Tagged: Jordan Montgomery

2020 Yankees New Year’s Resolution: Good Health for ALL…

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Yankees Overhaul Training/Strength-and-Conditioning Team…

The Yankees have made their first significant acquisition of 2020. No, they have not landed Francisco Lindor of the Cleveland Indians or Josh Hader of the Milwaukee Brewers. In a story broken on Friday night by Lindsey Adler of The Athletic, the Yankees have hired Eric Cressey of Cressey Sports Performance to oversee their training and strength-and-conditioning departments.

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Admittedly, I was probably most familiar with Cressey as a former employer of Yankees pitching coach Matt Blake, who served time as a pitching coordinator for the company. However, Cressey is nationally recognized for his work in kinesiology and biomechanics, and has worked with baseball stars such as Corey Kluber and Max Scherzer.

Per Corey Kluber’s quote on Cressey’s website, “CSP has been a crucial part of the success I have had in my career to this point. The programs have helped me gain velocity as well as put my body in position to remain healthy throughout a long season.”

For a team that set a MLB record last season for most players (thirty) on the Injured List in a single season, Cressey represents a major leap forward for the organization. We knew change was coming when word spread a few weeks ago that former strength-and-conditioning coach Matt Krause had been relieved of his duties with the Yankees. I expected an upgrade in the department but certainly not someone of Cressey’s caliber.

As part of the deal, Cressey will be allowed to continue to operate Cressey Sports Performance which has locations in Hudson, MA and Palm Beach Gardens, FL.

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I am excited about Cressey’s hire and feel it is as critical to the training and strength-and-conditioning areas as last year’s addition of Driveline’s Sam Briend as the organization’s director of pitching and the offseason hire of Blake as the new Major League pitching coach, replacing Larry Rothschild. The hitting instruction group has also received major upgrades within the past year with the hiring of Dillon Lawson as hitting coordinator and Rachel Balkovec as a minor league hitting coach, among various other additions.

According to Lindsey Adler, longtime trainer Steve Donahue, who has been in the organization since 1979, will transition to a role she says is “akin to trainer emeritus” and he is expected to maintain an active role in the organization.

To replace Donahue as head trainer, the Yankees will promote assistant athletic trainer/physical therapist Michael Schuk, 37, who is entering his seventh season with the Yankees. His bio on the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society website indicates he holds a bachelor’s degree in Health Science-Athletic Training from the University of Central Florida and a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from Nova Southeastern University. Prior to joining the Yankees, Schuk worked as an intern for the Cleveland Indians and the NFL’s Washington Redskins.

For those of you who continue to feel that Hal Steinbrenner is “cheap”, you may want to rethink your narrative.  We know the Yankees spent $324 million to bring one of the best starting pitchers in Baseball to the Bronx, but these organizational hires like Cressey most certainly come at very high costs. Outside of the Cincinnati Reds, who hired Driveline founder Kyle Boddy as director of pitching initiatives/pitching coordinator last October, no team has been as aggressive as the Yankees in rebuilding their organizational infrastructure with premium talent in nearly every area of instruction and conditioning. None of this happens without Hal Steinbrenner’s authorization (and his money, of course).

As for the team on the playing field, the Yankees have been quiet since the highly successful press conference last month to introduce Gerrit Cole. The re-signing of Brett Gardner has yet to be officially announced but that seems to be a product of the holidays and the formal announcement could be coming any day now, along with the corresponding roster move to open a spot on the 40-man roster. Barring a trade of J.A. Happ, the most significant moves before pitchers and catchers report next month will probably be players coming in on minor league deals with MLB camp invites.

Some Yankee fans wanted a reunion with former Yankees second baseman Starlin Castro, however, All-Starlin signed a two-year deal with the World Champion Washington Nationals to be their second baseman next season, replacing Brian Dozier and Asdrubal Cabrera. After a few years living in obscurity in Miami, I am glad to see Castro get another chance with a contender. Credit to Starlin who could have been a malcontent with losing under the Marlins, he was nothing but a positive, inspirational force on Don Mattingly’s team and I am happy to see him land with a good club.

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Probably a couple of the remaining free agent names I am watching with interest are second baseman Scooter Gennett and first baseman Eric Thames. Not that I feel it is absolutely critical the Yankees bring in another left-handed hitter, but it would be nice.

Fangraphs, via Steamer, projects Gennett to hit .261/.311/.421 with .310 wOBA and 90 wRC+ this coming season with 14 home runs and 58 RBIs (0.6 fWAR) in 112 games. 2019 was a lost season due to injuries. He missed three months of the season after severely straining his groin in March. When he came back he only hit .217 in 22 games and was traded at the July deadline to the San Francisco Giants. The Giants, who had cut former second baseman Joe Panik, another name recently linked to the Yankees, to make room for Gennett, released Scooter on August 27th.  Gennett is infamous for the four home run game in 2017, but I think there’s potential for a rebound in a part-time role. Whether the Yankees bring in Gennett or Panik on a minor league deal, I’ll use the words of The Greedy Pinstripes’ Daniel Burch, “No such thing as a bad minor league deal.” I agree. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. If it doesn’t work, you sever ties and move on. I like to  bring in as much competition at certain spots as possible and let the cream rise to the top. It’s not that I have anything against Tyler Wade or Thairo Estrada. I think one of them will serve a very valuable role as backup at shortstop for Gleyber Torres and there’s no question I love Wade’s speed. But there is room for a guy like Gennett who could provide some flexibility to use D.J. LeMahieu around the diamond like last year.

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Credit: USATSI

As for Thames, he may not hit for average but when he gets a hold of a mistake pitch, the balls go a very long way. That plays nicely with the short porch in right at Yankee Stadium. I am comfortable with Luke Voit and Mike Ford at first base, but would certainly not be opposed to bringing in Thames on a minors deal.

It was a little tough watching Dellin Betances wearing Mets gear at his press conference this week. Last off-season, I wanted the Yankees to re-sign David Robertson, perhaps over then free-agent Adam Ottavino. D-Rob signed with the Phillies and only pitched in seven games before missing the remainder of the season due to injury. He subsequently had Tommy John surgery and is not expected back anytime soon. Meanwhile, Ottavino was signed and became a very valuable part of the Yankees bullpen despite the late season slide. The Yankees called that one right and perhaps they’ve made the right call about Betances. I’ll miss Dellin and I hope the achilles injury does not resurface for him. We know how critical your legs are for power as a pitcher so if anything’s off, it could be very problematic for a pitcher who occasionally struggles with command. I’d love to see Dellin return to form in 2020 and then opt out after the season to re-sign with the Yankees. In my dreams, I know, but Dellin will remain a favorite for his time in the Bronx.

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For those of you who may have forgotten, potential fifth starter Jordan Montgomery was 9-7 in 2017 with 3.88 ERA. His K/9 rate was 8.34 and he started 29 games. His fWAR was 2.6.  I’d gladly take that production in the fifth spot again. I still expect the Yankees to trade J.A. Happ and his contract to lessen the team’s payroll for luxury tax purposes, but I think Montgomery represents a great replacement for Happ. Montgomery is a better starter, in my opinion, than 18-game winner Domingo German, who will miss the season’s first 63 games after his suspension for domestic violence was handed down this week by MLB.

Speaking of German, I’ve seen many Yankee fans call for his release. While I in no way, shape or form, condone German’s actions, I do feel that he deserves the opportunity to serve his sentence and get the help he needs to be a better man. It would be wrong to cut him for no return. As a player he has value, and I’d hate to see him land in Boston to help the Red Sox who seem to be crumbling at the moment. If the Yankees opt to trade him and control where he goes, I would not be opposed. I feel the Yankees owe German nothing, but for letting his teammates down, he owes the team everything (same with his family, actually more so, who suffered the domestic violence). I am willing to forgive although I doubt I’ll ever forget his actions which form my impressions of his character, but let’s give him a second chance to prove he is better than this.

This time next month we’ll be anxiously awaiting the start of Spring Training (as if we aren’t already). February 12th is not that far away and we’ll soon see Gerritt Cole walking up to Steinbrenner Field as a member of everybody’s favorite team.  Good times.

As always, Go Yankees!

The Dawn of Yankees Championships…

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

New Decade: Great Hope for Pinstripes…

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

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Photo Credit: Tim Heitman, USA TODAY Sports

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

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

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

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

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Photo Credit: AP

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

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

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

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

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

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

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Credit: FanGraphs.com

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

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

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As always, Go Yankees!

The Failure to Get A’s…

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Exam against top AL Wild Card challenger not going well…

Just when I was starting to feel good about the Yankees again after the recent three-game sweep by the A’s in Oakland, the Yankees get clobbered by the A’s again in the Bronx, falling 8-2 on Friday night. I was hoping the Yankees would sweep the A’s as payback but it was not to be. Now, I can only hope the Yankees take two of three.

Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

I know, it’s not the end of the World. The Yankees haven’t been ousted from the playoffs. They haven’t lost their grip on the AL East. They still hold the best record in the AL East (88-48), tied with the Houston Astros, and the teams share the best record in MLB overall, with the Los Angeles Dodgers (88-49) a 1/2 game back. They won five of six games on the road in Los Angeles and Seattle. The Tampa Bay Rays, despite their win last night over the Wild Card leading Cleveland Indians, remain 10 games behind the AL East leaders.

I keep hearing people say the Yankees are better than the A’s and they’ll beat Oakland when it matters in October.  Maybe so, but a few wins now would be much appreciated. The A’s are getting into the Yankees’ heads and it’s time to make a statement. Hopefully, the statement is made today with 17-game winner Domingo German taking the mound. Homer “Freakin’” Bailey will get the chance to see if he can dominate the Yankees in two consecutive games for the A’s. Hopefully he’ll be exposed for the fraud he is, and he’ll see multiple pitches deposited into the outfield bleachers later today.

I don’t know what to think about CC Sabathia. I know some on Social Media were declaring the end of the road for the future Hall of Famer when he was pulled after three innings due to pain in the troublesome right knee. He apparently re-aggravated the knee issue last weekend in Los Angeles while batting. Maybe it’s premature to declare it the end, but the days are numbered and any extended time on the Injured List at this point would make it very hard for a comeback. I think we’ll see Sabathia again in a few weeks (he was placed on the 10-day Injured List today) but unfortunately it does not excite me.

Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

I’d love for Sabathia to have the tremendous walk off the field moment like Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera before him, but sadly, there’s a chance it does not happen. With a 5-8 record, 4.93 ERA and 5.97 FIP in 100 1/3 innings pitched, it is unlikely Sabathia will play a meaningful role in October even if they can solve the pain in his knee.

I wasn’t surprised when the Yankees placed third baseman Gio Urshela on the 10-day Injured List on Friday in order to activate first baseman Luke Voit. With the bothersome groin injury, Urshela was going to need a few days off at the very least. I had thought the Yankees might want until tomorrow, when rosters expand, to activate Voit but once Urshula was pulled from the final game in Seattle, it seemed that a trip to the Injured List was inevitable. Frankly, I like it because it forces Urshela to rest and recover. We need him at full strength in a month so I’d rather play it very cautious with him now. Manager Aaron Boone said as much yesterday, “…just the time of year it is, he’s a little banged up anyway, so it’s probably the best thing for him and for us to do this now and make sure this doesn’t become a lingering issue.” Agreed. Third base is in good hands with DJ LeMahieu so I am not worried. Still, the placement of Urshela on the Injured List gave the Yankees the Major League record for most players added to the list in a single season…not exactly a record that I held aspirations for.

With the growing questions about CC Sabathia and J.A. Happ, I am getting a little excited for the returns of Jordan Montgomery and Luis Severino. I always temper my expectations for Monty because he’s trying to come back from Tommy John surgery (I don’t expect him to be at his best until 2020) and he’s never been more than a back end of the rotation type of starter but that’s exactly what the Yankees could use right now. I doubt he’ll start any games for the Yankees this late in the year, but he can provide a couple of effective innings here and there when he is potentially ready to activated within the next few weeks.  Same with Luis Severino, although he retains his ace status. Might not be stretched out enough to start, but he’ll be fire out of the bullpen and I mean that in a great, non-Tyler Clippard, kind of way. Dellin Betances is also moving closer to a return so if the Yankees get all three of these guys back by mid-September, life will truly be good. I’ll gladly buy into the claims that their returns compensate for the failure to add at the trading deadline. Add in the returns of Edwin Encarnacion and Giancarlo Stanton next month and I’ll be feeling good about the team’s chances in October. The playoffs are a crap shoot anyway, so no team is unbeatable. Not the Astros, not the Dodgers, and contrary to current illusion, not the A’s.

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I’ve been a critic of Clint Frazier and I had fully expected him to be dealt at the trading deadline, but I am looking forward to his promotion to the Major League roster, most likely tomorrow when rosters expand to 40 men for the final time (next year, the cap will be 28 on September 1st). I am not sure how much Frazier will play but I do think he has worked hard on his defense and is deserving of another opportunity to prove himself. Maybe he just becomes an observer with a great view from the bench, but I’d love to see him excel when he does get the chance to play the field. I am also looking forward to the Major League debut of temporary reliever Deivi Garcia. Watching Cory Gearrin pitch last night, I couldn’t help but think how much more I would have valued Garcia in that spot. Maybe he’s not ready for MLB hitters yet but we’ll soon find out. Everyone has to be a MLB beginner at some point in their careers.

As much as I would love to declare the Boston Red Sox are dead, the fact is they are not. The Red Sox have won three games in a row, including a 15-inning thriller last night against the Angels in Anaheim, and with a record of 73-62, they are just 5 1/2 games out of the Wild Card chase.

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It’s tough to make up those games with just a month left but it’s not impossible. Until Boston is mathematically eliminated, I will not dance on their grave. I continue to hold some fear of the team despite their lackluster 2019 season. They remain a dangerous team that could do damage in a short series, even with their pitching limitations. I expect the Red Sox to be ready to play when the Yankees go to Fenway Park for a four-game series starting next Friday. Boston’s season might depend on those games so no doubt they’ll be playing like a wounded dog. A sweep by the Yankees or losing three of four could be a death knell for them.

It was horrifying this week to learn about the tragedy that befell Tampa Bay Rays prospect Blake Bivens. His wife, young infant son, and mother-in-law were killed in a triple murder on Tuesday by his wife’s 18-year-old brother. I hadn’t heard the news until Bivens made his social media post in the aftermath of the slayings.

 

There have been so many incidents of senseless tragedy and loss of life this year. I am sickened by all of it, and have a very heavy heart for Blake Bivens. I cannot imagine anything worse that losing the loves of your life in such an awful way. I hope he can find comfort in the coming days, weeks and years, but it’s hard to imagine that he’ll ever be able to overcome this. I can only hope that he is able to find some peace and the ability to move forward. So very sad.

As always, Go Yankees!

Yankees’ Front Office Enjoying Time Off (Allegedly)…

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Meanwhile, the Rumor Mill runs rampant…

As 2018 winds down to a close, all is quiet in the Yankees Universe except for Yankee Twitter and the endless possibilities expressed, again and again, by Yankee fans. The Yankees still have holes to fill in the bullpen and no confirmed plan at this moment in time to use anybody other than Tyler Wade and Gleyber Torres at shortstop to cover for Didi Gregorius. It does not appear these answers will be provided in 2018 and must wait until the calendar year changes.

2019

Although Manny Machado has indicated he will not make his long-awaited decision until after the first of the year, I don’t think anybody knows what that really means. I think some Yankee fans and industry experts think we’ll have his choice on New Year’s Day or worst case, the next day. I honestly do not think this will be resolved that quickly. To account for some of the inevitable back and forth between teams (if that hasn’t already happened), I’ll predict we have Manny’s decision by Tuesday, January 8th. I think the first week of January will be trying to elicit the best possible offers from the interested teams. As much as I want the Yankees to sign Machado, it remains my belief he’ll take more money to play in the City of Brotherly Love or the Windy City. I heard Larry Bowa on MLB Network yesterday talking about how the Phillies can overcome Machado’s childhood fascination with the Yankees by adding a few more zeroes to the check. If this goes into an all-out bidding war, I have no doubt the Yankees will come in third to the Phillies and White Sox. At that point, Manny has to decide what is best for him and his family.

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Manny Machado and wife, Yainee Alonso

The sooner Manny decides, the sooner we can move on to Plan B.  I am ready to close the door, one way or the other. I am mentally prepared. If we have to settle for Freddy Galvis at shortstop, so be it. Let’s move on. At this point, pitching remains the team’s most critical need.

MLB Network’s Jon Paul Morosi is reporting the Los Angeles Angels are interested in David Robertson.  Despite D-Rob’s expressed interest in playing close to his Rhode Island home, Morosi notes that Robertson would have the opportunity to close for the Angels and of course he knows Angels GM Billy Eppler well from their time together with the Yankees. It makes sense to me. I’d rather see D-Rob go to Anaheim versus pitching at Fenway Park for the Red Sox. I personally love Southern California so, in my opinion, it’s a no-brainer.  I think it would be fun to play on the same team with Mike Trout.  Eppler is trying to squeeze a few more wins out of his team with the recent signings of Matt Harvey and Trevor Cahill. He needs to protect those investments by getting a reliable reliever to close out games. Robertson will be a much cheaper option than guys like Zach Britton and Craig Kimbrel and he’d fit well under new manager Brad Ausmus. Not that I am wishing D-Rob to the Angels. I’d still like to see him come back to the Bronx, but if that doesn’t happen, Anaheim is a preferred destination over division rivals.

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Angels GM Billy Eppler

Gumby had a birthday yesterday. Jordan Montgomery turned 26 as he continues to work his way back from last summer’s Tommy John surgery. No doubt we’ll see the former Gamecock somewhere around the time Didi Gregorius returns (or maybe a little later in the season if Didi is somehow ready to go by June or July). Not expecting much out of Montgomery next season but I am looking forward to seeing him in Pinstripes again. Happy Belated Birthday, Jordan!

 

 

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Elsa)

Searching for things to watch on TV last night, I settled on the original version of A Star Is Born (1937) starring Janet Gaynor and Fredric March. Of course, it made me think of the 1937 Yankees. They won the ninth World Series in franchise history that year, finishing 102-52 to win the AL Pennant by 13 games over the Detroit Tigers. They defeated the New York Giants in five games to claim the World Series championship. What a year for Joe DiMaggio and Lou Gehrig! The 34-year-old Gehrig, within two years from being forced from the game due to ALS, had 37 home runs and 158 RBIs. He batted .351/.473/.643 and had an OPS of 1.116. He took 127 walks to only 49 strikeouts. 22 year-old Joe DiMaggio had staggering numbers for such a young player. 46 homers, 167 RBIs, .346/.412/.673 and 1.085 OPS. He took fewer walks than Gehrig (64), but only struck out 37 times. Hall of Fame catcher Bill Dickey, Tony Lazzeri at second, Frankie Crosetti at short, Red Rolfe at third and a pitching staff anchored by Lefty Gomez and Red Ruffing.  Collectively, Gomez and Ruffing won 41 games as both pitchers reached the 20-win mark. Gomez threw six shutouts in 34 starts, pitching 278 1/3 innings, allowing only 72 earned runs for 2.33 ERA. Total Yankees domination. I love it! I know I left out some other great Yankees for the 1937 team but it must have been grand watching the Yankees annihilate their opponents year by year in the late 1930’s.

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Final Out, 1937 World Series at the Polo Grounds, Gehrig to Gomez

Moving back into current times, I felt kind of bad for Tyler Austin yesterday. When the Twins elected not to retain Logan Morrison after one year and Twins great Joe Mauer decided to retire, it appeared that Austin had a clear path to playing time for Minnesota next season. Then, the Twins acquired first baseman C.J. Cron from the Tampa Bay Rays and yesterday they inked former Seattle Mariners slugger and DH Nelson Cruz to a one-year deal with an option. Austin’s path to playing time appears to be blocked once again like it was with the Yankees. I was surprised Cruz went with Minnesota. I had really expected him to end up with the Houston Astros. He would have been a deadly bat in that lineup.  I guess it’s better for the Yankees he went with Minnesota but of course he adds a weapon if the Twins can get a Wild Card rematch with the Yankees to avenge their loss in 2017. Cruz may be 38 but he has that David Ortiz knack for smashing huge home runs at the best times (or worst times, depending upon your perspective). I guess Ronald Torreyes will have plenty of opportunities for his Toe Night Show at Target Field next season.

I was reading one blog the other day that talked about trades the Yankees wish they could undo. The blogger listed the Brandon Drury trade as his first choice. I know that trade didn’t work out, but I don’t look at it as one I’d undo.  I really liked Drury’s acquisition at the time of the trade. I liked the player and the potential that I thought he could bring to the team. A solid defender with some pop. I know it cost the Yankees several really good prospects (second baseman Nick Solak, currently rated as the eleventh best prospect for the Tampa Bay Rays by MLB.com and pitcher Taylor Widener, who ranks as second best prospect for the Arizona Diamondbacks) but I can’t say I’d undo the trade. It was a risk worth taking. It didn’t work out. Drury had the undisclosed migraines and never really performed for the Yankees before losing his job to Miguel Andujar and subsequently getting traded to the Toronto Blue Jays in the J.A. Happ deal. I thought then and I still feel that when healthy and given the opportunity, Drury is going to help a team. Not sure the Blue Jays are that team since 2019 should bring the emergence of top prospect Vladimir Guerrero, Jr to the Show at some point during the season to place a stranglehold on third base for years to come but Drury will make good on his promise one day. Look, I’d love to have Widener back but I wouldn’t undo the Drury trade even with the benefit of hindsight. You have to take those types of chances to get better and I’d never want to see GM Brian Cashman get “gun shy” and start holding onto prospects longer than he should. Some trades work, some trades don’t. That’s how it goes.

Not that I am trying to wish the new year to get here any faster, but I am looking forward to getting to next Wednesday so that the Hot Stove League can resume activity. The days of nothingness are long and boring on the baseball front. I am anxious and excited for pitchers and catchers to report to Tampa, FL on February 13th but there is still so much work to be done. We need to ensure that Aaron Boone, in 2019, knows what it must have felt like to be Joe McCarthy in 1937. No pressure, Cash. Talk to your boss and get it done.

As always, Go Yankees!

It’s the Turkey Day Rebound…

Thanksgiving is over, Winter Meetings ahead…

Thanksgiving is behind us and soon the holiday weekend will be finished. It will be time for baseball activity to begin re-percolating in advance of next month’s Baseball Winter Meetings in Las Vegas, Nevada.

This year’s meetings figure to be very explosive compared to prior years with two superstar-level free agents in their mid-20’s, prized by so many teams, as opposed to the usual thirty-something players that are available on the free agent market. Many teams feel they are just a player or two away, while others are looking to the next decade for success which creates the potential for a very active market.

Look, I want either Bryce Harper or Manny Machado like most other Yankee fans. Hey, signing both premier players would be great but realistically that would never happen. I probably want Bryce more simply because of his left-handed bat and I know he has a love and passion for the Pinstripes. The dude knows the Hall of Fame is eventually within his grasp and there is nothing better than blazing your way into Cooperstown wearing Pinstripes. It is a perfect fit for his legacy. The Yankees need a dynamic lefty bat in their lineup and Harper, in a classic case of stating the obvious, would excel in the heart of the order.

Photo: USA TODAY Sports

Position-wise, to me, Machado is the better fit. He can play shortstop for the months we are without Didi Gregorius, allowing Gleyber Torres to stay at second and continue to perfect the nuances of the position. Then, when Didi returns, Machado can slide to third, which would either push Miguel Andujar to left to compete with Brett Gardner and Clint Frazier or to first base to disrupt the duo of Greg Bird and Luke Voit. Didi is a free agent after next season so Machado would be a hedge in the event Didi leaves. I really hope the Yankees find a way to lock up Sir Didi but until he signs the dotted line, there’s a risk he is not part of the long-term future.

Speaking of chances, it is possible the Yankees do not sign either player. I don’t really expect the Yankees to overpay and realistically only see Harper or Machado signing with the Yankees if it fits Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner’s budget. I think the Yankees will exceed the luxury tax threshold if necessary but I don’t think they’ll go hog wild. Hal will authorize a huge sum but there’s no doubt it would have to be on his terms.

Recently, TGP’s own Bryan Van Dusen suggested the Yankees trade for Phillies second baseman Cesar Hernandez. I thought it was a brilliant idea then and still do.  If the Phillies sign Machado, GM Brian Cashman should immediately get on the phone to Phillies GM Matt Klentak to discuss what it would take to get Hernandez. Scooter Gennett of the Cincinnati Reds is another strong option. His name has been mentioned in a possible trade involving Sonny Gray. It would take much more than Gray to snare Gennett, but he’d bring a lethal left-handed bat to the lineup. Probably the thing that scares me the most about bringing in an All-Star level second baseman is the potential to permanently move Gleyber Torres back to his natural position at short, thereby increasing the likelihood the Yankees part ways with Didi Gregorius. I love having Didi on this team and I’d prefer to see a plan that opens short for #18 when he is healthy and ready to return.

Photo: Julie Jacobson, AP

I am not excited about options for bringing in Neil Walker or Daniel Murphy in to play second while Torres temporarily slides to short. For a team that had its defensive challenges in 2018, Walker or Murphy would not help. If the Yankees sign Bryce Harper to play left (I don’t really like the talk about the move to first base because you don’t pay a guy $300 to $400 million under the assumption he can make such a significant position change), I think it allows the Yankees to go with a glove-first option at short. Re-sign Adeiny Hechavarria or sign Detroit’s free agent shortstop Julio Iglesias. Under that scenario, Miguel Andujar could stay at third but the Yankees would need a good backup defensive-minded third baseman. I expect Andujar to get better defensively-speaking but let’s face it, he’ll never be Brooks Robinson…or Graig Nettles…with a glove.

Patrick Corbin continues to be my favorite for the open spot in the starting rotation.   I will be disappointed if the Yankees do not get him. I am fearful the longer this goes on, the less likely the Yankees re-sign J.A. Happ. I’d hate to lose out on the top available starters AND Happ. I don’t really expect Happ to wait to see what the Yankees do. He has too many suitors. Someone will offer him the right deal and he’ll take it. You can’t blame him for doing what’s right for his family. Of trade acquisitions, I’ve long admired Madison Bumgarner but I feel Cleveland’s Carlos Carrasco is a much safer option. I’d love Corey Kluber but I don’t think the Indians will trade him or if they do, they’ll want a huge return. Maybe the same applies to Carrasco. He certainly has the talent even if he doesn’t quite have the same name value as Kluber yet. Count me among those who want no part of Arizona’s Zach Greinke. I don’t want his contract and I don’t want the potential for a Bronx meltdown like Sonny Gray. I’d rather see the Yankees only give up money for the last spot in the rotation and keep their prospects in-house. So, where can I buy my Patrick Corbin Yankees jersey?

I’ve wondered if the Yankees should go after Japan’s Yusei Kikuchi. I don’t know a great deal about the Japanese pitcher but he is expected to be posted in early December. The downside is that Kikuchi will be represented by agent Scott Boras.  Kikuchi was 14-4, with 3.08 ERA, for the Seibu Lions this past season. The 27-year-old lefty struck out 153 batters in 163 2/3 innings, and has a career 2.77 ERA in Nippon Professional Baseball. The posting period opens December 5th and teams will have 30 days to sign Kikuchi. I’d probably prefer MLB-proven alternatives for a team that is on the cusp of a World Series championship but Kikuchi certainly beats rolling out a series of minor leaguers like last year.

Jordan Montgomery should be back by late summer but honestly I do not feel that we’ll see a meaningful contribution from him this year. I think it will be 2020 before he rounds back into form, making him the man most likely to replace CC Sabathia in the starting rotation unless age regression or injuries force an earlier decision.

I feel bad for Robinson Cano. There’s no way I’d want any part of his contract so I am not preaching for his return to Pinstripes. But he’s 36 and running out of opportunities for another World Championship. Training camp hasn’t even started yet his current team, the Seattle Mariners, have already thrown in the white towel. I am sure it is tough for him to listen to his former teammate, James Paxton, talk about how excited he is to join a team that expects to win every year. Cano knows first-hand what that feels like, even if it is a distant memory. I still like Cano and I am sorry that he has to take part in a rebuild at this stage of his career. I guess he has millions of reasons for why he won’t lose any sleep. I hope it’s enough.

Photo: AP

As always, Go Yankees!

Houston, We Have No Problems…

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Bob Levey)

Yankees win again…

I have to admit the Yankees are playing better against the Houston Astros than I thought they would. It was a miserable start to current series when Houston’s Charlie Morton dominated the Yankees to take the first game, but since then, the Yankees have held the Astros scoreless for 22 innings and have limited them to two runs overall for three games. Houston is bound to score runs and it most likely will occur today but it’s been a fun ride.

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Photo Credit: Houston Chronicle (Karen Warren)

The Astros clearly have the best starting rotation but the Yankees have the better bullpen.  While we had early concerns about certain guys in the pen, the unit appears to be coming together and Aroldis Chapman looks great (even if he wasn’t needed last night). It is very nice to see Dellin Betances pitching like the All-Star version again. Chad Green, David Robertson…I am grateful for these guys every day.

Last night’s pitching performance by Luis Severino was magnificent. A day after Justin Verlander pitched a three-hit shutout for eight innings, striking out fourteen, only to walk away with a no-decision when Astros closer Ken Giles coughed up the game-winning home run to Gary Sanchez, Luis Severino took his gem to the finish line with a complete game, five-hit shutout. He also reached double-digits with strikeouts (ten).  If you want something done, you have to do it yourself.  It paid off for Sevy as he picked up his fifth win of the young season. Personally, I probably would have called it a night for Severino after eight innings and 98 pitches but thankfully they pay Aaron Boone to make those decisions, not me.

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Photo Credit: Houston Chronicle (Karen Warren)

It was only a matter of time until Giancarlo Stanton starting hitting like the NL MVP he is. Prior to yesterday’s game, I lost count of how many times I was reminded that Dallas Keuchel has never yielded any home runs to the Yankees. So, it was only fitting that the newcomer took Keuchel deep, not once but twice. I am really anxious for Stanton to have a game like this at Yankee Stadium. He has awed crowds in Toronto and Houston but I would love nothing better than for Stanton to take a curtain call in the Bronx.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Bob Levey)

I’ll borrow a term currently used on the TV show Supergirl. When they are hitting, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton are “World Killers”. Yes, I watch Supergirl. C’mon, Melissa Benoist is hot. But with all sincerity, when the World Killers are on, the Yankees are unstoppable.

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I was as disappointed as any Yankees fan with the news that Jordan Montgomery will miss the next several months. While I am glad that the immediate prognosis does not involve Tommy John surgery, I recognize that anything is possible until Monty is healthy enough to pitch again. Hopefully rest over the next three weeks allows Montgomery to begin his path toward building arm strength once again. In the interim, I am looking forward to watching Domingo German. In Spring Training, I was so on Team German over Team Cessa as the Yankees’ long reliever/spot starter.  It’s unfortunate that it took an injury to Luis Cessa to open the door for German but I am glad he’s here. The Yankees certainly need to explore potential Plan B’s but for now, let’s see what the kid can do.  In my mind, A.J. Cole probably represents the next option. I’d prefer to see him over recent returnee David Hale.

When word spread that Monty had left Tuesday’s game after seven pitches, Yankees Twitter started clamoring for Chance Adams. While admittedly I am one of those who believe Adams is destined for the bullpen in a long-term view, his numbers at Triple A this year simply do not support an argument for his promotion. So far this season for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, Adams is 0-2 in five starts. He has given up 24 hits in 24 2/3 innings and 14 earned runs (including four home runs). His ERA is an unsightly 5.11 and his WHIP is the highest it has ever been (1.42).  He is not ready. Justus Sheffield is the Yankees best pitching prospect (in my opinion) and he is killing it in Double A. Okay, “killing it” might be a bit too strong at 1-2, but he’s struck out 39 guys in 28 innings. Only one batter has connected for a home run off Top Sheff and he’s limited teams to seven total earned runs for 2.25 ERA. I think Sheffield has earned a promotion to Triple A, but he’s not ready for The Show just yet. My personal favorite pitching prospect is Albert Abreu but he’s further away (has only made one start in High A after returning from injury).

We’re probably a good month and a half to two months away from teams legitimately talking trades for starting pitchers. Some have speculated the Yankees should go after Madison Bumgarner of the San Francisco Giants. MadBum is currently on the DL but when healthy, he’s one of the best when the calendar turns to October. I’d love to have the guy on the Yankees. I just don’t think the Giants will trade their best pitcher who has meant so much to the organization. But if he could be pried loose, I’d have to problem giving up guys like Clint Frazier and Chance Adams for him.

For now, I hope Domingo German takes the job as fifth starter and runs with it. I don’t expect him to be as good as Monty but as long as he keeps the Yankees in games, life will be good.

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Photo Credit: AP (Kathy Willens)

The Yankees play an afternoon matinee today in the final game of their four-game set with the Houston Astros. Win or lose, this has been a great road trip for the Yankees. Worst case, they had back to the Bronx with a 5-2 record for the latest travel. But to win six of seven would be fantastic. Lance McCullers, Jr always seems to rise to the occasion against his father’s former team, but as the Yankees showed Dallas Keuchel yesterday, no one is invincible. I am looking for Masahiro Tanaka to continue the string of outstanding pitching performances in this series. A few homers from Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez would not hurt. If it involves another implosion by Ken Giles, all the better.

Go Yankees!

Sonny Gray Sucks…

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Photo Credit: New York Post (Charles Wenzelberg)

Despite team win, another dismal performance by Gray…

The Yankees are winning and I am mad.

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Deeply disappointed might be a better description. Sonny Gray was supposed to be an upper rotation arm capable of delivering ace-like starts. To borrow an overused line from Brendan Kuty of NJ Advance Media for NJ.com, “Sonny was not Gray-t”. Sadly, we’re saying that after every not-so-Sonny start.

Based on five starts this season, he averages barely more than four innings per start, and has given up 18 runs in 21 innings. Sure, he lowered his ERA with yesterday’s start if you want to call 8.27 to 7.71 an improvement. He has walked 16 batters including five more last night.

I know that TGP’s Daniel Burch is a huge Sonny Gray fan but I can say…right now…I am not.  He has yet to deliver a start that has made me say “Wow!”. Yet, every other member in the starting rotation has. Even the Yankees’ nearly 38 year old over-weight veteran with bad knees who has already lost time on the 10-day DL has delivered impressively.

Gray should have gotten the win in last night’s 7-4 victory over the Minnesota Twins after the Yankees had staked him to a 5-3 lead but he couldn’t get out of the fifth inning so the victory went to his replacement (Chad Green). For 14 outs, Gray threw 104 pitches with only 60 for strikes. You can’t blame this one on Gary Sanchez since it was Austin Romine behind the plate.

For his Yankees career, Gray is 5-8 with 4.69 ERA. He has given up 84 hits and 49 runs in 86 1/3 innings. His WHIP is an unsightly 1.471. He has been nowhere near the pitcher for the Yankees that he was with the Oakland Athletics. He is starting to feel a little too Javier Vazquez-ish for my comfort. A guy who pitches great in a low pressurized environment but has the ‘deer in the headlights’ look with the bright lights of the big city. Gray would probably be an ace for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Until he can prove otherwise, he is “Sonny Gray Sucks” to me.

Meanwhile, the two pitchers connected to the Yankees in rumors during the off-season have gotten off to tremendous starts. Patrick Corbin, a lifetime Yankees fan, is currently 4-0 with a 1.89 ERA and a miniscule 0.66 WHIP (6 walks to 48 strikeouts in 33 1/3 innings). Daniel Burch did a great piece on Corbin yesterday and the Arizona Diamondbacks lefty should be on the Yankees radar when he becomes a free agent after the season. He’s a terrific potential replacement for CC Sabathia in the rotation. Gerrit Cole, whom I would have loved to have seen as a Yankee while many scoffed, is 2-1 with 1.29 ERA. His WHIP is slightly higher than Corbin’s at 0.771 but it is still very good. Cole has only walked 8 batters while striking out 49 in 35 innings.

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Photo Credit: Associated Press (Mike Stone)

I want Gray to succeed as a Yankee. I really do. But I am getting tired of these pedestrian starts and his inability to throw strikes. His next start will be in Houston against the World Series Champions. He really needs to “man-up” and deliver like we know he can.

Okay, I’ll let it go for now.

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As for the Yankees, I am very pleased with the overall performance of the team in recent days. With Didi Gregorius playing at All-World level, the Yankees have won five consecutive games to improve their season mark to 14-9. The Boston Red Sox won yesterday to stop their three-game losing skid, but the win dropped the Toronto Blue Jays into a second place tie with the Yankees in the AL East. Both are teams trail the Red Sox by four games. The standings certainly look much better today than they did a week ago.

I hate to see the current series with the Minnesota Twins end later today. Even if the Yankees lose, they will have won three of four before jumping a plane bound for Orange County, California. I’d prefer to keep the winning streak alive as the Yankees invade So-Cal. My love for ten-game winning streaks is only five games from fruition. Of course, if the Yankees win the next four games, it will pit Sonny Gray against Charlie Morton for the tenth win. Dammit.

Before I go, I do have to say that I think Logan Morrison really, really sucks. For him, I’ll borrow Derek Jeter’s words from his recent interview with Bryant Gumbel on HBO’s Real Sports. But unlike DJ, my use of the words is not light-hearted. Morrison is “mentally weak”. I know that the off-season was tough for all free agents, but there’s a reason it was hard for Morrison to find a job. The Tampa Bay Rays made no attempt to bring back a bat that slugged 38 home runs last year. Sure, money played into it but if Morrison was ‘all that and a bag of chips’, the Rays would have found a way to bring him back like the Kansas City Royals did in re-signing their 38 home run slugger, Mike Moustakas. Morrison’s comment about Yankees fans that “you can’t fix stupid” was actually a self-analysis on his own part. The guy’s a jerk. The Minnesota Twins are a classy organization and having such a degenerate on their roster is out of character for them.

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I have no desire to see Morrison walk off the Yankee Stadium field a winner today. So, hopefully, Jordan Montgomery and company keep the winning streak alive. As long as Didi Gregorius is in the lineup, life is good.

Go Yankees!