Tagged: James Paxton

The Absence of Yankees Baseball…

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Baseball Stadiums remain shuttered…

I type this as all of us, or most of us, are locked in the four walls of our homes. The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly had a very great impact on everyone and I am hopeful that we’ll get to the point where the worst is behind us. Sadly, it does not appear we’re there yet. I look forward to days of easily buying toilet paper again.

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I don’t know about you but this is about as disconnected from Yankees baseball as I’ve ever felt. This includes times of player lockouts and strikes when we knew a return could happen quickly unlike the current situation.

Although MLB Network is gladly showing replays of Mark “The Bird” Fidrych beating the Yankees with his famed mound antics in 1976 or listening to David Cone and Lou Piniella talk about the Mariners 1995 playoff win against everybody’s favorite team, it’s just not the same. I think watching one of those old classic games reminded me that I had forgotten Rawley Eastwick once pitched for the Yankees (he was the winning pitcher in the Phillies’ thrilling 23-22 victory over the Cubs in 1979 but had briefly played in the Bronx a couple seasons earlier). This is all too much information for me to know. I’d rather be talking about Aaron Judge or Gerrit Cole or Gleyber Torres.

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Speaking of Judge, I was surprised to hear that he has also dealt with a collapsed lung (what?) that has since healed. As if the stress fracture in his right first rib was not enough. As for the stress fracture, it sounds like there has been some improvement but not enough to give him medical clearance so it continues to be wait and see. Hopefully this forced exile from baseball will allow him to return to health when the players can actually resume organized activities on the field. I am a little worried that injuries and Judge will go hand in hand for the years ahead and really hope that’s not the case.

It is weird to think that Aaron Hicks, Giancarlo Stanton, and James Paxton could all be available for “Opening Day” depending upon when that is. I saw Trevor Bauer’s comment that it would take him three to four weeks to get ready for regular season baseball which sounds about right to me. Those who say two weeks after a long layoff are kidding themselves and it would expose the players to unnecessary risk for injury by trying to get ready too quickly.

I think we are realistically looking at the All-Star Break or just before for the players to start the regular season as it seems we are still a long way from the resumption of baseball activities. I don’t see how MLB could possibly play 162 games at this point, and it seems more probable to go with a schedule of only about 108 games, give or take, based on the actual return date. I wouldn’t want to see baseball being played in December. It’s unfortunate in what should have been a probable World Series year for the Yankees that they’ll encounter a shorter season that could benefit other teams’ chances.

I may not be a Red Sox fan but I was sad to hear that Chris Sale needs Tommy John surgery. It is not something I’d wish upon anyone, but for Sale’s sake, he is able to make a full and healthy recovery to restore his status as one of the game’s best. I know the last few years have been frustrating for Red Sox fans as Sale has dealt with injuries, but hopefully this is the cure to his ailments and he’ll return as strong as ever. That’s certainly my hope for Luis Severino (if not more so because he is a Yankee). For Sale, it’s probable he won’t be back and ready until the 2022 season. I suppose late 2021 is possible but in my opinion unlikely given it is late March already.

In the midst of this coronavirus pandemic, I am dealing with a move that will take me from Colorado to California. I was too deep into the move to turn back when the pandemic set in. Not looking forward to moving in the current climate but there’s not really much I can do about it. My new home is near Angel Stadium in Anaheim.I had tickets to see all three games between the Yankees and Angels over Memorial Day Weekend which I fully expect to be cancelled or postponed.  Sitting in Denver, we got socked with a major winter storm on Thursday (Winter’s way of letting me know I am not out of the woods yet). Hopefully the warmer expected weather over the next week removes signs of the latest snowfall. If all goes well, it will be the last of snow for me for a very long time. If I want to see snow, I’ll go to it. It doesn’t need to come visit me.

I would have preferred to live closer to Dodger Stadium but I had no desire to deal with a two-hour one-way commute to/from work. I’ll just consider myself ‘Los Angeles Scott of Anaheim’. It seems to work for the Angels. No doubt I’ll be taking the train (and a bus trip via the Dodger Express) to see games in Chavez Ravine. But, also, I have plans to attend a few non-Yankee games at Angel Stadium over the course of the summer when/if baseball returns. It will be fun to finally watch Mike Trout play in person. No doubt I’ll be pulling for the Angels when they play a team like the Texas Rangers or any of the Yankees’ AL East Rivals or that trash team in South Texas.

Over OC

I didn’t have much to write about today but wanted to get a few words out to everyone to express my hope you are staying healthy in this very trying time or if you are not doing well, I wish you a speedy and full recovery. The Yankees Family is exactly that, a true family. We care about each and every one of you, and without you, there is no us. Be well.

As always, Go Yankees!

Now Batting, I Have No Friggin’ Clue…

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Yankees struggle to stay healthy…

With no offense to Aaron Judge, I think I am starting to prefer having outfielders who are 6’4” or less. The big guys just seem to have too much trouble staying on the field. It was a little disheartening yesterday to learn Judge has a stress fracture in his right first rib. He apparently suffered the injury last September while making a diving catch. After weeks of not knowing what was wrong, I am glad they were finally able to diagnose the issue with Judge. But on the other hand, it’s a bit frustrating that the team has suffered multiple injuries that occurred last year, only to find out about them this Spring and not earlier.

Whether we are talking about Luis Severino, James Paxton, or Aaron Judge, it seems like earlier diagnosis or action would have been better but I am not a doctor and I only know what I can see from afar.  I hope medical treatment and rest will help Judge overcome the latest setback. Surgery has been mentioned as a possibility but I really hope it doesn’t come to that. If so, it will be more significant lost playing time for one of the team’s best players. If Judge can’t stay healthy, he’ll hit the proverbial fork in the road in a few seasons when the team no longer has control and the Yankees could choose to walk away. It’s not like we’ve never seen popular guys leave before.  Judge is one of my favorite Yankees and I really hope that he overcomes the rash of injuries to be the productive player we know he can be.

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Photo Credit: CBS Sports

This probably almost guarantees Miguel Andujar will be primarily an outfielder and DH this season. Granted, Mike Tauchman is going to be a busy man but he’ll be needed to spell Brett Gardner in center. I am sure the Sock Man will play corner outfield positions too (obviously) but I think I am excited about Miggy’s potential. The caveat is that Gio Urshela must prove that last year was not a fluke, otherwise, MIggy will be back at third which, admittedly, I’d prefer not to see. I’d rather have Andujar as the full-time DH if he can’t master the outfield. The Yankees do need his bat in the lineup and I am glad he’s there at time when Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton are not.

This probably also ensures Clint Frazier will head to Baltimore with the team in less than three weeks rather than making the trip to Moosic, PA. I’ve long stated Frazier needs to play at the Major League level. I am firm in my opinion the Yankees either need to play him or trade him. He gets a chance to either prove the Yankees need him or he can showcase himself for other teams. Frazier is probably my early candidate for ex-Yankee by the time the July trading deadline rolls around. But honestly, I’d prefer watching him excel with the Yankees. The problem is the crowded outfield once Stanton and Judge return.  Granted, the Yankees will probably put Stanton in bubble wrap and house him at DH but still. There’s no scenario that I see which benefits sending Frazier to Triple A again. It’s not good for him and it’s not good for the Yankees (a waste of Frazier’s talent and potential).

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

It is good to hear James Paxton is getting close to resuming baseball activities after his successful recovery from back surgery. It does give hope he’ll return in May rather than June which is best case scenario. As for the role of fifth starter while Big Maple is out, I had been pulling for Mike King with the belief Jonathan Loaisiga should be in the pen. However, Loaisiga has been one of the Yankees’ best pitchers this Spring and he’s starting to change my mind. I continue to harbor fear the injury risk is greater as a starter for him, but there’s no doubt Loaisiga can play a huge role for the Yankees this year. I am pulling for him.

I received my copy of the latest Yankees Magazine in the mail yesterday. I think it was a twisted joke that one of the headlines at the top reads “SEVY’S READY FOR 2020”. Oh my, wondering what could have been with Sevy and Gerrit Cole at the top of the rotation this year. I guess we have something to look forward to in late 2021 or for the 2022 season when Sevy returns at full strength.

I was a little disappointed to see the Boston Red Sox sign former Houston pitcher Colin McHugh. I thought McHugh might be a good option for the Yankees with his ability to pitch effectively in both starting and relief roles. The Yankees seem committed to their in-house options, although there has been some smoke lately about other pitchers they might be looking at on the trade market. Miguel Andujar for Steven Matz? No, thank you. The downside is the lack of motivation for teams to make March or April trades when everybody thinks they have a chance. Well, except for the Baltimore Orioles.

I remain optimistic Gary Sanchez will have a good season and it is disappointing to hear the boos for him, especially after last night’s loss to the Orioles. Gary isn’t exactly helping his own cause with one hit in 17 Spring at-bats, but I am not going to fret about Spring Training. If I did, I’d be on the ledge for all those home runs Gerrit Cole gave up the other day. This is probably where I miss Austin Romine. I’ll never be one of those who thought Ro should start over El Gary, but it was nice having him as a safety net. I like Kyle Higashioka but he hasn’t proven himself yet so I just don’t have the same confidence in Gary’s backup as years past. Chris Iannetta has carved out a nice little Major League career over the years but there’s not really anybody behind Higgy that provides more comfort. I really hope Gary hits the ground running in three weeks and doesn’t look back. Higgy playing the role of a backup quarterback with baseball cap turned around, holding a clipboard, is ideal. I know, you can’t wear your caps backwards in baseball and you can’t hold a clipboard but you know what I mean.

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Photo Credit: J Conrad Williams, Jr, Newsday

Although I do not follow the Kansas City Royals, I read this morning that former Yankees farmhand Ryan McBroom is expected to play in a first base platoon for the Royals to open the season. Good for him. I will always think of McBroom as the guy we got for Robert Refsnyder. Sitting here without looking it up, I have absolutely no clue who the Yankees got for McBroom but he’ll be forever connected to Refsnyder, at least in my mind. For the record, the Yankees didn’t get anybody for McBroom. He was purchased from the Yankees (“international bonus pool money and a player to be named later or cash considerations”). Money talks.

After living in Denver for the past four years and having to watch National League baseball at Coors Field, I am glad to be returning to Los Angeles and the American League. I’ll be in Orange County near Angel Stadium so, unlike the Angels, I guess I can’t say I am from Los Angeles but close enough. All things considered, I prefer to be closer to Dodger Stadium (lived two miles away the last time I lived in LA) but it’s just a train ride and bus trip away. I am looking forward to getting a firsthand look at Mike Trout and already have tickets for multiple games. I’ve seen a lot of games at Angel Stadium over the years so that part is not a new experience, but I am anxious to see what Joe Maddon can do with the Halos even if the Angels are still short in the starting pitching arena. Anthony Rendon helps give the team some optimism and Jo Adell looks like the real deal in the not-so-distant future. Nevertheless, I am not suddenly going to become an Angels fan. I never embraced the Colorado Rockies, but it doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy good baseball.

As always, Go Yankees!

The New York Yankees & Elusive Good Health…

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Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, Associated Press


Starting Rotation missing its spots…

Silly me. I had hoped the “Next Man Up” tag line was the theme of the 2019 Yankees, not this year.

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Credit: Randy Glasbergen

The Yankees are not off to a great start in 2020 with the injuries that have surfaced. James Paxton is not expected back until May at the earliest, possibly June, after recent back surgery, Aaron Judge is being held back over caution with his shoulder, and Luis Severino is headed to New York for further tests regarding the forearm tightness he experienced this week.

I am not ready to throw in the towel and concede the AL East to the Tampa Bay Rays, but no doubt the Rays see blood in the water.  The Yankees didn’t have Severino for most of last season and they still won 103 games so it’s not like they’ll fold without him. I am very thankful the Yankees were successful in signing Gerrit Cole last December and the team’s offense, even without Judge at 100%, remains one of the best in the game.

I went from wanting J.A. Happ traded after his disappointing performance last season (primarily to eliminate his $17 million contract and his potential for reaching the milestones to trigger another $17 million for 2021) to the realization that he is a major cog in the starting rotation, at least for now. With the absences of Paxton and Sevy, Tanaka becomes the second to Cole, and Happ is your third starter. It does not exactly instill confidence (at least not for me).Yet, I am hopeful we’ll see Happ’s return to be a stable and consistent force in the rotation like he was in the latter half of the 2018 season. Although nobody has handed him anything, Jordan Montgomery is expected to be the fourth starter. From there, it is anybody’s guess.

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If GM Brian Cashman knew about Paxton’s troublesome back and some potential concern with Sevy’s forearm (if it has been bothering him since the playoffs last year this past off-season, I am surprised the best pitching options brought in from the outside were former Angels starter Nick Tropeano and former Rockies starter/reliever Chad Bettis. In retrospect, it seems like Cashman had the time to bring in a potentially stronger hedge for the starting rotation.

Most likely, the fifth starter role will be filled either by an opener or we’ll see one of the young guys (like Deivi Garcia or Michael King) step forward. There’s been a lot of hype for Clarke Schmidt but asking him to jump from Double A seems to be a big leap. Then, there’s the usual suspects, Jonathan Loaisiga and Luis Cessa. I am not trying to be critical of them but I see both as better arms for the pen. As much as we may like Loaisiga’s arm, he always seems to be an injury waiting to happen. I think the Yankees are better using Chad Green as a late inning bullpen specialist, especially after the departure of Dellin Betances and despite Green’s success as an opener last year.

It’s always possible the Yankees swing a trade for a starter but teams are less motivated to trade in March than they will be in July when they know whether or not October is in their future.

I’d love to see one of the young guys grab the starting spot and run with it.  Maybe that’s what the Yankees see. If it were my team, I’d probably be less willing to gamble with the fifth spot when there are questions with the third and fourth starters. But Cashman and his team know much more than I ever will and I trust them to make the right decisions. The Yankees have heavily invested in the 2020 season and they’re not going to throw it away now. Championship windows are not open for long and the Yankees know it. Trust the process.

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Photo Credit: Andrew Mills, NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

I am glad we’ll have Yankees Baseball back on TV today when the Yankees face the Toronto Blue Jays at Steinbrenner Field. Or if you are fortunate enough to be in Tampa, all the better. J.A. Happ takes the pitching mound for the Yankees in their Spring debut. The game will also see Michael King, Luis Cessa and Nick Tropeano with turns behind Happ. We won’t have the joy of Troy Tulowitzki’s homer off his former team last Spring (the career highlight of his brief time in Pinstripes), but maybe Gio Urshela, the scheduled third base starter, can deposit a pitch over the outfield wall while facing some of his ex-teammates. Gerrit Cole, in a non-televised game, will make his debut on Monday against his original team, the Pittsburgh Pirates. Bummer, I would have really enjoyed to see Cole facing live opposing hitters. The first few Spring games are always fun until the monotony sets in during the upcoming weeks. While I am anxious and excited for the March 26th opener in Baltimore, I am hopeful we’ll have greater confidence in the starting rotation behind Cole and Tanaka when the season starts. So I want the regular season to start soon, but not too soon. May the best possible 26 men head north to the great state of Maryland next month.

I think the inner George Steinbrenner in me wants the Yankees to grab whatever star players they can (Nolan Arenado, Josh Hader, etc.) so they can crush the World, but I know the Yankees have the healthy guys in camp right now that can bring home the “piece of metal” by season’s end. I was probably a little envious of the Los Angeles Dodgers fan base and how energized they became with the trade that brought Mookie Betts to their team. They seem to be beating their chests about this being “the year”. There’s still a lot of baseball to played between now and October, but I’ll happily take my chances with this collection of Yankees and how they stack up against the Dodgers assuming the teams are fortunate enough to advance to this year’s World Series.

MLB Network’s 30 Clubs in 30 Days will feature the Yankees on Tuesday, March 3rd. I always enjoy the exclusivity of interviews with the Yankees players and coaches but those shows always seem like the fastest hour in Sports or at least the player interview segments seem too short. The YES Network is good about the Hot Stove shows early in the off-season but there’s always a sense of loss when the shows come to an end. It’s too bad they can’t have weekly shows from Tampa to give us insight into the players. I guess there’s Yankees Magazine but it doesn’t have the same real time effect like the Hot Stove shows.

They are saying Greg Bird has a legitimate shot to earn the starting first base job with the Texas Rangers as they break in their new stadium this season. I have to say it will suck if Bird has a happy and healthy season for the Rangers. I know, I shouldn’t say that. I do not regret the Yankees’ decision to cut Bird loose, but after so much false hope each season with Bird, it would be disappointing to see him give Texas what he never gave the Yankees (good health). I guess I turn the page on ex-Yankees faster than I should. I loved Didi Gregorius as a Yankee but now I find the fans who are still posting comments about how much they miss him to be annoying. I couldn’t care less about the Philadelphia Phillies and their manager. I feel the same about Bird and former Yank Todd Frazier (I see him as more of an ex-Met these days) in Texas. I am not going to root for them just because they once played for the Yankees. Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly is the lone exception to my personal rule.

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Photo Credit: Jeff Roberson, Associated Press

I’ve tried to avoid talking about the cheating scandal for this post but I want to say I feel David Ortiz is wrong for calling Mike Fiers a “snitch”.

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Photo Credit: The New York Post

I respect Big Papi but Fiers, a guy none of us are enamored with as Yankee fans, did the right thing to bring attention to the Houston cheaters. While I understand Papi’s criticism that Fiers should have said something while a member of the Astros, I also get team camaraderie holding players back from being divisive forces in the clubhouse and the fact Fiers tried to follow proper channels through the Oakland A’s and the MLB office before stepping forward on the public stage. I support Fiers for his critical role in bringing to light the shame and scandal of the Houston Asterisks. I still do not like Fiers the pitcher, but I will always respect him for stepping forward and revealing the unethical play of the Astros.

Let’s enjoy some baseball today.

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As always, Go Yankees!

Dear Astros, Please STFU…

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Someone, please, take out the trash…

I am tired of the Astros cheating scandal and I am ready to move on.

Borrowing from an old lawyer joke, how do you know when an Astros player is lying? His lips are moving.

After giving some praise to Carlos Correa in my last post, he subsequently opened his mouth in front of a camera in an interview with Ken Rosenthal and let the trash continue to spew. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has proven to be a very weak leader in the face of this adversity, and the entire ordeal, in my opinion, is a farce.

The players will never admit to anything that is not in the Commissioner’s report and the Commissioner does not have the power his predecessors may have had. He’s basically an employee of the owners and there was no way Jim Crane, despite his role into turning the Astros into a trashy organization, was ever going to be implicated. He was given the perfect way out by making GM Jeffrey Luhnow and Manager A.J. Hinch the scapegoats when he fired them.

I don’t want to belabor the issue. What’s done is done. The Commissioner has taken action, regardless of how we may feel was too light, and need to move on. The Astros players have had their time to talk but I wish they’d just shut their pie holes because no good is coming from their words. MLB needs to closely monitor teams to ensure this never happens again with the Astros, the Boston Red Sox or any other team in Major League Baseball. I am frustrated the Astros weren’t forced to vacate their fraudulently earned 2017 World Series championship but the time for proper penalty, unfortunately, has passed.

There is word we’ll hear about the Red Sox investigation by the end of the week. Although the Sox were led to the 2018 World Series championship by Cheat Leader Alex Cora, I have yet to see anything that leads me to believe any possible violations by their organization were on par with the schemes in Houston. As such, I expect any penalties to be very light relative to the penalties received by the Astros.  It’s possible there will be revelations that we have not heard  and it may change the situation but at this point, I think the Red Sox disciplinary action will be minimal and fairly quiet compared to the experience of the last few weeks. I am not defending the Red Sox but conversely I am not going to crucify them without cause.

My greatest hope for the 2020 MLB season is the game is played honestly and ethically. Let the chips fall as they may. Maybe the Yankees win a championship, maybe they do not. But in the end, we can hopefully say no one was cheating behind the scenes to change the outcome.

Moving on to other topics, it was announced today the Atlanta Braves promoted their GM, Alex Anthopoulos, to President of Baseball Operations. Not that I care about the Braves (although I have long respected Anthopoulos), the only point I raise by saying this is I continue to feel strongly the Yankees should do the same for GM Brian Cashman. As the long-tenured general manager for our favorite club, he is more deserving of the title of President of Baseball Operations than most of the guys who now hold it for their respective clubs.  Cash should be the President of Baseball Operations (or Executive Vice President, as long as he holds the top Baseball Operations position), and they should promote Tim Naehring to GM. I’d say Jean Afterman but I know that she has no interest in a greater role, particularly after her move to the Wine Country in Northern CA. That makes Naehring the next best candidate to step up. Perhaps you can say Cashman already holds the role despite his title and maybe that’s true. But for the optics, I’d like to see the title match the authority. I’ve been critical of Cashman at times, but there is no one more qualified to lead the baseball side of the house than him. Keep Randy Levine on the business side (or lock him in a closet, I don’t care).

The Yankees announced this week they have signed former Colorado Rockies RHP Chad Bettis to a minor league contract with invitation to Spring Training. I was a little surprised. It’s not that I don’t think Bettis can pitch, I just feel the opportunity is better elsewhere. Then again, if you want to get noticed, play for the Yankees (even if it is only Spring Training). If he doesn’t make the Yankees, perhaps another team sees enough to reach out to him.

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Photo Credit: Chris Carlson, Associated Press

It’s easy to look at Chad’s 2019 numbers and scoff. Pitching mostly out of the bullpen, the former starter had a 1-6 record with 6.08 ERA in 63 2/3 innings. Those numbers won’t inspire confidence in anyone except opposing hitters, but Bettis has had a very hard road. Bettis, who will be 31 on April 26th, was 14-8 with 4.79 ERA in 186 innings in 2016 before a diagnosis of testicular cancer which he successfully defeated. Last season, he was converted to the bullpen after three starts, and was one of the Rockies’ most effective relievers in May (tied a franchise record for five consecutive scoreless outings, pitching more than an inning in each appearance without yielding any runs despite calling Coors Field home). Subsequently, a right hip impingement that eventually became a torn labrum ended his season and resulted in bilateral surgery in late August. The Colorado Rockies subsequently cut him loose after the season.

Last fall, Bettis was quoted as saying, “I’m going to build up again to being the best reliever that I can possibly be”. I don’t know where his road in Pinstripes will lead but I know that I will be cheering for him. If he doesn’t make the Yankees, I hope another team sees value and brings him to their active MLB roster for the season. Life has dealt Bettis a difficult hand and yet he has continued to overcome the obstacles and I don’t see that stopping now. Here’s to you, Chad. Our wish for much success with your continued MLB journey!

I thought it was great Yankees ace Gerrit Cole received a standing ovation yesterday after throwing to live hitters for the first time this Spring yesterday. This is just a prelude to what we’ll experience when Cole takes the mound in real game action. Very exciting times in the Yankees Universe and suffice it to say we’re all very happy Gerrit Cole is a Yankee. I know, there will be a complete Yankee fan meltdown the first time Cole gives up a homer, but, man, I love our chances for October with Cole leading the charge.

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Photo Credit: Twitter, via @ByKristieAckert

I think James Paxton should keep the mustache. After his scruffy look in Seattle, I didn’t think the shaved version last season fit him very well.  While I am not generally a fan of “porn star” ‘staches, I think it gives the Big Maple some character and he should stay with it.

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Photo Credit: SNY

Sadly, the Yankees Universe lost a one-time member of the family when former Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Tony Fernandez, 57, died this past weekend. He fought polycystic kidney disease since 2017 and had suffered a stroke earlier this month. Fernandez played in 108 games for the Yankees in 1995. He was the starting shortstop entering Spring Training in 1996 when a broken elbow opened the door for Derek Jeter’s Hall of Fame career. Rest in Peace, Tony. Your time with us was too short but we are glad you are no longer in pain.

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As always, Go Yankees!

A Hinch In Our Step…

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

Hinch makes first public appearance…

A.J. Hinch will get another opportunity to manage in Major League Baseball.

This is not an endorsement or a belief he said the right things during his interview by Tom Verducci of the MLB Network. In fact, the interview might have raised more questions than answers but I do feel it was the critical first step for Hinch as he tries to rebuild his image and position himself for a job in 2021.

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There is no doubt Hinch is still very protective of his Astros players even though he is no longer their leader. On one hand, it’s an admirable trait that he’s willing to be the sacrificial lamb for his guys but on the other, his players showed no respect for their manager when they continued their deceitful and illegal practices despite Hinch’s displeasure as evidenced by his use of a baseball bat to two monitors. Hinch should have said something, done something (beyond taking batting practice on the monitors), but I am glad to know he was not in favor of the cheating. His inaction to stop the cheating is not an honorable quality.

I am not really trying to dissect Hinch’s interview. I’ve never been a big fan of his and the perspectives of the fans will be based on our own individual biases. When I think of the smug answers he gave at Yankee Stadium during the ALCS last fall, it does infuriate me. Yet, on a human level, it’s hard to watch a man stripped of the game he loves. I don’t know if he has the proper remorse. He said the things he needed to say to take responsibility and accountability, which I appreciate. However, there are many unresolved questions. Ultimately, it comes across as ‘I am sorry I (we) got caught’.

The 2017 World Series Championship is forever tainted. There is nothing that can be said or done that will absolve the Astros of the sins they committed to take away a potential championship from two teams that, as far as we know, played the game the right way…the Los Angeles Dodgers and the New York Yankees. Championships are very hard to come by and we were deprived of the joy and excitement of potentially winning the World Series in 2017.

When the one year suspension is over, I am confident Hinch will be given consideration for a MLB job. Maybe he has to serve as a bench coach first but eventually he’ll be given a managerial post again. I’ve wondered if the opportunity could present itself with the team that fired him, the Houston Astros. There is nothing in the rule book that says he can’t manage the Astros again. Dusty Baker may be the current manager but there’s really no doubt he does not represent the long-term future as the team’s leader. He’s on the last stop of his long career, armed with only a one-year contract. He serves a purpose today, but it could open the door for Hinch’s return. The upcoming season gives owner Jim Crane a year to say they did the right thing by parting ways with Hinch and GM Jeffrey Luhnow but a year from now, there will be talk about how Hinch has served his punishment and his time away has given him the necessary introspection and redemption to resume his role as the Astros manager. If the Astros have a winning season this year without the trash can banging and other illegal practices, it helps Hinch’s case to return. I am not defending Hinch. This is just the reality of the situation. I firmly believe that he’ll see a Major League dugout again regardless of what we think or feel.

I want to see the Astros players take accountability. So far, only former Astros Mike Fiers, the whistleblower, and Dallas Keuchel have stepped forward. Houston pitchers report to Spring Training next Thursday, and the players (the heart of the conspirators) report a week from Monday. We’ll be watching closely as the players are asked about their involvement and I think it behooves the Astros organization to hold a press conference with key team players to address the elephant in the room sooner than later.

The Astros play their first Spring game on Saturday, February 22nd in West Palm Beach, FL against the team they share FITTEAM Ballpark of The Palm Beaches, the defending World Champion Washington Nationals. It will be interesting to see what type of reception they receive from the crowd. It’s too bad the Astros don’t come to Steinbrenner Field for any games during the exhibition season. The first regular season road crowd the Astros will face is the Oakland A’s on Monday, March 30th (they open the season at home against the Los Angeles Angels). I really hope the Oakland crowd, not one to hold back their feelings, lets the Astros players have it with their vocal displeasure.

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Photo Credit: Scott Strazzante, San Francisco Chronicle

Baseball continues to sit in limbo with the Mookie Betts trade. I feel badly for the players involved. Spring Training opens this coming week and Mookie has no idea if he needs to head for Arizona or Florida. On Tuesday night, it was reported the Boston Red Sox had agreed to send Betts, a free agent next off-season, and part of David Price’s contract (with the pitcher attached to it) to the Los Angeles Dodgers. In return, the Red Sox would receive young Dodgers outfielder Alex Verdugo and Minnesota Twins pitcher Brusdar Graterol. For Graterol, the Dodgers dealt pitcher Kenta Maeda to the Twins. Standing behind this pending trade is the Dodgers’ pending trade of outfielder Joc Pederson and pitcher Ross Stripling to the Los Angeles Angels for infielder Luis Rengifo and prospects.  Four days later and the trades have yet to be finalized due to Boston’s concerns about Graterol’s health. The Dodgers got to go to arbitration to make their negative arguments against Pederson on Thursday, winning the case, so it’s hard to think Joc has warm, fuzzy feelings about his present/former team after a week of limbo and negativity.

The Red Sox, based on Graterol’s medical evaluation, are pushing for additional compensation. The Twins are resisting and the Dodgers do not seem willing to send any of their prospects to close the deal. It seems like the deal will eventually go through, perhaps as soon as today with the Player’s Union and agent Scott Boras coming out publicly to demand closure. So long as the Twins did not “hide” any medical knowledge about Graterol, I think the Dodgers should step up and send a quality prospect to Boston if they truly want Betts.  In no way should they send a top prospect like second baseman Gavin Lux, catcher Keibert Ruiz, or pitcher Dustin May, or even the well-named infielder Jeter Downs, for only a year of Mookie.  But a prospect with some potential makes sense.

When the trade finally goes down, the Red Sox, for the short-term, will be worse. Perhaps they’ll be stronger for the long run. The elimination of a significant chunk of Price’s contract and the money owed to Betts for the 2020 season will allow them to reset luxury tax penalties.  For me, it’s hard to fathom trading one of the game’s best players. I get the fear of losing a top player to free agency without a quality return but you have to look no further than the Washington Nationals to see a team that kept star players through the end of their contracts in two successive years, only to watch them leave (Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon). For the Nats, it paid off with the latter who helped deliver a World Series championship to the Capitol City.  Not that the Red Sox are a legitimate World Series contender this year, with or without Mookie, but it does seem odd when a big city team screams small market poverty.

There’s a chance the Betts trade could fall apart altogether. I doubt it and it would be very awkward if Mookie and Price have to show up in Fort Myers, FL.  Hopefully the trade gets done today or tomorrow at the latest.

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Based on MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred’s words this week, we should expect news of the Red Sox investigation before teams start reporting to camp on Thursday.  I am not expecting much in the way of penalties against Boston but I hope their former manager Alex Cora receives no less than a two-year suspension. A lifetime ban would be better. Unlike Hinch who did not support the cheating but did nothing about it, Cora was an active conspirator with the players, perhaps its ring leader, and the proven liar should receive harsher treatment than Hinch. How the Commissioner handles Cora’s involvement as an active participant in the cheating scandal sets the tone for MLB’s future tolerance of dishonest play. Be a man, Manfred. Eliminate the game’s cancer.

I guess I should touch on the Yankees since this is a Yankees blog. Like all of you, I was disappointed to hear the news about James Paxton and how the lower back surgery to remove a cyst will keep him out of action until late May or early June. It certainly shows why J.A. Happ, now sporting number 33, has remained on the Yankees roster. I had expected Happ to be traded before Opening Day but at this point, he will accompany the team to Baltimore for the March 26th opener.  I have my doubts whether he’ll end the season as a Yankee.  I can’t see the Yankees allowing him to reach the milestone to kick in the 2021 option on his contract (165 innings pitched or 27 games started). I also can’t see the Yankees sitting Happ to keep him from reaching those milestones. I think they’ll find a way to move Happ at some point without sacrificing his ability to trigger the 2021 option. It makes too much sense to eliminate all or part of the money owed to Happ to create opportunity for younger, cheaper arms.

For the short-term, keeping Happ is fine. It opens the door for Jordan Montgomery to grab a spot in the rotation. If everyone was healthy and Happ still on the roster, it most likely would have meant a trip to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for Monty. But now, he seems to be the odds-on favorite to head north with the big league club. While it is possible that we’ll see Deivi Garcia, Michael King, and/or Clarke Schmidt make their Major League debuts this season, I feel their time will come later in the summer.

I do hate the talk that James Paxton (and the suspended Domingo German) will be like ‘trade deadline acquisitions’. The team will be better when they return but they are not deadline acquisitions…just like Gleyber Torres is no longer 22. The downside or risk is potential injury to other starters before or when Paxton and German return, making them replacements instead of additional starters.  Paxton will easily slide back into the rotation (obviously), but German’s future probably depends upon how well Montgomery does. I am hoping Monty grabs his rotation spot and does not let go.

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Photo Credit: Lynne Sladky, AP

As teams are scurrying to bring in veteran players on minor league deals, I thought the Yankees would be more active than they have been. The latest veteran receiving a MiLB deal from the Yankees with Spring Training invitation is former Cleveland Indians reliever Dan Otero. Not exactly a name to get excited about. With Paxton headed to the 60-day Injured List to start the season, it seems like now would be a good time to ink Taijuan Walker or Aaron Sanchez to a minor league deal. The bloom is off both pitchers but they once held great promise and are still young. Both are summer of ’92 babies, making them 27 years old to start the season. I like the upside potential, especially if they come to camp on a minor league contract. As The Greedy Pinstripes’ Daniel Burch likes to say, there is no such thing as a bad minor league deal.

It was great to see Gary Sanchez, Adam Ottavino and Gio Urshela on The Michael Kay Show yesterday. I am ready to see our favorite Pinstriped players voice their words and thoughts from the grounds of Steinbrenner Field in Tampa and watch them prepare for the championship 2020 season. And, oh yeah, Gerrit Cole is a Yankee.

MLB: New York Yankees-Gerrit Cole Press Conference
Photo Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran, USA TODAY

As always, Go Yankees!

Yankees Settle All Arbitration-Eligible Cases…

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New deals for the 9 Arb-Eligible Yankees…

ESPN MLB Insider Jeff Passan set the stage for the chaotic day yesterday when he tweeted: “Your Twitter feeds are going to be deluged today. Between now and this afternoon, 155 arbitration-eligible players will either agree upon salaries for the 2020 season or exchange desired salary numbers with teams. It’s always an extraordinarily hectic day for players and teams.” He was right. When the dust settled, all but 20 players had agreed to salary deals. Fortunately, none of those guys were Yankees as all nine players settled with the team.

With visions of Yankees Team President Randy Levine spiking a figurative football a few years ago when the Yankees beat Dellin Betances in arbitration, I am glad the team avoided the ugly confrontation with their players again this year.

For the arb-eligible Yankees, here are the results. The figures in parentheses are the projections per MLB Trade Rumors:

  • James Paxton, $12.5 million ($12.9M)
  • Aaron Judge, $8.5 million ($6.4M)
  • Gary Sanchez, $5 million ($5.6M)
  • Tommy Kahnle, $2.65 million ($3.0M)
  • Gio Urshela, $2.475 million ($2.2M)
  • Chad Green, $1.275 million ($1.4M)
  • Luis Cessa, $895,000 ($1.1M)
  • Jordan Montgomery, $805,000 ($1.2M)
  • Jonathan Holder, $750,000 ($800K)

I’d say the Yankees did a very good job bringing resolution to these cases. The only player who made significantly more than his projection was Aaron Judge and there’s no doubt he is worth the money, if not more. No doubt he would have made much more on the agreement if he had not missed so much time last year. Not sure he would have matched Cody Bellinger’s record first-year arbitration salary of $11.5 million considering Cody’s MVP year, but he would have been close as arguably the Yankees’ best position player.

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Photo Credit: Mike Ehrmann, Getty Images

Jeff Passan also reported the following players did not settle and, barring agreements between now and then, are expected to go to arbitration hearings:

  • Jesus Aguilar
  • Nick Ahmed
  • Pedro Baez
  • Andrew Benintendi
  • Jose Berrios
  • Archie Bradley
  • Aledmys Diaz
  • Brian Goodwin
  • Shane Greene
  • Josh Hader
  • Max Muncy
  • Hector Neris
  • Joc Pederson
  • J.T. Realmuto
  • Eduardo Rodriguez
  • George Springer
  • Trevor Story
  • Brent Suter
  • Chris Taylor
  • Tony Wolters

The Los Angeles Dodgers, a team that historically settles with their arb-eligible players, really stick out on this list. So do the Boston Red Sox who did settle with much rumored trade candidate Mookie Betts for $27 million. It really makes me appreciate the Yankees for ensuring agreements with all of their players. Happy Yankees make for happy Yankee fans.

No big news for the Yankees so far in the new year, player-wise anyway. They did sign former Colorado Rockies catcher Chris Iannetta this week to a minor league deal with the presumed Spring Training invitation. Iannetta was released by the Rockies last August. He’s clearly a depth signing as I hold no expectation he’ll beat out Kyle Higashioka for backup catching duties but he does help to provide support if either Gary Sanchez or Higgy go down with injuries. I like the thought of Iannetta better than the recently re-signed Erik Kratz.

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Iannetta, who will be 37 shortly after the start of the season, has clearly seen his better days. Steamer projects him to play 60 games with 2 home runs and 7 RBIs, batting .218/.314/.402, .304 wOBA and 88 wRC+. In other words, pray for good health behind the plate.

There was a part of me hoping for a reunion with catcher John Ryan Murphy despite his underwhelming performance with the bat since he left the Yankees. He is no longer an option after signing a minor league deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates yesterday. Hard to believe that Murphy is still only 28. Pittsburgh is probably a good place for him to land since the Pirates seem to have a way of resurrecting former Yankee backup catchers.

The Yankees also signed former Los Angeles Angels starter Nick Tropeano, a Long Island native, to a minor league deal. Tropeano, 29, a righty, is presumably depth for Triple A. While he showed promise for the Angels a few years ago, he’s never been the same since undergoing Tommy John surgery in August 2016. Last year, he gave up 15 runs in 13 2/3 innings at the Major League level for the Halos. He took his only loss last July in a dreadful start against the Baltimore Orioles when he was hammered for 7 runs in five innings. Here’s hoping for greater success with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. He does carry an infamous stat. He’s the only pitcher to record a one-pitch strikeout.  He was pitching in Double A for the Houston Astros affiliate in August 2013. In the sixth inning of a game against the A’s affiliate, the batter, Vinnie Catricala, took a pitch he thought was outside. When the ump called strike, Catricala stepped out of the batter’s box to protest the call. The umpire, Ron Teague, invoking a little known rule, called an automatic strike. When Catricala didn’t step back into the box as instructed by Teague, the ump called him out by strikeout. Tropeano, with one pitch, observed the strikeout while standing on the pitching mound.  It’s something the game may never see again. For Catricala, the total of 9.4 seconds out of the batter’s box combined with his arguing, earned him an ejection from the game.

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While I still expect the Yankees to trade RHP J.A. Happ and most, if not all, of his contract, Happ who wore #33 in Toronto with the Blue Jays, dropped #34 this week to take Greg Bird’s vacated number. The Yankees still need to clear room on the 40-man roster once the Brett Gardner deal becomes official. Not sure what is taking so long. At first, I thought the holidays were the obstacle but at this point, it must be about clearing space on the roster. Who knows. I am sure it will be official before Gardy has to report to Tampa next month. If the Yankees had to drop someone right now, my vote would be for Stephen Tarpley. But for luxury tax purposes, the best case scenario is to move Happ’s money to open a spot for Gardy. I have full confidence in Jordan Montgomery as the team’s fifth starter.

I think the Yankees will continue to look for clever minor league signings (the low cost/high reward variety). Although they’ve been heavily criticized this off-season for their inactivity, I liked the Los Angeles Dodgers signing of former Milwaukee Brewers starter Jimmy Nelson. Granted, Nelson may never be the pitcher he once was, but I thought it was a good risk to take. There was a time that Nelson represented the hope of the Brewers starting rotation until he was derailed by injuries. Nelson is only 30 and he’s someone that I’d take a chance on. I’d like to see the Yankees find that type of deal with a pitcher who could presumably offer more than say a guy like Tropeano. As for Nelson, he is probably better suited for the bullpen at this point of his career, but he always made me think of CC Sabathia for no other reason than he wore the same number with the Brewers as CC did (#52) and is the same heighth (6’6”). For the Sabathia Stans, I am not comparing their stats or implying any close relationship.

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I fully expect to hear reports of Yankees GM Brian Cashman rummaging through dumpsters between now and February 12th. There will be no Josh Hader or Nolan Arenado sightings in Tampa next month but there could be a few recognizable names ready to compete for roles with the team.

For those of you arguing between Miguel Andujar and Gio Urshela, both players can co-exist on the Yankees roster. I am glad to have both and looking forward to their respective contributions. I have no desire to pick one over the other. Ultimately, Aaron Boone and his staff will make the right choices about who to play and where. I can easily see scenarios with both players in the lineup, producing and helping the Yankees in their drive to dominate the American League.

As always, Go Yankees!

The Dawn of Yankees Championships…

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

New Decade: Great Hope for Pinstripes…

It’s been an interesting year. When January opened, many of us (okay, namely me) wanted the Yankees to sign either Manny Machado or Bryce Harper. The thought of ‘excite the Fan Base, Hal Steinbrenner’ keep reverberating through my head. On January 14th, the Yankees signed free agent second baseman D.J. LeMahieu, and the Yankees, for all intents and purposes, were out of the Harp-Chado Sweepstakes. The signing of the former Colorado Rockies second baseman was met with general indifference from the Yankees fan base, but it would prove to be a much bigger acquisition than Machado would be for San Diego or Harper for Philly. Both of those teams did so well with their new $300+ million men that they fired their managers. LeMahieu’s manager wasn’t the AL Manager of the Year but he should have been.

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Photo Credit: Tim Heitman, USA TODAY Sports

By now, we know the Yankees won 103 games during the regular season despite a historic number of men (30) who found their way to the Injured List. The ALDS was a success against the homer happy Minnesota Twins, but the season came to an abrupt end in the ALCS playing against a team that subscribes to the theory ‘if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying’. Okay, that’s a Jim Rome quote but it fits the eventual AL Champions and then some. Someone bang on a garage can for the Houston Astros.

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I keep hearing the reason the Yankees failed in the ALCS was because of the hitters. In the playoffs, you face the best of the best. No team is throwing a #5 starter at you to see if they can beat you. With Houston, they had three aces. Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Zack Greinke. There’s a reason the Yankees couldn’t buy a hit when they needed it. Fortunately, the Yankees, after the season was over, recognized the primary goal of this off-season was to get an ace.

James Paxton, after a rough start (it seemed like the first inning was never his friend for the longest time), settled into his role as the best Yankees pitcher. I like Paxton a lot but he is not an ace. While he can be, he is more of a #2. I’ve seen countless people post on Social Media that Luis Severino is an ace. He’s not but can be (maybe even more so than Paxton). Sevy needs to prove it over the course of a long season. Consistency and good health are the two primary ingredients needed before Sevy can call himself an ace. The potential is there but it has yet to be realized.  Masahiro Tanaka can be very good but he’s not an ace.  The regular season is filled with those dang obligatory homers. Once the playoffs start, he pitches with laser-like focus and like Andy Pettitte, is a man you want on the mound in October. Three very good pitchers, but no current ace among them.

The problem was solved on December 18th, ten days ago, when the Yankees officially signed Gerrit Cole to the largest pitching contract in MLB history (9 years for $324 million). If the opt out after 5 years is exercised, the Yankees can add an additional year to the deal, making it worth $360 million.  I’d say that Hal Steinbrenner has excited the Yankees fan base. With an ace, the Yankees suddenly have one of the best starting rotations in baseball after seasons where the rotation was viewed as the primary weakness. Weakening the lying, cheating Houston Astros was an added bonus.

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Photo Credit: AP

The cautionary tale is the Boston Red Sox. A couple of years ago, Sox fans were beating their chests over a starting rotation headlined by Chris Sale, David Price, and Rick Porcello. Porcello is now a Met, Price’s name is regularly among trade rumors as a potential salary dump and Sale can’t stay healthy. If the Yankees have an advantage over the Red Sox, it is a much deeper farm system with talented young pitching prospects to provide a hedge. The Cleveland Indians have proven an ability to grow aces on trees, and of course, the Yankees now have one of those architects on the coaching staff with Matt Blake as the new pitching coach. To Boston’s credit, they have a World Series championship to show for their collection of starters and the Yankees have not.  But if I had to place a bet on which team would win more World Series in the next five years, I can assure you it would not be Boston. If the Yankees can bring the World Series championship total to at least 30 over the next decade, I’d call Cole’s contract a smashing success and those Red Sox championships of 2004, 2007, 2013 and 2018 will be nothing but a forgotten memory.

Even though 2019 did not bring a championship to the Bronx, it has set the stage for a very strong Yankees squad in 2020. A more complete team that is ready to take the next step. Even though 2010-19 is the first decade in a century that did not feature at least one World Series appearance by the Yankees, it figures to change in 2020-29 with restoration of appearances AND victories.

I look forward to 2020 with great optimism and I know it will be a great year for the Yankees and all their fans.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

In other news, the fan-created trade speculation for Josh Hader continues. Yet, not one reputable baseball writer with genuine sources has indicated the Yankees are close on any trades. Miguel Andujar’s name keeps getting mentioned by fans as expendable. As much as I love Gio Urshela’s glove at third base, I am fearful about a regression in Gio’s offense after last year’s breakout. The Yankees need Andujar. I know his defense is often criticized, but moving D.J. LeMahieu from second to third would force the Yankees to use Tyler Wade or Thairo Estrada at second.  I’d rather keep LeMahieu, an elite defender, at second, and use Andujar at third if Gio fails. I wouldn’t be so quick to trade him. Andujar also has the potential to see some time at first and perhaps in left field with additional work in the Spring. He is trying to get better defensively and his workout videos show a man who is trying to improve his game. Personally, I wouldn’t trade Andujar for a reliever regardless of how good the reliever is. Third base is simply not a position of strength in the farm system and Urshela, as I’ve mentioned, is no sure thing.

The latest name circulating among the Twitter GM’s is Nick Castellanos. Castellanos may be a good hitter but where does he fit on the Yankees?  The Detroit Tigers moved him off third base because of subpar defensive skills. I’d rather have Giancarlo Stanton, Brett Garder, and Mike Tauchman in left field. Castanellos, who became a right fielder, cannot play center and he’s certainly not going to take Aaron Judge’s spot in right. Make him a DH? It wouldn’t allow the Yankees to maximize the potential of the DH slot with the rotation of great hitters already on the team. I see no fit for Castanellos on the Yankees roster. The bat’s nice but it is not enough to make his addition a roster upgrade. In fact, you could argue it would be a detriment because of the lineup inflexibility it would cause. Personally, I like Joc Pederson, a left-handed hitter, and think he’d fit better on the roster if the Yankees could swing a trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers. I’d love to see Joc taking his shots at Yankee Stadium’s short right porch. He may be a platoon bat to face right-handed pitching but he’d mesh well with the other Yankee outfielders or at least better than Castellanos would. Steamer has projected Joc to hit 31 home runs and 76 RBIs in 2020 with .255/.345/.537 batting line and .364 wOBA and 129 wRC+ in approximately 500 plate appearances. Unlike Castanellos, Pederson is a solid defender.

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Credit: FanGraphs.com

It’s always nice to see the calendar page turn to January. The last full month with no Yankees baseball. There could still be a surprise addition or two before pitchers and catchers report to camp on February 12th. It continues to be speculation the Yankees will unload J.A. Happ’s contract (all or part) to reduce luxury tax penalties. I, for one, look forward to seeing how Jordan Montgomery will do in Spring Training even if he’ll be on an innings limitation this year.  With no expectation to be more than the fifth starter, I think Monty could serve the role well.  I think we’ll begin to see the work of Sam Briend, Director of Pitching for the Yankees, come to fruition. With guys like Briend and Matt Blake, the organization’s great young pitching talent will only get better. Soon, we’ll be growing our own Mike Clevingers and Shane Biebers.

Happy New Year, Everybody!  From all of us to all of you, we hope this is your (our) best year yet. Hopefully this time next year we’ll be relishing in the Yankees’ 28th World Series Championship.

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As always, Go Yankees!