The Bryce is Right…
With Bryce Harper’s free agency still a few seasons away, I am surprised that there is so much discussion about his future (potentially) in pinstripes. So much can happen between now and 2019.
While the Yankees do not have a true superstar at any position except maybe Closer, there’s a wealth of outfield prospects. Aaron Judge has a history of first failing and then massively succeeding at each level. With the initial underwhelming big league performance behind him, the expectation is that he’ll grab right field for years to come. There’s other help on the way for the outfield. With so many talented infield prospects headlined by shortstop (second baseman?) Gleyber Torres, it has been mentioned that shortstop Jorge Mateo’s future is in centerfield. Clint Frazier, a centerfielder, will most likely be moved to a corner outfield position. If each player performs to his respective potential, a trio of Judge, Mateo, and Frazier is very, very solid.
The Yankees also have other young talented outfield prospects. Mason Williams, although injuries have not been his friend. Dustin Fowler is aggressively raising his stock in prospect rankings. Blake Rutherford was a steal in last year’s draft and seems destined for greatness. Billy McKinney is an over-looked, unappreciated talent but he’s opened some eyes this spring.
At face value, Outfield does not appear that it will be a weakness for the team anytime soon. Well, maybe as long as Jacoby Ellsbury is starting in center, but that’s another matter.
Over the last few years, Owner Hal Steinbrenner has evolved the organization from its free-spending ways to financial conservatism. Although the Yankees consistently have one of the highest payrolls in baseball, the payroll has stayed fairly level for a number of years. There’s a genuine opportunity for the Yankees to get under the luxury tax threshold next year. Signing Harper is going to cost a lot of money. Giancarlo Stanton may currently hold baseball’s most lucrative contract, but Harper will surpass Stanton and not by a close margin. Harper could legitimately be baseball’s first $500 million man. More than likely, it will be around $400 million but still, that’s a huge financial commitment for anyone.
Attendance has declined at Yankee Stadium the past few years. With no true superstars in an every day role, the Yankees need players who can not only perform on the field, but can draw fans to the Bronx. Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge may soon have that dual ability, if the former does not already have it. But signing Bryce Harper, a childhood Yankees fan, would be huge for attendance. His lefty bat, among a sea of righties, would be huge. He’ll only be 26 when he hits free agency so a lengthy obligation would not look as ugly at the end as it did for Alex Rodriguez.
I am a proponent for the Yankees to sign Harper. At some point, the Yankees will have to make a trade for a frontline starting pitcher (or two) and they’ll need to use talented top prospects to make it happen. They can deal from outfield (and infield) strength and bring the necessary help for the rotation. With Masahiro Tanaka’s looming opt-out after the season, the Yankees will need to make trades to supplement the infusion of youth if they are to achieve the championship dreams in a couple of years.
Harper in pinstripes would put the team closer to Championship #28 while boosting gate attendance to help subsidize his enormous contract.
The starting rotation competition…
As the battle for the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation continue, there are some early favorites. I think it’s a given that Luis Severino will take the fourth spot. The team wants him to succeed as a starter. Last year was a disappointment as Severino arrived at training camp in bulked up physical condition and was not able to effectively throw his change up with the same velocity. He has worked this off-season to reduce bulk and to recapture the touch he previously had with the change-up, his third pitch. He may have been winless in starts last year before finding success in the bullpen late in the season, but he deserves another chance. If he is able to throw his three pitches effectively, the results this year will be much better.
Most experts are predicting Chad Green as the other starting option. I know that he had a few good starts last year, but I can’t say I am convinced. I would prefer to see Bryan Mitchell in the rotation over Green. I also like Luis Cessa, but I agree that his ceiling is not that great. I’d love to see Jordan Montgomery excel but I think he needs at least another year in the minors before he is ready. Jon Niese is certainly an option but it’s curious that he has yet to make a spring appearance.
Regardless of who wins the starting spots, it’s a certainty that more than two will have the opportunity to start over the course of the season. I fully expect to see Chance Adams and Dietrich Enns at some point, and September will most likely see James Kaprielian’s first major league start (if it doesn’t happen sooner).
Mayans MC, Santo Padre Charter
Okay, this is a bit off-topic but I am excited about the upcoming Sons of Anarchy spinoff series, Mayans MC.
The latest Kurt Sutter offering will film its pilot this month. There has been no announcement that the FX Network has picked up the series for its fall lineup, but it’s hard to imagine that they would not. The creative team has slowly been announcing its cast members. With each announcement they give a little deeper insight into the show’s storyline. Set in the same mythology as the Sons of Anarchy, the new show will pick up life post-Jax Teller and will be set on the Mexican-California border.
Here is the synopsis released by FX:
Set in the aftermath of Jax Teller’s death at the end of SOA’s seven-season run in 2014, Mayans MC will focus on the struggles of Ezekiel “EZ” Reyes, a prospect in the Mayan MC charter on the California/Mexico border. EZ is the gifted son of a proud Latino family, whose American dream was snuffed out by cartel violence. Now, his need for vengeance drives him toward a life he never intended and can never escape.
When I first heard about the potential new series, I had hoped that Emilio Rivera would be part of the project. His character, Marcus Alvarez, President of the Northern California charter of the Mayans MC, was one of my favorite characters on Sons of Anarchy. With the casting announcements, the character that will be President of the featured charter (Santo Padre) is cousins with Alvarez and the press release indicated that he lived, for a time, with Alvarez. This gives a possible tie-in to Sons of Anarchy as the character most likely had some interaction with the rival MC. A nice setup for possible flashbacks.
The casting choices have been exemplary.
- Felipe Reyes (father of the protagonist): Edward James Olmos
- Angel Reyes (brother of the protagonist, full patch member of the MC): Clayton Cardenas
- Esai “Taino” Ossorio (President of the Mayans MC, Santo Padre charter): John Ortiz
- Michael “Riz” Ariza (Vice President of the Mayans MC): Antonio Jaramillo
- EZ Reyes (the protagonist, a prospect of the MC): JD Pardo
- Johnny “El Coco” Cruz (full patch member of the MC): Richard Cabral
There are still critical roles to be announced. The setup features conflict with the Cartel so villains will be needed, with through regular cast members or through guest starring roles. There’s also a love interest that EZ Reyes seeks to protect so that will be a key hire.
I am looking forward to the show and hope it’s as successful as its predecessor but in its own right. Marcus Alvarez, now credited as National President and Founder of the Mayans MC, (Emilio Rivera) will be an awesome bridge between the two series.
Have a great weekend!
How to build an 80-win team…
The Boston Red Sox have gotten stronger with the recent additions of Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, and most likely, the re-signing of their former ace Jon Lester in the coming weeks. The Toronto Blue Jays quietly signed catcher Russell Martin (a significant upgrade over Dioner Navarro) and last night, pulled off a major trade for arguably one of the best third basemen in the game in Josh Donaldson of the Oakland A’s. The cost for Donaldson was Brett Lawrie and prospects. Given Lawrie’s inability to stay healthy, this trade provides further enhancement for a team that has held promise for a few years.
Lance Iversen, The Chronicle
Then there’s the Baltimore Orioles. They may not have made any big moves but they are still the AL East champs until proven otherwise.
I am not sure what’s going on with the Tampa Bay Rays. They will be losing a great potential manager in bench coach Dave Martinez when they finally name a replacement for Joe Maddon and the team no longer has the feeling of eternal optimism that it had when Maddon and former GM Andrew Friedman were running the show. So, we’ll leave them out of the equation.
So, clearly, the Blue Jays and Red Sox are determined to challenge the Orioles’ hold on the division championship. Meanwhile, in the Bronx, just crickets…
Last winter, the Yankees were quiet at the beginning of the off-season but then launched a flurry of signings in December that netted Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Carlos Beltran. It was a lot of money, but it still had the feeling the money could have been better spent. Of course, if the Yankees would have just paid Russell Martin a few years ago rather than allow him to leave as a free agent, the Yankees could have gotten him much cheaper than the deal they signed McCann to (or the one Martin ultimately signed with the Jays). Ellsbury is a known risk given his injury risk. He held up fairly well in his first season in pinstripes, and I like having him on the team. But the truth is the Yankees had a center fielder on the roster at the time in Brett Gardner and would have been better served going after a bat for left field. Beltran has been a great major leaguer but his age simply does not bode well for staying healthy.
Now, I could write major concerns with Ramirez and Sandoval, but the Red Sox are dealing from a position of strength and have loosened some major league players, combined with quality prospects, to make a major trade to further strengthen the team (such as a move for the Philadelphia Phillies ace Cole Hamels). The Yankees last year were just trying to fill holes.
I am surprised that the Yankees have not been linked in any way with star free agents Jon Lester and Max Scherzer. Clearly, either one would immediately enhance the Yankees’ chances in 2015. They need to find answers for other positions (third base, shortstop and the bullpen) but a high end rotation is a must for any team to succeed. As it stands, there are too many questions with Masahiro Tanaka’s elbow, Michael Pineda’s ability to stay healthy or if CC Sabathia is riding the major downslope of his career.
The Yankees need to sign either Scherzer or Lester, and retain the free agent trio of Brandon McCarthy, Chase Headley, and David Robertson. With this off-season of inactivity, it feels like the Yankees are going to lose out on all of the above. At least today, two days after Thanksgiving.
I remain hopeful that Rob Refsnyder wins the second base job in spring training. As for shortstop, the easiest solution is to re-sign Stephen Drew. It’s really too bad that the organization was unable to develop a high level shortstop prospect in time for Derek Jeter’s departure. Jorge Mateo looks like a strong possibility but he’s years away from being ready for the major league level. So, the Yankees are best served finding a short-term solution like Drew and hope for a bounce back year with a full training camp. I’d prefer that over a trade that could potentially cost what high level talent the Yankees do have in the upper levels of the minor league system.
If the Yankees do nothing, they’ll be battling the Rays for last place. If they merely try to fill holes with cheaper alternatives, they’ll still be cellar rats. Something has to give….soon.
I agree with Hal Steinbrenner when he says that you don’t need a $200 million payroll to win but the Yankees roster as currently constructed is not championship-caliber in my opinion. Too much risk and uncertainty, and players who’ve seen their better days. Alex Rodriguez is such a huge albatross and it’s a shame that he is now the “face” of the team.
Hopefully, Brian Cashman and the Steinbrenner boys have a plan in place that is driven for success and not merely a bean counter’s approach to fielding a team.
Time will tell, as it often does (as the saying goes)…
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.
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…