|Photo by Noah K Murray, USA TODAY Sports|
Bummer, he’s still here…
Big Maple is a New York Yankee but sadly, at least as of right now, so is Sonny Gray. The deadline last night to finalize the 40-man rosters for next month’s Rule 5 Draft failed to provide any momentum for the inevitable relocation of Sonny “Not Made for NYC” Gray. So, we’ll have to wait a few more days or weeks until we can wish Sonny better luck in his new city.
I was a little surprised the Yankees added reliever Joe Harvey to the 40-man roster on Tuesday. Despite his solid statistics in the Yankees farm system, he is admittedly not a prospect I know very well. In fact, I think the first word I said when I saw that he had been added was, “Who?”.
I thought the Yankees would protect the defensively talented shortstop Kyle Holder but ‘strong glove, no bat’ will only get you so far. The Yankees also made a minor trade involving minor leaguers when they sent RHP Jordan Foley, 24, to the Colorado Rockies for RHP Jefry Valdez. At first glance, Valdez appears underwhelming (he had a 5.82 ERA in 27 relief appearances in Class I last year), but a deeper look shows he is a strikeout machine. He had 45 strikeouts last season in 34 innings. However, as one Rockies blog put it, he has never been a top prospect in the Rockies organization for one reason: he hasn’t pitched very well. The Rockies feel they got the better end of the deal, but truthfully, who really knows. Maybe the change of scenery and new collection of coaches and instructors will help Valdez. As for Foley, he’ll get an opportunity to help fill the void when Rockies reliever Adam Ottovino signs with the Yankees (my wish, I know).
With the addition of Harvey, the Yankees’ 40-man roster stands at 39. The open spot won’t sit vacant for long as the Yankees continue their roster enhancements in the coming weeks. Hey Bryce, Number 34 is available in case you were wondering…
Credit to Manny Machado for his interview comments that appeared this morning on MLB.com. Manny has taken a beating since the World Series over his comments that “I am not going to be the type of player that’s going to be ‘Johnny Hustle’”. In the column posted by Mark Feinsand, Machado is quoted saying, “For me, I was trying to talk about how I’m not the guy who is eye watch. There’s a difference between fake hustle for show and being someone who tries hard to win. I’ve always been the guy who does whatever he can to win for his team”. I think Machado has done a very good job clarifying his earlier controversial remarks. I know many Yankee fans are against signing Machado, but I think any MLB team would be better with Manny on its roster. Feinsand’s column leads me to believe that Manny will say the right things when he gets an audience with GM Brian Cashman and Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner. C’mon, Hal, open the checkbook!
Of the moves made yesterday, I think the decision by the Miami Marlins to designate the versatile Derek Dietrich for assignment opens an opportunity for the Yankees. Dietrich can play second, third, and corner outfield. He is not necessarily known for his glove, but he is someone to consider if the Yankees choose not to bring back Neil Walker.
I was a little surprised by the Tampa Bay Rays decision to DFA slugging first baseman C.J. Cron, but I’d prefer to stick with the current first base duo of Luke Voit and Greg Bird even if Cron had 30 bombs last year. Now, if the Yankees want to acquire Joey Votto, as suggested by Daniel Burch yesterday, let’s go.
The San Diego Padres sold third baseman Christian Villaneuva to Hideki Matsui’s old team, the Yomiuri Giants. The only reason the name stood out to me was his blazing start last April which led to San Diego’s release of former Yankee third baseman Chase Headley. Villaneuva came back to earth and played like a guy who doesn’t really have a long-term future in the Bigs, hence, the “deportation” to Japan. Still, it’s sad the guy who forced Headley’s exit simply turned out to be another Mr. April. I was hoping for better results with Chase’s reunion with his original team, but it was not meant to be.
I really despise when former Yankees and Yankees prospects end up in Boston. It happened again yesterday when the Boston Red Sox acquired minor league reliever Colten Brewer from the San Diego Padres. Brewer spent the 2017 season in the Yankees system before departing via free agency last November. It’s not like Brewer did anything for the Yankees, but it just bothers me when “our” guys go to the Red Sox. Yeah, Nasty Nate, I am talking to you even if it wasn’t your decision.
Lastly, Tuesday also brought news of the retirement of great third baseman Adrian Beltre of the Texas Rangers. Man, I am glad his stay in Boston was so short. A Ranger for the last eight years, the guy is headed for the Hall of Fame one day. I couldn’t help but think it’s a shame he can’t leave his defensive skills behind for Miguel Andujar’s use. I wish Adrian the best as he moves into the next chapter of his life. If he is half as successful as he was on a baseball field, his future is incredibly bright. We’ll be seeing him in Cooperstown in, oh, about five years.
Have a safe and enjoyable Thanksgiving holiday, everyone! This is a beautiful time for love, family and friendship. May you be blessed with a memorable and pleasing abundance of all three.
As always, Go Yankees!
Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jim McIsaac)
Walker, New York Yankee…
When I heard the news the Yankees had signed free agent infielder Neil Walker, I admit it did not excite me. I had thought Walker might be an infield possibility before the Yankees acquired Brandon Drury from the Arizona Diamondbacks (in fact, TGP’s Bryan Van Dusen called it out as a move the Yankees should make before Drury found himself in Tampa with our favorite team). But once Drury arrived, I didn’t give it another thought.
Credit: Pittsburgh Magazine
The reaction among the Yankees Universe has been very mixed. Countless fans feel that Walker blocks the very talented rookies, Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar. I don’t look at it that way. For a one-year contract at $4 million plus incentives, this is not a marriage. It is a dinner date at McDonald’s. Walker may break camp as the starting second baseman but there’s no doubt that Gleyber Torres will be the man when he is ready. Gleyber needs the additional time at Triple A as he continues his comeback from Tommy John surgery on his non-throwing arm. He has shown this Spring that regardless of his MLB service time clock, he would greatly benefit from the added time in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Torres is going to be a star and there is nothing that Neil Walker can do about it.
Brandon Drury is the starting third baseman. With no offense to Miguel Andujar, Drury was not acquired to be a backup. The Yankees see too much potential in the player and feel that they can convert a number of those Drury doubles into home runs. The Yankees gave up two talented prospects in second baseman Nick Solak and pitcher Taylor Widener. At that price, they weren’t paying to get Drury as a part-time player. Perhaps Andujar goes to Pennsylvania and crushes Triple A pitching. There’s nothing wrong with two players fighting for one position. It’s a very good problem to have. For now, Walker’s arrival most likely means that Andujar will be joining Torres in Scranton. But like Torres, Andujar will be back. When he proves his defensive game has caught up with his bat, only a major trade for a starting pitcher could keep Andujar from pulling on the pinstripes. Walker certainly won’t stop that from happening.
I felt and probably still feel that Tyler Wade will see significant starts at second base. Worst case, I can see him in a platoon role with Walker at the position until young Gleyber arrives to take control. Best case, he breaks camp as the starter with Walker on the bench.
To me, the potential losers with the Walker signing are utilityman Ronald Torreyes and non-roster first baseman Adam Lind. Torreyes may make the Opening Day roster. In fact, I think it’s almost a certainty. But, when Torres and Andujar arrive in the Bronx with their minor league assignments completed, Torreyes is the potential odd man out. I thought Lind might have a chance to make the roster since the Yankees, for whatever reason, do not seem enamored with Tyler Austin. But with Walker’s ability to play first base (not to mention Drury too), Austin brings more to the team than Lind does as a right-handed first baseman (nice complement to the lefty-swinging Greg Bird) who can also play corner outfield. Lind is strictly 1B/DH. But Austin’s spot is not a given as the Yankees could opt for Billy McKinney if Jacoby Ellsbury and Clint Frazier are unable to start the season. McKinney has limited experience at first base, but the presence of Walker helps offset his inexperience.
To make room for Walker, the Yankees designated outfielder Jake Cave for assignment and released non-roster invitee Danny Espinosa. Shortstop Kyle Holder was also re-assigned to minor league camp. I’ve always liked Cave but he was squeezed by players ahead of him like Frazier and McKinney and was feeling the heat from hard charging younger prospects. Cave was in camp with the Cincinnati Reds a couple of years ago as a Rule 5 draftee. He opened some eyes although he proved he wasn’t quite ready for the Show. Hopefully, GM Brian Cashman is able to flip Cave for a younger prospect rather than simply letting him go for nothing. I was never excited about the addition of Espinosa. He was a decent player for the Washington Nationals a few years ago, but he wasn’t going to scare anyone with his bat. His poor reaction when the Nats acquired outfielder Adam Eaton which pushed star Trea Turner from the outfield to shortstop, displacing Espinosa, always bothered me. So, for me, I’ll gladly take Walker over Espinosa. The switch-hitter still has some pop left in his bat, and he is a very versatile dude (health-permitting).
Walker was assigned Starlin Castro’s number 14 (most recently worn by Espinosa). For me, the number is forever associated with the great “Sweet Lou” Pinella.
Photo Credit: UPI
By now, I don’t think any Yankees fans are expecting the team to add a starting pitcher before the start of the season. My early favorites for trade deadline candidates are Chris Archer and Danny Duffy. The Los Angeles Dodgers have long been interested in Archer, so I’d probably rate Duffy as the most likely choice if he can be pried from the Kansas City Royals. Personal preference, no doubt, is Archer. The health and performance of the existing starting five will obviously dictate what the Yankees do in July. It’s early, but I’ve been impressed with young right-hander Domingo German and would like to see him become the rotation’s sixth man in place of Luis Cessa.
Good times. I am ready for the season to start.
We may want it all but…
We’re the mighty Yankees. We should have every available superstar, right? To listen to some fans, that seems to be the case. But in reality, this is a business and the magical figure of $197 million to reset luxury tax penalties may as well be a hard and fast salary cap. Team Hal will do whatever it takes to stay under that mark.
It’s nice that free agent pitcher Yu Darvish has narrowed his choices to six teams, including the Yankees. But in the grand scheme of things, it means nothing. The Yankees are not going to pursue Darvish at this point given the pitcher’s desire for a contract in excess of $20 million per year annually.
Yesterday, Michael Kay reported on his show that the Yankees had previously offered Darvish 7 years at $160 million but had given him a short window (48 hours) to accept. When Darvish didn’t bite, the Yankees allegedly pulled the offer. No offense to Michael (he’s one of my favorites), I struggle with the thought the Yankees really made that type of offer with the current roster construction and cost. If the Yankees really did make that level of offer and Darvish did not accept, he was foolish in this stagnant market.
I really liked Yu Darvish when he first came to the United States and had been hopeful the Yankees would sign him before he was snagged by the Texas Rangers. But now, while I agree he is an upper echelon pitcher, I don’t feel that he’d be the right fit. The primary reason is money. The reality is that the Yankees will keep 2018 payroll below the $197 million threshold. Even if the Yankees moved contract(s) to make room, I don’t think it would be the wisest path to add a multi-year, greater than $20 mil per year, contract for a pitcher on the wrong side of 30. If Darvish was the missing piece to guarantee a World Series, it would be one thing but he’s not. The only thing that I like about a Darvish signing is that he wouldn’t cost multiple top prospects like a trade for Gerrit Cole would. The reality is that arms like Justus Sheffield and Albert Abreu could be out-performing Darvish in the big leagues within the next few years.
While Manny Machado would look great in Pinstripes, the reality is that he will not be part of the 2018 Yankees. At the moment, the Arizona Diamondbacks appear to be the frontrunner…if the Baltimore Orioles decide to trade their very talented third baseman. The D-Backs, if they acquire Machado, would move him to his position of preference (shortstop). While I think Machado should stay at third (for the sake of his surgically-repaired knees), you wonder if shortstop becomes Machado’s top priority when he hits the free agent market after the upcoming season. If so, the Yankees will not be in play given the team already has a strong shortstop. Didi Gregorius, the unsung hero of the 2017 Yankees, is not going anywhere.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images|
I am not opposed to the Yankees filling second and third bases with Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar, respectively. I just don’t feel the Yankees would entrust two critical positions to rookies at the same time.
GM Brian Cashman is talking like Torres could break camp as the starting second baseman but it makes the most sense to keep him at Triple A for the first few weeks to delay his MLB service time and push his free agent eligibility back a year. Hal Steinbrenner, the accountant, is never going to go hog wild with payroll, even if he is successful in resetting luxury tax penalties this year. Unlike his father, he will always be concerned about the bottom line. I am comfortable with Tyler Wade and Ronald Torreyes covering second until Torres is ready. I buy into the opinion that we didn’t see the real Wade last year and he could be more like the player he was for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders this year. Training camp will be very critical for him. But, really, there’s no question second base belongs to Torres regardless of what Wade is able to accomplish.
As for third, Andujar, if he isn’t traded, will be watched very closely at training camp as he attempts to disprove the perspective that his defensive game hasn’t caught up with his bat. Another name that has been suggested, Kyle Holder, seems to be a stretch. Holder is 23 but the highest he has played was at High A Tampa last year. It would be very difficult to make that type of leap for the defensive wizard. He’s not a power bat but in the Yankees lineup, he would not need to be. Realistically, I think Holder is still a season or two away. My opinion remains that the 2018 Yankees third baseman is not presently on the roster. But if I am wrong and Andujar heads north to the Bronx with the big league club in late March, so be it. I’ll be a fan and supporter.
I was glad to see the Yankees settle two of their potential arbitration cases yesterday when they signed Tommy Kahnle and Aaron Hicks to one-year contracts for $1.325 million and $2.825 million, respectively. With today’s deadline to exchange arbitration figures, it’s possible that we could see other signings. The other arbitration eligible players are Didi Gregorius, Dellin Betances, Sonny Gray, Adam Warren, Chasen Shreve and Austin Romine. The Yankees want to avoid contentious battles like the one with Dellin Betances last year, even though they won. Of the players, I’d really hate to see Gregorius or Gray go to arbitration. They are such huge keys for the upcoming season. The worst way to start the year would be for them to go into a room to hear about their faults from the team’s perspective.
My general sense is that the Yankees will make at least one other significant move before training camp but it’s equally possible that ‘what you see is what you get’ with the current roster. I expect other non-roster invitees beyond infielder Jace Peterson but it’s hard to classify any of those as “significant”.
Let’s see what today brings…
As I sit and recover from foot surgery yesterday (yes, my leg is elevated), I have finally shaken the pain and can think about the Yankees again…
The MLB Draft…
The MLB Draft lacks the drama and suspense of the NFL Draft, but still, I was disappointed to see Mariano Rivera, Jr go to the Washington Nationals. To add salt to the wound, the Nats are in the Bronx for a short two game series starting today. I had really hoped the Yankees would try to draft the legendary closer’s son again this year, but it was not meant to be. Perhaps it is best for Mariano Jr to go to another team to establish his own identity. With the Yankees, he would have always had to suffer from the comparisons to his father.
Anthony Causi, New York Post
I was surprised to see the Yankees go with starting pitcher James Kaprielian of UCLA with their first pick. But everything I have read points to his readiness sooner rather than later. He’ll never be a frontline starter but with Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda headlining the staff, they just need solid, dependable starters that can provide innings.
The compensatory pick for the loss of former closer David Robertson in free agency netted an all-glove shortstop in Kyle Holder. Maybe the bat will develop, maybe not. As the saying goes, time will tell. Meanwhile, the Yankees already have the glove, no bat at short in Didi Gregorius although even the glove has been suspect at times.
The way Hal Steinbrenner envisioned it…
The Yankees continue to impress. I still do not think the team has the horses to make an October run, but stranger things have happened. The Yankees looked horrific in a few recent series, but they’ve bounced back with solid play. It’s amazing the difference that a healthy Mark Teixeira makes. The Yankees still need to figure out a solution for the lack of productivity in the lower half of the batting order. The Yankees did get two home runs out of Stephen Drew in a recent game, but he has generally been a disappointment with the bat. A .168 batting average is not going to get it done. Meanwhile, it is rather ironic that Drew has 5 more home runs than former Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano. I doubt that will last as Cano will eventually get it together whereas Drew will not.
I am typing this as Masahiro Tanaka’s second start since returning from the Disabled List begins in a few hours. It will be interesting to see if he is able to continue the dominance he showed in his first start back. If the Yankees intend to be successful this year, the story begins and ends with Tanaka. They need him. We’ll never get away from the feeling that he is just one pitch away from Tommy John surgery but for now, the hope is for the elbow ligament to hold up to pitch more wins. With Michael Pineda on a short leash innings-wise, they cannot afford to lose Tanaka. I am anxious to see what Ivan Nova brings when he returns later this summer, although I remain fearful that we’re still a year away from him being the Nova of old. How fast can Kaprielian get warmed up?…
The Yankees are very fortunate that they play in the AL East with no clear dominant teams. The trading deadline may shift the balance of power. I still expect a hard charge by the Boston Red Sox, and I’d be foolish to ever underestimate a Buck Showalter team. The Blue Jays and Rays both have talent. The division is still anybody’s for the taking. If the Yankees choose to just go for rentals, I hope that they do not part with quality talent to do so. I hate reading about how well former Yankees prospects are doing in other organizations after trades. Nothing against them personally, but I so want a core group to develop in the Bronx again from the farm system. It seems like it runs in cycles, and good drafts in recent years should bring the potential for a talent infusion in a few years.
The Closer you get…
For years, Mariano Rivera was my favorite Yankee. There’s something magical about a great closer. Years ago, the favorite was Goose Gossage. While I wouldn’t say that Andrew Miller is my current favorite, I love the back end of the bullpen with the dominant Dellin Betances setting up Miller. Other guys like Chasen Shreve and Justin Wilson have been solid. It’s nice to have reasonable confidence that the team is going to win if they hold a lead late in a game. Of course, weaknesses in a starting rotation can place too much stress on a bullpen, but for now, the team was right in paying special attention to build out the pen this past off-season. In the grand scheme of things, it looks like it was the right decision to let David Robertson walk even if he is considered an elite closer.
Trip down Memory Lane…
On Sunday, I went to Dodger Stadium to see the Dodgers play the St Louis Cardinals. It was the first time I had seen these two teams play each other since the first MLB game I saw as a kid. The first game was 5/29/74, and the Dodgers won 5-2 with Tommy John beating Bob Gibson. The Cardinals took Sunday’s game with a few late runs to win 4-2. There is always something special about the first time experiencing Major League Baseball in person and I’ll always remember that game in 1974. Sunday’s game? Not so much…
Is it really June already?…