(Photo: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports)
Former Athletic-National-Brewer Signs Minor League Deal w/Yanks…
So, the Yankees signed LHP Gio Gonzalez to a very short-term minor league deal. So what? I’ve seen so many negative comments on Social Media and I don’t get it. This late in Spring Training, the top replacement starters for Luis Severino and CC Sabathia appear to be Luis Cessa and Domingo German. After I trashed him in my last post, Jonathan Loaisiga pitched very well on Sunday. Nothing changes with the Gonzalez signing.
I know Gonzales is not a savior. Heck, he’s not even a very good starting pitcher anymore. His signing prompted many to ask why the Yankees aren’t trying to sign Dallas Keuchel. It’s an ‘apples to oranges’ comparison. If Gonzalez makes the Major League roster, he’ll get paid $3 million. If not, he can opt out of the contract on April 20th. He basically has a month to prepare on the Yankees’ dime. It will either get him a roster spot on everybody’s favorite team or he opens eyes in another organization who may be seeking starting pitching. No sooner than the word of the verbal agreement between Gonzalez and the Yankees had been reported, the Texas Rangers lost a starting pitcher (Yohander Mendez), who was diagnosed with a UCL sprain in his throwing arm. Shit happens and you need to be prepared. I think best-case scenario is we never see Gio in Pinstripes. It will mean that two of Cessa, German and Loaisiga are doing well. However, if one falters, Gio will be ready to step in assuming he proves he is ready. It’s really a no-lose situation for the Yankees. Dallas Keuchel, despite it being so late in Spring Training, is still going to cost you a lot of money and years. He’s not taking a minor league deal for chump change. There’s also the small issue of draft pick compensation tied to Keuchel since he received a qualifying offer from the Houston Astros. I have no problems with the Yankees’ decision to pass on Keuchel and to roll the dice the Gonzalez.
Gonzalez is far removed from his 21-win season of 2012 or even his 15 wins two years ago. At age 33, his fastball velocity is down, strikeout rate is falling, and WHIP is increasing. The degradation of his curveball has been noted and per Fangraphs, “Without that big hook in his back pocket, it will be tough for Gonzalez to return quality innings with a sub 90 mph fastball and middling changeup and we may see Gonzalez go the way of James Shields and Ubaldo Jimenez shortly.”
Nevertheless, Gonzalez has been a very consistent pitcher over the years even if he is on the downward slide. After his August 31st trade from the Washington Nationals to the Milwaukee Brewers last summer, Gio was 3-0 in five starts with a 2.13 ERA. He pitched 25 1/3 innings, giving up 14 hits and 6 earned runs. He walked 10 and struck out 22. Steamer projects Gonzalez at 6-7 with 4.40 ERA in 19 starts in 2019. K/9 of 7.80 and BB/9 of 3.72, with fWAR of 1.1. With so much pressure on the young pitchers to perform, I like the idea of a veteran insurance policy. We’re not looking at him to be the J.A. Happ of 2019. He may never find a spot on the 25-man roster. But I much prefer having him as a safety net as opposed to other young arms in the farm system that might not be ready should Cessa, German, and/or Loaisiga falter.
Luis Severino is expected to resume light throwing this week in anticipation of being ready in May assuming there are no further setbacks, but the Yankees needed a contingency plan. There are too many health-related questions in the starting rotation to hook your wagon exclusively on prospects and internal options. Do we really want to see another David Hale start? To sign Gonzalez now in no way prevents the Yankees from improving the pitching staff in July if necessary.
So, welcome to the Yankees family, Gio! We’re glad you’re here. We hope like hell we don’t need you but still, make yourself at home. You’re one of us for at least the next 30 days. If anything, you’ll be able to tell your grandkids one day that you were a Yankee for a month.
I really enjoyed Ken Davidoff’s piece in the The New York Post this morning entitled “Jacoby Ellsbury reveals firststeps of plan that’s impossible to embrace”. I honestly cannot think of any Yankee player I’ve ever been less excited about seeing return than Jacoby Ellsbury. I honestly never thought we’d see Ellsbury in Pinstripes again, and maybe we won’t. We are at the point the Yankees could decide to cut bait with Ellsbury if he’s too healthy to collect insurance payments but not good enough to resume his Yankees career. Despite owing Ellsbury nearly $50 million on his remaining contract, the loss would hurt the Yankees less than it did for the Toronto Blue Jays when they swallowed $38 million to set Troy Tulowitzki free. The Yankees are in much better position to absorb that type of loss. I’ve always felt cutting Ellsbury would be addition by subtraction, but as Davidoff notes in his closing paragraph: “Stay pessimistic, Yankees fans. Let Ellsbury surprise you with a positive outcome. And if this goes the same way as the bulk of his time in pinstripes, then you’ll have no reason to feel disappointed.” Point taken, Ken. I agree. If Ellsbury can play, let him play. If not, don’t let the door hit him on the way out.
(Photo: Edward Linsmier-The New York Times)
So much has been made of the Yankees’ Super Bullpen but I continue to hold the belief the Bullpen may not be as great as we imagine while the maligned Boston Red Sox pen could be better than expected. Too many fans are relishing the fact the Yankees sit atop the Grapefruit League standings while the Red Sox hold the cellar. The standings mean absolutely nothing. When the Yankees and Red Sox begin play on March 28th, they’ll both be 0-0. The Yankees don’t get bonus points because they had a better Spring and it certainly does not guarantee a spot in the American League Championship Series. The Red Sox are the champions until proven otherwise. I am optimistic heading into the regular season but I will never underestimate the Red Sox. You may not like their bullpen (for good reason) but they still have a very good team capable of winning its second consecutive World Series. Our job, or that of the Yankees, is to ensure it does not happen. For those of you who feel the need to boast about superiority, let’s win a few games that count first.
It is kind of weird there will be games that do matter this week when the Seattle Mariners and the Oakland A’s open the 2019 MLB Season in Japan. I love it that former Yankee Ichiro Suzuki will be in Seattle’s starting lineup for the opener tomorrow in Tokyo. No doubt the end of Ichiro’s career is near but he’s obviously a future Hall of Famer who is very beloved in his home county. At age 45, Ichiro will probably not be part of Seattle’s roster when they return to the United States. For the trip to Japan, the teams were authorized expanded 28-man rosters which will reduce to 25 when they come home after the two-game series. I would love to see Ichiro get one more hit before he says sayonara to his lengthy and amazing playing career. He currently stands at 3,089 hits in Major League Baseball.
On Thursday, Mariners lefty starter Yusei Kikuchi will make his MLB debut in his native country against the A’s. Very cool.
A reminder that the Yankees will be featured on the MLB Network this evening at 7 pm Eastern as part of MLB Tonight’s 30 Clubs in 30 Days.
As always, Go Yankees!
‘Stros Send the RSN Home Early in Game 1…
I wasn’t going to watch Game 1 of the American League Championship Series, but I got sucked into it when the Houston Astros took a one-run lead off on the Boston Red Sox, with everybody’s favorite…Joe Kelly…on the mound, in the top of the sixth inning. It was awesome in the top of the ninth when one-time Red Sock Josh Reddick blasted a solo shot against his former team to make it a two-run game. When Yuli Gurriel parked a three-run homer into the right field stands, the Red Sox fans were exiting Fenway Park in droves and their team had yet to take their final swings in the bottom of the ninth. It was such a beautiful sight!
|Photo Credit: Houston Chronicle (Karen Warren)|
The Astros won the game, 7-2, to ensure they’ll head to Houston with no less than a split pending the outcome of today’s game. They could sweep the games at Fenway Park before jumping on a Texas-bound plane and they do have the good fortune of facing Yankees punching bag David Price later today. Hopefully the Astro bats will enjoy hitting off Price as much as the Yankees do.
|Photo Credit: Boston Globe|
Gerrit Cole draws the Game 2 pitching assignment for Houston. It is easy to look back to last winter and say the Yankees should have been more aggressive in their pursuit of Cole. Ken Davidoff wrote a great piece in The New York Post today regarding the Yankees and Cole. The Yankees were willing to package a deal centered on outfielder Clint Frazier, but the Pittsburgh Pirates wanted the inclusion of Miguel Andujar as a centerpiece too. In retrospect, despite the lost season for Frazier, it’s hard to find fault with the Yankees’ decision to hold onto Andujar even if the Yankees desperately need pitching. Also, there was no guarantee Cole would have pitched as well in New York as he did in Houston. Maybe Andujar eventually gets moved for another frontline starter. Oh well, I am not going to look back and criticize the Yankees for their failure to acquire Cole. The Pirates chose to accept an inferior package from the Astros. It was their decision; not ours. There’s nothing we can do about it. Cole is a good pitcher, but he’s not worth handing over the farm system for. Now if we are talking about Jacob deGrom, that’s a different story.
Many Yankee fans were offended when Alex Rodriguez lost a bet to David “Big Papi” Ortiz and had to wear Red Sox gear on Fox TV, thanks to Boston’s win over the Yankees in the ALDS. Honestly, I could care less. It would have hurt if the player had been one of the core Yankees, but A-Rod’s not in that category. I know he’s done much to rehabilitate his image, but I truly wish the Yankees would have never acquired him. I would have been fine with him wearing a Red Sox uniform for real in 2004. I think A-Rod has done a fine job on the broadcasting side and I know he continues to preach the Yankees are his favorite team, but it doesn’t mean that I have to like him. The fact remains he tarnished the game and he lied to the fans. But aside from that, I’ve lost bets and had to wear Red Sox jerseys or hats before so to me it was no big deal.
|Photo Credit: FS1|
I saw a funny Twitter post yesterday that said Milwaukee Brewers reliever Brandon Woodruff has more postseason homers than Boston’s Mookie Betts. Woodruff hit what would prove to be the eventual difference-maker in Milwaukee’s NLCS Game 1 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday night off the great Clayton Kershaw. So far in the 2018 post-season, Betts only has 4 hits in 20 at-bats, with no homers and a couple of RBI’s. Betts is a great player but he is not immune to the post-season blues.
Everyone is making their predictions for which pending free agents the Yankees should re-sign or let walk. I hate to say it, but I don’t see the Yankees bringing Brett Gardner back. They’d be foolish to exercise the $12 million option and while declining the option and re-signing him to a lower one-year deal is possible, I am convinced the presence of a healthy Clint Frazier and, ugh!, Jacoby Ellsbury will force the Yankees to move on.
If the Yankees sign free agent Patrick Corbin of the Arizona Diamondbacks (as many expect) and re-sign J.A. Happ, I also do not see the Yankees bringing back CC Sabathia. So, the Yankees could be on the verge of losing their top two veteran leaders. I have no doubt other guys will pick up the void but I am appreciative of the Yankee careers for both Gardner and Sabathia. They’ve worn the Pinstripes proudly and will be missed.
|Photo Credit: MLB.com|
The Yankees face big decisions in the bullpen. With both David Robertson and Zach Britton ready to hit the free market, the Yankees have to decide whether to try and bring both back, just one, or let them both go elsewhere to the highest bidder. I’d love to see both return and I feel that having a super bullpen is so critical. Unless Luis Severino can make major adjustments this winter, the Yankees lack a true ace and signing Corbin does not change that fact. A super bullpen compensates for the deficiencies in the starting rotation. I love D-Rob’s heart, but if I had to make a choice for only one, I’d go with Britton. Unfortunately, I think Britton will get an insane offer from some other bullpen deficient team to be their closer, so it’s probably more likely the Yankees bring back Robertson. I’d really hate to see both leave.
While I think it is possible the Yankees go over the luxury tax threshold next year, the realist in me knows that Managing General Partner will give GM Brian Cashman a defined budget that may not include paying luxury tax penalties. I think some fans are expecting a 2009-like splurge with great young free agent superstars like Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, but there’s a very good chance the Yankees pass on any extended nearly half a billion dollar contracts. I see many fans predicting both Machado and Harper in the 2019 Yankees lineup and that’s simply not happening.
It’s amazing to think former Yankees third base coach Joe Espada might get a managing job before his former boss, Joe Girardi. Espada, currently bench coach for the Houston Astros, is emerging as one of the favorites for the job in Anaheim which was vacated when long-time Angels manager Mike Scioscia stepped down. Angels GM Billy Eppler knows Espada well from their time together in New York. Espada may be living the ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em’ dream, but his run of consecutive championship series will end if he becomes skipper of the Halos.
I wonder if there are any Yankee fans that are actually pulling for the Red Sox over the Astros? None that I am aware of, but I am sure there are a few fair weather fans out there.
Let’s hurry up and fast-forward through the World Series so that we can get the Hot Stove League started. I am ready for the off-season planning to begin. Nothing better than getting Hal Steinbrenner, Brian Cashman and other key executives together in one room to map out strategy for 2019. We can speculate. They can decide. But one thing’s for sure, we are united in our desire for a World Series championship next year.
As always, Go Yankees!
Life begins on the Northern Shore of Lake Ontario…
The Yankees will be working out at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Canada today in preparation for tomorrow’s Opener against the Blue Jays. Tuesday was an off-day for the Yanks after they flew into Canada from Atlanta, GA on Monday evening. Soon, the 2018 Yankees will take the field for the first meaningful game of the year. Luis Severino versus J.A. Happ. It should be a terrific game!
While the Yankees players, coaches and road crew were enjoying the sights and sounds of Toronto yesterday, the Blue Jays were completing their Spring schedule with an exhibition game in Montreal, Quebec against the St Louis Cardinals. In what may have been the greatest meaningless game finish ever, Vladimir Guerrero, Jr, son of Hall of Famer and former Montreal Expos great Vlad the Great, delivered a walk-off home run to beat the Cardinals at Olympic Stadium in front of 25,186 fans. Vlad Jr appropriately wore his father’s #27 as he circled the bases in the bottom of the 9th. It had to be one of the finest moments of training camp. Fortunately for the Yankees, Little Vlad is still a few years away from the Majors. I am sure that he’ll one day become a thorn in our side but gladly it won’t be this week. It was a very nice moment for the Blue Jays, the Guerreros, and the city of Montreal.
|Photo Credit: The Canadian Press (Paul Chiasson)|
I am not going to try and make any predictions for the upcoming season. Daniel Burch of The Greedy Pinstripes did an excellent job with his predictions over the past week so I’ll leave the season forecasts to him. Nevertheless, I do have one thought about his AL East prediction that has the Yankees winning the division by four games over the Boston Red Sox. I personally think the battle between the Red Sox and Yankees will be closer than four games by season’s end but I guess we’ll find out come October. J.D. Martinez will help the team’s offense and David Price and Rick Porcello will have much better years in the starting rotation. I have no reason to believe Boston will win fewer games than they did last year.
Speaking of the Red Sox, Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe voiced his displeasure on Twitter about the reference of a single Boston player as a Red Sock. Giancarlo Stanton is a Yankee and J.D. Martinez is a Red Sox? Sorry, that doesn’t work. Martinez is a Red Sock although Red Sux certainly works too.
Former Yankee Robert Refsnyder seems to be on a mission to play for all five AL East teams. The latest victim for his services are the Tampa Bay Rays who acquired the former Yankees prospect from the Cleveland Indians yesterday for cash considerations. The Yankees had traded Refsnyder to the Blue Jays last summer but he was claimed on waivers by the Tribe during the off-season. It’s only a matter of time until Ref works his way through Baltimore to get to Beantown where I am sure that he’ll have a Hall of Fame career (um, probably not).
Speaking of former Yankees, I don’t think there’s one more beloved than Oakland A’s center fielder Dustin Fowler. Yankees fans everywhere are pulling for the former Pinstriped prospect who blew out his knee last summer in Chicago during his Major League debut for the Yankees against the White Sox. Fowler has been in a battle all Spring with Boog Powell for the A’s starting job in center. A’s manager Bob Melvin has said that the starter will go down to the wire. We’re at the wire so I assume that we’ll soon find out if Fowler has won the job or if the 23-year-old will take a trip to Triple A to fine tune his offensive skills. An excellent defender, he batted .222/.245/.267 with .512 OPS in Cactus League play for the A’s with no homers and five RBIs. He struck out 13 times in 45 at-bats. Powell’s numbers are not much better but Fowler is younger (by two years) and would benefit more from a demotion to Nashville to play for the Sounds (once a Yankees farm team, by the way). Either way, I will be pulling for Fowler this year and I look forward to his MLB debut for the A’s, hoping for much better results than the last time he took the field during regular season play.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Christian Petersen)|
The guys who cover the Yankees beat for NJ Advance Media (Randy Miller and Brendan Kuty) are fantastic at their jobs. Kuty posted the following prediction today on the NJ.com website which I absolutely love: “(Brandon) Drury, if healthy, stays the third base starter all year. I’ve said it a billion times but I feel like that trade may end up like the Gregorius trade.” Admittedly, expecting Drury to perform like Didi has in Pinstripes is asking a lot, but I am a firm believer in Drury’s high ceiling and abilities and I think the Yankees will coax great years out of the player. I like his demeanor and his unbreakable focus on baseball. He may not be a comedian like Didi or as fun-loving (at least to the outside observer) as some of his teammates but I appreciate his dedication to becoming the best player he can be. I am a big fan of Drury regardless of how much I like Miguel Andujar. I think Drury is going to win over many fans in the upcoming days and months.
Ken Davidoff has long been one of my favorite Yankees beat writers. Due to the crazy reduction of quality personnel in the newspaper business, Davidoff has found himself with The New York Post. He wrote a great article this morning about the inside story on how Aaron Boone became the manager of the New York Yankees. It is a very insightful piece and one that makes me even more excited that Boonie is the leader of Baseball’s greatest team.
Who will hit the first home run for the Yankees this year? My pick is El Gary Sanchez. I think he’ll go yard before the massive bats of Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. Watch, one of the lighter hitters on the team like Tyler Wade will circle the bases first.
Now that Dellin Betances seems to be rounding back into All-Star form, I am really excited about the potential of the Yankees bullpen. Dellin is the key to success. I think Aroldis Chapman, David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle, Chad Green and the rest of the crew will be perform to their usual superior levels but my biggest concern was Betances given how untrustworthy he had become late last season. I think we’ll see a much stronger and more consistent Chapman but I was fearful that continued control problems by Dellin would be the undoing of the bullpen. But based on his most recent performances, the old Dellin is back and ready for success. This is the single greatest factor in the bullpen, in my opinion.
It is disappointing that Greg Bird will miss 6-8 weeks following ankle surgery yesterday to remove a coin-sized calcium deposit but it is what it is. I am not ready to pull the Nick Johnson card. I remain optimistic Bird will have a memorable 2018 season and will produce his share of home runs. In the interim, I am fine with the first base duo of Tyler Austin and Neil Walker. Austin has never truly been given a chance like this before so it’s his moment to shine. I am hopeful he grabs his opportunity to make his mark.
It’s exciting that the Baseball Season is finally here. How awesome will it be to see Giancarlo Stanton in a Yankees road gray uniform tomorrow? Judgie (Boone’s word, not mine), Sir Didi, El Gary, Gardy, Sevy, and more. Our favorite baseball team is back and ready for action. It is a very exciting time to be a Yankees fan. There’s plenty of room aboard the Bandwagon for those who want to jump on. Let the homers and emoji’s fly! We have a World Series championship to win. Let’s get started…