Tagged: Jacoby Ellsbury

Can’t Even Get a Lump of Cole for Christmas…

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse…

Most families are preparing for Christmas and the Holiday Season, and I am sure that the Yankees family is no different. The likelihood of any major Yankees news over the next few days is about as realistic as Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos graciously handing Manny Machado over to the Yankees. In other words, it is going to be very quiet as we try on our new Giancarlo Stanton jerseys.

I admit it. I reacted like a lemming to all of the rumors that percolated on Thursday night about renewed talks between the Yankees and the Pittsburgh Pirates about starting pitcher Gerrit Cole. It turned out to be nothing, and it would appear the Pirates are still trying to aim high (too high) with their asking price. I’ve seen suggestions of OF Clint Frazier, 2B/SS Tyler Wade, 3B Miguel Andujar, and LHP Jordan Montgomery for Cole. That’s ridiculous and not something that should be considered. To me, that’s akin to asking for Yankees soon-to-be starting second baseman Gleyber Torres. I strongly  believe the latest Cole rumors had their origin in the Pirates camp as the Pirates attempt to gain some leverage in talks. It’s not like GM Brian Cashman or his team to leak proposed trade details. Of course, it could also just be the Red Sox Nation trolling Yankees fans.

At this point, I am so tired of the Cole rumors that I wish the Yankees would either pull the trigger (but not to the point they overpay) or walk away. There are things that I like about Cole but conversely I recognize the faults of a pitcher that has never lived up to his potential.  We did not like it during the stretch last year when Masahiro Tanaka was serving up batting practice during games and it wouldn’t be well received to watch Cole as a gopher ball pitcher in Yankee Stadium. Cashman should give Pirates GM Neal Huntington a ‘take it or leave it’ offer (perhaps throwing in Austin Romine for no other reason than the Pirates seem to like our catchers, ala Francisco Cervelli and previously Russell Martin and Chris Stewart) and be prepared to move on if Huntington responds negatively. I’ve felt all along that a package of Clint Frazier and Chance Adams is very, very fair, but many argue that’s too much. Anything more, for Cole alone, is too much.

I’ve wondered what the Yankees will do with their international bonus money that was accumulated for a failed run at Japanese superstar Shohei Otani. The Yankees didn’t sign any of the top international prospects that were recently released by the Atlanta Braves as part of their punishment by MLB so the obvious choices were the remaining unsigned players on Baseball America’s ranking of top international prospects, most notably tenth-ranked outfielder Raimfer Salinas, 16, and fifteenth-ranked catcher Antonio Cabello, 17. Sure enough, the two Venezuelan players have been signed by the Yankees according to Baseball America. The signings give the Yankees a total of five of the top 20 international players as ranked in the 2017 signing period. The Yankees had previously signed fifth-ranked OF Everson Pereira, eleventh-ranked SS Ronny Rojas and twentieth-ranked SS Robinson Chirinos. We’ll soon learn more about Salinas and Cabello in  future editions of Meet a Prospect by TGP’s own Daniel Burch I am sure, but for now, welcome to the Yankees family, Raimfer and Antonio!

Speaking of prospects, I was saddened to see the departure of Dante Bichette, Jr. He had six years to progress through the Yankees farm system, but the third baseman, 25, was unable to advance past Double A. If he had been able to develop into a Major League player, his timing would have been perfect to take over third base for the Yankees next season. But alas, it was not to be. Young Dante became a minor league free agent in November and has signed with the Colorado Rockies, the team his father once starred for. The Bichette family is very close to former Yankees manager Joe Girardi and young Dante grew up calling him “Uncle Joe”.  Girardi named his own son Dante after the elder Bichette. I wish Dante Jr the best as he tries to achieve his elusive MLB dream in the Mile High City.

Credit:  Martin Griff

For every Yankees blogger (myself included) that suggests the Yankees should find a way to unload Jacoby on the San Francisco Giants, there’s a Giants blogger writing why Ellsbury would be a very bad fit for the Giants. Bottom line, the Giants want no part of Ells. I hate it, but I think we’re stuck with #22 for the long haul. The biggest waste of a roster spot in my opinion. At some point, the Yankees will choose to cut bait but that’s probably not this off-season. I keeping hoping for a Christmas Miracle that takes Ellsbury away but I think I’ll be disappointed with that one.

I was listening to MLB Network’s interview yesterday with former Marlins second baseman and now Mariners center fielder Dee Gordon. He was asked if he had spoken with the other  recently traded Marlins (Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna). We know that Stanton is now the big slugger in the lineup of big sluggers, while Ozuna went to the organization that holds the most World Series titles not named the Yankees, the St Louis Cardinals. The reactions conveyed by Gordon were very different. While Ozuna was saddened by the trade (despite the fact that he is going to a storied franchise with a long-standing history of baseball tradition), “G” is excited and ready to get after it. I love it. I can’t wait to watch Stanton in spring training wearing the perfect shade of blue.

Go Yankees!

Advertisements

Is Gerrit Cole the Pinstriped Answer?…

Jim Leyritz is reporting it so it must be true…

The cold Gerrit Cole rumors began reheating last night. According to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand, “Yankees, Pirates renewing Gerrit Cole discussions according to source”.  I am not sure how or why Jim Leyritz is always ‘in the know’ (he was among the first to report the Yankees had consummated the trade for Giancarlo Stanton), but he posted the following tweet earlier this morning:  “Feinsand is right on. Cole deal had been agreed on in principle at winter meetings. Just a matter of pieces. Cole side wants to get this done before New Year.  Happy New Year Yankees Fans.”

Credit:  Julie Jacobson, AP

So, regardless of whether you like this deal or not, it sounds like Gerrit Cole will soon be joining the New York Yankees.  In other words, Chasen Shreve, it’s time to think about a new number.

The Cole rumors are the polar opposite of the fan reaction leading up to last summer’s acquisition of Sonny Gray.  I had injury concerns about Gray but most fans, including myself, were in support of the trade for Gray despite the high cost. I personally like the idea of adding Cole, who may arguably be only the fourth best starter in the Yankees rotation. I think he would be energized by playing in front of New York fans at Yankee Stadium and the rock star status the Yankees hold with road games. I know that Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage is known as the Pitching Whisperer, but I’d really like to see what Larry Rothschild could do with Cole. The dude has premium stuff so Larry has much to work with. It’s not like we’d be bringing Jaime Garcia back to the Bronx. But many Yankees fans I know hate the idea of bringing Cole into the highly competitive AL East, particularly given his propensity to give up homers last season.  Maybe it’s a big “if”, but if the Yankees could get Cole pitching closer to his ace potential, the Yankees starting pitching rotation would be one of the AL’s best.

Many fans are upset that we’ll potentially lose outfielder Clint Frazier and a top pitching prospect like Chance Adams.  All things considered, I’d probably prefer to give up Adams over Justus Sheffield or Albert Abreu. But at the end of the day, I trust GM Brian Cashman and his team to make the right decisions.  Cashman is rarely fleeced in a deal and I don’t think he’ll overpay in this situation.  You keep hearing that the Pirates want Gleyber Torres but that’s not happening.

I don’t like Frazier-Adams for Cole alone. I think the Pirates would also need to include 2B/3B Josh Harrison for that high of a cost. Frazier-Adams for Cole-Harrison is a potential win/win for both sides in my opinion.

Credit:  Rob Carr, Getty Images

If anything, I am a little sick that Clint Frazier has been made a redundant player because of the presence of Jacoby Ellsbury on the Yankees roster. In an ideal world, the Yankees would clear out Ellsbury and Brett Gardner to open room for the younger guys. The Yankees apparently tried to engage the San Francisco Giants in trade talks for Ellsbury but the Giants prefer other outfield options. Given the spacious outfield at AT&T Park, I think either Ellsbury or Gardner would be a good fit for the Giants. Plus, the Giants train in Scottsdale, Arizona which is close to Ellsbury’s home (an enticement to get him to waive his no-trade clause). I remain hopeful the Yankees can find a way to ship out Ellsbury despite the cash and prospects that will need to be included.  Ellsbury and his contract hurt the Yankees in so many ways.

The Cole Rumors continue to be the one that will not die.  Last night’s flurry of reports after days of nothing seem to indicate something could happen soon.  Either way, I’d like to see the Yankees pull the trigger or move on.  And under no circumstances should they be forced to overpay.  There are other strong options without having to hand our list of top ten prospects to another team.

If New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon is irate about the Yankees’ acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton, I wonder how he’ll feel if the Yankees upgrade their starting rotation too?  Fred, it sucks to be you.

Go Yankees!

I’ll Take An Elite Pitcher To Go, Please…

Credit:  Jim McIsaac, Getty Images and Sportsnet.ca

Is No News Good News?…

It’s been very quiet in the Yankees Universe this week. By all accounts, the Yankees’ talks with the Pittsburgh Pirates for starter Gerrit Cole have cooled. Rightfully so if the Pirates are continuing to ask for top prospects in return. The Cole rumors have been like the Yankees long-standing desire for Oakland’s Sonny Gray that was finally consummated last summer. Rumors that stick around for years until they may or may not happen. At this point, I don’t see a trade for Cole but of course things could change if the Pirates lower their demands.

How does the saying go? Sometimes the best trade is the trade never made.

This week, a few sources were indicating the Yankees have interest in free agent Yu Darvish.  I’ve liked Darvish for a long time but of course he bombed in the World Series with the Los Angeles Dodgers when he was tipping his pitches. There’s also no way the Yankees can fit him into the budget unless they move other salary (i.e., Jacoby Ellsbury). I don’t see Darvish coming to the Bronx. I thought it was interesting that the Houston Astros talked to Darvish since they used him as a punching bag on their way to a World Series championship.  But trying to fit a Darvish contract into Team Hal’s budget would sacrifice greater areas of need on the team and would potentially limit what the Yankees could do next July at the tradling deadline.

There doesn’t seem to be any movement with talks about Arizona’s Patrick Corbin or Detroit’s Michael Fulmer. Fulmer would be the ideal candidate but he’s cost-prohibitive if the Tigers continue to ask for a ‘Chris Sale’ type of return.

Credit:  Mark Cunningham, MLB Photos via Getty Images

Chris Archer continues to show up on lists as a possible target for the Yankees. I’d certainly be happy with Archer but getting the Rays to trade within the division is probably comparable to trying to get the Orioles to trade Manny Machado to the Yankees. Okay, that might not be the right comparison because I think the hatred of O’s owner Peter Angelos toward the Yankees probably runs a little deeper than other clubs. If we bring up names within the division, it should include Toronto’s Marcus Stroman. I love Stroman and I think the native New Yorker would be an ideal fit in the Bronx. Stroman, 26, is in his second year of arbitration and is projected to make $7.2 million this year (he made $3.4 million in 2017). He won’t be a free agent until the 2021 season. As he gets more expensive, the Blue Jays will probably be more motivated to move the player, especially since they are entering a rebuild phase and need more young talent. Stroman would fit into the chemistry of the Yankees and showed good rapport with Aaron Judge through tweets last fall. But as long as the Blue Jays think they have a shot for a Wild Card, they won’t trade Stroman. I watch Josh Donaldson as the barometer. As long as the Blue Jays keep the 2018 free agent-to-be on the roster, they refuse to admit rebuild. But once he goes, the environment might be right to grab Stroman who would be worth the high cost.

Credit:  Frank Gunn

I was glad to see the Tampa Bay Rays trade third baseman Evan Longoria to the San Francisco Giants yesterday. Longoria has long been a Yankees killer (seemingly coming up with key hits at the worst moments for the Pinstripers), but Mike Axisa of River Ave Blues was quick to point out that Longoria batted .231/.290/.375 against the Yankees over the past three seasons. As Axisa noted, Longoria is a declining player signed for big money so his departure probably hurts rather than helps the Yankees in the AL East. I think Longoria will be rejuvenated in San Francisco (playing in a packed AT&T Park is substantially different than playing in the sparse Tropicana Field). The Longoria trade removes another third base suitor which indirectly helps the Yankees as it removes options for free agents Mike Moustakas and Todd Frazier (hopefully driving down their asking prices to the point that the Yankees are able to sign one of the players). Sentimentally, I’d prefer Frazier but the Moose Tacos bat is better.

Credit:  Nick Wosika, Icon Sportswire

The AL East took a different look yesterday with the Longoria trade and the announcement that Orioles closer Zach Britton had torn his achilles tendon in an off-season workout (he will most likely miss the first 4-6 weeks of the season). If the O’s are successful in trading Machado out of the division, it will be an indication that they are ready to move into rebuild phase. The latest AL East moves continue to show further separation between the Yankees and Red Sox and the rest of the division.

Back to Ellsbury, I would love to see the Yankees trade the aging, overpaid, under-performing outfielder. His presence prevents the Yankees from aggressively improving other areas of the team. I laugh when I see some of the “Ellsbury for (Player X)” suggestions, which are at times ridiculous. Ellsbury for Madison Bumgarner…yeah, right. Personally, I’d be happy with Ellsbury’s departure for no return. It is just a matter of how much money (and potentially prospects) the Yankees have package with him to get another team to bite. The Yankees either need to make room for Clint Frazier or trade him. He has nothing left to prove in the Minor Leagues.

Credit:  SI.com

The free agent market has been slow to develop this year, but things seem to be breaking. Cleveland’s Carlos Santana signed with the Phillies earlier in the week, and Cleveland countered by signing the Mariners’ Yonder Alonso to be their new first baseman. Up to this point, the free agent signings have primarily been directed at bullpen relief.

The Yankees are running out of time to make some noise before Christmas. I expect next week to be very quiet so if the Yankees do nothing this week, there probably won’t be any activity until January. On the bright side, we are moving closer to Spring Training. I have already bought my Giancarlo Stanton jersey so I am ready.

Go Yankees!

The Dawn of the Baseball Winter Meetings…

 Greater-Orlando-1030x446

If you are going to dream, dream BIG…

Giancarlo Stanton.

Such a tease! For the last month, Yankees fans have dreamt of the idea of Giancarlo Stanton wearing Pinstripes. But with Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner’s budget and his drive to reset luxury tax penalties this year, the likelihood of Stanton coming to the Bronx appears to be about as strong as Shohei Otani changing his mind and deciding that he loves New York after all.

 Still, it’s tough to hear that the Yankees are one of four teams that Giancarlo Stanton would openly waive his no-trade clause for. The list includes the Yankees, the Los Angeles Dodgers (his hometown team and favorite growing up), the Houston Astros and the Chicago Cubs. I am mildly surprised that the Los Angeles Angels didn’t make the cut for the LA native (I know, they are not really in Los Angeles). It’s hard because the timing isn’t right for a team that is trying desperately to stay under $197 million for the payroll this year.

It’s possible that Stanton eventually accepts a trade to either the San Francisco Giants or the St Louis Cardinals but the longer this drags out, the more likely it is those teams will move on. If the Giants land Otani, it would seemingly improve their chances for getting Stanton to accept the already negotiated trade to the Giants. I tend to side with the majority that believe Otani will end up in Seattle, particularly now that they’ve gained an edge in international bonus pool money. Could this help the Yankees snag Stanton?  I guess time will tell as it often does.

 For the Yankees, the decision to sign Jacoby Ellsbury four years ago yesterday to the seven-year, $153 million contract is the gift that keeps giving (in a negative way). Ellsbury, now Baseball’s highest-paid pinch-runner, is an albatross for Team Hal. As long as Ellsbury’s contract hangs around the neck of the Yankees, it will be difficult for them to find the creative way to bring Stanton to the Bronx even though they have the resources to pull it off.

The Seattle Mariners had looked like a strong potential trade partner for the Yankees depending upon how much of Ellsbury’s contract the Yankees were willing to eat. But the Mariners removed themselves from the conversation with their trade acquisition yesterday of second baseman Dee Gordon, whom they intend to move to center field. The Boston Red Sox just look at the Yankees, stuck with Ellsbury, and laugh. There were no tears shed in Boston when Ellsbury signed with the Yankees. My closest Red Sox friends were glad to be free of the King of the DL four years ago.

It’s incredible to imagine Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge in the same lineup. It will never happen (will it?) but the protection in the batting order the Yankees could offer Stanton would be immense. It would be fun to watch all of those balls flying out of Yankee Stadium.

I keep hoping that GM Brian Cashman and his team, against all odds, can find a way to get creative while staying in line with Hal Steinbrenner’s budget. By self-admission, Cashman is paid to think outside of the box. Here is his latest opportunity. Make it happen! The realist in me knows that it will not come to fruition but it is fun to dream about. Taking on Stanton’s contract would be far better than paying over a half-billion dollars to Bryce Harper next off-season.

I feel bad for Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly who now gets to watch as his team is stripped of its best Major League talent. Donnie Baseball deserves better. Marlins CEO Derek Jeter is obviously finding that it is not so easy sitting on the other side of the table with a strict budget in hand.

The Bronx Coaching Staff…

Now that the Yankees have their manager (Aaron Boone) and the return of the pitching coach (Larry Rothschild), the focus is on the remainder of the coaching staff. I have not heard Tony Pena’s name at all. He is a valuable coach and I’d like to see his return. We’ve heard the names of Yankees ‘thirty-something’ minor league coaches Reggie Willits and Carlos Mendoza as possibilities.  We know that Rob Thomson, Josh Paul and Al Pedrique are no longer options, having found MLB employment elsewhere.  It was odd that the first name drawing attention is current Los Angeles Dodgers bullpen coach Josh Bard. A former catcher, the possibility of adding Bard leads me to believe that there is no interest in bringing back Pena.  Bard and Boone played together briefly in Cleveland. I seriously hope that Bard is not under consideration for Bench Coach. At Boone’s press conference, when asked if managerial experience was a prerequisite for the bench coach, Boone responded that he wanted smart and confident sitting next to him. Sounds like a possible setup for Bard. I guess it’s not like there is no managerial experience on the bench. Larry Rothschild was the original manager for the then Tampa Bay Devil Rays when they entered the league in 1998. But regardless of Rothschild’s presence, I personally would prefer to see experience sitting with smart and confident to offer suggestions to the new first-time manager.

Bard played for five teams over 10 seasons during his pedestrian career as a backup catcher, yet I think of him as a Red Sock. That’s kind of funny considering that he only played 7 games in 2006 for the Red Sox. The intent was for Bard to catch knuckle baller Tim Wakefield, who ironically gave up Boone’s 2003 ALCS Game 7 home run. But 10 passed balls in those 7 games ended his time in Boston.

Based on GM Brian Cashman’s words, they’ve provided a list of names to Boone and Boone has provided names to them and they are going through the vetting process. So, it’s highly probable that other guys, beyond Bard, have been or will soon be interviewed. Boone talks about having a world-class coaching staff, but it’s tough when we’ve seen a few world class guys like Thomson, Paul and Pedrique walk away from the organization. I hope that Boonie is right. The team’s leadership will be very instrumental in the success of the young Baby Bombers as we move forward.

Note to Brian Cashman…

Please re-sign CC Sabathia. What are you waiting for?…

I am always anxious to see what the Baseball Winter Meetings will bring. Those few days bring the most excitement of the off-season. It’s very possible that nothing happens for the Yankees but it should be a fun week anyway. With such a large concentration of media gathered in Orlando, Florida beginning this weekend, rumors of trades and signings should soon start flying fast and furiously.

I’d love to be working on a post next week entitled ‘How the Yankees Made the Stanton Dream a Reality’…

Go Yankees!

The Boone of Acceptance…

Credit:  Mario Tama, Getty Images

Like it or not, Aaron Boone will be the new Yankees manager…

The reaction to the impending announcement that Aaron Boone will be named the next manager of the New York Yankees has met with a broad range of emotions. I don’t think he was the first choice for any of us, but he is NOT a bad choice. I am getting a little tired of the ‘we should have kept Joe Girardi…’ comments. That ship has sailed. For whatever reasons, GM Brian Cashman and Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner determined that a new voice is needed for the next era of Yankees Baseball. Girardi had a good run but times change.

Yesterday, I was perusing YouTube for Aaron Boone video clips (for personal research). This morning, I woke to find that NJ Advance Media for NJ.com’s Randy Miller had been doing the same thing and he posted a few clips on their website. I love the imitations of Joe Torre’s walk and Alex Rodriguez at bat. There’s no question that Boone is going to bring a humorous, relaxed vibe to the Yankees clubhouse. Tough when necessary, but supportive and collaborative at other times. Former Yankees manager Joe Torre brought such warmth to the position, which was lacking under Girardi’s leadership. I see more shades of Torre in Boone. I think he brings the right leadership to a young team at the right time. I am onboard with Boone’s selection and feel strongly that he deserves to be given a chance by the Yankees Universe.

I realize that Boone has never managed or coached at any level, but he deserves our support. He successfully sold Cashman (and ultimately the Steinbrenner family) on the reasons why he should be the next manager of the New York Yankees. They know the Yankees better than any of us and we should trust their decision.

Credit:  Kathy Willens, AP

Boonie will have to choose a new number since his old number (19) is currently occupied by Masahiro Tanaka. His dad’s number and the number Aaron wore at the end of his playing career with the Houston Astros is also out due to the retirement of the number for Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra (8).

I look forward to the formal announcement of Boone as the new manager. Hopefully it will happen this week. I also look forward to the composition of the new coaching staff to join holdover pitching coach Larry Rothschild.

Go Boonie! Bring us World Championship #28! We have faith and confidence in you…well, most of us anyway…

Credit:  Allen Kee, Getty Images

Making the Cut…

It’s nice to know that the Shohei Otani talk will be finished by December 22nd…except for whatever city lands the two-way superstar. All 30 teams were given an opportunity to make their presentation plus answering a questionnaire for the highly talented 23-year-old. Apparently, Otani will be working with his agents to make a cut by weekend’s end to determine which teams will have an opportunity to talk with Otani’s agents this week.

Credit:  Shingo Ito/AFLO/Zuma Press/TNS

It’s a certainty the Yankees will make the cut, but where Otani ultimately lands is really anybody’s guess despite reports the Yankees are the favorites. There are too many variables at play. While I am sure the Yankees have full resources in Los Angeles, I hope they do not lose sight of re-signing free agent pitcher CC Sabathia.

One Week and Counting…

The annual Baseball Winter Meetings always represent the height of excitement for the baseball off-season and we are a week away from the drama. All eyes will be on Orlando, Florida this time next week. The Yankees are not expected to be big players in free agency (aside from the Shohei Otani sweepstakes) but there’s always the potential for a significant trade or two.

One of the early decisions for new manager Aaron Boone next year will be where to play top prospect Gleyber Torres when he is ready.

There’s no doubt we’ll see him make his Major League debut at some point in the 2018 season…the only question is when. No one really expects him to break camp with the big league club but it won’t be too deep into the season.  The easy answer is to play him at third base in place of Chase Headley but there is speculation that he might be better suited for second base (particularly given how close third base prospect Miguel Andujar is to being Major League-ready). Therefore, it would not surprise me if the Yankees moved Starlin Castro. I don’t think they will, but the possibility is certainly there.

The Winter Meetings would be a tremendous success if the Yankees could somehow find a taker for Jacoby Ellsbury and boatloads of cash. I would not be disappointed to see Chase Headley go either. I’ve heard David Robertson’s name mentioned but I’d really hate to see D-Rob go. It was so great having him back in the Bronx last year. He was a Yankee that I missed when he left and I don’t want to see his departure any time soon.

Credit:  Rich Schultz, Getty Images

I know the Yankees have no plans to re-sign Matt Holliday but I really liked the veteran leadership that he brought to the team last year. I really wish that we could have seen a full healthy season for Holliday. He’d be great for a coaching staff one day.

The Giancarlo Stanton talk has centered on the San Francisco Giants and the St Louis Cardinals, but the latest rumors indicate that Stanton has no desire to go to the Midwest. So far, his preferred destination, the Los Angeles Dodgers, have not entered the conversations. With the Giants appearing to be the frontrunner, I am a little surprised the Dodgers would let the big slugger go to their chief division rival especially since the motivation for the Miami Marlins is more on salary relief than it is prospect/talent return. I keep expecting Andrew Friedman and company to rise up late in negotiations to snag Giancarlo. I’d love to see Stanton in the Bronx but I just don’t see the Yankees taking on that contract this year.

Given their luck with Yankees catchers, maybe the Pittsburgh Pirates should make a run for Austin Romine…

Credit:  MLB.com

It is nice to see that things are picking up for the Hot Stove League. Every year, I am excited about the Baseball Winter Meetings. As a Yankees fan, they are not always fruitful (not like they were under the reign of George Steinbrenner) but it is a very fun and exciting time for baseball in general.

For now, let’s see what this week brings. Go Yankees!

Ready, Set, Go!…

The Hot Stove League Begins Play…

There is always a quietness about the days that follow the World Series unless of course you’re a fan of the World Series champion.  Teams have five days following the conclusion of the World Series to exclusively negotiate with their own free agents.  It’s rare to see much activity and unlike the NFL and other sports, there is not a flurry of immediate activity when the free agents become free to talk to other teams.  So, I guess that puts us in the calm before the storm…the days and weeks leading up to the Baseball Winter Meetings next month in Orlando, Florida.  The meetings will be held from Sunday, December 10th through Wednesday, December 13th.  The annual Rule 5 Draft will be held on Thursday, December 14th.

The two biggest opt-out clauses this off-season belonged to Justin Upton of the Los Angeles Angels and Masahiro Tanaka of the New York Yankees.  This week, the Angels announced they had signed Upton to a new 5-year deal, apparently worth $106 million.  Then on Friday night, Masahiro Tanaka announced that he would not opt out of his contract and will remain with the Yankees.  His current contract has three more years, through the 2020 season, at $67 million.

Credit:  Jim McIsaac, Getty Images

As a Yankees fan, the latter situation is more relevant to me.  I am very glad that Tanaka decided to remain in New York.  There had been strong speculation that if Tanaka opted out, the Yankees would not aggressively pursue him.  Three more years at $22 million plus per year is not chump change and it would have been hard for Tanaka to capture more dollars.  Maybe more years but the partial tear of his UCL and the associated risk of eventual Tommy John surgery would have most assuredly scared teams away.  Regardless of the risks, the starting rotation for the Yankees is stronger with Tanaka in it than not.  He did have an inconsistent 2017 regular season and there was a brief stretch that he looked absolutely awful but he rebounded with a strong finish.  He was dominant in the post-season.

So, the front of the Yankees rotation in 2018 will feature Luis Severino, Tanaka, Sonny Gray and Jordan Montgomery.  There’s a chance the Yankees bring back CC Sabathia on a one-year deal if the two sides can come together on a mutually beneficial contract.  But regardless of what happens with Sabathia, the Yankees have Chance Adams and Justus Sheffield, among others, gnawing at the door for opportunities.  There had been a fear at one time that the 2018 would be a total rotation rebuild situation but now it appears to be a strength before the off-season strategy even begins.

With the Yankees trying to make a very strong effort to get under the salary cap this year and reset the luxury tax penalties, it is unlikely the Yankees will pursue any high-priced free agent talent.  It’s unfortunate that third baseman Todd Frazier will most likely not return, but with another year remaining on Chase Headley’s contract and the near-readiness of prospects Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar, there simply is no room for the Toddfather.  Bummer.  He was a great fit for the Yankees.

Credit:  Adam Hunger, USA TODAY Sports

There seems to be stronger speculation this off-season that the Yankees could actually move Jacoby Ellsbury.  They’ll have to eat a good portion of what’s left on his contract but regardless of the cost, this is a move that has to happen.  I do not see the Yankees parting with Brett Gardner, and of course Aaron Judge owns right field after his spectacular season.  So the Yankees have to make room in the outfield for Aaron Hicks and Clint Frazier without even considering promising young talent like Billy McKinney or Jake Cave.  The most likely team with interest (assuming the reports are true) are the Seattle Mariners.  The Mariners would allow Ellsbury to return to his native Northwest (he’s from Oregon).  The primary problem for the Mariners would be the heavy financial commitments they have invested in other players, most notably Robinson Cano.  Therefore, the Yankees would probably have to pay a very significant portion of Ellsbury’s contract to move him to Safeco Field.  Hopefully, GM Brian Cashman can figure this one out so that Ellsbury doesn’t become baseball’s highest paid pinch-runner again next year.

Other guys that are vulnerable to potential trades appear to be Chase Headley, Starlin Castro, Austin Romine, and Dellin Betances.  With the disappointing end to his 2017 season, the value for Betances is down which probably enhances the potential for him to stay with the team (why try to sell the four-time All-Star while his value is low) but I don’t think the Yankees would hesitate to include him in a deal if it makes sense for the team.  The Yankees also seem to be at the crossroads for making a decision about who backs up first baseman Greg Bird.  With 40-man roster spots at a premium, it would seem that a choice needs to be made between Tyler Austin and Garrett Cooper.  My preference probably leans toward Austin due to his versatility to play the outfield.

The Yankees lost a valuable prospect last year in the Rule 5 Draft when the San Diego Padres kept catcher Luis Torrens on the MLB roster all season.  I expect this year’s Rule 5 Draft to be equally painful if not more so.  It’s certainly a testament to the strength of the farm system but it is still difficult to see talented young prospects depart.

Credit:  Alex Gallardo, AP

Now that Tanaka has made his decision to stay in the Bronx, the biggest immediate problem facing the Yankees is finding a new manager to replace the dismissed Joe Girardi.  I am surprised the Yankees have not announced a new deal for GM Brian Cashman since his current deal expired at the end of October, but it doesn’t seem like Cash is going anywhere.  Neither the team nor Cashman have tipped their hand to show potential managerial candidates but it does seem like the team is looking at outside alternatives.  The question is how much they’ll prioritize actual managerial experience.  If they want experience, then former Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus seems to be the best possible option.  He was drafted by the Yankees in the 48th Round of the 1987 draft, although he never played for the Major League team.  I can still remember the sense of loss when he was taken by the Colorado Rockies in the November 1992 Expansion Draft.  Nevertheless, he is a Connecticut guy who grew up in close proximity to New York (even if his childhood team was the Boston Red Sox). He was criticized for being out-managed in the 2014 ALDS when the Detroit Tigers lost to the Baltimore Orioles and like Girardi, has a tendency to lean heavily on his veterans. But by all accounts, he is a player-friendly manager (good communicator) and would interact well with the media. For guys who lack managerial (or coaching) experience, Jerry Hairston, Jr seems to stand out.  I also like Mark DeRosa of the MLB Network.  I have no idea who the Yankees will ultimately choose but you have to believe that Cashman had someone in mind when the decision was made to part ways with long-time manager Girardi.

Credit:  Corey Sipkin, NY Daily News

I am ready for the craziness that will ensue over the next six weeks before we settle into the Winter hibernation that precedes the opening of Spring Training camps next February.  The Yankees are a team on the rise and the moves made this off-season will contribute toward the team’s success (or lack thereof) as we move forward.  No pressure, Brian Cashman.  The goal is simple…bring the Yankees’ 28th World Series Championship to New York City now.  Teams like the Houston Astros, Cleveland Indians, Boston Red Sox and the Los Angeles Angeles of Anaheim are not going to sit idly by.  The job is to do it better so that we can celebrate on the streets of New York this time next year.

Go Yankees!

How to Lose the AL East with One Pitching Move…

Credit:  Frank Franklin II-AP

Rays 9, Yankees 6…

Despite four home runs, the Yankees fell to the Tampa Bay Rays in the series finale and their AL East title hopes are clinging on life support.  I thought Manager Joe Girardi mismanaged the fateful 5th inning after Sonny Gray had relinquished the lead, bringing in the woefully inconsistent arm of Jonathan Holder when there were many superior options available.  

The first sign that Sonny Gray might not have it on Thursday night was Corey Dickerson’s first inning home run to the second deck in right which gave the Rays an early 1-0 lead.  

The Yankees wasted no time in coming back when Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge led off the bottom of the 1st inning with back-to-back home runs.  Both players took Rays starter Jacob Faria deep to right into the second deck.  It was Judge’s 51st home run of the year.  The Yankees had taken the lead, 2-1.

Credit:  Noah K Murray-USA TODAY Sports

The Rays had a potential scoring opportunity in the top of the 2nd when Gray walked two batters, Daniel Robertson and Cesar Puello with only one out. There was a brief delay when a Gray pitch hit the dirt and bounced up to hit Gary Sanchez on the collarbone during Robertson’s at-bat.  Sanchez was able to shake it off and stay in the game.  After Peter Bourjos lined out to right for the second out, Mallex Smith singled to left.  The Rays third base coach Charlie Montoyo unwisely sent Daniel Robertson home rather than holding him up at third.  Brett Gardner’s arm was smarter than the coach as Robertson was easily thrown out at home for the final out.

The Yankees picked up another run in the bottom of the inning.  Jacoby Ellsbury singled to right past a diving Lucas Duda with one out.  While Todd Frazier was batting, a passed ball off the glove of Rays catcher Wilson Ramos allowed Ellsbury to take second.  Frazier then singled to left, scoring Ellsbury.  A  pitch got away from Ramos with Brett Gardner batting and Todd Frazier tried to advance to second but was thrown out.  Gardy subsequently walked but Aaron Judge flied out to end the inning. As Michael Kay put it, “A sky high fly”.  Nevertheless, the Yankees were up 3-1.

Chih-Wei Hu took over for Jacob Faria on the mound in the bottom of the 4th (Who is on the mound? I don’t know, Hu?).  He was quickly introduced to the game when Greg Bird led off with a home run to the first row of the right field seats.  Hu retired the next three batters, but the Yankees had increased their lead to 4-1. 

Credit:  Paul J Bereswill-NY Post

The dreadful 5th inning arrived with Sonny Gray still on the mound for the Yankees. The previous inning had gone so well for Gray.  Three outs on six pitches.  It was hard to foresee the disaster that awaited him in the 5th.  Gray was able to get the first batter, Peter Bourjos, out on a grounder to short.  Then the Rays rally began.   Mallex Smith singled to right on a fly that dropped in.  Corey Dickerson hit a line drive to center for a single with Smith moving to third.  A wild pitch from Gray allowed Smith to come home to score.  Gary Sanchez tried to throw to Gray covering home but his throw was too far right for Gray to catch as Smith slid safely into home plate.  Sanchez was charged a throwing error on the play as it allowed Dickerson to advance two bases to third.  

Credit:  Abbie Parr-Getty Images

Evan Longoria struck out for the second out, but Dickerson subsequently scored when a passed ball went through El Gary’s legs.  Lucas Duda walked, and it brought Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild out to the mound.  It always seems like Larry’s talks fail and this was no exception. The next batter, Wilson Ramos, homered to center just over the wall into Monument Park and the Rays had taken a 5-4 lead.  

Credit:  Frank Franklin II-AP

Adeiny Hechavarria followed with a single to center and it was the end for Sonny Gray.  Gray made a couple of throws to first during Daniel Robertson’s at bat to buy time for the bullpen, but I have to admit that I was bewildered by Joe Girardi’s decision to bring in Jonathan Holder even though I’d seen Holder warming up.  Holder is a fine prospect and did a decent job for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders but he hasn’t really pitched in many big spots for the Yankees this year.  He may eventually become a leading arm in the pen but I would have gone with one of the tried and true in an effort to keep the game close.  Holder hit the first batter he faced, Daniel Robertson, with a pitch.  Runners at first and second.  Cesar Puello singled to center on a ball that dropped in front of Jacoby Ellsbury with Hechavarria coming around to score.  Robertson moved to second.  Peter Bourjos tripled to left on fly that hit the warning track and bounced off the wall, clearing the bases, and it was 8-4 Rays.  Girardi finally pulled Holder and brought in Chasen Shreve who struck out Mallex Smith to end the inning.  But the Rays had scored seven runs.

In the bottom of the 5th, with Tommy Hunter taking over for Chih-Wei Hu, Brett Gardner led off with a walk.  After Aaron Judge struck out, Gary Sanchez was hit by a pitch on the back of his left shoulder.  Runners at first and second.

Credit:  Abbie Parr-Getty Images

Didi Gregorius hit a grounder to second and the Rays were able to force Sanchez for the second out, with Gardy moving to third.  Starlin Castro hit an infield single to short, beating the throw to first which brought Gardner home to score.  Greg Bird, representing the potential tying run, struck out to end the inning but the Yankees had gotten a run back, 8-5.  

With Chasen Shreve still on the mound, the Yankees retired the first two Rays in the top of the 6th.  But Trevor Plouffe, pinch-hitting for Lucas Duda, homered to left into the second deck, to restore the Rays’ four run lead.  Shreve walked Wilson Ramos next and was pulled in favor of Ben Heller.  Heller struck out Adeiny Hechavarria to end the inning without any further damage.

The Rays bullpen kept the Yankees offense quiet from there.  Aaron Hicks, pinch-hitting for Todd Frazier, did manage to hit a solo home run to right into the bullpen in the bottom of the 9th against Chaz Roe but it was too little, too late.  The other Yankees went down quietly, with Aaron Judge flying out to right to end the game.

This was a disappointing loss and I am bewildered why Girardi trusted Holder with the game on the line when the pitcher has done nothing this year at the MLB level to warrant consideration at that point.  The Boston Red Sox lost 12-2 to the Houston Astros so the Yankees (89-70) could have picked up a game.  Instead, they remain three games out with three to play.  The best they can do is tie the Red Sox if they sweep the Blue Jays and the Astros sweep the Red Sox.  More than likely, the Red Sox sew up the AL East title either tonight or tomorrow.  

I hate losing winnable games.  If the 5th inning hadn’t gotten away from the Yankees, they would have/could have won this game.  If the Yankees play like this next Tuesday against the Minnesota Twins, it’s going to be a very short post-season experience.  

Next Up:  Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NY…

And so, we’ve reached the final series of the regular season.  It seems like we were just playing exhibition games at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa.  The Blue Jays completed a successful three-game road trip in Boston on Wednesday, winning two of three games.  They are also the only team to win a series against the Yankees this month.  Hopefully, the wins come our way in the latest and final series before the post-season begins.

Here are the scheduled pitching match-ups:

TODAY

Blue Jays:  Joe Biagini (3-12, 5.34 ERA)

Yankees:  Masahiro Tanaka (12-12, 4.94 ERA)

SATURDAY

Blue Jays:  Marcus Stroman (13-8, 3.06 ERA)

Yankees:  Jaime Garcia (1-3, 4.70 ERA)

SUNDAY

Blue Jays:  Brett Anderson (2-2, 6.04 ERA)

Yankees:  Jordan Montgomery (9-7, 3.96 ERA)

This is most likely Jaime Garcia’s final start for the Yankees.  I hope that it’s not the final regular season start for Masahiro Tanaka’s Yankees career.  We all know that this is just the conclusion of the great start of Jordan Montgomery’s career in Pinstripes.  Looking forward to many successful wins going forward, including the 2017 post-season.

Odds & Ends…

The Yankees are planning to activate RHP Adam Warren off the disabled list today.  Hopefully, he’ll be able to get in some work this weekend in preparation for the post-season (which, we hope and pray, is much longer than a one-game stay).  

Have a great weekend!  Let’s get the momentum rolling for October!  Go Yankees!