All Quiet on the Eastern Front…
It has been a very quiet end of the year for the Yankees. There were rumors of the Yankees talking with the Chicago White Sox about Jose Quintana and David Robertson but they quickly lost legs. While the Yankees need starting pitching, I agree that it is best not to raid the newly stocked farm system. It is a risk to bet on prospects over an established major leaguer, but while Jose Quintana is a good pitcher, he’s not Chris Sale. Given Chicago’s desire for top prospects in return, it just does not make sense. Quintana will not be a 2017 difference maker.
Credit: Kevin Jairaj, USA Today Sports
I still believe the Yankees are better served by identifying an undervalued young starter with potential. Sure, that’s every team’s wish but the Yankees have the scouts and resources to uncover the hidden gems. It is harder to pitch in New York than it is in, say, Pittsburgh, but for some guys, the main stage brings out their full potential.
The New York Mets’ Noah Syndergaard was once just a prospect included in a trade (when the Mets dealt knuckleballer R.A. Dickey to the Toronto Blue Jays). I think that trade has worked out very well in favor of the Mets. It also brought them starting catcher Travis D’Arnaud. The 2012 trade was a risk for the Mets given Dickey was the reigning NL Cy Young winner, but he has never been as good as he was in 2011 and the other guys sent to Toronto are after thoughts (Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas).
The Yankees are not going to win the World Series in 2017. The current blueprint puts the Yankees on the path to World Series contention in two to three years. They have the time to develop frontline starters so why not take a chance on some other team’s “Jake Arrieta”. The Chicago Cubs saw something in the former Baltimore Orioles hurler and it has paid off quite handsomely for them.
I have high hopes for the Yankees young pitching prospects. James Kaprielian heads the list, but I haven’t forgotten or given up hope for Ian Clarkin. Jordan Montgomery and Dietrich Enns are other homegrown prospects that come to mind. The first young starters that will be given the chance to crack the rotation next season are the obvious ones…Luis Cessa and Chad Green. There’s also the hope that Luis Severino restores the promise that he showed in 2015 and is not just another failed starter that succeeds in the pen. Trade acquisitions Justus Sheffield, Dillon Tate, and Albert Abreu also hold promise.
If Severino is successful and just one of the young prospects stands out in the Spring, the rotation that already includes Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia does not look so bad. It might not be ‘Chris Sale-David Price-Rick Porcello-Eduardo Rodriguez’ worthy, but the foundation is being laid for future success. It will be imperative for the Yankees to re-sign Tanaka should he opt out of his contract following the season, but Sabathia’s departure as he plays out the final year of his contract will continue to create opportunity for the young prospects. Michael Pineda is a case by himself. He is either a really great starter or a disaster. If he can ever hold the focus on the former, the pitching staff will be significantly improved.
Next season, young players like Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge, Tyler Austin, and Greg Bird will play prominent roles for the Yankees. If any are not successful, there is another wave of young players waiting for their opportunities at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre or Trenton. It is inevitable that we’ll see outfielder Clint Frazier at some point in the season, even if it is just a September call-up. I don’t want to lose this talent in the farm system for the chance on a pitcher which always seems to be the biggest risk in baseball. Gleyber Torres has already shown that he has that “it” factor even if he is still a few years away from the Bronx. Stay the course. GM Brian Cashman’s blue print so far has been successful. He has turned what was one of the worst farm systems a few years ago to one of the best. They have the talent and depth in the system to make quiet but effective trades without sacrificing the organization’s best.
2017 may not be a banner year for the team but clearly the light is visible at the end of the tunnel. Now is not the time for the Ghost of Steinbrenner Past to raise its ugly head. Young Hal seems to have a plan and one that will soon yield fruit. Patience. Stick to the plan…
But at least it wasn’t for BIG money…
Good for Ivan Nova to get his new contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates. All things considered, I am still glad that he is an ex-Yankee. Even though the Yankees are in desperate need of help in the starting rotation, I wasn’t looking for a reunion with the right-hander.
One headline I saw did strike me as odd. It basically said that Nova had signed but not for big money. 3 years, $26 million. Maybe it’s just me, but $26 million is definitely “big money”. Okay, if Nova pitches for Pittsburgh like he did after the trade from the Yankees last year, he’ll be a bargain. But still, receiving more than $8 million per year is still a heck of a lot of money for a historically inconsistent pitcher.
But the more telling headlines are about how great Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage is. The so-called “Pitch Doctor” is getting the credit for Nova’s turnaround performance in Pittsburgh last year. The underlying tone of the message is that the Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild is inadequate. If Searage is so great, perhaps the Yankees should find a way to pry him from the Pirates.
I know that Rothschild has a good reputation, but at some point, someone has to be held accountable for the inconsistencies of the Yankees starters. Masahiro Tanaka rebounded to have a very solid 2016 campaign but the work put up by Michael Pineda continues to be frustrating to say the least. Luis Severino was dreadful as a starter. I can’t say that I’ve ever looked at Rothschild as an “amazing” coach. It would be nice to have one of those for a change.
Kevin Long is an excellent hitting coach. Yet, when Yankees hitters couldn’t hit, he lost his job and now flourishes in Queens. He remains better than the Yankees current array of hitting coaches. I personally felt that Long was a better hitting coach than Rothschild is a pitching coach. Long was held accountable and so too should Rothschild. The Yankees have too much at stake with their young, unproven starters to fail miserably because they didn’t have the right guy at the helm.
Sanchez had better get extra padding for that mitt…
Before the Yankees re-signed closer Aroldis Chapman, there was very little talk of what they SHOULD do. Now that Chapman is back in the fold after his brief hiatus to win a World Series championship with the Chicago Cubs, the naysayers are out in full force.
Credit: ESPN.com Illustration
For me, I am glad Chapman once again anchors the back end of the bullpen. If the Yankees had not paid him the record-setting 5 year, $86 million contract for a closer, the Miami Marlins were fully prepared to step in and pay him a million more. Like him or not, Chapman was going to get his money.
I know the current Baby Bombers Implementation Plan is in full effect and there are cheaper alternatives available. As great as Kenley Jansen is, he would have cost the Yankees their first round draft pick in the 2017 MLB Draft (then Number 17, but now Number 16 thanks to the Colorado Rockies’ signing of OF, SS, or 1B? Ian Desmond, thereby forfeiting their higher draft selection). In terms of dollars, in addition to the draft pick, Jansen would have cost nearly as much as Chapman.
Free agent and former Kansas City Royals closer Greg Holland is still available but he carries more questions as he attempts to come back from injury.
A reunion with former Yankees closer David Robertson was a possibility but the Chicago White Sox have shown they demand premium plus in trades.
Signing Chapman did not cost a draft pick or talent…only money which the Yankees have.
Chapman does carry the negative stigma of domestic violence but I do believe in second chances. He has not been convicted and by all accounts no one was seriously injured (or worse). I hope and pray it was a wake up call for Chapman. After 20 years of a Saint in the closer’s role for the Yankees, it’s unfortunate we have to deal with these issues. But give the man a chance for redemption.
I did not believe that Dellin Betances was suited for the closer’s role. My suspicions proved correct when we saw Betances stumble in September after the trades of Chapman and Andrew Miller. It may have been fatigue but I felt it was more mental. Betances is a great setup guy, perhaps one of the best in the game. Being a great bridge does not necessarily equate to being a great closer.
There is no doubt I would have preferred a reunion with Andrew Miller over Chapman but that was not going to happen. The Cleveland Indians recognize they have one of the most versatile and dependable relievers in baseball and possibly one of the most selfless guys you can ever hope to meet. But he is Cleveland property for the next few years under a very reasonable contract. If Cleveland was amenable to trading Miller, they would want no less than the premier talent they paid to acquire him. OF Clint Frazier is either first or second on any given Yankees top prospect list and P Justus Sheffield is a future mainstay in the rotation.
So regardless of the other options, I am glad that #54 found his way back to the Bronx. The trio of Tyler Clipart, Betances and Chapman may not be ‘No Runs DMC’ but they’ll be close. The Yankees still need other bullpen upgrades (I personally would like to see another reunion with the potential signing of lefty Boone Logan) but regardless of what happens, the pen will be a strength in 2017.
Next year’s going to seem like a Holliday…
After talk the Yankees would use the DH role to cycle through its position players as a form of rest, I was glad to see the Yankees make a short-term investment in former St Louis Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday. Any way you slice it, Holliday will be a major upgrade over the now departed Alex Rodriguez. Last year, the Yankees offense was largely dependent upon two major underachievers, Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira. This year, the center of the lineup features Holliday and rookie sensation Gary Sanchez. If the Yankees can get meaningful production out of new first baseman Greg Bird and right fielder Aaron Judge, this could be a very good offense.
Credit: Google Images / STL Sports View
I am still a proponent of trading Brett Gardner. I feel strongly the team needs to open up left field for other young talent and allow Holliday an occasional start. The Yankees clearly need another starter in the rotation so if Gardner can bring in a solid #5, I’m all for it.
I think P Jason Hammel would be a good signing for the rotation but if that doesn’t happen, I am hopeful GM Brian Cashman gets creative in adding another piece. I would much rather see the team’s young talent fighting for only one rotation spot; not two. I am not convinced Luis Severino can be an effective starter but we know that he can be a very effective reliever. I would rather see Adam Warren and Bryan Mitchell in swing roles, serving as the long men out of the pen. It would be much better for Luis Cessa and Chad Green to fight each other for a rotation spot than handing it to both of them.
The heavy lifting is done for the 2017 roster but the coming weeks should bring continued improvement. No major signings or trades are expected but just little tweaks to keep this team in contention while it looks ahead to brighter days in 2019. This is what Brian Cashman gets paid to do it, and so far, he’s been doing it well…
Be careful what you ask for…
In my last post, I stated my preference for Masahiro Tanaka to be named the Opening Day starter. This, of course, was before Joe Girardi announced that Tanaka, in fact, would be the starter. So of course, Tanaka promptly bombed as the Yankees were throttled by the Toronto Blue Jays, 6-1.
The start didn’t change my opinion that Tanaka was the best choice. Michael Pineda is the next best starter on the staff, but he didn’t deserve the nod over Tanaka. CC Sabathia may have been the sentimental choice if for no other reason than the consecutive years he has been the starter. But his performance last season (injuries combined with the continued gradual decline) didn’t warrant the start either. Nathan Eovaldi wasn’t going to get it, and neither was Adam Warren. The right choice was made by Girardi even if the results indicated otherwise.
My concern, more than anything, is the health of Tanaka’s arm. Yes, it was only one start and one start does not a season make. But going to last year after he returned from the DL, the results of not been great. If Tanaka has to learn to be a different pitcher at age 26 to lessen the strain on the elbow ligament, there’s no guarantee that he’ll be successful. A solid outing would certainly help allay some of the concerns, but inevitably, I do feel this road leads to Tommy John surgery. The sad part is that if he undergoes the surgery at any point this season, we most likely would not see him again until 2017, with 2018 being the target for a full return to health.
It’s too bad the Yankees do not have the quality starters to go six deep. I’d rather lessen the load on Tanaka by spreading the distance between his starts.
Tanaka’s health certainly increases the spotlight on Adam Warren, as he’ll need to be the man to bridge the gap. Today he is covering for Chris Capuano and Ivan Nova, but later in the summer, it could very well be for Tanaka.
Larry Rothschild is certainly earning his paycheck. Earlier in the year, I didn’t think we’d see Luis Severino in the major leagues this year. Now, it appears to be only a matter of time.
Another prospect lost…
It is hard not to get excited about certain prospects, and that certainly held true for catcher Austin Romine who was once billed as one of the organization’s best catching prospects along with since traded Jesus Montero. Romine has the bloodline (his father Kevin played for the Boston Red Sox among other teams and his brother Andrew plays for the Detroit Tigers). I was hopeful that Romine would use spring training to show the team that he belongs in New York. It didn’t happen with a sub .200 batting average. Perhaps the odds were against him since he was out of options and John Ryan Murphy, his competition for the back-up catching spot, is the better hitter. Still, it was sad when the team announced just before the start of the season that it had designated Romine for assignment. Maybe there’s a chance that he stays in the organization, but it seems inevitable that a trade is the more probable outcome as there isn’t much of a chance Romine could slide through waivers (teams need catching help too much, just ask Boston). Romine has been an outstanding team guy and he’ll serve some organization well when/if he finally gets his chance at the Show.
I am still not an A-Rod fan but I have to admit that he carried himself well in spring training and has done everything the team has asked. If the Yankees suddenly found a way to rid themselves of A-Rod, I’d be all in favor. But since that’s not going to happen, I’ll have to give A-Rod credit for not rocking the boat.
I still can’t bring myself to cheer for A-Rod but he’s effectively shut me up from booing for now.
* * *
I am glad that the baseball season is back but it would have been more exciting to open the season with a victory. It was tougher to see the loss combined with a convincing Red Sox win on Opening Day. Red Sox always gloat in victory so Opening Day was no exception.
I do feel more confident with Michael Pineda on the mound Wednesday, however, the team offense needs to step up their game.
Let’s Go, Yankees!
Let someone else try…
While I greatly respect Boston Globe columnist Nick Cafardo, his column today that implies the Yankees have come the closest in making a bid for Philadelphia Phillies starter Cole Hamels just doesn’t make sense to me. While I agree that Hamels is a top shelf starter, I find it very hard to believe that the team would be willing to part with top prospects and major league talent to acquire Hamels. This past winter, they could have acquired Max Scherzer for nothing more than money and a draft pick.
If the team is serious about its bid to get younger, acquiring the 31 year old Hamels is not the answer. You’d only acquire Hamels if you legitimately felt you had a shot for the World Series. The Yankees are not at the doorstep for the Fall Classic and they wouldn’t be even if they acquired Hamels.
I know there is great risk with any prospect and of course the path to the major leagues is littered by sure fire prospects who never made it. In the past, Yankee fans have been teased with the hype associated with players like Jesus Montero and Manny Banuelos. Montero is in Seattle and while he may still be the player people thought he would be, he hasn’t done it yet and despite his injury history, Michael Pineda is a better player at this point in their respective careers. Manny Banuelos is in Atlanta and he brought a couple of arms for the bullpen. Perhaps guys like Gary Sanchez, Luis Severino and Aaron Judge are over-hyped because they are Yankees, but still, I would hate to see them leave and prosper in Philly. I am sure that I felt the same way about Montero and Banuelos at some point, but I do believe the Yankees have made a concerted effort to improve their drafts in recent years.
At a time when there is competitive balance in the MLB thanks to profit sharing and luxury taxes paid by the richer teams and primarily the Yankees, the Yankees have the financial strength to employ the best scouts to uncover the diamonds in the rough. If over a century of Yankees baseball has proven anything, the Yankees know how to adapt and they’ll continue to do so. But the key is getting younger and getting more cost controlled players. That’s why a move for Cole Hamels just does not make sense.
I would love to see Hamels in the Yankees starting rotation. But I simply do not want to part with the farm system to do it. Whoever acquires Hamels is going to overpay. Let some other team overpay, even if it is the Boston Red Sox.
Ready or not, here come the 2015 Yankees…
The Yankees have stayed the course and true to their word, they didn’t purchase any big ticket items this off-season. While I am glad to see that they want to end the ridiculous cycle of overbuying for soon to be past their prime ballplayers, it’s an almost certainty that the Yankees will again miss the post-season this year. There’s always the chance that guys like Carlos Beltran, CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, Stephen Drew and Brian McCann play to their prior levels, but really, for everything to come together, the odds are against it.
Max Scherzer might have ensured a few more wins but he would not have made the Yankees a World Series contender. So, perhaps the current path chosen by Yankees management and ownership will ultimately mean a World Series caliber team in a couple of years rather than a few years of a team trying to hang on. I am excited for the future when guys like Aaron Judge, Greg Bird, and Luis Severino begin their ascent to the Bronx.
I thought the Philadelphia Phillies made a good signing with former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Chad Billingsley. There’s a good chance that Billingsley never makes it back from his past injuries, but conversely, there is a small chance that he could. It was a shot worth taking. Granted, this is not exactly Clayton Kershaw that we are talking about, but Billingsley, if right, can help a pitching staff. Meanwhile, the Yankees signed former Minnesota Twins pitcher Scott Baker for insurance. I would have preferred to take a flyer on Billingsley.
Another pitcher that I’d probably be interested in for insurance purposes is former Atlanta Braves starter Brandon Beachy. I really liked Kris Medlen but unfortunately so did the Kansas City Royals.
The Yankees need options for the spot in the rotation currently held by Chris Capuano. Of course, Capuano is just a placeholder for the eventual return of Ivan Nova but I don’t really expect Nova to be effective this year when he does. It will probably be 2016 before we start to see the Nova of old. I have heard talk of converting Adam Warren to a starter, but I like the current configuration of the bullpen even with the loss of David Robertson. I expect the Yankees to name Dellin Betances as the closer rather than use a closer committee comprised of Betances and Andrew Miller. Miller should serve as the prime setup guy, with the others, including Warren falling in line.
While I am hopeful that Stephen Drew returns to the player he can be, I still hope that this is the year Rob Refsnyder arrives to take second base.
While former high prospect Austin Romine is out of options, I feel that John Ryan Murphy is better suited to be the Yankees backup catcher. Sadly, Romine will see his Yankees career end in spring training either through trade or release. Hopefully, the Yankees can get something for him when the time comes.
The calendar page is almost ready to turn to February which means that pitchers and catchers will soon be reporting. Even if this will be another disappointing season for the Yankees, the thrill of the spring is always a great time.
What’s the plan?…
Well, it’s January 2015. The Yankees roster is slowly evolving. The latest addition/return was the surprise re-signing of Stephen Drew which certainly makes sense. While I still prefer to see Rob Refsnyder win the second base job outright, Drew certainly provides great insurance at both second base and shortstop. It’s no sure thing that Didi Gregorius will be successful and I’d prefer not to see Brendan Ryan as the only other choice, even if he is a slick fielder.
I am still concerned about the starting rotation. Reading CC Sabathia say the knee is fine is hardly a ringing endorsement that he’ll be the CC of old. I think best case he is a strong #3 in the rotation if he is able to come back healthy. His days as the team’s ace are over…in my opinion. The hope of the rotation lies with Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda. Obviously, there are health concerns with both pitchers. Even though Ivan Nova will return later in the year, I do not expect him to be back up to par until 2016. Nathan Eovaldi is the project. The Yankees apparently think they can turn him around and perhaps they can. It would be good to get him to the point that he is as reliable and consistent as Hiroki Kuroda was.
While I get why the Yankees will not pay $200 million for Max Scherzer, I wish they would make a play for James Shields. With a rotation containing so much uncertainty, the Yankees really need a dependable starter without question marks.
I have heard some rumblings that the Yankees now have the prospects to make a trade for Cole Hamels, but I am not sure that’s one I would pursue. I like prospects such as Aaron Judge and Luis Severino and want to see them succeed in pinstripes. It was tough when I was a kid and the Yankees were always trading youth for veterans. Doug Drabek, Jay Buhner, Fred McGriff, Al Leiter, J.T. Snow, Brad Ausmus. I know the list is much longer than this, but it was tough watching guys like that succeed elsewhere.
I don’t think that Cole Hamels would be the missing ingredient to suddenly make the Yankees the World Series favorites. So, if he is not the difference maker, then the Yankees shouldn’t raid the cupboards to bring him aboard. I’d rather see Hamels go to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The fear of course is that he’ll be calling Fenway Park home next season.
At this point, I still do not see the 2015 Yankees making the play-offs. I think the Baltimore Orioles will still be the team to beat. They suffered off-season losses, yes, but they’ll also be getting back Manny Machado, Chris Davis and Matt Wieters. The Toronto Blue Jays look to be the most improved team and they’ve been a team of potential for a few years. Boston will be stronger, and it’s best to never underestimate the Tampa Bay Rays even if Joe Maddon and Andrew Friedman are no longer calling the shots.
There’s still time for GM Brian Cashman to make the moves to propel the Yankees into contention but so much is riding on better seasons from Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, and Mark Teixeira. Of the group, McCann is the only one I feel is capable for turning it around. Beltran and Teixeira are in their decline years, and that slippery slope is steeper for some guys.
Hear the voice of the Bard!…
There’s a nice piece in Nick Cafardo’s column today (Sunday Baseball Notes in The Boston Globe) about the comeback of Daniel Bard. It would be good to see Bard successfully return to his position of bullpen relevance after years of struggle. Perhaps that’s a buy low signing the Yankees should pursue. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. There was a time when Bard was a Yankees draft pick although he never signed. Even if he goes back to Boston or another team, I truly hope that Bard is successful.
Short walk to the Hall…
Congratulations to the Hall of Fame inductees: John Smoltz, Randy Johnson, Craig Biggio, and Pedro Martinez. I think all of the selections were justified. It was sad that it was the final ballot appearance for Don Mattingly, but it was a given that he was not going to make it. Maybe he can take the Joe Torre route…great managerial success to go with a strong playing career…to gain access to the Hall.
25 years is long enough…
Put me in the group of people who want to see Pete Rose allowed to enter the Hall of Fame. He remains one of the best players I’ve been privileged to see play in my lifetime. This is not an endorsement of Pete the man and I feel what he did was wrong, however, Pete the player was one of the best players of all-time.
I am glad that this is the last full month without any baseball activity. Looking forward to the opening of spring training camps next month.