Tagged: Luis Cessa

Taking the Long View…

2019 MLB Season is here…

As we round the final turn and head down the home stretch to Opening Day, excitement and anticipation is filling the air. For the Yankees, it carries a hope there are no further injuries as the team prepares to take its best (or healthiest) twenty-five men north to the Bronx. As we sit, the Seattle Mariners have a two-game lead on the rest of Major League Baseball, thanks to their two-time sweep of the Oakland A’s in Tokyo, Japan earlier this week.

It’s unfortunate because I think he has the most talent but the guess here is that Jonathan Loaisiga is the odd man out for the starting rotation with Luis Cessa and Domingo German grabbing the two temporary starting spots opened by Luis Severino and CC Sabathia starting the year on the Injured List. Since Dellin Betances is expected to begin the year on the Injured List too, it could open the door for Loaisiga to join the bullpen as the long man but the Yankees will probably send him to Triple A to keep him stretched out. Cessa and German might need help and Gio Gonzalez is not quite ready to contribute. I expect the Yankees to begin the year with Sabathia serving his five-game suspension before he is moved to the Injured List so I’ll include him on the Opening Day roster, which is  why I am going with six starters and seven relievers. It will shake out an eight-man pen after Sabathia is moved to the Injured List and the Yankees bring up Loaisiga or promote Gonzalez to take one of the temporary rotation spots, which would push either Cessa or German to the pen.

Clint Frazier has been optioned for minor league reassignment and Aaron Hicks is expected to open on the Injured List which means the debate between Luke Voit or Greg Bird at first base won’t be resolved as both guys are making the final roster. Playing time will be tilted toward Voit, in my opinion, but Bird will have every opportunity, once again, to show that he belongs if he can stay healthy. I am losing confidence in Bird’s ability to stay healthy and play consistently but I would truly love to see that beautiful left-handed swing humming at Yankee Stadium.

So, as I sit here on a Saturday morning, this is my latest projected Opening Day roster.

STARTING PITCHERS (6)

Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, J.A. Happ, Luis Cessa, Domingo German and CC Sabathia (suspended for five games, then headed to the Injured List)

Injured List:  Luis Severino and Jordan Montgomery

BULLPEN (7)

Aroldis Chapman (Closer), Zack Britton, Adam Ottavino, Chad Green, Tommy Kahnle, Jonathan Holder, and Stephen Tarpley

Injured List: Dellin Betances and Ben Heller

CATCHER (2)

Gary Sanchez and Austin Romine

INFIELDERS (7)

Luke Voit, Greg Bird, Gleyber Torres, D.J. LeMahieu, Troy Tulowitzki, Miguel Andujar, and Tyler Wade

Injured List: Didi Gregorius

OUTFIELD (3)

Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Brett Gardner

Injured List: Aaron Hicks and Jacoby Ellsbury

Tyler Wade becomes the de facto fourth outfielder until Aaron Hicks returns.

Staying with the predictions theme, here is my projection for the upcoming MLB Season.

Division Champions and Wild Cards:

AL EAST

New York Yankees

AL CENTRAL

Cleveland Indians

AL WEST

Houston Astros

AL WILD CARD

Boston Red Sox

Minnesota Twins

NL EAST

Atlanta Braves

NL CENTRAL

Chicago Cubs

NL WEST

Los Angeles Dodgers

NL WILD CARD

Milwaukee Brewers

St Louis Cardinals

League Champions:

AMERICAN LEAGUE

New York Yankees

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Los Angeles Dodgers

And, last but certainly not least, your 2019 World Series Champions:

WORLD SERIES 

New York Yankees (over Los Angeles Dodgers in six games)

I know this is a Yankees blog but, hey, I am not biased! I am a realist.

The poor Dodgers.  They have become the Buffalo Bills of Major League Baseball. I think 2019 will be the end of their consecutive World Series appearance streak but sadly for them it will end like the past two years, another season ending in disappointment.

In making my choices, the two teams I thought the most about but didn’t add were the Tampa Bay Rays and the Washington Nationals. I really see the Minnesota Twins and the St Louis Cardinals as the surprise teams this season. With no offense to the New York Mets or Bryce Harper and the Philadelphia Phillies, I don’t see those teams in the mix at the end. The Nationals, even without Harper, are a better team than the Mets or Phillies. Maybe Bryce can make October plans with Mike Trout for some non-baseball related activities so they can compare notes as Baseball’s two highest paid performers.

The year of contract extensions continues. While Didi Gregorius, Dellin Betances, and Aaron Judge wait for agreement on future dollars, the St Louis Cardinals finalized their extension with first baseman Paul Goldschmidt (5 years for $130 million) which will be officially announced today and the Boston Red Sox locked up their ace, Chris Sale, with an extension of 5 years for $145 million. Sale can opt out after three years. He’ll earn $30 million per year for those three years, and then $27.5 million per year if he opts to stay for the final two seasons. I see so many Red Sox fans taking offense at Yankee fans making disparaging remarks about Sale but honestly the only people I ever see complaining about Sale are Red Sox fans.  Health is a risk for any pitcher. I think Sale is one of the best in the game and Boston was smart to keep their ace (although I’d rate Mookie Betts, a potential free agent after the 2020 season, as a greater need). Meanwhile, the Houston Astros are close to a two-year extension for $66 million with veteran starter Justin Verlander.

As teams narrow their rosters to the final 25, some ex-Yankees are in the news.  Former Yankees reliever, Chasen Shreve, who went to St Louis with Giovanny Gallegos in the trade that brought Luke Voit to New York, was designated for assignment by the Cardinals. I wonder how much the Cardinals would love to undo the Voit trade. I feel bad for Shreve. As a LOOGY, his days are potentially numbered with next year’s minimum three-batter rule. Good guy but I am not convinced in his ability to adapt to the impending changes in the game. Adeiny Hechevarria, in camp with the New York Mets as a non-roster invitee, did not make the cut.

Congratulations to infielder Yangervis Solarte, who did make the San Francisco Giants, and Curtis Granderson, who will be wearing the new Marlins gear for Team Derek Jeter. I am glad to see the Grandy Man still can.

After two massive home runs last night against the Philadelphia Phillies, I’d say Giancarlo Stanton is locked and loaded. I am really looking forward to watching him in his sophomore year with the Yankees. I am sure opposing pitchers, feeling the pain, will be saying “not so much”.

As always, Go Yankees!

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Yankees Sign LHP Gio Gonzalez…

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(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.

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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.

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(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.

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(Photo: Masterpress/Getty Images)

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!

Crushing AL East Rivals…

(Photo: Mike Janes/AP)

Even if it means absolutely nothing…

Maybe the Yankees should use David Wells in the YES Network broadcast booth more often. He worked Friday’s game against the Boston Red Sox and yesterday’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays and saw the Yankees score a combined total of 31 runs in the victories over two of their biggest AL East Rivals.  

It was enjoyable to see the Yankees win the 14-1 laugher over the Red Sox but sadly it is just a Spring Training game so it’s meaningless. I’d love to see one of those kind of games (or better yet, two) when the Yankees play the Red Sox on April 16th and 17th. The best way to get rid the memory of the devastating 16-1 loss to Boston in last Fall’s ALDS is to simply return the favor and ensure Boston’s season is shortened this year.   

Saturday’s 17-7 win, two touchdowns and a field goal, over the Blue Jays came at a price. The Yankees lost top prospect Estevan Florial when he tried to make a leaping catch against the wall in the eighth inning. He couldn’t reach the ball and came down on his right wrist against the turf, suffering what subsequent x-rays revealed to be a non-displaced wrist fracture. It’s a big loss as he’ll presumably lose valuable development time. Florial was having a great Spring with a batting line of .355/.429/.516 and .945 OPS in 13 games. In 31 at-bats, he had 11 hits and 7 runs scored to go with a homer and 4 RBI’s. He has also stolen 5 bags, which included one yesterday. There was no way he was making the big league club having just reached High-A last year, but with pitch recognition looming as the last major hurdle for him, his development will be further delayed. Florial missed three months last year after surgery on his hamate bone of the same wrist. If Florial misses 2-3 months with the latest injury, it will adversely affect his status as a potential July trading chip (not that I want the Yankees to trade him, of course). Further tests are scheduled for Monday before the Yankees will know the expected timetable for his recovery and rehab. I am hoping for better than expected results but admittedly it’s not looking good for the talented 21-year-old.  

MLB Network’s 30 in 30 focus on the Yankees is coming up this week…finally. It will air on Tuesday night at 7 pm Eastern during the hour-long MLB Tonight show. I am looking forward to the interviews with some of baseball’s greatest young stars and maybe Brett Gardner and/or CC Sabathia too.   

Listening to the many interviews with other teams around the league, there is a common phrase that Aaron Judge uses which is echoed by so many other players. “Picking (someone’s) brain.” As a fan of The Walking Dead, it’s hard not to get a visual of a Zombie, I mean a Walker, in search of food. I know, this is a game of knowledge and understanding and veteran players have so much to offer younger players. It’s just funny that the same expression gets used by so many players.  

Jacoby Ellsbury is expected in Tampa today. I am sure it will be a day of medical evaluations for him and who really knows where he is at physically except for him.  No way he makes the Opening Day roster but if healthy, for as much as I am down on him, he figures to be in position to help at some point as he works back into playing shape and redevelops his timing after being away from the game for so long. I do not expect anything from him and I had been doubtful he’d ever wear the Pinstripes again, but if he has anything left in the tank, the Yankees should give him a shot. If anything, the dude knows how to get catcher’s interference. I am sure Ellsbury, now 35, has tired of the negative comments from people like me and wants to show he is still capable of playing baseball at a high level, not too much unlike Troy Tulowitzki’s comeback attempt. If he can, play him. If not, cut bait and move on. Of course, it would be a much costlier decision with Ellsbury than Tulo, but I am sure the Yankees won’t use money as a reason not to part ways with Ellsbury if the insurance payments are no longer flowing in and Ellsbury proves to be an outfielder that can no longer play the outfield.

(Photo: Chris Pedota/North Jersey.com)

A couple weeks ago, I gave my projection for the Opening Day Lineup. At this point, you have to scratch Jonathan Loaisiga. He is not going to make the OD roster. For as much as we say Spring Training stats don’t count, Lasagna has stunk big time.  In four games, he is 1-1 with a 10.00 ERA.  He has given up 11 runs (10 earned) in 9 innings pitched. He has walked 6 batters and is carrying a 1.67 WHIP. Granted, you could say that J.A. Happ’s Spring has been nearly as bad, but Happ, as a veteran, “is just working on things”. Loaisiga had something to prove, whereas Happ does not. The performance has most likely earned Loaisiga a trip to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, making Luis Cessa (the pitching surprise of the Spring) and Domingo German the probable replacement starters for Luis Severino and CC Sabathia. Unless the Yankees carry an extra position player, it should mean that Stephen Tarpley will take the last bullpen spot. With Aaron Hicks’ health and the potential he misses Opening Day, it could force the Yankees to bring along an extra outfielder since Brett Gardner will need to slide to center to cover for Hicks although Tyler Wade is fully capable of covering a corner outfield spot on a short-term basis.

There was an update this morning when Hicks told the media that he WILL be missing the opening series against the Baltimore Orioles. He had his second cortisone shot for back stiffness this past week. The Yankees will have to decide whether to carry Hicks on the Opening Day roster if they feel he’ll only miss the two games against Baltimore or place him on the 10-day Injured List if they fear he’ll be out longer. It’s frustrating the Yankees could spend the majority of April “short-handed” as they’ll also be down a man when CC Sabathia serves his five-game suspension. 2020’s 26-man roster is starting to look a year too late.  

If the Yankees aren’t that high on Clint Frazier to start the year, I thought Carlos Gonzalez would have been a sneaky good pickup for some outfield help. However, that option was lost yesterday when the Cleveland Indians signed the long-time Colorado Rockie outfielder to a minor league deal. I guess we’ve reached our quota of ex-Rockies. I know CarGo carries the ‘he can’t hit outside of Coors Field’ tag but for $2-$3 million (pocket change for Hal Steinbrenner), he could have helped.

Congrats to Michael King and Brandon Wagner. They were named yesterday the winners of the 2018 Kevin Lawn Award as the Yankees’ Minor League “Pitcher of the Year” and “Player of the Year”, respectively. King has gotten much recognition after his breakout 2018 season, but Wagner is a bit unheralded. The 23-year-old, in combined A/AA, hit .267/.380/.461, with .841 OPS, last season. He belted 21 homers and 67 RBIs. He is primarily a first baseman but saw multiple games at third base and has even seen time at second and in the outfield.  Diversity is a great ticket to The Show if you have the talent. It should allow Wagner to leap-frog the ‘first base only’ types, Mike Ford and Ryan McBroom, in the farm system in the not-so-distant future if he continues his progression.   

Lastly, Happy St Patrick’s Day to all!  

As always, Go Yankees!  

Yankees Close to Sonny Gray Trade…

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!

Football, Turkey, Family, and the Yankees…

Much Love to the Yankees Universe…

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone! 

We are thankful for the Yankees and a step further, we are thankful and grateful you are part of the Yankees Universe. These are exciting times for Baseball’s greatest franchise and we are hopeful next season will bring the 28th World Series Championship to the Bronx. To you and yours, enjoy the day and give your loved ones an extra hug from all of us.

Credit: @Yankees on Twitter

Unless you are a football fan, there’s probably not going to be much happening today sports-wise. I’ve seen the tweets on Twitter that it would be very much a Brian Cashman move of Brian Cashman to announce a major trade today. I doubt we’ll see any breaking news today but who knows. There’s nothing in the rule book saying trades and signings cannot happen today.

With Wednesday’s acquisition of another utility-type (speedy infielder/outfielder Tim Locastro) from the Los Angeles Dodgers, the 40-man roster is full. The Yankees are just getting started with the off-season enhancement of its championship-quality roster so we know there are a few tenuous spots on the roster. Given the Yankees’ need for another high-end starter, a couple of bullpen replacement pieces for free agents David Robertson and Zach Britton, and possibly a strong option for the infield to help with the temporary absence of Didi Gregorius, there appears to be at least five roster spots that will need to be vacated.

Reviewing the roster, I see the following players at risk.

Luis Cessa – I think most of us have seen enough of Cessa and are ready to move on. There are teams that value him as a reliever so I think he’ll be moved. I know I have no trust in Cessa after hitters have seen him once or twice in a game. I just don’t see a long-term future in pinstripes for Cessa. He is simply a pedestrian starter in my eyes, and there are better options for the bullpen.

A.J. Cole – Thank you, next.

Sonny Gray – We know this is one spot that will be vacated. It is only a matter of time until Gray joins the ranks of ex-Yankees. For most of us, the sooner, the better. I’ve seen a few people on Yankees Twitter predicting a rebound season for Gray in pinstripes next year. Please, been there, done that. Like Cessa, we’ve seen enough to know Gray is not going to magically become a frontline ace for the Yankees. It is time to move on.

Domingo German – German represents insurance for the rotation, but I think Jonathan Loaisiga is a better option and the Yankees have to give Chance Adams a “chance” (sorry, had to do it). I feel Adams is better served in the bullpen but for now, he remains a starter and should be given every opportunity to succeed. My favorite pitching prospect is Albert Abreu but I don’t think he’ll be Major League ready by next season. He is on the 40-man roster so there’s always the opportunity for a late season call-up. Domingo Acevedo is also on the 40-man so I see it as a numbers game for German, and place him at the greatest risk of losing his spot among these names.

Ronald Torreyes – I know everybody loves Toe, but the Yankees seem to be bringing in other utility types (Hanser Alberto and the aforementioned Locastro). I am sure Yankees VP, Assistant General Manager Michael Fishman and his analytics team have very strong opinions about the players that will best serve the Yankees in the utility role. Thairo Estrada will be healthy and the bullet in his hip has finally been removed. Estrada, Alberto and Locastro will battle Tyler Wade and Ronald Torreyes, and I simply see Torreyes as the loser, making him a strong candidate to be non-tendered.

Jacoby Ellsbury – I place this name here only for my continued hope that Brian Cashman finally pulls a rabbit out of his hat to move Ellsbury. When healthy, I know, he’s a decent player. But I am done with DL’s-bury and ready to move on. If healthy, I think the Yankees should cut bait. There’s only two years left on his deal.  It’s an expensive decision to let go, but I see Ellsbury as addition by subtraction. If he is not ready to go by Spring Training, the best financial decision is to place him on the disabled list for continued insurance payments, but seriously, I just want to move on.

There are other players on the roster that could be moved in trades, but the above players are the ones that I see most at risk.

I was watching a replay yesterday of the Seattle Mariners game at Yankee Stadium on June 21, 2018 when James Paxton took the mound in his now “home” stadium against Luis Severino. The Yankees had two two-run homers in the first inning by Aaron Judge and Miguel Andujar, narrowly missing a third home run when Seattle’s Mitch Haniger  leaped to rob Giancarlo Stanton of a long fly ball to the center field fence. Paxton settled down and chalked up nine strikeouts before he departed in the Yankees’ 4-3 victory. Here’s hoping his next Yankee Stadium start gets off to a better start. It was thrilling to watch the Yankees’ best two starting pitchers going at each other. I never really noticed it before but Paxton has very intense eyes when he is pitching. I also didn’t realize that he was such an Andy Pettitte fan growing up. The guy is clearly a competitor with an intensity that kind of reminds me of the heart of Lance Lynn (except Paxton has the arm to match the intensity). I don’t think we’ll have to worry about any ‘Sonny Gray-like’ meltdowns from Paxton.  Sure, he’ll have his clunkers like any other pitcher, but he seems to be a warrior to me. Paul O’Neill will be proud.

The deeper we get into the off-season, the more I want to see David Robertson return. I am so hopeful the Yankees and D-Rob can come to an agreement to allow Houdini to continue his “path in Pinstripes”. I get fired up every time I see D-Rob run off the mound at the conclusion of an inning. For the other reliever spot, I really want to see the Yankees sign Adam Ottavino but I wouldn’t be disappointed with the return of either Zach Britton or Andrew Miller. I just think Ottavino represents the safest choice. Well, actually Britton would the safest, but I think his desire for closer’s money will price him out of the Yankees’ reach.

I’ve seen some Yankee fans say the team should sign Boston’s Joe Kelly, currently a free agent. No, Hell NO! I don’t want to see that guy anywhere near Yankee Stadium in a home uniform. I prefer to see Yankees either teeing off on his pitches or slugging his face in with their fists. Sorry, I am not a proponent of violence but I do not want to see that guy on my team. He could be the greatest reliever in the history of baseball and I’d still want no part of him. I know, Mariano Rivera is the greatest reliever in history but my point is I don’t care what Kelly is capable of, I don’t like the guy.

Lastly, I hope this is the year Mike Mussina gets into the Hall of Fame but I suspect he’ll fall short. He deserves his spot in Cooperstown so I hope he eventually gets there. As they say, time will tell. Meanwhile, Mariano Rivera should be a shoo-in.  There will be voters who leave Mo off their ballot for whatever reasons (which makes no sense to me), but I think he’ll come in with at least 95% of the vote. I can’t wait for the Hall of Fame inductions next year with a smiling Rivera present at the festivities. One of my all-time favorite Yankees.

Photo by Jim McIsaac, Getty Images

Enjoy Thanksgiving, but, remember, Christmas is right around the corner…

As always, Go Yankees!

InCESSAnt Behavior…

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Photo Credit: AP (Frank Franklin II)

Yanks Ride Luis Cessa to Loss…

Sorry Cessa, not a fan…

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Luis Cessa may be a great guy and one of the ‘boys’ in the clubhouse, but he isn’t a pitcher I want in the starting rotation for a team driving for a shot in the post-season. I realize that Cessa had a couple of good starts in July, but in two August starts totaling seven innings, he has given up fourteen hits and ten runs.  In three seasons with the Yankees, he is 5-10 with 4.71 ERA in 133 2/3 innings. He has given up 129 hits. This is who he is. If you’re lucky, he is not going to give up more than 4-5 runs before the game is halfway over. We need better.

I am not sure why the Yankees have such an infatuation with Cessa. I think he’s better served pitching in the bullpen.  That’s not a slam.  Bullpens are filled with failed starters. I’d gladly take Cessa as the long man in the pen over A.J. Cole. Cessa is better in short non-starting spurts than he is starting games. Cole would be better served pitching elsewhere.

To Cessa’s defense, any of the Yankees starting pitchers were going to lose yesterday if the offense could only push one run across the plate in the 6-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. Still, it felt like it was going to be a loss before the first pitch was thrown. Maybe his teammates have full faith and confidence in his ability, but for me, it was a psychological downer knowing Cessa would be on the mound.  It’s hard to be at your best when you are not mentally in the game. I can’t really see what Cessa has done to inspire any confidence.

After the game, Cessa was optioned to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre so A.J. Cole lives to see another day. He remains my latest preferred DFA candidate unless he can somehow survive the next 15 days. George Kontos, on the other hand, was not so fortunate. I am not really sure why the Yankees acquired Kontos. They paid cash to the Cleveland Indians on August 4th for the former San Francisco Giants reliever and one-time Yankees prospect. It was kind of a nice story about the former Yankees farmhand coming home.  They placed him at Triple A for a week and promoted him to the active roster on August 13th. He pitched an inning and two-thirds against the New York Mets on the day of his promotion, limiting the Mets to a hit and no runs while striking out two. Yesterday, he was designated for assignment to make room for Cessa’s start. There was a reason Kontos was available. His velocity is down significantly from last year, but I am not sure why the Yankees even bothered to acquire him. To create a spot on the 40-man roster to pitch him for less than two innings seems curious at best. It’s not like he pitched Sonny Gray-style in his one and only appearance. Maybe he clears waivers and is outrighted to Triple A, but I’d be surprised if another team doesn’t place a claim. Everyone could use bullpen help.  Just ask the Los Angeles Dodgers.

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Photo Credit: AP (Mark J Terrill)

Frankly, I am a little tired of people who keep promoting GM Brian Cashman as the greatest genius in the sport and the Ninja Master. There’s no doubt he has had his share of successes but his closet is littered with failures.  I shouldn’t be bitter the Yankees have the second best record in Major League Baseball, but I am frustrated that the team could have been better if not for questionable Cashman moves and the overall inexperience of manager Aaron Boone. Boone’s a good man and I think he’ll eventually be a good manager but there have been and will continue be bumps along the way. Cashman and his analytic team making the lineup decisions is befuddling at times. I guess we should say that Michael Fishman, VP, Assistant General Manager and head of the Analytics Department, is the true manager of the Yankees.  Sometimes, the answers are not in the numbers.

When it was mentioned that Aaron Judge was only going to be out for three weeks for his injured right wrist, I felt the timetable was probably a little over-aggressive. So, the latest word that Judge will need more time and we may not see him until September is not surprising.  This is why I felt the Yankees should have acquired another outfielder in lieu of promoting one of the few healthy outfielders at Triple A, Shane Robinson, earlier in the month. I’ve mentioned Curtis Granderson.  I know that will bring ire from TGP’s Bryan Van Dusen. I get that Grandy has seen his better days and he was such a disappointment down the stretch last year for the Los Angeles Dodgers. But, compared to Shane Robinson, Grandy still looks appealing to me. Of course, he hit a grand slam last night for the Toronto Blue Jays so it’s easy to say when the player is performing.  I really wish that Clint Frazier was healthy. This would have been his opportunity to shine and his chance to prove to the Yankees he represents the future of the outfield.  It was not meant to be, unfortunately, so I feel that Cashman and Company should have turned quickly to Plan B. “B” standing for ‘better than Shane Robinson’.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Elsa)

It was funny yesterday when first baseman Ryan McBroom was pulled from the lineup in the double-header between the Indianapolis Indians and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders at Moosic, PA. Yankees Twitter blew up with the usual ‘trade or call up’ speculation. Subsequent word was that he was scratched due to a stiff back that tightened up on him during Tuesday’s game. He is expected to be available today for the RailRiders. Despite his good year at Triple A, he doesn’t seem like a prospect that is going to warrant much consideration from the Front Office.

To replace Luis Cessa on the active roster, it appears reliever Tommy Kahnle will be returning to the Bronx.  He cleared out his locker at Triple A last night, after not appearing in the double-header. I am hopeful Kahnle is back for good. Of course he has to pitch like we know he can to keep the spot but that’s on him. Welcome back, Tommy! The Philadelphia Eagles suck but we are happy you are back.

Speaking of the RailRiders’ double-header, the first game was not very kind for top Yankees prospect Justus Sheffield. He only lasted an inning and two-thirds after getting tagged for four hits and four runs, while mixing in five walks in the short outing. Not exactly a stellar start for Top Sheff. He took the loss as the RailRiders were unable to rally against the Indians. He held Indianapolis scoreless in the first inning despite leaving two runners stranded after a hit and a walk. But it unraveled for him in the second inning.  The Indians scored three of four runs that inning  after Sheff had recorded two outs, and he was pulled with the bases loaded. J.P. Feyereisen struck out Wyatt Mathisen to end the inning so the damage to Sheffield’s final pitching line could have been much worse if not for Feyereisen’s K. Nevertheless, it was just a blip. Sheffield has not become the second incarnation of Luis Cessa. It happens to the best of pitchers. He’ll be back strong next start, I am sure. Brian Cashman has indicated we’ll see Sheffield at some point this season so I fully expect his arrival when rosters expand in September.

I guess at this point the AL East standings do not really matter, however, the Yankees lost an opportunity to pick up a game on the Boston Red Sox yesterday. The Sox suffered a rare loss against the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday while the Yankees were losing to the Rays. The Yankees (75-45) stayed ten games behind Boston. They also maintained their slim 3 ½ game lead in the Wild Card standings over the Oakland A’s. The A’s lost to the other Wild Card contender, the Seattle Mariners. The M’s are 2 ½ games behind Oakland.

The Yankees conclude their series against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium today. They’ll send Masahiro Tanaka (9-3, 4.08 ERA) to the mound. He’ll be opposed by Rays ace Blake Snell (13-5, 2.18 ERA). I am hopeful that we’ll see a much better Tanaka than we did last start. Regardless, the Yankees offense needs to chip in some runs today if we are to be successful. I am sure that a few balls will leave the yard today but hopefully the majority of the culprits will be wearing pinstripes.

Go Yankees!

An Unforgettable Day in the Yankees Universe…

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I’d Like to Forget Yesterday’s Game but Thurman Munson was a bigger loss…

This is always a tough day as I am sure it is for any Yankees fan who grew up with the Bronx Zoo Yankees.  It has been 39 years since the death of my favorite Yankee, a day that I can still so vividly remember. One of those ‘you know exactly where you were’ moments in life.  I’ve had many favorite ball players over the years but none have matched the intensity and passion that drove Yankees Captain and star catcher Thurman Munson. It’s not to say that guys like Jorge Posada or Don Mattingly or Derek Jeter weren’t passionate or intense, they were, but there was something about Thurman that set him apart. Looking back, the early George Steinbrenner Era was so chaotic.  It’s what I grew up with so changing managers every year was the norm. Signing the most glamorous superstars in the off-season was expected. The polarization of players like Reggie Jackson was simply daily life in the Bronx. The one constant was the strength (mentally and physically) of the team’s legendary catcher. I loved that guy and miss him to this day.

My first Yankees jersey was number 15. I wish I still had it even if it had been a child’s size.

My biggest fear in the late ‘70’s was the eventual departure of Munson from the Yankees. I remember the days when he was talking more and more like a guy who wanted to play for the Cleveland Indians so that he could be closer to home. It was clear how much family meant to him. I selfishly wanted him to stay but in retrospect, I would have gladly taken his presence on the Indians roster for the later years of his career over his early demise.

Thurman, we are thinking of you. We miss you. Your spirit and memory continue to run strong through the fabric of Yankee Stadium even if the current one was not yet built in 1979. I remain forever grateful that you were and always will be a Yankee. You stand tall among the Yankee Legends.

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How do you transition from ‘GREAT’ to, as Mike Axisa of River Ave Blues would put it, not so ‘GRAYT’? Sadly, that’s what comparing today to yesterday brings when talking about certain players (specifically excluding the tragic death of one of the most beloved Yankees).

I am done with Sonny Gray.  He had already reached ‘Sonny Gray Sucks!’ status for me earlier this year, but I foolishly bought into the last couple of starts which were somewhat decent.  I had been hopeful that he was finally turning the corner and headed down the path of promise we once felt he was destined for.  Then he blows up against one of the worst teams in Major League Baseball. By the time Lance Lynn entered the game to calm the troops, the damage had been done.  Gleyber Torres tried to bring the team back with his two home runs but an inability of others to create opportunities when the bases were loaded was too much.  Lots of negatives in the game.  Gleyber’s fielding, the whiffs with run scoring opportunities, the third base coach going off on the team in the dugout for their lackadaisical effort, etc. It was not a good game from any aspect, but at the heart was the pathetic performance delivered by one Sonny Douglas Gray. His smile walking off the mound (regardless of his explanation) was horrific.  Ed Whitson couldn’t pitch in the Bronx, nor could Javier Vazquez. A.J. Burnett flamed out. Following in their footsteps is Gray. I firmly believe that Gray would thrive in a place like Pittsburgh or Milwaukee, but he’ll never be the man in the Bronx. He is incapable of rising to the occasion on Major League Baseball’s Main Stage.  He prefers to be a less pressurized side show in a small community theater.

The Yankees shouldn’t give up Gray for nothing but they should try to do the humane thing and re-home him to a family that can love and support him. If he stays in the Bronx, I am in favor of euthanasia. Alright, that might be a little harsh, but he’s reached the end of the line for rotation opportunities in my mind. I know the Yankees need to try to rebuild some value before he is traded away (Brian Cashman should have flipped him at this year’s trading deadline), but the time to live or die with Sonny Gray in the starting rotation is over for this season.  I wasn’t excited about the addition of Lance Lynn, but I firmly believe that Lynn should be the starter over Gray for the duration of the season. Make Gray the rotation’s sixth man, with an occasional spot start. Even that scares me to a degree. He’s become the guy I’d want pitching with a ten-run lead but of course he’d still have me pacing the room.

Too bad the Oakland A’s do not have a return policy for defective merchandise. I’d like my money back. Heck, I’d gladly take Dustin Fowler (demoted to Triple A yesterday by the A’s) back in exchange for Gray.  Let them keep James Kaprielian and Jorge Mateo as “profit”.

For today’s game in Boston, we know that first baseman Luke Voit and Luis Cessa have been called up.  While outfielder Shane Robinson goes down for Voit, there hasn’t been word yet this morning about who’s spot Cessa will take. The obvious solution is the placement of J.A. Happ, currently battling Noah Syndergaard disease, on the 10-day DL retroactive to three days ago. I’d argue the demotion of Sonny Gray (according to Roster Resource, he has two options left). Losing Gray makes more sense to me than Happ who should be healthy again within a few days.

I kind of feel bad for Luke Voit.  He was a hometown St Louis kid fighting to reach his Major League Dream with his favorite childhood team, but it was extinguished when he was dealt to the Yankees, along with international bonus pool money, in the trade that sent relievers Chasen Shreve and Giovanny Gallegos to the Gateway City. Of course there are worse places to go than the Bronx and I am hopeful that the history and the tradition of the organization appeal to the Missouri kid. Maybe we can get Tino Martinez to stop by and express the advantages of playing for the Yankees over the Cardinals. Seriously, I hope Voit thrives in New York and becomes Brian Cashman’s latest gem. This is a great opportunity for him even if he is destined to return to Moosic, PA in the not-so-distant future. With no offense to Robinson, I am much happier with Voit on the Major League roster.

This is a big series for the Yankees.  Four games against Boston in the very heart of Red Sox Nation. Mike Francesa tweeted this morning, “We are all going to learn something about this Yankee team this weekend”.  No doubt.  If they play like they did yesterday, the Red Sox will be clearing shelf space for their 2018 AL East Championship trophy. The Yankees need to make a statement and take at least three of four from the AL East leaders. They have the talent to do it. We’ll soon see if they have the heart. They certainly did not yesterday. Red Sox fans are loving life today.  If they are feeling miserable and uncomfortable on Sunday, it will have been a successful weekend.

Thank God Sonny Gray will not be pitching.

Pinstripers, your mission should you choose to accept it…  Let’s do this. Time to make noise in the AL East.

Go Yankees!