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.
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.
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…
*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.
Winter is coming…
The dawn of the Winter Meetings. It’s is always one of my favorite times of the year. Last year was very quiet for the Yankees but still, so much happens in the first few days of the meetings with free agent signings and trades.
I am very relieved that the owners and the players association agreed on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. I didn’t really expect a lockout but of course it was always a possibility until the two sides came to an agreement. I understand why the CBA issue held up the Yankees due to the luxury tax implications and uncertainty associated therewith. Now that both sides have a better understanding of the new deal, it should allow the Yankees to begin shaping the 2017 team.
I fully recognize that there will not be wholesale changes. This isn’t 2009 when the Yankees dumped a half billion dollars on top free agents. Sure, I’d love to have Edwin Encarnacion or Jose Bautista on the team but realistically it is not going to happen. Between the two, I’d take Encarnacion but I still don’t think it will happen. The Yankees have a clear need for a solid, clutch-hitting DH but I think they’ll go with either Carlos Beltran or Matt Holliday. Staying in house is an option but that mean DH will be used as a rotation to rest the regulars.
I would love for the Yankees to find a way to move LF Brett Gardner and 3B Chase Headley but in both cases, age + contract make the players hard to move. Gardner would probably be the easier of the two to move. While the Yankees have in-house options to replace Gardner, they’d probably have to go outside to get a replacement for Headley. Miguel Andujar showed in the Arizona Fall League that he is the future at third, but his arrival is still a few years away. I’ve also seen the projections of Gleyber Torres taking over second base, pushing current second baseman Starlin Castro to third. But Torres won’t see the Bronx until late in the 2017 season or sometime in 2018. Despite the absence of immediate help at third, I am still ready to end the Chase Headley story even if he did recover from a horrendous April to have a very good season last year.
Credit: Getty Images
My wish list for this off-season still begins with closer Aroldis Chapman. I am still very hopeful that he’ll find his way back to the Bronx. Kenley Jansen would certainly be acceptable if Plan A does not materialize. I am probably warming up to the idea of a Bronx return for Mark Melancon but I think he’ll either stay in Washington or go to San Francisco. Greg Holland is also an option. I think the Yankees have to move Dellin Betances back to a key setup role where he is better suited. Mariano Rivera, he is not.
As for starting pitchers, I am not opposed to the potential signing of starter Rich Hill. He is older than I would like for a team in transition to youth, but he obviously has a quality arm and would provide rotation stability. He reminds me somewhat of Hiroki Kuroda. A consistent pitcher who can occasionally throw a gem. Not a frontline starter, but a very dependable one. As for trades, I have no idea. I’d love Tampa’s Chris Archer but I don’t think the Rays would trade inter-division and his cost would probably be too high. I liked the Arizona Diamondbacks’ acquisition of Taijuan Walker. A young pitcher who was not fulfilled his potential but the upside is still there. Those are the types of pitchers I’d try to target. I know, it does fall into the high risk, maybe high reward, possible low reward category but look where Jake Arrieta has taken the Chicago Cubs.
It was tough to see pitcher Nathan Eovaldi cut within the last couple of weeks and today’s non-tender of lefty Jacob Lindgren, both players who will miss the 2017 season due to Tommy John surgery. It wasn’t that long ago when Lindgren was tabbed as a can’t miss, fast-track prospect with the potential to make the major league roster the year he was drafted. Injuries have held Lindgren back, but he’s still young enough to recover for a fine professional career. I am hopeful the Yankees find a way to bring both pitchers back into the organization now that they’ve been removed from the 40-man roster.
Next week should be fun. Unlike last year, I am hopeful and optimistic that the Yankees will be active in an attempt to improve the roster and build strength around the emerging young core. We shall see…
So, where do we go from here?…
The Yankees have definitely been stopping and
starting lately. They go into a funk,
rebound, and then go into a funk again.
After a succession of losing or tying series, they’ve started to win a
few but it has been easy. In the most
recent series with Seattle Mariners, they were dominated in the opening game by
Felix Hernandez, as the M’s won, 6-0.
They rebounded to take the next two including a 10-0 annihilation on
Sunday that feature a grand slam and 6 RBI’s by Robinson Cano.
As Sunday’s game got underway, Yankees radio
announcer John Sterling made a comment about whether Cano could reach 100 RBI’s
(he had 80 at the start of the game).
With simple math, he deducted that Cano had been averaging about 20 RBI’s
a month so with that reasoning, it would appear that Cano would have a shot
after nearly making the milestone in 2008 with 97 RBI’s. Cano must have heard Sterling because he
promptly went out and reduced the “magic number” to 14 RBI’s with a little more
than a month to go in the season.
Then Monday, the Yanks were back in the doldrums
when Jose Bautista hit home runs 39 and 40 as the Toronto Blue Jays downed the
Yanks 3-2. The Red Sox own the Jays, but
the Yanks and Rays struggle against them for whatever reason. With Dustin Moseley on the mound for Tuesday’s
game, there’s not much optimism unless the Yankee bats can come around.
Of course, it doesn’t help with names like Eduardo
Nunez, Ramiro Pena and Francisco Cervelli among the starters and Ivan Nova on
the mound. To Nova’s credit, despite
allowing one of the Bautista homers, he pitched very well, going 5 1/3 innings
and allowing only 2 runs (courtesy of the Bautista home run) despite 6 hits and
1 walk. He struck out 3. Nova showed that although he is not a talent
like the Rays’ Jeremy Hellickson, he can pitch at this level.
It was sad to see former Yankees and current
Chicago Cubs manager Lou Piniella step aside after Sunday’s game, a rout by the
Atlanta Braves. Lou opted to depart now
rather than at the end of the season to tend to his ailing mother. At 66, Sweet Lou is most likely done as a
manager, but given his intensity and desire for the game, I’d have to put this
one in the “we’ll see” category. It
would not surprise me to see him return to the dugout at some future date. As for now, it would be good for the
Steinbrenner family to reach out to Lou for a consulting role. It would be nice to have him back in the
As the speculation grows for the next Cubs manager,
which inevitably includes current Yankees manager Joe Girardi, I can’t help but
wonder if the Yanks would reach out to icon Don Mattingly or if they’d go for a
seasoned vet like Bobby Valentine if Girardi left. I’d prefer to see Donnie Baseball don the #23
pinstriped jersey if I had my preference.
With the Yankees most likely in a first-place tie
after tonight’s game (assuming the Rays hold their lead against the Los Angeles
Angels), it’s time to kick it into gear.
Now is the time that separates the men from the boys so hopefully the
Yanks are up to the challenge. If not,
they’ll be looking at the backside of Tampa and Boston jerseys.