|Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)|
Now arriving at Steinbrenner Field…everybody!
Today is the full reporting date for the New York Yankees with the arrival of all remaining position players. It’s an exciting day for the Yankees Universe as the Pinstripers begin preparations for what hopefully will lead to the 28th World Championship for MLB’s most storied franchise and our favorite team.
Even though the Yankees were not in the news, it was a very active Saturday night around Major League Baseball last evening.
The evening started with news that the Tampa Bay Rays had acquired first baseman/DH C.J. Cron from the Los Angeles Angels. The Cron move, from the Angels perspective, makes sense. Shohei Otani is expected to take DH time away from Albert Pujols, which will force Pujols to play more first base than he did last year (143 games at DH, 6 games at first). Luis Valbuena has the ability to handle both infield corners, whereas Cron was strictly 1B/DH, making the latter the more expendable of the two. I honestly do not understand the move from the Rays perspective. They have a need at first base given that Lucas Duda and Logan Morrison, last year’s first basemen, are both currently free agents and not expected to re-sign with the Rays. But to make room for Cron, they designated outfielder Corey Dickerson, the Rays’ sole representative on last year’s AL All-Star team, for assignment. Dickerson hit .282 last season with 27 home runs and 62 RBI’s (carrying a respectable .815 OPS). The Rays either have a specific trade in mind or they know they have good trade alternatives to consider for Dickerson who will never see the waiver wire.
The Rays weren’t finished. They followed the Cron trade by sending starter Jake Odorizzi to the Minnesota Twins for shortstop Jermaine Palacios. While I did not want a fly ball pitcher like Odorizzi pitching for the Yankees at Yankee Stadium, I was surprised by the low cost for Minnesota to acquire the pitcher. Zack Littell, one of the prospects that the Yankees sent to the Twins in last year’s head-scratching trade for Jaime Garcia, is rated significantly higher among prospects in the Twins organization than Palacios. Good move by the Twins, but apparently, Tampa Bay Rays GM Erik Neander was drunk-dialing his friends last night. His first words this morning probably were, “OMG, I did what?” Maybe Yankees GM Brian Cashman should have called Neander last night to ask about Chris Archer.
The evening was capped by the long-awaited and much-anticipated free agent signing of first baseman Eric Hosmer by the San Diego Padres. Hosmer joins the now bearded former Yankee Chase Headley in lovely San Diego. Hosmer’s deal has two components. 5 years guaranteed for $105 million, with an opt-in for an additional 3 years and $39 million after 2022. Agent Scott Boras ensured that the contract was front-loaded for his client in what has been a very stagnant free agent market. The Hosmer signing has ramifications for several other players. Hosmer was viewed as a potential fall-back for the Boston Red Sox if they are unsuccessful in their stare-down with free agent outfielder J.D. Martinez. The move also increases the likelihood Mike Moustakas re-signs with the Kansas City Royals. The Royals preferred Hosmer over Moustakas but now that Hosmer is off the table, the Royals will most likely attempt to bring back Moose Tacos, eliminating any thoughts that the third baseman might accept a one year pillow contract with the Yankees.
It’s only been a few days but I am very impressed with how Gleyber Torres has handled himself this spring. He’s so young (21) but he shows maturity beyond his years. He has made a very strong effort to converse in English which is never an easy thing to do. Most of us raised with English as our primary language struggle with it. Torres wants to make the Opening Day roster but he has stated he would understand if he has to go to the minors to start the season. His words, from what I’ve seen, are team-oriented and not selfish like some players. He is my favorite to be the Yankees starting second baseman, either on Opening Day or within a few weeks after the season has started. Even though the Yankees have publicly stated that service time will not be a consideration, I am convinced the Yankees, given a choice, would wait to start Gleyber’s service time clock to delay free agency by a year. He is an exciting player and once he grabs second base, he’ll be a long-term fixture in the Bronx.
|Photo Credit: New York Post (Charles Wenzelberg)|
It may be inevitable that Manny Machado and the Yankees join forces after the season, but I have reservations. Manny will head into the season as Baltimore’s starting shortstop, his preferred position, and is making comments that he expects to player there for a very long time. According to Machado, “This is where my heart has always been, this is what I’ve wanted to do. This is what I’ve always wanted to do. This what I came into this world to do — to play shortstop at the big league level. Finally, Buck and the Baltimore organization are giving me the opportunity to go out there and do what I can at that position and show myself. That’s been my dream all along. I’m really looking forward to it.” Machado added, “Once I do it this year, it’s not something that’s just switching off. I’m making the transition. Hopefully, I want to stay there and continue doing it. This is where my heart has always been. Finally getting an opportunity to do it for a full season. I’m looking forward to it, and hopefully I can continue playing [shortstop] for a long time.” I’ve seen comments say the Yankees would/should move Didi Gregorius to third base to accommodate Machado. I am sorry but that’s not a price I think the Yankees should pay. Didi has earned the right to be the team’s starting shortstop. He’s such a team guy that I am sure he’d make the move if asked, but why should he? I like Machado but there are other options. I really hope that Miguel Andujar grabs third base this year and runs with it, eliminating the need for Machado. The plan for next offseason should not be ‘Machado or Bust’ unless he recognizes that the only path to the Bronx is and should be third base. Andujar has the ability to make this entire issue moot.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jonathan Daniel)|
Here are the number assignments for the Yankees coaching staff (thanks to Bryan Hoch of MLB.com):
17-Aaron Boone, Manager
59-Josh Bard, Bench Coach
60-Mike Harkey, Bullpen Coach
64-Carlos Mendoza, Infield Coordinator/Quality Control Coach
53-Phil Nevin, Third Base Coach
63-P.J. Pilittere, Assistant Hitting Coach
58-Larry Rothschild, Pitching Coach
62-Marcus Thames, Hitting Coach
50-Reggie Willits, First Base Coach/Outfield Instructor
It’s going to be fun to watch the coming days at Steinbrenner Field. Granted, it will be a disappointment if this year’s team falls short of its quest for a World Championship, but the ride is going to be magnificent. Welcome Yankees, one and all! Let’s get to work.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images|
|Photo Credit: New York Daily News (Corey Sipkin)|
Aaron Boone is present and accounted for in Tampa…
As we bear down on the reporting date for pitchers and catchers (with many players already at camp) in a few days, it has continued to be very quiet for the Yankees and their primary division rival, the Boston Red Sox.
It really does not feel like there is any team willing to match or exceed the alleged offer made to free agent outfielder J.D. Martinez by the Red Sox. There has been some talk that the Arizona Diamondbacks could come up with a $100 million contract offer but they’d need to move salary to make it happen (sounds like the Yankees and their interest in free agent starting pitcher Yu Darvish except their ‘Jacoby Ellsbury-like’ albatross is the heavy contract of starting pitcher Zack Greinke who at least remains a vital part of the team’s plans). Martinez would prefer to play right field which probably makes Phoenix more desirable (to him) than Boston but I remain convinced that dollars will win in the end and that Martinez will be on display at Fenway Park as the team’s primary DH. There’s always the chance they could trade Jackie Bradley, Jr and move Andrew Benintendi to center but that would weaken the outfield defense.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jennifer Stewart)|
If the Red Sox fail to sign Martinez, names like Mike Moustakas and Logan Morrison have been mentioned. None are easy fits. Signing Moose Tacos would require an adjustment with plans for young starting third baseman Rafael Devers. Morrison probably makes more sense as he could share 1B and DH with Mitch Moreland. Nevertheless, I really feel the Red Sox will persevere and eventually sign Martinez. The Red Sox know that they need a big bopper to compete with the Yankees this year. I am not quick to say the Yankees are the superior favorites in the AL East. I feel the Red Sox are the champions until proven otherwise. I also expect the Red Sox starting rotation to be stronger this year, with bounce backs by David Price and Rick Porcello. It was great that Chris Sale couldn’t get a victory against the Yankees last year, but the odds of that happening again are similar to the odds of the Yankees successfully trading Ellsbury. Boston is not going away and the Yankees won’t be sneaking up on anybody this year like they did in 2017. Baseball Prospectus released its annual PECOTA projections last week and they have the Yankees winning the division by 9 games over the Red Sox with 96 wins. I think the division will be much closer than that, especially if the Sox are successful in snagging Martinez. I have been a Yankees fan too long to underestimate the Sox.
PECOTA, for what it’s worth, projects Aaron Judge with a batting average of only .247 (really?), with 37 home runs and 94 RBI’s. Giancarlo Stanton is projected at .259, 41 home runs and 106 RBI’s. Gary Sanchez is not far behind with .269 BA, 34 homers and 97 RBI’s.
The one that really stands out to me is first baseman Greg Bird. The projection has him getting over 500 plate appearances, while batting .246 with 28 homers and 86 RBI’s. I am really hopeful that this is the year that Bird finally stays healthy. I love his swing and his bat in the stacked Yankees lineup. But until he proves that he can stay on the field for the duration of the season, I am going to be a bit skeptical.
|Photo Credit: New York Daily News (Andrew Savulich)|
My fear is that the Yankees have to lean on Tyler Austin at first base more heavily than expected. I guess all things considered that’s better than rolling out Chris Carter, but I’d prefer no question marks at first base as the Yankees attempt to break in rookies at second and third bases.
The Tampa Bay Rays might actually play in Tampa…
On Friday, the Tampa Bay Rays announced that they’d like to build a new stadium in Ybor City, a historic Latin community northeast of downtown Tampa. There are many hurdles before it can come to fruition, but I hope the Rays are successful. I don’t know much about Tampa politics but it makes more sense to have the Rays in Tampa than St Petersburg. Watching a baseball game at Tropicana Field always feels like watching a game in an oversized warehouse. I really hope that Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg is successful in getting his stadium initiative approved and funded. This seems like such a win-win situation for the Rays and the greater Tampa metropolitan area.
|Photo Credit: Tampa Bay Times (Marc Topkin)|
Ybor City is about five miles east of Steinbrenner Field and Raymond James Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
I don’t like the smell of that rumor…
Speaking of the Rays, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported this week that the Yankees had checked in on Rays starter Jake Odorizzi. Odorizzi is only 27 (28 in late March) but the right-hander had a down year in 2017. He was 10-8 with 4.14 ERA in 28 starts. He only struck out 127 batters while walking 61, the worst K/BB ratio of his career. A fly-ball pitcher, he gave up 30 home runs, which obviously would not play well in Yankee Stadium. One Rays blog proposed sending Odorizzi and reliever Alex Colome to the Yankees for outfielder Clint Frazier and a low-level lottery ticket. I wouldn’t do it. I would consider sending Frazier to Tampa for a trade circled around Chris Archer, but not Odorizzi.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Mark Cunningham)|
“Odo” would not be a significant upgrade over any of the starters in the current Yankees rotation so I dismiss the thought that the Yankees might be interested. I’ll gladly take a promising young arm like Chance Adams or Justus Sheffield over Odorizzi. The only reason you’d make a trade for Odorizzi would be on his potential as a breakout candidate but I’d prefer the in-house options…and keeping Red Thunder in pinstripes.
But wait, weren’t we part of the exciting young Yankees?…
Yesterday, Tyler Kepner of The New York Times wrote an article about which teams stand a chance in 2018. It was kind of sad looking for the photo that he posted with the caption, “The Yankees reached the American League Championship Series last season, but fell short against the Astros.” Of the recognizable faces, only one player and one coach remain from this pic taken just last October.
|Photo Credit: The New York Times (Chang W Lee)|
Joe Girardi can now be found on the MLB Network sporting a suit and defending his managerial choices during last season’s post-season. Rob Thomson is helping set up training camp in Clearwater, Florida for the Philadelphia Phillies as new manager Gabe Kapler’s bench coach and most likely the lead training camp organizer. No word about the future plans for former hitting coach Alan Cockrell, seen in the photo standing next to current hitting coach Marcus Thames. Yankees centerfielder Aaron Hicks looks at a trio of ex-Yankees. Todd Frazier will soon be headed to Port St Lucie, FL for the New York Mets; Starlin Castro, assuming he is not traded, will go to Jupiter, FL for the Miami Marlins; while Chase Headley returns to the Valley of the Sun in Peoria, AZ to play for his original team, the San Diego Padres. Hicks, as we know, will help ensure that Jacoby Ellsbury is the most expensive bench player in baseball. Thames, I am sure, is salivating at the opportunity to work with Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Didi Gregorius, Greg Bird, and others. Good times…
|Photo Credit: Getty Images|
Yankees 5, Rays 1…
A fielding error by Rays third baseman Trevor Plouffe in the 4th inning opened the door for an offensive outburst that was capped by a three-run homer by Todd Frazier. The single inning explosion carried the Yankees to victory over the “home” Tampa Bay Rays in Queens, NY.
|Credit: Steven Ryan-Getty Images|
For three innings, the Yankees couldn’t muster a hit off Rays starter Jake Odorizzi. Meanwhile, the Rays scratched out a run against the Yanks in the bottom of the 2nd. Lucas Duda, at home at Citi Field and using his old locker, drew a walk to start the inning. Yankees starter CC Sabathia retired the next two batters and had Adeiny Hechavarria down to two strikes. Hechavarria battled and finally on the 9th pitch of the at-bat tripled to the center field wall, splitting the outfielders, to score Duda with the game’s first run.
Aaron Judge opened the 4th inning with a walk, extending his own MLB record for most walks by a rookie to 108. Gary Sanchez finally got the first hit for the Yankees, a line drive to center. The Yankees had runners at the corners. Didi Gregorius hit a sacrifice fly to right which scored Judge standing up. The game was tied. Starlin Castro struck out for the second out. Then the magic happened. Well, maybe not from Trevor Plouffe’s perspective. Matt Holliday hit a grounder to third that Plouffe was unable to field (under his glove). As the ball rolled down the left field line, Sanchez scored to give the Yankees the lead and Holliday moved to second on the play. On a full count, Jacoby Ellsbury reached base on catcher’s interference when his bat hit the catcher’s mitt. It was the 30th career catcher’s interference for Ellsbury which surpassed Pete Rose for the most all-time. Todd Frazier came to the plate and homered to left off the facing in the second deck to make it 5-1. The Yankees got two more runners on base when Tyler Austin doubled to the left field wall and Brett Gardner walked. It spelled the end for Jake Odorizzi who went from a no-hitter to a four-run deficit despite only allowing one earned run. Rays reliever Chaz Roe came in and struck out Aaron Judge, who had led off the inning, to end the Yankees’ rally.
CC Sabathia was allowing baserunners, giving up two singles in both the third and fourth innings, but had been escaping unscathed. He got into trouble again in the bottom of the 5th. He walked Peter Bourjos to start the inning. After striking out Kevin Kiermaier on three pitches, Trevor Plouffe singled to center over Sabathia’s back with Bourjos moving to second. Manager Joe Girardi opted to take no further chances and pulled Sabathia (to avoid a confrontation with Evan Longoria). The move appeared justified when David Robertson came in and struck out both Longoria and Lucas Duda to end the threat. Sabathia probably wasn’t too happy with the early hook, but he had thrown 88 pitches and allowed six hits. It was only a matter of time before the Rays broke through but the D-Rob insurance card paid off.
|Credit: Andrew Savulich-The New York Daily News|
The Rays did have a scoring opportunity in the bottom of the 6th with D-Rob still pitching. Adeiny Hechavarria hit a two-out ground-rule double which hit the warning track in left and bounced off the back wall. He took third on a passed ball by Gary Sanchez, but was left stranded when Danny Espinosa grounded out to short.
The Yankees got their final hit of the night in the 7th inning when Brett Gardner led off with a single to left. A failed stolen base attempt, a perfect throw from catcher Wilson Ramos to second baseman Danny Espinosa, sent Gardy to the bench.
D-Rob pitched the bottom of the 7th, making this outing the longest in his career (pitching a total of 2 2/3 innings of scoreless relief with 4 K’s).
|Credit: Richard Rodriguez-Getty Images|
The bottom of the 8th brought out Dellin Betances and it was time to start drinking heavily. Evan Longoria started off with a single that dropped in right field. Betances struck out Lucas Duda for the first out, but then walked Cesar Puello. Aargh! Logan Morrison was up next, pinch-hitting for Wilson Ramos, and I was seeing images of a three-run home run to make it a one-run game. Fortunately, those visions proved false as Betances struck out Morrison. He got Adeiny Hechavarria to fly out, with Aaron Judge running to the wall, for the final out. Whew! That was a hard inning to sit through…
Aroldis Chapman took over in the 9th. After a brief pause on my part hoping that Chapman has truly righted the ship, he proceeded to retire the side on ten pitches. It wasn’t a save opportunity but the result was the same. The Yankees win!
The Yankees (78-65) picked up a 1/2 game on the idle Boston Red Sox so they now trail by 3 games. The Baltimore Orioles fell to the Toronto Blue Jays, 4-3, so the gap between the Yanks and the third-place O’s is now 7 1/2 games. The win also increased the Yankees lead in the Wild Card Standings to 4 games.
David Robertson (8-2) picked up the vulture win with Sabathia’s inability to make it through five full innings. The Yankees were outhit by the Rays, 8 to 4, but they obviously made the most of their hits with Todd Frazier’s home run leading the way.
|Credit: Tony Gutierrez-Associated Press|
Odds & Ends…
The Yankees activated OF Clint Frazier off of the disabled list on Monday. Red Thunder was somewhat underwhelming in his rehab stint with the Trenton Thunder. In 17 at-bats, he had only 2 hits and 10 strikeouts. Here’s hoping that his return to the Pinstripes is little more successful. He should slot back into the fourth outfielder role that has been lacking since Aaron Hicks went on the DL.
When Aaron Judge hit his 40th home run, he joined some lofty company. Prior to Judge’s home run, the only Yankees to hit 40 home runs at 25 years or younger were Babe Ruth (54, 1920), Lou Gehrig (47, 1927), Joe DiMaggio (46, 1937), and Mickey Mantle (52, 1956). That’s a nice group of names to rub shoulders with…
Have a great Tuesday! Seems like a great day for another win! Go Yankees!