Off-Season Prep for 2020 is Underway…
I think I can speak for the entire Yankees fanbase when I say that we miss Yankees Baseball. We are in the part of the off-season where there is talk and speculation but not much action. Things should start warming up next week. Not that there will be signings and trades, but the General Manager meetings will be held Monday through Thursday in Scottsdale, Arizona. The groundwork for the future trades could be laid and of course there could be finalization of the new deal for Brett Gardner. When you get all the GM’s together in one place, anything can happen. Let the alcohol flow! After a couple of shots, maybe Jacoby Ellsbury would look attractive to somebody. I’d love for a rival GM to wake up from a drunken stupor one morning, screaming “WTF! How did we end up with Ellsbury???!!!” Sadly, it won’t be that easy to get rid of Jacoby but I’ll always hold out hope. Fortunately, we are only one season away from the $5 million buyout and the end of Ellsbury’s time in New York.
The biggest news for the Yankees this week was the appointment of Matt Blake as the new pitching coach, replacing the fired Larry Rothschild. Blake, 33, had been promoted last Tuesday to Director of Pitching Development for the Cleveland Indians. Two days later, he was the newest member of Aaron Boone’s staff. Blake has been with the Indians for four seasons and was, prior to his promotion, the Assistant Director of Player Development. Before joining the Indians in late 2015, Blake was a pitching coordinator for Cressey Sports Performance in Hudson, MA. He began his career as a pitching coach for a Boston area high school (Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School in Sudbury, MA) in 2009. In 2010, he served as an area scout for the Yankees before moving on to Cressey. He served as the pitching coach in 2015 for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox, a collegiate summer baseball team in the Cape Cod Baseball League.
Blake is a native of Concord, New Hampshire and graduated from the College of the Holy Cross with degrees in psychology and philosophy. He was on the Holy Cross baseball team for all four years.
While I think we have to recognize that most of us are not qualified to assess who is or is not a good pitching coach, I like the hire. I know everybody wanted the sexy pick of David Cone. Me too. I thought Cone or Andy Pettitte would be good choices, but conversely, I know that just because Cone was a very good pitcher and a great broadcaster does not mean that he would have been a terrific pitching coach. Also, the pitching coach job would have required Cone to take a pay cut. Frankly, I am glad that we’ll continue to hear Coney on YES Network broadcasts with Michael Key. I suppose he could always pursue coaching jobs elsewhere if he is so inclined but for now, I like his presence on my TV screen for games.
The Yankees have evolved into one of Baseball’s most advanced analytic teams. They’ve sunk huge costs into acquiring some of the best available analytic minds to support VP, Assistant General Manager Michael Fishman and his team of analysts. The word is Blake is very good at taking analytics and breaking it down into laymen’s terms for pitchers to understand and how to apply them. I know the Yankees didn’t wake up one morning and say ‘hey, let’s steal Blake from the Indians!’. They did their research, and multiple members within the Yankees organization had the opportunity to meet with Blake. The consensus of the greatest minds in the organization was the hiring of Blake as the next pitching coach. That’s good enough for me.
I do think the Yankees should join the recent trend in MLB to hire an assistant pitching coach. The unknown about Blake is that he has never played or coached at the Major League level. I am not saying he can’t do it, but I think two voices on the coaching staff for the pitchers is smart. I personally like RailRiders pitching coach Tommy Phelps. He has good knowledge and experience with many of the high level prospects and we know that he has done good work with the Major League pitchers sent down for additional instruction, with Chad Green representing the most recent example. Who knows if Green’s rebound was because of Phelps or was based on a plan developed by Larry Rothschild, but I do know that Phelps is highly respected and would make a good partner for Blake.
Speaking of Larry Rothschild, it didn’t take him long to find new employment. One day after the Yankees hired Blake, the San Diego Padres announced their had re-assigned their pitching coach of 17 years, Darren Balsey, to other duties within the organization and had hired Rothschild to be their next pitching coach. I think everyone expected Larry to follow Joe Girardi to Philadelphia, but all things considered, I think landing in San Diego is an ideal opportunity for him. I was a little surprised when Girardi went with Bryan Price as his pitching coach. Not that I think Price is a bad coach, but as a recent manager, I am sure he has aspirations to manage again, and I can’t help but think there could be potential for conflict with Girardi who we know can be hard-headed at times. Maybe I am reading too much into that, but at this state of his career, Rothschild is content with serving as a pitching coach until retirement calls his name. He’ll now get his opportunity to help break in another rookie manager (Jayce Tingler) and will be charged to help develop one of the best pitching prospects in the game in MacKenzie Gore. I don’t get the hate directed at Rothschild by Yankee fans. While I think it was time for the Yankees and Rothschild to part ways, I realize that Larry did many things right and there was much we were unable to see from the outside looking in. I am appreciative for the years he gave the Yankees. The Padres are a young, analytics-driven team, and they chose to go with experience. Good for Larry. I wish him the best for his new opportunity.
It was reported the Yankees and Brett Gardner’s camp are talking and it should result in a new deal soon. I am in favor of bringing Gardy back, however, I do not feel the Yankees should spend more than $8-$10 million on a one-year contract. Maybe throw in some incentives for a couple more million. But to expect Gardy to replicate his 2019 season (enhanced by the alleged juiced baseball) is asking too much. The Yankees need a starting center fielder next year and I hate seeing Gardner’s name automatically written in while Aaron Hicks recovers from Tommy John surgery. The guy will be 37 in August. I think he is best served as the team’s fourth outfielder with random starts rather than every day. The Yankees need to field the best players in 2020, not swim in sentimental waters. I’ve seen some Yankee fans suggest Gardy’s number should be retired when his playing days are finished. Sorry, while he has been a good Yankee for a long-time, he is not a Hall of Fame level player and never has been. I value Gardy’s leadership but I believe he is overrated in the eyes of many fans. I am not sure if the center field should be Mike Tauchman or maybe someone who is not in the organization right now, but I think the Yankees will go with the best man for the job and not simply pay for past performance.
I know the Yankees will be okay if Didi Gregorius leaves, but I’ll be sad. I like his left-handed bat and I think he’ll rebound for a stronger 2020 season as he gets further away from TJ surgery. The Yankees are still a championship-level team with Gleyber Torres at short and D.J. LeMahieu at second, but I think Didi still has much left in the tank. I know, I am making these statements after saying the Yankees shouldn’t stay with Gardy for sentimental reasons. But unlike Gardy, I think the best years can still be ahead for Didi. There’s growing speculation that Didi’s original team, the Cincinnati Reds, are interested in bringing him back. I guess if Didi does leave, I’d rather see him go to the National League so the Reds would probably be best-case scenario. But minus his bat, the Yankees will need to find another left-handed hitter to sandwich between Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. I am not sure if lefties like Mike Ford, Mike Tauchman, or (gasp!) Greg Bird can be that guy or if Brian Cashman will have to go for outside help. Also, unless the Yankees sign LeMahieu to an extension, there could be an infield void after next season. I’d hate to go back to rolling out guys like Brian Roberts and Stephen Drew to fill in at second base like we did when Robinson Cano left. If you say Tyler Wade, then we obviously have differing opinions about the player.
A much speculated target for shortstop has been Cleveland’s Francisco Lindor. Granted, he is not a left-handed bat but clearly he’s one of the best players in the game today. He is only 25 and would fit nicely into the Yankees lineup as a replacement for Gregorius. If the Indians move Lindor, it will only be for a huge haul so we’d have to expect to lose some very talented and promising players. Another suggestion is Corey Seager if the Los Angeles Dodgers acquire Lindor. I’d be fine with either Lindor or Seager at shortstop (using Aaron Boone’s favorite word, “obviously”). But honestly, I wish the Yankees would just re-sign Gregorius and save the trade bullets for an ace. A package of Lindor and Corey Kluber would be awesome, but the price tag would be outrageous. Nevertheless, I am sure you’ll be able to see Cashman in conversation with Chris Antonetti, Cleveland’s President of Baseball Operations, and/or Mike Chernoff, the Tribe’s GM, next week. You never know what can happen in Baseball.
I am cautiously optimistic about Thurman Munson’s presence on the 2020 Modern Era Committee ballot for Hall of Fame consideration. The results will be announced on December 8th. I’ve always said that Jim “Catfish” Hunter is the reason I became a Yankee fan, but it didn’t take long for Thurman to become my favorite player. The others on the ballot are Don Mattingly, Dwight Evans, Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, Ted Simmons, Lou Whitaker, and former MLBPA head Marvin Miller. Mattingly was my favorite player after Munson. While I think both players are Hall of Fame-worthy, if I had to pick one, I’d say it is time for Thurman to get his deserved recognition as one of the game’s all-time greats. I loved the passion and intensity of that guy. He was the AL Rookie of the Year in 1970 and the AL MVP in 1976. Even though the Yankees were swept in the World Series that year, it was not because of Munson who hit .529 (9 for 17) in the series. He was the heart and soul of two World Series championship teams in 1977 and 1978. Thurman’s death in 1979 remains one of those “I know exactly where I was when I heard the news” moments in my life. I was devastated and it’s sad that we didn’t get to see what Thurman could have done past age 32. I know there was speculation at the time about Thurman’s desire to get closer to home and perhaps sign with the Cleveland Indians, but it would have been hard to see him in anything other than Pinstripes. He was truly one of the Yankee Legends despite his premature departure and deserves his place among the other greats. I hope this is the year.
As always, Go Yankees!
Credit: Charles Wenzelberg – The New York Post
Rotator Cuff Inflammation Derails Luis Severino for 2 Weeks…
Spring Training threw us its first curve ball yesterday with the news that ace Luis Severino was pulled from his scheduled start against the Atlanta Braves due to pain in his right shoulder. With the words made famous by former professional boxer Roberto Duran in his 1980 bout with Sugar Ray Leonard, “No Mas!”, Severino let pitching coach Larry Rothschild know that something was wrong during his pre-game bullpen session. A subsequent trip to the hospital for an MRI revealed inflammation in the rotator cuff but thankfully, knock on wood, no indications of a possible tear. You certainly worry about high velocity guys like Sevy and concerns that ‘where there’s smoke, there’s fire’. Hopefully this proves to be nothing that a little rest cannot cure.
The Yankees will shut down Sevy for two weeks. Assuming there are no further setbacks or recurrence of pain, he’ll resume throwing again around the first day of Spring (March 20th). Unfortunately, due to the injury, Severino has been scratched as the Opening Day starter. While Masahiro Tanaka is probably the sentimental favorite to start Opening Day, his history to open the regular season has not been great. In his last Opening Day start, Tanaka was dreadful. On April 2, 2017, for Manager Joe Girardi, Tanaka gave up seven runs on eight hits over 2 2/3 innings against the Tampa Bay Rays. He walked two and gave up home runs to Logan Morrison and Evan Longoria in the 7-3 loss. As Girardi probably said that day, it’s not what you want. Tanaka’s start was the shortest on Opening Day since Ron Guidry was pulled after 2 2/3 innings against the Seattle Mariners in 1983. Severino started Opening Day last year, a 6-1 victory over current teammate J.A. Happ and the Toronto Blue Jays. Personally, I’d probably roll with the new guy, James Paxton, but it would be hard to argue with Tanaka despite the lack of success the last time around for no other reason than his tenure as a Yankee.
Credit: Lynne Sladky – AP
When the news broke about Severino, many Yankee fans were immediately clamoring for the Front Office to sign free agent starter Dallas Keuchel. As much as I’d like to see Keuchel as part of the starting rotation, the truth is it will never happen. Keuchel, despite being unsigned this late in March, will still command a multi-year deal for as much as $20 million annually. He also carries draft pick compensation for the Houston Astros since he received and rejected a qualifying offer. I just don’t see the Yankees making that type of financial commitment for rotation insurance. Gio Gonzalez, as many have said, represents the most logical choice on the free agent market. After that, we’re talking about guys like “Big Game” James Shields who hasn’t seen a big game in years and has pitched like it. The Yankees could stay in-house and simply use guys like Jonathan Loaisiga, Domingo German, and, ugh, Luis Cessa. I guess I am in favor of bringing in an experienced arm so I’d take Gonzalez. The Yankees head into the season with only three of five starters healthy and ready to go. CC Sabathia is behind the other starters after his angioplasty in December and resulting late start to Camp so he’ll begin the season on the Injured List. He also has to serve the five-game suspension from last season once he’s activated. In all likelihood, the Yankees will not see either Severino or Sabathia until the latter part of April (after series against the two of the best teams in the American League, Houston and Boston). I’d rather have a proven, dependable starter that can keep the team in games to help bridge the gap to full health. Keep Loaisiga and German in limited spot starts until they prove they are ready for more. The ship with Cessa as a starter has sailed for me. I’d rather keep him in a relief role so that he is not overexposed. He becomes more hittable the second and third time through lineups as the hitters gain familiarity. I’d rather keep him as a mystery in the pen facing a minimal number of batters.
Daniel Burch of The Greedy Pinstripes made a very compelling argument this morning for why the Yankees should avoid Gonzalez based on his stats in American League parks. I do not dispute Daniel’s opinion even if I may not agree. For a team with aspirations to win the World Series, a little experience goes a long way. I know that Gonzalez is not going to pitch like the second coming of Max Scherzer but, conversely, he is much better than his other former Washington Nationals teammate, A.J. Cole, whom we got to know too well last season. Inevitably, the Yankees need to prepare for the worst-case scenario. What if Sevy’s shoulder becomes more problematic than something two weeks of rest can cure? I guess with the other questions in the starting rotation, I am not ready to pin our hopes heavily upon Loaisiga and German. Ease them in, yes. Throw them into the fire, no way. So, while I respect Daniel’s opinion, I’d rather go with the arm of experience.
Credit: USA TODAY Sports
Hopefully the Yankees can avoid any further injuries in the remaining three weeks of Spring Training. Center fielder Aaron Hicks has missed a few games with back stiffness but it does not seem too severe. In their first nine games of the regular season, the Yankees play the Baltimore Orioles and Detroit Tigers, two teams that collectively only won eleven more games than the Yankees did last year. The Yankees need to take advantage of those teams to get off to a good start this year which means we need everyone healthy. A season is not lost in April, but as the Boston Red Sox showed last year, a great start can help propel a team to tremendous accomplishments.
I am not sure why Aaron Judge was issued a warning by MLB for telling Manny Machado last year that he’d look good in pinstripes, but Bryce Harper can go on the radio saying, “But if you don’t think I’m not gonna call Mike Trout in 2020 to have him come to Philly, you’re crazy” without retribution. Harper’s words carry much stronger implications of tampering than Judge’s innocent words did. Hopefully, MLB, at the very least, issues the same type of warning to Harper as they did Judge. In my mind, Harper’s words are premeditated as he has been saying for days that he intends to recruit players to come to Philadelphia to play. Judge’s comments seemed to be a random, spur of the moment thing.
Not sure what I think about Sonny Gray’s comments yesterday. In large part, I think his interview with Eno Sarris of The Athletic was taken out of context. Still, Gray was a little harsh in his words when he said the Yankees “love sliders” and added “Sliders are a great pitch. The numbers say slider is a good pitch, but you might not realize how many shitty counts you’re getting in while throwing all those sliders. They wanted me to be (Masahiro) Tanaka and I’m way different from him.” In describing his lack of command with his slider, Gray said, “When I try to throw sliders for a strike, I get around it and it’s just a shitty spinning pitch. I don’t know how people throw sliders for strikes that are still tight, good pitches. I’m at 2-0 and I’m throwing a slider, and either I’m throwing a shitty slider in the zone, or I’m yanking it into the direct and it’s 3-0 and I’m screwed either way.” Frankly, these words make me question Gray’s decisions on the mound. He is in control of the pitches he throws.
I thought Manager Aaron Boone responded well when asked about Gray’s “shitty” comments. “We tried as best we could to try to get him to be successful,” Boone conveyed. “I think we all kind of shared in the frustration at times. I know he was frustrated. We were. But we just tried to get him to be the best he could be and as successful as he could be.” Regarding the slider, Boone added “I don’t know if I’d characterize it as we pushed him to throw sliders. He throws a slider.”
I am glad that Sonny is a Cincinnati Red and not a New York Yankee. Some guys just aren’t made for the Pinstripes and Gray was not. I wish him the best in Cincinnati but I hope he takes the high road moving forward. It didn’t work out for him in New York. It happens. New York is not Oakland nor is it Cincinnati. The Big Apple is not for everyone. He has a clean slate in his new city to rewrite his accomplishments. Have at it. As for the past, it’s just water under the bridge.
Gray’s comments also brought around a new round of hate directed at Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild. While I may not be a big fan of Rothschild, I recognize the Yankees have great faith and trust in the man and he is recognized, right or wrong, as one of the best pitching coaches in the business. I also know the Yankees know more about Yankee players and coaches than I do. As long as they believe in Rothschild, I will too. As for Aaron Boone, I really believe we’ll see an improved version in 2019 now that he has a season under his belt. There is an inevitable learning curve for any first-time manager. The Yankees knew it when they made the decision to go with Boone prior to last season. To expect him to manage a game, at the beginning of his managerial career, as well as Terry Francona or even Alex Cora, who had a year as a bench coach on a World Series championship team, is foolish and set false expectations. I think Boone will be better this year as I expect he’ll be even better in 2020. Contrary to what some may believe, the Yankees can win a World Series with Aaron Boone as the manager. He is universally liked by the players, the Front Office and the Steinbrenner Family. I am probably less concerned about the last two but as long as Boone has control of the clubhouse, all is good. As they say, analytics drive decisions these days anyway. I do not feel that either Boone or Rothschild will hold this team back from achieving its destiny if the team believes it can.
As always, Go Yankees!
|Photo Credit: MiLB.com and Scranton/WB RailRiders|
Young Righty Gets First Taste of Major League Camp…
It seemed like such an innocuous and under-the-radar trade in November 2017 when the Yankees traded marginal prospects LHP Caleb Smith and 1B/OF Garrett Cooper to the Miami Marlins for $250,000 in international bonus pool money and young Single A RHP Michael King. Moving Smith and Cooper were clearly designed to clear space on the 40-man roster in advance of that year’s Rule 5 Draft. At the time of the trade, the international bonus pool money appeared to be the objective as the Yankees were making preparations for what would prove to be the failed run at international superstar Shohei Ohtani. King just came along for the ride…or did he?
In 2017, Caleb Smith was dominant for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, riding an unbeaten streak for most of the year. He finished 9-1, with a 2.39 ERA, starting 17 of 18 games played for the RailRiders. He made his Major League debut for the Yankees on July 17, 2017 but the Yankees and Smith lost to the Minnesota Twins, 4-2. He shuttled back and forth between Scranton, PA and the Bronx, finishing 0-1, with 7.71 ERA, in 18 2/3 innings. Despite his Triple A success, Smith, then 26, did not appear to be a top prospect. To his credit, Smith did pitch better for the Marlins last year. He went 5-6 with 4.19 ERA over 16 starts covering 77 1/3 innings before shoulder tightness ended his season. He is expected to be part of the Marlins’ rotation this year.
Garrett Cooper had been acquired by the Yankees in July 2017 in a trade that sent LHP Tyler Webb to the Milwaukee Brewers. Cooper had some nice moments in the Bronx, playing 13 games. He was 14-for-43 (six extra-base hits) with no homers and 6 RBI’s. 2018, in a Marlins uniform, was largely a lost season for Cooper. He injured his wrist early in the season and later re-injured it during a rehab assignment, undergoing surgery in August. He appeared in just 14 games for the Marlins. He’s now healthy and expected to compete for a job with the Marlins this season, likely as a reserve first baseman/outfielder.
After the Yankees lost out on Ohtani, the international bonus pool money was put to good use as the Yankees had a number of highly rated signings including OF Kevin Alcantara, OF Mauro Bonifacio, C Antonio Gomez, C Agustin Ramirez, RHP Denny Larrondo, and RHP Osiel Rodriguez, plus Luis Severino’s little brother, RHP Rafael Severino.
But setting everything aside, the crown jewel of the Yankees-Marlins trade has turned out to be Michael King. King, born in Rochester, New York and a graduate of Bishop Hendricksen High School in Warwick, Rhode Island, was drafted in the 12th round of the 2016 MLB Draft by the Marlins. At the time, King was the staff ace for Boston College. He signed with the Marlins, foregoing his final year of college eligibility, and was a combined 3-3 with 4.11 ERA over 30 2/3 innings at the lowest three levels of the Marlins’ farm system. He returned to Class A Greensboro in 2017 with much better results, 11-9 with 3.14 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 106 strikeouts, over 149 innings. Still, at the time of the trade to the Yankees, he was largely unheralded and unranked as a prospect.
Last year, he opened eyes in the Yankees farm system. He started the year with High A Tampa, spent time with Double A Trenton, and finished the year with Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. In 24 starts and a relief appearance, King was 11-5 with 1.79 ERA. He struck out 152 batters in 161 1/3 innings with 0.91 WHIP.
Yankees minor league pitching coordinator Danny Borrell, via The New York Post, recently said, “Every time he moved up, he seemed to get better. He wasn’t fazed by the better competition and he knows how to pitch.” Borrell went on to say that he could see King pitching in New York this year if he pitches like last season and does not see the young right-hander regressing.
King, 6’3” and 210 lbs, turns 24 on May 25th. He is currently rated as the Yankees’ fifth-best prospect by Baseball America, behind OF Estevan Florial, RHP Jonathan Loaisiga, OF Everson Pereira, and C Anthony Seigler. His primary pitch is a two-seam fastball that sits in the mid-90’s. The key to his success in the Major Leagues is dependent upon his continued development of secondary pitches.
King will get his first taste of Big League Camp this year when he reports to Tampa as a non-roster invitee for the Yankees. While he is not expected to make the Opening Day Roster (he only made six Triple A starts last year), his goal is simple. Catch the attention of Manager Aaron Boone, Pitching Coach Larry Rothschild and the Yankees’ army of analytics. Even though he is not yet on the 40-man roster, there’s no doubt he will be among the first to be considered if/when the Yankees have needs for help in the starting rotation this year. I’ve heard the claims that he’ll never be anything more than a middle-of-the-rotation starter, but if memory serves correctly, that’s what they said about Andy Pettitte when he was first called up. Let Luis Severino and James Paxton be the aces, the strength of the middle to back end of the rotation is what championships are made of. I am thrilled about King and what he potentially means for the Yankees. This could very well be the year of his Major League debut. I have greater belief in King as a starter than a guy like Chance Adams who I feel is better suited for the pen. Mike King is a winner, and carrying that intangible with his tremendous talent, should make Yankee fans very excited. The King of the Hill is going to create great memories in the Bronx in the not-so-distant future.
This was a brilliant trade by GM Brian Cashman. King has proven better than we expected and he’ll continue to open eyes in Tampa in a few weeks. When the Spring games start, be sure to look out for #93.
As always, Go Yankees!
|Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Noah K Murray)|
Right-hander Appears Headed to Cincy…
It has not yet been finalized but it appears the Yankees are finally close to trading right-hander Sonny Douglas Gray to the Cincinnati Reds. Hopefully there are no last minute snags and this one gets pushed across the finish line.
For Gray, he’ll get a chance for redemption with Cincinnati, which is less than 300 miles from his Nashville, Tennessee home. The Reds have been one of MLB’s most active teams this off-season, having already rebuilt their pitching staff with the acquisitions of Tanner Roark from the Washington Nationals and Alex Wood, formerly of the Los Angeles Dodgers. They’ll join holdovers Anthony DeSclafani and Luis Castillo to provide the Reds with a solid starting rotation. Maybe not good enough to win the NL Central over the Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee Brewers or St Lous Cardinals, but they’ll be better. Gray will also reunite with his pitching coach at Vanderbilt, Derek Johnson, who was named the Reds’ pitching coach in November. Maybe Johnson can do what Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild was unable to do.
While I wanted Gray to leave, there is some sadness that it did not work out for him in New York. I think all of us were excited when the Yankees acquired him from the Oakland A’s in the summer of 2017. We thought he was the missing ace that could be paired with Luis Severino to provide the Yankees with two young stars atop the rotation. Unfortunately, it was never meant to be and now Gray gets a change of scenery that will hopefully benefit him and help restore some of his luster as he heads into his walk year at the age of 29. I wish him the best and I do hope that he pitches more like the ace he once was in Oakland.
The Yankees will reportedly receive second base prospect Shed Long from the Reds. The 23-year-old Long, only 5’8” and 184 lbs, is rated as Cincinnati’s seventh best prospect per MLB.com. He is recognized as an excellent lefty hitter who has worked hard to bring up his defense to at least average. He spent last year in Double A with the Pensacola Blue Wahoos where he hit .261/.353/.412, .765 OPS and 120 +wRC+, with 12 home runs and 56 RBIs. Long has a little speed in those short legs, picking up 19 steals in 25 attempts. I probably would have preferred catching prospect Tyler Stephenson but the Reds resisted the Yankees’ attempts to pry him loose. Regardless, Long is a legitimate prospect and presumably will begin the year with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. His defense leads to speculation that he may need to be moved to a corner outfield position but all reports indicate he is working hard to improve his defensive game.
|Photo Credit: Cincinnati Enquirer (Kareem Elgazzar)|
The Yankees will also apparently receive a competitive balance draft pick and a lesser minor league player. I doubt the second minor leaguer will be much but I will be anxious to see who the Yankees draft next summer with the draft pick.
Many fans are calling this a heist for Yankees GM Brian Cashman. I guess my expectations are a bit more tempered. I need time to see how this plays out. There’s a good chance that Gray recaptures his magic in Ohio and until the prospects reach the Show, they’ve proven nothing.
Since Long was on the Reds’ 40-man roster, the trade does not free up a spot for newly signed reliever Adam Ottavino. My hope is that we’ve reached the end of the line for RHP Luis Cessa, but the realist in me believes it will be RHP Ben Heller who continues to recover and rehab from last summer’s Tommy John surgery. The Yankees would hold out hope Heller goes unclaimed so that they can outright him to Triple A, but if I was a team with roster space, I’d make a claim to add Heller.
Now that Gray is nearly out of the picture, Jonathan Loaisiga and Domingo German represent the insurance for CC Sabathia in the starting rotation. The Yankees also are bringing non-roster invitee RHP Drew Hutchison to Spring Training. There’s still time for Cashman to find another arm to bring to camp which is the current expectation.
Let’s hope Cashman can seal the deal with the Reds today so that we can move on.
The upcoming week looms big for the Yankees. On Tuesday, the latest Hall of Fame selections will be announced. Leading the charge is the legendary Mariano Rivera who will make the Hall on his first ballot as the greatest Closer in Major League history.
|Photo Credit: Newsday (Thomas A Ferrera)|
I am not setting myself up for the expectation that Mo will be unanimously voted in even though he should be. While he has appeared on all publicly revealed ballots, I expect someone to exclude him on the undisclosed ballots. While we may want Rivera, my favorite Yankee during his playing days (sorry Derek Jeter fans), to be unanimous, the bottom line is the guy will be a Hall of Famer. I don’t care about the final voting results as long as they ensure Rivera will be Cooperstown, New York this summer. Hopefully Mike Mussina will be there as well even if he has to wear an Orioles cap. I’d prefer he wears a Yankees cap but there is no dispute he was a great pitcher in Baltimore, his original team. I know I always hated it when the Yankees faced him. Generally-speaking, it did not go well for the Yankees.
Today is a big football day with the AFC and NFC Championship Games. It’s time for some disappointment in Boston so hopefully Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs punch their ticket for the Super Bowl and send the New England Patriots home for the off-season. On the NFC side, I’m pulling for the Los Angeles Rams although it won’t be a disappointment if the New Orleans Saints advance. My only hope for today is a Boston loss…and for the Gray trade to be finalized.
As always, Go Yankees!
The 2018 New York Yankees Coaching Staff (allegedly)…
The Yankees have yet to officially announce Manager Aaron Boone’s coaching staff but the names are taking hold.
Here’s what we know:
Bench Coach: Josh Bard
Pitching Coach: Larry Rothschild
Third Base Coach: Phil Nevin
First Base Coach: Reggie Willits
Infield Coach: Carlos Mendoza
Hitting Coach: Marcus Thames
Assistant Hitting Coach: P.J. Pilittere
Bullpen Coach: Mike Harkey
Bard is a first-time bench coach and was a former teammate with Aaron Boone in Cleveland. Last year, he was the bullpen coach for the World Series-losing Los Angeles Dodgers. Bard, 39, played for five teams between 2002 and 2011. He accumulated 586 plate appearances, with 39 home runs, 220 RBIs, and .254 batting average. His most notable accomplishment came in 2006 as a member of the Boston Red Sox when he opened the season with ten passed balls in his first five games, including three passed balls in his first appearance, with knuckleballer Tim Wakefield on the mound. Bard was born in Ithaca, New York, but he grew up in Elizabeth, Colorado (just outside of Denver). After retirement, he joined the Dodgers as a special assistant before his appointment as the bullpen coach in 2016 for manager Dave Roberts.
Larry needs no introduction to Yankees fans as he has been the team’s pitching coach since the 2011 season when he replaced the fired Dave Eiland. Eiland, ironically, will be back in New York this year as the new pitching coach for the Mets. Rothschild, 63, was the original manager of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays (now Rays) when they entered the American League, and, a native Chicagoan, he was a long-time pitching coach for the Cubs.
Nevin is remembered as the first pick of the 1992 MLB Draft, the year that Derek Jeter slid to the Yankees at the sixth position. Remembered primarily as the third baseman for the San Diego Padres, Nevin, 47, played for seven teams over 12 MLB seasons. In 1,217 games, Nevin hit 208 home runs and 743 RBIs to go with a .270 batting average. After his playing career, Nevin held a few minor league managerial positions before becoming the third base coach for the San Francisco Giants for the 2017 season. Although he was fired after the season (along with long-time pitching coach Dave Righetti), Nevin was rumored to become the Giants bench coach had the Yankees hired current bench coach Hensley Meulens as their manager. Nevin attend high school (El Dorado High School in Placentia, California) with Aaron Boone’s brother Bret and is a long-time friend of the Boone family. Nevin presently makes his home in Poway, California, near San Diego.
|Photo Credit: Associated Press (Darryl Webb)|
Willits was an outfielder for the Los Angeles Angels during the course of his MLB playing career from 2006 to 2011. Willits, 36, was named after Yankees great Reggie Jackson. The Oklahoman joined the Yankees organization in 2015 as a minor league outfield and base-running coordinator. This will be his first MLB coaching job. Willits did not hit any home runs during his MLB career (1,014 plate appearances) but he’ll certainly have the opportunity to see MANY guys round first base on their home run trots this year.
|Photo Credit: The Oklahoman (Chris Landsberger)|
Mendoza, 43, was primarily a minor league outfielder. He made it to the Show with the New York Mets in 1997 and the Colorado Rockies in 2000 (total of 28 games). The Venezuelan native has coached or managed in the Yankees minor league system since 2009. As the new infield coach for the Yankees, he’ll be in uniform in the dugout during games.
Last year, Thames served as the assistant hitting coach under Alan Cockrell on Joe Girardi’s staff. This year, he becomes the hitting coach for the new manager. Thames, 40, came up in the Yankees organization, and the outfielder played for four MLB teams, primarily the Detroit Tigers, from 2002 to 2011. The Yankees traded Thames to the Texas Rangers in the 2003 deal that brought Ruben Sierra to New York. Thames, originally from Mississippi, played in 640 games, batting .246 with 115 home runs and 301 RBIs. He became the Yankees Assistant Hitting Coach for the 2016 season when Cockrell was elevated to Hitting Coach to replace Jeff Pentland. Thames will never forget his first MLB at-bat when he jumped on the first pitch from Randy Johnson of the Arizona Diamondbacks on June 10, 2002 for a home run.
Pilittere, 36, was a former minor league catcher who has spent his entire career in the Yankees organization. He was selected in the 13th round of the 2004 MLB Draft, and advanced as high as Triple A when his playing career ended in 2011. 2017 will be Pilittere’s seventh year coaching in the Yankees organization. The Buffalo, New York native (and die-hard Bills fan) served as hitting coach for then-manager Al Pedrique last year with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. Pilittere has strong relationships with current Yankees like Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and Greg Bird.
Asked about his promotion to Assistant Hitting Coach for the big league club, Pilittere told the Times Leader (Wilkes-Barre, PA), “The thing that doesn’t change is it’s still about players, and players still want to get better. The good ones and the best ones and the ones on our roster want to get better until the day that the uniform is taken away from them, and I think that is what creates a championship atmosphere and I think that’s what we want to promote around the clubhouse. I know that’s what we want to promote — is always looking to do better and always doing what it takes to help the team. The only thing that I think that slightly might change a little bit is that it still is developing guys at the big-league level and getting the most out of our players, but that only thing that does change is at the end of the day it’s about getting the win a 7 o’clock. It’s, ‘What can we do to win ball games. What can we do to have a championship season in 2018?’”
|P.J. Pilittere, holding camera on left|
Harkey, 51, is expected to return as the Yankees bullpen coach. Harkey, a native of California, is a former MLB pitcher who played for five teams from 1988 through 1997. Over eight years, Harkey pitched in 131 games, including 104 starts. He was 36-36 with 4.49 ERA and 216 strikeouts. He served as the Yankees bullpen coach from 2008 until 2013 when he was hired as the pitching coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks. After his dismissal by the D-Backs at the end of the 2015 season, he returned to the Yankees as their bullpen coach the following season.
|Mike Harkey, right (as if the guy on the left is unrecognizable)|
Aaron Boone has done a good job bringing diversity to his coaching staff. I would have preferred a veteran bench coach but there’s plenty of experience to be offered by guys like Larry Rothschild and Phil Nevin. Despite the lack of experience as a bench coach, Josh Bard seems to be a manager-in-training and will most likely be leading another team against the Yankees at some point in the not-so-distant future if he proves successful in his current role.
It’s sad to see the old faces depart. Former bench coach Rob Thomson will serve the same role for first-time manager Gabe Kapler with the Philadelphia Phillies. Third base coach Joe Espada replaced new Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora as the bench coach for the World Champion Houston Astros. Guys like Tony Pena and Alan Cockrell served the Yankees well, and I wish them the best with their coaching careers. Nevertheless, I am excited about the potential of the new coaching staff that Boone has assembled. They’ve been charged with bringing the Yankees, a team that came within a game of reaching the World Series, their 28th World Series championship (and more). No pressure. So, welcome to the Yankees Family, Newcomers and welcome back, Holdovers! We’re happy and excited to see you in Pinstripes in 2018!
It’s been funny following the suggestions for the home run call that Yankees radio play-by-play announcer John Sterling will use for Giancarlo Stanton. I don’t recall who made the suggestion, but I really like “Giancarlo dropped the Mike”. There have been some great suggestions, but it will be interesting to hear what Sterling actually uses when Stanton goes yard for the first-time as a Yankee. I am sure that he’ll come up with something that none of us have heard before.
|Photo Credit: YES Network (E.H. Wallop)|
We only have two more weekends beyond this one until pitchers and catchers report to Tampa. Players and coaches have already begun their migration to the Sunshine State. Soon, very soon…
Jim Leyritz is reporting it so it must be true…
The cold Gerrit Cole rumors began reheating last night. According to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand, “Yankees, Pirates renewing Gerrit Cole discussions according to source”. I am not sure how or why Jim Leyritz is always ‘in the know’ (he was among the first to report the Yankees had consummated the trade for Giancarlo Stanton), but he posted the following tweet earlier this morning: “Feinsand is right on. Cole deal had been agreed on in principle at winter meetings. Just a matter of pieces. Cole side wants to get this done before New Year. Happy New Year Yankees Fans.”
|Credit: Julie Jacobson, AP|
So, regardless of whether you like this deal or not, it sounds like Gerrit Cole will soon be joining the New York Yankees. In other words, Chasen Shreve, it’s time to think about a new number.
The Cole rumors are the polar opposite of the fan reaction leading up to last summer’s acquisition of Sonny Gray. I had injury concerns about Gray but most fans, including myself, were in support of the trade for Gray despite the high cost. I personally like the idea of adding Cole, who may arguably be only the fourth best starter in the Yankees rotation. I think he would be energized by playing in front of New York fans at Yankee Stadium and the rock star status the Yankees hold with road games. I know that Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage is known as the Pitching Whisperer, but I’d really like to see what Larry Rothschild could do with Cole. The dude has premium stuff so Larry has much to work with. It’s not like we’d be bringing Jaime Garcia back to the Bronx. But many Yankees fans I know hate the idea of bringing Cole into the highly competitive AL East, particularly given his propensity to give up homers last season. Maybe it’s a big “if”, but if the Yankees could get Cole pitching closer to his ace potential, the Yankees starting pitching rotation would be one of the AL’s best.
Many fans are upset that we’ll potentially lose outfielder Clint Frazier and a top pitching prospect like Chance Adams. All things considered, I’d probably prefer to give up Adams over Justus Sheffield or Albert Abreu. But at the end of the day, I trust GM Brian Cashman and his team to make the right decisions. Cashman is rarely fleeced in a deal and I don’t think he’ll overpay in this situation. You keep hearing that the Pirates want Gleyber Torres but that’s not happening.
I don’t like Frazier-Adams for Cole alone. I think the Pirates would also need to include 2B/3B Josh Harrison for that high of a cost. Frazier-Adams for Cole-Harrison is a potential win/win for both sides in my opinion.
|Credit: Rob Carr, Getty Images|
If anything, I am a little sick that Clint Frazier has been made a redundant player because of the presence of Jacoby Ellsbury on the Yankees roster. In an ideal world, the Yankees would clear out Ellsbury and Brett Gardner to open room for the younger guys. The Yankees apparently tried to engage the San Francisco Giants in trade talks for Ellsbury but the Giants prefer other outfield options. Given the spacious outfield at AT&T Park, I think either Ellsbury or Gardner would be a good fit for the Giants. Plus, the Giants train in Scottsdale, Arizona which is close to Ellsbury’s home (an enticement to get him to waive his no-trade clause). I remain hopeful the Yankees can find a way to ship out Ellsbury despite the cash and prospects that will need to be included. Ellsbury and his contract hurt the Yankees in so many ways.
The Cole Rumors continue to be the one that will not die. Last night’s flurry of reports after days of nothing seem to indicate something could happen soon. Either way, I’d like to see the Yankees pull the trigger or move on. And under no circumstances should they be forced to overpay. There are other strong options without having to hand our list of top ten prospects to another team.
If New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon is irate about the Yankees’ acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton, I wonder how he’ll feel if the Yankees upgrade their starting rotation too? Fred, it sucks to be you.
|Credit: Daniel Decker Photography|
After two successive weekends starting with a bang (first the word about Aaron Boone’s hiring as the replacement for Joe Girardi and then the stunning deal that brought the great Giancarlo Stanton to the Bronx), we enter this weekend on a quiet note.
There have been rumors for days (actually the ongoing discussions have lasted for years) the Yankees have been talking to the Pittsburgh Pirates about starter Gerrit Cole. Personally, I am in favor of Cole’s acquisition. I know, he basically sucked last year. 12-12, 4.26 ERA. 31 home runs allowed. It was easily his worst season and he is now a couple of seasons removed from his dominant 19-win 2015 season. You’d be bringing him into the pressurized AL East which isn’t going to help anybody’s ERA, particularly for a pitcher prone to give up the long ball. But maybe I continue to see the upside of the pitcher and feel that he can be an effective middle-of-the-rotation starter. There’s the intangible that he was a childhood Yankees fan so it’s possible that he could have the reverse Ivan Nova effect (pitching much better in New York than Pittsburgh). I know, that one is a stretch but I’d really like to see what pitching coach Larry Rothschild could do with Cole’s arm.
|Credit: Charles Wenzelberg, NY Post|
The issue, of course, is cost. Any trade is almost certain to be headlined by outfielder Clint Frazier. The Pirates will also demand a top pitching prospect in a deal that would most likely cost the Yankees at least four young promising players. Many believe that Chance Adams may be better suited for relief and I’ve heard concerns about the at-times violent delivery of Justus Sheffield (and concerns about his durability). Between the two, I’d probably be more willing to sacrifice Adams although I have enjoyed his progression through the Yankees farm system. I saw one Pirates blog clamoring for Jordan Montgomery. That’s a deal-breaker for me. I would not include Montgomery under any circumstances with the concerns that accompany Cole. I have a tough time justifying Frazier but the Yankees have an abundance of outfielders and Frazier is better suited for left field than center. Until they can clear out room by trading Jacoby Ellsbury (please!) or Brett Gardner, there’s simply no room for Frazier. The job of fourth or fifth outfielder can easily be handled by Jake Cave or Billy McKinney, with Estevan Florial a season or two away. Pittsburgh wants to contend again by 2019 so they are not going to settle for Single-A prospects or guys with no potential to reach the bigs until after 2020. This is a dilemma and I am sure that’s a primary reason the talks have gone on for so long with no resolution.
I know everyone prefers Michael Fulmer of the Detroit Tigers but there’s no indication that the Tigers are willing to trade Fulmer. Even if Fulmer was available, I think the cost would be substantially greater than what it would or should take to get Cole.
We know that the Boston Red Sox will respond to the Yankees addition of Giancarlo Stanton. They’ve been rumored for weeks to be the possible destination for both first baseman Eric Hosmer and outfielder J.D. Martinez. With their pitching staff (assuming that David Price can return to ace status), they will be strong contenders for the AL East championship next season. I was glad to see one possible fallback option eliminated yesterday when former Cleveland Indians slugger Carlos Santana signed with the Philadelphia Phillies. Martinez has indicated he wants to play the outfield and at the moment, the Red Sox outfield is full with Mookie Betts (arguably one of the best players in MLB), Jackie Bradley Jr, and Andrew Benintendi. It’s possible the Sox could trade JBJ but he’s one of the best defensive centerfielders in the league. Neither Benintendi nor Betts are going anywhere. Therefore, I hope Martinez continues to take a stand against becoming a full-time DH.
The trades of Chase Headley and Starlin Castro opened starting roles for the Yankees at second and third. At the moment, Gleyber Torres is destined to take second. However, there is greater value in starting him at Triple A to open the season for a few weeks to delay his free agency by a year so it makes more sense to use the combo of Ronald Torreyes and Tyler Wade to man the position until Torres is ready. At third, Miguel Andujar is presently at the front of the line although I still suspect the Yankees will acquire a short-term veteran. This one is tough. I’d love to see the Yankees bring Todd Frazier back on a two-year deal, but the Yankees are probably looking at no more than one year which is not in sync with the player. One possible destination for Frazier was eliminated yesterday when the Los Angeles Angels signed Zack Cozart, former shortstop for the Cincinnati Reds, to play third (Andrelton Simmons is entrenched at short and the Angels just acquired second baseman Ian Kinsler from the Tigers). I keep hoping that the price tag for Frazier drops low enough for the Yankees to grab him but that’s not something that I am counting on. I guess the Yankees need to find their next Scott Brosius off some unsuspecting MLB roster.
If anything is going to happen, it will probably be next week. Otherwise, I don’t see any significant baseball activity until after the first of the year.
I am sure that GM Brian Cashman and company are hard at work as I type this post.
Hopefully there is a quality starting pitcher out there who dreams of joining Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray, and Jordan Montgomery. Run support may not have been Gray’s friend in 2017 but in 2018, I don’t think it’s going to be a problem. As a pitcher, I’d love to be backed by a lineup that features Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, Didi Gregorius, Aaron Hicks, Brett Gardner and others. They’ll just have to get used to the extended wait between innings while the Yankees are batting.
Oakland A’s Outfielder Sues the White Sox…
Former Yankees outfielder Dustin Fowler has sued the Chicago White Sox and the state agency that manages Guaranteed Rate Field (Illinois Sports Facilities Authority) as a result of the devastating knee injury he suffered in his Yankees debut last summer in Chicago. The suit, filed in the Cook County Circuit Court, claims the White Sox and the state agency acted negligently by not securing the knee-level electrical box that Fowler collided against when he hit the low side of the wall chasing a fly ball in foul territory. The suit indicates by failing to pad, guard or cover the electrical box, the defendants showed “an utter indifference to or conscious disregard” for Fowler’s safety.
|Credit: Pete Caldera, NJ.com|
Fowler, part of the trade that brought Sonny Gray to New York, is expected to be ready for A’s training camp next spring but time will tell if the knee injury has lasting ramifications on the former Yankee’s career. I agree that the parties at Guaranteed Rate Field should be held liable. At the time of the injury, then Yankees manager Joe Girardi was very critical of the exposed electrical box. It is a hazard that could have been prevented.
I wish Fowler the best with his suit and hope that he is able to reach the potential and stardom that he seemed destined for prior to the injury.
The Tampa Yankees are no more…
I will miss the “TY” logo as the Yankees’ High-A affiliate have changed their name to the Tampa Tarpons. I immediately saw tweets about tampons after the announcement of the name change, but the Tarpons name has history in Tampa. It was the name of a previous Florida State League team for over thirty years. The old Tarpons club was sold and relocated in 1988. The new team was placed in Tampa by the Yankees in 1994. Welcome back, Tarpons!
I am sure the Tampa Bay Rays are glad to see the removal of “Yankees” from the Tampa name even if the minor league team remains affiliated with the Pinstripes.
Speaking of the Tampa Tarpons, I continue to hope that their manager, Jay Bell, is named as Al Pedrique’s replacement at Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre although former Yankees coach Tony Pena would probably be a very solid option too.
59 days to Spring Training. Go Yankees!