Tagged: James Paxton

The Sights and Sounds of Steinbrenner Field…

Photo Credit: The New York Post (Charles Wenzelberg)

Pitchers and Catchers Report on Wednesday…

Here we are. The final weekend before pitchers and catchers report and Major League Baseball officially kicks off preparations for the 2019 season. Many players have already made their way to Tampa and have been seen in their informal workouts on the practice fields around Steinbrenner Field and signing autographs as they depart the hallowed grounds of 1 Steinbrenner Drive.

Photo Credit: Bryan Hoch via Instagram

I always enjoy the opening of Spring Training. So much excitement for the new season, everyone’s healthy (for the most part), and after no Major League baseball since last October, the gang’s back together again to make another run at the American League championship and the ultimate goal of winning the World Series. Of course, the feeling starts to fade in a couple of weeks when we are anxiously  and impatiently awaiting the start of the regular season but for now it’s a thrilling experience.

The past week saw another round of rumors surrounding Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. While both young superstars remain unsigned, there is continued speculation the Yankees could make a play for one of the players if the price falls into their comfort zone. The words of Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner this week while attending the owner’s meeting in Orlando did not dispel the rumors. I know, he can’t say the Yankees are out because of the CBA, but he somewhat flamed the rumors by not counting the Yankees out on any moves they might make in the coming days.

Steinbrenner made the comment, “If there’s a narrative that we’re not spending money and being cheap, that’s just false”. In my opinion, the Yankees have not been cheap. If anything, my frustration is simply the allocation of dollars that have been spent. I like DJ LeMahieu but with all honesty, the team would have been better with Manny Machado than LeMahieu. There’s been word (no official confirmation) the Yankees floated a concept of 7 or 8 years for around $220 million when they met with Machado in December. If true, Machado’s agent should have used it as a starting point for more serious negotiations. It didn’t happen, and the team quickly pivoted to LeMahieu. I don’t feel Steinbrenner is being cheap but conversely I don’t feel that he’s putting the best possible team on the field. Maybe signing Machado is not meant to be or if he really wanted to be a Yankee, he would be one by now. Regardless of events, I can’t help feel a little disappointment that neither Machado nor Harper are making flight plans for Tampa.

At various points of the off-season, the Yankees have called Brett Gardner the starting leftfielder and Troy Tulowitzki the starting shortstop. I don’t buy either claim. At this point in his career, Gardy helps this team the best as its fourth outfielder. He is not the player he once was. Age happens to all of us, except for maybe Tom Brady or Mariano Rivera. Perhaps Clint “The Wildling” Frazier proves the injuries and concussions are behind him and he finally fulfills the promise he’s held for a few years now. I have no problem rolling out Frazier as the starter if he proves in Tampa over the next few weeks that he is ready. Personally, I’d prefer it if Frazier can take the job from Gardner because it means he has proven he can be better.

As for Tulo, I just can’t shake the feeling he is done. Realistically, I am not expecting much from him. I think he’ll be very rusty in Spring Training, and I don’t see him as an every day starter once the team moves north to the Bronx. It feels too much like trying to “catch lightning in a bottle”. The infield is much stronger, in my opinion, with current two-year consecutive Wilson Defensive Player of the Year DJ LeMahieu at second and Gleyber Torres sliding to shortstop until the great Didi Gregorius is ready to return.

Photo Credit: Didi Gregorius via Instagram

But despite Plan B’s that make sense with the current roster and invitees, the Yankees can be a better team with Harper or Machado. Of the two, Harper makes the most sense. Aside from the left-handed bat that he’d bring to the lineup, he represents a great option for left field, keeping Giancarlo Stanton in the healthier role as DH, and Harper could potentially develop as a first baseman. I know, you don’t pay a guy hundreds of millions of dollars to see if he can play a new position but Bryce would represent such a great resource for the Yankees in their drive to dethrone the Boston Red Sox. For Hal, Harper will increase tickets sales, both at home and on the road. If the Yankees are successful in reacquiring controlling interest in the YES Network, Harper would be a primary face and draw attraction for the team. He is a popular player, perhaps one of the most popular in the game outside of Mike Trout. This is not meant as a slam to Aaron Judge who I feel is one of the greatest players in the game, but Harper unquestionably has more fans outside of the Yankees Universe.

Photo Credit: USATSI

I am still a major fan of Manny Machado but I recognize that his presence would adversely impact Miguel Andujar. Nevertheless, the Yankees should not decide to pursue Machado because of Andujar because Machado is clearly the better overall player. But under that scenario, the Yankees would need to move Andujar to left field or first base or trade him for top starting pitching as we’ve talked about ad nauseam this off-season. Putting Harper in left keeps Andujar at third with the potential to see if he has improved his defensive game and allowing LeMahieu to slide over to the corner for support if necessary.

My desire to add either Harper or Machado will not die until the players sign somewhere, anywhere.  Once that happens and if it is not in the Bronx, we’ll move on. The 2019 New York Yankees will be a very good team with or without Harp-Chado. If the Yankees do not sign either player, I’ll undoubtedly look at it as  missed opportunity (the “missed” chance to turn the team from very good to great) but I’ll support the current roster with full force and vigor as we all will.

I am really enjoying Adam Ottavino as a Yankee. His ‘This or That’ videos on Instagram with his wife feeding him questions from off-screen have been stellar. Given he is a lifelong Yankee fan like us makes him so relatable, outside of the fact that he’s 6’5”, ruggedly handsome, throws a nasty slider, lives in a beautiful Manhattan apartment with an overview of the city, has an adorable wife and family, and makes millions of dollars per year.

I like that Otto’s first pic upon arriving in Tampa this week was to take a picture of the famed George Steinbrenner statue outside of Steinbrenner Field.

Photo Credit: Adam Ottavino via Instagram

Ottavino understands the history of the franchise better than most through his childhood fandom. He recently mentioned that his favorite Yankee hitter was Bernie Williams and fave pitcher was Jimmy Key. There’s probably guys on the team who don’t even know who Jimmy Key is. I respect both of those choices.

After being known for years as Zach Britton, I was surprised the reliever formally announced that he’d be known by the proper “Zack” going forward. Not so much the correction of his name to match how he uses it and the name which appears on his birth certificate but rather why it took so many years for him to do it. I am sure that I’ll type Zach a time or two this season. Personally, with no offense to any Zack’s reading this, but I prefer the “ch” version of the name. It sounds more sophisticated, IMO. But hey, it’s not my name.  Britton has the right to call himself whatever he wants. If he wants to go by “Fluffy”, that’s fine by me. I guess I’ll get used to the new spelling in time. Speaking of Britton, I didn’t realize that his brother Buck was a manager in the Baltimore Orioles’ farm system. Buck Britton managed the Single-A Delmarva Shorebirds to a 68-66 record in 2018. For this season, he’s been elevated to manager of the Double-A Bowie Baysox. Not that I expect Zack to ever get over his love for Birdland, but his brother’s presence in the Orioles organization continues to give him ties to his former roots.

I mention it every year but I’ll continue to do it until there are changes. The Yankees need to revisit their facial hair policy. I don’t want to see the uncontrolled beards like Justin Turner of the Los Angeles Dodgers wears each season or Johnny Damon’s “Caveman” look during his days in Boston, but with controlled guidelines, there’s no reason guys like Luis Severino should not be allowed to wear beards like this:

Photo Credit: YES Network

I know the Yankees stick to the policy out of respect for the late George Steinbrenner but times have changed. I do not feel that short, trimmed facial hair detracts from the brand. It seems like all of the Yankee players are sporting some type of facial hair during the off-season. And very often when Yankee players are traded elsewhere, the first thing they do is grow a beard. I saw a pic of Ronald Torreyes, now playing for the Minnesota Twins, sporting a cool goatee this week.

Photo Credit: Ronald Torreyes via Instagram

Players should be allowed a certain degree of self-expression. I get the history and tradition of Baseball’s most storied and prestigious franchise but wearing a groomed short beard is not exactly like slapping last names on the back of the famed Pinstriped jersey. Loosen up the facial policy rules, Hal. It’s your team, set your own standard.

This has been a tough year watching Boston win championships in both MLB and NFL. I am tired of Boston fans celebrating and want to see the fans of New York rejoice. The Yankees have a huge opportunity to make plans for a parade in late October. Let’s not screw this up. The dawn of the 28th World Championship is upon us.

As always, Go Yankees!

Advertisements

2 1/2 Weeks to Tampa…

The Yankees’ Migration to Florida Begins…

When the calendar page turns next Friday, we will enter a month WITH Yankees baseball for the first time since last October. It may not be “real games” but we’re getting the band together again in Tampa, FL and the Yankees will be playing their first organized exhibition game in less than a month when they travel to JetBlue Park in Fort Myers on Saturday, February 23rd to take on the bullpen-challenged Boston Red Sox.

I don’t know about you but I am ready to see the guys at Steinbrenner Field and watching the navy blue spring jerseys in full force.

Before pitchers and catchers report to camp in roughly two and a half weeks, I’d really like to see the Yankees formally introduce their off-season acquisitions in a press conference at Yankee Stadium. It doesn’t appear it is going to happen but I always loved it when the Yankees held press conferences at the Stadium followed by photo sessions down on the often snow-covered field. It seems like ages ago when the Yankees acquired James Paxton, yet we’ve only heard his voice in interviews. Most of us have yet to see the smile on his face and the Big Maple tattoo on his arm as he talks about the excitement of being a Yankee.

Photo Credit: The Seattle Times (Ken Lambert)

If I owned the Yankees, I’d pull Paxton, Troy Tulowitzki, DJ LeMahieu, and Adam Ottavino to New York before they head to Tampa. Heck, Ottavino is already there so it would save Hal Steinbrenner some money.

Nice post yesterday by Bryan Van Dusen entitled “Bryce Harper Will Be a Yankee”.  It’s worth checking out if you haven’t already done so. The way the market is playing out seems to be opening the possibility that Harper could find his way to Yankee Stadium. While I’ve long been a Manny Machado guy, I don’t really see the fit with Manny anymore given the infield acquisitions and the optimism Didi Gregorious could be back sooner than expected. Will there be a mid-summer “acquisition” better than Didi? I don’t think so. But as Bryan outlined yesterday, Harper fits the Yankees so many ways. I am sure they’ve heard the words of the newest Yankees talk about the reasons they joined the team. The theme of of an organization that wants to win every year resonates as does the lifelong dreams of wearing the famed Pinstripes. We know Bryce desires to be a Yankee. Hal Steinbrenner can make it happen and provide Yankee fans with one of the greatest young players in the game today (to go with our collection of other great young players).

Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated

The Boston Red Sox are seemingly hamstrung by their payroll. Not that I want the Yankees to be in a similar position, but the time to strike is now. Show no mercy. I want a roster that ensures the Red Sox are the team battling for Wild Card position this season and not the Yankees. The weakest position on the team, in my opinion, is left field. Brett Gardner is simply no longer the player he once was. Getting old sucks. I have no trust in Clint Frazier’s ability to stay healthy until he proves that he can. Jacoby Ellsbury? Please. Bring Bryce Harper to New York. His presence would help the other guys in the lineup and he’d deflect pressure off guys like Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez.

If the market moves in the Yankees’ favor and they do sign Harper for less than original estimates, it will be one of Brian Cashman’s best moves in his Yankees career. Bryce Harper, New York Yankees. It sounds so right (or should I say ‘so lefty’?). Works for me. Let J.A. Happ pick out a new number. I hope he has that problem.

Staying with the “it’s just money” theme, the Yankees got a good idea what it might take to retain CF Aaron Hicks when the Los Angeles Dodgers signed oft-injured CF A.J. Pollock to a five-year, $60 million contract this week. Hicks, if he can stay healthy this season, figures to command an equal if not greater deal. I probably wish Estevan Florial was closer to The Show but the Yankees will have some tough choices next off-season with Hicks, Didi Gregorius and Dellin Betances.

It’s great to see the finalization of Adam Ottavino’s three-year contract. I am really excited about his presence on this year’s team. I wanted Ottavino to wear Number 0 but I understood the concerns of those who didn’t want the Yankees to issue a number that has never been worn in the history of the franchise. In the end, I am glad the Yankees made the decision to allow Otto to wear his number. I know many wanted Number 2 to be the last single digit worn but there’s no disrespect with Otto continuing the tradition of single digits. I was a little surprised when the Yankees retired Joe Torre’s Number 6. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the manager and I loved the championships he brought to the organization, but it’s not like he played on the field with number 6 and it’s not necessarily a number we strongly associate with him. I get retiring Casey Stengel’s number but honestly I think retiring numbers should be reserved for players, especially when the organization has so many retired numbers. Aaron Boone managed 162 regular season games last year plus the Wild Card game and ALDS, yet we could probably count on one hand the number of times we actually saw his number. Boone could win the next five consecutive World Series but I wouldn’t retire Number 17. The recognition should be for the players, not the coaching staff. Players have a greater effect on the success of a manager than the manager has on the players. The point is, Number 6 should still be in circulation, and Otto’s number 0 should not be the last single digit.

Well, since Number 6 is retired, I do think they should honor Roy White and give him equal credit for the number in the way Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra share the retirement of Number 8. Roy White was such a huge and consistent part of the Yankees in the early years of my fandom. The lifetime Yank deserves his day in the sun at Yankee Stadium, and recognition with a plaque in Monument Park. White played 15 years for the Yankees from 1965 through 1979. He was always overshadowed by the bigger names but he was the consummate professional and the glue on so many of those great Yankee teams. Maybe his numbers did not warrant the sole retirement of his number but he deserves credit for it as much as Joe Torre in a shared capacity, in my opinion.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Speaking of retired numbers, it will be interesting to see if the Yankees take Number 35 out of circulation now that Mike Mussina has been elected to the Hall of Fame. I was pleased to see Mussina make the HOF but he was never a lock to make it in my opinion. There are certainly a number of players who are equally deserving, or maybe even more so, that have never gotten the call. Nevertheless, I am proud of Mussina’s accomplishment. I had felt he should go into the Hall of Fame with his Orioles cap but I was pleased with his decision to go in with no logo like fellow Hall of Famer Roy “Doc” Halladay who was equally great on two teams (same as Moose).

Mariano Rivera. What else can you say? The first man unanimously selected to Baseball’s Hall of Fame. There is no one better deserving of the honor and recognition.  We were privileged to see one of the game’s greatest and the best to ever play his position for so many years at Yankee Stadium. Growing up, I always thought how cool it would have been to see Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle (in his prime) play. As it stands today, I am glad I was able to see guys like Thurman Munson, Don Mattingly, Derek Jeter, and the Sandman. It makes up for never having seen the earlier legends. Congratulations Mo! You were one of a kind and we may never see someone of your greatness again. It was our pleasure to watch you.

Lastly, I was disappointed to see Al Leiter’s departure from the YES Network. I get his reasons for stepping down (to spend more time with his family and mentor his 18-year-old son Jack who will most likely be seen on Major League mounds in about a half decade or so). I was glad to hear Al will continue to appear on MLB Network but his voice will be sorely missed in the YES Network broadcast booth.

I am excited that Baseball is right around the corner. After next weekend (the Super Bowl), all eyes will turn to America’s greatest game. Well, maybe not basketball fans and March Madness, but for the rest of us, the dawn of the 2019 season is on the horizon. Can’t wait.

As always, Go Yankees!

Thoughts After the LeMahieu Signing…

DJ LeMahieu Signs 2-Year Deal w/Yankees…

The Yankees caught everyone by surprise on Friday when it was reported they had signed former Colorado Rockies second baseman DJ LeMahieu to a two-year contract worth $24 million, pending a physical. I knew the San Francisco Giants were interested in LeMahieu and were willing to move Joe Panik if necessary and the Los Angeles Dodgers had long been mentioned as a favorite but I hadn’t really given any thought to DJ as a Yankee. So, when I first heard the news, I was a bit underwhelmed.

This, in no way, means I do not recognize LeMahieu is a very good baseball player. He is. I guess going into the off-season, I felt the Yankees had a tremendous opportunity to substantially improve their club at a time when the Boston Red Sox are struggling with the pains of a very high payroll. I don’t want to beat the Red Sox, I want to crush them. I had felt if the Yankees could sign Patrick Corbin and Manny Machado and/or Bryce Harper, they’d be the clear most powerful team in the AL East. As we know, the Yankees expressed interest but did not play in the Corbin negotiations when other offers exceeded their comfort zone. Now, it appears the Yankees are out on both Machado and Harper.

I’ll remain on Team Machado until he signs with another club. Even Ken Rosenthal, while he believes the Yankees are no longer “in” on Machado, will only believe he’s not going to be a Yankee when he pulls up another jersey at an introductory press conference. To me, Machado is missed opportunity. A large number of fans are quick to say Machado was merely a ‘want’ and not a need. Okay, I get it. But how often are young (very young) superstars available for only money? And how many of those young superstars have always wanted to be Yankees? I guess we’d like to think everyone wants to be a Yankee. But that’s a rather narcissistic view. Both Harper and Machado are players who wanted to wear the famed Pinstripes and it’s disappointing, to me, that neither dream will come true.

Setting aside Machado and Harper, the Yankees ARE an improved team. I like the infield with LeMahieu at second and Gleyber Torres at shortstop over Troy Tulowitzki at short and Gleyber remaining at second even though I didn’t really want to see Gleyber sliding back and forth. I am not convinced Tulo can stay healthy and I certainly do not want to pin any hopes on him. LeMahieu, on the other hand, can play a vital role for this team.

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kelley L Cox)

Down the stretch last year, Colorado’s great third baseman Nolan Arenado was quoted as saying this about LeMahieu: “If fans knew how much we appreciate DJ and saw how much we care for him and how important he is to this team, they’d realize what a big factor he is. He sets the standard for us. We go where he goes, really.” That’s very high praise from one of the game’s true superstars. Charlie Blackmon is also on record making similar comments. I listened to an interview with Blackmon a few days ago and he was still expressing hope the Rockies would re-sign LeMahieu despite the team’s acquisition of Daniel Murphy. It appears the Rockies intend to play Murphy at first, assuming they figure out what do to with Ian Desmond, and open second base for competition between a couple of young players. The Rockies hold aspirations of competing with the Dodgers for the NL West title and LeMahieu would have helped their cause.

While I probably would have preferred Marwin Gonzalez for his ability to play shortstop and left field, it’s hard to find fault with the defensive prowess LeMahieu brings to the team. He may not have much power but he’s certainly not going to disappoint you with his bat. He has a batting title to his credit (NL, 2016) and has appeared in a couple of All-Star games. He has won three Gold Gloves, including the past two years. He has also been the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year at second for the last two seasons and in 2013.

Infield defense was a huge concern prior to LeMahieu’s signing so his presence is much needed and as it stands right now I am glad he’s a Yankee. If Tulo shows anything at shortstop, the Yankees have the option of moving LeMahieu to third with Miguel Andújar shifting to DH and Giancarlo Stanton playing left field which eases some doubts I have with the dependence on Brett Gardner as an every day option in left field. To sign Machado now would probably mean the end of the Yankees career for Didi Gregorius, a free agent after the upcoming season. I want Didi back as the team’s starting shortstop so maybe all things considered, the LeMahieu signing is a blessing.  

Photo Credit: Instagram via @sirdidig18

Like Tulo, LeMahieu will have to find a new number. The number 9 he wore in Colorado is retired for the late Roger Maris. The Yankees retired the number for Maris in 1984, a few months after they had traded Graig Nettles, the last to wear the number, to the San Diego Padres.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

The fringe players are slowly coming off the 40-man roster. RHP A.J. Cole was claimed by the Cleveland Indians on waivers yesterday.  He had been designated for assignment to make room for Tulowitzki. I thought the Yankees might be able to pick up a lower-ranked prospect for Cole but it was not to be. Yesterday, to make room for LHP Zach Britton, infielder Hanser Alberto was waived and almost immediately claimed by Britton’s former team, the Baltimore Orioles. Once the LeMahieu signing becomes official, the Yankees will need to make another move so Luis Cessa, Ben Heller and Tim Locastro are probably the most vulnerable unless the Yankees finally move Sonny Gray for prospects (I’d prefer MLB talent in return). I like Heller despite his current recovery from Tommy John surgery (which means he can’t provide any immediate help) but would prefer to see the exit of Cessa over Heller.

The Yankees are always slow to announce their non-roster invitees for Spring Training but the list is building:

LHP Rex Brothers

LHP Danny Coulombe

RHP Drew Hutchison

OF Billy Burns

OF Matt Lipka

I don’t see any great upside with these players but Scranton/Wilkes-Barre needs some help after the losses they’ve suffered in the last few months so they represent organizational depth. Brothers is a one-time Colorado Rockie and teammate of Tulo, LeMahieu, Tommy Kahnle and, cough-cough, free agent reliever Adam Ottavino.

Lastly, while I was glad to see the Yankees agree with all of their arbitration-eligible players on new contracts for the upcoming season except one, I was disappointed the one player is Luis Severino. I don’t like the arbitration process which requires the team to tell an arbitrator the entirety of the player’s faults to build their case for the lower salary. If Dellin Betances leaves via free agency after the season, I will look back to the contentious hearing he had with the team a couple years ago and the poor choice of words by Yankees President Randy Levine after the decision in the team’s favor as a reason for his departure. I know, Dellin’s final decision will most likely be based on money but he surely has the negative feelings in the back of his mind regardless of his love of wearing the hometown Pinstripes. I think what bothers me more about Sevy’s case is how close the two parties are. Severino wants $5.25 million while the team offered $4.4 million. It seems like there was room for compromise. The two sides can continue to negotiate so I hope there is resolution before the actual arbitration hearing is held. We need to build Sevy up to be the ace he is destined to be, not tear him down.

I was very glad the Yankees settled with new starting pitcher James Paxton for $8.5 million. I want Paxton’s experience to be very positive from the start. By all accounts, he is very excited about pitching for the Yankees. In reading and listening to Zach Britton’s words about re-signing with the Yankees, it is very clear how he and his family were treated by the Yankees played a very strong factor in his decision to return. I want Paxton fully appreciate his first year in the Bronx too.

Pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training a month from tomorrow. I am anxious to see Tampa and Steinbrenner Field buzzing with Yankees again. There’s no doubt Manager Aaron Boone will carry greater confidence and preparedness into camp this year with a year under his belt. I am convinced he’ll be much stronger this year and that bodes well for the team.

Good times in the Yankees Universe.

As always, Go Yankees!

Yankees Acquire James Paxton…

Photo by Christian Petersen

Top Prospect Justus Sheffield joins the ranks of “former” Yankees…

The news broke suddenly yesterday afternoon. After a fairly quiet November (up to that point, the only significant MLB trade had been Seattle’s catcher Mike Zunino to the Tampa Bay Rays as the start of Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto’s “re-imagining” of his roster), reports came hard and fast like a James Paxton four-seam fastball that the Yankees had acquired the talented lefty from Seattle.

My initial reaction was ‘it’s a start, but we need more’. I didn’t expect the Yankees to lose Miguel Andujar in a trade for the much talked about trade speculation involving the 6’4” Big Maple and fortunately he was not involved. For a frontline ace like Corey Kluber, you’d part with the young third baseman but not for Paxton.

Photo by Al Bello, Getty Images

When it was announced the Yankees had sent top prospect Justus Sheffield, breakout minor league starter Erik Swanson, and rising minor league outfielder Dom Thompson-Williams to Seattle for Paxton, Yankee fans were immediately trying to find flaws in the prospects sent to the Northwest. I am not going to join the crowd and trash Sheffield. The fact remains he is only 22 and still has an excellent chance to be a difference-maker. For a team that is prepared to win in 2019, this is a trade that makes sense. Paxton makes the Yankees better when they step back on the grounds of Yankee Stadium next year. Sheffield is probably a few seasons away from reaching his potential. This is totally a ‘win now’ move.

The Yankees also needed to make room on the 40-man roster for Swanson or he would have been eligible for next month’s Rule 5 Draft so this saves a spot for someone else.

So where do we go from here? I really hope the Yankees continue their pursuit of free agent lefty Patrick Corbin. He was and continues to be my top choice. I’d love to have Corey Kluber but I don’t really expect the Cleveland Indians to trade their ace without asking for a King’s ransom. Admittedly, I will be disappointed if the Yankees sign J.A. Happ to fill the last spot in the rotation. Happ was great during his short time as a Yankee last year, but as a long-term piece, let’s say I would be a little underwhelmed. I would have been fine with Happ to go with Corbin, but not paired with Paxton who carries injury risk. I know, all pitchers carry injury risk. It’s the nature of the beast, but Paxton has consistently missed time over the last few years.

If the Yankees are successful in signing Corbin, the newcomers, along with Masahiro Tanaka, will certainly ease some pressure off Luis Severino to be “the man”.  I suppose it’s not out of the question for the Yankees to sign both Corbin and Happ. Last year proved, once again, you can never have too many starters.  Personally, I preferred signing Happ over long-time Yank CC Sabathia for the back end of the rotation. But regardless, you know that one or more starters in the rotation will miss time for various ailments and the Yankees need to be prepared. I really hope we’re not facing more rollouts of Luis Cessa to fill those spots. Domingo German, Jonathan Loaisiga and Chance Adams will have every opportunity to help, I am sure, but I hope we’re not leaning on those guys in multiple spots like we were at times last season.

Seattle fans seem to be taking the trade in stride. I think they realized that their team was mired in mediocrity in a division with some very strong teams. They have a few players with bloated contracts like Robinson Cano, Felix Hernandez, and Kyle Seager. I have always loved Cano but the back half of his huge contract is not going to be pretty for the 36-year old. I am glad the Yankees were able to acquire Paxton without having to take on any of unmovable contracts. The M’s can use the young pieces received in the Zunino and Paxton trades to position themselves for 2021 or so. I read one Seattle columnist who said Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto basically had the choice of getting punched in the mouth or hit by a truck. He chose the former.

I fully expect Domingo German to give up #65 for Paxton. It’s not exactly like German is married to the number. I believe Jonathan Holder was wearing the number at the start of last season until he opted for a lower number in the 50’s.  The number still reminds me of Phil Hughes but no doubt, in time, Paxton can make it his own.

There may be minor moves made today as teams finalize their 40-man rosters for Rule 5 eligibility next month. I doubt we’ll see anything as major as the Paxton trade, but there’s always a chance for the inevitable Sonny Gray trade now that his spot in the rotation has been filled. Otherwise, I expect the remainder of the week to be fairly quiet with no significant moves until we get past the Thanksgiving Holiday weekend.

Paxton is the first step toward the enhancement of the 2019 Yankees (if you don’t count the re-signings of Brett Gardner and CC Sabathia). Multiple moves remain necessary before this team is ready to take down the Boston Red Sox. Another starter, at least two more for the bullpen, and an interim solution at shortstop. Yet, my excitement for February is building. It only gets better from here.

As always, Go Yankees!

Now Available, Number 55…

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Patrick McDermott)

Yankee Fans await the departure of Sonny Gray…

If you listen to the so-called Yankee GM’s on Twitter, the end of the road could be near for Sonny Gray. We know he’ll be gone by the time the guys pick up their bags to head to Tampa, Florida for Spring Training in February, but the only question is when, where and for whom.

When Sonny’s college pitching coach was on the Milwaukee Brewers coaching staff, there were lots of trade speculation with the Brewers. Now that the coach (Derek Johnson, formerly pitching coach of Vanderbilt) has moved on to the Cincinnati Reds in the same capacity, the Reds have become the “favored” trade target for the Twitter GM’s. I am sure Yankees GM Brian Cashman is talking to the Reds, as reported by the real insiders, but he’s talking with other teams too. I have no doubt Sonny Gray will perform better in a less-pressurized environment. We’ve seen it with the guys traded to Pittsburgh in recent years (most notably A.J. Burnett and Ivan Nova).

When the Reds are mentioned as a Gray destination, the name of Reds second baseman Scooter Gennett repeatedly comes up. If the Yankees are successful in acquiring the left-handed bat of Gennett, it is going to take more than Sonny Gray to make it happen. Gennett is only 28 years old, and has had great numbers the last two years, but he is a free agent after the 2019 season. I’ve heard people nix the thought of trading for Arizona’s premier first baseman Paul Goldschmidt because of his impending free agency next off-season. Not sure why you’d trade a talented Gray for short-term assets. Gennett’s productive bat would slot nicely into the Yankees lineup, but I just don’t think he is part of a Gray trade unless the team is willing to let go of some top prospects too.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jamie Sabau)

One writer mentioned 2B/SS Jeter Downs as an option but young Downs is only 20 years old and while drafted in the first round of the 2017 MLB Draft (32nd pick), he has not played higher than Single A and is not ready to help in the immediate future. But, of course, you’ve got to like the name considering he was named for the Yankees future Hall of Fame shortstop. Still, I don’t see the Reds parting with one of their top prospects for Gray unless the Yankees sweeten the pot on their end.

The Oakland A’s and San Diego Padres are other teams mentioned, but there are others. While some have speculated Cashman’s return for Gray could be better than expected, I am anticipating it will be for minor league names that may or may not have heard of before. When you try to sell an asset, it’s generally not a good idea to tell the world how poorly it performs. I know that Cashman sells Gray’s upside in phone conversations with other GM’s, but he certainly has not avoided negative comments in his talks with the media. Nothing like giving a player a chip on his shoulder.

I am trying to keep expectations low for Gray’s return. I’d prefer not to see him go to a team the Yankees could potentially see in the playoffs, such as the A’s. I fully expect Gray to become the pitcher he once was when he exits the main stage in New York. He’ll also be a pitcher with an axe to grind given the disparaging words by our own general manager. While I don’t think Gray is a pitcher for the Big Apple, I won’t easily dismiss him when he is playing in another uniform. He will be a formidable foe in the future. There were some jokes that the Yankees should trade Gray to Oakland for Dustin Fowler, Jorge Mateo, and James Kaprielian. Regardless of where he goes, we have to be prepared that he’ll pitch more like the ace he once was in Oakland.

The next milestone date for Major League Baseball is Tuesday when MLB 40-man rosters must be set in advance of December’s Rule 5 Draft. After November 20th, additions to the 40-man roster can only be made through trades and free agent acquisitions. With Tuesday’s roster deadline, there will be a flurry of activity as teams move to protect their best Rule 5-eligible prospects. The Rule 5 Draft is held on the Thursday (final day) of the Baseball Winter Meetings which will be December 13th in Las Vegas, NV this year.

Most people are speculating the Yankees will trade Gray before they begin aggressive pursuit of other pitching options like Patrick Corbin, J.A. Happ, James Paxton or Nathan Eovaldi. With its potential impact on the 40-man roster, it’s possible we could see Gray moved within the next couple of days. Otherwise, I think we’re going to have to be a little more patient and may not see anything until after the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

On the bright side for whomever pulls on #55 next, the most recent guy to wear it is former Yankees great Hideki Matsui. Godzilla wore the number on the recently completed MLB All-Star Series in Japan as first base coach for MLB All-Star Team Manager Don Mattingly.

Photo Credit: AP (Toru Takahashi)

Speaking of pitching, MLB.com posted a column this week about the potential 2019 rookies of the year for each team. For the Yankees, Justus Sheffield was the choice. Per the column written by Jim Callis, Jonathan Mayo and Mike Rosenbaum for MLB.com, “The Yankees’ greatest need is starting pitching, and Sheffield should crack the Opening Day rotation.  His fastball, slider and changeup all can be three plus pitches, so it won’t be a shock if he’s New York’s second-best starter after Luis Severino”.  That’s probably a little more aggressive than my expectation heading into the new season. So long as he’s not included in a trade for a top starting pitcher, I don’t think Sheffield grabs a spot in the rotation out of Spring Training. I think CC Sabathia is holding the spot Sheffield will take when he’s ready. My expectation is the Yankees will acquire at least two starting pitchers this winter which will delay Top Sheff’s arrival. I hope Sheffield comes to Spring Training and absolutely dominates but I don not really think it will happen…yet. For the top four spots in the rotation, the Yankees need certainty and reliability. It’s great that CC Sabathia is back, but the team should not pin its 2019 hopes on his arm or his bum knee. He’ll be a year older and closer to the inevitable end of the line. I know it’s his last year, but there are no guarantees he’ll pitch like he did last season. He’ll be 39 next summer and he is not exactly in “Mariano Rivera-like” condition. Maybe he pitches solidly throughout the year, but then again, the end could come suddenly and without warning. The Yankees do not need more than one question mark in the rotation if they intend to de-throne the Champions.

Former Yankees managerial candidate Chris Woodward, recently named as the new manager for the Texas Rangers, has appointed a new pitching coach for the Rangers who has Yankee roots. Julio Rangel, most recently a minor league pitching coordinator for the San Francisco Giants, spent six years in the Yankees farm system from 1994 through 2000 but only made it as high as Double A. Still, he’s a Yankee by birth and I wish him the best for his first job as a Major League pitching coach.

I think November is probably my least favorite month as a blog writer. There really isn’t much happening and just lots of speculation, ranging reasonable to absolute ridiculousness. But it is the calm before the storm as we are only a few weeks away from all hell breaking loose with the Baseball Winter Meetings. January tends to be quiet but at least by that time, we’ll have shiny new toys on the roster we can talk about and get excited about the approaching call of Spring Training.

There are two MAJOR free agents available right now…genuine superstars and potential future Hall of Famers…but frankly, I am tired of hearing their names and refuse to write them with this post. If the Yankees sign one of them, great. If not, life goes on. I know one thing for sure, the Yankees roster in January will be much stronger than it is today. Until then, let’s enjoy some turkey and gravy, and spend quality time with our families.

As always, Go Yankees!

The Bidding for James Paxton Begins…

Photo Credit: The Canadian Press (Fred Thornhill)

Will Paxton join Gerrit Cole in Houston?…

Last year, the Yankees missed an opportunity to acquire top starting pitcher Gerrit Cole from the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Houston Astros swooped in to grab the talented righty. It’s possible that the Yankees could be outdone by the Astros for the second consecutive year. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic tweeted this morning that Houston is in on the potential trade  talks for James Paxton of the Seattle Mariners along with the Yankees and other clubs.

I wanted Cole last winter although a number of Yankee fans did not. Honestly, it’s unlikely Cole would have pitched as well in the Bronx as he did in Houston so perhaps the opposing fans were right. This is a new year, and now the trade speculation is on Paxton, Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco. My initial desire is to place Kluber at the top of the list, but the more you think about it, the less likely you feel the Cleveland Indians would actually move their aces. The Indians remain a contending team so unless it is a serious overpay, the Tribe is not going to part with Kluber or Carrasco. So it leaves Paxton as potentially the best available trade target assuming the Mariners decide to move him. Seattle GM Jerry DiPoto is, of course, very unpredictable but the Yankees and Mariners have matched up for lesser deals in recent years so there is history of successful negotiations. I have no doubt DiPoto would trade within division for the right mix of players so Houston is a serious threat for the Yankees if they identify Paxton as the guy they want. The Astros may lose Charlie Morton to free agency and they’ve already lost Lance McCullers, Jr for the 2019 season due to Tommy John surgery. So the Astros are just as motivated to add top starters as the Yankees.

As much as I like Paxton, he is not someone I would trade Miguel Andujar for (or Estevan Florial or Justus Sheffield for that matter).  Kluber or Carrasco, yes, but not Paxton. Paxton carries much greater risk with his inability to stay healthy. So, as much as I would hate to get punked by the Astros again and as much as I’d like Paxton on the staff, there is a price I’d draw a line. If Houston wants to overpay, let them.  If GM Brian Cashman can get Paxton at his price, great. I’ll be excited to see Paxton join the Yankees starting rotation…with Miguel Andujar continuing to field grounders at third in Yankee Stadium.

A pic of a shaved Dallas Keuchel has been floating the Internet with talk about how the “beardless” one would look in the Bronx.

With no offense to Keuchel, I don’t really want to see him in the Bronx. I know he’s been tough on the Yankees over the years but I cannot find myself with the desire to root for him.  Keuchel will only be 31 when the season begins, however, I think Keuchel and Patrick Corbin are on opposite trajectories for their 30’s. Corbin, like fine wine, stands a much better chance of aging well. If the Yankees miss out on Corbin and others, it is possible they have to make a run at Keuchel but I really hope that’s a potential option which never comes to fruition. Bring me Corbin and J.A. Happ and I’ll be happy.

Trying to brace myself for the possibility the Yankees pass on the big ticket purchases this winter, I think Marwin Gonzalez and Jurickson Profar represent the best options for the infield to help cover for the loss of Didi Gregorius. I’ve liked Daniel Murphy in the past but I don’t feel he really fits the Yankees at this stage in his career. Both Gonzalez and Profar have positional diversity which makes them very valuable with the current group of Yankees. Who knows, maybe this is the year Tyler Wade puts it together to launch his Major League career in full force. It’s not really a bet I’d make but it is not my team or my money. Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner is on record that he is tired of lining the pockets of other owners and it’s his right to make the financial decisions in the best interests of the Steinbrenner Family. I think most of us thought the Yankees were positioning themselves for a big splash into the 2018-19 free agent market but the reality is that we need to be prepared for Team Fiscal Restraint. I am hopeful Hal sees the potential salary relief when guys like Jacoby Ellsbury come off the books in just a couple of years but we’ll see.

It was tough in years past to see the Yankees pass on the big name free agents. Max Scherzer stands out as one. At the time of his free agency, the Yankees were cited as one of the favorites to sign him. They didn’t and Scherzer moved from Detroit to Washington and has continued to pitch at an elite level. Even if the Yankees weren’t ready to add an elite pitcher at the time of Scherzer’s availability, he’d certainly look fantastic in the starting rotation today. The price would have meant the inability to bring payroll under the luxury tax threshold this year so the decision to pass on Scherzer remains debatable. It’s amazing how the decision to sign Jacoby Ellsbury has haunted the Yankees for so many years. I guess that’s a strong argument for not going hog wild in the current free agent market.

Before I close, I’d like to send out our prayers and thoughts to all those affected by the wildfires in Northern and Southern California. For some, there will never be recovery. I hope the fires are brought under control soon and we suffer no further loss of life. For those of you in California, please stay safe.

View of Malibu from Santa Monica Pier

Lastly, Happy Veteran’s Day! We can never forget those who served and those who paid the ultimate sacrifice to maintain our freedom. Today, and every day, we honor you.

As always, Go Yankees!

Looking Forward to St Patrick’s Day…

Photo Credit: AP (Rick Scuteri)

Patrick Corbin should be at the forefront for the Yankees…

So many possibilities, where do the Yankees go? November is always a tough month for the Hot Stove League. Lots of talk but not really much action. There’s always the chance for a major trade but we generally have to get much closer to the Baseball Winter Meetings in December for the flurry of activity, then the quietness returns until the start of training camp. I don’t expect this year to be any different.

No doubt GM Brian Cashman is laying the groundwork for potential trades. He’s talked with the Cleveland Indians, he’s reached out to the Seattle Mariners, and has surely had talks with teams we’ve heard nothing about. The talks now will hopefully yield fruit later, but rest assured, if the Yankees are successful in obtaining Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco or James Paxton, it WILL hurt. For a team on the cusp of a championship, now is not the time to “prospect-hug”. The team must be prepared to pay the price, whatever it may be, to bring in a top of the rotation arm.

Of the names mentioned, I probably like Kluber the best. He would immediately became the team’s ace, which we clearly need, and his presence would help take pressure off Luis Severino. Less pressure on Sevy would only enhance the chances for him to become the best he can be. But if the Yanks can’t get Kluber, Carrasco would be a welcome addition. I really like James Paxton and I think his name has been mentioned frequently in the past by TGP’s Daniel Burch. My only concern, like many others, is health. Paxton has not proven to be a durable pitcher. But if the team has the opportunity to add Paxton and the price is reasonable, they should do it.

Photo Credit: USATSI

Regardless of how the trade market plays out, I hope the Yankees do not lose sight of free agent starter Patrick Corbin. He will be costly but I am very fascinated with how his left arm and pitching arsenal would play in Yankee Stadium. He grew up as a Yankees fan and wore #46 in Arizona out of respect for Andy Pettitte. He is a ground ball pitcher with five legitimate pitches although his deadly combinations are the slider, four-seam fastball, and sinker. He’s been praised for his work ethic and the signs show he will be an elite pitcher in his 30’s. Corbin might slot into the third or fourth spot in the rotation depending upon what the Yankees do on the trade market, but he’d ensure the starting rotation is a strength in 2019 compared to its achilles heel in 2018.

Despite the rumors of so many names, Corbin remains my number one target this off-season.  I hope the Yankees see it the same way. Paired with an ace acquired via trade, or added along with the return of a guy like J.A. Happ or Nathan Eovaldi, the starting rotation will be better next year with Corbin in it.

Photo Credit: USA Today Sports (Mark J Rebilas)

The Bryce Harper/Manny Machado talk has reached absurd levels. I am anxious for the guys to get their $300 million plus contracts to end the excessive chatter about the two young superstars. I think the Yankees would be foolish to pass on at least one of the rare “young” superstars but it’s not my money. I see the advantage of Bryce’s left-handed bat in the Yankees lineup and I see Manny’s role in bridging the gap at short and eventually providing a superior defender at third. My personal preference may be Machado as I’ve long admired the player but I would shed no tears with the signing of Harper. Still, the Yankees can win without either so if they go big with the starting rotation and bring in a guy like Marwin Gonzalez or Daniel Murphy to help the infield, it will not be the end of the world. I like the chances better with Harper or Machado, but the 2019 Yankees will contend for the World Series regardless of how this plays out. “Go big or go home” applies now more than ever.

I want the Yankees to end the reign of the Boston Red Sox next season so I am in favor of whatever moves the team has to make to improve. I’d hate to see Miguel Andujar, Estevan Florial, Justus Sheffield, or Albert Abreu leave, but if it improves the team, so be it. Championship windows do not remain open for extended periods of time. You have to take advantage of the opportunities when they present themselves. I am ready for the pain for the greater glory. In Cashman we trust…

Photo Credit: AP (Gregory Bull)

For those keeping score, the Yankees have made some moves this off-season. They’ve re-signed Brett Gardner and CC Sabathia to one-year deals. They re-signed minor league free agent third baseman and defensive-whiz Giovanny Urshela and they signed a minor league deal with former Pirates catcher Ryan Lavarnway. Lavarnway was once a heralded top prospect for the Red Sox, although, now in his 30’s, he has settled into a journeyman role.  He provides much needed catching depth at the upper levels of the farm system. Lavarnway is one of those guys I hope the Yankees don’t need to use but he’s there to help if it becomes necessary. Milwaukee’s Erik Kratz has proven it is never too late to make a significant contribution.  Welcome to the Yankees Family, Ryan!

Photo Credit: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Matt Freed)

The end is within sight for Jacoby Ellsbury. He only has two more years on his contract before the Yankees can exercise their buyout. Ellsbury is owed $42,285,174 for the next two seasons, and the Yankees can then buyout his contract for an additional $5 million. Realistically, I don’t expect Ellsbury to wear the pinstripes again or at least I hope not, but I am glad we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve seen some suggest the Yankees should trade Ellsbury for another dead contract (like Miami’s Wei-Yin Chen, owed $58 million for the next three years, or Seattle’s Robinson Cano, owed $120 million over the next five years). No, thanks. I don’t think the Yankees should take on more money to rid themselves of Ellsbury. I like Cano and he might help but financially it makes absolutely no sense. He is clearly on the downhill slide and he’s entering the really ugly side of his ridiculous contract. If the Yankees can finally move Ellsbury even if they have to pay the bulk of his remaining contract, that’s the way to go. If I was a GM for another team and I was convinced that Ellsbury was finally healthy, I’d take a chance on him for no more than a $5 million per year commitment. That’s a lot of money for the Yankees to eat, but it would be worth the investment (addition by subtraction). I am done with Ellsbury and don’t want to see him pull on the pinstripes again.

Yesterday saw two notable names in the game announce their plans to retire. Hats off to Joe Mauer of the Minnesota Twins and Chase Utley of the Los Angeles Dodgers for long, distinguished careers. Both are names I’d like to see stay in the game in some capacity. I am not sure what their plans are for the future but I wish both the very best as they enter the next phase of their lives. Mauer’s departure certainly opens an opportunity at first base for former Yankee Tyler Austin unless they decide to go in a different direction for new manager Rocco Baldelli.

Is Sonny Gray still a Yankee? Count me among those who think Cashman will bring a better than expected return for the failed Yankee. I am certain he’ll get at least a strong prospect with upside. We’ll see. Hopefully Gray’s Yankee career is over by this time next month. It would  be great if he could take Luis Cessa and A.J. Cole with him.

As always, Go Yankees!