Tagged: John Ryan Murphy

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!

Game One Hundred: The Gardy Party…

Credit:  Elsa-Getty Images

Yankees 6, Rays 5…

For the games that the Yankees have lost which they should have won, it’s nice when they win a few that they probably should have lost.  It took extra innings but Brett Gardner ended the long night with a game-winning walk-off home run as the Yankees overcame the Tampa Bay Rays.

Early, it looked like it was going to be the Yankees way.  CC Sabathia was backed by a few runs while the Yankees took the early lead.  They scored first in the second inning.  With one out, Chase Headley singled to right and scored when Jacoby Ellsbury, the $153 million man making his second consecutive start, doubled to left.  Todd Frazier singled to right to score Ellsbury with the second run of the inning.  The Yankees added a run in the bottom of the 3rd when Gary Sanchez blasted his 15th homer of the season to left.  It was 3-0 Yankees.

But it started to unravel for CC Sabathia in the top of the 4th inning.  Evan Longoria led off and his numbers against Sabathia were ridiculous.  Prior to the game, Longoria had hit .405 with 7 home runs and 16 RBI’s in 74 at-bats against CC and held a career .355 batting average against the Yankees.  While I was thinking it was probably best not to give Longoria anything to hit, he promptly parked in right center to draw the Rays within two runs, 3-1.  It was Longoria’s 35th career home run against the Yankees. After striking out Tim Beckham in the top of the 5th (Sabathia’s 2,800th career strikeout), Adeiny Hecchavaria and Peter Bourjos hit back-to-back doubles (down the third base and first base lines, respectively) to score another run.  After walking Stephen Souza, Jr, Manager Joe Girardi pulled a visibly disappointed Sabathia (“C’mon, man!”)  and replaced him with Chad Green.  The move backfired as Brad Miller doubled to the right field wall, scoring Bourjos and Souza, Jr.  The Rays were up, 4-3.  

Credit:  Elsa-Getty Images

With Green still on the mound in the top of the 6th, Corey Dickerson homered with a high fly ball to right center to increase the Rays’ lead to 5-3.  The Yankees had a golden opportunity in the bottom of the 6th inning.  Two singles and a walk loaded the bases with only one out.  But both Todd Frazier and Tyler Wade struck out against Rays starter Chris Archer to end the inning.  Maybe it was just me, but Tyler Wade looked very over-matched in this game.  

After Tommy Kahnle pitched a clean 7th inning, Dellin Betances came on in the 8th.  He struck out the first two batters but then allowed back-to-back singles.  Fortunately, he was able to retire Adeiny Hecchavarria to get out of the jam.  In the bottom of the 8th, Didi Gregorius and Chase Headley both singled off Rays reliever Dan Jennings (who was acquired earlier in the day from the Chicago White Sox).  The Rays replaced Jennings with Brad Boxberger with the runners at the corners.  Matt Holliday, pinch-hitting for Jacoby Ellsbury, hit into a fielder’s choice that erased Headley at second.  Meanwhile, Gregorius scored to make it a one-run game, 5-4.  Ronald Torreyes was inserted as a pinch-runner for Holliday at first.  Todd Frazier followed with a single, but the Yankees were unable to add any runs when Tyler Wade hit into an inning-ending double play.  I didn’t really understand the decision to pinch-hit for Ellsbury.  I would have pinch-hit for Wade and then used Torreyes to replace him at second.  It’s easy to second guess but Wade seemed like such a little boy among men in the game.

Adam Warren kept the Rays off the board in the top of the 9th and then the Yankees were given a gift in the bottom of the inning.  With Rays closer Alex Colome taking over for Brad Boxberger, Brett Gardner led off with a triple to the left field wall, splitting the outfielders.  After both Clint Frazier and Aaron Judge failed to advance Gardy, Gary Sanchez hit a playable ball between shortstop Adeiny Hecchavarria and second Tim Beckham (“You take it”…”no, no, you take it”) for the game-tying run.  Didi Gregorius grounded out and it was off to extra innings.

Aroldis Chapman took over for Adam Warren in the 10th and easily set down the Rays.  Rays reliever Andrew Kittredge replaced Alex Colome and walked Chase Headley to start the bottom of the 10th.  Ronald Torreyes successfully laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Headley to scoring position at second, but Clint Frazier failed to advance the runner with a fly out.  Tyler Wade came up and it seemed like it would be an unsuccessful at-bat before it even got started.  He was swinging at balls outside of the strike zone and clearly had a death grip on his bat as he struck out to end the inning.

The 11th inning was the perfect scenario for Yankee fans.  Aroldis Chapman came out for his second consecutive inning and struck out the side.  Brett Gardner, the first batter up in the bottom of the 11th, sent the Andrew Kittredge pitch to the right field stands for the game-winner.  Yankees win!

Manager Joe Girardi was ejected from the game in the bottom of the 7th for arguing balls and strikes with home plate umpire Stu Sheurwater.  Girardi was right.  Sheurwater did a horrible job behind the plate and could have potentially altered this game away from the Yankees with his inconsistent calls.  

Credit:  Frank Franklin II-AP

Tyler Wade was 0-for-5, with three strikeouts.  He also left a game high 7 runners on base.

After the game, Aaron Judge suffered a broken tooth during the on-field celebration for the victory.  It is not believed that the injury will cause any lost playing time for Judge but it was not the way you want to end such a dramatic win.  

Credit:  Frank Franklin II-AP

The Yankees (54-46) picked up a 1/2 game on the idle Boston Red Sox in the AL East Standings so they only trail by a half game entering play today.  Boston begins a three-game set against the suddenly hot Kansas City Royals at Fenway Park tonight.  The Rays fell 2 1/2 games behind the Yankees.

Odds & Ends…
This seems to be the trading season for ex-Yankees.  We know that the Chicago White Sox traded former Yankee pitchers David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle this month, but this week has seen Anthony Swarzak move from the White Sox to the Milwaukee Brewers; Eduardo Nunez go from the San Francisco Giants to the Boston Red Sox; and John Ryan Murphy traded from the Minnesota Twins to the Arizona Diamondbacks.  Last week saw David Phelps travel from the Miami Marlins to the Seattle Mariners.  Justin Wilson is on the trading block, with the Yankees as a possible suitor, so he’ll probably be the next one to move.  Get me an ex-Yankee, dammit!
Speaking of John Ryan Murphy, Twitter blew up today with Yankee fans celebrating the success of the trade that brought Aaron Hicks to New York.  While I appreciate the job Hicks did earlier this year, the fact remains that he was a disappointment in 2016 and his “success” lasted less than half a season before he went for an extended trip on the DL.  I know that Murphy didn’t hit for the Twins or primarily their Triple A team this year, but I still like the player and I am hopeful that he can carve out a nice career in the Sonoran Desert.  I am hopeful that Hicks hits the ground running when he is able to return and if Murphy continues to struggle, then you call the trade a Yankees win.  But for me, it’s still too early to call.
The Tampa Bay Rays acquired one of the Yankees’ potential targets yesterday when they acquired first baseman Lucas Duda from the New York Mets.  This probably puts more pressure on the Yankees to swing a deal with Oakland for Yonder Alonzo if they want to upgrade first base and move Chase Headley to corner support.  The Rays have a solid first baseman in Logan Morrison so Duda probably slots in at DH with Corey Dickerson moving to the outfield.  It clearly strengthens their team offense and keeps Duda away from the Yankees who were the only other aggressive suitor for his services.  It was a busy day for the Rays as they also picked up reliever Dan Jennings from the Chicago White Sox.
Have a great Friday!  I hope this day goes my way!  Let’s Go Yankees!

Don’t Look Now But It’s J-Mont Time!…

Credit:  Chris O’Meara, AP

Whoa, I didn’t think it would happen but Jordan Montgomery has claimed the fifth spot in the starting rotation.  As recent as yesterday, I said I expected the Yankees to go with either Bryan Mitchell (currently on the Major League roster) or Chad Green (currently in the minors) since both pitchers are on the 40-man roster.  Surprisingly, Manager Joe Girardi has announced they’ll call up Jordan Montgomery to make his much anticipated Major League Debut on Wednesday against the Tampa Bay Rays.  

I think it’s a terrific move.  While I have been aware of the minor league accomplishments that Montgomery has achieved, I jumped on the bandwagon during Spring Training after watching him pitch.  I had been a big supporter for Mitchell but the tall young left-hander changed my mind.  I think it is tremendous to add another talented lefty to the rotation to go with CC Sabathia.  Montgomery may not profile as a frontline ace, but he can be a very effective Big League pitcher.  There will be bumps in the road but I think Montgomery can be an important part of the starting rotation when the team returns to contender status in the not-so-distant future.  

No word yet who has lost their spot on the 40-man roster.  You always have to worry about Rob Refsnyder given the lack of love he has been shown by Yankees management (regardless of how you or I feel about Ref).  I think it will probably be one of the lesser known younger pitchers but it’s really anybody’s guess for who will lose the seat at the table.

With Montgomery scheduled to start tomorrow, it pushes everyone else back a day.  Luis Severino will pitch on Thursday.  To make room on the 25-man roster for Montgomery, the Yankees have demoted lefty reliever Chasen Shreve to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.  The decision regarding the 40-man roster, which was not announced, will be made by Wednesday.

Congratulations to Montgomery for his arrival at The Show and best of luck for much success on Wednesday for his Major League (and Yankee Stadium) debut!  Exciting times!  These are the steps that lay the foundation for the next World Series Championship!

It’s been announced that catcher Gary Sanchez will miss four weeks with a Grade 1 Strain of his  right brachialis muscle (behind his bicep).  I think all of us knew that this was going to be longer than a 10-Day DL stint.  A month is a long time, but all things considered, it could have been worse, much worse.  So, I guess we’ll just have delay the Yankees Regulars Reunion Party until May when Sanchez and Didi Gregorius both return.  

I’ve already seen a few articles speculating who the Yankees should acquire for interim catching help.  I think they’ll just go with the in-house candidates like they did for Didi Gregorius.  I would prefer to see a platoon between Austin Romine and Kyle Higashioka rather than just give the job outright to Romine.  I really want to see what Higashioka has in his bat.  He was a late bloomer but I think he can be a better catcher than Romine.  Of the external candidates, the only name that sounds reasonably appealing to me is John Ryan Murphy of the Minnesota Twins.  But despite the good job Murphy did as the Yankees backup catcher a couple of seasons ago, he has had a difficult time staying on the Twins’ MLB roster and is currently at Triple A.  

With Sanchez out of the lineup, it’s critical for someone else to step up.  Could that guy be right fielder Aaron Judge?  Judge homered on Sunday against the Baltimore Orioles and again yesterday on Opening Day against the Tampa Bay Rays.  He has done a good job in reducing strikeouts and maybe now his bat is coming around.  After struggling at each level, he has always overcome the challenges.  Let’s hope this is the start of success for Judge in the Major Leagues, his final frontier.  

Speaking of Opening Day, it was a magical day.  Prior to the game, I had hoped the significance of the day would help bring out the best in Pineda.  It did.  Big Mike pitched exactly the way we know he can.  He took a perfect game into the seventh inning before surrendering a double to Evan Longoria.  He lost the shutout in the eighth, thanks to a Logan Morrison home run.  Those would be the only hits (and run) allowed by Pineda, who went 7 2/3 innings.  He didn’t walk a batter and struck out eleven in one of his most magnificent performances in recent memory.  This is the Big Mike that can take us to the Promised Land.  

For the second day in a row, Aroldis Chapman saw a potential save opportunity evaporate due to multiple late inning runs.  After the top of the eighth inning was completed, the Yankees held a slim 3-1 lead.  It felt like we’d see Chapman in the ninth to try for his first save of the season.  He had even gotten up to throw in the pen but it was not meant to be as the Yankees easily scored five runs in the bottom of the 8th to ice the game.  So, for the ninth inning, Chasen Shreve cleanly delivered three outs with no hits, walks or runs, striking out one.  For his trouble, he received a free all-expenses paid one-way trip to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.  

In addition to Judge’s fourth inning home run off Alex Cobb, Chase Headley and Starlin Castro also homered later in the game.  Matt Holliday had a good Yankee Stadium debut as he was 2-for-4, with a run scored and one ribbie.  Chris Carter, also making his Yankee Stadium debut, tripled to drive in a run during the eighth inning scoring explosion.

It was a GREAT day for the Yankees and their fans from beginning to end.  The day could not have been better scripted.  Well, I wouldn’t object to the erasure of Longoria’s hit or Morrison’s homer, but all things considered, it was a wonderful day in the Bronx neighborhood.  

For a day like yesterday, it’s fun to have a day off today to let the pleasing victory marinate.  Take these good feelings and channel them into the desire for a sensational debut performance tomorrow by New York Yankees starting pitcher Jordan Montgomery!  Wow, that does sound good…

Have a great Tuesday! 

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.

Well, that didn’t turn out as planned…

Be careful what you ask for…

In my last post, I stated my preference for Masahiro Tanaka to be named the Opening Day starter.  This, of course, was before Joe Girardi announced that Tanaka, in fact, would be the starter.  So of course, Tanaka promptly bombed as the Yankees were throttled by the Toronto Blue Jays, 6-1.

The start didn’t change my opinion that Tanaka was the best choice.  Michael Pineda is the next best starter on the staff, but he didn’t deserve the nod over Tanaka.  CC Sabathia may have been the sentimental choice if for no other reason than the consecutive years he has been the starter.  But his performance last season (injuries combined with the continued gradual decline) didn’t warrant the start either.  Nathan Eovaldi wasn’t going to get it, and neither was Adam Warren.  The right choice was made by Girardi even if the results indicated otherwise.

My concern, more than anything, is the health of Tanaka’s arm.  Yes, it was only one start and one start does not a season make.  But going to last year after he returned from the DL, the results of not been great.  If Tanaka has to learn to be a different pitcher at age 26 to lessen the strain on the elbow ligament, there’s no guarantee that he’ll be successful.  A solid outing would certainly help allay some of the concerns, but inevitably, I do feel this road leads to Tommy John surgery.  The sad part is that if he undergoes the surgery at any point this season, we most likely would not see him again until 2017, with 2018 being the target for a full return to health.

It’s too bad the Yankees do not have the quality starters to go six deep.  I’d rather lessen the load on Tanaka by spreading the distance between his starts.

Tanaka’s health certainly increases the spotlight on Adam Warren, as he’ll need to be the man to bridge the gap.  Today he is covering for Chris Capuano and Ivan Nova, but later in the summer, it could very well be for Tanaka.

Larry Rothschild is certainly earning his paycheck.  Earlier in the year, I didn’t think we’d see Luis Severino in the major leagues this year.  Now, it appears to be only a matter of time.

Another prospect lost…

It is hard not to get excited about certain prospects, and that certainly held true for catcher Austin Romine who was once billed as one of the organization’s best catching prospects along with since traded Jesus Montero.  Romine has the bloodline (his father Kevin played for the Boston Red Sox among other teams and his brother Andrew plays for the Detroit Tigers).  I was hopeful that Romine would use spring training to show the team that he belongs in New York.  It didn’t happen with a sub .200 batting average.  Perhaps the odds were against him since he was out of options and John Ryan Murphy, his competition for the back-up catching spot, is the better hitter.  Still, it was sad when the team announced just before the start of the season that it had designated Romine for assignment.  Maybe there’s a chance that he stays in the organization, but it seems inevitable that a trade is the more probable outcome as there isn’t much of a chance Romine could slide through waivers (teams need catching help too much, just ask Boston).  Romine has been an outstanding team guy and he’ll serve some organization well when/if he finally gets his chance at the Show.

A-Rod…

I am still not an A-Rod fan but I have to admit that he carried himself well in spring training and has done everything the team has asked.  If the Yankees suddenly found a way to rid themselves of A-Rod, I’d be all in favor.  But since that’s not going to happen, I’ll have to give A-Rod credit for not rocking the boat.

I still can’t bring myself to cheer for A-Rod but he’s effectively shut me up from booing for now.

*    *     *

I am glad that the baseball season is back but it would have been more exciting to open the season with a victory.  It was tougher to see the loss combined with a convincing Red Sox win on Opening Day.  Red Sox always gloat in victory so Opening Day was no exception.

I do feel more confident with Michael Pineda on the mound Wednesday, however, the team offense needs to step up their game.

Let’s Go, Yankees!

–Scott

Bonjour, Fevrier…

Ready or not, here come the 2015 Yankees…

The Yankees have stayed the course and true to their word, they didn’t purchase any big ticket items this off-season.  While I am glad to see that they want to end the ridiculous cycle of overbuying for soon to be past their prime ballplayers, it’s an almost certainty that the Yankees will again miss the post-season this year.  There’s always the chance that guys like Carlos Beltran, CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, Stephen Drew and Brian McCann play to their prior levels, but really, for everything to come together, the odds are against it.

Max Scherzer might have ensured a few more wins but he would not have made the Yankees a World Series contender.  So, perhaps the current path chosen by Yankees management and ownership will ultimately mean a World Series caliber team in a couple of years rather than a few years of a team trying to hang on.  I am excited for the future when guys like Aaron Judge, Greg Bird, and Luis Severino begin their ascent to the Bronx.

I thought the Philadelphia Phillies made a good signing with former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Chad Billingsley.  There’s a good chance that Billingsley never makes it back from his past injuries, but conversely, there is a small chance that he could.  It was a shot worth taking.  Granted, this is not exactly Clayton Kershaw that we are talking about, but Billingsley, if right, can help a pitching staff.  Meanwhile, the Yankees signed former Minnesota Twins pitcher Scott Baker for insurance.  I would have preferred to take a flyer on Billingsley.

Another pitcher that I’d probably be interested in for insurance purposes is former Atlanta Braves starter Brandon Beachy.  I really liked Kris Medlen but unfortunately so did the Kansas City Royals.

The Yankees need options for the spot in the rotation currently held by Chris Capuano.  Of course, Capuano is just a placeholder for the eventual return of Ivan Nova but I don’t really expect Nova to be effective this year when he does.  It will probably be 2016 before we start to see the Nova of old.  I have heard talk of converting Adam Warren to a starter, but I like the current configuration of the bullpen even with the loss of David Robertson.  I expect the Yankees to name Dellin Betances as the closer rather than use a closer committee comprised of Betances and Andrew Miller.  Miller should serve as the prime setup guy, with the others, including Warren falling in line.

While I am hopeful that Stephen Drew returns to the player he can be, I still hope that this is the year Rob Refsnyder arrives to take second base.

While former high prospect Austin Romine is out of options, I feel that John Ryan Murphy is better suited to be the Yankees backup catcher.  Sadly, Romine will see his Yankees career end in spring training either through trade or release.  Hopefully, the Yankees can get something for him when the time comes.

The calendar page is almost ready to turn to February which means that pitchers and catchers will soon be reporting.  Even if this will be another disappointing season for the Yankees, the thrill of the spring is always a great time.

–Scott

The Mets must be New York’s team…

We’re mediocre and we like it!…

I fully understand why the Yankees can’t field a starting rotation full of $25 million per year starters.  I recognize that Max Scherzer is most likely cost prohibitive for even the rich Yankees.  But my problem is the off-season of inactivity has me concerned about the prospects for 2015.  I am glad the Yankees signed lefty reliever Andrew Miller and re-signed starting third baseman Chase Headley, but as it stands, the Yankees are not a better team today than the one who finished with 84 wins last season.  Miller’s addition was offset by closer David Robertson’s departure, and Headley is a returnee.

Other guys who helped make a difference last year, like Brandon McCarthy and Francisco Cervelli, are no longer Yankees.  The Yankees were wise not to pay McCarthy $48 million for four years, but he will still be missed.  Cervelli brought lefty specialist Justin Wilson to the team and he’ll help in the bullpen, but it remains to be seen if John Ryan Murphy or Austin Romine can match his intensity as Brian McCann’s backup.

It’s difficult watching other teams make bold moves to improve while the Yankees sit idly by.  If the Yankees are not in on Scherzer, then why are they not pursuing guys like Kris Medlen.  Medlen was a very talented pitcher before he got hurt.  There’s risk for the Kansas City Royals in signing Medlen today, however, there’s also very good upside potential.  The Yankees’ preference was to re-sign #5 starter Chris Capuano who failed in Boston and was considering Japan when the Yankees called.

If the Yankees had a strong farm system with the upper levels stacked with major league ready talent it would be one thing, but that’s not the case.  The best talent are years away from helping.

Honestly, if the Yankees are not going to try to win, I’d prefer to see them blow the team up and send the trade-able players away for quality prospects.  A few 95 loss seasons for the chance to return to prominence would be preferable to an annual 85 win team that consistently comes up short in September.

Or better yet, I’d prefer to see the Steinbrenner family sell the team to someone who shares the understanding that George Steinbrenner had about the importance of successful Yankee teams.

The Yankees are not going to win with the current roster.  Paying Alex Rodriguez nearly $30 million per year for the next three years has, so it seems, to have paralyzed the team’s finances.  Mediocrity courtesy of A-Rod.

It’s almost comical when I hear players like Andrew Miller say that he joined the Yankees to win.  With Team Mediocrity, the only winning he’ll see is going to the bank to deposit his paychecks.

Right now, the Yankees fan base seems very lethargic and disappointed.  Maybe that’s just me, but the fan base needs to be energized.  Management needs to do something to show the nation they are committed to being successful in 2015.  We need something to energize us.  I am not sure what it would take, but anything is better than nothing.  Pinning your hopes on the good health of CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and others is simply a suicide mission.

There’s still time for the Steinbrenner boys to show Major League Baseball that they are still the Yankees.  But each day of inactivity brings us closer to the inevitable season of disappointment.  It’s funny, the person who may pay the price ultimately is manager Joe Girardi.  If the Yankees continue the downward spiral, someone will have to be held accountable.  Somehow, I don’t think it will be Hal or Hank Steinbrenner.

George, we miss you.

–Scott

End of WS, Start of Hot Stove…

Quiet domination…

I am not sure too many people would have predicted the San Francisco Giants and the Kansas City Royals in the Fall Classic, but congratulations to the Giants for their third World Series win in five years.  For being the most dominant team since the Yankees of the late 90’s, they’ve gone about it very quietly.  I guess that’s a product of East Coast bias, but Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy deserve much credit for crafting one of baseball’s better organizations.

Getty Images

When the Royals hit the sloppy triple in the top of the 9th of Game 7 against the great Madison Bumgarner, there was never really a sense that the Giants were going to let the game slip away.  Of course, that’s very easy to say when Bumgarner is on the mound.  It was a legendary World Series performance and he was the MVP by far.  Pablo Sandoval played superbly but Bumgarner was simply spectacular.  I did feel bad for the Kansas City fans who came so close to a championship after so many years of bad teams.  They’ll certainly be a force going forward and should have other opportunities.  With their stash of young talent, they remind me of the Tampa Bay Rays of a few years ago.

Maybe we will see it during our lifetime…

Joe Maddon and the Chicago Cubs.  It does seem like a potential great marriage.  Hopefully, former Cubs manager Rick Renteria will get another opportunity sooner rather than later.  He certainly deserves it, but this was a move that the Cubs needed to make.  It is a terrific chance for Maddon to prove that he is the best manager in baseball, and to win the World Series at Wrigley Field would be the crown jewel.

When Maddon first opted out of his contract with the Rays, I thought, or feared, that the Dodgers would foolishly dump Don Mattingly to reunite Maddon with former Rays GM Andrew Friedman.  But fortunately, Mattingly is held in high regard by ownership, so I am sure that solidified his position regardless of what Friedman may have felt privately.  Publicly, the Dodgers didn’t say or do anything to undermine their current manager which was good.  With the Dodgers off the table, the Cubs were the best spot for Maddon.  Unfortunate that it came at the expense of an employed manager, but it was still the right fit.

Maddon and his personality should be an instant success in the Windy City.

Protect your own, well, except #13…

I was glad to see the Yankees extend a qualifying offer to closer David Robertson, but there was no chance they wouldn’t.  It would be awesome if Robertson accepted the qualifying offer but I seriously doubt it.  Hopefully, the Yankees and Robertson can find common ground in bringing the closer back to the Bronx.  Dellin Betances may be a great closer one day, but Kansas City showed that you can go a long way with a stellar bullpen.  The Yankees are better with Betances setting up Robertson.

I am also hopeful that the Yankees bring back third baseman Chase Headley and starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy.  However, McCarthy may get caught in numbers.  CC Sabathia will be back to join Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda.  Shane Greene deserves another shot at the rotation, and it is very likely the Yankees will go after one of the top three free agent pitchers (Max Scherzer, Jon Lester or James Shields).  At some point early in the season, Ivan Nova will return.  It’s anybody’s guess what Sabathia will bring and there is some uncertainly with Tanaka and his elbow.  So loading up with starting pitching is never a bad thing, but if McCarthy wants a guaranteed spot, he’ll most likely need to go elsewhere.  It’s too bad because he is a good fit in the Bronx.

Tough decisions lie ahead for GM Brian Cashman and the Steinbrenner family.

Too many players with uncertainty.  Alex Rodriguez is certainly at the head of the list.  His days as a premier third baseman are over.  That’s even more reason to bring Headley back.  With someone like A-Rod, I would set my expectations low and then anything he delivers beyond that would be a bonus.  I truly hated to see the World Series end for no other reason than it meant the restoration of A-Rod to the active roster.  I wish there was a way the Yankees could sever ties, but the contract is too problematic unless the Yankees want to simply give A-Rod money for nothing and release him.

With Jose Pirela performing well in winter ball, there should be very spirited competition for second base with Rob Refsnyder in Spring Training.  My preference is to go young with the position and not reach out for an older veteran on the free agent or trade market.  They’ll need to do the latter at shortstop to provide a fill in until young prospect Jorge Mateo is hopefully ready in a few years.

It’s been fun watching the star shine more brightly on Yankees prospect Aaron Judge.  One of the bigger guys in baseball, he is playing better than just a big man and is on track to arrive at Yankee Stadium in a couple of years.

This off-season will see the departure of some prospects as a few are getting older and running out of options like Austin Romine.  The Yankees have a glut at catcher behind Brian McCann, so it would seem that either Francisco Cervelli or John Ryan Murphy will have to go.  I only hope that it doesn’t mean trading away high level talent like Judge or pitcher Luis Severino unless the return is significant (highly unlikely).

Best of luck to Gary Denbo as he takes over for VP of Baseball Operations for the retiring Mark Newman.  The Yankees have made progress in improving their minor league system the last couple of years so hopefully Denbo can enhance the continued growth of quality prospects at the upper levels of the system.  Also, I was pleased to see the return of former third baseman Eric Chavez as a special assignment scout.  I was disappointed last year when he chose a bench role with the Arizona Diamondbacks over the Yankees to be closer to his home in Arizona.

Still no word on a new hitting coach or first base coach, although it looks like Raul Ibanez is getting strong consideration for the former position.  Teaming him with someone like James Rowson would be a great idea.

Decisions made by the Yankees over the next 45 days will go a very long way toward shaping the 2015 Yankees.

I am ready for Spring Training to begin…

–Scott

The End is near…

The Kid from Kalamazoo rides away…

I hate that I’ve been so pessimistic about the Yankees’ chances of making the play-offs this year, but the realization is slowly becoming a reality as time on the 2014 season draws to a close.  For whatever reason, this just has never felt like the Yankees’ season.  It had more promise than last year yet the team will actually end up with a worse record.  As I write this, the Yankees hold a two game lead for second place in the AL East and that’s the most the team can aspire for.

After losing Martin Prado for the season due to an appendectomy, the latest blow is the potential season-ending loss of Jacoby Ellsbury with a hamstring injury.

It’s sad that the final season for future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter will end so quietly.  In a way, it carries the same sadness that saw Don Mattingly’s career end with the 1995 play-off loss to the Seattle Mariners (his only post-season appearance in a tremendously successful Yankees career).  Granted, DJ has enjoyed far greater post-season success than Mattingly could have ever imagined, but still, for the man coined as Mr. November, it’s sad that we will no longer be able to see his presence grace October.

Ironically, it is Mattingly who will experience the post-season this year as he has his Los Angeles Dodgers in a good position with a play-off spot secured and a 3 ½ game lead in the NL West over the San Francisco Giants.

With Jeter’s desire to one day be a major league owner, I wonder where his post-Yankees career will take him.  It’s tough to see Mattingly wear another team’s uniform after he wore pinstripes for the duration of his Yankees career.  I can’t imagine seeing Derek wearing another uniform.  I was listening to Cal Ripken on the radio this week and his radio career ensures that he’ll forever be known as an Oriole and nothing else.  That’s the way it should be, but Jeter’s aspirations for ownership will inevitably lead him elsewhere.  I can’t see the Steinbrenner family selling him a substantial piece of the prized Yankees.

Thank you, Lord, for making him a Yankee…

Hats off to Hiroki Kuroda who has been such a great Yankee.  I respected him when he was a starter for the Los Angeles Dodgers, but never really got a sense of his professionalism and the honor he bestows wearing his team’s colors.  He has only been a Yankee for three years, but he made a difference and if this is his last year, he will leave a solid legacy.  If he does play another year in the majors, I hope that he does return to the Yankees rather than going back to the Dodgers.  But for whatever he decides, I will respect his decision because he has earned that right.  If he does pitch for the Dodgers next year, or plays in Japan, or simply calls it a career, I will remain a fan.

My choice…they passed the audition…

I really hope the Yankees move quickly to re-sign Chase Headley and Brandon McCarthy, and decide to bring back Chris Young.  I think all three can play valuable roles for the 2015 season even with the return of Alex Rodriguez or the potential signing of a frontline starter like Jon Lester.  The first order of business when the season ends is for the Yankees to re-sign GM Brian Cashman (or move on and name Billy Eppler as his replacement).  The GM situation needs to be settled quickly so that the team can focus on its pursuit of improvement for 2015.  I clearly want Cashman back, but I’d be happy with Eppler in the role too.  I would not want to see the team bring in an outsider for fill the role.

I am anxious to see if Rob Refsnyder can take second base next spring.  He may not be Robinson Cano but I think he’d bring excitement to the position.

A plethora of catchers…

The Yankees will need to do something about the glut of catchers this off-season.  Francisco Cervelli is a great back-up and a potential starter, but John Ryan Murphy deserves a chance.  Austin Romine seems to have become an afterthought and maybe he’d thrive with a change of scenery (not unlike what happened for his brother, Andrew Romine, who was dealt from the Angels organization and is now starting at shortstop for the Detroit Tigers).  One of these days, Gary Sanchez will be knocking at the door and he will force his way onto the roster.

We know who replaced Mariano Rivera…

I guess the predictions that reliever Jacob Lindgren would make the majors by the end of the year after he was drafted in June did not come to pass.  But there’s no doubt that he’ll be a contender for the bullpen next season.  I really have no clue what the Yankees intend to do with David Robertson.  If he becomes a free agent, there is a very real possibility that he will become a former Yankee.  I am sure the Yankees are intrigued with the possibility of making Dellin Betances the closer after his All-Star breakout season.  I think Betances can be a great closer but Robertson has certainly done everything the team expected from him.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out.  I remember hating to see closer John Wetteland leave via free agency which thrust set up man Mariano Rivera into the closer’s role.  I think that situation played itself out correctly (statement of the obvious).  Time will tell if the team makes the right decision with Robertson.

Wanted:  Clutch hits…

One Yankee that has come under a great deal of heat is hitting coach Kevin Long.  Long respected at his craft, I wonder if the team’s offensive failures this year will force the Yankees to change coaches.  As great as Long is, if the players are not responding to his message, it’s either time to get new players or change coaches.  The latter is the cheaper route and it will most likely be the one the team makes.  There are no obvious choices for who would make a better hitting coach.  I’ve always liked Don Baylor but I don’t know his current situation.  I think Bernie Williams would have made a terrific coach if he had chosen that path, but his musical adventure is his passion.  Paul O’Neill?  Another one of the hard choices for the Yankees to make.

As Derek Jeter rides off to the sunset, many questions and few answers confront the Yankees as they move forward.

–Scott

No plans for October?…

Don’t let the door hit you on the way out…

The Yankees keep giving deceiving indications that they could actually snag the last Wild Card slot with great performances like the two walk-off wins over the Tampa Bay Rays.  The series ender when Chris Young broke up a no-hitter in the 8th with a double and won the game in the 9th with a three run homer seemed to possess the magical “mystique and aura”.  But the latest post-season hopes were dealt a harsh reality on Friday (September 12th) when the Baltimore Orioles swept the Yankees in a double-header.

The Yankees had a chance in the first game when they took a 1-0 lead in extra innings but the O’s dished the Yankees a taste of their own recent medicine in scoring two runs in the bottom of the inning to snatch victory away.  The second game was no contest as the Yankee bats couldn’t muster anything against Bud Norris.

Ichiro and the Yankees offense combine for one run in 20 innings of baseball on Friday.

Patrick Smith/Getty Images

I have felt for some time that this year’s Yankees lack the necessary ingredients to thrive in the post-season and I did not see them hurdling over the likes of the Detroit Tigers, Oakland A’s, and Mariners.

With post-season hopes fading fast, I think the Yankees should shut Masahiro Tanaka down rather than risk trying to bring him back this month for what appears to be a lost season.

It’s hard not to wonder how this year’s team would have done with Robinson Cano in the heart of the batting order.  Jacoby Ellsbury has been great at times but he doesn’t carry the consistency that Cano brought to the park every day.  Carlos Beltran has been a shell of his usual self due to injuries.

The curtain will soon be closed on the Yankees and they can start to think about what it will take to improve the team for 2015.  Of the late season additions, I would like to see the returns of Chase Headley and Brandon McCarthy.  I am hopeful that the team re-signs both players.  Martin Prado is under contract so he’ll be back.  It’s a small sample size, but Chris Young is showing enough to be the team’s fourth outfielder next year.  With the virtual certainty that this is Ichiro Suzuki’s final year in the Bronx, Young could play a valuable role next season.  Headley may not be the bat that you want at third, but he is a much better defender than Alex Rodriguez.  I am really not looking forward to A-Rod’s return and it’s anybody’s guess what the Yankees will get from the 39-year old.  At this stage of his career, I think he’s a full-time DH at best.  But he’ll never be the slugger he once was.

Team character takes a huge hit with the departure of future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter and the return of A-Rod.  Honestly, I’d love to see the Yankees find a way to divorce Rodriguez regardless of the cost…

I do think we’ll see a better version of Brian McCann with a year under his belt.  As for second base, I remain hopeful that Rob Refsnyder will be able to make the leap in spring training and claim the position.  I’d prefer that over a free agent signing or trade for a past-his-prime veteran.  I don’t think that Stephen Drew is the answer at short so I don’t know who will replace #2.  I am sure that will be a focal point of the off-season.  With A-Rod potentially blocking DH, that’s a predicament for Beltran.  I question his durability to play the field at this stage of his career and he’d be a better candidate (and performer) at DH.  The Yankees need to find a young slugger for right field.  I am not sure that the top prospects, like Aaron Judge, will be ready yet so they Yankees may have to explore the trade market.

Mark LoMoglio/Tampa Yankees

It was interesting to see the reports that minor league director Mark Newman will be retiring at the end of the year and the subsequent reports that he most likely would not have returned anyway since his contract was up.  It doesn’t seem like that long ago Newman had great power within the organization and for a time battled GM Brian Cashman for control.  But now, Newman is quietly shown the door.  The first potential successor I heard is Trey Hillman.  I am ready for a change to see better performance from the minor league system.  Damon Oppenheimer has done well drafting in recent years but it always seems like the prospects get stuck at Triple A and never pan out.  Obviously, Dellin Betances is an exception but he had to re-invent himself as a reliever after an unsuccessful attempt to get to the majors as a starter.

The Yankees do need to make re-signing Brian Cashman an early priority so that it doesn’t detract from the team’s off-season plans.  If they can’t re-sign Cashman, I still think that Billy Eppler would be a very capable replacement.  But with Eppler’s name mentioned in every GM opening, the Yankees need to re-sign Cashman before Eppler departs.  A worst case scenario would be for Eppler to get the Arizona Diamondbacks job with the Yankees subsequently failing to lock up Cashman.

Yankees.JPG

Rob Antonelli/New York Daily News

There’s a great deal of uncertainty as the Yankees move forward.  It is unlikely they’ll go on another spending splurge like they did last off-season.  The Yankees do not have too many trade-able chips at the major league level.  Francisco Cervelli comes to mind.  He has done a good job for the Yankees in a much needed support role to McCann but I think John Ryan Murphy is capable of performing well in that role.  But it would take a lot more than Cervelli to bring an infusion of talent into the organization.  I am always on the lookout for the next Paul O’Neill…the type of player who has not lived up to his potential in his current environment but is someone capable to excelling in New York.  Then again, isn’t everybody?

Lots and lots of questions as the sun sets on the Yankees’ 2014 season…

–Scott