is increasing. The degradation of his curveball has been noted and per Fangraphs, “Without that big hook in his back pocket, it will be tough for Gonzalez to return quality innings with a sub 90 mph fastball and middling changeup and we may see Gonzalez go the way of James Shields and Ubaldo Jimenez shortly.”
Nevertheless, Gonzalez has been a very consistent pitcher over the years even if he is on the downward slide. After his August 31st trade from the Washington Nationals to the Milwaukee Brewers last summer, Gio was 3-0 in five starts with a 2.13 ERA. He pitched 25 1/3 innings, giving up 14 hits and 6 earned runs. He walked 10 and struck out 22. Steamer projects Gonzalez at 6-7 with 4.40 ERA in 19 starts in 2019. K/9 of 7.80 and BB/9 of 3.72, with fWAR of 1.1. With so much pressure on the young pitchers to perform, I like the idea of a veteran insurance policy. We’re not looking at him to be the J.A. Happ of 2019. He may never find a spot on the 25-man roster. But I much prefer having him as a safety net as opposed to other young arms in the farm system that might not be ready should Cessa, German, and/or Loaisiga falter.
Luis Severino is expected to resume light throwing this week in anticipation of being ready in May assuming there are no further setbacks, but the Yankees needed a contingency plan. There are too many health-related questions in the starting rotation to hook your wagon exclusively on prospects and internal options. Do we really want to see another David Hale start? To sign Gonzalez now in no way prevents the Yankees from improving the pitching staff in July if necessary.
So, welcome to the Yankees family, Gio! We’re glad you’re here. We hope like hell we don’t need you but still, make yourself at home. You’re one of us for at least the next 30 days. If anything, you’ll be able to tell your grandkids one day that you were a Yankee for a month.
I really enjoyed Ken Davidoff’s piece in the The New York Post this morning entitled “Jacoby Ellsbury reveals firststeps of plan that’s impossible to embrace”. I honestly cannot think of any Yankee player I’ve ever been less excited about seeing return than Jacoby Ellsbury. I honestly never thought we’d see Ellsbury in Pinstripes again, and maybe we won’t. We are at the point the Yankees could decide to cut bait with Ellsbury if he’s too healthy to collect insurance payments but not good enough to resume his Yankees career. Despite owing Ellsbury nearly $50 million on his remaining contract, the loss would hurt the Yankees less than it did for the Toronto Blue Jays when they swallowed $38 million to set Troy Tulowitzki free. The Yankees are in much better position to absorb that type of loss. I’ve always felt cutting Ellsbury would be addition by subtraction, but as Davidoff notes in his closing paragraph: “Stay pessimistic, Yankees fans. Let Ellsbury surprise you with a positive outcome. And if this goes the same way as the bulk of his time in pinstripes, then you’ll have no reason to feel disappointed.” Point taken, Ken. I agree. If Ellsbury can play, let him play. If not, don’t let the door hit him on the way out.
(Photo: Edward Linsmier-The New York Times)
So much has been made of the Yankees’ Super Bullpen but I continue to hold the belief the Bullpen may not be as great as we imagine while the maligned Boston Red Sox pen could be better than expected. Too many fans are relishing the fact the Yankees sit atop the Grapefruit League standings while the Red Sox hold the cellar. The standings mean absolutely nothing. When the Yankees and Red Sox begin play on March 28th, they’ll both be 0-0. The Yankees don’t get bonus points because they had a better Spring and it certainly does not guarantee a spot in the American League Championship Series. The Red Sox are the champions until proven otherwise. I am optimistic heading into the regular season but I will never underestimate the Red Sox. You may not like their bullpen (for good reason) but they still have a very good team capable of winning its second consecutive World Series. Our job, or that of the Yankees, is to ensure it does not happen. For those of you who feel the need to boast about superiority, let’s win a few games that count first.
It is kind of weird there will be games that do matter this week when the Seattle Mariners and the Oakland A’s open the 2019 MLB Season in Japan. I love it that former Yankee Ichiro Suzuki will be in Seattle’s starting lineup for the opener tomorrow in Tokyo. No doubt the end of Ichiro’s career is near but he’s obviously a future Hall of Famer who is very beloved in his home county. At age 45, Ichiro will probably not be part of Seattle’s roster when they return to the United States. For the trip to Japan, the teams were authorized expanded 28-man rosters which will reduce to 25 when they come home after the two-game series. I would love to see Ichiro get one more hit before he says sayonara to his lengthy and amazing playing career. He currently stands at 3,089 hits in Major League Baseball.
On Thursday, Mariners lefty starter Yusei Kikuchi will make his MLB debut in his native country against the A’s. Very cool.
A reminder that the Yankees will be featured on the MLB Network this evening at 7 pm Eastern as part of MLB Tonight’s 30 Clubs in 30 Days.
As always, Go Yankees!
|(Photo: Mike Janes/AP)|
Even if it means absolutely nothing…
Maybe the Yankees should use David Wells in the YES Network broadcast booth more often. He worked Friday’s game against the Boston Red Sox and yesterday’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays and saw the Yankees score a combined total of 31 runs in the victories over two of their biggest AL East Rivals.
It was enjoyable to see the Yankees win the 14-1 laugher over the Red Sox but sadly it is just a Spring Training game so it’s meaningless. I’d love to see one of those kind of games (or better yet, two) when the Yankees play the Red Sox on April 16th and 17th. The best way to get rid the memory of the devastating 16-1 loss to Boston in last Fall’s ALDS is to simply return the favor and ensure Boston’s season is shortened this year.
Saturday’s 17-7 win, two touchdowns and a field goal, over the Blue Jays came at a price. The Yankees lost top prospect Estevan Florial when he tried to make a leaping catch against the wall in the eighth inning. He couldn’t reach the ball and came down on his right wrist against the turf, suffering what subsequent x-rays revealed to be a non-displaced wrist fracture. It’s a big loss as he’ll presumably lose valuable development time. Florial was having a great Spring with a batting line of .355/.429/.516 and .945 OPS in 13 games. In 31 at-bats, he had 11 hits and 7 runs scored to go with a homer and 4 RBI’s. He has also stolen 5 bags, which included one yesterday. There was no way he was making the big league club having just reached High-A last year, but with pitch recognition looming as the last major hurdle for him, his development will be further delayed. Florial missed three months last year after surgery on his hamate bone of the same wrist. If Florial misses 2-3 months with the latest injury, it will adversely affect his status as a potential July trading chip (not that I want the Yankees to trade him, of course). Further tests are scheduled for Monday before the Yankees will know the expected timetable for his recovery and rehab. I am hoping for better than expected results but admittedly it’s not looking good for the talented 21-year-old.
MLB Network’s 30 in 30 focus on the Yankees is coming up this week…finally. It will air on Tuesday night at 7 pm Eastern during the hour-long MLB Tonight show. I am looking forward to the interviews with some of baseball’s greatest young stars and maybe Brett Gardner and/or CC Sabathia too.
Listening to the many interviews with other teams around the league, there is a common phrase that Aaron Judge uses which is echoed by so many other players. “Picking (someone’s) brain.” As a fan of The Walking Dead, it’s hard not to get a visual of a Zombie, I mean a Walker, in search of food. I know, this is a game of knowledge and understanding and veteran players have so much to offer younger players. It’s just funny that the same expression gets used by so many players.
Jacoby Ellsbury is expected in Tampa today. I am sure it will be a day of medical evaluations for him and who really knows where he is at physically except for him. No way he makes the Opening Day roster but if healthy, for as much as I am down on him, he figures to be in position to help at some point as he works back into playing shape and redevelops his timing after being away from the game for so long. I do not expect anything from him and I had been doubtful he’d ever wear the Pinstripes again, but if he has anything left in the tank, the Yankees should give him a shot. If anything, the dude knows how to get catcher’s interference. I am sure Ellsbury, now 35, has tired of the negative comments from people like me and wants to show he is still capable of playing baseball at a high level, not too much unlike Troy Tulowitzki’s comeback attempt. If he can, play him. If not, cut bait and move on. Of course, it would be a much costlier decision with Ellsbury than Tulo, but I am sure the Yankees won’t use money as a reason not to part ways with Ellsbury if the insurance payments are no longer flowing in and Ellsbury proves to be an outfielder that can no longer play the outfield.
|(Photo: Chris Pedota/North Jersey.com)|
A couple weeks ago, I gave my projection for the Opening Day Lineup. At this point, you have to scratch Jonathan Loaisiga. He is not going to make the OD roster. For as much as we say Spring Training stats don’t count, Lasagna has stunk big time. In four games, he is 1-1 with a 10.00 ERA. He has given up 11 runs (10 earned) in 9 innings pitched. He has walked 6 batters and is carrying a 1.67 WHIP. Granted, you could say that J.A. Happ’s Spring has been nearly as bad, but Happ, as a veteran, “is just working on things”. Loaisiga had something to prove, whereas Happ does not. The performance has most likely earned Loaisiga a trip to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, making Luis Cessa (the pitching surprise of the Spring) and Domingo German the probable replacement starters for Luis Severino and CC Sabathia. Unless the Yankees carry an extra position player, it should mean that Stephen Tarpley will take the last bullpen spot. With Aaron Hicks’ health and the potential he misses Opening Day, it could force the Yankees to bring along an extra outfielder since Brett Gardner will need to slide to center to cover for Hicks although Tyler Wade is fully capable of covering a corner outfield spot on a short-term basis.
There was an update this morning when Hicks told the media that he WILL be missing the opening series against the Baltimore Orioles. He had his second cortisone shot for back stiffness this past week. The Yankees will have to decide whether to carry Hicks on the Opening Day roster if they feel he’ll only miss the two games against Baltimore or place him on the 10-day Injured List if they fear he’ll be out longer. It’s frustrating the Yankees could spend the majority of April “short-handed” as they’ll also be down a man when CC Sabathia serves his five-game suspension. 2020’s 26-man roster is starting to look a year too late.
If the Yankees aren’t that high on Clint Frazier to start the year, I thought Carlos Gonzalez would have been a sneaky good pickup for some outfield help. However, that option was lost yesterday when the Cleveland Indians signed the long-time Colorado Rockie outfielder to a minor league deal. I guess we’ve reached our quota of ex-Rockies. I know CarGo carries the ‘he can’t hit outside of Coors Field’ tag but for $2-$3 million (pocket change for Hal Steinbrenner), he could have helped.
Congrats to Michael King and Brandon Wagner. They were named yesterday the winners of the 2018 Kevin Lawn Award as the Yankees’ Minor League “Pitcher of the Year” and “Player of the Year”, respectively. King has gotten much recognition after his breakout 2018 season, but Wagner is a bit unheralded. The 23-year-old, in combined A/AA, hit .267/.380/.461, with .841 OPS, last season. He belted 21 homers and 67 RBIs. He is primarily a first baseman but saw multiple games at third base and has even seen time at second and in the outfield. Diversity is a great ticket to The Show if you have the talent. It should allow Wagner to leap-frog the ‘first base only’ types, Mike Ford and Ryan McBroom, in the farm system in the not-so-distant future if he continues his progression.
Lastly, Happy St Patrick’s Day to all!
As always, Go Yankees!
Machado and Harper Remain Free…
Many people, albeit none of the true baseball experts, had anticipated the free agent signing of Manny Machado on January 3rd or 4th and it did not happen. I had been very skeptical of any news yesterday but in defense of those who did strongly believe and had “sources”, I don’t necessarily think they were wrong. Shit happens. Things change.
Recently, The Greedy Pinstripes reported an impending trade of Sonny Gray. I’ve seen comments making attacks because the trade did not happen. The post was made on the TGP site on December 10th. We subsequently found out later in the month CC Sabathia had heart surgery the next day (December 11th) to place a stent in an artery to clear a blockage during an angioplasty procedure. There’s no doubt the development of the news of CC’s health reached the Yankees’ front office at the time they were contemplating a potential trade of Gray. Maybe there was never an impending trade but I feel strongly there may have been. The trade was reconsidered when the Yankees realized they needed a backup plan for Sabathia.
|Photo Credit: New York Post (Bill Kostroun)|
GM Brian Cashman said as much yesterday on a conference call with the media after the announcement of the signing of shortstop Troy Tulowitzski to a one-year deal. “The CC circumstance certainly has given us pause because we want to make sure we are covered and protected,” Cashman said during the call. “When it developed it slowed down my conversations with intent because we had to see how this played out first. Once he has these follow-up appointments, I’ll be in a much better position to either fully engage the conversations we’ve had or continue to slow-walk while we make sure CC’s health is taken care of, that is first and foremost.” Based on these words, there is no doubt in my mind that Cashman pumped the brakes on trade talks involving Gray. Having a stent placed in a heart artery is a serious matter, especially when you are only 38 years old. Life is more important than the game of baseball (with no offense to those of you who may believe otherwise).
I am not excited about Gray’s presence on the roster but to have the belief Sabathia will be fine by Spring Training is foolish thinking. All things considered, I’d rather have Gray on the roster as opposed to relying upon Domingo German, Jonathan Loaisiga, Chance Adams, and others to fill the void if CC is not ready to go. Of the bunch, I probably have the most trust in Loaisiga but until he can prove the ability to stay healthy, I am not going to place 100% trust in the man. I wanted Gray gone as much as anybody but based on the present roster configuration, I’d rather go into the 2019 season to see how Gray performs. He’ll certainly have a chip on his shoulder with something to prove. He has the talent. If he could become the Sonny Gray of old, that’s one helluva Number 5 starter. At worst, it is a great bullpen option for a long man/spot starter.
This leads me back to the current Machado rumors which failed to come to fruition this week. Everyone seems to be attacking those who cited “it’s happening” and I think that’s wrong. Just because Machado didn’t sign last week does not mean he won’t eventually sign with the Yankees. Maybe he never gets an “official” offer from the Yankees and signs elsewhere. Oh well, shit happens. I have no doubt Machado’s agent, Dan Lozano, has bounced numbers off Cashman during telephone conversations to give the team an indication of what it would take to bring Machado to the Bronx even if no formal offers have been made. Orioles blogger Dan Clark has been one of the biggest “Machado to the Yankees” proponents. Either Dan has a very strong source to back his belief or he is pulling one of the biggest troll jobs in recent memory. Either could be true. But I am not going to attack Clark. He has his reasons for his claims. We need to see how this plays out but even if Machado signs elsewhere, it does not necessarily mean Clark was wrong. He acted on information made available to him. He believed it to be true (or not) at the time of his posts. Shit happens. Things change. If Machado signs with the White Sox or Phillies or another mystery team, it won’t be Clark’s fault.
As for Bryce Harper, it seems to me and a lot of people he’ll resume his career with the Washington Nationals next season. The Los Angeles Dodgers seem intent on going no more than 5 or 6 years which seemingly takes them out of the picture since the Nats are known to have a 10 year deal on the table. Eventually, Bryce’s decision will come down to what’s more important…years or AAV…and where he wants to play. If the Yankees are not in play, it seems to me that Washington would be more attractive to Bryce than Philly if the dollars are the same or nearly equal. The NL East is going to be a very competitive division next season. Derek Jeter and the Miami Marlins had better just grab some popcorn and watch the show from their cellar position.
Troy Tulowitzki is officially a New York Yankee. While I have my reservations about the oft-injured shortstop, Cashman proclaimed him as the team’s starting shortstop during yesterday’s conference call. He’d better hedge that bet. I am glad it potentially means Gleyber Torres stays at second base during the absence of Didi Gregorius but I do still feel we need someone like Adeiny Hechavarria in reserve. I am down on Tyler Wade even if the Yankees continue to believe in him. Wade can change my mind but he has to prove it. Until he does, I want better.
Watching some of the tweets on Yankees twitter, I had to chuckle when Reggie Jackson suggested Number 22 for Tulo. He first said, “I’m thinking #22 is available? Rocket wore it when he was here.” A few minutes later, he said, “Oops ! I missed that one forgive me on that on Tulo. A senior moment ! Ha !” Don’t worry, Reggie, we’ve all forgotten about Jacoby Ellsbury.
|Photo Credit: New York Post (Robert Sabo)|
I still think Number 12 makes the most sense for Tulo. Tyler Wade has even offered to give it to him free of charge. The assumption is Wade will take Neil Walker’s #14 if Tulo takes #12. Personally, I am intrigued with the number 72 since it contains the numbers of both Mickey Mantle and Derek Jeter. That’s why I loved the Mantle/Lou Gehrig number Ronald Torreyes previously wore with 74. Hey, the Yankees are running out of numbers. We have to get creative. I feel bad for the 2219 Yankees. They’ll be wearing triple digits on their backs.
To make room for Tulo, the Yankees designated RHP A.J. Cole for assignment. This was an inevitable move although I had thought outfielder Tim Locastro might have been set loose. Someone will grab Cole on waivers so hopefully Cashman can move him for cash or a player to be named later to get something. The Yankees also signed CF Billy Burns to a minors deal. Burns, 29, is nothing more than a depth piece for Triple A. The Atlanta native was originally drafted by the Washington Nationals and has spent time in the A’s and Royals organizations. More than a few people have referred to him as 2019’s Shane Robinson. I really hope that Burns does not see the amount of time in the Bronx that Robinson, now in the Phillies organization, saw last year.
The Cincinnati Reds have made former Yankees prospect Caleb Cotham an assistant pitching coach. The 31-year-old Cotham was traded by the Yankees, along with Eric Jagielo, Rookie Davis, and Tony Renda, in the December 2015 trade with the Reds that originally brought Aroldis Chapman to New York. Cotham, like Sonny Gray and current Reds pitching coach Derek Johnson, has connections to Vanderbilt. Best of luck in your new career, Caleb!
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Tom Pennington)|
Let’s forget the trade rumors for awhile and enjoy the weekend! I am fine if I don’t hear the words Machado or Harper for the next 48 hours.
As always, Go Yankees!
Photo Credit: Hearst Connecticut Media (Scott Mullin), via Stamford Advocate
One holiday down, one to go…
It’s the day after Christmas and there are still a number of questions yet to be answered for the New York Yankees. Sure, the Yankees acquired left-hander James Paxton from the Seattle Mariners in November and they re-signed LHP J.A. Happ earlier this month but we’re the ‘what have you done for me lately’ crowd.
When will the Yankees sign infielder Manny Machado? As we’ve been told, Machado does not intend to make any decisions until after the first of the year. Does that mean we’ll know something on January 2nd? Probably not. This thing could drag out for days or weeks into January before it plays out. I feel the team needs to brace itself for Plan B in the event Machado takes the money from Philadelphia or Chicago and runs (well, in his case, slowly jogs). Although I am not excited about the idea, the Yankees should consider signing Troy Tulowitski but they’d be foolish to rest their hopes on Tulo as a Didi Gregorius “fill-in”. I really like the diversity of Marwin Gonzalez and he has a championship pedigree thanks to his role in helping the Houston Astros win it all in 2017. I’m not excited about moving Gleyber Torres temporarily off second base to cover for Didi at short, but a second baseman like D.J. LeMahieu or Jed Lowrie could help this team. I think Brian Dozier has seen his better days so that’s a hard pass for me. Neil Walker, I’ve already seen that show. It’s probably not outside the realm of possibility the Yankees decide to stay in-house and give Tyler Wade, Thairo Estrada, and Hanser Alberto opportunities during Spring Training. For a team ready to contend for the World Series, I hope not. There’s too much at stake for the Yankees to come up, pardon the pun, short.
When will the Yankees focus on the bullpen? The obvious answer is now. With Machado’s decision pushed off until next week at the earliest, I really wish the Yankees would fill at least one of the two vacancies this week. With each passing day, there is an increasing likelihood that David Robertson, Adam Ottavino and Zach Britton sign elsewhere. It really sucks listening to St Louis Cardinals fans and players talk about how excited they are to have Andrew Miller. As much as I like Robertson, I don’t really get the sense he is a priority for the Yankees, therefore, I really hope they are actively working with the agents for Ottavino and Britton. I know Britton has the potential to get “closer” money, but we need his talent and skills in the Yankees bullpen. Last year showed that we cannot place 100% faith in Aroldis Chapman and his problematic knee. Dellin Betances did a fine job, but I prefer to keep him in a setup role which means we need a proven backup closer to help Chappy. Ottavino has closed and certainly offers that ability, but I’d rather see Britton return among the two choices. Healthy, he is ready to dominate once again. But I won’t be disappointed if Ottavino is the one.
Photo Credit: Getty Images
Do the Yankees need to bring in another starter? Quite simply, the answer is yes. Perhaps the Yankees are convinced Jonathan Loaisiga is the solution for the role of “sixth man”. But he’s about as much of a question mark as the starting rotation itself. Loaisiga is a talented pitcher but until he can prove the ability to stay healthy, he’s going to carry the injury-risk label. Starting with the back end of the rotation, CC Sabathia is expected to be ready for Spring Training but realistically the Yankees need to prepare for other options in the event CC suffers any setbacks. Encountering heart problems at 38 is never a good sign and we do not know how Sabathia will hold up to the rigors of a 162-game schedule. J.A. Happ was solid for the Yankees down the stretch, but he’s 36. A smart pitcher, yes, but a year closer to retirement. With Masahiro Tanaka, you know we’ll eventually hear “he needs Tommy John surgery”. We’ve been living on borrowed time and it is inevitable he’ll eventually need the surgery to continue. Despite a successful 2018 campaign, James Paxton carries his own injury concerns. Luis Severino is perhaps the pitcher with the fewest question marks but he needs to overcome his second half regression from last season. The Yankees need a bona fide starter to serve as the long man/spot starter. I really hope the 2019 answer is not Luis Cessa or A.J. Cole.
Why is Sonny Gray still on this team? I really thought Gray would be an ex-Yankee before 2019 but we’re running out of time. There has presumably been strong interest in Gray, with as many as eleven teams expressing interest, but GM Brian Cashman has yet to receive an enticing offer. Although I am surprised he hasn’t been traded yet, I fully expect Gray to be gone before pitchers and catchers report to Tampa, FL on February 13th. I think many fans were hopeful the Yankees could package Gray with a few high end prospects to grab Cincinnati’s Scooter Gennett but I think that ship has sailed. With the Reds acquiring Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, and Alex Wood from the Los Angeles Dodgers last week, the team is clearly focused on squeezing a few more wins out of their roster next season. Parting with their talented second baseman would not be consistent with that objective. At this point, I don’t think Gray’s presence on the roster is helping anyone. There seems to be an increasing number of Yankee fans wanting the team to hold onto Gray for the hope he can still be what we once thought he would be. For me, I’m done with Gray as much as I am done with Jacoby Ellsbury.
Which leads me to the next question, why is Jacoby Ellsbury still on this team? Insurance payments. As long as the Yankees have the potential to collect on insurance to defray Ellsbury’s cost, he isn’t going anywhere. If and when he is finally healthy, the Yankees will either make the hard decision to stash Clint Frazier at Triple A or they’ll cut bait with Ellsbury and eat the remainder of his contract. If you count the 2021 buyout of his contract, the Yankees still owe Ellsbury $47.3 million. If the Toronto Blue Jays can afford to absorb $38 million to sever ways with Troy Tulowitski, the Yankees can afford $47 million to make Ellsbury an ex-Yankee. It amazes me how the Los Angeles Dodgers can routinely shed bloated contracts but the Yankees cannot. Well, credit to Cashman for the Chase Headley contract elimination but he needs to find the way to part ways with Ellsbury. If Ellsbury is on the Opening Day Roster (I highly doubt it), I will have no choice but to root for him but, ideally, I hope that day never comes.
I know there are more questions that need to be answered before the Yankees show up for Spring Training in February but these are a few on my mind. I am not sure the tandem of Greg Bird/Luke Voit offers the best hope for first base in the long run but we need more time to see how this plays out. Voit has earned the right to play first base for the Yankees, but Greg Bird should be given the opportunity to play during Spring Training and earn his right to be part of the Opening Day roster. He is running out of time and chances, but I don’t think it is the end of the road for Bird yet nor should it be.
Miguel Andujar is my third baseman until he isn’t.
If there is one starting position on the team that concerns me, it is left field. I love Brett Gardner as much as the next guy, but at this point in his career, he’s better suited to serve as fourth outfielder in my humble opinion. I suppose there’s always a possibility that Giancarlo Stanton plays left more often next season or Clint Frazier works himself into a platoon with Gardy or even takes the job. So much is dependent upon whether or not the Yankees sign Machado. If they do, there will be a chain reaction when Didi Gregorius returns late next summer which will presumably push Machado to third, displacing Andujar who will have to move to first, left or DH. Until this is figured out, it will concern me.
One position that does not cause any alarm for me is catcher. I really expect to see an improved Gary Sanchez in 2019. I honestly feel that he’ll continue to improve defensively with each passing season. I was never in favor of the trade rumors for J.T. Realmuto and stand by El Gary as the present and future of Yankees catching. Austin Romine is a fine backup so I have no desire to see any changes with the current catching duo. I’d certainly have no qualms about Kyle Higashioka taking Romine’s job away if his performance dictates it. That would be a nice problem to have. Until younger guys like Anthony Siegler and Josh Breaux are knocking at the door, Sanchez is this team’s catcher.
Photo Credit: Getty Images
These were just some random thoughts on my mind. There hasn’t been much baseball talk the last few days with the holiday season upon us so I’ve been missing it. I turned on MLB Network Radio this morning and had to listen to one-time Yank C.J. Nitkowski talk about his Christmas gifts for his wife. That’s nice. Let’s get this talk back to Baseball. Is it time for Spring Training yet?
As always, Go Yankees!
Much Love to the Yankees Universe…
Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!
We are thankful for the Yankees and a step further, we are thankful and grateful you are part of the Yankees Universe. These are exciting times for Baseball’s greatest franchise and we are hopeful next season will bring the 28th World Series Championship to the Bronx. To you and yours, enjoy the day and give your loved ones an extra hug from all of us.
|Credit: @Yankees on Twitter|
Unless you are a football fan, there’s probably not going to be much happening today sports-wise. I’ve seen the tweets on Twitter that it would be very much a Brian Cashman move of Brian Cashman to announce a major trade today. I doubt we’ll see any breaking news today but who knows. There’s nothing in the rule book saying trades and signings cannot happen today.
With Wednesday’s acquisition of another utility-type (speedy infielder/outfielder Tim Locastro) from the Los Angeles Dodgers, the 40-man roster is full. The Yankees are just getting started with the off-season enhancement of its championship-quality roster so we know there are a few tenuous spots on the roster. Given the Yankees’ need for another high-end starter, a couple of bullpen replacement pieces for free agents David Robertson and Zach Britton, and possibly a strong option for the infield to help with the temporary absence of Didi Gregorius, there appears to be at least five roster spots that will need to be vacated.
Reviewing the roster, I see the following players at risk.
Luis Cessa – I think most of us have seen enough of Cessa and are ready to move on. There are teams that value him as a reliever so I think he’ll be moved. I know I have no trust in Cessa after hitters have seen him once or twice in a game. I just don’t see a long-term future in pinstripes for Cessa. He is simply a pedestrian starter in my eyes, and there are better options for the bullpen.
A.J. Cole – Thank you, next.
Sonny Gray – We know this is one spot that will be vacated. It is only a matter of time until Gray joins the ranks of ex-Yankees. For most of us, the sooner, the better. I’ve seen a few people on Yankees Twitter predicting a rebound season for Gray in pinstripes next year. Please, been there, done that. Like Cessa, we’ve seen enough to know Gray is not going to magically become a frontline ace for the Yankees. It is time to move on.
Domingo German – German represents insurance for the rotation, but I think Jonathan Loaisiga is a better option and the Yankees have to give Chance Adams a “chance” (sorry, had to do it). I feel Adams is better served in the bullpen but for now, he remains a starter and should be given every opportunity to succeed. My favorite pitching prospect is Albert Abreu but I don’t think he’ll be Major League ready by next season. He is on the 40-man roster so there’s always the opportunity for a late season call-up. Domingo Acevedo is also on the 40-man so I see it as a numbers game for German, and place him at the greatest risk of losing his spot among these names.
Ronald Torreyes – I know everybody loves Toe, but the Yankees seem to be bringing in other utility types (Hanser Alberto and the aforementioned Locastro). I am sure Yankees VP, Assistant General Manager Michael Fishman and his analytics team have very strong opinions about the players that will best serve the Yankees in the utility role. Thairo Estrada will be healthy and the bullet in his hip has finally been removed. Estrada, Alberto and Locastro will battle Tyler Wade and Ronald Torreyes, and I simply see Torreyes as the loser, making him a strong candidate to be non-tendered.
Jacoby Ellsbury – I place this name here only for my continued hope that Brian Cashman finally pulls a rabbit out of his hat to move Ellsbury. When healthy, I know, he’s a decent player. But I am done with DL’s-bury and ready to move on. If healthy, I think the Yankees should cut bait. There’s only two years left on his deal. It’s an expensive decision to let go, but I see Ellsbury as addition by subtraction. If he is not ready to go by Spring Training, the best financial decision is to place him on the disabled list for continued insurance payments, but seriously, I just want to move on.
There are other players on the roster that could be moved in trades, but the above players are the ones that I see most at risk.
I was watching a replay yesterday of the Seattle Mariners game at Yankee Stadium on June 21, 2018 when James Paxton took the mound in his now “home” stadium against Luis Severino. The Yankees had two two-run homers in the first inning by Aaron Judge and Miguel Andujar, narrowly missing a third home run when Seattle’s Mitch Haniger leaped to rob Giancarlo Stanton of a long fly ball to the center field fence. Paxton settled down and chalked up nine strikeouts before he departed in the Yankees’ 4-3 victory. Here’s hoping his next Yankee Stadium start gets off to a better start. It was thrilling to watch the Yankees’ best two starting pitchers going at each other. I never really noticed it before but Paxton has very intense eyes when he is pitching. I also didn’t realize that he was such an Andy Pettitte fan growing up. The guy is clearly a competitor with an intensity that kind of reminds me of the heart of Lance Lynn (except Paxton has the arm to match the intensity). I don’t think we’ll have to worry about any ‘Sonny Gray-like’ meltdowns from Paxton. Sure, he’ll have his clunkers like any other pitcher, but he seems to be a warrior to me. Paul O’Neill will be proud.
The deeper we get into the off-season, the more I want to see David Robertson return. I am so hopeful the Yankees and D-Rob can come to an agreement to allow Houdini to continue his “path in Pinstripes”. I get fired up every time I see D-Rob run off the mound at the conclusion of an inning. For the other reliever spot, I really want to see the Yankees sign Adam Ottavino but I wouldn’t be disappointed with the return of either Zach Britton or Andrew Miller. I just think Ottavino represents the safest choice. Well, actually Britton would the safest, but I think his desire for closer’s money will price him out of the Yankees’ reach.
I’ve seen some Yankee fans say the team should sign Boston’s Joe Kelly, currently a free agent. No, Hell NO! I don’t want to see that guy anywhere near Yankee Stadium in a home uniform. I prefer to see Yankees either teeing off on his pitches or slugging his face in with their fists. Sorry, I am not a proponent of violence but I do not want to see that guy on my team. He could be the greatest reliever in the history of baseball and I’d still want no part of him. I know, Mariano Rivera is the greatest reliever in history but my point is I don’t care what Kelly is capable of, I don’t like the guy.
Lastly, I hope this is the year Mike Mussina gets into the Hall of Fame but I suspect he’ll fall short. He deserves his spot in Cooperstown so I hope he eventually gets there. As they say, time will tell. Meanwhile, Mariano Rivera should be a shoo-in. There will be voters who leave Mo off their ballot for whatever reasons (which makes no sense to me), but I think he’ll come in with at least 95% of the vote. I can’t wait for the Hall of Fame inductions next year with a smiling Rivera present at the festivities. One of my all-time favorite Yankees.
|Photo by Jim McIsaac, Getty Images|
Enjoy Thanksgiving, but, remember, Christmas is right around the corner…
As always, Go Yankees!
|Photo Credit: The Canadian Press (Fred Thornhill)|
Will Paxton join Gerrit Cole in Houston?…
Last year, the Yankees missed an opportunity to acquire top starting pitcher Gerrit Cole from the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Houston Astros swooped in to grab the talented righty. It’s possible that the Yankees could be outdone by the Astros for the second consecutive year. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic tweeted this morning that Houston is in on the potential trade talks for James Paxton of the Seattle Mariners along with the Yankees and other clubs.
I wanted Cole last winter although a number of Yankee fans did not. Honestly, it’s unlikely Cole would have pitched as well in the Bronx as he did in Houston so perhaps the opposing fans were right. This is a new year, and now the trade speculation is on Paxton, Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco. My initial desire is to place Kluber at the top of the list, but the more you think about it, the less likely you feel the Cleveland Indians would actually move their aces. The Indians remain a contending team so unless it is a serious overpay, the Tribe is not going to part with Kluber or Carrasco. So it leaves Paxton as potentially the best available trade target assuming the Mariners decide to move him. Seattle GM Jerry DiPoto is, of course, very unpredictable but the Yankees and Mariners have matched up for lesser deals in recent years so there is history of successful negotiations. I have no doubt DiPoto would trade within division for the right mix of players so Houston is a serious threat for the Yankees if they identify Paxton as the guy they want. The Astros may lose Charlie Morton to free agency and they’ve already lost Lance McCullers, Jr for the 2019 season due to Tommy John surgery. So the Astros are just as motivated to add top starters as the Yankees.
As much as I like Paxton, he is not someone I would trade Miguel Andujar for (or Estevan Florial or Justus Sheffield for that matter). Kluber or Carrasco, yes, but not Paxton. Paxton carries much greater risk with his inability to stay healthy. So, as much as I would hate to get punked by the Astros again and as much as I’d like Paxton on the staff, there is a price I’d draw a line. If Houston wants to overpay, let them. If GM Brian Cashman can get Paxton at his price, great. I’ll be excited to see Paxton join the Yankees starting rotation…with Miguel Andujar continuing to field grounders at third in Yankee Stadium.
A pic of a shaved Dallas Keuchel has been floating the Internet with talk about how the “beardless” one would look in the Bronx.
With no offense to Keuchel, I don’t really want to see him in the Bronx. I know he’s been tough on the Yankees over the years but I cannot find myself with the desire to root for him. Keuchel will only be 31 when the season begins, however, I think Keuchel and Patrick Corbin are on opposite trajectories for their 30’s. Corbin, like fine wine, stands a much better chance of aging well. If the Yankees miss out on Corbin and others, it is possible they have to make a run at Keuchel but I really hope that’s a potential option which never comes to fruition. Bring me Corbin and J.A. Happ and I’ll be happy.
Trying to brace myself for the possibility the Yankees pass on the big ticket purchases this winter, I think Marwin Gonzalez and Jurickson Profar represent the best options for the infield to help cover for the loss of Didi Gregorius. I’ve liked Daniel Murphy in the past but I don’t feel he really fits the Yankees at this stage in his career. Both Gonzalez and Profar have positional diversity which makes them very valuable with the current group of Yankees. Who knows, maybe this is the year Tyler Wade puts it together to launch his Major League career in full force. It’s not really a bet I’d make but it is not my team or my money. Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner is on record that he is tired of lining the pockets of other owners and it’s his right to make the financial decisions in the best interests of the Steinbrenner Family. I think most of us thought the Yankees were positioning themselves for a big splash into the 2018-19 free agent market but the reality is that we need to be prepared for Team Fiscal Restraint. I am hopeful Hal sees the potential salary relief when guys like Jacoby Ellsbury come off the books in just a couple of years but we’ll see.
It was tough in years past to see the Yankees pass on the big name free agents. Max Scherzer stands out as one. At the time of his free agency, the Yankees were cited as one of the favorites to sign him. They didn’t and Scherzer moved from Detroit to Washington and has continued to pitch at an elite level. Even if the Yankees weren’t ready to add an elite pitcher at the time of Scherzer’s availability, he’d certainly look fantastic in the starting rotation today. The price would have meant the inability to bring payroll under the luxury tax threshold this year so the decision to pass on Scherzer remains debatable. It’s amazing how the decision to sign Jacoby Ellsbury has haunted the Yankees for so many years. I guess that’s a strong argument for not going hog wild in the current free agent market.
Before I close, I’d like to send out our prayers and thoughts to all those affected by the wildfires in Northern and Southern California. For some, there will never be recovery. I hope the fires are brought under control soon and we suffer no further loss of life. For those of you in California, please stay safe.
|View of Malibu from Santa Monica Pier|
Lastly, Happy Veteran’s Day! We can never forget those who served and those who paid the ultimate sacrifice to maintain our freedom. Today, and every day, we honor you.
As always, Go Yankees!
|Photo Credit: AP (Rick Scuteri)|
Patrick Corbin should be at the forefront for the Yankees…
So many possibilities, where do the Yankees go? November is always a tough month for the Hot Stove League. Lots of talk but not really much action. There’s always the chance for a major trade but we generally have to get much closer to the Baseball Winter Meetings in December for the flurry of activity, then the quietness returns until the start of training camp. I don’t expect this year to be any different.
No doubt GM Brian Cashman is laying the groundwork for potential trades. He’s talked with the Cleveland Indians, he’s reached out to the Seattle Mariners, and has surely had talks with teams we’ve heard nothing about. The talks now will hopefully yield fruit later, but rest assured, if the Yankees are successful in obtaining Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco or James Paxton, it WILL hurt. For a team on the cusp of a championship, now is not the time to “prospect-hug”. The team must be prepared to pay the price, whatever it may be, to bring in a top of the rotation arm.
Of the names mentioned, I probably like Kluber the best. He would immediately became the team’s ace, which we clearly need, and his presence would help take pressure off Luis Severino. Less pressure on Sevy would only enhance the chances for him to become the best he can be. But if the Yanks can’t get Kluber, Carrasco would be a welcome addition. I really like James Paxton and I think his name has been mentioned frequently in the past by TGP’s Daniel Burch. My only concern, like many others, is health. Paxton has not proven to be a durable pitcher. But if the team has the opportunity to add Paxton and the price is reasonable, they should do it.
|Photo Credit: USATSI|
Regardless of how the trade market plays out, I hope the Yankees do not lose sight of free agent starter Patrick Corbin. He will be costly but I am very fascinated with how his left arm and pitching arsenal would play in Yankee Stadium. He grew up as a Yankees fan and wore #46 in Arizona out of respect for Andy Pettitte. He is a ground ball pitcher with five legitimate pitches although his deadly combinations are the slider, four-seam fastball, and sinker. He’s been praised for his work ethic and the signs show he will be an elite pitcher in his 30’s. Corbin might slot into the third or fourth spot in the rotation depending upon what the Yankees do on the trade market, but he’d ensure the starting rotation is a strength in 2019 compared to its achilles heel in 2018.
Despite the rumors of so many names, Corbin remains my number one target this off-season. I hope the Yankees see it the same way. Paired with an ace acquired via trade, or added along with the return of a guy like J.A. Happ or Nathan Eovaldi, the starting rotation will be better next year with Corbin in it.
|Photo Credit: USA Today Sports (Mark J Rebilas)|
The Bryce Harper/Manny Machado talk has reached absurd levels. I am anxious for the guys to get their $300 million plus contracts to end the excessive chatter about the two young superstars. I think the Yankees would be foolish to pass on at least one of the rare “young” superstars but it’s not my money. I see the advantage of Bryce’s left-handed bat in the Yankees lineup and I see Manny’s role in bridging the gap at short and eventually providing a superior defender at third. My personal preference may be Machado as I’ve long admired the player but I would shed no tears with the signing of Harper. Still, the Yankees can win without either so if they go big with the starting rotation and bring in a guy like Marwin Gonzalez or Daniel Murphy to help the infield, it will not be the end of the world. I like the chances better with Harper or Machado, but the 2019 Yankees will contend for the World Series regardless of how this plays out. “Go big or go home” applies now more than ever.
I want the Yankees to end the reign of the Boston Red Sox next season so I am in favor of whatever moves the team has to make to improve. I’d hate to see Miguel Andujar, Estevan Florial, Justus Sheffield, or Albert Abreu leave, but if it improves the team, so be it. Championship windows do not remain open for extended periods of time. You have to take advantage of the opportunities when they present themselves. I am ready for the pain for the greater glory. In Cashman we trust…
|Photo Credit: AP (Gregory Bull)|
For those keeping score, the Yankees have made some moves this off-season. They’ve re-signed Brett Gardner and CC Sabathia to one-year deals. They re-signed minor league free agent third baseman and defensive-whiz Giovanny Urshela and they signed a minor league deal with former Pirates catcher Ryan Lavarnway. Lavarnway was once a heralded top prospect for the Red Sox, although, now in his 30’s, he has settled into a journeyman role. He provides much needed catching depth at the upper levels of the farm system. Lavarnway is one of those guys I hope the Yankees don’t need to use but he’s there to help if it becomes necessary. Milwaukee’s Erik Kratz has proven it is never too late to make a significant contribution. Welcome to the Yankees Family, Ryan!
|Photo Credit: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Matt Freed)|
The end is within sight for Jacoby Ellsbury. He only has two more years on his contract before the Yankees can exercise their buyout. Ellsbury is owed $42,285,174 for the next two seasons, and the Yankees can then buyout his contract for an additional $5 million. Realistically, I don’t expect Ellsbury to wear the pinstripes again or at least I hope not, but I am glad we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve seen some suggest the Yankees should trade Ellsbury for another dead contract (like Miami’s Wei-Yin Chen, owed $58 million for the next three years, or Seattle’s Robinson Cano, owed $120 million over the next five years). No, thanks. I don’t think the Yankees should take on more money to rid themselves of Ellsbury. I like Cano and he might help but financially it makes absolutely no sense. He is clearly on the downhill slide and he’s entering the really ugly side of his ridiculous contract. If the Yankees can finally move Ellsbury even if they have to pay the bulk of his remaining contract, that’s the way to go. If I was a GM for another team and I was convinced that Ellsbury was finally healthy, I’d take a chance on him for no more than a $5 million per year commitment. That’s a lot of money for the Yankees to eat, but it would be worth the investment (addition by subtraction). I am done with Ellsbury and don’t want to see him pull on the pinstripes again.
Yesterday saw two notable names in the game announce their plans to retire. Hats off to Joe Mauer of the Minnesota Twins and Chase Utley of the Los Angeles Dodgers for long, distinguished careers. Both are names I’d like to see stay in the game in some capacity. I am not sure what their plans are for the future but I wish both the very best as they enter the next phase of their lives. Mauer’s departure certainly opens an opportunity at first base for former Yankee Tyler Austin unless they decide to go in a different direction for new manager Rocco Baldelli.
Is Sonny Gray still a Yankee? Count me among those who think Cashman will bring a better than expected return for the failed Yankee. I am certain he’ll get at least a strong prospect with upside. We’ll see. Hopefully Gray’s Yankee career is over by this time next month. It would be great if he could take Luis Cessa and A.J. Cole with him.
As always, Go Yankees!
Red Sox Advance to Fall Classic to Play Dodgers or Brewers…
Sadly, the Boston Red Sox are returning to the World Series. I was hopeful that the defending champion Houston Astros would end their season, but unfortunately, the Astros were a no-show. I still feel the Yankees and the Astros were the better teams, but for whatever reason(s), fate sided with Boston. The Red Sox, from April forward, have consistently found ways to win, en route to 108 victories over the course of the long season. They are not in the World Series by some fluke. Growing up as a kid with the Curse of the Bambino alive and well, it does kind of suck that the Red Sox have played in and have won more World Series than the Yankees this century.
Speaking of my childhood, I have never forgotten an illustrator for The Des Moines (Iowa) Register by the name of Frank Miller who used to say that it wasn’t an official World Series if the Yankees weren’t playing in it. I know it’s something that I’ve mentioned on this site before, but I think about it every year so my apologies for the regression.
I am already lining up a wager with a long-time friend and die-hard Red Sox fan. We’ve had numerous wagers over the years involving the Yankees and the Red Sox, but this year, since the Yankees are home for the holidays, I am riding the Los Angeles Dodgers (assuming they can get past the Milwaukee Brewers, of course). If the Dodgers make it to the World Series, the bet is on. The loser must post a picture of the winning team’s celebration as their cover photo on Facebook for seven days following the World Series, and the loser must read a book about the winning organization (as selected by the winner) and write a 500-word essay about the ten things they learned about the winning organization they did not know before. The essay must be posted on Social Media. For my friend, I have chosen Brothers in Arms: Koufax, Kershaw, and the Dodgers’ Extraordinary Pitching Tradition by Jon Weisman should the Dodgers win the World Series.
My friend will choose a Red Sox book for me to read if Boston wins the World Series. Of course, if the Dodgers stumble in Milwaukee and end their season prematurely, the wager is moot. I have no interest in a Brewers-Red Sox World Series and my baseball season will be officially done. I wanted to pick a Yankees book for my friend to read, but Boston beat the Yankees fair and square in the ALDS, proving that, for this year anyway, they are the better team. Dodgers, please do not let me down. You’re my last hope for bringing down the mighty Red Sox.
I know that Manny Machado has taken much heat over the past week for not hustling and dirty play but I have not wavered in my desire for the Yankees to sign him in free agency after the season. He remains a young, special and talented superstar player who will help any team that he plays for. He has a desire to play in New York and he can handle New York. He’s hated in Boston which is perfectly fine by me. Nothing Machado has done has deterred my wish for seeing him in Pinstripes. If the Yankees go after Bryce Harper instead, that’s fine. I’d be stoked to have Harper as a Yankee. If Cashman and Company decide neither player is worth the investment, then so be it. Clearly, the greatest need is finding help for the starting rotation and filling in the potential holes in the bullpen. If the Yankees do nothing in the off-season but focus on pitching, I’m fine with it. But regardless, I wanted to get it out there that I continue to support Manny Machado and he’ll continue to be one of my favorite players next season, no matter what uniform he is wearing. Well, if he signs with Boston, that might hurt.
Photo Credit: AP (Matt Slocum)
I really wish the Yankees could find a way to unload Jacoby Ellsbury. I am dreading the thought of his presence at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, FL next Spring. I know, when healthy, he’s a decent player. But his history has proven he cannot be relied upon. He may be healthy in March, but, no doubt, it will not be an injury-free year. The certainties of life…death, taxes, and Jacoby Ellsbury on the disabled list. I am tired of the guy and I wish he’d resume his career elsewhere.
Has Sonny Gray been traded yet? Another player that I am anxiously awaiting to see place the word “former” in front of “Yankee”. I like the suggestions of Gray to Arizona in a package to get Arizona’s Robbie Ray or Paul Goldschmidt or to San Francisco for second baseman Joe Panik. I am sure that Gray will prosper in a less pressurized environment and I am confident GM Brian Cashman will get the best possible return despite Gray’s struggles in the Big Apple. Now if he could just do something about Ellsbury, too.
For those who say that Houston’s Marwin Gonzalez fits in with the Yankees, I agree. If the Yankees decide to pass on the big ticket purchases in free agency, I think Gonzalez could help this team. Or even if they do sign Machado or Harper, I think Gonzalez would be a good Yankee. I don’t like the Astros but I do like Marwin and his versatility. I know 2018 was a bit of a down year for him, or maybe it is his norm and 2017 was an unusual year, but either way, I like the character of the guy and the winning attitude he exudes. He certainly helps fill some holes with the ability to play first base, shortstop and left field.
Photo Credit: AP (David J Phillip)
Here’s hoping the Dodgers take care of business tonight in Milwaukee. Hyun-Jin Ryu (7-3, 1.97 ERA in 15 regular season games), one of the Dodgers’ best starters down the stretch, gets the ball. He’ll be opposed by the resurgent one-time Red Sock Wade Miley (5-2, 2.57 ERA). Miley lost 15 games for the Baltimore Orioles last season and now he’s charged with extending the post-season for the Brewers, probably throwing to former Yankee Erik Kratz. Life is funny. No offense to those guys, but I hope their season ends tonight. The Dodgers have a date with the Red Sox and I don’t want anything to mess it up.
Tonight (and possibly tomorrow), it’s Go Dodgers.
But as always (and a lot more), 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!