|Photo Credit: Las Vegas Review-Journal (Chase Stevens)|
Talk the Talk, but Not Walk the Walk…
All dressed up and nowhere to go. That’s kind of how the Baseball Winter Meetings felt this past week. Lots of talk, not much action. I know, they say the groundwork laid this week will lead to fruit later. I guess we’ll see. There’s talk they should implement a trading deadline in December to spur action (some sort of moratorium against trades for a certain period of time before spring training). Not so sure I am in agreement, but I would have liked to have seen some high flying wheeling and dealing over the past few days rather than much talk about nothing.
While I wanted a bigger piece for the starting rotation, I am happy the Yankees at least came away with J.A. Happ on a two-year contract despite the third year option. In the two year deal presumably worth an estimated $34 million, Happ can trigger the third year for $17 million by pitching at least 27 starts or 165 innings in the second year. At the beginning of the off-season, I preferred re-signing Happ over CC Sabathia and wanted an upgrade for the fourth spot in the rotation. Yes, the Yankees got better by adding LHP James Paxton but he brings additional questions to an already question-filled staff. I was looking for more certainty. Maybe Happ can provide that certainty. He’s been consistent and is a much better pitcher today than he was years ago as a Philadelphia Phillie. We all know how well Happ pitched down the stretch for the Yankees (7-0 with 2.69 ERA in eleven starts). Overall for the season, he was 17-6, 3.65 ERA, 3.4 WAR in thirty-one starts). If the Yankees can get that type of production out of Happ in his age 36 year, I am sure all of us will be pleased. Realistically, I am expecting some regression.
After missing out on Patrick Corbin and failing to land a top starter among the rumored trades swirling over the last couple of weeks, I was concerned when I saw that Happ was getting close to signing with the Phillies. I didn’t want to be stuck with a guy like Lance Lynn for the open rotation spot. So, when it came out Happ was going to re-sign with the Yankees, I felt a tremendous sense of relief.
I am hopeful GM Brian Cashman continues to press for a top, front of the rotation type of starter but at least he is no longer in a position of desperation to fill out the staff.
I was excited when the rumors circulated about a possible three-way trade with the Mets and Marlins that would have brought Noah Syndergaard to the Yankees. But honestly, I don’t see the Mets trading any of their stars to their cross-town rivals regardless of the return. Maybe it’s a new world order with new Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen but last time I checked the Wilpons still own the team. The latest rumors about that potential three-way trade involve the San Diego Padres as the third team instead of the Yankees. Maybe Cashman should cut a side deal with the Padres for Syndergaard if they pull off the trade that would send Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto to the Mets. That’s the only way I could see Thor pulling on the Pinstripes. They won’t get him directly from the Mets.
I really thought we’d see more free agent signing this past week. I guess Bryce Harper and Manny Machado are holding up the market. After the run on relief pitchers last year, the market for firemen has been lukewarm this year. My biggest fear is David Robertson signing with the Red Sox to pitch close to his Rhode Island home. The Sox have lost “Tyler Austin punching bag” Joe Kelly to the Los Angeles Dodgers and free agent closer Craig Kimbrel is not expected to return. Unfortunately, it increases the odds the Red Sox sign a former Yankee (Robertson, Zach Britton or Andrew Miller) for their pen. I hope not.
I think my favorites to sign are Robertson and Adam Ottavino although I would not be disappointed with D-Rob and Miller or Britton or some combination thereof.
We could see movement with Manny Machado before Christmas. He apparently has visits with up to six teams next week, including the Yankees, Chicago White Sox, and Philadelphia Phillies. The White Sox acquired Machado’s brother-in-law Yonder Alonso from the Cleveland Indians last night but I don’t think Manny would make a huge financial decision based on where his bro-in-law plays. I’ve been surprised about the number of Yankee fans who want no part of either Machado or Bryce Harper. It’s so rare to get young twenty-something superstars for only money. Yes, it’s a helluva lot of money, no doubt, but the best years are ahead for both players and they’ve already been great. Great but getting better is a combination I like. These are guys who will still be producing at the end of 8-10 year contracts.
It feels so underwhelming when we hear names like Freddy Galvis as potential infield options to bridge the gap to the return of Didi Gregorius late next summer. I certainly want no part of the risk associated with free agent shortstop Troy Tulowitzki who was recently let go by the Toronto Blue Jays with $38 million left on his contract. I know Tulo would come cheap for the team that picks him up but the guy can’t stay healthy. That’s not a bet I would want to make for a team with World Series aspirations. I think the San Jose, CA area native should go back to the Bay Area in an attempt to rekindle his career with either the San Francisco Giants or Oakland A’s.
The Yankees family has taken a hit over the last couple of days. Yesterday, we received word that George Steinbrenner’s widow, Joan, had passed away in her Tampa, FL home, surrounded by her family. Joan, 83, was Vice Chairperson of the Yankees, along with her two daughters. In a statement released by the Steinbrenner family, “Joan was a compassionate and caring matriarch who profound love for her family and those in the community always inspired us. Her elegance and grace touched everyone around her, and we know her spirit will live on through her legacy of good works. We are grateful to have had her in our lives, and she will be deeply missed.” May Mrs Boss rest in peace…
|Photo Credit: AP (Charlie Neibergall)|
I was also surprised and saddened to hear that Catfish Hunter’s daughter, Kim Hunter Daugherty, only 45, had passed away on Thursday at Hertford Grammar School in North Carolina where she was a teacher. She died of complications related to a pulmonary embolism. Her father died in 1999 at the age of 53 of Lou Gehrig’s disease. Very sad to see their lives cut so short.
I was hopeful the end of this week would have seen some resolution for the Yankees bullpen but it was not to be. Hopefully we’ll have some answers before Santa Claus invades our homes in ten days. I am still looking for that magical gift or gifts to make the Yankees better. Yes, they’re good now, but there’s so much potential for this team if it can continue to make the right decisions for additional pieces to fill out the roster. I will be happy when I can look at the roster and find the names of Sonny Gray, Luis Cessa and A.J. Cole nowhere to be found.
As always, Go Yankees…
Baseball Winter Meetings are around the corner…
Soon, the insanity and rush to acquire and trade players will be upon us. The MLB Baseball Winter Meetings begin next Sunday, December 9th, at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada (which of course happens to be Bryce Harper’s hometown). No doubt Vegas will be rocking when the hometown kid hoists a new uniform for the media. The meetings conclude on the morning of Thursday, December 13th, with the Rule 5 Draft.
Patrick Corbin is expected to make a decision before the Winter Meetings so hopefully something breaks in the next few days. He remains my top target. Until the Cleveland Indians actually trade one of their starters, I will be skeptical. I’d gladly take Corey Kluber or Carlos Carrasco and call the rotation complete. Same with San Francisco’s Madison Bumgarner. But I really like Corbin and at 30, he is one of baseball’s better pitchers and he has upside. J.A. Happ did a fine job for the Yankees last year but he’s been the best he is ever going to be. At 36, it’s only downhill from here. Realistically, I was never fearful of Happ on the mound when he was wearing a Blue Jays uniform. I am sure AL East opponents feel the same way. Despite winning 20 games a couple of seasons ago, Happ has never been considered an elite pitcher and certainly never will be at this stage of his career. Corbin, on the other hand, can be (in my opinion).
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Christian Petersen)|
More free agents became available yesterday with the non-tender deadline. Yankee fans seemed surprised to see the Chicago Cubs non-tender Ronald Torreyes. When I saw the Cubs decision to tender a contract to beleaguered shortstop Addison Russell, I figured the odds were against Toe. It was clear the Cubs had picked him up as infield insurance. There’s no reason to believe the Cubs won’t try to re-sign Toe for less money which is what I expect them to do. For the reasons the Yankees traded Toe (younger, cheaper options with better tools available), I don’t think they should make a play to bring Toe back regardless of his clubhouse popularity.
Jonathan Schoop is an interesting option. He was (expectedly) non-tendered by the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday with GM David Stearns acknowledging it had been a “bad deal” to acquire Schoop. Schoop’s 2018 season, which started with the Baltimore Orioles and ended with the playoff-contending Brewers after a deadline trade, was soundly a disappointment and he couldn’t find regular playing time by the time October rolled around. Yet, he is only a season removed from his breakout year in 2017 when he hit 32 homers and drove in 105 runs for the O’s with a batting line of .293/.338/.503 and .841 OPS. Maybe 2017 was a fluke, but the Curacao-native (like Didi Gregorius) is only 27. I’d take a chance on him.
|Photo Credit: Associated Press|
Another interesting name is Wilmer Flores, non-tendered by the New York Mets. He may not have Schoop’s offensive potential but he can move around the infield, playing both corner positions and shortstop. I saw someone post yesterday that it would be funny if the Yankees signed Flores and he outperformed the Mets’ soon-to-be starting second baseman Robinson Cano. I would have no objection to Bill Flowers joining the Yankees. The role of infield help is only an interim plan until the Yankees can get Didi Gregorius back on the ground in late summer so it’s not like we are trying to find a shortstop or second baseman that will be cemented to the spot for the foreseeable future. The Yankees have plenty of offense so I am sure they’ll be fine whatever they decide to do. Ideally, I’d like to keep Gleyber Torres at second base to continue his growth and development at the position, rather than temporarily shift him back to short. I’d be happy re-signing Adeiny Hechavarria to play short until Didi’s return so long as the Yankees fill out the bench with the right players. The elephant in the room is, of course, Manny Machado, but until he signs, the Yankees need to keep all options open. There is still a very good chance Manny goes to Philadelphia since they have an abundance of “stupid money” available.
Another name that jumped out at me for utility-type, infield diversity is Arizona’s decision to non-tender infielder Chris Owings. Oakland non-tendered Giancarlo Stanton antagonist Mike Fiers which I thought was funny. I sure don’t want the Yankees to sign Fiers but I don’t mind seeing him join the ranks of the unemployed.
George A King III had a column in The New York Post this morning saying the Yankees could see David Robertson and Zach Britton go to the Boston Red Sox. I really hope it does not happen. Of the two, it would probably be hardest to see D-Rob put on that ugly “B” cap but it wouldn’t be fun to see Britton in the uniform either. I wish the Yankees would hurry up and re-sign D-Rob to remove one of the current holes in the bullpen. As for Britton, I expect him to get closer’s money so my preference would be for him to end up with a non-AL East team. The St Louis Cardinals sound like a great destination to me.
As much as my head keeps telling me Manny Machado is the best fit for the Yankees, my heart keeps telling me that Bryce Harper would be a great, great Yankee. Giancarlo Stanton was not exactly a need for the Yankees when they acquired him last year, yet he fit seamlessly into the team lineup as the primary DH and occasional left-fielder. With more experience in left, I think Stanton will field the position better in 2019. Still, I’d have no problem keeping Stanton as the full-time DH and putting Harper in left along with the occasional experiment at first base. I know the Yankees have Brett Gardner but if we’re expecting him to be part of the starting outfield next year, we’re not as smart as we should be. Drop Harper into the lineup with his left-handed bat and I couldn’t really care less about the interim offensive solution at shortstop/second baseman, so long as the player brings solid defense, until Didi returns. Bryce was made for Pinstripes and it would be a shame for the Yankees to miss this tremendous opportunity to acquire a superstar just entering his prime.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Rob Tringali)|
I was glad to see the Yankees tender contracts to all of their arbitration and pre-arbitration eligible players. There had been some speculation the Yankees would non-tender Gregorius since 2019 is primarily a lost year and he’ll be a free agent after the season, but I am glad they did not. I remain hopeful they’ll come to an agreement to cover the next couple of seasons to place Didi in position for a more lucrative contract after he has proven his successful return from Tommy John surgery. I am not ready to see Didi leave today or a year from today.
I like Nathan Eovaldi but let the Red Sox or Houston Astros sign him. I am not interested in a return to the Bronx. As a two-time Tommy John recipient who throws extremely hard, I think the risk is too great. Great guy and I wish him the best.
Listening to CC Sabathia’s podcast this week, I was a little surprised that he views Jonathan Loaisiga as a potential top of the rotation talent. I know the young smallish right-hander is rated as the Yankees’ highest pitching prospect by MLB.com and second overall prospect behind Estevan Florial but I guess I hadn’t thought of him that highly. Maybe I should rethink my position. I know I am more intrigued with Loaisiga than Domingo German and there’s no doubt he’ll be called upon to help the Yankees rotation at some point next season. There’s no way the Yankees’ top five stays healthy to make every start. Loaisiga also represents an option if the Yankees occasionally decide to go with a six-man rotation. I kind of like the idea of signing both Patrick Corbin and J.A. Happ with provide starting depth, but Loaisiga represents good insurance if the Yankees are successful in adding only one more starter.
The next couple of weeks should be very eventful. This is the pinnacle of the Hot Stove League. Once we get through the next fourteen days, it should be fairly quiet until pitchers and catchers report in mid-February or one would think so anyway. Brace yourself. It should a helluva ride for the next two weeks.
As always, Go Yankees!