The Most Boring Off-Season Ever…
It’s kind of funny to say that this has been one of the slowest Hot Stove Leagues in recent memory, especially when your team acquires the best slugger on the planet, but I can’t remember the last time the majority of the top free agents were unsigned in January.
The Yankees never figured to be big players in the free agent market, given their desire to keep the ‘Alex Rodriguez-freed’ payroll under the luxury tax threshold of $197 million for reset purposes. But then the Los Angeles Dodgers made their big salary relief trade with the Atlanta Braves which gave them the same opportunity as the Yankees to reset their luxury tax rate so you have baseball’s two biggest spenders on the sidelines.
My personal hope is that the slow free agent market leads Todd Frazier back to Pinstripes where he belongs. Of course, rumors circulated yesterday that the Yankees had been back in touch with the Baltimore Orioles about third baseman Manny Machado. I am not convinced the Orioles would trade their best player to the Yankees despite his impending free agency, but conversely, I am not sure the Yankees should give up some of their best prospects for a guy they could sign as a free agent next fall. I wouldn’t want to give the O’s the bullets to reload. But then again, if the O’s make a trade this winter, they’ll bring in quality talent from somewhere. As long as Machado is on the table, it probably keeps any potential deal with Todd Frazier on ice (no pun intended for those of you in New York and New Jersey).
Mark Prior has found his way to the Los Angeles Dodgers as their new bullpen coach, replacing Josh Bard who decided to take a seat on the Yankees bench next to new manager Aaron Boone. The Yankees’ one-time top draft pick (he didn’t sign in 1998) and former Chicago Cub was most recently the minor league pitching coordinator for his hometown San Diego Padres. Prior attempted to make the transition to a relief pitcher in the Yankees organization during the 2011 season but could never capture the potential that was once promised to him through a series of arm injuries. I hope that he finds greater success with his coaching career.
Some teams have been very active with minor league contract signings carrying training camp invitations, but until yesterday, the Yankees had been quiet. It changed when they signed former Atlanta Braves infielder Jace Peterson to a minor league deal on Friday. Peterson has a high pedigree (he was once a first-round draft selection for the San Diego Padres) but he’s never been able to hit in the Major Leagues. He found his way to the Braves for the 2015 season but underwhelmed the team as its starting second baseman that year. The career .234 hitter was released by the Braves last month when he was non-tendered in advance of arbitration. I can’t see him as more than training camp fodder and help with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, but you can never have enough competition for Major League jobs. Good luck to Peterson as he attempts to find his place with his third MLB organization. New coaches, new scenery….who knows, crazier things have happened. In a bit of irony, Peterson made his MLB debut during the 2014 season when former and now current Padres third baseman Chase Headley was placed on the DL. Peterson seems like this year’s Pete Kozma signing to me. If he could only hit, he looks like a version of Austin Romine’s brother Andrew with an ability to play multiple positions.
Jace, just a note, please don’t scratch the big guy…
|Photo Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports|
The New York Post ran an article a couple of days ago indicating that GM Brian Cashman is prepared to go into the season with youngsters at second and third, meaning Gleyber Torres (or Tyler Wade) and Miguel Andujar. I still find it difficult to believe that the Yankees would entrust both critical positions to youth and inexperience (at the MLB level) at the same time. The Post article included Cashman’s words “if the market changes, we’re prepared to adjust” which shows that this is just a waiting game and Cashman is hoping for prices to fall.
I am excited about Gleyber Torres and the future of second base in his hands. I’ve seen so many say that he should open the season as the starting second baseman. For as much as I love the guy, the Yankees MUST delay the start of his MLB service time to pick up an additional year before he hits free agency. That only means that he’ll spend a few weeks in Moosic, PA focusing on solely the nuances of second base before hitting the main stage in the Bronx. It will be well worth the wait for so many reasons. At this point, it’s just fine-tuning but for a guy coming off Tommy John surgery, even a position player with his non-throwing arm, a few weeks in Triple A would be beneficial. In the interim, Ronald Torreyes and Tyler Wade deserve the opportunity to keep the position warm for Torres.
|Photo Credit: Andrew Savulich-NY Post|
The guys over at NJ Advance Media for NJ.com do a great job covering the Yankees. Randy Miller posted a column today featuring a scout’s take on top Yankees prospects. It is well worth the read. As a huge fan of pitching prospect Albert Abreu, I thought the scout’s take on the young right-hander was excellent: “I love him. You’re going to like this kid. I saw him in the Fall League. He was throwing 91-97. He sat 94. He’ll show you a plus curveball at times that is tight with depth. His changeup needs some refinement, but it has a chance to be a plus pitch in the future. He’s aggressive. He gets swings and misses. He’s pretty good with a good body. And he’s a good makeup kid. His delivery gets out of whack at times and it affects his stuff. When he stays square and direct to the plate and he’s working downhill, he’s good. I give him a chance to be a No. 3 starter, a middle-of-the-rotation type guy. If everything comes, he has an outside chance to be a No. 2 starter. Based on what I’ve seen, I like him better than Chance Adams.” I know that Justus Sheffield is going to be a great Yankee, but the scout’s last line about Abreu is the very reason that I’d gladly give up Chance Adams in a trade for a proven MLB starting pitcher. I am very high on Abreu and I am excited about his future in pinstripes.
It’s such a great time to be young and a Yankee for so many of these guys. Who wants to join?…
|Photo Credit: Getty Images|
|Credit: Andrew Theodorakis, New York Daily News|
The reunion seemed inevitable but the longer time passed, I was fearful that another team would entice CC Sabathia to trade in his pinstripes. He spoke with the Los Angeles Angels (a team desperate for starting pitching) and the Toronto Blue Jays. He never expressed an interest in the Oakland Athletics or the San Francisco Giants but I always felt that if they reached out to Sabathia, the appeal to return to his native Northern California would have been very strong. In the end, Sabathia opted to return “home” for some unfinished business.
Mark Feinsand of MLB.com broke the story first yesterday that Sabathia had signed a one-year, $10 million deal with the Yankees subject to a physical. Jack Curry of the YES Network reported later in the day that Sabathia had taken and passed the physical yesterday afternoon, thereby making the deal official. Welcome back, CC! We’re very glad to have you.
The move presumably does not alter the Yankees plans to add another quality starting pitcher although they now have five starters on staff. Realistically, I do not expect Sabathia to match his 2017 season when he went 14-5 with 3.69 ERA. He’ll turn 38 in July. But the veteran knows how to win and is a team leader. With an inexperienced manager and bench coach, the value of Sabathia’s leadership cannot be understated.
It’s very interesting that the 2005 Cleveland Indians roster featured the Yankees manager (Aaron Boone), the Yankees Bench Coach (Josh Bard), the Red Sox manager (Alex Cora), and a very young Sabathia. Boone was there for the early years (CC was only 24 during that 2005 season) and now he’s back for what may very well be Sabathia’s final year. If the Yankees win the 2018 World Series, I have no doubt that Sabathia will ride off into the sunset. I cannot imagine a better Yankees career than starting and ending with World Series championships.
Competition for the 2018-19 Free Agent Market…
Yesterday, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ front office showed their brilliance when they unloaded the bloated contracts of Scott Kazmir, Brandon McCarthy, and Adrian Gonzalez plus infielder Charlie Culberson on the Atlanta Braves. It is the same trio that the Dodgers tried to pawn off on the Miami Marlins for Giancarlo Stanton. Sure, they had to take back former Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, but the deal effectively reduced Dodgers payroll for the coming season by approximately $23 million which helps the team get under the $197 million threshold to reset luxury tax penalties. Gonzalez will never wear an Atlanta uniform. As part of the negotiation to waive his no-trade clause, Atlanta will release Gonzalez tomorrow, making him a free agent. It is also very questionable if Kemp will ever wear the Dodgers uniform again.
The move helps to ensure that the Dodgers will be prime players next off-season when Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Andrew Miller, Craig Kimbrel, Clayton Kershaw, Dallas Keuchel, Josh Donaldson and others hit the open market. Everybody had presumed the Yankees would sign Harper but the Dodgers have emerged as the leader for Harper’s services. Fortunately for the Yankees, they were able to acquire Giancarlo Stanton which gives them reason to pass on Harper and the $400-$500 million that it will take to sign the Las Vegas native.
|Credit: USA TODAY Sports|
Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi can thank Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos, who served in the Dodgers front office last season. From the Braves perspective, they are free of the two-year obligation for Kemp, and the heavy contracts they acquired expire at the end of the upcoming season (making Kazmir and McCarthy desirable “rentals” at the trade deadline next summer).
While I don’t believe that the Dodgers sudden emergence as a major player in the 2018-19 free agent market will adversely impact the Yankees desire to add Manny Machado (the Dodgers have great players at third and short, Justin Turner and Corey Seager), it will add significant competition for other players. I’d really love to see the return of Andrew Miller to the Bronx but the Dodgers almost certainly will be aggressive in their pursuit of quality bullpen arms.
If at Third…
With no offense to Miguel Andujar and his questionable defensive skills, I remain hopeful the Yankees can find a way to bring back third baseman Todd Frazier. Andujar would benefit from another year at Triple A. Frazier was signing autographs in Toms River, New Jersey yesterday. Every time I see off-season pics of Frazier, it reinforces to me how much I’d like to see him back in Pinstripes.
Hey Cash, make it happen!
The MLB Network has been replaying past Home Run Derbys and I have to say…man, I love watching Giancarlo Stanton hit home runs.
|Credit: Denis Poroy, Getty Images|
If you are going to dream, dream BIG…
Such a tease! For the last month, Yankees fans have dreamt of the idea of Giancarlo Stanton wearing Pinstripes. But with Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner’s budget and his drive to reset luxury tax penalties this year, the likelihood of Stanton coming to the Bronx appears to be about as strong as Shohei Otani changing his mind and deciding that he loves New York after all.
Still, it’s tough to hear that the Yankees are one of four teams that Giancarlo Stanton would openly waive his no-trade clause for. The list includes the Yankees, the Los Angeles Dodgers (his hometown team and favorite growing up), the Houston Astros and the Chicago Cubs. I am mildly surprised that the Los Angeles Angels didn’t make the cut for the LA native (I know, they are not really in Los Angeles). It’s hard because the timing isn’t right for a team that is trying desperately to stay under $197 million for the payroll this year.
It’s possible that Stanton eventually accepts a trade to either the San Francisco Giants or the St Louis Cardinals but the longer this drags out, the more likely it is those teams will move on. If the Giants land Otani, it would seemingly improve their chances for getting Stanton to accept the already negotiated trade to the Giants. I tend to side with the majority that believe Otani will end up in Seattle, particularly now that they’ve gained an edge in international bonus pool money. Could this help the Yankees snag Stanton? I guess time will tell as it often does.
For the Yankees, the decision to sign Jacoby Ellsbury four years ago yesterday to the seven-year, $153 million contract is the gift that keeps giving (in a negative way). Ellsbury, now Baseball’s highest-paid pinch-runner, is an albatross for Team Hal. As long as Ellsbury’s contract hangs around the neck of the Yankees, it will be difficult for them to find the creative way to bring Stanton to the Bronx even though they have the resources to pull it off.
The Seattle Mariners had looked like a strong potential trade partner for the Yankees depending upon how much of Ellsbury’s contract the Yankees were willing to eat. But the Mariners removed themselves from the conversation with their trade acquisition yesterday of second baseman Dee Gordon, whom they intend to move to center field. The Boston Red Sox just look at the Yankees, stuck with Ellsbury, and laugh. There were no tears shed in Boston when Ellsbury signed with the Yankees. My closest Red Sox friends were glad to be free of the King of the DL four years ago.
It’s incredible to imagine Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge in the same lineup. It will never happen (will it?) but the protection in the batting order the Yankees could offer Stanton would be immense. It would be fun to watch all of those balls flying out of Yankee Stadium.
I keep hoping that GM Brian Cashman and his team, against all odds, can find a way to get creative while staying in line with Hal Steinbrenner’s budget. By self-admission, Cashman is paid to think outside of the box. Here is his latest opportunity. Make it happen! The realist in me knows that it will not come to fruition but it is fun to dream about. Taking on Stanton’s contract would be far better than paying over a half-billion dollars to Bryce Harper next off-season.
I feel bad for Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly who now gets to watch as his team is stripped of its best Major League talent. Donnie Baseball deserves better. Marlins CEO Derek Jeter is obviously finding that it is not so easy sitting on the other side of the table with a strict budget in hand.
The Bronx Coaching Staff…
Now that the Yankees have their manager (Aaron Boone) and the return of the pitching coach (Larry Rothschild), the focus is on the remainder of the coaching staff. I have not heard Tony Pena’s name at all. He is a valuable coach and I’d like to see his return. We’ve heard the names of Yankees ‘thirty-something’ minor league coaches Reggie Willits and Carlos Mendoza as possibilities. We know that Rob Thomson, Josh Paul and Al Pedrique are no longer options, having found MLB employment elsewhere. It was odd that the first name drawing attention is current Los Angeles Dodgers bullpen coach Josh Bard. A former catcher, the possibility of adding Bard leads me to believe that there is no interest in bringing back Pena. Bard and Boone played together briefly in Cleveland. I seriously hope that Bard is not under consideration for Bench Coach. At Boone’s press conference, when asked if managerial experience was a prerequisite for the bench coach, Boone responded that he wanted smart and confident sitting next to him. Sounds like a possible setup for Bard. I guess it’s not like there is no managerial experience on the bench. Larry Rothschild was the original manager for the then Tampa Bay Devil Rays when they entered the league in 1998. But regardless of Rothschild’s presence, I personally would prefer to see experience sitting with smart and confident to offer suggestions to the new first-time manager.
Bard played for five teams over 10 seasons during his pedestrian career as a backup catcher, yet I think of him as a Red Sock. That’s kind of funny considering that he only played 7 games in 2006 for the Red Sox. The intent was for Bard to catch knuckle baller Tim Wakefield, who ironically gave up Boone’s 2003 ALCS Game 7 home run. But 10 passed balls in those 7 games ended his time in Boston.
Based on GM Brian Cashman’s words, they’ve provided a list of names to Boone and Boone has provided names to them and they are going through the vetting process. So, it’s highly probable that other guys, beyond Bard, have been or will soon be interviewed. Boone talks about having a world-class coaching staff, but it’s tough when we’ve seen a few world class guys like Thomson, Paul and Pedrique walk away from the organization. I hope that Boonie is right. The team’s leadership will be very instrumental in the success of the young Baby Bombers as we move forward.
Note to Brian Cashman…
Please re-sign CC Sabathia. What are you waiting for?…
I am always anxious to see what the Baseball Winter Meetings will bring. Those few days bring the most excitement of the off-season. It’s very possible that nothing happens for the Yankees but it should be a fun week anyway. With such a large concentration of media gathered in Orlando, Florida beginning this weekend, rumors of trades and signings should soon start flying fast and furiously.
I’d love to be working on a post next week entitled ‘How the Yankees Made the Stanton Dream a Reality’…
My apologies to anyone that I might have offended with yesterday’s blog! I think I was so stunned that A-Rod would actually participate in that type of pictorial that I wasn’t thinking. He is so incredibly self-absorbed. I am shocked that he actually ever looked away from the mirror to find time to get married. I bet his daughters are jealous of the mirrors in the house.
I also thought that A-Rod left his wife because of Madonna, but I now see that it was strictly because of his love and affection for Alex.
Meanwhile, Derek Jeter continues to use words that are foreign to A-Rod…like “we” and “team”…
JULIA’S GARBAGE CAN
Not that I’d want to be caught rummaging through Julia’s (of Julia’s Rants) trash, but if I were GM Brian Cashman, I’d be all over catcher Josh Bard. Bard was released by the Red Sox today, which apparently gives George Kottaras the backup catching job behind Jason Varitek. From what I understand, Kottaras was out of options plus he is more adept at catching knuckleballer Tim Wakefield.
Bard, 30, had a productive spring in Sox camp, going 6-for-14, with one home run and 5 RBI.
Oakland also released their back up catcher and Bard’s former San Diego teammate, Rob Bowen, to give the job to a younger player, Landon Powell, so there’s certainly a few catching options to consider.
MY PRAYERS TO AARON BOONE
I was stunned to hear Aaron Boone’s announcement that he was leaving the Houston Astros to have open heart surgery and will obviously miss the season.
From what I understand, it is a congenital heart defect that Aaron has known about since college, but doctors determined after a routine physical that non-emergency surgery was necessary. This most likely means the end of Aaron’s 12-year major league career.
He wasn’t a Yankee for very long, but it was a memorable stay…
Good luck, Aaron…we wish you a successful and speedy recovery!
After the talk of whether Joba Chamberlain should start or relieve had started to die down, The New York Post ran a story this morning that the Yankees’ back up plan at closer if something were to happen to Mariano Rivera would be to move Joba to the role. Man, the debate will never end…
Speaking of Mo, three up and three down with two strikeouts on Tuesday night. All is good, i.e., keep Joba in the starting rotation!
Chien-Ming Wang got the win in today’s exhibition game against the Houston Astros. He pitched five innings, giving up three hits and one run. He had two strikeouts.
A.J. Burnett will face his old team, the Toronto Blue Jays, on Thursday.
It was a great come-from-behind win over Puerto Rico by Team USA last night, but the euphoria was tempered with news that Kevin Youklis will miss the remainder of the WBC due to a sore ankle. He’s going to have a MRI, but hopefully it isn’t too serious. Good luck to Team USA as they move on!