|Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Reinhold Matay)|
The Battle of New York…
I am always the first to say that Spring games mean absolutely nothing but I have to admit it was fun beat the New York Mets on Saturday by 7 runs for the second time this year. The Yankees won 10-3 at Steinbrenner Field after beating the Mets 11-4 last Wednesday in Port St Lucie, FL.
Rumor has it the new guy, Giancarlo Stanton, can hit bombs. We were finally treated to the first Pinstriped home run by the big guy and man, did it feel good to see that one go out. It made me realize how much I like watching Aaron Judge and Stanton hit back-to-back, considering I have been an advocate for breaking them up with Greg Bird. It was exciting to see Judge reach base and then both guys celebrating at home plate after Stanton completed his home run trot, which included the faux football hand-off by third base coach Phil Nevin as Stanton rounded the base. John Sterling’s call of the home run was “a Stantonian blast”. Unclear if that’s just a temporary Spring call or if it will be the tagline for the season.
|Photo Credit: New York Post (Charles Wenzelberg)|
Another great moment in Saturday’s game was the first Spring appearance of David Robertson, who had recently been felled by food poisoning. Luis Cessa started the game and reaffirmed my concerns about his stature as the rotation’s sixth man when he got into trouble in the second inning. Two walks and a single loaded the bases with only one out. Enter D-Rob. Six pitches…two strikeouts…inning over. I really hope the Yankees do not allow Robertson to leave at the end of the season when he becomes a free agent. The guy was made to be a Yankee and it was hard enough to watch his years away in Chicago. Now that we have him back, I don’t want to lose him again.
There was a scare in the top of the 6th inning when Tyler Wade rolled his wrist while attempting to dive for an infield grounder by Jose Reyes. Wade left the game and although he iced the hand, no further tests were planned. It sounds as though Wade will be back out on the field by Monday. The current leader for Opening Day second baseman, it would have been tough to lose Wade for any extended period of time. I am glad he is okay. It was certainly a scary moment.
The game also featured a bit of miscommunication. Dellin Betances pitched the fourth inning and then went to the clubhouse. No one told Adam Warren that he was scheduled to pitch the fifth, so it became a scramble after the Yankees completed batting in the bottom of the fourth. There was some apparent confusion in the dugout, and Warren quickly got up in the bullpen. After a brief delay, Betances came back out to face one batter, giving up a single, before departing for good. Aaron Boone held his usual 5th inning in-game conversation with the YES Network broadcasters but clearly did not want to talk about the incident. “We had some issues there. We’ll just leave it at that.” Some on social media were crucifying Boone for the miscommunication but I’d rather see Boone make mistakes in Spring training and learn from them before the season starts.
|Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Reinhold Matay)|
A fair amount of drama for a “meaningless” Saturday afternoon game.
The Yankees had a couple more cuts yesterday when flame-throwing RHP Domingo Acevedo was optioned to Double-A Trenton and RHP Brian Keller was reassigned to minor league camp.
The Minnesota Twins may have lost the Wild Card game to the Yankees last season, but they will be a stronger team when they take the field this year. Although top starting pitcher Ervin Santana will miss the start of the season after surgery on his finger last month, the Twins previously added Jake Odorizzi in a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays and yesterday they signed free-agent Lance Lynn (an innings-eater and a very good pickup) to a one-year, $12 million contract. The Lynn signing triggered today’s release of Anibal Sanchez (Lynn was clearly an upgrade, in a total statement of the obvious). I would have loved to have seen the Yankees sign Lynn. The Twins have also added former Rays first baseman Logan Morrison, who slugged 38 home runs in 2017, to be their primary DH. I haven’t really been keeping up with the Twins, but they are quietly getting stronger. They also added Fernando Rodney and Addison Reed to their bullpen. I’ve never been a big fan of Rodney but Reed was a great signing.
With Lynn signing for much less than anticipated, I can’t help but wonder what it would take to sign free agent righty Alex Cobb in this environment of falling prices. You can never have enough starting pitching. I know that he’d never do it, but it would be cool if Jake Arrieta came to the Yankees with an offer to play for a pillow contract so that he can test the free agent market again next year. He does know and trust the Yankees closer. I know, I am just dreaming but whatever it takes to bring the 28th World Championship to the Bronx.
Lefty Joe Mantiply, 27, who spent last season with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders and was in camp with the Cincinnati Reds this year as a non-roster invitee underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery on Friday. We wish Joe the very best as he begins his journey on the road to recovery and hopefully fulfilling his dream of one day making it back to the Major Leagues (he pitched briefly for the Detroit Tigers in 2016).
|Photo Credit: Cheryl Pursell|
I am bummed that today’s game against the Miami Marlins in Jupiter, FL will not be televised. For the Yankees making the trip, be sure to say hello to our old friend, Starlin Castro.
All Quiet on the Eastern Front…
It has been a very quiet end of the year for the Yankees. There were rumors of the Yankees talking with the Chicago White Sox about Jose Quintana and David Robertson but they quickly lost legs. While the Yankees need starting pitching, I agree that it is best not to raid the newly stocked farm system. It is a risk to bet on prospects over an established major leaguer, but while Jose Quintana is a good pitcher, he’s not Chris Sale. Given Chicago’s desire for top prospects in return, it just does not make sense. Quintana will not be a 2017 difference maker.
Credit: Kevin Jairaj, USA Today Sports
I still believe the Yankees are better served by identifying an undervalued young starter with potential. Sure, that’s every team’s wish but the Yankees have the scouts and resources to uncover the hidden gems. It is harder to pitch in New York than it is in, say, Pittsburgh, but for some guys, the main stage brings out their full potential.
The New York Mets’ Noah Syndergaard was once just a prospect included in a trade (when the Mets dealt knuckleballer R.A. Dickey to the Toronto Blue Jays). I think that trade has worked out very well in favor of the Mets. It also brought them starting catcher Travis D’Arnaud. The 2012 trade was a risk for the Mets given Dickey was the reigning NL Cy Young winner, but he has never been as good as he was in 2011 and the other guys sent to Toronto are after thoughts (Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas).
The Yankees are not going to win the World Series in 2017. The current blueprint puts the Yankees on the path to World Series contention in two to three years. They have the time to develop frontline starters so why not take a chance on some other team’s “Jake Arrieta”. The Chicago Cubs saw something in the former Baltimore Orioles hurler and it has paid off quite handsomely for them.
I have high hopes for the Yankees young pitching prospects. James Kaprielian heads the list, but I haven’t forgotten or given up hope for Ian Clarkin. Jordan Montgomery and Dietrich Enns are other homegrown prospects that come to mind. The first young starters that will be given the chance to crack the rotation next season are the obvious ones…Luis Cessa and Chad Green. There’s also the hope that Luis Severino restores the promise that he showed in 2015 and is not just another failed starter that succeeds in the pen. Trade acquisitions Justus Sheffield, Dillon Tate, and Albert Abreu also hold promise.
If Severino is successful and just one of the young prospects stands out in the Spring, the rotation that already includes Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia does not look so bad. It might not be ‘Chris Sale-David Price-Rick Porcello-Eduardo Rodriguez’ worthy, but the foundation is being laid for future success. It will be imperative for the Yankees to re-sign Tanaka should he opt out of his contract following the season, but Sabathia’s departure as he plays out the final year of his contract will continue to create opportunity for the young prospects. Michael Pineda is a case by himself. He is either a really great starter or a disaster. If he can ever hold the focus on the former, the pitching staff will be significantly improved.
Next season, young players like Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge, Tyler Austin, and Greg Bird will play prominent roles for the Yankees. If any are not successful, there is another wave of young players waiting for their opportunities at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre or Trenton. It is inevitable that we’ll see outfielder Clint Frazier at some point in the season, even if it is just a September call-up. I don’t want to lose this talent in the farm system for the chance on a pitcher which always seems to be the biggest risk in baseball. Gleyber Torres has already shown that he has that “it” factor even if he is still a few years away from the Bronx. Stay the course. GM Brian Cashman’s blue print so far has been successful. He has turned what was one of the worst farm systems a few years ago to one of the best. They have the talent and depth in the system to make quiet but effective trades without sacrificing the organization’s best.
2017 may not be a banner year for the team but clearly the light is visible at the end of the tunnel. Now is not the time for the Ghost of Steinbrenner Past to raise its ugly head. Young Hal seems to have a plan and one that will soon yield fruit. Patience. Stick to the plan…
Winter is coming…
The dawn of the Winter Meetings. It’s is always one of my favorite times of the year. Last year was very quiet for the Yankees but still, so much happens in the first few days of the meetings with free agent signings and trades.
I am very relieved that the owners and the players association agreed on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. I didn’t really expect a lockout but of course it was always a possibility until the two sides came to an agreement. I understand why the CBA issue held up the Yankees due to the luxury tax implications and uncertainty associated therewith. Now that both sides have a better understanding of the new deal, it should allow the Yankees to begin shaping the 2017 team.
I fully recognize that there will not be wholesale changes. This isn’t 2009 when the Yankees dumped a half billion dollars on top free agents. Sure, I’d love to have Edwin Encarnacion or Jose Bautista on the team but realistically it is not going to happen. Between the two, I’d take Encarnacion but I still don’t think it will happen. The Yankees have a clear need for a solid, clutch-hitting DH but I think they’ll go with either Carlos Beltran or Matt Holliday. Staying in house is an option but that mean DH will be used as a rotation to rest the regulars.
I would love for the Yankees to find a way to move LF Brett Gardner and 3B Chase Headley but in both cases, age + contract make the players hard to move. Gardner would probably be the easier of the two to move. While the Yankees have in-house options to replace Gardner, they’d probably have to go outside to get a replacement for Headley. Miguel Andujar showed in the Arizona Fall League that he is the future at third, but his arrival is still a few years away. I’ve also seen the projections of Gleyber Torres taking over second base, pushing current second baseman Starlin Castro to third. But Torres won’t see the Bronx until late in the 2017 season or sometime in 2018. Despite the absence of immediate help at third, I am still ready to end the Chase Headley story even if he did recover from a horrendous April to have a very good season last year.
Credit: Getty Images
My wish list for this off-season still begins with closer Aroldis Chapman. I am still very hopeful that he’ll find his way back to the Bronx. Kenley Jansen would certainly be acceptable if Plan A does not materialize. I am probably warming up to the idea of a Bronx return for Mark Melancon but I think he’ll either stay in Washington or go to San Francisco. Greg Holland is also an option. I think the Yankees have to move Dellin Betances back to a key setup role where he is better suited. Mariano Rivera, he is not.
As for starting pitchers, I am not opposed to the potential signing of starter Rich Hill. He is older than I would like for a team in transition to youth, but he obviously has a quality arm and would provide rotation stability. He reminds me somewhat of Hiroki Kuroda. A consistent pitcher who can occasionally throw a gem. Not a frontline starter, but a very dependable one. As for trades, I have no idea. I’d love Tampa’s Chris Archer but I don’t think the Rays would trade inter-division and his cost would probably be too high. I liked the Arizona Diamondbacks’ acquisition of Taijuan Walker. A young pitcher who was not fulfilled his potential but the upside is still there. Those are the types of pitchers I’d try to target. I know, it does fall into the high risk, maybe high reward, possible low reward category but look where Jake Arrieta has taken the Chicago Cubs.
It was tough to see pitcher Nathan Eovaldi cut within the last couple of weeks and today’s non-tender of lefty Jacob Lindgren, both players who will miss the 2017 season due to Tommy John surgery. It wasn’t that long ago when Lindgren was tabbed as a can’t miss, fast-track prospect with the potential to make the major league roster the year he was drafted. Injuries have held Lindgren back, but he’s still young enough to recover for a fine professional career. I am hopeful the Yankees find a way to bring both pitchers back into the organization now that they’ve been removed from the 40-man roster.
Next week should be fun. Unlike last year, I am hopeful and optimistic that the Yankees will be active in an attempt to improve the roster and build strength around the emerging young core. We shall see…