Tagged: Jason Hammel

If at First you don’t succeed…

He has swing and miss ability!…

My first thought hearing the news (allegedly, as there has been no official announcement yet) that the Yankees signed free agent first baseman Chris Carter was the team had captured last year’s strikeout leader.  Great if the signing was for a pitcher, but not so great when it is a hitter.

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Credit:  USA TODAY Sports

Still, for a team with questions at first base, the signing makes some sense.  It’s not a given that Greg Bird will pick up where he left off in 2015 given that he missed most of last year due to injury (playing only in the Arizona Fall League).

The other first base candidate (Tyler Austin) was completely off the Yankees’ radar last off-season.  He had a surprisingly good year to recapture prospect status and came up with some big hits in the Bronx at the end of the year.  But he is not the second coming of Don Mattingly, Tino Martinez, Jason Giambi or Mark Teixeira.

Carter will end many innings with strikeouts, but the potential for the big smash to win games is there.  He provides help from the bench if Bird captures first with a strong Spring performance or is there for a platoon if necessary.  He also provides insurance at DH for Matt Holliday who has spent a fair amount of time on the DL over the last few years.

For only $3.5 million (and one year), Carter is a good investment.  He can play his way into a new contract with the Yankees or the parties can decide to part ways at the end of the year which fits with Hal Steinbrenner’s desire to get under the luxury tax threshold next year.

We’ve been spoiled by great first basemen over the years, but I didn’t enjoy the various Teixeira ailments that plagued the team in recent years.  I am hopeful that Bird grabs the position and runs with it.  Carter will be there for insurance.

 

Wanted:  Starting Pitchers…

I had been hopeful the Yankees would sign a veteran pitcher to bring to camp but it doesn’t look like it will happen.  Jason Hammel had been my choice, but he recently signed with the Kansas City Royals as they attempt to recover from the devastating passing of Yordano Ventura.  Doug Fister is still out there, but I don’t think he’ll be coming in for the Yankees.  So, it looks like the Yankees will fill the two open spots in the rotation with in-house candidates.  Clearly, they have to be hoping for a rebound by Luis Severino who failed miserably as a starter last year (finding success only in the bullpen).  But with off-season work with Pedro Martinez, maybe Sevy can show he is capable of becoming a good starter at the major league level.

I would love for James Kaprielian to take the other spot, but I recognize that he is not ready yet.  He’ll need more time in the minors and might get a chance later in the year.  Luis Cessa and Chad Green will be given every opportunity, but Jordan Montgomery is quickly becoming my favorite.  Last year, he pitched to a 2.95 ERA in 19 starts with AA Trenton, and then 0.97 in just 6 starts with AAA Scranton/Wilkes Barre.  At 6-6, he is a formidable presence on the mound with the pitches to match.  His time may be now.  Severino and Montgomery have the potential to make the back end of the Yankees rotation quite strong, which would certainly help the question marks that exist in the front end.

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Credit:  Jason Farmer/Scranton Times Tribune

It’s exciting that baseball is almost back.  Pitchers and catchers will report on Valentine’s Day (that must have made a bunch of wives and girlfriends very happy) so we’re only days away.  It seems like it wasn’t that long ago Aroldis Chapman was on the mound winning a World Series.  It will be good to see him back in blue (well, a darker shade of blue than we last saw him in).  The excitement of spring training and the limitless possibilities it brings is fun.

Welcome back, Yankees!

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Sad Day for Detroit and all of Major League Baseball…

On a final note, my deepest sympathy and condolences to the Detroit Tigers, their fans, and the family of their late owner Mike Ilitch who passed away yesterday.  He was great for the Tigers and for the city of Detroit.  He will be missed.  It’s unfortunate that he was unable to see a Tigers championship or the opening of the new Little Caesars Arena for his other team, the Detroit Red Wings.

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Credit:  MLB.com

—Scott

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Is Status Quo enough?…

Waiting for Spring…

This is the time of year when there is not much activity in the way of baseball news.

Soon, MLB teams will be preparing for the journeys to Florida and Arizona (ala the Boston Red Sox infamous “Truck Day”).  There is still a number of free agents searching for new homes, but the Yankees have not engaged any players in known, substantive talks.

I remain convinced the Yankees need to bring in a veteran arm to compete with the young talent that will be auditioning for the two open spots in the rotation.  Jason Hammel remains available and that’s the arm I feel the Yankees should bring to camp.  But there are others.  I know that he’s not the pitcher he was earlier in the decade, but I liked San Diego’s move to sign Trevor Cahill.  A reliever for the Chicago Cubs, Cahill will get an opportunity to start again for the Padres.  Who knows if he’ll be successful or will ever be the starter that he once was, but the Padres are taking the chance.

Regardless of who the Yankees bring in, it’s a certainty that there will be a Scranton/Wilkes Barre shuttle for starters as well as relievers.  I have no doubt that names like Jordan Montgomery and Chance Adams will make their major league debuts in 2017.  The likelihood of Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia staying healthy all season long is remote.  This is why I feel that it is a very good idea to bring in a stable, consistent veteran influence like Hammel.

GM Brian Cashman would make the trade for Jose Quintana of the Chicago White Sox today if the price was right, but odds are it will be too high for the Yankees (leading to Cashman’s statement that it is 99% the Yankees will not be adding a pitcher before heading to Tampa).  I still expect the Houston Astros to pony up the prospects necessary to pry Quintana from the White Sox.  There’s no doubt Quintana would great in the Yankees rotation, but the time is not right.

There is a genuine concern that Masahiro Tanaka will have a great season and opt out of his deal next fall.  Without Tanaka, the Yankees rotation is looking very scary unless the young arms make major advancements during the season.

Here’s how the Top 3 rotations currently stack up in the AL East:

Baltimore Orioles:  Chris Tillman, Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy

Boston Red Sox:  Chris Sale, David Price and Rick Porcello

New York Yankees:  Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, and CC Sabathia

Tampa Bay Rays:  Chris Archer, Alex Cobb, and Jake Odorizzi

Toronto Blue Jays:  Marco Estrada, Aaron Sanchez, and Marcus Stroman

Clearly, Boston is the class of the division, with the Blue Jays not far behind.  There’s talent with the Orioles and Rays rotations.  The Yankees clearly hold the most questions heading into the season.  This is even more reason to shore up the back end of the rotation.

It’s tough thinking about giving up top prospects to bring in a much needed top starter.  The Yankees need an ace to pair with, or potentially replace, Tanaka.  2B/SS prospect Gleyber Torres seems to have that “It” factor that separates the great players from the good ones.  OF prospect Clint Frazier is guaranteed to be a hit in the Bronx if he gets the opportunity with a huge personality that matches the talent.

Hard decisions will need to be made as the team prepares for World Series contention within the next couple of years.  For now, Cashman needs to ensure that he gives Manager Joe Girardi the best possible arms for 2017.  It may be the best move is no move, or it may be bringing in a veteran arm or two to compete.  Either decision is a hard one.  It is time for the young guys to step up their game…

—Scott

Youth Movement is great, but…

When is there too much youth?…

The Yankees continue to be linked to the Chicago White and their latest ace-in-waiting Jose Quintana in the rumor mill but like many, I do not expect, nor want, the Yankees to give up the top prospects it would take to bring him back to New York. At the risk of being a “prospect-hugger”, I want to see Clint Frazier, Gleyber Torres, James Kaprielian and others succeed in the Bronx.

Credit: Mark J. Rebilas, USA TODAY Sports

Without getting into the analytics for why the Yankees should or should not pursue a particular pitcher, I think the best move would be to sign one of the remaining free agent pitchers (why not roll the dice, it’s only money). Or perhaps GM Brian Cashman should focus on an ‘under the radar’ trade for an arm with potential that doesn’t carry the current media focus like Quintana.

Of the remaining free agents, I would pursue either Jason Hammel or Doug Fister. Neither pitcher is flashy and both slot in at the back end of the rotation but both are capable of delivering 10+ wins which, for a #4 or #5 starter, is not bad. Fister has been the model of mediocrity for a couple of seasons and Hammel benefited from being part of a World Series caliber staff to garner his highest career victory total last year. For the back end, I want starters who can keep the team in games. Watching Luis Severino go winless in his starts was brutal. I’d easily take the dependablity and reliability of Hammel or Fister over another ‘0-fer’ performance by Sevy.

If Severino shows in spring training that he is capable of making the necessary adjustments and can be the 2015 starter version versus the 2016 bullpen-only guy, great, put him in the rotation. But that’s not a bet I’d take in Vegas.

I want to limit the ‘see if they can grow into the role’ opportunities in the rotation to no more than one. The certainties in the rotation are Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia. After that, it is a plethora of young arms. I’d prefer to see Luis Cessa succeed because I admire his attitude on the mound so he’s my favorite to add. But the stress is much greater if we have to rely upon Cessa AND Severino, Chad Green, Bryan Mitchell or Adam Warren without a strong backup plan.

If Pineda continues to struggle or if Sabathia gets hurt or further regresses, the rotation will collapse if they have to be carried by unproven prospects. I want nothing more than to see Jordan Montgomery, Dietrich Enns, Chance Adams, and Justus Sheffield get their chances. I also think Albert Albreu was a great addition. But none of those quality arms will be ready in April 2017.

It is imperative for the Yankees to bring stabilization to the rotation. If healthy, Hammel or Fister would help provide it. What is the risk in bringing in a proven veteran to compete with the kids?…

 — Scott

Bring on the High Heat…

Sanchez had better get extra padding for that mitt…

Before the Yankees re-signed closer Aroldis Chapman, there was very little talk of what they SHOULD do.  Now that Chapman is back in the fold after his brief hiatus to win a World Series championship with the Chicago Cubs, the naysayers are out in full force.

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Credit:  ESPN.com Illustration

For me, I am glad Chapman once again anchors the back end of the bullpen.  If the Yankees had not paid him the record-setting 5 year, $86 million contract for a closer, the Miami Marlins were fully prepared to step in and pay him a million more.  Like him or not, Chapman was going to get his money.

I know the current Baby Bombers Implementation Plan is in full effect and there are cheaper alternatives available.  As great as Kenley Jansen is, he would have cost the Yankees their first round draft pick in the 2017 MLB Draft (then Number 17, but now Number 16 thanks to the Colorado Rockies’ signing of OF, SS, or 1B? Ian Desmond, thereby forfeiting their higher draft selection).  In terms of dollars, in addition to the draft pick, Jansen would have cost nearly as much as Chapman.

Free agent and former Kansas City Royals closer Greg Holland is still available but he carries more questions as he attempts to come back from injury.

A reunion with former Yankees closer David Robertson was a possibility but the Chicago White Sox have shown they demand premium plus in trades.

Signing Chapman did not cost a draft pick or talent…only money which the Yankees have.

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Credit:  www.drewlitton.com

Chapman does carry the negative stigma of domestic violence but I do believe in second chances.  He has not been convicted and by all accounts no one was seriously injured (or worse).  I hope and pray it was a wake up call for Chapman.  After 20 years of a Saint in the closer’s role for the Yankees, it’s unfortunate we have to deal with these issues.  But give the man a chance for redemption.

I did not believe that Dellin Betances was suited for the closer’s role.  My suspicions proved correct when we saw Betances stumble in September after the trades of Chapman and Andrew Miller.  It may have been fatigue but I felt it was more mental.  Betances is a great setup guy, perhaps one of the best in the game.  Being a great bridge does not necessarily equate to  being a great closer.

There is no doubt I would have preferred a reunion with Andrew Miller over Chapman but that was not going to happen.  The Cleveland Indians recognize they have one of the most versatile and dependable relievers in baseball and possibly one of the most selfless guys you can ever hope to meet.  But he is Cleveland property for the next few years under a very reasonable contract.  If Cleveland was amenable to trading Miller, they would want no less than the premier talent they paid to acquire him.  OF Clint Frazier is either first or second on any given Yankees top prospect list and P Justus Sheffield is a future mainstay in the rotation.

So regardless of the other options, I am glad that #54 found his way back to the Bronx.  The trio of Tyler Clipart, Betances and Chapman may not be ‘No Runs DMC’ but they’ll be close.  The Yankees still need other bullpen upgrades (I personally would like to see another reunion with the potential signing of lefty Boone Logan) but regardless of what happens, the pen will be a strength in 2017.

Next year’s going to seem like a Holliday…

After talk the Yankees would use the DH role to cycle through its position players as a form of rest, I was glad to see the Yankees make a short-term investment in former St Louis Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday.  Any way you slice it, Holliday will be a major upgrade over the now departed Alex Rodriguez.  Last year, the Yankees offense was largely dependent upon two major underachievers, Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira.  This year, the center of the lineup features Holliday and rookie sensation Gary Sanchez.  If the Yankees can get meaningful production out of new first baseman Greg Bird and right fielder Aaron Judge, this could be a very good offense.

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Credit:  Google Images / STL Sports View

I am still a proponent of trading Brett Gardner.  I feel strongly the team needs to open up left field for other young talent and allow Holliday an occasional start.  The Yankees clearly need another starter in the rotation so if Gardner can bring in a solid #5, I’m all for it.

I think P Jason Hammel would be a good signing for the rotation but if that doesn’t happen, I am hopeful GM Brian Cashman gets creative in adding another piece.  I would much rather see the team’s young talent fighting for only one rotation spot; not two.  I am not convinced Luis Severino can be an effective starter but we know that he can be a very effective reliever.  I would rather see Adam Warren and Bryan Mitchell in swing roles, serving as the long men out of the pen.  It would be much better for Luis Cessa and Chad Green to fight each other for a rotation spot than handing it to both of them.

The heavy lifting is done for the 2017 roster but the coming weeks should bring continued improvement.  No major signings or trades are expected but just little tweaks to keep this team in contention while it looks ahead to brighter days in 2019.  This is what Brian Cashman gets paid to do it, and so far, he’s been doing it well…

–Scott

 

 

 

Roll camera, on your mark, ACTION!…

The Dawn of the Baseball Winter Meetings…

This week is always the most eventful one of the entire off-season.  A flurry of activity followed by relative silence as we head into the holidays.

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Credit:  AP Photo/Seth Wenig

Before the meetings start later this evening, the Yankees have already lost one option with Houston’s free agent signing of former Yankee Carlos Beltran.  I had mixed feelings about his possible return to New York.  He was arguably the team’s best hitter last season but he is also 40 years old.  For a team that has aggressively gotten younger, adding “old” does not necessarily make sense.  There is no guarantee that Beltran will be as good as last year, and it’s a near impossibility that he’d be better.  Going with older veterans, I’d rather sign either Matt Holliday or Mike Napoli to a short-term deal that keeps the Yankees on the right path toward World Series contention in 2018 or 2019.

Back in the old days under George Steinbrenner, I am sure that both Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista would be Yankees by now.  Of the two, I’d prefer Encarnacion but I don’t feel the Yankees should lock up huge long-term dollars for either player even if it would severely weaken the Toronto Blue Jays in the short run.  In a couple of years, they’ll just be over-paid, under-producing aging veterans.  We’ve seen enough of those in recent seasons.

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Credit:  Reuters/Ray Stubblebine

There are unofficial reports that the Los Angeles Dodgers have a deal in place with starter Rich Hill so that’s one less option on the pitching front.  A deal with Jason Hammel probably makes the most sense.  I like Hammel as a reliable, back of the rotation guy.  He would be a good complimentary piece to Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda as the team looks to fill other pitching spots with youth.  I would probably take a chance with either C.J. Wilson or Tyson Ross if given the opportunity.

It’s possible that GM Brian Cashman can uncover a quality arm via trade but it’s a virtual certainty the team won’t be involved in the Chris Sale sweepstakes.  Sale alone would not make the Yankees an immediate World Series contender and he would cost the best quality of the farm system to acquire.  So, the Yankees need to stay the course as they continue to add the pieces for future success.

I was disappointed to see minor league hitting coordinator James Rowson leave the organization.  I am happy to see him return to the major leagues as the hitting coach for the Minnesota Twins, however, I thought he would have been a better hitting coach for the Yankees than current hitting coach Alan Cockrell or assistant hitting coach Marcus Thames.  When the Yankees had dismissed Jeff Pentland last year, I was hopeful that Rowson would get the job.  It was not meant to be.  I think he’ll be a good addition to Paul Molitor’s staff in Minneapolis and should help former Yankee and current Twins’ co-catcher John Ryan Murphy to hit again.

I remain hopeful the Yankees re-sign pitchers Nathan Eovaldi and Jacob Lindgren* as they recover from Tommy John surgery.  Granted, neither pitcher will help in 2017 but I would really prefer to see them stay.

Let’s hope this week brings good news for Yankees fans…

—Scott

 

*Several hours after this post, the Atlanta Braves announced they’ve signed Lindgren to a one year deal that will allow them to retain rights to Lindgren if they add him to their 40-man roster.